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Pres. Barack Obama said Sunday that he stands in support with the LGBT community after a gunman killed 50 people at a popular gay nightclub in Orlando. Carlos Smith of Equality Rights, a group that advocates for LGBT rights, joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss what the attack means to the community.
President Obama noted that today's mass shooting is especially painful for gay and lesbian Americans as a club where they socialized in solidarity was the target. To discuss what the Orlando mass shooting means for the LGBT community, I am joined by Carlos Smith from Equality Florida, a group that fights for LGBT rights. Tell us a bit about the community that was affected today.
CARLOS SMITH, EQUALITY FLORIDA:
Sure. Well, our entire community is devastated, and Equality Florida sends its thoughts and prayers to all of those who were affected by this tragedy. This tragedy happened at a popular nightclub, Pulse Orlando, a gay nightclub. It happened during LGBTQ Pride Month. It happened at a time when the club was at maximum capacity. So it's clear that the shooter had every intent of inflicting the maximum amount of violence and damage.
And I think what's really important to understand is that the LGBTQ community has gone to gay nightclubs like Pulse Orlando and places around the country for decades, since the days of Stonewall, as a place where people can be safe, as a place where people can with who they are and have a sense of community.
So we're devastated to see this type of violence. But I think it's also important that people understand that the central Florida LGBTQ community is standing in solidarity also with the Muslim and Islamic community. Both of our communities have been targets of violence, of hate and of discrimination.
Is there a history of disproportionate discrimination or just any discrimination against the LGBT community in Florida, in central Florida?
Well, what we've seen unfortunately in the last couple of years is there has been a rash of violence, particularly against transgender women of color. There was a hate crime murder incident that happened actually recently in Florida that was devastating to the community that targeted a transgender black woman.
And what we're seeing now is that even in the year 2016, hate and bigotry still exists. And we're doing what we can in our communities, at the local level, at the state level, at the national level, to eradicate all forms of hate and discrimination and to make sure that we fight against all phobias. Not just homophobia, not just transphobia, but also against Islamophobia.
But what happens in a healing process when it affects so many people? Besides the 50 dead and another 50 injured, all of those individuals have a ripple effects throughout the much larger communities?
I think what happens is we come together, and we grieve together as Americans. And it's not just about the LGBTQ community. It's also about the Latino community. This happened at a nightclub on Latino night, and it was a night where there were many LGBTQ Latinos and allies who were there who are devastated. And I think it now is a time to have conversations with one another about inclusivity, about pushing back on some of the rhetoric that we're hearing around the world.
Carlos, did you know any of the people that were affected?
I don't know if I do. I woke up this morning to this nightmare, and immediately checked in with all of my closest friends and family and reached out to the people that I thought to reach out to. And everyone that I reached out to immediately was safe. The LGBTQ community in Orlando is very tight. We're very strong. We're a very close community.
And my thoughts and prayers are with those who know people who were impacted by this tragedy. I can't even imagine that I was at the LGBTQ Center just a few moments ago before we started this interview and ran into friends who do know people who died. And I'm just consoling them the best that I know how, and we're going to get through this together as a community because we're strong.
All right. Carlos Smith from Equality Florida, thanks for joining us.
Thank you for having me.
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