About 100 people, including Louisiana leaders, gathered at the State Capitol on Monday to pray for the victims of the deadly terrorist attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, over the weekend.
At least 50 people were killed and another 53 injured during the attack at Pulse nightclub early Sunday morning — the nation’s worst mass shooting in history.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards; Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego; House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia; and other state legislators gathered in the Capitol’s Memorial Hall for what was described as a “moment of unity.”
“Goodness will always prevail over hatred and fear,” Edwards said. “All of these victims were our brothers and sisters.”
The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack, and the suspected gunman, Omar Mateen, reportedly called in during the attack to pledge his allegiance to the terrorist organization.
Several of the speakers at the event Monday denounced terrorism and urged people to pray for the victims and their families.
But there were no straightforward acknowledgements of the attack taking place at a gathering spot for the LGBT community.
Barras, who recalled last year’s deadly shooting at a movie theater in Lafayette near his hometown, called on people to focus on ways to help.
“All these folks lost their lives as they gathered to celebrate life,” he said.
Before ending the ceremony, the group joined in an a capella rendition of “Amazing Grace” that rang out through the Capitol’s Memorial Hall.
A separate vigil has been scheduled at 6 p.m. on the steps of the Mississippi River levee.
Edwards, a Democrat who took office Jan. 11, on Friday declared June as “LGBT Pride Month” in Louisiana — the state’s first such proclamation.
Edwards signed an executive order earlier this year that prohibits discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
There currently is no state law protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people from discrimination in Louisiana, so Edwards’ anti-discrimination order applies exclusively to state services and government contractors.
Some legislators have been skeptical of Edwards’ order, calling on the Attorney General to provide an opinion on whether or not it is legal.
Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican, ultimately said that the order is nonbinding and “merely aspirational.”
Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter @elizabethcrisp.
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