Erin Fitzgerald

Author ››› Erin Fitzgerald
  • Alumni of this anti-LGBTQ hate group are serving in federal, state, and local governments

    Media Matters has identified at least 55 Alliance Defending Freedom affiliated lawyers serving in influential government positions

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) publicly boasts a nearly $50 million annual budget and a network of over 3,100 “allied attorneys” who provide hundreds of pro-bono hours of anti-LGBTQ and anti-choice legal services. But new Media Matters research has identified a quieter, more powerful network of former ADF employees, allied attorneys, and fellowship alumni who occupy over 50 influential government posts at the federal, state, and local level.

    ADF was founded in 1994 by several of the country's largest national evangelical Christian ministries to "press the case for religious liberty issues in the nation's courts" and "fend-off growing efforts by groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which seek to immobilize Christians." Today, it has become the country's best-funded and most powerful right-wing Christian group working against what the organization has called the "myth of the so-called 'separation of church and state.'"

    In practice, this work has consisted of ADF’s leaders and affiliated lawyers attempting to criminalize and demonize LGBTQ people by “falsely linking them to pedophilia, calling them ‘evil’ and a threat to children and society, and blaming them for the ‘persecution of devout Christians.’” This has lead the Southern Poverty Law Center to designate ADF as a hate group. ADF has also defended the constitutionality of criminalizing gay sex in the U.S., and has actively worked to promote and defend anti-sodomy laws that criminalize gay sex in Jamaica, Belize, and India. The group -- whose founder believes that the “homosexual agenda” is dedicated to destroying Christianity -- is behind the national push for anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom” laws. It is also the architect of the campaign for “bathroom bills” that aim to ban transgender students from using bathrooms that align with their gender identity. 

    ADF has several training programs by which it has amassed a network of thousands of lawyers to aid the organization both domestically and internationally. It’s two major programs include:

    • Allied Attorneys: On its website, ADF boasts a network of “more than 3,100 allied attorneys.” According to a brochure, “ADF has developed a broad network of high-caliber, accomplished Christian attorneys who use their God-given legal skills to protect the right of people to freely and peacefully live out their faith.” The brochure also notes that the “breadth of the network also enables ADF to facilitate premium-quality pro bono legal services for companies, churches, nonprofits, and individuals whose religious freedom is being threatened.” Lawyers must formally apply and be accepted to the attorney network, and also must affirm ADF’s statement of faith. More than 1,900 allied attorneys have completed the ADF Academy program, after which ADF suggests attendees complete 450 hours of pro bono service for ADF within three years. 
    • Blackstone Fellowship: According to its website, the “Blackstone Legal Fellowship” begins with “a nine-week summer (June-August) leadership training program ... as well as a six-week legal internship.” As ADF sees it, the fellowship lasts much longer than the summer. Interns who “complete the summer program are invited to apply to be commissioned as Blackstone Fellows.” For those chosen to become lifelong Blackstone Fellows, ADF says the summer “represents a beginning, not a culmination. Fellows receive ongoing training, resources, and support through an international community.” In 2014, Rewire investigated the presence of the Blackstone fellows in federal and state government. According to its findings, public records alone revealed that the offices of attorneys and solicitors general in at least eight states hosted interns who also belonged to the Blackstone fellowship alumni group. To date, at least 1,800 law students have completed the summer fellowship. While it has since been removed, an earlier version of the website explaining the Blackstone curriculum noted that the fellowship and ADF seeks to “recover the robust Christendomic theology of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries.”

    Allied attorneys, Blackstone Fellows, and graduates of other ADF training programs all have access to the same networking resources through a password protected community website, which boasts a “robust alumni community.” While it’s impossible to know how the ADF alumni network behind closed doors, investigative reports like Rewire’s Blackstone investigation are a start. Through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and court filings, journalists and advocacy organizations have begun to understand the scope of ADF’s government connections, and how those networks are used to further regressive anti-LGBTQ laws and policies. For example, Rewire’s investigation found that numerous Blackstone Fellows interned at state attorneys general offices -- then later went on to work full-time in those same offices.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In some states, offices with a high concentration of ADF alumni have been actively working against LGBTQ equality. In Texas, there are three former ADF employees -- two of whom are also Blackstone Fellows -- in the attorney general’s office (see below). Attorney General Ken Paxton has been one of the biggest proponents of anti-LGBTQ legislation, and has pushed a Texas version of the anti-transgender bathroom bills that ADF has been working to pass in states across the country. In Arizona, where ADF is headquartered, there are four ADF alums serving as assistant attorneys general, including two in the civil rights division (see below). Before he was assistant attorney general, ADF legal counsel Joseph La Rue played a “major role” in pushing for a 2014 anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom” bill in the Arizona state legislature. The “turn away the gays” bill -- which ADF freely admitted to drafting -- was ultimately vetoed by then-Republican Gov. Jan Brewer.

