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  • Alliance Defending Freedom has lost its latest effort in a decade-long battle to prohibit marriage equality in Romania’s constitution

    The massive anti-LGBTQ organization has been working to push its goals internationally, including in Romania, where same-sex partners already cannot marry

    Blog ››› ››› KAYLA GOGARTY & BRENNAN SUEN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    A Romanian referendum that would have amended the country’s constitution to define marriage as “between a man and a woman” failed this past weekend after it did not receive the 30 percent turnout required to be valid. Influential and extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) worked extensively in favor of the referendum and has been actively working against marriage equality in Romania for more than a decade.

    Though the referendum failed to draw more than roughly 20 percent of voters, the BBC reported that polls taken before the vote “indicated support for the change was as high as 90%.” Romanian LGBTQ advocates successfully urged their supporters to boycott the polls to invalidate the vote, even though the government took the “unusual step” of extending the referendum to two days at a cost of $46 million.

    This was not the first campaign against marriage equality in Romania. The Los Angeles Times reported that Peter Costea of Coalition for Family, the Romanian organization “leading the charge on the referendum,” first pushed to change the country’s constitution 13 years ago by working with “local Christian groups.” The Times continued, “This time, he’s backed by far more firepower. Costea turned to the Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based association that has emerged as an influential legal force for the American religious right — part of a larger pattern of conservative evangelical and other Christian groups finding fertile new ground for pressing an agenda against marriage between same-sex partners.”

    But Costea has actually worked with ADF for more than a decade. He is listed as one of its 3,200 allied attorneys, and Costea and ADF “provided instrumental legal counsel to Romanian Parliament” regarding a civil code enacted in 2009 that defined marriage as between “man and woman.” It does appear, however, that Trump’s election was a catalyst for their latest push, as the Times wrote:

    Within days of Trump’s election victory, the Coalition for Families was “contacted by higher-ups in the Romanian government to say that things had changed in Romania because things had changed in the White House,” Costea said. They promised to help jump-start the referendum campaign, he said.

    To that end, the Alliance Defending Freedom has held conferences and run an informational campaign backing the Coalition of Families to promote the Romanian measure. Along with Liberty Counsel, it also submitted friend-of-the-court memos to Romania’s Constitutional Court.

    Alliance Defending Freedom has worked on anti-LGBTQ measures in Romania for more than a decade

    Over the last two years, ADF worked extensively to boost Romania’s anti-LGBTQ referendum from its initial petition to the final vote. In July 2016, ADF International filed a friend-of-the-court brief at the Romanian Constitutional Court in support of the referendum, and ADF co-hosted a conference with the Coalition for Family at the Romanian Parliament in Bucharest in 2017. ADF continued advocating for the constitutional amendment through social media posts, news releases, videos, official reports, and analysis. In a related event, ADF also submitted an intervention in 2017 to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) against a gay Romanian and American married couple who were fighting for their right to live together in Romania. The ECJ ultimately backed the legal residency for same-sex couples under the definition of “spouse,” which was the language the 2018 referendum attempted to amend. According to the Los Angeles Times, U.S. groups including ADF have aligned with Eastern European conservatives because their ideology “meshes perfectly with the goals of Christian conservatives in the U.S.”

    Additionally, a 2012 book by Duquesne University political science professor Clifford Bob detailed work by ADF and Costea in Romania a decade ago that has striking similarities to their most recent work together, demonstrating that the alliance between ADF and Eastern European conservatives is not new. According to the book, ADF became involved in the Romanian marriage debate a decade ago after Costea contacted the extreme anti-LGBTQ group for legal help with his first campaign to amend Romania’s constitution to define marriage as “between a man and a woman.” Bob wrote that Romanian religious groups “had gathered the necessary signatures for validation by the Romanian Constitutional Court” by December 2006, and Costea “engineered the filing of amicus curiae briefs, a tactic unprecedented in Romanian jurisprudence,” to bolster the petition. According to the book, ADF “reviewed Costea’s brief and filed its own.”

    After the petition “failed to meet the Constitution's geographic distribution requirement for citizen initiatives” and thus did not make it to a referendum, Costea set up a formal organization, the Alliance of Romania’s Families (ARF), which he said was “absolutely” modeled on anti-LGBTQ groups “Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, [and] ADF.” ADF helped launch ARF, and former ADF chief counsel Benjamin Bull said ADF worked to “shape and define the organization.” ADF also sponsored Costea’s attendance “at one of its multiday, all-expenses-paid National Litigation Academies.”

    According to Bob’s book, ADF offered “to assist any government in defending its marriage laws” when ARF began its first campaign, in 2008, to amend Romania’s family code “with a defense of marriage provision similar to those in the United States.” That year, ADF provided legal arguments defending the amendment, and its ally the World Congress of Families (WCF) sent a petition signed by anti-LGBTQ leaders from across the world, including ADF’s Glen Lavy, to the Romanian Parliament. In 2009, “ARF worked with ADF and Romanian legislators to draft defense of marriage language even broader than the recent amendment,” resulting in a bill that prohibited same-sex adoption and refused to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other countries. When the bill passed, ADF hailed Parliament’s decision and noted that it had provided “legal counsel to several prominent Romanian parliamentarians” who introduced and helped pass the policies.

    Other anti-LGBTQ groups in the U.S. have worked against marriage equality in Romania

    Other U.S.-based extreme anti-LGBTQ groups also assisted with Romania’s referendum, including Liberty Counsel and the World Congress of Families (WCF). Liberty Counsel lawyer Harry Mihet and client Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who made national headlines after refusing to sign same-sex marriage licenses, traveled around Romania for nine days to support the referendum. They held conferences in Romania’s largest cities; met with archbishops of the Romanian Orthodox Church and members of Parliament; and appeared together in TV and radio interviews. The day before the 2018 vote, Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver discussed the impact the trip had on the referendum in a podcast. Prior to the group’s campaigning trip, Liberty Counsel also provided legal support in an amicus brief to the Romanian Constitutional Court.

    WCF, which sent the 2008 petition against marriage equality in Romania, invited a member of the Coalition for Family to speak about the importance of the referendum at its 2017 conference in Budapest. WCF also used social media to encourage Romanians to vote in support of the referendum, with WCF President Brian Brown actively posting his support on Twitter. Additionally, CitizenGo, a campaign linked to WCF, posted a video in April in support of amending the Romanian constitution.

    Though anti-LGBTQ groups failed in their latest effort to further marginalize LGBTQ Romanians, the country’s LGBTQ residents still do not have the right to marry, while LGBTQ people across Eastern Europe are regularly detained, prevented from peacefully organizing, tortured, and even killed. Yet anti-LGBTQ groups in American ignore these human rights atrocities and continue to target the community, helping contribute to the culture of fear that LGBTQ Eastern Europeans face every day.

  • The National Rifle Association recruits LGBTQ gun owners even as it denigrates community

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    National Rifle Association national spokesperson Dana Loesch continued the group’s tactic of offering surface-level support for LGBTQ gun ownership while simultaneously spouting attacks against the LGBTQ community from the organization’s news outlet, NRATV.

    During the October 5 edition of her NRATV show Relentless, Loesch highlighted the “LGBTQ community and Second Amendment advocates working together” at the 33rd Annual Gun Rights Policy Conference in Chicago, where pro-gun LGBTQ groups the Pink Pistols and Operation Blazing Sword announced their merger.

    Loesch claimed that gun ownership “is an obvious fit for the LGBT community” and owning a gun is about “refusing to be a victim, whether you’re part of the gay community, or an ethnic minority, or whether you’re a single woman”:

    DANA LOESCH (HOST): Any group that is more susceptible to violence will obviously and clearly want to protect itself. And that’s exactly why supporting the human right to self-defense is an obvious fit for the LGBT community.

    LOESCH: That’s really what this is all about -- refusing to be a victim, whether you’re part of the gay community, or an ethnic minority, or whether you’re a single woman. I mean, it’s not about identity politics. But some individuals, and I’ve described before the perpetrator behind Pulse nightclub, or the individual who killed a teenager in the East Coast before then targeting a gay club in Seattle and said that he did it specifically because their lifestyles were antithetical to his radicalized beliefs. It does exist and it has happened in the United States. It’s not about identity politics, it’s about protecting yourself and other individuals.

    While she encourages members of the LGBTQ community to own firearms, Loesch has also promoted hateful and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric in the past -- comparing an anti-gay baker having to serve a gay couple to “slavery” and claiming that transgender individuals have a “mental illness.”

    Referring to Chelsea Manning, a transgender woman, Loesch said earlier this year on NRATV, “Just because you get some boobs, and you put some red lipstick on, poorly applied, and a very poor smoky eye bad dye job, that don’t make you a chick.”

    National Rifle Association board members and organization leaders have a well-documented track record of espousing bigoted and homophobic rhetoric toward LGBTQ people while also exploiting violence against them to promote fear and increased gun ownership, a strategy that enrichens gun manufacturers that donate to the NRA.

  • Charlie Kirk echoes 4chan conspiracy theory about Taylor Swift's endorsement of Democrats

    4chan Nazis and Charlie Kirk suggest Swift could not have formed political opinions on her own

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters 

    On Sunday night, pop singer Taylor Swift broke her usual silence regarding politics by endorsing Democratic Senate candidate Phil Bredesen and slamming his opponent, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), while also standing up for equal pay and LGBTQ rights and against systemic racism.

    I’m writing this post about the upcoming midterm elections on November 6th, in which I’ll be voting in the state of Tennessee. In the past I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions, but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now. I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country. I believe in the fight for LGBTQ rights, and that any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is WRONG. I believe that the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of color is terrifying, sickening and prevalent. I cannot vote for someone who will not be willing to fight for dignity for ALL Americans, no matter their skin color, gender or who they love. Running for Senate in the state of Tennessee is a woman named Marsha Blackburn. As much as I have in the past and would like to continue voting for women in office, I cannot support Marsha Blackburn. Her voting record in Congress appalls and terrifies me. She voted against equal pay for women. She voted against the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which attempts to protect women from domestic violence, stalking, and date rape. She believes businesses have a right to refuse service to gay couples. She also believes they should not have the right to marry. These are not MY Tennessee values. I will be voting for Phil Bredesen for Senate and Jim Cooper for House of Representatives. Please, please educate yourself on the candidates running in your state and vote based on who most closely represents your values. For a lot of us, we may never find a candidate or party with whom we agree 100% on every issue, but we have to vote anyway. So many intelligent, thoughtful, self-possessed people have turned 18 in the past two years and now have the right and privilege to make their vote count. But first you need to register, which is quick and easy to do. October 9th is the LAST DAY to register to vote in the state of TN. Go to vote.org and you can find all the info. Happy Voting! 🗳😃🌈

    A post shared by Taylor Swift (@taylorswift) on

    Since the 2016 presidential election, Swift has been a hot topic on 4chan, the anonymous message board known for its far-right extremism. Users there had interpreted her silence around the election and her country music roots as revealing an alignment with white supremacist values and a rejection of social justice, earning her the nickname “Aryan goddess.”

    But then Swift endorsed Bredesen and fellow Tennessee Democrat Rep. Jim Cooper on Instagram, and the number of posts about her in the “politically incorrect” board of 4chan skyrocketed. Users reacted with sexist and dehumanizing slurs and suggestions that she was no longer “/our girl/.” [Trolls on 4chan habitually call those who they believe to represent their values “/our guy/” or “/our girl/” -- currently, those figures include Tucker Carlson and actress Roseanne Barr.]

    And one take was consistent among the trolls: the sexist and demeaning assumption that a woman cannot form her own political opinions.

    Turning Point USA Executive Director Charlie Kirk, who had a Twitter meltdown about Swift’s endorsement and repeatedly accused her of having “no idea” of what she was talking about, took it upon himself to go on the October 8 edition of Fox & Friends and amplify the sexist conspiracy theory that trolls had posted on 4chan.

    Kirk also took his disappointment and the asinine conspiracy theory that Swift could not have written her own campaign endorsement to Fox Business’ Varney & Co., where he claimed that she had been “co-opted by activists on the left that want to use her brand, her visibility, and popularity to advance their agenda.”

    Both Kirk and TPUSA’s communications director, Candace Owens, had previously expressed disdain for celebrity opinions, but that changed after Kanye West praised Owens. At that point, Kirk made public appearances with West, Owens did media hits with him, and Kirk offered unending sycophancy for the rapper, all of which shows they actually care a lot about what celebrities think -- as long as they support President Donald Trump.

  • Why is the White House briefing the president of extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom about the Kavanaugh investigation?

    ADF President Michael Farris deleted a post about the White House calling him with “information about the Kavanaugh-FBI investigation”

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In a since-deleted Facebook post, Michael Farris, president of the influential and extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom, wrote today that the White House had called him “with information about the Kavanaugh-FBI investigation” not long after U.S. senators received the FBI’s report on the matter. Farris and his organization argued twice before the Supreme Court over the last session, and ADF has played a role in more than 50 other cases at the high court.

    The FBI investigated Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh after professor Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he sexually assaulted her and after two other women reported incidents of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh. It is not clear who at the White House contacted Farris or why they would be giving such information to him, particularly as he and his group are likely to argue in the future before the Supreme Court, which could include a Justice Kavanaugh.

