North Texas Daily

Denton citizens gather for candlelight vigil to mourn Orlando victims

Denton citizens gather for candlelight vigil to mourn Orlando victims

June 12
21:51 2016

Matt Payne | Features Editor


Intermittent rain and wind gusts did not stop Denton County citizens from congregating the Downtown Square for a candlelight vigil in respect to those slaughtered at Orlando nightclub Pulse early this morning.

The ceremony, where more than 50 proponents within the LGBT community lamented the dozens murdered, was organized by the Stonewall Democrats of Denton County. Several other organizations, including the Denton County Young Democrats, Denton Trans-Cendence and UNT Compliments, were in attendance, and citizens from within the local government and outside shared personal stories of their own perseverance through discrimination and a sense of urgency within communities nationwide.

Denton County Democratic Party Chairperson Phyllis Wolper called the mass shooting a tragedy and urged all in attendance to not only express sympathy, but engage person-to-person to take action in any physical way they can, be it donations or verbal support.


Chairperson of the Denton County Democratic Party Phyllis Wolper calls for communal proaction. Matt Payne | Features Editor

“This horrible incident will not be in vain,” Wolper said. “It looks like we’ve started over again as a community, but I hope that we learn from this individual act of hatred.”

Wolper spoke of a need for sympathy from all sides of the political spectrum and to put aside any disagreements. She welcomed anybody from any political affiliation to express sympathy for those lost in Orlando, and Denton resident Michael Martinez walked to the middle of the crowd.

He identified as a Republican and Christian who “is confused and does not understand LGBT lifestyle choices,” but has a lesbian, married daughter and condemned the murder of anybody on account of what they believe in by a collective prayer.

“It’s eye-opening and a wonderful blessing to my heart to be able to speak with all of you through this tragedy,” Martinez said to address the LGBT community. “And I hope that all of your desires as a whole are achieved.”


Michael Martinez, a local Republican, laments the mass shooting in Orlando before leading the vigil in prayer. Matt Payne | Features Editor

Debate regarding stricter gun control in the U.S. was raised in light of murderer Omar Marteen legally purchasing his firearms, which led to discussion about the new campus carry policy to be enforced this fall semester. The policy will allow licensed students to carry a concealed firearm, but hesitation has been present among several UNT administrators.

In an effort to safeguard students, UNT professor Deborah Armintor has written in her syllabi that students enrolled in her classes are prohibited from carrying guns in spite of the forthcoming policy.

“I’ve been told that’s illegal, but I don’t care when I think about guns on campus and vulnerable student communities like the LGBT community, women and domestic violence,” Armintor said. “We shouldn’t live in fear, and I don’t want anybody on campus to walk in fear.”

The need for blood transplants for wounded survivors in Orlando was mentioned at the vigil, and straight allies of the LGBT community were urged to donate blood in place of denied LGBT individuals.

Denton County Stonewall Democrats officer Chaz Choate scolded the federal law that prevents gay individuals from donating blood and recalled wanting to donate blood and plasma for his mother who died of cancer.

Choate’s offer was denied for his sexual orientation.

“I am blacklisted from donating blood, all because I answered that one question in truth and honesty because I was not going to lie to myself,” Choate said. “If they can test our blood within three days, there’s no reason that gay men or women cannot donate. It’s ridiculous and needs to be changed.”

Choate urged local citizens to reach out and work with the Denton County Stonewall Democrats to send donations of water and snacks for those donating blood in Orlando. President of the Denton County Young Democrats Patrick Aguilar has also been working with the Dallas Resource Center to send funds for supplies.

“I think people need to become active,” Aguilar said. “It’s nice to see so many people come together on such short notice. I think that we all at home watch these things on TV and call these people evil, but for our voices to be heard, we need to become active and do what we can to help.”

The vigil concluded with Wolper prompting each attendee to turn to one another, introduce themselves and hug.

“Hate has destroyed many things and has never saved anything,” Wolper said. “Let’s explore our differences and love and respect each other for our differences.”

Featured Image: Denton citizens from all political alignment gathered for respect in spite of the rain. Matt Payne | Features Editor

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