By Amy Bounds, Daily Camera, Boulder News
Boulder, Colorado – Members of the local LGBT community and their allies gathered in downtown Boulder on Sunday night to mourn and support the victims of the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
At the candlelight vigil hosted by Out Boulder County, people hugged and cried as speakers shared their horror at what’s being called the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
“We want to stand in support of the families and the community,” said Longmont’s Linsey Hanna. “It’s important that we make our voices heard.”
The speakers focused on solidarity and support.
“We need to be able to have communal love,” said Sara Connell, Out Boulder County’s education and services manager.
Mardi Moore, executive director of Out Boulder County, said she was shaken, hurt and angry after learning about the massacre.
“I know things are changing, but today really hurts,” she said. “It could have easily been any one of us.”
She added that visibility matters, urging members of the LGBT community to attend events and hold their partners’ hands and kiss their partners in public.
Others talked about how a shooting in what’s traditionally been a safe place for the gay community is creating fear.
Juan Gallegos, who works for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, said he and his friends would drive for two hours from their rural Nebraska college so they could hang out at a gay bar.
“We usually feel that freedom from a society where we aren’t fully accepted,” he said.
He continued the call for togetherness.
“Let’s not spread the hate, but spread the love,” he said. “The one thing we cannot do is let the hate spread.”
Larry Hoyt, former attorney for Boulder County, told participants to not “shy away from who you are” and to continue to push back against hate.
“Never let a homophobic, bi-phobic, trans-phobic remark go by without being answered,” he said
Hadi Abdulmatin, of the Islamic Center of Boulder and Regional President of the Islamic Circle of North America, also spoke at the vigil, denouncing the actions of the shooter and offering condolences and prayers.
“The Muslim community in Boulder are shoulder to shoulder with you,” he said.
The vigil ended with a non-denominational prayer and a moment of silence, followed by the crowd singing “We Shall Overcome.”
“It’s important, not matter who you are, to recognize it as a tragedy and come together as a community and to say ‘We’re not going to stand for that,’ ” said Benjamin Petrie of Golden.
Added friend Tara Maestas, “It’s really great to be a part of this. It really does remind you that you’re human, and we truly are a community.”
Along with coming together as a community, vigil participants were urged to donate through a gofundme page set up by Equality Florida, Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights organization.
Colorado’s Bonfils Blood Center, which has a site in Boulder, also is accepting blood donations for the victims in the Orlando mass shooting.
Those who wish to donate blood are asked to make appointments and mention the Orlando Memorial Drive.
The Boulder site, at 3113 28th St., is closed today and Monday.
Appointments can be made at any time online or during regular business hours by calling 303-363-2300.
Blood centers across the country are experiencing shortages currently due to several factors, including the drop in donations that typically occurs in the summer months, according to Bonfils.
OneBlood, the blood center responding in Orlando, has put out an urgent nationwide request for O Negative, O Positive and AB blood products.
After hearing about the shortage, U.S. Rep Jared Polis, D-Boulder, took to Twitter on Sunday to urge the Food and Drug Administration to repeal a policy that bans men who have had sex with men in the last year from donating blood. Before 2015, there was a lifetime ban on gay men donating blood.
Polis, who is openly gay, said the policy could prevent a gay man from donating lifesaving blood to his own spouse.
“This policy adds a grave insult to the injury these families are facing,” he said, referencing the victims of the Orlando shooting. “The blood of gay people is no different than the blood of straight people. There’s no valid argument for this policy at all.”
Instead of an outright ban, he said, blood banks could screen for behavior, including having unprotected sex.
“Hopefully, this will focus enough attention on this bigoted, archaic policy that the FDA will change it,” he said.
Article Courtesy: Daily Camera, Boulder News
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. It serves as both a reminder of one of the most traumatizing occurrences to unfold on American soil and as a testimony to the resilience of every community living here in America.