    One reason for alarm about Farris receiving private information from the White House about the Supreme Court confirmation process is that he and his group have argued before the high court several times before and are very likely to do so again, meaning they will be particularly affected by the nomination decision. ADF says it has played “a role in 54 victories” at the Supreme Court, and it won both cases that it argued there in the most recent session. In one case, Farris argued on behalf of ADF’s client in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of ADF’s client, NIFLA, a network of fake health clinics. The court also ruled in favor of another ADF client during the past session in the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case, determining that the commission had shown “hostility” to a Christian baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. The ruling was considered narrow and did not indicate how the court should rule on other cases regarding religious discrimination. The Department of Justice issued an unusual brief in favor of ADF’s client.

    ADF will likely be before the Supreme Court again, potentially even this year. It is spearheading at least a half-dozen other cases regarding religious exemptions through the courts, and the group -- along with attorneys general from 16 states -- have asked the Supreme Court to take up its R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission case. The case involves a transgender woman, Aimee Stephens, who was fired after she came out as trans to her employer, a funeral home. According to CNN.com, “If the court takes up the case, it could have broader implications for the definition of sex-based discrimination” and “could impact case law that precludes firing anyone -- gay, straight or cisgender -- for not adhering to sex-based stereotypes.” With ADF’s record, it is extremely likely that Harris or one of its dozens of other cases will eventually be decided by the Supreme Court.

    The Trump White House has long been cozy with ADF and other extreme anti-LGBTQ groups, and ADF has directly impacted anti-LGBTQ administration policies, actions, and guidelines including at the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education, and the Bureau of Prisons. Trump has also nominated several attorneys with ties to ADF for federal judgeships.

    ADF has not publicly endorsed Kavanaugh and claims publicly that it does not “take a position on the merits of supreme court nominees,” but several anti-LGBTQ groups that it works closely with have vehemently advocated for him to be confirmed. These groups have claimed he “will be strong on [their] issues” and that he is “the right kind of judge.” They have even launched attacks on Ford and her story to defend their man. Other extreme anti-LGBTQ groups, including Liberty Counsel, are trying to push discriminatory policies through the courts, such as cases attempting to overturn protections for LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy. They have been encouraged by the court’s decisions in NIFLA and Masterpiece Cakeshop and by the potential of a Justice Kavanaugh.

    While it is not surprising that Farris and ADF are in contact with the White House about sensitive matters, it raises ethical questions for the White House to contact them with private information that will directly affect ADF’s work as the group continues to push for discriminatory policies through the courts. Farris’ deletion of the post only adds to those questions.

    Research support provided by Carrie Resnick, part of the NARAL research team.

    To learn more about the anti-LGBTQ positions of ADF, check out Media Matters’ interactive research book, “The extremism of anti-LGBTQ powerhouse Alliance Defending Freedom.”

  • Extreme anti-LGBTQ groups attack Christine Blasey Ford after she reported that Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape her

    American Family Association: “Unless the biblical standard of two or three witnesses is met, an accusation should not be considered credible”

    Blog ››› ››› BRIANNA JANUARY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Extreme anti-LGBTQ groups Family Research Council, Liberty Counsel, and American Family Association have attacked Christine Blasey Ford and worked to discredit her after she reported that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape her in high school.

    Soon after President Donald Trump nominated Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court on July 9, extreme anti-LGBTQ groups united behind his nomination, offering praise for Kavanaugh’s candidacy and saying he would be “strong” on their issues. Many of those same groups have doubled down on their support by attacking Christine Blasey Ford and questioning her motivations after she reported that Kavanaugh groped her and attempted to remove her clothing and rape her in high school.

    Tony Perkins, president of the highly influential Family Research Council (FRC) who was reportedly “involved in discussions with the White House” on Kavanaugh’s nomination, attacked Ford’s credibility on the September 21 edition of Fox News Channel’s Special Report with Bret Baier. During his appearance, Perkins called Ford’s story “very, very suspect,” questioned why she hadn’t come forward sooner, and asked whether or not drinking alcohol may have affected her story. Perkins also questioned whether Ford and potential witnesses “really remember the facts” and whether her attempted rapist was even Kavanaugh at all, in line with a recent conspiracy theory created by conservative media figure Ed Whelan.

    Speaking at FRC’s anti-LGBTQ Values Voter Summit, Perkins urged Republican lawmakers in attendance to “move much more aggressively” to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, and former FRC President Gary Bauer, declared the “political process” surrounding Kavanaugh’s nomination to be “political waterboarding” and a “travesty.” According to The Associated Press, Bauer mockingly re-enacted what a conversation with Ford and law enforcement may have sounded like and was reportedly met with laughter.

    Extreme anti-LGBTQ group Liberty Counsel has also attacked Ford, including by writing a six point list of so-called “disturbing facts that undermine her story.” Several of those points suggest she came forward for political reasons. The post attempted to discredit Ford by highlighting her political affiliations and those of her lawyer, Debra Katz, claiming the two “have a history of Democratic activism” and anti-Trump advocacy. Liberty Counsel also launched a “fax barrage” directly linking its supporters to the offices of elected officials to send messages of support for Kavanaugh’s confirmation. The “fax barrage” served as a fundraiser for Liberty Counsel and claimed that Ford’s story does “not align with the moral integrity” of Kavanaugh. Additionally, Liberty Counsel sent an email blast to supporters in which its Chairman Mat Staver called Ford’s story “a shameful, desperate attempt to destroy a person in order to stop his nomination to the Supreme Court” and characterized her as “someone who has an ever-changing story with plenty of political motivation.”

    In a separate email to supporters on September 22, Staver continued attacks against Ford, saying she was “being used to create an excuse to delay the hearing” and listing statements from various supporters of Kavanaugh in an attempt to undermine her credibility. On September 24, Mat Staver’s wife Anita Staver, who serves as president of Liberty Counsel, suggested that Ford was a liar in a tweet: “I believe survivors but not liars!”

    Additionally, former Liberty Counsel attorney Matt Barber, who still co-hosts one of its radio programs, attacked Ford on Twitter, where he likened her to a “suicide bomber” and compared her story’s effect on the Kavanaugh confirmation to a “political witch burning.” Barber also said Ford “would be fully exposed & further discredited,” and that “true victims” will be “distrusted because political vultures cried wolf one too many times.” In a separate post, he claimed, “We have entered the age of #MeToo McCarthyism. Pure evil.”

