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Clay Aiken makes a chilling point about how Florida fails LGBTQ people

Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

After a shooting at the gay nightclub Pulse killed 49 people in Orlando early Sunday morning, the state of Florida is in mourning — Gov. Rick Scott condemned the deaths as an "attack on all of us." Florida declared a state of emergency.

But while there are likely to be plenty of public statements on behalf of survivors of the shooting, if the survivors identify as LBGTQ, they still live in a state that doesn’t guarantee them basic protections. Clay Aiken, the American Idol runner-up and former congressional candidate, put it well:

Aiken’s words actually echo something that happened 43 years ago, after what is now the second-worst massacre of LGBTQ people in US history, the Upstairs Lounge nightclub arson in New Orleans. Among the injured was a teacher who "was fired while in critical care … after his school learned that he had been at the bar," Elizabeth Dias and Jim Downs wrote in Time magazine in 2013. The man later died. Other survivors refused to be publicly identified for fear of backlash.

A lot has changed since 1973. But most states, including Florida, still don't ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing, at work, or at school:

Violence against LGBTQ people has spurred activism in the past, just as other violence against marginalized groups has fed protests. If the Pulse shooting has similar effects, nondiscrimination laws could be a good place to start.