Two Florida LGBTQ centers vandalized with anti-LGBTQ messages and hate symbols

Murals at two LGBTQ centers in Orlando, Florida, were defaced with anti-LGBTQ messages and hate symbols over the weekend.

The LGBT+ Center Orlando, a nonprofit located downtown, published a photo of the vandalism on its Facebook page Saturday morning, calling the incident “sad and infuriating.” The image shows a colorful rainbow heart mural defaced with black spray paint that includes a homophobic message, a Bible reference and a Celtic cross, which is a widely recognized symbol associated with white supremacy.

“It’s not the first time it has happened and even though is frustrating, we are not going to stop being a beacon of light for our community,” the Facebook message reads.

Also on Saturday, Zebra Youth, an LGBTQ nonprofit located across the street from the LGBT+ Center Orlando, shared photos of two defaced murals on the exterior of its building. The images show black spray paint with anti-LGBTQ messages, Celtic crosses and a swastika.

“We will not allow the recent vandalism to our building by a hate group to detour or waver us,” the group wrote in a statement shared on Facebook. “Zebra Youth stands strong in our dedication to empowering LGBTQ+ youth to become healthy, productive, and self-sufficient individuals. We will never allow hate to win!”

In a statement emailed to NBC News, the Orlando Police Department said “detectives are actively investigating this incident and are working closely with both businesses.”

With the aid of volunteers from the community and the police department, both murals were repainted within less than 24 hours, according to a statement released by the department.

In a Facebook post shared Sunday, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer shared images of the defaced murals and spoke out against the incidents.

“Hate like this has no place in our city. Zebra Youth and The Center are important parts of our community, providing critical services and support to LGBTQ+ residents,” he wrote. “Here in Orlando, we will continue to embrace one another and work to create an inclusive, welcoming city for all.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in May enacted four bills that impose limitations on LGBTQ rights. including a measure that expands what critics have called the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, as well as a prohibition on transition-related care for minors. DeSantis, a Republican, also signed into law a bill that restricts transgender individuals from accessing public facilities based on their gender identities, and another bill aimed at regulating “adult” performances in the presence of minors, which he said was intended to limit drag performances. Federal judges have since temporarily blocked the drag law and part of the trans care law.

There has been a recent surge in threats and attacks targeted at LGBTQ Americans more broadly: A report from the Anti-Defamation League and the LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD found that more than 350 anti-LGBTQ hate and extremism incidents occurred in the U.S. over an 11-month period starting June 2022.

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