Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Dean Trantalis posed a serious question to a theater full of concerned citizens on Friday afternoon.
“Is this what we’re all about in America?,” Trantalis asked. “Why do we lay down and take it?”
The assault style rifle used to kill 49 people on a Latin themed night at a LGBT nightclub in Orlando was the subject of anger during a two and half hour program presented by civic and spiritual leaders. Trantalis, an openly gay man, hosted the program at Fort Lauderdale’s Parker Playhouse and called for a ban on the AR-15.
“No self-respecting hunter or marksman would use an AR-15,” Trantalis said. “They would be embarrassed. It’s simply used for killing.”
U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Pembroke Pines) said Orlando “would not be tarred” by hatred. Wasserman Schultz opened her speech saying her heart was cold for many reasons, but vowed to endure for “a community that I have the incredible privilege to represent in our nation’s capital.”
“We will make sure that Orlando and all of our communities are associated with joy, love, unity and equality,” Wasserman Schultz said.
Presented by the City of Fort Lauderdale, Friday’s “United With Orlando: Standing For Equality” program included remarks by elected officials: U.S. Congressman Ted Deutch (D-Boca Raton), U.S. Congresswoman Lois Frankel (D-West Palm Beach), U.S. Congressman Patrick E. Murphy (D-Jupiter), Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, State Attorney Mike Satz, Broward County School Board Chairwoman Rosalind Osgood and Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein.
Seiler, who in the past has had a not so cozy relationship with gay activists over the issue of same-sex marriage, appeared firmly on the side of his gay and lesbian constituents.
“The LGBT community will not be defined by one horrible incident, but instead by its response,” said Seiler.
Satz called the shooter “deranged” and urged the audience to be vigilant. “If you see something, say something,” he said. Frankel’s remarks focused on closing gun show loopholes in current law. “We must turn our sorrow into action,” she said.
Deutch reminded the audience the LGBT community has suffered great pain before in places such as Stonewall, New York and Laramie, Wyoming, but always responded with pride. Murphy, campaigning for Marco Rubio’s U.S. Senate seat, called for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to abolish its current regulations on gay men donating blood.
“It’s beyond time to lift this discriminatory ban,” Murphy said to a standing ovation.
Friday afternoon’s program also featured musical performances by Opera Fusion, Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida and Slow Burn Theatre Company. Speakers representing Christian, Jewish and Muslim organizations were also given stage time.
“We fight hate with love, we fight darkness with light,” said Rabbi Chaim Slavaticki, Director of the Las Olas Chabad Jewish Center. “By standing together we will prevail.”
Rev. Robert Griffin, of Fort Lauderdale’s Sunshine Cathedral, demanded the city issue restrictions on the assault style rifles, calling them “weapons of mass destruction.”
The “weapons of mass destruction” phrase was used earlier in the program by Wasserman Schultz when she demanded a ban on the AR-15 to thunderous applause.
“So many of us have said thoughts and prayers are not enough,” Wasserman Schultz said. “An AR-15 should not be something that anyone in America should be able to get access to.”
Trantalis, going one step further, noted Fort Lauderdale is hosting a gun show next week and called for strengthening of background checks for those seeking to purchase assault style rifles.
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