America's LGBT Centers Are Under Attack

LGBT Centers

On Sunday afternoon, a visitor to the Casa Ruby LGBT Community Center in Washington, D.C., physically attacked a worker, threw a brick through a window, and let loose a string of verbal assaults.

"I'll kill your motherfucking ass. Ya'll tranny motherfuckers think somebody won't fuck y'all up," the man screamed, according to a police report of the incident.

Two weeks earlier, a different man entered the same facility, made sexual advances toward LGBT youth, and then punched a hole in the wall. He was arrested, but returned the following week to repeat the crime, reports DCist.

The Casa Ruby center is far from alone in being the target of attacks. Last week at least one armed person shot 13 pellets at the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center in Tulsa, Okla., reports the Tulsa World. Hours later, a man entered the facility and began yelling expletives at the staff, telling them, “I wish you would all die."

"We're getting reports like this from all over the country," said Toby Jenkins, the center's executive director. "Gay community centers being vandalized; welcoming churches being vandalized; gay businesses being vandalized. Now it's happened in Tulsa."

Two days earlier, a pair of men in Asbury Park, N.J., shattered the glass door of Garden State Equality, the state's largest LGBT organization. Christian Fuscarino, the group's executive director, said the building was no random target — the broken glass was meant to send a message of terror to the LGBT community in New Jersey and beyond.

"This kind of incident shows that hate knows no boundaries. It is not restricted by geography, even in a state as historically progressive as ours," he told the Asbury Park Press.

Since the presidential election, hate crimes have spiked, confirms the Southern Poverty Law Center. This uptick includes an increase in attacks on LGBT centers, mosques, and Jewish cemeteries, which as symbols of their respective communities, have become targets in a divisive political clime. 

“The truth is there’s been a lot of groups of people victimized since the election [in November], especially the LGBT community," Heidi Beirich, a director of SPLC, told Vocativ

Last month, Vocativ counted at least five reported attacks on LGBT centers, including a smashed window at Equality Florida in Orlando and transphobic slurs scrawled on the side of the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Three occurred after the Trump administration rolled back education guidelines protecting transgender students. 

“We see the same pattern,” Beirich said. “Trump will attack a group of people and then we see incidents of hate crimes afterward.”

Kelly Love, a spokesperson for the White House, told the Washington Blade that President Trump denounced these attacks.

“President Trump condemns hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms, including attacks against the LGBT community,” Love said.

However, activists worry that anti-LGBT legislation and directives, such as the rumored "religious freedom" executive order, will exacerbate these crimes. JoDee Winterhof, the senior vice president for policy and political affairs for the Human Rights Campaign, said Trump must be more vocal in condemning such hatred, and become the ally he promised to be on the campaign trail.

“Many LGBTQ Americans are scared right now — they’re scared of their rights being taken away, scared for their families, and scared that they may no longer be protected in the country they live in," Winterhof said.

"The president has done little to calm those nerves. He owes it to the LGBTQ community to not only disavow these acts of hate, but also to restore protections for transgender kids and totally rule out his license to discriminate executive order."

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