Orlando Shooting: Father Of Victim Refuses To Claim Son’s Body Because He Was Gay

The father of an Orlando shooting victim has refused to claim his son’s body because he was gay, the Advocate is reporting.

Of the 49 people who were shot and killed at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, a popular gay hot spot in the City Beautiful, the bodies of 48 have been claimed and properly laid to rest. However, the body of the 49th victim, whose name is not being released, was not claimed by his immediate family.

According to an Orlando Latino post, which has since been deleted, the man was Puerto Rican. In fact, most of the victims of the Pulse shooting were Latino, as it was Latin Night at the club when the shooting took place. And in some corners of Latino culture, LGBTQ individuals are not welcome.

“The tale is part of the untold stories of the Latino victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre.”

Homophobia is alive and well in Puerto Rico, both privately in families, publicly in the island’s culture, and even in some corners of the island’s government.

Even though the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that marriage equality is the law of the land in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, which is not a state but rather a territory, continues to oppose it. According to a March 2016 report in the Advocate, U.S. District Court Judge Juan Pérez-Giménez decreed that the ruling does not apply to Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico’s governor, Alejandro García Padilla, told the island’s residents to ignore the ruling.

According to a 2012 Global Gayz report, Puerto Rico’s traditionally masculine culture leaves little room for homosexuality.

“It appears that any expression of sexuality outside patriarchal heterosexuality is uniformly unwelcome. We grow up in very close-knit families with the mother as the anchor of the matriarchal hierarchy. Men wear the pants but women are the ones we fear.”

For a period of a few months in 2010 and 2011, Puerto Rico was beset by a wave of homophobic violence, according to Color Lines. Eighteen LGBTQ individuals on the island were killed in horrific hate crimes, and by some interpretations, anti-gay preachers and politicians on the island helped create a climate of hate.

Advocate writer Daniel Reynolds draws comparisons between the Orlando shooting victim’s family refusing to claim his body and similar situations during the early days of the AIDS crisis and a 1973 arson attack at a New Orleans gay night club.

In a May 2016 report in Out Magazine, Ruth Coker Burks spoke of her time caring for AIDS victims between 1984 and the mid-1990s. Many of the victims’ bodies went unclaimed by their families; Coker buried some of them herself. She buried the ashes of one man in a cemetery that had been reserved for her own family.

“No one wanted him, and I told him in those long 13 hours [as he lay dying] that I would take him to my beautiful little cemetery, where my daddy and grandparents were buried, and they would watch out over him.”

Similarly, filmmaker Robert L. Camina says that after the arson attack on New Orleans’ Upstairs Lounge club, which killed 32 people, many of the victims’ families wanted nothing to do with their bodies.

“These men went missing and no one claimed them? I can’t wrap my head around it. It’s unfathomable. I grieve for the unidentified victims of the fire. I don’t believe they have found peace yet. I am shocked and sickened that the families never claimed them and that their bodies were dumped into a pauper’s grave.”

Fortunately, the story of the Pulse shooting victim whose father refused to claim his body has a somewhat happy ending. With the help of the Orange County Medical Examiner and Florida Emergency Mortuary Operations Response System, relatives of the victim claimed the body and saw to it that the unnamed man was given a proper burial.

[Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images]

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