Edward Sotomayor Jr. was killed while pushing his boyfriend to safety at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Amidst such brutal and terrifying violence, it was a beautiful act of love and courage.
Like everyone in Orlando and across the nation and the world, we are grief-stricken. In the midst of our sorrow, we have seen the power of LGBTQ and Muslim communities coming together with a common purpose — to stand together, united against hate.
In fact, we hope that our history of working together — as respective leaders of LGBTQ and American Muslim organizations — will demonstrate the power of working together in common purpose against hate, violence and demonization of entire communities.
Over the last few days, we have stopped to listen to the stories of the lives lost in Orlando and the brave people who did everything they could to save others.
We have wept alongside one another at vigils from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., and around the globe.
We have spent these past few days in the aftermath of the Orlando tragedy coming together with friends and loved ones, from all walks of life and different in every imaginable way — race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and faith.
We have spent countless hours hearing the stories of LGBTQ Muslims who show us that our organizations are bound together and need each other.
While we continue to mourn the loss of life and attempt to understand what could drive a person to commit such an act of horrendous violence, Americans of good will are searching for answers and solutions to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again.
Some may be surprised to know that leaders of LGBTQ and Muslim organizations have a history of working together before the tragic events in Orlando.
The truth is that we long ago came to recognize that our struggles for justice and equality are inextricably linked. Our communities are often one and the same. Organizations like the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity remind us that being LGBTQ and Muslim is the lived experience of many people in our world.
It’s why the National LGBTQ Task Force welcomed Muslim Advocates as the first American Muslim organization to support federal legislation to protect LGBTQ people against employment discrimination.
Last year, when three young American Muslims were brutally murdered in Chapel Hill, N.C., Muslim Advocates was proud to send a letter with 149 organizations representing diverse faith, racial, ethnic, and civil rights communities, including LGBTQ organizations like the National LGBTQ Task Force, urging the U.S. Department of Justice to open a federal hate-crime investigation.
In this moment of immense grief and outrage, we will continue to stand together, united against fear, hate, and violence. While we may share moments when we think there is too much evil and pain in the world, we will not lose hope in the people and communities around us because we know we are stronger together.
In joining together, hand in hand, LGBTQ and straight, across every faith, background, and experience, we can and will send a powerful message to those who seek to divide us using hatred and violence: love is stronger than hate and hope will defeat fear.
In the days ahead there will be efforts to pit groups of Americans, many who have been targets of suspicion and discrimination, against one another and to increase surveillance of entire communities, based solely on how they look or how they pray.
But we know allowing extremists to divide us only plays into their hands. We have seen how a climate of fear and ignorance toward the LGBTQ and Muslim communities contributes to hate crimes, discrimination, and profiling — making us all less safe.
Instead, we will appeal to the better angels of our nature and remember what unites us. We agree with the president that an attack on any of one us is an attack on all of us. Now is the time for people of all faiths, sexual orientations, gender identities, backgrounds, and experiences to come together and refuse to allow this tragic act of violence and hate to divide us.
Love is stronger than hate. We are all one family.
REA CAREY is the executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, which advances full freedom, justice, and equality for LGBTQ people. FARHANA KHERA is the executive director of Muslim Advocates, a national legal advocacy and educational organization that works on the front lines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths.