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Maryland LGBTQ and faith leaders condemn Orlando attack

The Baltimore Sun
LGBTQ and Muslim communities in Baltimore join to denounce Orlando shooting.

The Sunday shooting at an Orlando, Fla., nightclub that left 49 people dead and dozens of others injured sparked condolences and condemnations Monday from Maryland LGBTQ and faith leaders.

Many of the shooting victims were of Latino heritage, which made Sunday's attack particularly troubling for Alfredo Santiago, co-founder of Baltimore IRIS, a LGBT Latino support group.

"I was mortified when I heard the number of victims was rising from 20," Santiago said. "When I heard it was more than 50 people, I was just horrified. That's my entire staff. I couldn't imagine that happening to us."

Santiago was one of many who spoke during an event organized Monday in Baltimore by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

Those in the LGBTQ community are often targets for violence, especially those who are minorities, Santiago said. He and others expressed concern about the possibility of further attacks on the LGBTQ community — and on Muslims. Santiago said he did not want anymore hate to come from this tragedy.

"As a proud Latino gay man, I don't blame this on my Muslim brothers and sisters," Santiago said.

CAIR leaders also condemned Sunday's attack.

"The LGBTQ has been one of the strongest allies against Islamophobia." Zainab Chaudry, spokesperson for CAIR, said. "For them to be targeted by an individual who is believed to be Muslim is especially horrific. It is unbelievable.

"We do not condone this violence and we are not going to stay silent while this type of homophobia is taking place," Chaudry said.

State Sen. Richard Madaleno of Montgomery County said he believes attacks such as the Orlando shooting are a backlash to the progress made by the LGBTQ community. Madaleno said it was more important than ever to be vocal, out and proud.

"As the only openly gay person in the state senate, I think we were more likely to be targeted by violence when we were forced to live our lives in the closet than we are now," Madaleno said.

Orlando police have identified the shooter in Sunday's massacre as American born 29-year-old man who lived in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Investigators said the shooter called 911 moments before the attack and pledged allegiance to the self-declared Islamic State. Police said the gunman killed 49 people and wounded 53 others before he was killed in a shootout with officers.

The shooting is considered the largest single mass shooting in United States history.

Madaleno said neither the shooter nor the terrorist group represent Islam or its followers. He said the attacks did not shake the unity the LGBTQ community has with the Muslim community.

"ISIS have killed far more Muslims around the world than Americans and other Westerners," Madaleno said. "This is not about Islam, this is a group of sociopaths. They have a hate-filled ideology."

Madaleno also condemned the current state of gun laws that allowed the shooter to have an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

"Why does anybody need to have an assault rifle in civilian life?" Madaleno said. "We in Maryland have banned these types of weapons. It is a sign of how much action is needed on the federal level."

Maryland's 2013 ban on semiautomatic high-capacity assault weapons, which passed after the shootings at a Newtown, Conn., is currently being challenged in the courts.

Elsewhere in Baltimore on Monday, the University of Baltimore held a moment of silence on its campus Monday for the victims of the massacre.

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