L.A.'s Two Openly Gay City Councilmen Gave Incredible Speeches On Orlando Today
"I have no silence left," City Councilmember Mike Bonin said as he took the floor at Tuesday's City Council meeting. Foregoing the traditional post-tragedy moment of silence, Bonin and City Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell concluded the meeting by reading aloud the names and ages of all 49 victims of the Orlando shooting. Though certainly moving, the reading of the victims' names alone is not particularly newsworthy; Los Angeles' city council was one of a great many across the country to do read aloud the victim's names. It was Bonin and O'Farrell's searing speeches, however, that distinguished the moment, making it easily the most memorable council meeting in recent memory.
The two councilmembers, who, along with City Controller Ron Galperin, are the only openly gay elected officials in the City of Los Angeles, rallied the LGBT community to action on gun control, pledging that if the NRA and the gun lobby didn't already know that the LGBT community was coming for them, "they've got another thing coming." O'Farrell later called the Orlando massacre "this generation's Stonewall."
Bonin began, addressing the room calmly, but with steel and a great sense of sorrow. Here are his words, in the full:
It's become commonplace in situations like this to have a moment of silence, and I'm not going to ask for that. I know moments of silence are generally signs of respect; I think in this instance silence is abhorrently disrespectful. I have no silence left.In this situation, my reaction is anger, is frustration is disbelief and is a call to organize. I don't know if the killer was motivated by allegiance to ISIS, an organization which beheads gays and lesbians, which throws them from rooftops of all tall buildings, which buries them in the ground and then stones them. I don't know if he was animated by by anti-gay animus or if he was perhaps struggling with his own sexual identity. But I do know that 49 people would still be alive today if this nation didnt have such a ridiculous obsession with making guns available to people. This body has done so much to stand up and say we can't have these guns made available. And our congress refuses to act. I don't know what's going to come of this is a congresswoman nearly being assassinated, if people enjoying a movie in Colorado, if churchgoers in Charleston if schoolchildren in Connecticut wasn't enough to wake this country up, I don't know what the hell is, I really don't. So I've got no silence left. I do know one thing though, that the LGBT community—I am absolutely confident—is going to be the biggest ally and biggest shot of adrenaline to the gun control movement this country has ever seen. And folks who chain themselves to the White House and disrupted congressional hearings because of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and because of DOMA are going to go to work on this issue, and they are going to join the people around this horseshoe [pointing around the room to his fellow council members], Mr. Krekorian and others who have been leaders nationwide on this. We are going to get to work.
O'Farrell took the floor after Bonin, saying "We are all Orlando on this day and everyday." He painstakingly and painfully recounted Sunday's events, and urged prayers for the six victims currently in critical condition. And then he continued, with an equal sense of power and purpose:
The murdered include the following: the mother of 11 who beat cancer twice, the brother whose sister drove 12 hours just to say goodbye. The couples who died together, the immigrant from South Africa, the native of Connecticut, and the stories go on and on. They range in age from 18 to 50. A barista, an accountant, a recent high school graduate who was only 18 and had her entire life ahead of her and was going to college on a basketball scholarship. Entrepreneurs. Students. Churchgoers. Many were gay, lesbian or transgender, but they were all someone's son, daughter, mother, aunt uncle father or friend. Yesterday evening we gathered out on the steps of City Hall to mourn those lives, the majority of whom were in their 20s and 30s. And there were memorial services across the city. Now, as Mr. Bonin made reference to, if the NRA, if the National Shooting Sports Foundation, if the California Rifle and Pistol Association and gun lobby in general does not think that we are going to start going after them, and those who aid and abet terrorism and across the country. by supporting mass killing machines and automatic weaponry and the ammunition that feeds them—then they've got another thing coming. In 1966 and in 1967 the Blackcat Protests began in Los Angeles that started the LGBT-rights movement in Los Angeles, two-and-a-half years later we had Stonewall in the summer of 1969 in New York City. Orlando is this generation's Stonewall. And it is time, once and for all, to do all that we can, to make sure that this carnage gets under control in this great country of ours. So, on that note, Mr. Bonin and I would like to read each of the victim's and their ages, one by one.
The two men then alternated in reading the names and ages for four-and-a-half aching minutes.
Bonin and O'Farrell are both relatively new to Council, having been in sworn in 2013, replacing the late Bill Rosendahl and Mayor Eric Garcetti in Districts 11 (Venice, Silicon Beach, LAX and environs, assorted fancy parts of the Westside) and 13 (Hollywood, neighborhoods in Silver Lake and Echo Park, Atwater and Westlake), respectively. City councilmembers can be a bit hard to fully peg given the vast array of issues—and deeply local minutiae—that their offices touch. Most councilmembers are lucky if their average constituent knows their name, let alone holds anything near a strong opinion. That said, Bonin and O'Farrell seem like decent guys and good progressives: if not earth-shattering office holders, still firmly in the what's-not-to-like camp.* But the two of them on the council floor today? That was something rare. It was the transcendence and resolve that we hope for from all our elected officials, and so infrequently receive.
*I'm sure plenty, as you will no doubt tell us in the Facebook comments!