Louisiana, Mississippi React To Killings At Orlando Gay Club

BATON ROUGE (AP) – Louisiana is ready to support Florida in any way possible to bring justice for the people killed in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Gov. John Bel Edwards said. He also said he and legislators will participate in a "moment of unity" Monday in the Capitol Rotunda.

         The attack in Orlando killed at least 50 people and critically wounded dozens before police killed Omar Mateen, 29. It's being investigated as terrorism.

         Members of New Orleans' LGBT community set up Facebook pages to organize candlelight vigils in the French Quarter, where arson killed 32 men and injured about 15 at a gay club called the Upstairs Lounge in 1972. That fire was set in a stairwell and spread quickly. Burglar bars on the windows kept many people from jumping out, though a bartender led 30 people down back stairs to safety.

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         Forum for Equality Louisianan noted the 1972 fire in a statement about the Orlando killings on its website.

         "This shooting demonstrates, despite recent advancements in LGBT rights, just how much hatred and prejudice is still aimed toward the queer community," said its executive director, SaraJane Brady. "This tragedy also reflects the violence faced every day by LGBT individuals, especially by queer persons of color, even in spaces intended to reaffirm their expression."

         The group's statement said, "The Forum calls on anti-LGBT religious and political leaders and members of Congress to recognize that whenever they demonize or attempt to marginalize the LGBT community, they provide extremists with a green light to violence."

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         Edwards said, in an emailed statement, "There are no words that will comfort the survivors and families of the victims of this tragic incident." He added that he hoped that people could find comfort in the 18th Psalm, which says, "The Lord is my rock."

         Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said he has asked the state's public safety commissioner to move assets to areas where people are concentrated, and has been told the state homeland security office to evaluate policies and procedures to keep all state residents safe.

         "Please join Deborah and me in praying for God's peace and comfort for those affected by the horrific act of terror in Orlando," he wrote in a message on his Facebook page.

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         U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and ranking member of the House Committee On Homeland Security, said he is confident that the federal government will investigate all aspects of the crime.

         "It is important to note that we must review the facts of these events carefully and not jump to conclusions prematurely," he wrote in an emailed statement. "We must counter the ideology and hate of all those who want to do us harm, including those perpetuated by lone wolves."

         The pastor of a New Orleans church that welcomes the LGBT community said everyone in the community must "stand with a single voice to tell the world … that no act of violence can undo the great strides we have made," including legalization of same-sex marriage and local legal protections for LGBT citizens.

         "Our practices and institutions may change in light of this tragedy — LGBT gathering places may have more security now," the Rev. Alisan Rowland, of the Metropolitan Community Church of New Orleans, continued in her emailed statement. "But we will never, ever go away. We will never be cowed."



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