Less than a month after a deadly shooting that killed five and injured 19 people at Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, a handful of survivors from the attack will attend a White House ceremony to watch President Joe Biden sign the Respect for Marriage Act into law, before testifying before a congressional committee a day later.
Michael Anderson, the only Club Q bartender who survived the shooting; James Slaugh and Jancarlos Del Valle, a couple who, along with Slaugh’s sister, Charlene, were injured on the night of the shooting; Mark Slaugh, James’ brother; and Matthew Haynes, the founding owner of Club Q have been invited to Washington, have all been invited to appear at the White House signing ceremony, scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 13 at 3 p.m. EST, to watch the Respect for Marriage Act be signed into law.
The Respect for Marriage Act, a historic measure that is the first pro-LGBTQ bill dealing with same-gender marriage to be approved by Congress, repeals the 1990s-era Defense of Marriage Act and codifies the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in U.S. v. Windsor, requiring the federal government and individual states to recognize same-sex marriages (and marriage licenses) from states where the practice is not prohibited.
Currently, same-sex marriage is legal in every state, thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling in a 2015 case, Obergefell v. Hodges. But should the court overturn that ruling, as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has suggested it should, the Respect for Marriage Act would continue to ensure same-sex marriages are recognized by the federal and state governments as valid and that marriage licenses issued by the 15 states where same-sex nuptials are legal are honored by government officials when it comes to receiving any number of marital benefits.
The following day, at 10 a.m., at least three of the survivors — Anderson, James Slaugh, and Haynes — will testify before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform regarding anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, extremism, and violence.
The three, along with Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the 2016 mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida — in which 49 club patrons were killed — were invited to testify by the committee’s chairwoman, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.).
The panel of LGBTQ experts speaking on anti-LGBTQ extremism is likely to be one of the committee’s last hearings before Republicans take control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the next Congress, after picking up a net gain of nine seats in last month’s midterm elections.
According to NBC News, the committee has previously spotlighted other deadly shootings over the past year, connecting them to broader policy themes that Democrats have highlighted while in power, such as a push for more sweeping gun reform measures, or concerns over rising political extremism resulting in violence.
The hearing, which will be streamed live, comes at a time when the United States has seen a rise in inflammatory anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and a rising number of bias-motivated crimes that appear to target LGBTQ people for their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Various state legislatures have also used such rhetoric to justify bills they have pushed over the past few years seeking to roll back legal protections for, or place greater restrictions on, LGBTQ individuals’ public visibility, bodily autonomy, and ability to access goods and services that are made available to other non-LGBTQ people — the latter of which is the central issue in a case recently heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Make no mistake, the rise in anti-LGBTQI+ extremism and the despicable policies that Republicans at every level of government are advancing to attack the health and safety of LGBTQI+ people are harming the LGBTQI+ community and contributing to tragedies like what we saw at Club Q,” Maloney said in a statement ahead of Wednesday’s hearing.
Some of the victims echoed Maloney’s sentiments regarding the seeming rise in animosity toward members of the LGBTQ community — particularly the use of rhetoric around “groomers” that has been used to vilify members of the community as dangers to children.
“These attacks, like the one at Club Q, are designed to scare us from living authentically and honestly,” Anderson, the surviving bartender from Club Q, told NBC News. “But to our community and to the world, just know this: We are not afraid, we are empowered, we are strong and we are proud. Love will win.”
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