By Bill Parry
In the aftermath of the worst gun massacre in U.S. history, the father of Omar Mateen said “it had nothing to do with religion.” Mateen had gone to a gay nightclub in Orlando, murdered 49 people and injured another 53 after he saw two men kissing, Mir Seddique told NBC News.
The following day, City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), one of seven openly gay members on the City Council, sent an e-mail to his constituents and supporters with a photo of him kissing his husband, Dan Hendrick.
“In the face of unspeakable hatred and violence we often feel powerless,” Van Bramer wrote under the photo. “But terror is meant to stop us from being who we are, from living our lives as we want. But we can’t go back or live in fear. I want to respond with more love, more pride, and yes more kisses in public!!”
The defiant response to the Queens-born gunman Mateen also served as a reminder of Van Bramer’s 6th annual LGBT Pride Month Brunch held Saturday at the Riverview Restaurant in Long Island City. Hundreds turned out, a larger crowd than usual, according to his office.
“I believe the response to that horrible, horrible act is what we are all doing today,” Van Bramer said. “which is live in their memory to live louder, to live prouder, to be stronger.”
After a rousing standing ovation, Van Bramer spoke of the early years of his relationship, when Dan wanted to hold hands or kiss in public.
“I’m not afraid to say I was a little afraid to do that,” he said. “But after all of what happened in Orlando it reminds me that all of us should commit to showing our love and even more public displays of affection in their memory. No act of violence can or ever should change who we are and how we should live. Instead it should provoke us to live even prouder and to fight even harder for equality for every single person in the country.”
Vigils and marches have been a nightly occurrence in Jackson Heights where an evening of Rights and Reflections was scheduled to take place Saturday. Leading community activists and artists will share their experiences with racial and religious discrimination throughout the world beginning at 4 p.m. at Diversity Plaza.
Last Saturday, dozens gathered for a vigil on the Great Lawn in Astoria Park. City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) remembered the victims and stood in solidarity with the LGBT community.
“This heinous crime shows that our Congress must enact gun violence prevention legislation on a federal level,” he said. “Gun safety legislation is a common sense solution that would help prevent many of the hundreds of shootings and gun deaths that happen every day throughout the nation.”
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) said much the same thing during a rally on the steps of City Hall last Friday with elected officials, LGBT leaders and gun safety advocates calling on Congress to past gun safety reforms.
“Gun violence is an epidemic in our country,” Maloney said. “We just had the deadliest mass shooting in American history in Orlando when a man full of hate murdered 49 people because of their sexual orientation. That was on top of another 6,000 people who have been murdered by guns this year. This country needs to wake up and pass meaningful gun safety reforms like renewing the assault weapons ban and keeping guns out of the hands of people on the terrorist watch list or those convicted of hate crimes.”
On Monday, the Senate rejected four proposals to strengthen the nation’s gun laws.
The same day the U.S. Supreme Court refused to strike down gun control laws in New York and Connecticut, which were enacted after 20 children and six educators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Mayor Bill de Blasio applauded the justices; action.
“From Orlando to San Bernadino to Newtown, far too many Americans have seen their families and communities ripped apart by gun violence,” de Blasio said. “Assault weapons and high-capacity magazines have no place on our streets. They are weapons of war that until Congress acts will continue to kill and injure innocent men, women and children.”
The annual Gay Pride March will take place Sunday in Manhattan.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr