Miami Beach gay community, elected leaders come together for Orlando shooting vigil

Debate about whether gay men should be able to donate blood draws applause

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – The sound of John Lennon's "Imagine" brought tears to many in the crowd who gathered Sunday night in Miami Beach to mourn the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting massacre.

Hundreds attended a vigil to remember the victims of the massacre, including Roger Lords, whose friend, Jeffrey Rodriguez, was shot three times and hid in a bathroom until help arrived.

"He's actually fighting for his life right now in the hospital," Lords said. "So we've been here just to go and support everybody there. But it's just really sad. I don't know. I don't really know what to say."

One of the more poignant moments of the night was the burning candles that dotted the pride flag.

"I think I said, 'Here we go again,'" vigil attendee Jessica Grau said of the shooting. "I have a lot of family in Orlando and I definitely reached out to all of them and I wanted to make sure they were all OK. It hurt a lot. I spent a lot of the day crying because I feel for the families. It's sad."

The Miami Gay Men's Chorus delivered a performance that underscored the theme of the night.

Flags with the message "Love wins" covered Soundscape Park, where members of the gay community joined elected leaders in a show of unity. The debate over whether gay men should be able to donate blood drew a fiery applause from a crowd filled with sorrow.

"The community wants to do be able to do anything it can help," U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, said. "Otherwise, healthy men should not have that discrimination standing in their way, especially when there is so much need."

Meanwhile, Miami Beach police Chief Dan Oates announced that his officers would double their patrol of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender businesses, including restaurants, bars and nightclubs.