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Human Rights Campaign Takes on Gun Control After Orlando Shooting

3 minute read

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy group, is veering from its normal set of priorities and on Friday announced that it would begin pushing for tighter controls on guns.

The shift, adopted late Thursday by the Human Rights Campaign boards of directors, comes in the wake of the largest mass shooting in the nation’s history. The shooting, which took place at an Orlando gay bar early Sunday morning, killed 49 people and injured another 53. It was a particularly galling attack, not just for its size, but also for its venue.

“Forty-nine members of our community were murdered on Sunday morning because of a toxic combination of two things: a deranged, unstable individual who had been conditioned to hate LGBTQ people, and easy access to military-style guns,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said. “It is imperative that we address both issues in order to mitigate safety risk to our community.”

It’s long been noted that the three Gs of politics—God, guns and gays—divide Americans into rival voting blocs. Friday’s announcement links two of those three in a way that has never before been tested.

The Human Rights Campaign, the biggest organization in LGBT politics, has for decades lobbied for issues as varied as workplace equality and housing laws. But in recent years, it has grown more ambitious in with its goals. Especially after the Supreme Court declared last year that all Americans have a right to marry, public opinion has been shifting, and HRC has been eager to use that tide for its gains—and against the backlash.

Take, for instance, HRC’s working to oppose more than 200 anti-LGBT laws and policies that have been proposed this year in 34 states. In North Carolina, for example, HRC has been on the ground with a well-organized and press-forward campaign against a law that forces transgender individuals to use public bathrooms that match their gender on birth certificates. HRC put together a coalition of business leaders to oppose the law and recruited power attorney Ted Olson to lead their legal challenge. That work prompted North Carolina’s Republican Governor, Pat McCrory, to tell TIME recently: “The HRC, I give them credit. They are more powerful than the NRA.”

The Human Rights Campaign’s pivot to guns will test that idea.

“As a society, we must hold accountable lawmakers, religious leaders and other public officials who put a target on the backs of LGBTQ people through hateful rhetoric and legislation, because they are complicit in the violence fueled by their words and actions,” Griffin said. “The safety of the LGBTQ community depends on our ability to end both the hatred toward our community and the epidemic of gun violence that has spiraled out of control.”

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Write to Philip Elliott at philip.elliott@time.com