Taking the Pulse of Our Nation
“[The shooting at] Pulse wasn’t an attack on just one community—it was an attack on LGBTQ Americans, Latinx Americans, and Black Americans. It was an attack on people who look like me, and an attack on people who look nothing like me. It was an attack on all of us. It was an attack on individuals expressing their sexuality, their heritage, their gender, and their freedom.”
Thus spoke Mayor Pete Buttigieg, as he reflected on the third anniversary of the 49 deaths at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida on June 12, 2016.
How has this country fared since then? In terms of gun control, not so well. There have been numerous mass shootings in the past three years. Las Vegas, Parkland, Tree of Life, Thousand Oaks, Virginia Beach, and too many others. Two hundred thirty-five persons have had their lives cut short since the Pulse massacre. Congress has done little to address this issue, other than banning bump stocks in March, 2019. No universal background checks, no ban on high-capacity magazines, no prohibition on semi-automatic rifles. The shooting in Virginia Beach has brought conversation about noise suppression (silencers) to the forefront.
In terms of LGBTQ acceptance and equality, this country has not fared well either. In fact, the religious right and other groups that oppose LGBTQ rights have raised the stakes for discriminatory practices and outright denial of equality rights.
Madison’s Café in O’Fallon, Missouri recently gained notoriety for refusing to host a wedding reception for a lesbian couple. Following its decision not to host, the café posted on Facebook, “We believe that the Bible teaches that the only true and appropriate marriage is the union of one man and one woman, as created, and that other types of marriage are immoral. We also believe that it is our religious duty not to aid or assist others to act immorally.” Religious duty to discriminate.
It seems as though many other businesses have summoned the courage to refuse public services to couples whose lifestyles they condemn on religious terms. Chick-Fil-A, in the face of criticism of its behind-the-scenes Foundation grants that support anti-LGBTQ groups, has decided that boycott threats will not hinder their ongoing support for those groups, such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army.
In the name of God, a Tennessee deputy, who doubles as a pastor, preached from his bully pulpit that LGBTQ persons should be put to death. “It’s infecting our nation, people,” Grayson Fritts recently pounded from his pulpit. “The federal government, the police or what-have-you, should enforce Leviticus 20:13. Send the police...out to these LGBT freaks and arrest them. Have a trial for them, and if they are convicted then they are to be put to death. It’s a capital crime to be carried out by our government.” Fritts is currently on leave while negotiating a payout that would enable him to leave his post.
Unfortunately, this vitriol is not the exception to otherwise loving and accepting persons who value every human being, and the diversity which this nation represents. There are too many faces and voices of hatred across our country. Mayor Mark Chambers of Carbon Hill, Alabama is such an example. Posted on his Facebook account was the admonition that “the only way to change [the homosexual problem] would be to kill the problem out. I know it’s bad to say but without killing them out there’s no way to fix it.” He has been asked to resign from his position as Mayor.
While these stories are disturbing and becoming more the norm every day, other developments are taking shape to give us hope for a better world. The Washington State Supreme Court ruled that a lower court was correct in stating that a business did, in fact, violate their anti-discrimination law by refusing to sell flowers to a same-sex couple for their wedding. This court action draws distinction from the Masterpiece Cakeshop case that the federal Supreme Court found in favor of that business refusing service to a gay couple.
Corey Forrester, a comedian from Georgia, learned that a wedding venue near his home was refusing service to all gay couples, so he offered his (very well-appointed) back yard for such ceremonies. United States Embassies are acting in direct defiance of President Trump’s policy that they are not to fly a Pride flag during June Pride Month. Cody Barlow, a straight man living in rural Oklahoma, decorated the tailgate of his pickup truck with Pride colors. He included this message: “Not all country boys are bigots. Happy Pride Month.”
How is your pulse? As Florida lawmakers attempt to turn Pulse nightclub into a national monument, the pulse of our nation is strong and beating regularly. It is a sign of better days ahead. ▼
David Garrett is a straight advocate for equality and inclusion. He is also the proud father of an adult transdaughter.