More than 300 people gathered in downtown San Luis Obispo on Monday evening to express their grief and to promote a message of tolerance, love and support of the gay and lesbian community in the wake of the mass shooting in Orlando early Sunday.
The silent march and vigil was organized by the San Luis Obispo-based Gay and Lesbian Alliance (GALA) with support from religious groups, San Luis Obispo city officials and members of the public.
Daniel Taylor, president of the GALA group, said his organization wanted a “local response” to the gunman who killed 49 people enjoying a night out at Pulse, a gay nightclub in the Florida city.
“We wanted to express our support and grief for the people of Orlando,” Taylor said. “We won’t stand in silence to hatred. This gathering includes people from throughout the community who stand in solidarity.”
We just want to live like everyone else.
Ellen Sturtz, Los Osos resident
Those demonstrating held candles and signs of “No Place for Hate” and toted rainbow flags. They started the rally at the GALA office on Palm Street near the county courthouse before gathering at the Mission Plaza amphitheater to share comments and chants.
All 49 names of those gunned down were read aloud to the gathered crowd, after which several local leaders spoke. An additional 53 people were wounded in the attack.
“There are no words which can adequately express the horror and anguish that knowing that more than 100 people, just like you and me, enjoying a night with friends, many of them celebrating birthdays and other celebrations, were gunned down for no reason, no reason except they were gay,” said Caroline Hall, a senior pastor with St. Benedict’s Episcopal Church in Los Osos.
Hall called for the community to remember and honor the victims of the Pulse nightclub, to challenge the basis of hatred and to change gun laws to make people safer from similar incidents.
I pray that God will help me take that pain away.
Ian Delinger, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church pastor
San Luis Obispo St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church Pastor Ian Delinger said that many members of the audience likely know victims of homophobia, and “that person might be you.”
“I pray that God will help me take that pain way, the pain of things that have been done to me, to people I know and the pain of people 3,000 miles away, things that never should have been done,” Delinger said. “That helps me.”
Another participant in the rally, Los Osos resident Ellen Sturtz, carried a rainbow flag and said the incident is a reminder that more work needs to be done, particular on a legislative level to create gay equality nationwide. She called for the passage of the Equality Act in Congress to insert lesbian, gay, transgender and queer rights into the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
“If you look at the statistics, you have homophobic acts on a daily basis,” Sturtz said. “The ones that rise to this level of media attention are rare, relatively. I would imagine thousands of times a day students are being bullied, people are being denied housing, people are being told they can’t have a meal in a restaurant. ... We just want to live like everyone else.”