Conservatives routinely attack LGBT non-discrimination laws as unnecessary, burdensome and threatening to religious liberty. But in state after state and city after city, their horror stories haven't come true.
Federal law still doesn't prohibit discrimination against LGBT people in private employment, housing, or public accommodations, despite widespread public support for such protections.
As a result, many city and state governments have taken to adopting their own non-discrimination measures. In March, Maryland banned discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Since then, cities like Houston, Fayetteville, and Roland Park have similarly extended existing non-discrimination protections to their LGBT residents.
Debates about local non-discrimination laws are routinely hijacked by conservative activists and media outlets that warn that protecting LGBT people is unnecessary, burdensome, and threatening to religious liberty.
Here are the five most common right-wing talking points about LGBT non-discrimination laws, debunked:
Fox News hero and prominent Texas conservative Dr. Steven Hotze warned supporters during a conference call that gay activists want to overturn laws prohibiting pedophilia, calling gay people "perverted and deviant."
On September 10, Conservative Republicans of Texas leader Steven Hotze held a "Marriage Battle Plan" conference call with supporters, aimed at laying out a "battle plan" for combating "pro-homosexual rhetoric and propaganda" in federal courts. The call, which also featured Texas GOP chairman candidate Jared Woodfill, was pitched as "a meeting that liberals will be talking about for years."
A Breitbart.com columnist launched a transphobic attack on transgender former Army Private Chelsea Manning, calling her a "traitorous transsexual" and asking if the government had "cut it off yet."
In a September 16 column for Breitbart London, columnist Milo Yiannopoulos attacked Manning - who was convicted in 2013 of leaking classified documents to Wikileaks - for publishing an op-ed in The Guardian about the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). Yiannopoulos repeatedly misgendered Manning, asking if the government had "cut it off yet" - referring to Manning's genitalia:
Have they cut it off yet? The penis attached to traitorous transsexual Chelsea Manning, I mean. How else to explain the level of feverish disturbance necessary for the former Private Bradley to pen an op-ed saying we should "let ISIS succeed" in its mission to destroy half the Middle East, murdering, raping and torturing anyone in its way.
Manning, is of course, suffering from a lamentable psychiatric disorder. Normally, we help people like that by giving them access to doctors and drugs.
I don't believe everything the government tells me, and I know it snoops on me more than it should, but do I trust the NSA more than I trust a loopy alleged rapist, Putin's bitch or a psychologically fragile, gender-bending convicted traitor? You bet I do. [emphasis added]
Yiannopoulos also linked to a personal blog post in which he called "transgenderism" a "disease" and suggested that some transgender women are just "marginalised, lonely" gay men crying for help.
It goes without saying that Yiannopoulos' transphobic screed contradicts expert consensus, which has acknowledged transgender identities as "part of the human condition." He relies on the discredited work of former Johns Hopkins Hospital psychiatrist Paul McHugh, ignoring current professional medical recommendations about the transgender community.
Pseudoscience aside, though, Yiannopoulos' column is a stark example of the kind of gratuitous hate speech Breitbart.com is willing to publish. Manning's Guardian op-ed had nothing to do with being transgender, but Breitbart couldn't pass up another opportunity to depict transgender people as unstable or deviant.
An article published in WorldNetDaily blames the acceptance of homosexuality for creating a "slippery slope" to the popularization of incest, citing the popular HBO series Game Of Thrones as evidence.
In a July 23 post titled "Next Stop On Slippery Slope: Incest," notorious anti-LGBT activist Michael Brown warned that the acceptance of homosexuality had created a "slippery slope" towards "sexual anarchy" and the normalization of incest:
Gay activists constantly tell us that there's no such thing as a slippery moral slope and that the acceptance of homosexuality will not lead to the acceptance of other sexual practices, such as incest. The facts prove otherwise, and it is clear that we are rapidly sliding down the very slope whose existence they deny.
As I continually chart our society's moral free fall, the term that best describes our current condition is sexual anarchy, where men can have sex with men just as well with women, where sex outside of wedlock is just as acceptable as sex within wedlock, where marriage doesn't necessarily mean monogamy and where longstanding social taboos are cast off.
In their zeal to justify homosexual practice, these misguided teachers have opened the door wide to incest as well, removing the primary biblical texts that prohibit these sexual unions.
Society as a whole needs to take heed as well. If we don't reverse our slide down this slippery moral slope, we will soon crash and burn.
