Remembering Pulse: Our Commitment to Common Sense Gun Safety

One of the first meetings I attended after coming to Congress was a listening session with young people hosted by the Transgender Equality Task Force, which I am proud to be a member of. We heard from parents and children about the dangers they face while living their truth — the dangers of being openly transgender in America.

Through the tears and painful testimony, we all were reminded of their courage and their resolve, qualities that, unfortunately, members of the LGBT community must summon every day in the face of bigotry, discrimination, and violence.

Today is the third anniversary of the Pulse Night Club shooting, where hate-fueled violence claimed the lives of 49 people and injured 53.

Such violence has risen in recent years, as the differences we share have been weaponized in efforts to sow discord by targeting marginalized communities. We are reminded today, and every day, that Pulse was not the first time this type of violence has targeted the LGBTQ community, nor was it the last, and that our complacency in addressing gun violence has made our country less safe and put our most marginalized communities in danger.

Discrimination against LGBTQ people is real and pervasive. Seventy eight percent of transgender young people experience harassment at school and over 1 in 4 homeless youth are LGBTQ. Same-sex couples are 73% more likely to be denied a mortgage. Overall, a majority of LGBTQ people have experienced some form of discrimination.

And, the violence against members of the LGBTQ community is even more disturbing.

On average, over 10,300 hate crimes are committed in the United States each year — that’s more than 28 every single day. These crimes are rooted in prejudice that disproportionately affects communities of color. In 2017, it was estimated that the LGBTQ community was the target of 17% of hate crimes. 2017 was also the deadliest year on record for the transgender community, particularly trans women of color. Twenty-eight transgender people were killed, with more than half being victims of gun violence.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) believes our current political climate has “emboldened individuals to commit hate crimes.” Since 2015, the number of hate groups in the US increased by 30 percent between 2015 and 2018, with a 7 percent increase in 2018 alone.

I am proud to say that this year the House of Representatives has taken action to push back on such violence and hate crimes with our pro-equality, gun sense majority. We’ve passed several bipartisan bills to reduce gun violence, including HR 8, a universal background check bill and HR 1112, a bill to close the Charleston Loophole. Just last month, we passed the Equality Act, landmark civil rights legislation that would bring nationwide nondiscrimination protections to the LGBTQ community and would prohibit discrimination in all areas of public life including public accommodation, housing, employment, credit, and education. The House also voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, another important piece of legislation that remains on Senator Mitch McConnell’s desk.

Above all, giving LGBTQ people legal protections from abuse will ensure they can fully participate in society — maintaining stable employment and housing and fully participating in public life. This will help stem the marginalization that too often leads to violent situations.

I am sad to say my home, Pennsylvania, is one of the thirty states that has not yet enacted legal protections for LGBTQ people. But with the House passage of the Equality Act, there is now real hope that members of the LGBTQ community will gain the protections they rightfully deserve.

This is a personal issue for me. It has been personal since my baby sister came out to me almost 40 years ago. For many people across this country, that is when this fight hits home. It gets personal when someone who you love says, “this is who I am,” and you KNOW and value that person, and you will do whatever you can to make sure that your loved one can live life to the fullest, free from hate and discrimination.

Mary Gay Scanlon currently serves a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District.

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