Media Should Note Common Denominator In Recent Wave Of Anti-LGBT Court Battles

Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

In the last week, two courts have decided against the rights of LGBT people and their families in major equality battles, and Texas’ attorney general has filed a third lawsuit regarding LGBT Americans. As the media cover these cases, they should connect the dots that lead back to one nefarious organization: the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an extremist group leading the national fight against LGBT equality.

Alliance Defending Freedom is a right-wing legal powerhouse that’s linked to nearly every recent legal attack on LGBT equality in the United States -- as well as attacks on women’s reproductive health. ADF is behind the national push for both anti-LGBT “religious freedom” legislation that seeks to legalize discrimination against LGBT people and so-called bathroom bills that aim to prohibit transgender people, including public school students, from using facilities that align with their gender identity. ADF also works internationally to attack LGBT equality, including by helping defend laws in Belize and Jamaica that would put people in prison for engaging in gay sex.

EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. A U.S. District Judge issued a summary judgement on August 19 in favor of Harris Funeral Homes in Michigan, which fired an employee, Aimee Stephens, after she told her employers of her plans to transition from male to female. ADF lawyers are now representing the chain of funeral homes, and they lauded last week’s decision, highlighting the court’s language about company owner Thomas Rost:

Rost sincerely believes that it would be violating God’s commands if he were to permit an employee who was born a biological male to dress in a traditionally female skirt-suit at the funeral home because doing so would support the idea that sex is a changeable social construct rather than an immutable God-given gift.

State of Texas v. United States of America. On August 21, a federal judge in Texas issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against a joint guidance released by the departments of Education and Justice that explained school administrators’ obligations to ensure that transgender students can attend school without facing discrimination based on sex. It built off previous court decisions and guidance stating that discrimination against transgender students constitutes illegal sex discrimination under federal law. The injunction was sought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who filed a lawsuit against the the federal government along with several other states in response to the guidance. The lead counsel on this case is Austin Nimocks, who works for Paxton’s office but previously served as senior counsel at ADF.

State of Texas v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. On the heels of the above court ruling in its favor, Paxton’s office filed a new lawsuit on August 23 against the Department of Health and Human Services over nondiscrimination protections and expanded medical care for transgender people included in the Affordable Care Act. This case was also assigned to Judge Reed O’Connor, the same judge who granted the injunction against transgender students. The recent actions of Paxton’s office drew swift condemnation from the editorial board at The New York Times:

These legal assaults on equal protection for transgender Americans are based on bigotry and the specious claim that they pose a threat to the safety of others. The toll exacted on this vulnerable population is heavy and will remain so as these cases and other litigation involving transgender laws move through the courts.

As these cases continue to move through the court system, journalists should expose the extremist legal group behind the coordinated assault on LGBT equality. 

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