By Rep. Susan A. Davis
Pride Month is a time to celebrate our progress and to recommit toward total equality today.
With the shooting deaths of 49 people at a popular gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and the wounding of 53 other people, this year’s Pride activities will take a somber tone.
This deadliest mass shooting in the history of our country brought senseless sorrow and loss to the victims and their loved ones. The world expressed its grief and support for the LGBT community and the community of Orlando.
The shootings join a list of attacks on the LGBT community throughout our history — Stonewall, the arson of the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans that killed 32, the assassination of Harvey Milk, and the murder of Matthew Shepard.
Orlando underscores the climate the LGBT community still faces on a daily basis. According to the FBI, 20 percent of hate crimes are LGBT-motivated. This is second only to hate crimes based on race.
These incidents of violence are attempts to instill fear, intimidate and weaken the resolve in the quest for equality. But in the end, they always have the opposite effect.
I am inspired by the ability of LGBT Americans to rise up in the face of these horrific events and continue the fight for equality, inclusiveness and opportunity. We owe it to the victims of Orlando and the victims of past acts of violence to work toward an even better world for future generations.
The outrage I feel, as a member of Congress, when these mass shootings occur, is that nothing ever changes. Republican leadership in Congress simply refuses to let us have a debate on the issue of gun violence, let alone pass significant laws that will protect the American people.
People are demanding action and Congress should respond. Here’s what I’d like to see enacted:
We know that the Orlando shooter was on the terror watch list. Democrats are reviving past legislative efforts to keep those on the terror watch list from buying guns. If you can’t fly then you shouldn’t be able to buy guns.
The AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle is becoming the weapon of choice for mass murderers. It was used in Orlando, Newtown and San Bernardino. Why do we continue to allow easy access to these assault weapons where the sole purpose is to kill as many people as possible?
Listen to the audio of the amount of shots fired at the nightclub. If that doesn’t convince anyone we need to reinstate the assault weapons ban then I don’t know what will.
Glaring loopholes in our nation’s system of background checks need to be closed. There is bipartisan legislation in the House that would extend background checks requirements to gun shows and purchases over the internet.
Our nation’s laws still don’t adequately protect the rights of LGBT Americans.
The Equality Act would add sexual orientation to the list of protections under our nation’s civil rights laws. This will give LGBT Americans greater protection under the law and provide critical legal recourse to fight discrimination.
The Student Non-Discrimination Act will confront discrimination in our schools and will instill the notion of equality at an early age. It ensures all students, regardless of sexual orientation, have equal access to all school activities. It declares that harassment is discrimination.
How we respond to these moments defines who we are as a nation. Let’s renew our commitment to diversity and equality. Let’s come together to create a future where everyone can live, love, and never have to live in fear for who they are.
—Rep. Susan Davis represents Congressional District 53, which includes including the San Diego communities of Old Town, Kensington, Mission Hills, University Heights, Hillcrest Bankers Hill, North Park, South Park, Talmadge and Normal Heights, as well as La Mesa, Lemon Grove, Spring Valley and parts of El Cajon and Chula Vista.