- Politicians and faith leaders pushing “hateful” rhetoric puts “targets” on the LGBTQ community, an advocate said.
- “This rhetoric is dangerous,” Bruce Parker of Out Boulder County, told Insider.
- A gunman opened fire at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado over the weekend, killing five people.
Politicians, faith leaders, and media personalities who push discriminatory rhetoric have put the lives of LGBTQ people at risk, advocates said in the wake of the deadly massacre at a gay nightclub in Colorado.
“When an entire group of people is dehumanized by elected officials and faith leaders for political gain or to gain influence, there are repercussions,” Bruce Parker, the deputy director of the Colorado non-profit Out Boulder County told Insider this week.
“Those people with their rhetoric and their hateful legislation attacks on LGBTQ people put targets on our backs,” said Parker who referenced Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law and the order earlier this year by Republican Texas Gov. 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 signed into law across ten states in the US.
This year alone, GOP lawmakers have introduced more than 300 anti-LGBTQ bills nationwide with about 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 target there.”
Five people were killed and about two dozen others were injured 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 to the rampage, which unfolded on the eve of the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance honoring transgender people killed by acts of violence.
Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD, told Insider in a statement: “You can draw a direct line from anti-LGBTQ rhetoric to anti-LGBTQ violence.”
Ellis pointed to remarks from GOP politicians like Republican Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert who narrowly beat her Democratic challenger in the midterm elections.
Boebert, who has faced criticism for her comments on LGBTQ issues, wrote in a June tweet: “Take your children to CHURCH, not drag bars.”
Last year, while speaking out against the Equality Act on the House floor, Boebert asked, “Where is the equity in this legislation for the young girls across America who will have to look behind their backs as they change in school locker rooms, just to make sure there isn’t a confused man trying to catch a peek?”
Ellis said, “Right-wing politicians like Rep. Boebert push vile, baseless lies about our community, which spread like wildfire and go unchecked on social media and right-wing media.”
She continued, “Rep. Boebert led on creating a culture of anti-LGBTQ hate in Colorado and beyond. The lies Boebert spews about LGBTQ people are absolutely despicable.”
Boebert did not immediately respond to a request for comment by Insider on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, research from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino found that US hate crimes were again on the rise and hate crimes against LGBTQ people in the nation were up 51% in 2021 compared to the year before.
According to the most recent available data from the FBI, hate crimes against transgender people climbed 41% between 2019 and 2020.
Parker said that he believes that anti-LGBTQ rhetoric from politicians, media personalities, and faith leaders “contribute to creating a culture and climate that is deadly for people who are different.”
Right-wing media figures like Fox News host Tucker Carlson have promoted anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and even doubled down on it in the aftermath of the Club Q shooting.
Carlson has called gender-affirming care the “sexual mutilation of children.”
“This rhetoric is dangerous,” Parker said. “It’s going to dehumanize entire chunks of the country and the world.”
Ways to stop the violence include, ending the hateful rhetoric, tighter gun laws and better access to mental health resources, Parker said.
“I think there is space to balance out protecting people’s freedoms and keeping my community alive,” he said.