North Carolina's regressive new anti-LGBT law is based on the work of the Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBT legal organization that has advocated for criminalizing homosexuality and is leading a nationwide campaign to pass legislation limiting transgender student rights.
On March 23, North Carolina became the first state in the country to pass a law broadly banning transgender people from using bathrooms that align with their gender identity in publicly run facilities and schools. The measure, House Bill 2, went from a bill to law in a mere 12 hours in a special session hastily convened to overturn an LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance passed in Charlotte. North Carolina's law is a victory for the anti-LGBT legal giant Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an extreme anti-LGBT legal group that's been the leading force behind the national push to curb transgender student rights for over a year.
ADF is Christian nonprofit based in Scottsdale, AZ, with a $43 million-a-year budget that bills itself as working for the “right of people to freely live out their faith.” Much of ADF's “religious freedom” work, however, has consisted of anti-LGBT activism, including opposing a gay-inclusive Boy Scouts of America, labeling the hate crime that led to the murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard a hoax to advance the “homosexual agenda,” and working internationally to criminalize gay sex.
For over a year, ADF has been working to pass local school district policies and state-level legislation that would ban transgender students from accessing bathroom and locker room facilities consistent with their gender identity. Beginning in December 2014, ADF emailed public school districts across the country to “advise” them of its recommended “Student Physical Privacy” policy. In February 2015, ADF released a model state-level bill to prohibit all public school transgender students from using any facility that corresponds with their gender identity. Last year, Nevada, Kentucky, Minnesota, Texas and Wisconsin all proposed versions of ADF's bill.
The portion of North Carolina's law banning transgender students from certain public bathrooms closely mirrors ADF's model state-level bill regarding student bathroom access:
ADF has played a role in the fight against LGBT equality in North Carolina for over a year, centered over opposition to the LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance Charlotte passed in February after a yearlong effort. The lead anti-gay activist opposing the Charlotte ordinance -- Tami Fitzgerald -- is one of ADF's “allied attorneys.” Fitzgerald's coalition against the ordinance showcased an ADF legal memorandum on its website to claim that legal protections for LGBT people “threaten First Amendment freedoms.” ADF also praised the passage of HB2, calling the law “common sense.”
Major news networks have previously identified ADF as the extreme group behind state efforts to limit LGBT equality. During a national controversy over a “religious freedom” bill passed by the Arizona legislature in 2014, journalists called out ADF's role in crafting the law. CNN's Anderson Cooper noted that ADF was behind the "genetic code" of the bill and similar religious freedom laws across the country. MSNBC's Chris Hayes similarly documented ADF's involvement in writing the law, while also noting the group's support for criminalizing gay sex abroad.
As other laws seeking to ban transgender students from bathrooms are continuing to crop up across the country -- recently in Michigan, Illinois, and Kansas -- journalists should expose the group behind the nationwide campaign attacking transgender people's access to public bathrooms.