Survivors of mass shootings targeting U.S. LGBT nightclubs detailed the violence they endured and criticized inflammatory political rhetoric in a congressional hearing on Wednesday.
"We are being slaughtered and dehumanized across this country, in communities you took oaths to protect," said Matthew Haynes, owner of the Club Q nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where five people were killed and 22 wounded in a mass shooting last month.
"LGBTQ issues are not political issues," Haynes added. "They are not lifestyles. They are not beliefs or choices. They are basic human rights."
The hearing by the U.S. House Oversight Committee was to explore anti-LGBT violence.
Michael Anderson told lawmakers he was bartending at Club Q, when the gunman entered the nightclub and began shooting.
"I saw my friend lying on the floor, bleeding out, knowing there was little to no chance of surviving that bullet wound," Anderson said.
Experts on LGBT issues told the panel that the attack at Club Q and other acts of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans in recent years have been fueled by state legislation that they said further marginalized the community.
They cited a 2016 bill in North Carolina that required transgender individuals to use restrooms, changing rooms and showers that corresponded to the sex on their birth certificates and legislation passed in Florida last year nicknamed the "Don't Say Gay" bill which barred classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity for many young students.
President Joe Biden
signed a modest gun-safety bill into law in June in the wake of mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, but anti-gun violence activists have called for more to be done.
There have been 628 mass shootings across the United States so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. LGBT people are nearly four times as likely than non-LGBT people to be the victims of violent crime, according to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.
"We just want to live. Is that so much to ask?" Brandon Wolf, an activist and survivor of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in which 49 people were killed and 69 wounded, told the hearing.