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Rehoboth PFLAG families respond to Orlando massacre

Cape Gazette of Lewes, Delaware

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Group holds annual picnic June 14

The Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando and Delaware's recent failure to pass a nondiscrimination bill to protect LGBTQ. citizens gave members of the Rehoboth Beach chapter of PFLAG plenty to talk about at their yearly picnic June 14.

Linda Gregory, member of the PFLAG-Rehoboth chapter, said the Orlando shooting was devastating.

"Absolutely heartbreaking.

What came to me first is heartbreak. And then fear for my children and then, once again, being reinforced that we need to address mental health in this country," she said. Member John Hulse said he has friends in Orlando but none was involved in the Pulse tragedy. "We can't stop living the way we're living here," he said.

Member Patti Burke said, "A lot of us in this area, I wouldn't say we get complacent, but we feel very comfortable that this is a very accepting area, and something like that happens and we all are shaken back to reality. We have a ways to go."

Hulse recalled the riot at Stonewall in 1969 and compared it to the reaction to the Orlando shooting.

"Look at the outpouring of support we had instantaneously, where back then people were ready to throw bottles and stones even more. So I think we've made a lot of progress but we have a long way to go," he said.

Locally, Hulse said Rehoboth is far more accepting of LGBTQ. people than in the early 1990s when bumper stickers in town read, "Keep Rehoboth A Family Town."

"We are a family town, but the families are all different now. They got it," he said.

Still, the Delaware Senate tabled a measure to amend the state constitution to protect LGBTQ_ citizens from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identification.

PFLAG members were disappointed by the news.

Burke said, "Very disappointing. Everything takes time. Sometimes for things to go forward, things have to go back."

Both Burke and Gregory pointed to improved mental health services as a key to preventing tragedies like Orlando. Burke said regulating guns is only one piece of the puzzle; the hard work is improving mental health services, she said..

"There's still that stigma if you're ill mentally," Gregory said. PFLAG-Rehoboth does outreach and advocacy, such as supporting young people coming to terms with their sexuality. PFLAG was formerly known as Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, but the name is now just the acronym.

"Our membership here is to support one another and to educate people," Gregory said.

"I think the first reaction is, 'I'm the only one this has ever happened to.' We're here to share our stories. We have the whole rainbow of families and friends," Hulse said.

The organization has also worked with Cape Henlopen High School's Gay Straight Alliance, which has about 100 members.

"It's been nice for us to be part of the journey with them," Burke said.

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Original Publication Date: July 15, 2016

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