    Below is a non-exhaustive list of over 50 ADF alumni currently working in government positions. This list does not include a number of alumni Media Matters identified who have since left government posts, like ADF allied attorney and former Ohio Assistant Secretary of State Monty Lobb, or ADF alumni currently campaigning for political office, like ADF legal counsel Douglas Wardlow, who is running for attorney general in Minnesota. This list also does not name judicial clerks, though Media Matters did identify a number of ADF alumni clerking at high levels of the judiciary, including one Blackstone Fellow (who also graduated from the small but influential Christian college founded by current ADF CEO Michael Farris) clerking for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

    Much of this research made use of Rewire’s database of ADF Blackstone alumni. See the Rewire database here and read Sofia Resnick and Sharona Coutts’ 2014 investigation into the Blackstone Fellowship here.

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  • NPR Continues To Uncritically Host Anti-LGBTQ Hate Group Alliance Defending Freedom

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    NPR’s Morning Edition hosted an attorney from the anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) to discuss the executive order that President Donald Trump signed today weakening the tax code restrictions on religious organizations’ political activity and promoting “religious liberty.” NPR failed, yet again, to note ADF’s anti-LGBTQ extremism and that Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has recently designated it as a hate group.

    On the May 4 edition of NPR’s Morning Edition, host Steve Inskeep interviewed NPR’s Tom Gjelten and ADF senior counsel Greg Baylor about the executive order that Trump signed later that day. The executive order, according to a senior White House Official, aims to weaken the tax code restrictions on religious organizations’ political activity. These restrictions -- known as the “Johnson Amendment” -- were intended to “prevent donors from deducting political contributions from their federal income tax” and have been a long-standing target of far-right religious extremists and anti-LGBTQ hate groups. Since 2008, ADF has led an annual “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” as part of its efforts to repeal the Johnson Amendment and has been the driving force behind many of the “religious freedom” bills proposed in state legislatures.

    Inskeep described ADF as an organization that “advocates for religious freedom on religious freedom issues” -- failing to note ADF’s long-standing history of extremism and misinformation. Inskeep also failed to mention that ADF was designated as a hate group by SPLC for working to criminalize LGBTQ people, both in the U.S. and abroad. NPR has repeatedly hosted anti-LGBTQ extremists without providing much-needed context for its listeners; after hosting a hate group leader in 2015, NPR’s Diane Rehm even acknowledged that the network needs to “do a better job of being more careful about identification.” NPR has faced routine criticism for its coverage of LGBTQ issues.

    During the segment, Baylor mischaracterized regulations in the Affordable Care Act as an “abortion pill mandate” and failed to note that existing religious freedom protection allow organizations to opt out of providing coverage if they notify the government. The plaintiffs in the lawsuits mentioned by Baylor argue that the even process of opting out of providing insurance coverage for forms of contraception that they falsely deem "abortifacients" poses a "substantial burden" to their religious beliefs. Baylor also lamented that the executive order didn’t go far enough to protect people who object "on religious or moral grounds from violating their convictions through the content of their health care plan.” Inskeep did not clarify that this type of order would codify broad-based discrimination in health care for any number of reasons, including sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or even interracial relationships.

    STEVE INSKEEP (HOST): Let's bring another voice into the conversation because Greg Baylor is with us also. He's a senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, which advocates for religious freedom on religious freedom issues. Thanks for coming by. Good morning.

    GREGORY BAYLOR: It's great to be here.

    INSKEEP: And for wearing a tie early in the morning, really appreciate that, really great. Was this executive order what you wanted?

    BAYLOR: I would say that, you know, the two words that come to mind in seeing the outline of this upcoming executive order are disappointment and hope. There's disappointment because it's not all that we hoped that it would be. But we do have hope that this perhaps is just the first step in the Trump administration's effort to fulfill its campaign promise that he made on the campaign trail that he would fully protect religious freedom, that he would protect people like the Little Sisters, that he would stop his administration being something that really interferes significantly with the religious freedom of people.

    INSKEEP: Let’s ask you about both parts of that. First, you said disappointed. It doesn’t do very much. What is limiting about this executive order so far as we know, granted, we don’t have the text yet?

