During a hearing on a bill aimed at denying protections for transgender students, a Wisconsin state representative called out the extreme anti-LGBT legal organization working to enact similar laws across the country.
On November 19, the Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Education held a hearing on AB 469, a bill that would prohibit transgender students from using the bathroom or locker room that corresponds with their gender identity. The bill was based in part on “model” legislation drawn up by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
State Representative Mandela Barnes (D) called out Alliance Defending Freedom for working to criminalize homosexuality abroad during the hearing on the bill:
REP. MANDELA BARNES (D): It was said that the bill came from a group called... the Alliance for Defending Freedom. And I just want to confirm that that's the case, that's where the bill -
REP. JESSE KREMER (R): No, the bill did not originate there. The bill originated somewhere - there was a bill that was being worked on that was more like the Minnesota bill, and that's what we were looking at originally. We were also looking at the Nevada bill, and as I mentioned, I talked to the authors in both of those states, and then we found out about Alliance Defending Freedom bill, policy, that they had kind of come up with also - so we kind of merged the policies together to get something that would hopefully work for Wisconsin for everyone.
BARNES: I don't know how much people really know about Alliance Defending Freedom. They're not really a friendly group.
REP. JEREMY THIESFELDT (R): Representative Barnes, Alliance Defending Freedom is not on trial here today.
BARNES: Oh, I understand that.
THIESFELDT: Keep your comments to the bill, please.
BARNES: But it's sort of the company we keep and where the ideas come from. We should be really aware of that, really conscious of where some of this policy is coming from. Because this is an organization that's tried to criminalize homosexuality in other countries. And I don't think that's the type of place where we should be getting any of our policy here in the state of Wisconsin.
Barnes' description of ADF's extreme anti-LGBT work is accurate. While the group is best known for its "religious liberty" work, ADF has also sought to promote and defend anti-sodomy laws that criminalize gay sex in countries like Belize and Jamaica.
ADF has launched a concerted nationwide effort to push its own “model” policies denying transgender students equal access to school facilities. As State Representative Jesse Kremer, who introduced AB 469, pointed out, Wisconsin's bill mirrors similar legislation in Minnesota and Nevada. As Media Matters has documented, those bills also drew heavily from ADF's model legislation:
ADF's influence in shaping discriminatory state and school policies is a significant story in the ongoing debate over protections for transgender students. Journalists should follow Representative Barnes' lead and tell audiences what they need to know about ADF, its extreme international work, and the group's campaign to sneak their discriminatory model legislation into statehouses across the country.