At Oversight Committee Hearing, Survivors of Anti-LGBTQI+ Violence Underscore Dangers of Anti-LGBTQI+ Extremism
Washington, D.C. (Dec. 14, 2022)—Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, held a hearing to examine how the surge of anti-LGBTQI+ policies advanced in legislatures across the country and the proliferation of extreme anti-LGBTQI+ rhetoric are fueling violence against LGBTQI+ people in the United States, including the mass shooting that took place at the LGBTQI+ nightclub, Club Q, in Colorado Springs last month.
“Last month, a person with an AR-15-style assault rifle entered Club Q—a nightclub that served as a haven for LGBTQI+ people in the Colorado Springs community—and opened fire on unsuspecting bar patrons and staff. The attacker’s depravity robbed us of five innocent lives—Daniel Aston, Raymond Green Vance, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh, and Derrick Rump,” said Chairwoman Maloney in her opening statement. “Let us honor them by recommitting to the bold action necessary to ensure that every person in the United States can experience the freedom to live authentically and safely—regardless of who they love or how they identify.”
The Committee heard testimony from Michael Anderson and James Slaugh, survivors of the deadly Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Matthew Haynes, founding owner of Club Q. The Committee also heard testimony from Kelley Robinson, President of the Human Rights Campaign; Brandon Wolf, survivor of the Pulse Nightclub shooting; Olivia Hunt, Policy Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality; Jessie Pocock, CEO and Executive Director of Inside Out Youth Services; and Ilan Meyer, Distinguished Senior Scholar for Public Policy at the Williams Instititue
Survivors of anti-LGBTQI+ violence and expert witnesses emphasized that Republicans’ extremist rhetoric and harmful policies have contributed to surging violence, intimidation, and an unprecedented rise in hate crimes against the LGBTQI+ community.
- Mr. Anderson testified: “It was places like gay bars and clubs that helped me embrace who I was and formed me into the man I am today … If you are fortunate enough to intimately know LGBTQ people, you will find some of the kindest, funniest, accepting, and most welcoming people. Those are the people that found a safe place in Club Q and deserve to once again have that safe space … I can still hear the rapid firing of bullets today. It’s a sound I may never forget. It’s a sound I hope no one here or anywhere else in this country has to hear.”
- Mr. Haynes testified: “I know that we, our Club Q community, are in the thoughts and prayers of many of you. Unfortunately, these thoughts and prayers alone are not saving lives. They are not changing the rhetoric of hate. None of us ever imagined that our little bar in Colorado Springs would be the target of the next hate crime, and I again repeat that we were targeted for the next hate crime … When you take hate and access to military style assault weapons, putting those together is total carnage.”
- Mr. Slaugh testified: “ I don’t want to imagine what may have happened if the shooter had not been taken down that night. Five wonderful people were still murdered and may we never forget their names. Ashley Paugh, Raymond Green Vance, Daniel Aston, Derrick Rump, and Kelly Loving. We miss each of you.”
- Responding to Rep. Cicilline, Brandon Wolf testified: “Words have consequences...people should be accountable for the things that come out of their mouths and when you’re willing to traffic in cheap shots and bigotry against a marginalized community that is already seeing hate against it on the rise, already seeing violence rising across the country, when you’re willing to traffic in those things to score political points, you have to be accountable for what happens next. you have to hold yourself accountable for the impacts of your words.
Witnesses detailed the growing list of harmful anti-LGBTQI+ policies championed by Republicans at every level of government and the ways in which they are undermining the ability of LGBTQI+ people to live authentically and without fear.
- In response to a question from Rep. Bush about the proliferation of Republican bills targeting LGBTQI+ people, Ms. Robinson stated: “It’s a crisis that we are experiencing. We are trying to be able to live freely, safely, and wholly as our true selves in every aspect of life. And what we see is continued legislative attacks paired with extremist rhetoric. And when some of these bills are moving forward whether or not they are enacted, they have a devastating impact on our community.”
- Responding to a question from Chairwoman Maloney about the threat of a federal “Don’t Say Gay” law, Ms. Robinson testified: “When we allow these pieces of legislation to move forward, that erase our communities, that dehumanize us, what it does is create a dangerous environment that does support and feed these seeds of hatred that exist in our world. It’s not only dangerous, it’s violent to our people.”
- Brandon Wolf explained the impact of Florida’s law limiting discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in schools: “We’ve seen books being banned with LGBTQ characters across the state. We’ve seen teachers being told to hide their family photos in their desks. We've seen school districts like Miami Dade County refusing to recognize LGBTQ history month for instance, saying that it might violate the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” law. Those are just some of the impacts. They’re weighing most heavily on LGBTQ families who fought really hard to see their loved ones recognized and respected. It's weighing on teachers who are fleeing the profession, we have over 9,000 teacher vacancies in Florida in part because they’ve been undergoing character assassination over the last couple of years. And finally it’s weighing most heavily on LGBTQ young people. The Trevor Project tells us that almost two thirds of trans young people are experiencing poorer mental health outcomes because of policies like House Bill 1557 in Florida. So in short, the debate over the humanity of LGBTQ people is making life harder and less safe for people, especially in the state of Florida.”
- In response to a question from Rep. Raskin on how extreme Republican laws affect the mental health and physical safety of LGBTQI+ youth, Ms. Hunt testified: “When children are told that they’re not part of society, it teaches them that they don’t belong, that they are lesser-than, and that they are not as worthy as their classmates and as their peers. And that’s not the message that we should ever be teaching to young children anywhere in this country.”
Witnesses and Democratic Members emphasized the need to take bold action to push back against extreme anti-LGBTQI+ policies and advance the health, safety, and rights of LGBTQI+ people
- Responding to a question from Congresswoman Norton on the importance of the Equality Act, Mr. Wolf testified: “It’s important because we are not afforded the same nondiscrimination protections as other people. I say this as a person in the state of Florida. One of the things we’ve worked on with Equality Florida for years is implementing comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people in our state, so what does that mean? It means protecting people from being denied housing because we have a boyfriend, not a girlfriend. It protects LGBTQ people from being fired because we have a picture of our spouse on the desk.”
- Responding to questioning from Rep. Raskin, Ms. Pocock explained: “We know that when you build an inclusive classroom you have young folks who are more engaged, who are more likely to show up in school, and so the best thing that we can do is prevent negative outcomes by creating an inclusive classroom, an inclusive church, an inclusive home. That is hands-down, the research shows, the very best thing we can do for young people.”