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Deadly Club Q shooting reflects escalation in anti-LGBTQ hate around the Mountain West

Colorado reported 308 hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation from 2010 to 2020 – the most in the region, according to data from the FBI.
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Colorado reported 308 hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation from 2010 to 2020 – the most in the Mountain West, according to data from the FBI.

News brief

The mass shooting that left five people dead at Club Q in Colorado Springs Saturday night is a tragedy that underscores a troubling pattern of hate crimes against the LGBTQ community in the Mountain West.

Colorado reported 308 hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation from 2010 to 2020 – the most in the region, according to data from the FBI. The next highest was Nevada, with 118 cases.

I think we are seeing anecdotally, but also through reports, a genuine increase in the number of these types of crimes,” said Jeremy Shaver, the mountain states director of the Anti-Defamation League.

These crimes can happen more often for those with multiple marginalized identities. A survey conducted by Hate Free Colorado found that “nearly 6 in 10 people of color who are 18-24 and LGBTQ+ experienced a hate crime or incident” in Colorado.

These crimes also do not always occur in-person. The ADL conducted a survey of online harassment for adults that were 18 years of age or older and found that the LGBTQ community was more likely to experience harassment online than any other group surveyed.

On a national scale, the FBI reported in 2020 that of the 8,000 hate crimes recorded, 20% of them were motivated by sexual orientation, the second-highest category behind those motivated by race and ancestry. The same is true in Colorado and New Mexico over the last couple of years.

It can be difficult to track the numbers since some states and local law enforcement agencies don't report hate crimes to the federal government. The FBI's 2020 data, for example, accounts for only about 11,000 of the close to 19,000 law enforcement agencies in the country.

“We know that the number of hate crimes and hate incidents targeting LGBTQ Coloradans is underreported, and most of them, in fact, go unreported,” Shaver said. “I think we also need to recognize that many of the communities that are most frequently targeted with hate crimes – particularly black Coloradans, LGBTQ Coloradans – those are also communities that have some of the lowest levels of trust and confidence in law enforcement right now. So they're less likely to report to law enforcement.”

Wyoming doesn't have a hate crimes law at all, as ADL's Hate Crime Map shows. Montana and Idaho do, but their laws don't cover sexual orientation or gender identity.

Separately, Montana, Idaho and Utah are among the states that have passed legislation in recent years restricting the rights of those in the LGBTQ community. All three, for example, have passed laws banning transgender athletes (though a judge in Utah reversed the ban there).

Shaver said such anti-LGBTQ laws show that these attacks aren't happening in a vacuum.

“Politicians, extremists and pundits alike are fanning the flames of this hateful campaign,” he said, “And we need to call it out for what it is. It's anti-gay, it's anti-transgender, it's hateful. And it's putting people's lives in danger.”

Shaver wants more training for law enforcement officers on hate crimes and for prosecutors to apply the bias penalty when applicable. He also wants to see more resources and hotlines available to victims who do not want to go straight to law enforcement.

At the end of the day, he wants the community to feel safe.

“What we're talking about are real people, real families, real communities that are impacted,” Shaver said. “People can believe and think the ugliest things they want. But there is a line. When you cross that line into actively harming somebody else, there should be consequences and and that we need to enforce the law.”

For LBGTQ resources and how to help in the wake of the Club Q shooting, visit KUNC’s Club Q Resources page.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

I'm the General Assignment Reporter and Back-Up Host for KUNC, here to keep you up-to-date on news in Northern Colorado — whether I'm out in the field or sitting in the host chair. From city climate policies, to businesses closing, to the creativity of Indigenous people, I'll research what is happening in your backyard and share those stories with you as you go about your day.