It’s Pride Month once again, and Colorado’s LGBTQ community is preparing for its biggest event of the year: Denver Pridefest, a two-day celebration which has drawn upwards of 500,000 visitors in prior years. Meanwhile, the Log Cabin Republicans of Colorado – the state’s most prominent organization of LGBT conservatives – are once again preparing to join the festivities.
“As some state GOP’s are out there making the Republicans look bad with their non-inclusive archaic actions let’s show them in Colorado we really are the Big Tent party!” a recent Facebook advertisement from the group reads. “If we really want a Red Wave we need to reach the people!”
This comes on the heels of a recent controversy: the Fort Worth branch of the Log Cabin Republicans was recently snubbed by the Texas GOP, who denied them a booth at the Texas Republican Party convention. At this convention, delegates would later vote on a party platform that declared homosexuality “an abnormal lifestyle choice,” as well as rejecting trans identities altogether.
Charles Moran president of the national Log Cabin Republicans, called the Texas’ affiliate’s exclusion from the GOP convention “not just narrow-minded, but politically short-sighted.”
Though the Texas GOP may have taken the most overtly homophobic stance yet, it is far from alone. This is just the most recent in a series of anti-LGBTQ policies introduced or signed into law by Republican politicians. Within the past six months, the U.S. has seen moves to bar trans people from medical care, censor speech in classrooms, and even ban books – all under the pretense of protecting children.
USA Today reports that anti-LGBTQ discrimination has jumped upwards since 2020, in part due to these attacks.
But these legislative attacks are only the symptom of a deeper moral panic that has spread like wildfire through U.S. society. A dangerous strain of thought has found its way back into the mainstream: one that accuses LGBTQ people, and the left in general, of targeting children for grooming. Promoted relentlessly by conservative Christian groups such as the Family Research Council, Alliance Defending Freedom and Focus on the family, it draws its power from reviving old, bigoted stereotypes that label gay and trans people as child molesters.
While they may call foul when it affects them, the Log Cabin Republicans as a whole – including those in Colorado – have had little issue promoting and legitimizing this moral panic within the past year.
The Log Cabin Republicans’ national chapter recently attacked the Biden administration for its criticism of Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which bans all discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in K-3 classrooms. Those opposed to the bill say its passage brings potential harm to children who already have a higher risk of bullying and isolation.
In a statement, the Log Cabin Republicans said that this bill was “common sense,” and a justified attempt by Florida Republicans to “stop Leftist activists from infusing more woke identity politics into kindergarten classrooms.”
The group went on to write the following on their blog: “With a projected Democrat slaughter ahead in the 2022 midterm elections–and hardcore progressives seeing their wet dreams of gender fluid, indoctrinated, and groomed children slipping from their grasp–activists are fighting back against parental rights bills by using outrageous scare tactics and other propaganda.”
The Colorado chapter has been busy at work, too. In April, they praised a move by the State Board of Education to drop references to LGBTQ people from recommendations for below 4th grade – which was fueled in large part by severe homophobic and transphobic backlash, Colorado Newsline reports.
“Not all topics are appropriate for all ages in a school environment,” their statement reads. “… Likewise, topics in the education of LGBT issues are best reserved for upper grades in Colorado’s public school system.”
The statement makes no mention of what specific topics are inappropriate for K-3 students. However, the Colorado GOP’s position has been clear from the start. In January, 18 Colorado House Republicans wrote that including LGBTQ people in the standards to any degree would “expose children to material that is not age-appropriate” as part of a “radical leftist takeover of our children’s educational institutions.”
Earlier this month, Valdamar Archuleta, who is President of the Log Cabin Republicans of CO, wrote an op-ed for the conservative site Campfire Colorado that once again followed along with the party line: this time, promoting moral panic around drag shows. In the article, he echoed the rampant claims of grooming, bemoaning “the LGBT activists’ newfound obsession with children.”
The article referenced viral videos from earlier this month depicting an all-ages drag event in Dallas, Texas. The videos were first posted by Andy Ngo, a far-right grifter.
This coverage spurred a wave of attacks against drag performances across the country. The Texas event was subject to right-wing protestors flinging slurs. And in California, a group of men likely affiliated with the far-right Proud Boys disrupted a drag queen storytime event at a local library, in an incident which is being investigated as a possible hate crime.
“Why do we feel drag queens are good role models for children?” Archuleta wrote, in support of banning similar events in the future. “Why do we feel their influence represents diversity and inclusion? Drag queens are essentially just men dressed up as women typically portraying extravagant flirtatious female characters. What is it we want our children to learn from them? That this is how gay men act? Or that this is how women act?”
Just last week in Douglas County, 50 or so protestors gathered outside a Highlands Ranch Community Center to protest a drag story hour, prompted in part by angry posts by Colorado Republican legislators. Signs included “Freaks Belong in the Circus” and “Don’t Drag Down Highlands Ranch.” And recently, a drag queen storytime event at the Denver Botanical Gardens was cancelled, with advocates saying that hateful online messages were to blame.
“I think things are starting to change a little,” Archuleta said of the cancellation on a radio interview today. “I think people are starting to realize, maybe these things aren’t as great as we thought for children.”
Despite spreading the far-right’s concerns of drag queens being an inappropriate influence on children, Archuleta made it clear that he was also opposed to the violent and incendiary anti-LGBTQ protests that have inevitably risen from this widespread fearmongering.
“Finally, to the individuals out there who are outraged by these drag events, I feel your irritation, but please don’t protest in a way that makes you come across as the bad guy,” he wrote. “If you walk up to a group of parents with their small children and yell into a bull horn ‘why do you want to put an ax wound between your child’s legs’ or ‘they want to rape your kids,’ you’re an asshole.”
On KOA radio’s Mandy Connell show today, Archuleta discussed his article and complained further about the direction of Pride celebrations today, which he said centers drag performers and the most flamboyant gay people rather than those who are “normal.”
“Is Pride counterproductive?” he said, the day before Denver’s Pride celebration which he is attending and which his organization is supporting with a booth fee. “Are we just displaying the stereotypes? And that’s what’s going to be on the news. That’s what people who don’t like us are going to see.”
He continued, “It used to be, we were fighting for like, an assimilation. We wanted the freedom to be ourselves … They’ve taken over these groups and made their struggle about pushing a Marxist agenda.”
In his concurring opinion for the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade today, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that he also wants the court to “reconsider” prior rulings in Obergefell v. Hodges, which established marriage equality to same-sex couples, and Lawrence v. Texas, which protects the right for consenting adults to engage in same-sex intimacy.
“I don’t think you can argue that there’s never been a better time to be gay in America,” said Connell. “I mean, this is the time when the level of acceptance, to your point, the level of people who just don’t care, that you’re gay … it’s the highest it’s ever been.”
“I agree,” said Archuleta.
Asked for further comment, Archuleta noted that Colorado Republicans have made greater efforts to be accepting of LGBT conservatives: “We are one of only 12 recognized statewide organizations/groups by the Colorado GOP and have been warmly welcomed and invited to the State Assembly and other large GOP functions. The past two weekends we have been at Denver Pride and the Gay Rodeo. We had many Republican Candidates and their teams join us from Gubernatorial Candidate Heidi Ganahl, Senate Candidate Joe O’Dea, Congressional Candidates from CD1 and CD6, several House District Candidates, and Trustee Darcy Schoening from Monument. We expect similar support at Pikes Peak Pride and Pueblo Pride. There can be found remnants of homophobia in both the Republican and Democrat parties. When it shows itself within the Republican party we address it.”
Updated 7/5/22 with comment from Valdamar Archuleta.