Two people fly a rainbow LGBTQ pride flag and a transgender pride flag in front of the Colorado Capitol building during a celebration on Nov. 7, 2020. (Moe Clark/Colorado Newsline)
As details of the mass shooting at Club Q emerged on Sunday, Colorado officials expressed shock and grief, with some directly acknowledging the shooting’s impact on the LGBTQ community while others stuck to the rhetoric of “thoughts and prayers.”
The shooting, which took place at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs late Saturday night, left five people dead and 25 injured.
Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, the nation’s first openly gay governor, called the shooting “horrific, sickening and devastating” in a statement.
“My heart breaks for the family and friends of those lost, injured and traumatized in this terrible shooting,” he said, adding that he spoke with Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers and offered law enforcement support from the state.
“Colorado stands with our LGBTQ community and everyone impacted by this tragedy as we mourn,” he said.
Court records on Monday showed that the 22-year-old suspect in the shooting was arrested on suspicion of five counts of first-degree murder and five counts of “bias-motivated crime,” an offense under Colorado’s hate-crime statute. Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, a Republican, told reporters that the attack on Club Q “certainly has the trappings of a hate crime.”
House Majority Leader Daneya Esgar, the co-founder of the Colorado LGBTQ Legislative Caucus, and Rep. Brianna Titone, the caucus’ chair, called Club Q a “safe haven” for queer Coloradans.
“For that sense of safety to be shattered by this unspeakable act of violence impacts the entire LGBTQ community,” the Democrats said in a joint statement. “From the acts of violence that target our community every day to the horrific shooting at the Pulse Nightclub, horrible tragedies like this have happened far too often, and they need to stop now. We must take urgent and meaningful action to reduce gun violence and prevent crimes that target and kill LGBTQ people.”
‘It’s clear why this person did this’
Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet said in a statement that he was “sending strength” to the state’s LGBTQ community. He also called for direct action.
“As we seek justice for this unimaginable act, we must do more to protect the LGBTQ community and stand firm against discrimination and hate in every form,” he said.
Many Democrats connected the shooting to a rise in hateful rhetoric about LGBTQ people.
“This community is paying with their lives for the rise in hate and bigotry. Even in a safe space like Club Q,” Sen. John Hickenlooper tweeted. “We have to do more than remember the victims. We have to give people the freedom to be who they are, love who they love, and live full lives.”
State Rep. Leslie Herod of Denver said there is a clear connection between the hateful rhetoric that we hear from people and what we see today.
“It’s clear why this person did this, why he went into an LGBTQ club and sprayed bullets. It’s because of the hate and the rhetoric that we hear every day. Make no mistake. Anyone who turns on their Twitter feed or their social media feed every single day can see this hate,” she said during a Monday appearance on Democracy Now.
Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette, Joe Neguse and Jason Crow, as well as Reps.-elect Brittany Pettersen and Yadira Caraveo, also expressed direct support for members of the LGBTQ community as they released statements condemning the shooting.
“Another senseless mass shooting has shocked Colorado. This time, the murderer targeted the LGBTQ community in CO Springs. On #TransDayOfRemembrance, we must honor those who we’ve lost and work to end violent, hateful rhetoric. If nothing is done, nothing will change,” Pettersen tweeted.
Sunday was Transgender Day of Remembrance, which honors transgender people who have been killed because of their identity.
Republicans ignore connection to LGBTQ community
While Republican officials also expressed grief in response to the shooting, few mentioned the LGBTQ community that was directly targeted and affected.
Colorado House Assistant Minority Leader Mike Lynch, who will serve as minority leader next session, was one of the few Republicans to directly acknowledge the community.
“The Colorado House Republicans are deeply saddened by the incomprehensible violence and loss of life that occurred last night at Club Q in Colorado Springs,” he said in a statement. “We want all of those affected directly or indirectly in the LGBTQ community to know we mourn with them.”
Rep. Doug Lamborn, the Republican who represents the congressional district centered on Colorado Springs, tweeted that he was “saddened to hear of the senseless loss of life in the shooting last night.”
“Law enforcement and first responders are to be commended for their rapid response. All people should pray for the victims and their families,” he tweeted.
Lamborn has consistently voted against legislation that advances or protects LGBTQ rights, such as the Equality Act, which would provide consistent non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people.
In a tweet, Rep. Lauren Boebert said that the shooting victims and their families are in her prayers and that the “lawless violence needs to end and end quickly.” She did not mention the LGBTQ community, which she has been highly critical of. She has claimed that the LGBTQ community is “grooming” children, criticized drag shows, misgendered a transgender official and consistently supported anti-transgender legislation.
Resources and fundraisers
Several organizations have started fundraisers to support victims and their families:
The Colorado Healing Fund, part of Colorado Gives, is accepting donations.A former Club Q employee started a GoFundMe for medical and funeral expenses.Good Judy Garage started a GoFundMe to “raise funds for funeral expenses, medical expenses, or other expenses the families of those murdered or injured have to face.”
Inside Out Youth Services, which is based in Colorado Springs, is maintaining a spreadsheet of resources and responses, including vigils. A Colorado Springs counselor and social worker has also created a spreadsheet of resources, including low-cost therapy resources.
People can also reach the Colorado Crisis Services hotline at 1-844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255 to speak with a trained counselor or professional.
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