Colorado politicians have fostered anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and policies — from local school boards to Congress — that are escalating violence, experts and advocates say = Colorado

Ari Drenn, who tracks misinformation about queer communities for Media Matters, said parents are easily targeted and influenced by disinformation campaigns that appeal to their protective nature.

“People are being radicalized by these groups that are forming on Facebook, like Moms for Liberty and some other groups like this that are running for school board. They go to school board meetings, they come in with these anti-LGBTQ conspiracy theories and the idea that they’re there to stop people from basically becoming gay,” Drenn said.

Advocates warn that anti-LGBTQ laws normalize the dehumanization of queer people

LGBTQ advocacy groups and government overseers in the United States have been pursuing federal and state government bills that have the potential to impact LGBTQ rights. While most laws attempting to limit LGBTQ rights at the state or federal level fail, some have become laws.

“We have seen trans minors banned from accessing gender-affirming care. We’ve seen several states enact bans banning trans people from athletic competitions. We’ve seen laws like the Don’t Say Gay law in Florida that really restrict LGBTQ people’s freedom of speech in the classroom,” Drenn said.

Colorado lawmakers have largely avoided introducing such bills. Any attempt would likely be blocked by the Democratic majority and a group of moderate Republicans in the state legislature.

The national push to pass the Equality Act, a bill amending the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to outlaw discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity, may bear fruit after being passed by the House last year. Colorado’s congressional delegation was divided when the bill came to a vote. Republicans Doug Lamborn and Ken Buck voted against the bill, while Rep. Boebert urged others to follow their lead and not vote at all.

“Where is the justice in this legislation for the young girls across America who have to look behind their backs as they change in the school locker rooms just to make sure no confused man tries to peek?” asked Boebert in the house. The bill awaits a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Bridges said codifying laws that restrict the rights of LGBTQ people could further dehumanize the community.

“This isn’t just chatter in the locker room anymore, right? This is no longer about your transphobic, homophobic family members or neighbors cracking jokes. It harms our society. It creates trauma and violence. That kind of language is violence against our community,” Bridges said.

The suspected shooter in Sunday’s attack was booked into the El Paso County Jail on Tuesday afternoon. He was arrested on five counts of first-degree murder and five counts of prejudice-motivated felonies involving assault.