Father Refused to Claim Pulse Nightclub Shooting Victim

pr flags at city hall
Puerto Rican flags were planted on the lawn of the Dr. Phillips center in honor of Pulse nightclub shooting victims. /city of Orlando

All the Pulse nightclub shooting victims’ bodies have been released to next of kin. Even the shooter’s body has left the Orange County Medical Examiner’s building off Michigan Avenue, according to information released this week.

“We effectively and efficiently completed the identification, notification and autopsy process within a 72-hour period – a monumental task,” according to an earlier statement by OCME, which worked with the Florida Emergency Mortuary Operations Response System to complete the gruesome task.

But it was touch and go for one particular shooting victim whose father didn’t want to claim the body. Because the son was gay. Because the father was ashamed. Finally and after much convincing, the body was released to Orlando-area relatives and he has been buried. (Thanks to the commenters on this post for your concern.)

This young man shall remain anonymous so as not to further victimize the deceased, who was Puerto Rican. But Orlando Latino confirmed the information with several sources. The tale is part of the untold stories of the Latino victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre.

Social Conservative

The fact is, Puerto Ricans on the island are socially conservative and oftentimes anti-LGBT. While the U.S. Supreme Court declared that same-sex marriage was constitutional in June 2015, gay marriage didn’t reach Puerto Rico until April 2016 – 10 months after the highest court’s ruling – because a San Juan district court said the Supreme Court’s decision didn’t apply to Puerto Rico.

“The district court’s ruling errs in so many respects that it is hard to know where to begin,” wrote the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston in slapping down Puerto Rico’s claim.

But the local court didn’t “err” in reflecting the island’s social conservatism, an attitude it shares with many other Spanish-speaking pew gay pollcountries.

In Puerto Rico, 72 percent of Protestants oppose same-sex marriage, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center study of social and moral issues in Latin America. Among island Catholics opposition was significantly lower –  45 percent. Puerto Rico is about evenly split between Protestants and Catholics. Overall, about 55 percent of islanders oppose same-sex marriage.

 The highest opposition – over 80 percent – is in the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Meanwhile, Uruguay scored the lowest, 31 percent opposition, which is even lower than the 34 percent of U.S. Hispanics who do not support gay marriage, according to the study.

 

Support for same-sex marriage is higher among younger generations. About   48 percent of the 18 to 34 year olds in Puerto Rico favor it, a figure that drops to 26 percent for people over age 35.

The pain of being Puerto Rican and gay is real. In the island’s macho culture (relative to the states), anti-gay bias is not subtle and has reached the highest levels of government.

Bias None too Subtle

In 2009, Puerto Rico’s Senate president alleged during a radio interview that a fellow senator was like  “el petardo que no explota” or like a firecracker that doesn’t explode, insinuating he was gay. The statement was denounced by pro LGBT groups.

Perhaps this why it took pop star Ricky Martin a while before declaring his sexual orientation. He is now the most famous gay Puerto Rican and no doubt his coming out in 2010 helped many others to do the same. In Puerto Rico, everybody loves Ricky Martin – he is famous, wealthy, good looking and more.

But nobody knew the Orlando shooting victim. No coming out on Oprah for him. And the victim’s family – or at least his father –didn’t accept the son’s sexual orientation, adding further insult to the sad and sensational circumstances of his death.

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