June 29, 2019 Blog

Celebrate Pride With Action

June is Pride month, a time for LGBTQIA folks and allies to come together to celebrate love and take pride in what makes each of us unique. Pride is also a time to reflect on the immense challenges the LGBTQIA community has overcome and to recognize the challenges still facing us today.

Before this month of recognition comes to a close, we want to take a moment to draw attention to the disproportionate impact gun violence has on the LGBTQIA community. Across the country and here in Washington state, a combination of easy access to firearms and bias against LGBTQIA individuals leaves our community particularly vulnerable to the threat of gun violence.

Three years ago this month, a gunman murdered 49 people and wounded 53 more at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida in the deadliest attack on the LGBTQIA community in our country’s history. The tragedy of Pulse drew national attention, but every day, members of the LGBTQIA community fall victim to acts of gun violence that rarely make headlines.

Hate-motivated acts fueled by a gun, pose a particularly lethal threat to the LGBTQIA community. Nationwide, over 10,300 hate crimes involve a firearm each year and nearly one-fifth are based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Here in Washington state, hate crimes are on the rise. The most recent data from the Office of the City Auditor in Seattle shows reported hate crimes and incidents are up 400 percent since 2012.

That is why this legislative session, we made it a priority to address the rise of hate-fueled violence. First, in an effort led by our colleague Rep. Javier Valdez (D-Seattle), we passed a bill to strengthen our state’s hate crime statutes by clearly calling out these crimes for what they are, changing the name of the violations from “Malicious Harassment” to “Hate Crime Offenses.” This bill also made the critical update of adding “gender identity or expression” to the list of protected categories and increases the maximum civil liability for those guilty of committing hate crimes from $10,000 to $100,000.

We also took important action to address the deadly intersection of hate and gun violence by updating our Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) law to allow a judge to consider hate-based threats of violence when issuing an ERPO. This change will help keep guns out of the hands of those intent on causing harm and help protect vulnerable communities.

In addition to hate-based violence, the LGBTQIA community is also vulnerable to firearm suicide. Research shows that sexual and gender minorities report higher rates of suicide attempts than their cisgender and heterosexual peers in both adolescents and adulthood. This year, the legislature was also able to pass a crucial suicide prevention measure that temporarily restricts access to firearms for individuals subject to a 72-hour involuntary hold because they pose a threat to themselves or others.

Recent years have brought more progress and protection for the LGBTQIA community than many of us imagined possible, but our work is far from over. So this month, as we celebrate our community and show our pride, we also recommit to the fight to protect all Washingtonians from the scourge of gun violence.

Look for the Alliance for Gun Responsibility booth at Pride this weekend to learn more about the impact of gun violence on the LGBTQIA community and find out how you can get involved at gunresponsibility.org.

— Laurie Jinkins is member of the Washington House of Representatives from the 27th district and chairs the House Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee. Jamie Pedersen is a member of the Washington State Senate from the 43rd district and chairs the Senate Law & Justice Committee.