    BAYLOR: Yeah, we don’t have the text yet, but with regards to the HHS abortion pill mandate, all that it says is that it's going to provide regulatory relief. That is disappointingly vague especially given how long we’ve had to discuss this issue. These lawsuits were filed, some of them back in 2012, many of them in 2013 and ‘14. And the answer to this problem has been quite obvious all along. What this administration needs to do is to craft an exemption that prohibits everyone who objects on religious and moral grounds from violating their convictions through the content of their health plan. This is the obvious answer and it’s not done in this executive order.

    INSKEEP: Let’s just remember what this debate is about. We’re talking about women’s contraception here. We’re talking about private employers who are providing insurance. They’re required to have essential benefits as part of the insurance, and some people objected to providing contraception, and they want this exemption. That’s what you’re discussing here, right?

    BAYLOR: Although there’s one important distinction to point out. Many of the objectors did not object to contraceptives. Generally, they objected only to the ones that cause abortion. All of my Protestant clients object only to abortion. This is something that had never been mandated. It wasn’t required to be mandated in the Affordable Care Act and when the Obama administration implemented this, they tipped their hat to religious freedom by crafting an extraordinarily narrow religious exemption that only protected a few. And essentially the case that we’ve been making all along is don’t differentiate in the field of religious liberty. You should protect the normal class of religious organizations that are protected in other contexts.

    Inskeep concluded the interview with a chuckle, while saying, “And I imagine we can expect plenty of people on the other side of the debate from Mr. Baylor to weigh in as the day goes on.”

  • Top Media Outlets Have Failed To Accurately Label Designated Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups

    Six Years of Various Media Matters Studies Show Ongoing Problem With Reporting On Hate Groups

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD & RACHEL PERCELAY

    For more than half a decade, Media Matters has monitored broadcast, cable, print, and local media coverage of anti-LGBTQ hate groups, designated as such by Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Reporters frequently fail to disclose this designation and provide no context about anti-LGBTQ hate groups and their extremism, instead simply labeling them as “Christian” or “conservative” organizations. Those same outlets, however, often refer to SPLC as an expert in tracking hate and extremism, and often use SPLC’s “hate group” designation when reporting on other extremist ideologies, like white nationalist groups.

    SPLC has long been regarded as an expert in monitoring domestic hate and extremism. Since 1990, SPLC has been releasing an “annual census” of U.S. hate groups. SPLC defines hate groups as organizations that “have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” But inaccurate or incomplete media coverage has allowed anti-LGBTQ hate groups to peddle the myth that they’re labeled as hate groups only for their conservative or religious beliefs about sexuality and marriage. Yet SPLC has clearly stated multiple times that it designates organizations as “hate groups” when they knowingly spread “demonizing lies,” engage in “baseless, incendiary name-calling,” or actively work to criminalize LGBTQ people -- not because of biblical or conservative beliefs.

    Media Matters' research shows that while major publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post often rely on SPLC’s “hate group” designation to provide meaningful context about white nationalist groups, those same outlets often label designated anti-LGBTQ hate groups only as “Christian” or “conservative.” Similarly, cable news networks have frequently invited anti-LGBTQ hate group representatives to comment on LGBTQ equality without providing context about their respective group’s extremism. Since being designated as a hate group in February 2017, the mammoth anti-LGBTQ legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom has been featured prominently in the media with no reference to its extremism or efforts to criminalize LGBTQ people.

    While some reporters -- like CBS’s Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation -- have provided audiences with meaningful context by accurately identifying anti-LGBTQ hate group leaders as such during interviews, over half a decade of research by Media Matters shows that journalists more often than not fail to identify anti-LGBTQ hate groups as such. Failing to properly contextualize extremism often allows hate group representative to peddle debunked anti-LGBTQ lies, which has led outlets like NPR to acknowledge that “we have to do a better job” in identifying extremists.

    Below are some of Media Matters’ largest studies documenting how journalists report on hate groups.

    NY Times and Wash. Post Failed To Properly Identify Or Contextualize SPLC’s Major Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups

    A July 2016 Media Matters analysis revealed that between June 1, 2014, and June 30, 2016, The New York Times mentioned four anti-LGBTQ hate groups -- the Family Research Council, Liberty Counsel, the American Family Association, and Westboro Baptist Church --a total of 60 times and never clearly defined any of them as a current hate group. The paper most frequently labeled these hate groups as “conservative” (18 times or 30 percent of the total) or gave them no descriptor at all (14 times or 23 percent of the total). In Times coverage, anti-LGBTQ hate groups were most likely to be called “conservative” or given no designation at all.