    Extreme anti-LGBTQ group American Family Association (AFA) has also launched attacks against Ford. Bryan Fischer, host of AFA’s American Family Radio show Focal Point, attempted to use Ford’s political affiliations and her lawyer’s legal career to discredit her story in a September 17 blog post. Fischer claimed that Katz “has made a career out of dismissing sexual assault allegations against liberal politicians.” In the same blog post, Fischer wrote, “The Bible is very clear that no serious allegation should ever be accepted against someone on the basis of one lone allegation.” In a September 18 email to supporters, AFA President Tim Wildmon reiterated that claim and wrote that “unless the biblical standard of two or three witnesses is met, an accusation should not be considered credible.” AFA initially did not support Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court but quickly reversed course after hearing the “passionate defense of Judge Kavanaugh by many we consider to be friends in the pro-life movement."

    Ford is set to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, September 27, about Kavanaugh’s attempted rape.

  • Brett Kavanaugh’s character witness Mark Judge has extremely disturbing views about women (and Black and gay people)

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON & CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    According to Christine Blasey Ford, when she was 15, a “stumbling drunk” Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party while his classmate Mark Judge was in the room. Both Kavanaugh and Judge have denied the incident occurred, with Judge telling the conservative Weekly Standard, “It's just absolutely nuts. I never saw Brett act that way.” Judge is the author of a memoir in which he described himself as an alcoholic who was often drunk to the point of blacking out during high school. He went on to become a conservative commentator who has promoted disturbing views about women and offered racist and anti-gay commentary.

    Judge, a self-described alcoholic, wrote a memoir saying he often drank to the point of blacking out during high school

    Mother Jones: “The alleged witness in the Kavanaugh case wrote a memoir about his own schoolboy days as blackout drunk.” Mother Jones noted that the extreme drinking and substance abuse described by Judge in his memoir "might suggest his memory of those days may not be entirely reliable":

    In his 2005 book, God and Man at Georgetown Prep, which is now out of print, Judge apparently paints the school as overrun with gay priests who promote a form of liberalism that wrecks Catholic education. He also describes an institution where alcoholism was rampant, a theme he detailed in his 1997 addiction memoir, Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk.

    That book chronicles Judge’s time as a teenage alcoholic. Like many works of the genre, it devotes a lot of ink to the kinds of debauchery that leads to Alcoholics Anonymous and recovery. While there’s nothing in the book that resembles the incident reportedly described in the private letter given to the FBI, Judge says his own blackout drinking while he and Kavanaugh were Georgetown Prep students “reached the point where once I had the first beer, I found it impossible to stop until I was completely annihilated.”

    He describes, for instance, what happened after a night of heavy drinking with friends at a Georgetown bar. “The next thing I knew, I was lying on a bathroom floor. I was curled up in the fetal position with saliva running out of the side of my mouth,” Judge writes, explaining that he had inexplicably woken up inside a nearby Four Seasons Hotel. He writes that he called his mom for help getting home. “I must have come over here and passed out,” he tells her.

    The amount of drinking Judge describes himself undertaking might suggest his memory of those days may not be entirely reliable. [Mother Jones, 9/15/18]

    Judge wrote that he was “thankful that there was no social media to capture” he and his friends’ antics in high school. Relating a get-together he had with friends from high school, Judge wrote, “When my high school buddies and I got together and exchanged memories of that time, we found ourselves genuinely shocked at the stuff we got away with.” [Acculturated, accessed 9/17/18]

    Judge frequently uses his media platforms to offer degrading and abusive commentary about women

    Judge’s views on masculinity are based on domination. In a 2013 column for conservative website The Daily Caller, Judge criticized how then-President Barack Obama interacted with Michelle Obama by writing that President George W. Bush “gave his wife Laura a loving but firm pat on the backside in public. The man knew who was boss.”

    [Twitter, 9/16/18, The Daily Caller, 8/20/13]

    Judge wrote that while there “is never any excuse to rape someone,” nonetheless “what women wear and their body language also send signals about their sexuality” and “women who dress like prostitutes are also sending out signals”:

    [Twitter, 9/16/18, Acculturated, accessed 9/17/18]

    Judge wrote that when men aren’t sure women are interested in sex, men should “allow” themselves to “feel the awesome power, the wonderful beauty, of uncontrollable male passion”:

    [Twitter, 9/16/18, Splice Today, accessed 9/17/18]

    Judge’s high school yearbook quote: “Certain women should be struck regularly, like gongs.”

    [Twitter, 9/16/18]

    Judge: Women need to learn how to be more polite when rejecting romantic advances from men. Judge wrote that “younger women seem to have lost the ability to graciously turn down a man who politely and non-aggressively shows an interest in them” in a September 2014 column:

    Younger women seem to have lost the ability to graciously turn down a man who politely and non-aggressively shows an interest in them.

    We’ve all seen it—at bars, in clubs, at parties. A dude screws up the nerve to take that long walk across the room and ask a woman for her number or out for a date. For classy and polite ladies, the reply is a simple no-thank-you. Something like: “Thank you, I appreciate the interest, but I’m seeing someone right now.” Or: “I’m flattered, but I have some other things I’m focusing on now.” Yet for too many women, raised like the boorish catcallers, without the verbal social skills that allow for pleasant interaction, graciousness is just too much to ask for.

    The results can be brutal to observe. Women giggle derisively, or hide behind a more punitive friend who dishes get-the-hell-out-of-here abuse at the man, or the girls-night-out group-laugh right in the guy’s face. [Acculturated, 9/9/14]

    Splinter: Judge uploaded “sexualized videos of young women” on YouTube. A Splinter investigation into Judge’s social media postings, many of which have been deleted, cited “internet sleuths” who “found a YouTube channel that appeared to belong to Judge onto which he uploaded bizarre videos that intercut innocuous visuals of books and cityscapes with sexualized videos of young women”:

    Though Judge quickly deleted his social media profiles as attention focused on him in the wake of the allegations, much of it was documented by internet sleuths. They found a YouTube channel that appeared to belong to Judge onto which he uploaded bizarre videos that intercut innocuous visuals of books and cityscapes with sexualized videos of young women. Twitter user TheDiscomfiture screenshotted many of the videos (some of them have been re-uploaded here). A deleted Flickr account users also linked to Judge featured similar images. Other photos that allegedly originated on Judge’s deleted Facebook page featured young girls in bikinis at a resort. [Splinter, 9/17/18]

    Judge writes sexual fiction about high school age girls. In August 2018, Judge published a work of “fiction” about high school students from Maryland preparatory schools participating in “beach week.” On social media, Judge wrote that the piece was “based on a true story.” The story, written in first person, contains observations about characters from local all-girls preparatory schools, including descriptions like “beautiful tight ass,” “great tits,” and, “I saw love in all the girls from [Trinity] & [St. Anne’s] with large breasts and/or great asses.” [Raw Story, 9/16/18, Liberty Island, 8/15/18]

    Judge: “The rage of the Jezebels is indicative of a serious cultural problem that is potentially fatal for the United States.” Judge wrote a negative review of The Book of Jezebel: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Lady Things in which he repeatedly characterized feminists as irrationally angry:

    When you say feminists are angry, they respond that you are a “Frat Bro” or a right-winger, and the conversation stops. And a deeper analysis of feminist apoplexy is important because the rage of the Jezebels is indicative of a serious cultural problem that is potentially fatal for the United States, which has become a very, very angry country.

