Last week, a California woman and ally to the LGBTQ+ community was shot and killed outside her store in Cedar Glen by a man who, according to the sheriffs’ report, made several disparaging remarks about a rainbow Pride flag she displayed.
While the motive for this shooting is not yet official, the signs point to the killer’s violence being related to the Pride flag, and his possible anti-LGBTQ+ hate. If this murder was indeed the result of anti-LGBTQ+ hate, an entire community is not only reeling from the tragic death of an innocent woman, but LGBTQ+ people and their allies everywhere are once again reminded of the very real threat of hate and violence they face day after day.
The killing of Laura Ann Carleton is yet another terrifying wake-up call that anti-LGBTQ+ hate and violence are out of control in the US and around the world. Efforts to demonize, intimidate, and provoke violence against LGBTQ+ people have increased over the past year globally. It would be naive to separate these violent attacks from the demonizing anti-LGBTQ+ efforts of some politicians and far-right organizations — there is no doubt that the rhetoric they spew and the hateful and discriminatory policies they push are connected to the rising violence against LGBTQ+ people, and in this case, allies.
From the arson of a church in Texas, to the firebombing of a coffee shop in Oklahoma, to the disruption of library story hours, the threatening of school boards, and the banning of books, to the horrific murders at Club Q in Colorado last November, the threats and the violence facing LGBTQ+ people and allies is all too real. Just last week, new data from HRC showed that nearly 80 percent of LGBTQ+ Americans reported increased fears for their personal safety.
The attack on LGBTQ+ people in the US and beyond is devastating and dangerous. As we’ve said before, the relentless dehumanization and demonization of LGBTQ+ people by far-right politicians, extremist religious leaders, and hateful ideology adherents — often spread online — will continue to result in violence if this rhetoric and push for irrational, hateful, and rights-restricting legislation isn’t stopped.
Lauri Carleton made sure that LGBTQ+ people in her community felt supported and loved. We all deserve to feel safe. In her honor, and the honor of others we’ve lost, we must all come together to fight against anti-LGBTQ+ hate and far-right extremism and create a world where love and acceptance prevails.