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Rep. Robert Garcia urges FBI & DHS to protect LGBTQ+ people from anti-Pride extremists

Rep. Robert Garcia
Rep. Robert Garcia Photo: Long Beach California Mayor's Office

Out gay Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif) has sent a letter to federal officials asking them to help protect LGBTQ+ people from violence during Pride month.

In a letter sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and Director of the FBI Christopher Wray, Garcia expressed “grave concern” in light of FBI and DHS warnings of “foreign terrorist organizations’’ posing a risk to queer people during June.

“Over the last several weeks, your respective agencies and departments have issued stark warnings and travel advisories to the public over potential threats from Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) and their supporters during this year’s Pride Month,” Garcia wrote. 

“I understand that these steps have come after deeply concerning increases in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, calls for targeted violence, and foiled violent plots,” Garcia added

Garcia didn’t address criticism of the agencies’ warning, namely that it risks more discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals by law enforcement due to over-policing. Critics also said the FBI and DHS warnings ignored the biggest threat to LGBTQ+ people: domestic hate groups emboldened by hateful rhetoric from Republican government members.

Garcia continued his letter by highlighting how large Pride parades have gotten in recent years, with New York City Pride seeing millions of attendees. Pride, he added, has become an international phenomenon, taking place in cities all across the world at all times of the year. He said law enforcement officers need to “stay vigilant” during this period.

“In fact, Pride events take place over the course of many months — stretching into October — and our law enforcement agencies must stay vigilant throughout the entire period,” Garcia wrote.

Garcia noted the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando that took the lives of 49 people and injured 53. The lone wolf shooter pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State, however there’s currently no evidence that the group ordered the act of violence.

“It is important to put the recent escalation of extremist anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda and messaging in the context the Pulse Nightclub shooter who was influenced by these same forces of extremism,” Garcia wrote. “I sincerely appreciate the work each of you and your departments are doing to prevent hate-filled violence, both here at home and abroad, from happening again.”

He also put out a call for federal law enforcement to continue in their efforts to monitor threats. He asked them to also monitor domestic terrorism in both the United States and globally.

“I also ask that you continue to prioritize combatting domestic extremism more broadly — the forces of which we know are on the rise globally — and that you continue to provide Congress with information on these efforts, and on the evolving nature of the threat,” he wrote.

According to the ACLU, LGBTQ+ individuals are at a significantly heightened risk of police violence and discrimination compared to their cisgender and straight counterparts. One in four transgender people have faced physical force by police, and nearly half of all trans people have been verbally berated by them. This risk is especially heightened for Black and Latinx/Latine individuals.

Garcia concluded by writing, “Within my role on both the House Oversight and Homeland Security Committees, I am eager to partner with you on these serious matters and assist however I can in your efforts to keep all Americans safe during this Pride Month and beyond.”

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