NJDC Statement on the Violence in Orlando, Florida
We originally prepared this email on Friday, ready to hit send this week when our new blog, discussing the important role of juvenile defenders in representing LGBTQ youth, was posted to the web.
We prepared it on Friday before people from near and far took to the streets of Washington, D.C. and to streets across the nation to celebrate--wildly, beautifully, and openly--pride in the LGBTQ community.
We prepared it on Friday before we received the devastating news from Orlando early Sunday morning. Before 49 lives, hundreds of families, and innumerable hearts and minds and bodies were broken by the tragedy at the Pulse nightclub. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with those who lost loved ones in the violence.
At the National Juvenile Defender Center, we chose to celebrate Pride Month this June as part of our yearlong campaign to raise awareness around the crisis of children's access to counsel. We chose Pride because at every step in the juvenile justice system, LGBTQ youth are disproportionately targeted and harmed by the very people who are positioned to support and protect them.
This weekend's tragedy touched the entire LGBTQ community--including LGBTQ youth, who are courageously finding their voices in a society where hatred and sorrow sometimes seem to shout more loudly.
In the coming months, as we join together with youth, families, and the LGBTQ community and its allies, we will feel overwhelming anger and heartbreak. But there, in that darkness, is also our greatest strength: a unified chorus of voices that will only grow more powerful as we continue to cultivate love, hope, and most importantly, action.
Any world in which our children grow up silenced by harassment, fearful of violence, or shamed by the judgement of others is a world that we cannot accept.
A world that we will change, together.
Our community has the knowledge to build a juvenile justice system that encourages children's dreams; not destroys them. We have the tools to provide supports for youth that nurture their strengths and talents; not dim them out. And we have the compassion to make sure every child who passes through a courtroom knows that they are worthy of our dignity, kindness, and respect.
To the LGBTQ community, and to LGBTQ youth especially, we stand with you today, tomorrow, and always.
The National Juvenile Defender Center