Fox News correspondent Todd Starnes attacked an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees, accusing the Obama administration of being "hell-bent on forcing Christians to assimilate to the militant LGBT agenda."
On July 21, President Obama signed an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating LGBT employees. The order amends existing non-discrimination executive orders to include sexual orientation and gender identity. As BuzzFeed's Chris Geidner reported, the order "contains no additional religious exemptions ... beyond those already contained in existing executive orders."
Fox's Starnes attacked the executive order in a July 21 post on FoxNews.com, accusing the Obama administration of endangering religious liberty and "bullying religious groups that hold viewpoints it deems inappropriate":
The executive order would prevent Christian and other religious organizations with federal contracts from requiring workers to adhere to the tenets of their religious beliefs. And that includes religious Christian colleges and universities that provide financial aid to students.
"If religious organizations cannot require that their employees conduct themselves in ways consistent with the teachings of their faith - then, essentially, those organizations are unable to operate in accordance with their faith," Peter Sprigg, Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council, told me.
"The mask is coming off of the homosexual movement's agenda. They really do not believe in religious liberty. They want forced affirmation of homosexual and transgender conduct to trump every other consideration in the workplace - including religious liberty."
The Obama administration seems hell-bent on forcing Christians to assimilate to the militant LGBT agenda. Resistance is futile.
Starnes' commentary is typical of the Fox News personality, who's made a career acting as the network's mouthpiece for some of the country's most extreme anti-LGBT hate groups. The Family Research Council's (FRC) Sprigg, for example, has called for the exporting of gay people out of the U.S. and endorsed the criminalization of homosexuality. Pastor Robert Jeffress, another critic cited in Starnes' post, is notorious for his extreme comments about LGBT people and Muslims.
Starnes' fear-mongering about the executive order's lack of religious exemptions grossly mischaracterizes the scope of the directive, which merely extends existing non-discrimination protections to include LGBT employees of federal contractors. As the New York Times editorial board recently explained:
This is not a question of religious freedom. It is a question of whether to allow religion to be used as an excuse to discriminate in employment against a particular group of people... [T]he presidential order ... would extend those rules to companies that receive federal contracts in states without those kinds of anti-bias laws, protecting millions more people.
Mr. Obama's resolve is being tested. There is no good reason to give religious employers a special privilege to inflict undeserved pain by, for example, refusing to hire someone to work on a government-backed project just because she happens to be a lesbian, or firing a capable employee who marries someone of the same sex.
Fox & Friends continued its bizarre attack on Illinois State University for designating gender-neutral restrooms, but even a group of "Fox fans" didn't seem fazed by the school's attempt to accommodate LGBT students.
Illinois State University recently announced that it would be relabeling several of its single-stall "family" restrooms on campus as "all-gender" restrooms. Though the decision won't alter the functionality of any of the restrooms, the move is meant to accommodate transgender and gender-variant students, who often face harassment and even violence in public restrooms. All-gender restrooms will be identified by a new sign that "will include a symbol of a half of a man and half of a woman."
On July 9, the cast of Fox & Friends mocked the decision, calling the new sign confusing and blaming the change on the "P.C. police."
On July 10, Fox & Friends continued its criticism of the university's decision. Co-host Steve Doocy produced a massive mock-up of an "all-gender" sign and asked a group of "Fox fans" outside the studio what they thought the sign meant.
But none of the fans, including a young boy, seemed to share Doocy's confusion or outrage over the sign:
The hosts of Fox & Friends mocked Illinois State University's decision to accommodate LGBT students by designating certain campus restrooms as gender-neutral.
During the July 9 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox's Heather Nauert reported on Illinois State University's decision to re-label a number of single stall restrooms on campus, designating them "all-gender" restrooms rather than "family" restrooms. The change is expected to affect approximately 10 restrooms and won't affect the functionality of any of the facilities. Designating gender-neutral restrooms on campus is a common practice aimed at accommodating growing populations of transgender and gender-variant students, who often face harassment and even violence in public restrooms.
Nauert, who incorrectly identified the university as Indiana State University, attributed the decision to the "P.C. police." Members of the Fox & Friends crew could be heard laughing throughout the segment, and Nauert concluded by stating "we're all a little confused by it":
Fox & Friends has a habit of ridiculing gender-neutral accommodations as ridiculous or unnecessary. The show has mocked gender-neutral passports, passport applications, college housing policies, student financial aid forms, and marriage licenses. In all of these cases, the changes were minor adjustments made to acknowledge members of the LGBT community. And in all of these cases, Fox & Friends jumped at the opportunity to turn gender-neutral accommodations into an early morning punch lines.
