In celebration of the signing of the Respect for Marriage Act last month, President Joe Biden invited LGBTQ activists, journalists, and performers to the White House lawn. Right-wing media took the gathering as an opportunity to drive home the false claim that the RMA infringes on first amendment rights, in particular those of Christians, and to push anti-LGBTQ talking points.
Despite the bipartisan passage of the act, its noted limitations, and the support of conservative and religious organizations — including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — some right-wing figures claimed that the RMA would infringe on the rights of Christians. Fox News host Laura Ingraham insisted that the act “moves to restrict freedom of religion and freedom of speech” and that “any serious person of faith” would lose constitutional rights following the signing. Similarly, in an episode of his show dedicated to the event, Daily Wire host Matt Walsh claimed that Christians — not members of the LGBTQ community — were the real victims of discrimination in the United States. In the past year, Walsh has been at the forefront of the right's assault on trans people, in particular their ability to access gender affirming care.
Like Walsh, Fox host Sean Hannity claimed that the RMA was not a response to legitimate concerns, but rather a distraction from other political crises. Primetime host Tucker Carlson followed a similar train of thought in his criticism of the signing, claiming that the Biden administration was seeking to affirm rights that were not under threat. Carlson ignored the recent surge in proposed anti-LGBTQ legislation and the statement by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas which indicated a possible overturning of Obergefell v. Hodges — a potential outcome that the RMA was intended to mitigate.
Right-wing media claims that RMA would infringe on first amendment rights of Christians while LGBTQ people face no real threat were ironically peppered throughout with anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, specifically rhetoric which targeted trans people and drag performers. In their coverage of the signing, Walsh, Hannity and Carlson disparaged drag queens and pushed the smear that drag artists seek to indoctrinate children or push surgical gender affirming care for minors.
Fearmongering around drag performers has reached a fever pitch in recent months, as right-wing media figures have drawn false correlations between drag performance and supposed “grooming.” The claim that drag is inherently sexual or encourages gender dysphoria has fanned violent protests outside of drag events, particularly drag story hours or age inclusive drag performances, and anti-LGBTQ legislation.