“I want to be very clear,” is how the Oversight Committee’s hearing begins. “We currently live in an unsafe America for LGBTQ+ people.”
The United States’ oversight committee brought to light the rise of anti-LGBTQIA+ violence in our country.
Survivors of this violence and experts in the field shared their first-hand knowledge on why this violence is on the rise and what can be done to prevent it.
And while conversations are underway, a solution is far from near.
“While I prepared for my life to end in that moment,” shared Michael Anderson, “I prayed and I panicked and I prayed some more.”
Anderson was one of the survivors of the Club Q shooting that happened in Colorado in mid-November. The Lakeland, Florida native said he spent his childhood suppressed, and at the age of 16, he could freely be himself.
He shared during his testimony that one of his safe havens became the epi-center of violence when a shooter killed five people.
Anderson thinks it could have been prevented, “Hate speech turns into hate actions, and those actions lead by hate almost took my life at 25 years old. I beg you all to consider your words before you speak to them, as someone may use those words to justify actions, actions that may take someone’s life.”
Panelists in Washington, D.C., discussed Wednesday data and solutions to minimize hate-based crime towards the LGBTQIA+ community.
According to a new report from the FBI, in 2021 alone, there were nearly 73 hundred hate crimes documented. According to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, within the last year, there were over 300 anti-LGBTQ bills at the state level.
Also, there were close to 150 attacks at LGBTQIA+ events.
Champions of the LGBTQIA+ community, like chairwoman Ms. Carolyn Maloney, said bills, one of which critics call the “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” erase the existence of this community.
“These actions are the culmination of years of anti-LGBTQIA+ extremism that started in state houses across the country and spread to social media platforms before boiling over into communities where we reside.”
Those on the other side of the political aisle, like James Comer, believe the focus shouldn’t just be on this community but on the rise in violent crime as a whole to all populations.
Comer shared, “The rise in crime in America is the 2nd largest concern for Americans, second only to this administration’s inflation crisis. Recent data shows that violent crime increased by 4.2% nationwide in the first six months of 2022.”
Panelists believe there are several reasons for the rise in crime against LGBTQIA+ individuals, due to mainly a lack of police funding, language that is used by certain politicians against this population, and legislation that promotes censorship.
Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the Orlando Pulse shooting, was one of the panelists. He shared, “We have seen books being banned with LGBTQ characters across the state, we have seen teachers being told to hide their family photos in their desks, we have seen school districts like Miami Dade county refusing to recognize LGBTQ history, that it might violate the don’t say gay or trans law.”
Florida’s representative Bryon Donalds, said he believes taxpayers and parents in Florida should give input when purchasing books for the school district. However, he then said the superintendent of the school district should then make that decision.
The discussion and questioning caused back and forth between Wolf and Donalds.
Each committee member shared their thoughts on the rise in crime and questioned panelists on information they brought forward. The committee will have five days to ask panelists any additional questions that were not answered.
No immediate action is expected to be taken after this hearing. However, it was one of the last hearings for the committee before Republicans took control of the House, thus taking over the panel.