Analysis: GOP’s Anti-LGBTQ+ Focus Is Fueling Hate

Flame of many candles burning on the background in blue and yellow color
(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Lauri Carleton was a married mother of nine, whose daughters described her as “fearless.” She wasn’t gay or trans, but she was an ally. She had a Pride flag displayed at her Mag.Pi clothing store in Cedar Glen, a small mountain community about 60 miles outside Los Angeles.

That flag got Lauri Carleton killed.

On Aug. 18, Carleton became the latest victim of anti-LGBTQ+ hate, allegedly murdered by 27-year-old Travis Ikeguchi, who confronted Carleton about the Pride flag at her shop, spewed some antigay slurs, and then shot her in the head. Carleton died at the scene.

At an Aug. 21 press conference, the San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus said Ikeguchi fled on foot after the shooting. When confronted by law enforcement officers, Dicus said Ikeguchi opened fire, hitting multiple squad cars. Dicus said sheriff’s deputies returned fire, fatally shooting Ikeguchi about a mile from Carleton’s store. According to Dicus, Ikeguchi shot Carleton with a semi-automatic handgun, which was not registered to him, and he did not have a concealed carry license.

In an Instagram post, two of Carleton’s daughters, Ari and Kelsey Carleton wrote, “She was murdered over a Pride flag that she proudly hung on her storefront. Make no mistake, this was a hate crime. Her flags had been torn down before and she always responded by putting up a bigger one. Our family is broken.”

The women added, “We find peace in knowing she passed quickly in a place she cherished, doing what she loved while fiercely defending something she believed in. She was fearless, cool and compassionate — always putting others first.”

Carleton advocated for “everyone in the community,” Lake Arrowhead LGBTQ+, an organization with which she worked closely and to which she was a large donor, said in a statement.

Equality California, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group, said in a statement, “Lauri Carleton was a victim of the hate-filled calls to action made by politicians and extremists that continue to push false narratives and misinformation about the LGBTQ+ community. Her unwavering commitment to standing for the dignity and respect of LGBTQ+ people is a testament to her kindness and humanity, and will always be remembered.”

PGN reported on last month’s hate crime murder of Philadanco! dancer O’Shae Sibley. On July 29, Sibley and a group of friends were voguing to Beyoncé’s music at a Brooklyn gas station, just blocks from Sibley’s home, when a group of men started hurling homophobic comments and slurs. One of the group then stabbed Sibley in the chest. The alleged killer was later identified as Dmitry Popov, a 17-year-old teen. Popov has been charged with Sibley’s murder and other hate crime charges. He surrendered to police with his attorney on Aug. 5.

Carleton’s alleged killer, Ikeguchi, had an extensive online history of hateful messaging. Ikeguchi, who lived in Cedar Glen, had a history of posting anti-LGBTQ+ content on multiple social media platforms, Mara Rodriguez, the sheriff’s department’s public information officer, told reporters. 

His pinned post on Twitter/X is a burning Pride flag. “What to do with the LGBTQP flag?” Ikeguchi wrote in the June 13 tweet.

Anti-LGBTQ+ people on Twitter/X and Facebook often add a P to the acronym, to stand for “pedophile.” 

“There is only one way to the path of salvation and to have eternal life and that is through Jesus Christ. And yes, the path is narrow,” Ikeguchi wrote in his bio on X, where he has 155 followers.

On June 28, Ikeguchi tweeted:

“Abortion and same-sex marriage are both immoral and are design to destroy humanity one by one. So if someone is pro-abortion and pro-LGBTQP, they are at war against the foundation of family values.”

Ikeguchi also retweeted anti-Semitic, anti-Black and anti-abortion posts from other accounts and posted memes of President Biden as Satan.

Like Fox News and former Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson, who now posts videos independently on Twitter/X, the right-wing news network Newsmax has frequently promoted anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric that can fuel the animus of Ikeguchi. On an episode of Eric Bolling’s show “The Balance,” Shemeka Michelle, a personal empowerment advocate, said, “We need to be more homophobic. We need to take it up a notch because these people have continued to do this because we failed to shame them. We failed to put our feet down and stand tall and say what we believe without the fear of being canceled.”

Michelle declared LGBTQ+ people being openly queer and trans as a “war between good and evil.”

Chris Bedford, executive editor for the Common Sense Society, called being trans a “predatory mental illness” and mocked Assistant Secretary for Health, Admiral Rachel Levine.

“LGBTQ+ Americans are living in a state of emergency. The multiplying threats facing millions in our community are not just perceived — they are real, tangible and dangerous,” said HRC president Kelley Robinson, when she declared a national state of emergency for the community in June.

Robinson said, “In many cases they are resulting in violence against LGBTQ+ people, forcing families to uproot their lives and flee their homes in search of safer states, and triggering a tidal wave of increased homophobia and transphobia that puts the safety of each and every one of us at risk.”

Sarah Kate Ellis, the chief executive and president of the LGBTQ media advocacy group GLAAD, said in an Aug. 21 statement, “No one should feel unsafe or be attacked for who they are or for simply supporting the LGBTQ community. Lauri’s murder is the latest example of how anti-LGBTQ hatred hurts everyone, whether they are LGBTQ or not.”

Ellis pointed to a recent report by GLAAD and the Anti-Defamation League, which tallied more than 350 anti-LGBTQ hate and extremism incidents in the U.S. from June 2022 to April 2023.

The Good Men Project posted an essay by Michael Rowe, who is gay, on Aug. 22 titled, “This Is What ‘Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs’ Cost Laura Ann Carleton.” 

Rowe wrote, “I have been saying this for years now, but this is the natural end-result of the sewage overflow of words like ‘groomer’ and ‘pedo’ and ‘transing’ into the groundwater of public discourse, particularly when liberally disseminate and shared on sites like Facebook and Twitter.”

Rowe said, “Queer people can’t afford the luxury of any more performative social media ‘allies’ who never seem to have our backs in an actual brawl.” 

Rowe addressed “religious people out there who have suddenly become horribly excited by their newfound platform in the discussion of ‘protecting children,’” and said that these people are not new.

That latter point is well taken as this is a theme the right has adopted, fueled by “parental rights” laws like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s “Don’t Say Gay” law and rhetoric promoted by Moms for Liberty and GOP presidential contenders. The Supreme Court itself legalized discrimination in a stunning ruling in June which, in the words of dissenting Justice Sonia Sotomayor, had “the immediate, symbolic effect of the decision is to mark gays and lesbians for second-class status.”

As the recent murders of Carleton and Sibley make all too clear, the rhetoric is trickling down to men who are ready to act violently in response to that perceived threat to children that Moms for Liberty organizes on and that Rowe notes in his essay.

In a video tweet on Twitter/X on Wednesday afternoon before the first GOP debate, HRC’s Robinson said, “Tonight, at a time when LGBTQ+ allies are being murdered, you will hear from extremist candidates who have no interest in making our communities safer.”

And in fact, rhetoric from those candidates just might make our communities even more unsafe.

Newsletter Sign-up