    ...

    Thus the malevolence towards “dead white males” and the liberal obsession with feelings and personal grievance. The bogus “war on women” is really nothing but liberal women acting out against bad fathers. The frightening thing about this rage is that it is insatiable even as it demands resolution through politics.

    ...

    Or the infamous 1979 town hall debate between Norman Mailer and Germain Greer and other feminists. Here were feminists faced with Norman Mailer, a Cro-Magnon brawler who had stabbed his own wife, and they (mostly) debated with humor and intelligence, delving deeply into complex psychological and cultural ideas. As the writer James Reich recently put it, in the town hall “the conflicts or navigations of the sexes are articulated with élan, wit, and through both good- and bad-natured mauling.”

    More than thirty years later, and judging by The Book of Jezebel, feminists are so angry that debate with them is no longer possible. To them the only solution to their rage is through politics. There is a steady undercurrent of animus towards conservatives and Republicans in The Book of Jezebel, which is to be expected. But what is revealing is the intensity of the antipathy and its obsessive-compulsive quality (there’s also the heavy juvenile snark which is Jezebel’s calling card).

    ...

    The writers at Jezebel are angry women. Their pain is beyond the reach of politics to solve. To be fair, there are many funny entries in The Book of Jezebel, like the one for Hipster: “Identifier claimed by no one but freely subjected on any person more Navajo-printed, leather-jacketed, asymmetrically-hairstyled, unshowered, ironically racist, Pitchfork-reading, warehouse-dwelling, amateur-mandolin-playing, or neon than you.” But the jokes can’t mask the rage. This is why that even as America has progressed and the treatment of women has vastly improved, the anger of the feminists has grown more acute. Nothing short of a matriarchal utopia will suffice. It’s easier than admitting what really ails you. [The Daily Caller, 10/21/13]

    Judge praised Hugh Hefner and his magazine Playboy for their “ridicule of feminism”:

    Say what you will about Hefner, and yes he’s always been kind of cheesy, but the man had a philosophy. Unlike today’s publishers, who go out of their way to avoid offending advertisers and the public, or journalists, who push their agenda then hide behind claims of “objectivity.” Hefner had balls. In 1955 Esquire magazine rejected “The Crooked Man,” a story by science fiction writer Charles Beaumont. It told the story of a man who lived in a homosexual society and was persecuted for being straight. Hefner published it. Hefner is also a known jazz fan, and the early Playboy ridiculed rock and roll as “noise.” It also made fun of beatniks and hippies. And, of course there was Playboy’s ridicule of feminism. Here’s Playboy’s call-out accompanying a 1970 article about the feminist movement: “militant man-haters do their level worst to distort the distinctions between make (sic) and female and the discredit the legitimate grievances of American women.” Such a piece might appear today in the American Spectator.

    ...

    Hefner also felt that a well employed young bachelor was good for the American economy because of his disposable income. People forget because these days Hefner resembles a viagra-chomping Crypt Keeper, but in the early days Playboy advocated not the destruction of marriage, but rather letting a man have a period of exploration between college and marriage. Hefner had married his first wife Mildred right out of college; the marriage didn’t last, leading Hefner to not unreasonably conclude that having a period of bachelorhood between school and starting a family might be good for men, women, and the economy. Of course, that period for Hefner has now lasted about 107 years. But the Playboy founder’s original feeling was sound: men should have a time to be men and be able to buy stuff and date a lot of girls before taking the gas pipe and getting married. [The Daily Caller, 9/30/13]

    Judge wondered “why are modern women angry” and blamed a “culture of self-affirmation and abundance” for women “feeling unsatisfied.” From a 2016 op-ed at Acculturated:

    By contrast, many modern women seem quick to express anger about their lives. Living in a world of unlimited choices and constant affirmation, they nonetheless seem resentful. Even celebrities aren’t immune: Pop star Madonna is richer than many small countries and is absolutely free to do, say, and wear (or not wear) anything she wants to. Yet when fans have the audacity to be upset that she’s an hour late for a show, as she was recently, she launches into a tirade. American women live in the freest, most open-minded country on earth, yet seem bitter and disappointed.

    ...

    As today’s generation of self-styled feminist women suggests, limitless freedom has not brought the happiness they assumed it would, and as they confront life’s realities, anger is replacing hope. [Acculturated, 6/27/16]

    Judge has published racist writings about Black people, including a piece in which he claimed that Black teenagers in the Washington D.C. area have “absolutely no impulse control”

    Judge wrote a widely derided racist column about his assumption that a Black person stole his bike. [New York magazine, 4/9/12, Gawker, 4/9/12, The Daily Caller, 4/9/12]

    Judge complained about “swarms” of “cacophonously loud” Black teenagers causing problems in the upscale D.C. neighborhood Georgetown on Halloween. Writing for The Daily Caller, Judge shared observations from visiting Georgetown on Halloween 2011, arguing that “we just don’t have the guts to speak honestly about the issue of unsupervised black teenagers from broken homes and the havoc they can cause”:

    At 9:42 on Halloween night, I sent myself an email. It read: “Halloween shooting.” I had just walked a few blocks from Wisconsin and M Streets in the heart of Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood. I knew it was only a matter of time before someone got shot, most likely a black teenager. It was so obvious what was going to happen that I wanted to just email myself a note. There was simply no way, after what I had just seen, that someone was not going to get killed; I think I wanted to predict it just out of sheer frustration. We all know what the problem is. But we just don’t have the guts to speak honestly about the issue of unsupervised black teenagers from broken homes and the havoc they can cause — to themselves and others.

    Just before 11:00 p.m., 90 minutes after my email, a black teenager was shot on 28th and M Streets in Georgetown. He is in critical condition.

    There were swarms of loud — and I mean cacophonously loud — teenagers drifting through downtown Georgetown. I was standing at Wisconsin and M Streets when a mass of about 50 of them poured across the street, ignoring the orders of a police officer who told them to stay behind the barriers set up for pedestrian safety. The kids were absolutely charged with energy; it was the kind of crackling atmosphere that happens before a fight. They spilled into the parking lot of the Riggs Bank. I followed them. On the other side of the parking lot was another group of black kids, mostly males. They were intently telling one of their friends to “not get involved.” “Those guys have guns!” one of them shouted. It was 8:30. On a Monday night. The PC police will have me over the spit, of course, but liberalism has cost so many lives that I don’t care anymore. The fact is, there were not hordes of white teens and preteens roaming through Georgetown on Halloween.

