Southern California business owner Laura “Lauri” Ann Carleton was shot and killed Friday evening by a man who disparaged and attempted to remove the rainbow flag displayed at her clothing store.
Carleton, 66, was a mother to nine and an ally to LGBTQ people. A local food co-op, Mountain Provisions, called her a “a pillar in [her] community [and] an immovable force in her values for equality, love, and justice.”
“Our friend and supporter Lauri Carleton … was murdered defending her lgbtq+ Pride flags in front of her store in Cedar Glen California,” Lake Arrowhead LGBTQ, a local community group, wrote in a post on Facebook. “Lauri did not identify as LGBTQ+, but spent her time helping & advocating for everyone in the community. She will be truly missed.”
Carleton’s murder comes as hate crimes are on the rise in the U.S., according to the most recent data released by the FBI. In 2021, nearly 11,000 incidents were reported to the agency, with one in every five reported hate crimes motivated by anti-LGBTQ bias.
“They’re just straight up murdering people for having a pride flag on their business. This is where all this hate is leading to,” Alejandra Caraballo, trans activist and clinical instructor at Harvard Law Cyberlaw Clinic, wrote in a tweet.
The increase in hate crimes comes as right-wing lawmakers introduce a slew of anti-LGBTQ legislation across the country.
A record 520 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in state legislatures this year, prompting the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) to issue a national state of emergency for LGBTQ Americans. A recent poll commissioned by the HRC found that gender-affirming care bans, which have restricted access to health care for transgender people in at least 19 states, have caused 8 in 10 LGBTQ adults to feel less safe and “worsen[ed] harmful stereotypes, discrimination, hate and stigma.”
“Fatal violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people is the tragic result of a society that devalues our lives, with Black and Brown trans people facing significantly higher rates of harassment, bias and physical violence,” Jay Brown, senior vice president of Programs, Research and Training at the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement in 2022. “This year, we also saw anti-transgender lawmakers passing a record number of discriminatory bills, including bans of lifesaving, medically necessary gender-affirming healthcare. These attacks fuel more stigma against transgender and non-binary people, especially aimed at the youngest among us. It is a stigma that too often ends our lives.”
At least 15 transgender and gender non-conforming people have been killed so far this year. Fatal anti-LGBTQ attacks are occurring across the country, even in supposedly safe havens like California and New York City. In late July, O’Shae Sibley, a 28-year-old gay Black man, was fatally stabbed for vogueing outside of a gas station in Brooklyn. Before stabbing him, the attackers yelled racist and homophobic slurs.
“LGBTQ+ people across the country are confronting increasing violence in the face of a rising conservative and anti-LGBTQ+ movement,” Kwolanne Felix wrote for Truthout after Sibley’s murder. “As we commemorate his death, people across the country remain determined to fight back against anti-LGBTQ+ violence. Let’s create a future in which we no longer need supposed safe havens like New York, so we can enjoy every corner of the country without fear.”