The O'Reilly Factor aired a segment mocking San Francisco's LGBT pride parade, playing on a number of tired and disparaging tropes about gay people.
The July 7 edition of The O'Reilly Factor featured a recurring segment dubbed "Watters' World" during which O'Reilly producer Jesse Watters attended San Francisco's annual LGBT pride parade. During the segment, Watters interview a number of parade attendees and often paired their comments with sound effects and movie clips meant to poke fun at their responses:
The segment touched on a number of typical right-wing stereotypes about gay people and pride parades; Gay people are promiscuous and predatory (and wear tight pants)! Why are there no straight pride parades? Gay pride parades shove homosexuality down people's throats!
At the end of the segment, Watters assured O'Reilly that none of the parade attendees had "assaulted" him.
Fox Nation picked up the segment, spotlighting one attendee who told Watters she wanted a "gay world":
Conservative columnist Dennis Prager claimed that "heterosexual AIDS" is a crisis "entirely manufactured by the Left," continuing his years-long campaign of peddling dangerous and inaccurate AIDS denialism.
Prager's July 1 syndicated column featured a defense of the Washington Redskins' name. Prager accused the "American Left" of being preoccupied with "manufactured" controversies and crises, including "heterosexual AIDS":
The great majority of American Indians understandably just don't care. Like heterosexual AIDS and so many other crises, this has been entirely manufactured by the Left. Since 1947, there has been a movie theater, the Redskin Theatre (with the same logo as the football team), in Anadarko, Okla., a city whose population is divided evenly between Indians and whites and that calls itself the "Indian Capital of the Nation." Why, in 67 years, have the Indian populations of Anadarko and Oklahoma not changed this theater's name? Because the Left hadn't made it an issue. It's not an Indian issue; it's a left-wing issue. [emphasis added]
Prager's comparison is the latest in his long and bizarre history of falsely asserting that HIV and AIDS aren't issues for heterosexuals. As Adam Serwer wrote for The American Prospect in 2008, Prager exemplifies a strain of "AIDS denialism" that suggests that "AIDS is a 'gay' problem, and so heterosexuals don't have to worry about it."
In a 2007 column titled "Does the Left Value Truth?," Prager wrote:
The homeless, heterosexual AIDS and rape. For years, mainstream liberal news media purveyed false information supplied by Mitch Snyder, the major liberal activist on behalf of the homeless. Likewise, we were told by gay and AIDS activist groups that AIDS "doesn't discriminate," meaning that heterosexuals in America were as likely to contract the HIV virus as homosexuals. It was never true in America (Africa may be another story for other reasons). [emphasis added]
According to Prager, AIDS activists invented the myth of heterosexual AIDS in order to generate hysteria about the disease. During a June 2008 edition of his radio show, he equated heterosexual AIDS with other purportedly exaggerated threats, including climate change and secondhand smoke:
The Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision might make it harder for millions of LGBT Americans to access treatment that could revolutionize the fight against HIV/AIDS.
The Supreme Court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. has sparked debate over whether the court's opinion grants business owners the right to discriminate against LGBT customers and employees on religious grounds. The decision is already being celebrated by a number of anti-LGBT activists who see it as a license to ignore non-discrimination laws, while some commentators have argued that the decision was tailored to avoid creating a blank check for homophobic business owners.
But the Hobby Lobby decision's most significant implication for the LGBT community may be its impact on Truvada, a controversial "miracle drug" that blocks HIV infection and may revolutionize the battle against HIV/AIDS.
In May 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) endorsed Truvada, which is a pre-expsure prophylaxis (PrEP) treatment combining two different antiviral drugs, for use by patients deemed at risk for HIV/AIDS. When taken properly, Truvada reduces the risk of HIV by more than 99 percent effective.
Despite its effectiveness, Truvada remains a hotly debated topic in the LGBT community, with critics warning (incorrectly) that Truvada users are more likely to engage in unsafe sex and deriding users as promiscuous and irresponsible.
In April, USA Today noted the similarities between the controversy surrounding Truvada and conservative opposition to birth control:
Demetre Daskalakis, the Mount Sinai doctor, said the Truvada debate recalls the way birth control was viewed in some quarters in the 1960s -- as an accessory to promiscuity.
"Anyone who takes Truvada, someone is looking at them and saying they're licentious," Daskalakis said. "When this becomes more normalized, we'll be fine."