State Department issues travel warning for LGBTQ pride celebrations

The federal government is warning U.S. citizens traveling internationally during LGBTQ Pride month in June to be vigilant, citing concerns that events could be targeted by extremist groups.

The State Department in a travel advisory issued Friday said U.S. citizens attending Pride month celebrations abroad should “exercise increased caution” over concerns of possible terror attacks, demonstrations and other violent actions “against U.S. citizens and interests.”

“The Department of State is aware of the increased potential for foreign terrorist organization-inspired violence against LGBTQI+ persons and events,” the department said in its warning, which urges U.S. travelers to “stay alert” in locations frequented by tourists, including “venues frequented by LGBTQI+ persons.”

A State Department spokesperson declined to comment on whether the advisory was preceded by a specific event or threat made against the LGBTQ community.

“The U.S. Department of State has no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We take seriously our commitment to provide U.S. citizens with clear, timely, and reliable information about every country in the world so they can make informed travel decisions.”

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security this month similarly warned that foreign terrorist organizations, or FTOs, could target Pride month celebrations at home.

“FTO efforts to commit or inspire violence against holiday celebrations, including Pride celebrations or LGBTQIA+-related venues, are compounded by the current heightened threat environment in the United States and other western countries,” the agencies said in a joint public service announcement.

“FTOs and their supporters have previously promoted anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric and targeted LGBTQIA+ related events or venues for attacks.”

Officials cited “ISIS messaging” from February 2023 that focused on anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and “rallied against the growth and promotion of the LGBTQIA+ community.”

This year will also mark the eighth anniversary of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla., the agencies said, noting that “after the Pulse shooting, pro-ISIS messaging praised this attack as one of the high-profile attacks in Western countries, and FTO supporters celebrated it.”

Officials also referenced the arrest of three “alleged ISIS sympathizers” last June for attempting to attack a Pride parade in Vienna, Austria.

Pride celebrations in recent years have faced increased threats of violence from far-right extremist groups.

A Kansas man last year was arrested and charged for threatening to bomb a Nashville Pride event, and in 2022, 31 members of the white supremacist group Patriot Front were arrested near a Pride celebration in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, on a charge of conspiracy to riot.

At least 145 incidents of LGBTQ-motivated hate and extremism were recorded last June by GLAAD and the Anti-Defamation League, including the murder of a woman at a Texas gas station by a man who reportedly directed a homophobic slur at her.

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