    One New York Times article in our analysis used the hate group designation for anti-LGBTQ group the World Congress of Families, but it also included a quote from the group denouncing the label. The article also included criticism of SPLC’s authority and questioned its methodology. Finally, in a passing mention of the Family Research Council, the article falsely reported that SPLC designates hate groups based “on their stances on gay issues,” rather than on their propagation of known falsehoods about LGBTQ people. No other article in our analysis attempted to question the authority of SPLC’s classification or gave a platform to a hate group to defend itself. In fact, when reporting on white nationalist groups in the same period, the Times cited SPLC as an expert on tracking hate groups and frequently used the organization’s hate group designation. Note: Not all percentages add up to 100 due to rounding. 

    The Washington Post mentioned anti-LGBTQ hate groups 74 times during the study period. But it labeled them as hate groups only six times and failed to provide any context about their ideology 27 times. When it did label such groups, the paper was most likely (eight times) to call them “conservative” or contextualize them by mentioning their legal work such as with Liberty Counsel -- which represented the Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court released its marriage equality ruling.

    In 2015, Major News Outlets Failed To Identify The Hate Group Representing Kim Davis

    A September 2015 Media Matters report found that major news outlets almost entirely failed to identify Liberty Counsel -- the group defending Rowan County clerk Kim Davis -- as an anti-LGBTQ "hate group," often referring to the group only as a "Christian" or "conservative" legal organization. The Washington Post was the only paper to identify Liberty Counsel as a hate group. An analysis of coverage from August 8 through September 11, 2015, revealed the following:

    • The Associated Press called Liberty Counsel a “Christian law firm” in four different articles.
    • Reuters characterized Liberty Counsel as a “religious” or “legal” “advocacy” group in five different articles.
    • The Washington Post identified Liberty Counsel as a “hate group” in one article -- but in three other articles, it described the group only as “Christian.”
    • The New York Times twice referred to Liberty Counsel as a “conservative” group -- once mentioning that Liberty “has been on the front lines of the same-sex marriage fight for roughly two decades,” and once calling it a nonprofit that works in “religious exemptions cases.”

    In October 2015, The Associated Press did note that Liberty Counsel has been labeled an anti-gay hate group. In response, Liberty Counsel President Mat Staver delivered a letter to the AP's assistant general counsel, Brian Barrett, that accused the AP of putting Davis and Liberty Counsel at risk of "death threats" and demanded that the article be permanently deleted.

    One Hate Group Leader's Appearances Plummeted On CNN And MSNBC In 2013, But Held Steady On Fox News

    A July 2014 Media Matters study found that Family Research Council (FRC) President Tony Perkins appeared significantly less frequently on CNN and MSNBC in the wake of petitions calling on the networks to stop hosting him. Perkins, whose organization has been labeled an anti-LGBTQ hate group, continued to appear frequently on Fox News. Media Matters examined coverage between August 1, 2012, and July 28, 2014. Graph includes data from a prior 2012 study on Perkin’s appearances.

    Cable News Networks Relied On Hate Group Leader For 2012 Primary Election Coverage

    A November 2012 Media Matters analysis of cable news networks’ coverage of the 2012 GOP primary between May 5, 2011, and August 28, 2012, found that the media outlets regularly called upon Perkins to provide commentary on behalf of social conservatives. Perkins made 56 appearances on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC over the course of the primary, but never once was identified as the leader of an anti-LGBTQ hate group.

    More Hate Group Coverage From Media Matters:

    March 2017: Reporting On Trans Rights Supreme Court Case, Major Outlets Failed To Call Alliance Defending Freedom A Hate Group

    February 2017: Major Publications Fail To Identify Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups In Transgender Policy Coverage

    December 2016: 19 Times Breitbart Cited A Discredited Hate Group To Spread Harmful Lies About Pediatric Medical Care

    September 2016: Trump Just Finished Speaking At A Hate Group Conference; Why Didn’t Top Papers Take Heed?

    August 2016: FL Newspapers Largely Give Rubio A Pass On Scheduled Appearance With Anti-LGBT Extremists

    April 2016: Major News Outlets Largely Fail To Identify The Hate Group Boycotting Target

    December 2015: This Hate Group Leader Has Hosted Most Of The Republican Presidential Candidates On His Radio Show

    August 2014: Megyn Kelly's Cozy Relationship With An Anti-Gay Hate Group Leader

    December 2013: Only 10 Percent Of Louisiana Newspaper Articles About This Hate Group Leader Exposed His Extremism

    April 2012: Meet Todd Starnes, Fox's Mouthpiece For Anti-Gay Hate Groups

    December 2011: Cable News Networks Regularly Promote Anti-Gay Family Research Council On Air

    Graphics by Sarah Wasko.

