Advocates said in the aftermath of the deadly massacre at a Colorado gay nightclub that politicians, religious leaders and media figures who promote discriminatory rhetoric have endangered the lives of LGBT people.
“When an entire group of people is dehumanized by elected officials and religious leaders for political gain or to gain influence, there are repercussions,” Bruce Parker, deputy director of the nonprofit Outboulder County, Colorado, said this week.
“These people with their hateful rhetoric and legislation against LGBTQ people have put targets on our backs,” said Parker, who referenced Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law and the order from Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott. To have the state investigate the use of gender affirming care for transgender children as child abuse.
Last year, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a record-breaking 26 anti-LGBTQ bills were registered to become law in ten states in the United States.
This year alone, Republican lawmakers have introduced more than 300 anti-LGBTQ bills across the country, nearly half of them targeting transgender youth, according to the advocacy organization.
“When you use us as weapons, there are repercussions for us, and I need that to be different,” Parker said. “I don’t quite know how we get there, but I do know that they put the goal in there.”
Five people were killed and about two dozen others were wounded when a gunman opened fire late Saturday night at Club Q, a popular LGTBQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The accused shooter faces murder and hate crime charges in connection with the outburst that unfolded on the eve of the annual Transgender Memorial Day that honors transgender people killed in violence.
“You can draw a direct line from anti-gay rhetoric to anti-LGBTQ violence,” Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD, said in a statement.
Ellis pointed to the statements of Republican politicians, such as the Republican Representative from Colorado, Lauren Boebert, who narrowly defeated her Democratic opponent in the midterm elections.
“Take your kids to church, not tow bars,” Boebert, who has faced criticism for her comments on LGBTQ issues, wrote in a June tweet.
Last year, while speaking out against the Equality Act on the House floor, Boppert asked, “Where is the fairness in this legislation to little girls all over America who will have to look behind their backs as they change in school locker rooms, just to be sure Isn’t there a confused man trying to peek?”
“Right-wing politicians like Rep. Boppert push vile, baseless lies about our society, which spread like wildfire and go unchecked on social media and right-wing media,” Ellis said.
She continued, “Rep. Boebert has led to the creation of a culture of anti-LGBTQ hate in Colorado and beyond. Boebert’s lies that he speaks about the LGBTQ are absolutely despicable.”
Meanwhile, research from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University San Bernardino found that hate crimes in the United States are on the rise again and that hate crimes against LGBT people in the country were up 51% in 2021 compared to the previous year. .
According to the most recent data available from the FBI, hate crimes against transgender people increased 41% between 2019 and 2020.
Parker said he believes anti-gay rhetoric from politicians, media figures, and religious leaders “contributes to creating a culture and atmosphere that is deadly to people who are different.”
Right-wing media figures like Fox News host Tucker Carlson promoted and doubled down on anti-LGBT rhetoric in the aftermath of the Club Q shooting.
Carlson called gender affirming care “pedophile mutilation”.
“This rhetoric is dangerous,” Parker said. “It will lead to the dehumanization of whole parts of the country and the world.”
Ways to stop the violence, Parker said, include ending hate speech, tightening gun laws, and improving access to mental health resources.
“I think there is space to strike a balance between protecting people’s liberties and keeping my community alive,” he said.