The horrific shooting inside a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida this weekend was not primarily an act of hatred against LGBT individuals, but an attack against “all Americans,” former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown said on Tuesday.
In an interview with Boston Herald Radio, Brown — who has been campaigning for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump — said it was “deeply unfortunate” that most, if not all of the victims of the massacre were members of the LGBT community. But he also said he did not consider the victims to be “from a particular class of people.”
“I classify them as Americans, and it was an attack against all Americans, not just one particular class of type of American,” Brown said.
Here’s the full quote (emphasis added):
It’s so tragic that you have people, and a lot of them were gay and lesbian and transgender, and that’s deeply unfortunate, but I think it’s more than that. They were Americans first. I mean, they weren’t … I don’t identify the people who were murdered as from a particular class of people. I classify them as Americans, and it was an attack against all Americans, not just one particular class or type of American.
Brown’s remarks highlight what’s become a fierce political argument over the primary motivation for the deadliest mass shooting event in recent American history. While some have said the massacre was first and foremost driven by hate toward LGBT individuals, others have stressed the shooter’s professed support of the Islamic State (ISIS).
Most Democratic lawmakers have acknowledged both components of the horrific attack. Most Republicans, however, have avoided talking about the LGBT component entirely.
That near-universal lack of acknowledgement from GOP lawmakers has drawn some criticism — and not just from progressives. Jimmy LaSalvia, who founded the now-defunct Republican LGBT group GOProud, told the Washington Post that the GOP’s collective reaction to the shooting reminded him why he left the Republican party.
“They ignore and reject the reality that LGBT are part of life in America today,” LaSalvia told the Post. “Remember the Charleston black church shooting? GOP politicians there fell all over themselves to take down the Confederate flag. I doubt anything like that will happen with the gay club shooting.”
There may be one big reason why most Republicans, like Brown, have refused to acknowledge the LGBT component of Sunday’s attack: It’s just a bit awkward for them. As Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern explains, the general Republican party platform includes overturning discrimination protections for LGBT individuals, repealing same-sex marriage, and preventing transgender people from using the bathrooms of their choice.
“Republicans’ silence is actually quite apt,” Stern wrote. “As a party, after all, the GOP has spent decades attempting to degrade sexual minorities and even drive them out of public life. It is altogether fitting, then, that conservative politicians are erasing LGBTQ people from their own tragedy.”
While Brown was one of only eight senators to support repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — the military’s ban on gay individuals — the former senator also voted in favor of undoing same-sex marriage legalization in Massachusetts, and refused to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would have given workplace discrimination protections to LGBT people nationwide.
You can listen to Brown’s full comments on the Orlando shooting here (relevant portions begins at around the 9:28 mark):