  • Don't Be Fooled By Milo Yiannopoulos' Latest Doe-Eyed Act. It's Hollow. Here's The Proof.

    The Former Breitbart Editor Has Used His Platform To Mock And Attack Sexual Assault Survivors For Years

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    Former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos revealed that he was a survivor of child sexual abuse during a press conference held to address the controversy that erupted after a video surfaced of him “condoning pedophilia.” Yiannopoulos apologized for his words (though with several caveats) and offered an olive branch by promising to donate a percentage of his book’s royalties to charities supporting survivors of child sexual abuse. The cornerstone of his apology is based on a shared understanding that survivors are to be trusted. This is an understanding that he has not just derided, but gleefully denied other survivors of assault. Yiannopolous has built his career as a self-appointed arbiter of rape culture, which includes deciding who are worthy victims, who were malicious perpetrators, and whether or not such a culture even exists.  

    After the video circulated, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) revoked Yiannopoulos’ speaking invitation, Simon and Schuster canceled his book deal, and Yiannopoulos resigned from his role at Breitbart. During prepared remarks on February 21, he announced his resignation and expressed regret for some, but not all, of his comments on sexual assault. Hedging his apology with an attack on the media, he called the circulation of the video and ensuing outcry “a cynical media witch hunt” aimed at “destroying” him and his career.

    Yiannopoulos also came out as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, citing this history as the reason for his “usual blend of British sarcasm, provocation and gallows humor.” He also said he was “horrified” that his videotaped comments may have been perceived as “advocacy” for pedophilia or “a lack of care for other victims.” Yiannopoulos continued:

    I will not apologize for dealing with my life experiences in the best way that I can, which is humor. No one can tell me or anyone else who has lived through sexual abuse how to deal with those emotions.

    But I am sorry to other abuse victims if my own personal way of dealing with what happened to me has hurt you.

    At the press conference, Yiannopoulos presented a public persona that was not in line with the values that he’s espoused for so long. Rather, he’s devoted a serious body of work to attacking survivors of sexual assault, attempting to function as an arbiter of who counts as a “victim” and who can -- or cannot -- be labeled a “perpetrator”. He has repeatedly denied that rape and sexual assault are major problems in the U.S., while summarily casting Muslims as the “real” perpetrators of rape culture. He's also peddled the dangerous, debunked myth that transgender people will commit sexual assault if given access to the appropriate facilities. Yiannopoulos has expressed a fondness for rape jokes and has made victims of sexual abuse the butt of his jokes, mocking “little boys” for “complaining” about clerical sexual abuse. Yiannopoulos has gleefully employed the term “slut’s remorse” when speaking about sexual assault allegations -- arguing that such allegations are often motivated by the accuser’s “self-loathing,” “spitefulness,” and “malice.” Yiannopoulos has also advocated for the right to anonymity for those accused of assault under this warped line of reasoning.

    Yiannopoulos has asserted that measures colleges have taken to raise awareness of and combat the shockingly high rate of sexual assault reported by campus women are a result of “a long-smouldering, insidious force” that “has nearly destroyed an otherwise pleasant and fun-filled relationship between the genders on campus.” He said that campaign was perpetuated by feminists with an “insane, irrational fear of men,” and he urged male students not to go to “consent classes,” cautioning that awareness and prevention measures will ultimately result in the criminalization of “ordinary male behaviour.” Most recently, Yiannopoulos urged the Trump administration to roll back sexual assault and harassment protections that were strengthened and clarified in a 2011 memo issued by the U.S. Department of Education.

    As part of his mea culpa, Yiannopoulos claimed that he would be donating 10 percent of the royalties from his (now nonexistent) book deal to charities for survivors of child sexual abuse. His last charitable endeavor spurred allegations that the funds had been embezzled rather than distributed. Considering his penchant for not delivering on promises of charity, it seems unlikely that any worthy group will ever see a cent from Yiannopoulos. Don't be fooled by the somber public performance at Yiannopolous' press conference, this is not the persona he's promoted and profited from over the last several years and he is certainly no champion of rights for survivors of sexual assault. 

