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Colorado's GOP Encourages Pride Flag Arson, Calls Gays 'Godless Groomers'

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 3 MIN.

Colorado's state Republican party accused gay people of being "godless groomers" who intend to "harm children," and called for the wholesale fiery destruction of Pride flags.

The Colorado GOP sent out its hate message on June 3 in an "inflammatory email with the subject line 'God Hates Pride' and a video titled 'God Hates Flags' that demonizes Pride Month," ABC News reported.

The falsehood-laden call for chaos "mimick[ed] claims about the community that advocates have called dangerous" and prompted strong criticism from both Democrats and Republicans, ABC News added.

Headlines about the Colorado GOP's incitement ignited after a local news reporter, KUSA's Kyle Clark, posted the text of the email. But the Colorado GOP was unrepentant about bearing false witness against the LGBTQ+ community and calling for violence against private property, retweeting Clark's post with a crude animation of fire and a caption that instructed followers to "Burn all #Pride flags this June" – presumably, with no regard to whether doing so would pose a fire risk to residences or businesses that happen to be flying those flags, or the neighborhoods where those residences and businesses are located.

The appalling call to commit arson sparked outrage even from GOP politicians like Valdamar Archuleta, a Colorado Republican who is "running to be the Republican candidate for U.S. Congress in Denver," ABC News noted, and prompted Archuleta to "reject... the endorsement he earned from the state party just one day prior."

Calling the directive from the state party "just hateful," Archuleta tweeted, "I personally found it very troubling. I spoke with many LGBT and non LGBT Republicans yesterday who also found the message in the email disgusting and offensive. This email does NOT Represent the Republican voters of Colorado."

Meanwhile, "Republican Commissioner of Douglas County Abe Laydon, who came out as gay in 2022 and represents one the most populated conservative areas of Colorado, called the email 'absolutely atrocious' and antithetical to his religious and party values," ABC News relayed.

State Rep. David Ortiz, a military veteran who is bisexual, spoke up from the Democratic side of the aisle to condemn the State party's firebug marching orders, calling out the Colorado GOP for falling far short of the party's supposed commitment to law and order and putative faith-based values.

"Y'all, under your current leadership, have more in common with the Taliban than the founding fathers," Ortiz blasted the Colorado GOP in a comment to the party's post. "LGBTQ folks served and serve in the military. We are cops, we are firefighters, we are your family members & neighbors."

The email resonated with Colorado's reputation as an anti-LGBTQ+ "hate state," ABC News noted, recalling how that "became the state's colloquial moniker after the passage of Amendment 2, which restricted queer people from claiming minority status, protected status or asserting claims of discrimination in the '90s."

For all its vitriol, the Colorado GOP's message offered nothing but tired tropes underneath its incitement to felonious conduct. Pride flags have long been the targets of acts of arson, as have flags representing the transgender community. Such incidents have been investigated as hate crimes in the past.

The claim that queer people represent a danger to children has been in continuous circulation on the anti-gay right since at least the middle of the last century. "Boys Beware," a 1959 filmstrip shown in schools, claimed that gay men were predators intent on molesting boys. A 1967 documentary called "The Homosexuals" saw Mike Wallace declaring that "Most Americans are repelled by the mere notion of homosexuality." In the 1970s, former beauty queen Anita Bryant made a career peddling claims that gays "recruit" children.

Right-wing anti-LGBTQ+ commentators seized on the old tropes anew in the wake of Florida's "Don't Say Gay" law, which initially outlawed classroom acknowledgement of LGBTQ+ people through third grade, but was revised a year later to extend the ban through high school. Similar legislation has spread to other states.

Last year's Pride was targeted by homophobic conservatives who were intent on driving corporate support away from the month-long celebration of LGBTQ+ Americans, their accomplishments, and their ongoing quest for full equality.

In an article explaining the resurgence of claims that gays intend to harm children, Five Thirty Eight noted that the homophobic right's tactical adoption of its new favorite slur – "groomer" – makes use of "a term that neatly draws together both modern conspiracy theories and old homophobic stereotypes, while comfortably shielding itself under the guise of protecting children."

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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