    In all of that, no one would have the guts to tell the truth. It was not Asians or whites or Indians who were wilding in Georgetown. It was black teenagers. Illegitimacy and fatherlessness in black urban areas like Washington, D.C. has created an entire class of youth who have been weaned on gangster culture and have absolutely no impulse control. [The Daily Caller, 11/1/11]

    Judge wrote that Obama was “clearly unqualified” to be president but got the job because of affirmative action. In a 2013 Daily Caller column, Judge wrote, “Obama is a poster child for affirmative action. Rather than relying on his own wit or intelligence, he gamed the system, getting into schools and getting jobs — including the one he has now — that he is clearly unqualified for.” [The Daily Caller, 8/20/13]

    Judge published an anti-gay column at The Daily Caller

    Defending Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson’s homophobia, Judge compared marriage equality to incest and polygamy and said promiscuity by gay men “led to AIDS.” From a December 2013 opinion piece:

    Liberals keep telling us that all that matters is love, but then can’t answer the question of why a father couldn’t then marry his daughter, or why two brothers can’t marry each other. Or why six people can’t get married. They have officially moved to fantasyland, and are trying to drag the rest of us there also.

    ...

    We simply are not allowed to talk about certain things at the risk of our jobs and reputations. One is human anatomy, another is the problem of promiscuity in the gay community. I saw this firsthand when I worked at a record store in a predominantly gay part of Washington, D.C. in the 1980s. The store was right next to a gay bar, and the bizarre and dangerous behavior I would see spilling out from that bar to the street filled me with pity and sadness. There were transvestites, drug addicts, public sex, men I saw each week with a different partner. This kind of recklessness was documented in the film “Gay Sex in the 70s.” I didn’t think that any intellectually honest person would deny that this was a problem in the gay communities, and led to AIDS. It would be like denying that in late 19th century New York there was a crime, alcohol and hygiene problem amongst the immigrant Irish — my people. There was. Pretending there wasn’t didn’t make it so. [The Daily Caller, 12/26/13]

  • Anti-LGBTQ World Congress of Families kicked off this weekend with Moldova's president in attendance

    National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown is exporting his bigoted agenda abroad with help from pro-Russian leaders

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The 2018 anti-LGBTQ World Congress of Families (WCF) began today in Moldova, led by former National Organization for Marriage (NOM) president Brian Brown and attended by several pro-Russian leaders, including Moldovan President Igor Dodon. Although Brown has lost much of his influence domestically in the time since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his anti-marriage equality effort in California, he has cozied up with pro-Russian foreign leaders and worked to export his anti-LGBTQ agenda abroad.

    Brown serves as president of both WCF and NOM, which he also co-founded and which was instrumental in banning marriage equality in California in 2008 through the Proposition 8 ballot initiative. Proposition 8 defined marriage as between a man and a woman in the state’s constitution, but same-sex marriage was reinstated in California in 2013 after a lawsuit over the proposition made it to the Supreme Court. In the years since, NOM has lost much of its domestic influence and funding (though it still works with prominent anti-LGBTQ groups such as Alliance Defending Freedom), but Brown has focused his efforts abroad and particularly worked to increase his profile in Eastern Europe.

    Brown was named president of WCF in 2016, although he had worked with the group for years before then. Brown and WCF worked closely with Russian lawmakers, activists, and officials as the country shaped its so-called “gay propaganda” law, including Brown directly meeting with the law’s architect, Yelena Mizulina, a regular attendee of WCF conferences. That law “has been seen as effectively criminalizing any public expression of same-sex relationships,” according to Mother Jones, and it has led to both activist arrests and increased violence against LGBTQ people in Russia.

    In 2014, Mother Jones mapped out many of the relationships between WCF and anti-LGBTQ Russians, noting that they “were already deeply connected before they kicked off their planning this fall through ties forged while advancing anti-gay sentiment and legislation in Russia.” In the years since, Brown and WCF have cozied up to even more high-profile leaders in the region. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban spoke at last year’s WCF conference, held in his county, and this year’s event includes Moldovan President Igor Dodon (who spoke at the 2016 conference just months before his election) and several other influential politicians and individuals. Dodon’s wife’s foundation, Din Suflet, is supporting the event.

    Brown seems to have cultivated a close working relationship with Dodon over the last few years, posting about several meetings with him on Twitter this year. Dodon is a supporter of anti-LGBTQ Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has tolerated the execution and imprisonment of LGBTQ people in Chechnya. Dodon has called him a “patriot” and campaigned on running “Moldova just the same way Putin runs Russia.”

    This year’s WCF schedule features several anti-LGBTQ and anti-choice sessions: “Against the Family - The International Networks Undermining Family and Faith,” “Human Life - The Challenges Facing the Sanctity of Life, and the Strategies to Confront Them,” “New Media - Promoting Life, Marriage and Family in the Age of Hashtag Activism,” “Motherhood - Where the Sanctity of Life, the Meaning of Marriage, and the Ideology of Gender Intersect,” and “Gender Ideology - The Latest Attack on the Family and the Legal Challenges It Poses.” In past conferences, speakers have made extreme and hateful remarks, such as Pastor Rafael Cruz, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz’s father, who said in 2015 that LGBTQ people are working to legalize pedophilia. Additionally, extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom has been listed as a WCF partner as recently as 2017 and has been active in supporting the conference for years.

    In addition to Dodon, the conference includes other notable attendees: Mizulina, a Russian politician and the architect of the country’s “gay propaganda” law; Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state; Russian politicians Olga Epifanova and Tamara Pletneva; Moldovan politician Irina Vlah; Slovakian politician and member of the European Parliament Anna Zaborska; and several religious leaders, including Russian Orthodox Church Archpriest Dmitriy Smirnov.

    Additional research by Brianna January.

  • Florida GOP officials are running a private conspiracy theory Facebook group

    The group “Florida Republicans United" has trafficked in conspiracy theories about the Parkland, FL, school shooting and the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA 

    Blog ››› ››› NATALIE MARTINEZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Two Orange County Republican Party officials in Florida are administrators of the private conspiracy theory Facebook group Florida Republicans United. Lou Marin and Kathy Gibson are the vice chair and state committeewoman, respectively, for the Orange County Republican Executive Committee. Gibson recently came under fire for posting a racist meme targeting Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, which she claims was posted by someone who had hacked into her Facebook account.

    Administrators, including Marin, have pushed far-right conspiracy theories like QAnon and others related to the Parkland shooting, the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA, and the murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich. They have also posted anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim content. The official Facebook page of the Orange County Republican Executive Committee often posts the same links to far-right conspiracy theories and fake news that Marin posts in the group.