  • Here Are Some Of The Worst Headlines Milo Yiannopoulos Published Attacking Rape Survivors

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    Just two days after news broke that Breitbart.com’s senior editor Milo Yiannopoulos would speak at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the conference’s hosts have rescinded his speaking invitation after a video circulated of Yiannopoulos “condoning pedophilia.” Over the next few days, Simon & Schuster canceled Yiannopoulos’ book deal, and Yiannopoulos resigned from his position at Breitbart. Though Yiannopoulos claimed he felt regret over his “poor choice of words,” his prior Breitbart headlines clearly display Milo’s long-standing history of attacking and mocking survivors of sexual assault, as well as denying the existence of rape culture. Here are Milo’s worst headlines:


    [Breitbart.com, 10/16/15]

    [Breitbart.com, 8/27/14]

    [Breitbart.com, 10/30/16]

    [Breitbart.com, 1/6/16]

    [Breitbart.com, 10/7/16]

    [Breitbart.com, 6/23/14]

    [Breitbart.com, 10/12/16]

    [Breitbart.com, 7/16/15]

  • Oakland Fire Highlights Need For Greater Media Accountability And Respect For Trans People In Life And Death

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    A fire in an Oakland warehouse claimed the lives of 36 people, according to the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office who released the official list of victims names that erroneously included the birth name of a transgender woman, Feral Pines. As a result, the initial media misidentified and misgendered Pines, which prompted loved ones and advocacy organizations to call for journalists to update stories with her correct name. Advocacy efforts ultimately yielded proper reporting, but the steps required to get there highlight the need for media outlets to take greater care in accurately reporting on transgender people.

    On December 2, a fire broke out at an Oakland art collective’s warehouse, killing 36 people including several members of the LGBTQ community. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office later released a list of victims’ names, incorrectly identifying one transgender victim, Feral Pines, by her name given at birth, which she hadn’t used in over a decade. Her loved ones asked that officials correct the list, and the sheriff’s office eventually apologized and deleted tweets of the original list. But by that point journalists had already begun using the list as a reference for their reporting, meaning much of the initial coverage misgendered Pines and included an incorrect name for her.

    When the media uses the birth name of a trans person -- a practice sometimes known as “deadnaming” -- it harms the entire transgender community, as a December 7 article published by The San Francisco Chronicle noted, quoting Eliza Wicks-Frank, Pines’ former partner of five years:

    “The impact that this lack of dignity and awareness has on the community of trans people who are alive right now is it tells them that their fight is irrelevant, that they’re going to be disrespected regardless of how they fight to live their lives.”

    On December 6, GLAAD issued a statement urging the media to follow established guidelines for covering news about trans victims -- including using the “gender and pronoun that corresponds with the way the victim identified” -- and clarified protocol around conflicting information, urging outlets to “listen to the friends who did know about the victim’s trans identity, and respect the way a victim identified a the time of the incident.” On December 7, a joint statement released by a coalition of LGBTQ advocacy organizations -- Equality California, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Center for Transgender Equality, National LGBTQ Task Force, Transgender Law Center and the Trans Assistance Project -- called on both the Oakland authorities and the media to honor the correct name and gender of the transgender fire victims.

    In addition, Pines’ loved ones contacted dozens of journalists and news outlets that used her birth name and asked them to use the correct name. The Guardian published an article highlighting transgender people’s struggle for respect and accurate identification, both in life and in death. Scout Wolfcave, Pine’s friend who has been working closely with media and authorities to ensure the trans victims are described properly, told the Guardian:

    “We fight hard enough every single day to be seen as our authentic selves and to be treated with respect. In death, you can’t defend yourself anymore, so it falls on your friends to do it for you.”

    By the end of the week, almost all of the stories that incorrectly identified Pines had been corrected thanks to the efforts of Wolfcave and an extended network of loved ones.

    The Associated Press reported on confusion around identifying Pines, noting that she was called different names by friends and family. While Pines’ friends and family may have known her by two different names, her identity as a transgender woman was clear and neither of the monikers she used was the name she was given at birth. Building on existing guidelines issued by GLAAD, the article acknowledges that while sometimes identifying and discussing trans people who’ve lost their lives will be difficult, proper naming remains "critical." The need for greater media accountability and responsible journalism is clear, according to American Civil Liberties Union lawyer and trans advocate Chase Strangio:

    "Being referred to as one’s proper gender and name is not a preference. It is not a choice that a journalist can make and still accurately report on the subject. When trans people are misgendered, when our old names are used, we disappear. Because at that point, our truth is taken away. A truth that we fought hard to claim."

  • Purge: Right-Wing Media Fabricate Quote In Attempt To Get Gay Man Fired

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    After George Mason University’s assistant admissions director spoke out on his Facebook page against the National Organization for Marriage, an anti-LGBTQ extremist group, and said that he was “worried” about the future given the election of Donald Trump, right-wing media jumped at the opportunity to mischaracterize his statement and condemn him for speaking out for his beliefs.

