Since the mass shooting at the Pulse LGBT nightclub in Orlando, many have been talking about the need for additional gun laws -- but some New Yorkers are doing something about it, and their activism is spreading to other cities.
Gays Against Guns formed out of a meeting the Friday after the June 12 tragedy, and by the time the New York City Pride March rolled around last Sunday, it had marshaled a contingent of 750 people to participate, plus 49 veiled in white to represent those killed by the Orlando gunman, with each carrying a placard with the name and photo of one of the dead. The group also performed "die-ins" all along the Fifth Avenue parade route.
Now the organizers have heard from people who want to set up similar groups in San Diego, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., and they hope to get more cities on board, says one of those organizers, Catherine Marino-Thomas.
Thomas, who headed Marriage Equality USA for 17 years, says Gays Against Guns will focus on direct action, not lobbying. Among other things, it plans protests at the offices of state and national elected officials who oppose LGBT rights and gun control.
"People who insist on voting against equal rights for all people and against sensible gun laws will be visited by Gays Against Guns," she says.
Marino-Thomas says she has always been for stronger gun restrictions, and she has been deeply moved by other gun-related tragedies, such as the one that took the lives of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012. But Orlando seems to have mobilized gun control supporters more than ever. Gays Against Guns plans to reach out to other gun control groups in an effort to form coalitions, she says.
She was disappointed that Congress recently failed to advance measures to expand background checks for gun purchases and stop gun sales to people on terrorist watch lists, but she praises the Democratic lawmakers who pushed for gun control with a filibuster in the U.S. Senate and a sit-in in the House.
"They sure used whatever was at their disposal," she says. "The point is that they used the system. I thought that was pretty great."
Because of its focus on direct action, Gays Against Guns won't be endorsing candidates, but it will be pretty obvious which politicians the group supports and which it opposes, Marino-Thomas notes.
This weekend Gays Against Guns will be spreading the word to the holiday revelers on Fire Island. It will have information tables set up from 1 to 8 p.m. Sunday in the Pines and Cherry Grove. There will also be a Gays Against Guns meeting July 14 at 7:30 p.m. at the New York LGBT Community Center.
For more information on the group, visit its website or the Gays Against Guns pages on Facebook,Twitter, and Instagram.