The Orlando terror massacre has members of the LGBT community around the nation coming out – for Donald Trump and the Second Amendment.
Some among the reliable Democratic constituency were not persuaded by President Obama’s post-attack call for new gun control measures and renewed warning against painting Islam in a negative light.
Trump’s counter message that Americans – including those in the LGBT community - must protect themselves against the hatred of radical Muslims struck a chord with Stephen Zieman.
“I knew I had to fully support Trump because he called out the threat for what it was -- radical Islamic terrorism,” the 23-year-old from Schaumburg, Ill., told FoxNews.com. “He stood up for the LGBT community and called himself a friend. It's something we all needed and he was there — Hillary was not. She was making excuses for the religion and calling for gun control, which is not what I needed to hear.”
Zieman took to Twitter and announced that he was now voting for Trump. He was greeted by fellow supporters who welcomed him.
Zieman was not the only LGBT person impressed by Trump’s response to the tragedy and his intensified calls for the country to be tougher on extremism.
In Orlando, political activist and Trump supporter Randy Ross said he has been deluged with private messages on Facebook and his cell phone showing support for Trump.
“In the last three days, I would say there were no less than 50 requests to be added to our volunteer listing, but moreover, it’s been a gradual progression over the last few months,” he said, noting the influx was mostly gay men.
Ross came out as gay in 2002 in his 30s, but only switched his party affiliation to GOP a few years ago. As an outspoken Republican, he said people have both welcomed his beliefs as well as questioned them. When he visited the site of the shooting during a talk this week by outspoken gay Breitbart journalist Milo Yiannapolous, someone asked him, “Are you scared to be here?”
“I’m an openly gay man,” he said. “That in and of itself, as a Republican, to openly gay is not necessarily easy for a lot of people to understand. I’m not a one-voter issue. I’ve never been scared, not once, to be a gay man that’s openly supporting Donald Trump, but I could tell that was one of their fears.
“[Trump] has never come out and attacked the LGBT community,” he continued. “If you want your freedom to come together and to be protected, if you want all those things, he’s the right person to do that because I don’t believe that’s what we’re seeing on the Hillary Clinton side.”
On Twitter, Trump told his followers that he will fight for the LGBT community:
Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 14, 2016
The support extends from Trump the candidate to his pro-Second Amendment message, renewing an old argument about whether the answer to gun crimes is fewer firearms in general, or more of them in the hands of law-abiding citizens who can respond to an attack.
Gay, pro-Second Amendment group the Pink Pistols saw its membership more than double to 3,500 in the days following the attack. Instead of calling for new gun control measures, Pink Pistols First Speaker Gwendolyn Patton repeated the gun rights mantra that more guns, not fewer, could have saved lives. She said groups going out for drinks should consider a “designated carrier” to pack heat and stay sober.
“It’s sad that we must consider such things, but when there are persons out there who mean us harm, we must find ways to protect ourselves within the law.” Patton said.
Gun stores have reported anecdotal evidence of a surge in gay people buyig firearms. Mike Smith, a firearms instructor in Colorado Springs, told Fox 31 he has witnessed the phenomenon first hand.
“I think right now because of what happened, people are looking for answers,” he told the station. “You walk into a gun shop and you expect to see people, frankly, who look like me. I think we forget we’re a country of all people, not just people who fit that predetermined mold.”
In California during the hours immediately following the Orlando attack, the LGBT community was shaken yet again by news that an armed man was arrested, possibly on his way to attack revelers at the Los Angeles Pride event. The suspect is now believed to be gay himself, and his motives remain unclear. But the incident coming so quickly on the heels of Orlando left the California LGBT community rattled.
“I went out Saturday night and when we saw the news in the morning, we’re just like, ‘Gosh, that could have been us,’” said Nestor Moto, vice president of the Log Cabin Republicans of Orange County. “On Sunday, someone tried to do that. It really hit us.”
Moto, 21, originally backed Chris Christie for the Republican presidential nomination. When the New Jersey governor dropped out in February, he turned his attention to Trump, especially when he spoke out against the North Carolina bathroom bill that would not allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their gender identity. He also noted past interviews with LGBT magazine The Advocate where he was in favor of gay rights.
Then, when Trump said the Orlando attack was the result of Islamic terrorism, Moto became even more excited about his campaign.
“I was very, very pleased with the fact that he finally said that Islamic terrorism is anti-gay, anti-women, anti-Jewish because we need to diagnose the problem in order to fix it and he’s the first one that has actively said that in a public forum like that,” he said. “It’s very refreshing to hear someone who isn’t afraid to say it like it is.”
Online, LGBT people are experiencing another “coming out” in sharing their support for Trump -- the hashtags #GaysForTrump and #ComeOut4Trump are accompanied by selfies and declarations of jumping on the Trump Train.
“Every single Donald Trump supporter, and they come from all political backgrounds, have been loving, supportive and encouraging. They said they will defend me, they will support me and they will stand with me against oppression and terror,” said Zieman of his experience switching his support.
Ross knows many if not most in the LGBT community will vote Democrat, but said Trump’s message is getting through.
“You are starting to see more and more gay people become comfortable with the idea that Trump might be a candidate that they need to pursue,” Ross said.