    After Donald Trump was declared president-elect, George Mason University senior director of admissions Andrew Bunting posted publicly on his Facebook page that he was “worried,” linking to a November 9 blog post by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which is lead by Brian Brown. Brown is also currently the president of World Congress of Families, the anti-LGBTQ hate group that has worked internationally to use the doctrine of the “natural family” to “build support for laws that criminalize homosexuality and abortion,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. NOM has a long history of attacking LGBTQ people, relying on lies to promote its agenda, and promoting policies that encourage anti-LGBTQ violence.

    The blog Bunting linked to, titled “The Plan,” outlined all of the goals that the organization planned to work with Trump’s administration to achieve, including: reversing marriage equality, targeting “gender identity” directives, and passing anti-LGBTQ legislation like the so-called First Amendment Defense Act, which would codify anti-LGBTQ discrimination and hate speech into law. Additionally, NOM declared its intention to reverse policies of the Obama administration that they claim “seek to coerce other countries into accepting same-sex 'marriage' as a condition of receiving US assistance and aid.” The blog continued, “It is fundamentally wrong for a president to become a lobbyist for the LGBTQ agenda.” Bunting concluded that if you agreed with NOM, you are “a worthless piece of trash.”

    Bunting’s Facebook posts were originally reported on by MRCTV, a conservative online platform helmed by Media Research Center, which mischaracterized his statements as regarding “conservatives” broadly. The author also noted that Bunting worked at a gay bar, “In addition to working at GMU, Bunting appears to work at a gay bar called Cobalt. Photos on his Instagram account show him dressed provocatively while saying he is at the bar every ‘4th and 5th Saturday.’” Shortly after the MRCTV post came out, Townhall, another conservative website, published an article mischaracterizing Bunting’s post by saying:

    College administrators everywhere are having a really difficult time accepting Donald Trump's White House victory, but the admissions director at George Mason University just lost it. On his Facebook page, Andrew Bunting declared conservatives, Trump voters and anyone who dares to disagree with his progressive ideology are "worthless pieces of trash."

    After the story made the rounds on right-wing media sites, Bill O’Reilly reported on the post during the November 15 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor. O’Reilly similarly mischaracterized the statement made by Bunting in a conversation with Washington Examiner contributor Lisa Boothe, and the segment culminated in calls for his dismissal. From The O’Reilly Factor:

    BILL O'REILLY (HOST): If you are a student, and you're applying to George Mason University, you have to write an essay. I mean, you have to tell the people about yourself. And if you hold a certain belief system, maybe that will be included in your essay. And one of the admissions deciders is telling you, “if you don't agree with me you are a worthless piece of you know what?” Come on? How can he possibly do his job?

    LISA BOOTHE: He can't. And that's the big problem here. And this is why he should be let go. Because his job is supposed to be objective with the admissions process. And clearly he is anything but. And, I think the university needs to take it one step further and do a review of the applications process to ensure that no students and previous applicants -- that they were not discriminated against based off of their political ideology or Christian beliefs. Because the statement that this individual made on his Facebook post was related to gay marriage, and was actually -- cited something from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has labeled groups like the Family Research Council hate groups.

    O'REILLY: So, well, I want to get this right. So, you would fire him outright? He’s done, if you were the chancellor?

    BOOTHE: Yes. And I think he needs emotional therapy puppies. Maybe he needs to attend a cry-in. But yeah, I think he should be let go.

     
  • Media Report That Voter ID Laws Could Suppress 34,000 Trans Voters This Election

    South Florida Gay News: Voter Suppression Affects The “Electoral Impact Of LGBT People, Further Marginalizing All LGBT People,” “Especially Transgender People Of Color”

    ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    Media are reporting that stringent voter ID laws in several states have a harsh impact for transgender voters, who often face barriers to updating their ID documents to reflect their gender and experience harassment and mistreatment as a result. 

  • Breitbart News Published Slur-Filled Talk Given By Senior Editor Milo Yiannopoulos At The University of Delaware

    Yiannopoulos: “Never Feel Bad For Mocking A Transgender Person.”

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    Breitbart News published the text of a slur-filled speech given by “alt-right” mouthpiece Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of Delaware on October 24.

    The “alt-right” website Breitbart News posted the full transcript of an October 24 speech given by senior editor Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of Delaware, which was also filmed and made available online. Breitbart is known for being anti-Semitic, anti-LGBT, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant, as well as for its inflammatory click-bait headlines. Additionally, Breitbart News provides a platform for Yiannopoulos to lash out at political correctness, peddle misogyny, and promote white nationalism.