    Other administrators of the group include far-right conspiracy theorist Trevor Loudon of New Zealand (who is also an administrator of the racist, conspiracy theory-pushing Facebook group Tea Party) and Keith Flaugh, who founded the conservative anti-science group Florida Citizens’ Alliance.

    The group has ties to Republican candidates and lawmakers

    Marin created a private event in the Facebook group for a meet-and-greet with Republican candidates where Florida gubernatorial candidate Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is slated to speak. DeSantis is not currently listed as a member of Florida Republicans United (his personal Facebook account was deactivated after he was outed as an administrator for the group Tea Party). However, eight other Florida Republicans -- a mix of candidates for office and current lawmakers -- appear to be listed as members. They are:

    Virginia Fuller is the only Republican candidate listed above who appears to have campaigned in the group. She shared posts from her campaign page and sought paid volunteers in the group multiple times.

    Former Arizona Senate candidate Kelli Ward is also a member of this group.

    Administrators spread far-right conspiracies and fake news

    Marin posted various conspiracy theories and fake news articles related to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. One article Marin shared from a fake news website speculated that the Parkland shooting was “just another false flag designed to take your guns.” He shared articles from far-right conspiracy theory websites accusing Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg of being coached before televised interviews, of conspiring with CNN, and of changing his story in different interviews. Marin also shared various articles from fake news sites that smeared Hogg, including one which said Hogg “should not be taken seriously as a ‘mass shooting survivor.’”

    Marin and another administrator of the group, John Lofgren, spread conspiracy theories about the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. Lofgren called the rally a “false flag operation” and also encouraged group members to ask their representatives and senators to “support Trump’s ‘both sides are wrong’ statement” because “the agitators from the left were paid - and they probably paid those fake ‘right wing’ activists, too.”

    Marin posted articles from fake news sites saying that CNN lied about Charlottesville; claiming that philanthropist George Soros and the CIA were connected to the Charlottesville rally; and defending James Alex Fields Jr., the neo-Nazi who killed counterprotester Heather Heyer by charging into a crowd with a car. Marin also shared a post questioning the legitimacy of reporting surrounding Charlottesville, which said that “the media and the political establishment [are] just capitalizing on a tragedy to sell tickets.”

    Marin also shared various posts related to the QAnon right-wing conspiracy theory. Lofgren and Marin also shared multiple articles supporting far-right conspiracy theories related to DNC staffer Seth Rich’s murder.

    Florida GOP officials and other admins also made bigoted remarks in the group

    Lofgren made multiple anti-Muslim posts, including two that linked to the hate site The Religion of Peace, which claims that it “examines the ideological threat that Islam poses to human dignity and freedom.” Marin posted an article titled “Islam and the West are incompatible.” Marin also posted an article claiming that “new evidence” from the 2016 shooting at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, FL, was “not LGBT motivated.” And GOP official Kathy Gibson made various bigoted remarks about immigrants in a post criticizing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Gibson wrote that immigration has “everything to do with culture” and added that immigrants are part of “a third-world culture that does not value education that accepts children getting pregnant and dropping out of school by age 15, and that refuses to assimilate.”

  • Colorado attorney general candidate George Brauchler made anti-LGBTQ and sexist comments while guest hosting a Denver radio show

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    A candidate for Colorado attorney general used to fill his days spewing anti-LGBTQ and sexist comments on a Denver radio show.

    District Attorney George Brauchler, who announced his campaign for attorney general in November 2017 after withdrawing from the state’s gubernatorial race, was a frequent guest host on 630 KHOW-AM's The Caplis & Silverman Show over a decade ago. Brauchler has repeatedly promised to be an attorney general “for all of Colorado,” but he made repeated discriminatory comments in his appearances on the show.

    While guest hosting in 2007, Brauchler defended right-wing radio host Ann Coulter’s use of the slur “faggot” to refer to former U.S. Sen. John Edwards (D-NC). According to Brauchler, Coulter was simply “trying to be funny.” Later in the program, Brauchler likened a request from Elizabeth Edwards that Coulter halt personal attacks against her husband to the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. He also launched a sexist attack against then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, proclaiming that Clinton has “got some big ol' legs.” But don’t worry -- Brauchler clarified that he didn’t “mean to disrespect.”

    On another 2007 edition of the show, Brauchler asked guest Jason Knight, an openly gay former naval petty officer, if being a gay person in the Navy is like “putting a kid in a candy shop.” Later in the show, Brauchler attempted to downplay the comments by saying that he was "insinuat[ing]" that "the Navy are the light-in-the-loafers service." Weeks later, Brauchler again demonstrated his homophobia by defending the U.S. military's former policy of barring openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual people from service. Brauchler maintained that the policy was acceptable because the military “discriminate[s] against people coming into the military based on height, weight, eyes, a whole list of medical things.” He also claimed that because the military does not accommodate service members’ religious needs (which, in fact, it did and does), it does not have to accept their sexual orientation: “The military asks everybody that's a part of it to make a sacrifice.”

    As a guest host, Brauchler also dismissed climate change concerns. During a 2007 discussion of former Vice President Al Gore’s climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth, Brauchler stated, “I don't watch communist propaganda, I don't watch Al Qaeda prop -- why would I watch Al Gore's propaganda?" He claimed there was no “scientific consensus” that “global warming exists and it's man's fault” -- a statement that was untrue even before 2007.

  • As Kavanaugh faces first hearings, anti-LGBTQ groups are trying to overturn protections from conversion therapy in courts

    The same anti-LGBTQ groups who have heavily endorsed Brett Kavanaugh for Supreme Court are clamouring at the possibility of overturning protections for LGBTQ people from conversion therapy

    Blog ››› ››› BRIANNA JANUARY & BRENNAN SUEN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters 

    As Judge Brett Kavanaugh faces confirmation hearings to become the next Supreme Court justice, the same anti-LGBTQ groups who have heavily endorsed him are also pushing cases through the courts to overturn measures protecting LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy. Conversion therapy is a harmful and discredited practice that seeks to change one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. These groups have seized on a June Supreme Court decision that may signal a shift in how the court handles communications in professional settings -- such as in therapists’ offices or clinics offering even limited health care services -- that have otherwise been regulated, claiming that those communications would be protected under the First Amendment. They argue that the decision suggests that regulating mental health professionals from subjecting LGBTQ people to a harmful practice like conversion therapy would be ruled unconstitutional because it would be imposing limits on “professional speech.” Media should consider these cases and a lack of transparency on Kavanaugh’s record on LGBTQ issues as he faces his hearing.

