- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon said the terrorist attack on a gay nightclub Sunday in Orlando was a “vicious hate crime” fueled by anti-LGBT laws in the U.S.

“I think it’s important for folks to realize that the type of hate and prejudice that motivated this individual is still fed by the discrimination that we have in so many states,” the Democrat said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“In Florida, you can be fired from your job because you are gay or lesbian. You can be kicked out of a restaurant or a theater. You can be kicked out of rental housing,” he said.

Mr. Merkley said it’s important to send a message to the world that American culture embraces opportunity for all.

“We need to end discrimination across this country — fully embrace our vision of constitutional opportunity for every single American,” he said. “And maybe that will do at least something to send the message to virtually everyone that that’s our culture, to embrace opportunity for all.”

Omar Mateen, 29, opened fire early Sunday at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 people and wounding 53 others. Mateen, an American-born Muslim who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist group, was killed by police after a three-hour standoff. Law enforcement officials said Mateen often visited gay online chatrooms, and witnesses said he was a regular at Pulse.

Conservatives have focused the blame on Islamic terrorism following the attack, while Democrats and activists blamed semi-automatic rifles and anti-discrimination laws supported by the Christian right.

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