    Prior to the event, promotional posters featuring anti-trans statements were posted on University of Delaware’s campus but eventually taken down. Yiannopoulos’ speech was a slur-filled diatribe that relied on recycled right-wing attacks on diversity and political correctness and was rife with misinformation -- using the debunked “bathroom predator” myth, relying on junk science from discredited professionals, and clumsily trying to conflate identifying as transgender with having rare mental health disorders. Yiannopoulos also selectively cited a Williams Institute report about suicide, pointing to the high rates of suicide in the trans community as a sign of mental illness. He omitted the study’s conclusion: elevated suicide attempts among transgender people were correlated with experiencing anti-trans bias, such as discrimination and harassment.

    Yiannopoulos relied heavily on slurs as a substitute for a cohesive argument. Reprinted from Breitbart (emphasis added):

    Of course many trannies, or those that make up their own new gender, are not actually retarded. But they are deeply mentally damaged, and they are failed by a liberal establishment obsessed with making them feel good about themselves.
    [...]
    Although I may seem cruel to trannies, I say all of this because i recognize they are vulnerable and at-risk, and are treated as pawns by the liberal establishment eager to use them to push thought control on the rest of us.
    [...]
    I will close with this advice. Never feel bad for mocking a transgender person. It is our job to point out their absurdity, to not make the problem worse by pretending they are normal. Much like fat-shaming, if our mockery drives them to get the help they need, we may save their life. 
    Remember that your target isn’t someone suffering with this condition. It is the media. It is the people turning a psychiatric condition into an aspirational lifestyle choice.
    [...]
    I do it because nothing else is working. I do it because America and the rest of the west is sleepwalking into one of the cruellest mistreatments of a small but vulnerable slice of the population.
    My words don’t hurt anyone. But subjecting children to hormone therapy and mutilating their genitals does.
  • National Advocacy Organization Urges Debate Moderator Chris Wallace To Include A Question On “Bathroom Bills”

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    The National Center for Transgender Equality urged Fox News host Chris Wallace to address the “critical issue” of transgender equality when he moderates the third and final presidential debate on October 19. Despite the unprecedented number of anti-LGBT bills introduced into statehouses, moderators at the general-election vice presidential and presidential debates have so far failed to ask a single question on LGBT equality.

    The ongoing fight against LGBT nondiscrimination protections has been in the spotlight at the local, state, and national levels. This year saw an unprecedented number of anti-LGBT bills introduced in state legislatures, high-profile lawsuits from several states against federal policy guidance over transgender student equality, and adoption of North Carolinas widely condemned HB 2, which, among other things, requires transgender people to use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificates.

    During the primary season, debate moderators failed to ask Democratic candidates a single question related to LGBT equality in any of the nine debates. Moderators asked Republican candidates several questions related to LGBT issues, including what their thoughts are on Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who refused to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples; how they would feel about collaborating with a gay-friendly corporate board; and whether “gay marriage dissenters have rights.” Both general-election presidential debates so far, as well as the vice presidential debate, have omitted questions on LGBT equality.

    In response to the lack of attention given to LGBT equality during the debates, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality sent moderator Wallace a letter on October 18 urging him to pose a question about transgender students’ rights to access appropriate bathrooms. The letter points to a model question proposed to the Open Debate Coalition by the mother of a transgender 12-year-old girl:

    In advance of the second presidential debate, the Open Debate Coalition allowed members of the public to submit questions for the moderators to consider. Amy, the mother of a transgender 12-year-old, submitted the following question: “What would you say to a trans kid forced to use a separate rest room in school?” She went on to write, “My 12 year-old daughter is transgender. She just started middle school, where she has to either use the boys’ restroom or a separate one, making her a target for teasing and bullying, or worse.” Over 6,000 people voted for Amy’s question, demonstrating that this issue is important for far more people than just the transgender community.

    As you prepare your questions, we urge you to consider including this crucial issue. We also ask you, of course, to treat these issues with the respect and dignity that we and our families deserve, without repeating the baseless scare tactics used by those who oppose our rights. In particular, if you ask a question about transgender people using the restrooms that match our gender, please take care to frame them as a matter of necessity and not as a matter of choice.

    Methodology: Media Matters searched transcripts of two presidential and one vice presidential debate, as well as nine Democratic and twelve Republican primary debates for the 2016 election cycle provided by the Washington Post for the search terms “LGBT,” "gay," “lesbian,” “bisexual,” "transgender," "sexual orientation," and "gender identity."