Petition asks Star Wars producers to include gay character in honor of Orlando victim

Contributed by
Jun 29, 2016, 10:31 AM EDT

A new campaign is underway to pay tribute to one of the victims of the horrific mass shootings in Orlando earlier this month.

As Cinemablend reports, a petition has been launched at that is addressed to Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and Disney CEO Robert Iger, asking them to include gay characters in the Star Wars franchise. The petition, started by Joshua Yehl, is dedicated to the memory of Christopher Andrew "Drew" Leinonen, one of the 49 people slaughtered by shooter Omar Mateen at Orlando's Pulse nightclub on June 12 in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

Yehl writes that he would like his late friend to serve as the "inspiration" for the first LGBT character in Star Wars history. He notes that Leinonen was a huge Star Wars fan, adding:

"How this is done -- using his likeness, running his name through one of those Star Wars Name Generators, etc. -- is totally up to you. You are all masters of your craft, so I know that whatever you come up with will be marvelous. This character will not only honor Drew but all of the other victims at Pulse in Orlando, including his boyfriend Juan Ramon Guerrero, and every LGBT person to ever lose their life to hate."

Yehl continues that in a fictional universe filled with Hutts, Jawas and Wookiees, a visible LGBT character is sorely needed:

"It’s vitally important that LGBT people are included in mainstream media because it will show that we don’t need to be feared or hated or hidden. We can be part of the rebellion and we can fight evil, and we can do it while being who we are with pride."

To be fair, Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a progressive film for a studio blockbuster, with a young woman and a man of color introduced as not just that film's leads but the main characters of the new trilogy that's underway. But an LGBT character has proven until now to be an elusive goal, not just for Star Wars but for other Disney properties like the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

It seems inevitable that one of these gigantic pop culture properties will at long last create and cast an LGBT character (Captain America: Civil War directors Anthony and Joe Russo certainly think it's a foregone conclusion), so why not Star Wars? And why not a character that honors a person who was very likely gunned down because of his sexuality? My one caveat to all this would be that the character is not just included for inclusion's sake alone; create a character who is three-dimensional and vital to the story -- and who happens to be gay.

The petition is more than halfway toward its goal of 5,000 signatures as I write this. Should Kennedy and Iger heed its request and honor the memory of Christpher Leinonen and the 48 others brutally murdered in Orlando with the first LGBT character in Star Wars history?