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ALBANY – Amid the cacophony of frantic lobbying, demonstrations and deal making that resound through the Capitol on the finals days of the legislative session, the Assembly was hushed for two hours on Wednesday by moving prayers, the venting of anger, and calls to action following the mass shooting at an Orlando, Florida, night club frequented by gay, lesbian and transgender people where 49 people died.
“We have come a long way,” said Assemb. Deborah Glick (D-Manhattan) leading discussion from gay and lesbian members in support of a resolution, “but in many places you can still lose your life.”
“Do you ever worry about holding you wife’s hand?” Glick, who is openly gay, said to members, trying to make all understand the daily life of gay, lesbian and transgender people. “Every gay person has to think if a brief display of affection will result in an attack … every single one of you have gay constituents and every one feels the way I do.”
Assemb. Matthew Titone (D-Staten Island), an openly gay member of the Assembly, said the attack Sunday morning that left 49 dead at the hands of a man spraying bullets from a legally purchased a rifle is a call to action to enact more strict gun control and weaken the National Rifle Association. He noted gay nightclubs are a refuge for gay and lesbian people, many of whom still keep their lifestyle secret.
“For many of them, this is the coming out to their family,” Titone said.
“When protecting guns becomes more important than protecting a gay man, or a lesbian woman, or a transgender person, that’s a problem,” Titone said. “When protecting a gun becomes more important than protecting a first-grader, that’s a problem …. Life has become collateral damage.”
He said the NRA, which he said protects the gun manufacturing industry, has now become a target of the “gay agenda” because of the shooting, and he promised a formidable effort.
“Ka-ching, ka-ching. Bang, bang, you’re dead. Congratulations,” Titone said.
The resolution mourning the loss of the Orlando victims was widely supported in the Assembly beyond the openly gay and lesbian members.
“Until the day comes when we treat each other with love and respect and understanding, and we remove our streets and our homes of these weapons that make it far too simple .. for those filled with hatred to hurt us, we are in danger,” said Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove).
The legislative session is scheduled to end Thursday.