    Senate hearings begin for Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court

    Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation hearings began on September 4 after LGBTQ advocates raised numerous concerns about how the court would rule on future LGBTQ cases if he is confirmed. There are many open questions about his record on LGBTQ issues, including his involvement with debates around “same-sex marriage, non-discrimination protections, and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during his time as President George W. Bush’s White House staff secretary. Senate Republicans had long blocked access to records from Kavanaugh’s time as staff secretary, and LGBTQ legal organization Lambda Legal filed Freedom of Information Act requests for documents from that time to determine what role he played in anti-LGBTQ initiatives that the Bush White House supported. Just hours before hearings began, Bush's former lawyer "turned over 42,000 pages of documents from the nominee's service in the Bush White House," and Senate Democrats in turn asked to adjourn the hearing.

    Kavanaugh has also highly praised late anti-LGBTQ Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and called him a “role model” and “judicial hero.” Kavanaugh said that Scalia’s dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges, in which he decried the ruling that brought marriage equality to the entire country, demonstrated a judicial philosophy that the courts had “no legitimate role … in creating new rights not spelled out in the Constitution.” Additionally, extreme anti-LGBTQ groups have united behind Kavanaugh’s nomination and are calling for him to be confirmed. These groups have called him an "outstanding pick" and said he would "be strong on [their] issues."

    2018 has been a historic year for efforts protecting LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy

    Advocates working to protect LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy have made history this year by “recalling” the dangerous and discredited practice and working to pass protections at the state and municipal levels at a record-breaking pace. This year alone, five states -- Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Washington -- have signed protections from conversion therapy into law. That means 14 states, Washington, D.C., and dozens of municipalities across the country now have laws and policies protecting LGBTQ youth from the practice. What’s more, these protections have bipartisan support, and governors from both sides of the aisle have signed conversion therapy bills.

    But according to the Williams Institute, conversion therapy still remains prevalent throughout the country. In a groundbreaking January report, it estimated that 20,000 LGBTQ youth would “receive conversion therapy from a licensed health care professional before they reach the age of 18” in the 41 states that at the time did not protect youth from the practice. Furthermore, the report estimated that approximately 698,000 adults in the United States have undergone conversion therapy, including around 350,000 who underwent the practice before turning 18 years old.

    Anti-LGBTQ groups who support conversion therapy are encouraged by recent Supreme Court ruling in case regarding anti-abortion pregnancy centers

    On June 26, the Supreme Court decided NIFLA v. Becerra, a case involving a California law called the Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency (FACT) Act. The law requires anti-abortion fake health centers to post a certain type of notice, depending on whether the center is licensed by the state. Licensed clinics are required to post a notice informing clients that California provides low-cost or free reproductive health care. Unlicensed clinics are required to post a notice informing people that they were not a licensed medical facility. As BuzzFeed News reported, “The court held in a 5–4 majority opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas that the notice required of licensed clinics under the law ‘likely violates’ the First Amendment, but the notice required of unlicensed clinics ‘unduly burdens speech’ and is unconstitutional.”

    Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an influential and extreme anti-LGBTQ group working to undermine LGBTQ equality in all aspects of life, represented clients in NIFLA. The group also represented a Christian baker who refused service to a gay couple in another Supreme Court case this year, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission; the case saw a narrow ruling in favor of the baker and “left open the larger question of whether a business can discriminate against gay men and lesbians based on rights protected by the First Amendment.”

    ADF and other anti-LGBTQ groups welcomed the NIFLA ruling, and some claimed that it signaled a shift in how the courts would treat “professional speech” under the First Amendment, including how it would treat protections from conversion therapy. The Atlantic’s Emma Green described “professional speech” as “a somewhat fuzzy legal category that allows states to require doctors and lawyers to disclose medical or ethical facts, for example.” In other words, in NIFLA and potentially other cases involving communications in medical and other regulated fields, the courts are weighing whether those communications are protected under the First Amendment even though these fields are typically regulated and patients and other people seeking medical advice could be put at risk if they receive inaccurate information.

    According to Christian conservative outlet CBN News, Mat Staver, chairman of extreme anti-LGBTQ group Liberty Counsel, declared the ruling a "prize" for his and other anti-LGBTQ groups’ advocacy against a shelved bill in California (AB 2934) that would have categorized conversion therapy as fraud. Staver said that the bill, if passed, would have been dead on arrival because of the NIFLA ruling and that sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) “cases are going to be a thing of the past." Liberty Counsel had been preparing to file a lawsuit againt the bill had it passed. ADF senior counsel Matt Sharp came to a similar conclusion and predicted that the ruling would “strongly call into question the foundation of AB2943.” Pro-conversion therapy group Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity (ATCSI) responded to the NIFLA ruling in an email blast, saying it and other recent decisions “have opened the door for overturning the therapy ban laws that have been passed over the past five years” and that it was “seeking to reopen” two of its previous challenges to conversion therapy laws alongside Liberty Counsel. Additionally, Family Research Council’s (FRC) Peter Sprigg wrote:

    Like NIFLA in the pregnancy center context, defenders of the right to seek counseling to overcome unwanted same-sex attractions (and of the right to offer such counseling) have argued that free speech also protects their activities. In challenges to laws banning sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) with minors by licensed mental health providers in California and New Jersey, they argued that such laws in effect limit what a counselor or therapist may say to a client in the privacy of his or her office, and thus infringe upon the free speech of the caregiver.

    By affirming that “professional speech” is protected by the First Amendment, the Supreme Court has cast serious doubt on the constitutionality of bans on sexual orientation change efforts.

    Conservative state-level advocacy groups affiliated with extreme national anti-LGBTQ groups are also enthusiastic for the NIFLA ruling’s potential impact on conversion therapy cases. For instance, the Pennsylvania Family Institute and the Massachusetts Family Institute (MFI) -- both affiliates of the Family Policy Alliance -- claimed the ruling could indicate that the high court could find protections from conversion therapy unconstitutional. (Family Policy Alliance is a partner of anti-LGBTQ group Focus on the Family that also works with ADF and FRC.) Similarly, the Illinois Family Institute announced that it is considering challenging the state’s protections against conversion therapy in light of the Supreme Court’s NIFLA’ ruling.

    These groups are already challenging protections from conversion therapy in the courts

    National anti-LGBTQ groups like ADF and Liberty Counsel have a long history of supporting and advocating for conversion therapy, and they are actively working to undermine protections from conversion therapy in courts and state legislatures across the country.

    In June, Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit on behalf of conversion therapy practitioners Dr. Robert Otto and Dr. Julie Hamilton against Boca Raton and Palm Beach County in Florida for their measures protecting LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy. In a press release about the suit, the group framed the issue as a matter of protecting “the speech of licensed professionals in the city and county who offer change counseling” and as a First Amendment violation, similar to the messaging around NIFLA’s impact on protections from conversion therapy. Liberty Counsel is also representing out-of-state conversion therapy practitioner Dr. David Pickup, among others, in a separate lawsuit against conversion therapy protections in Tampa, FL. Local news outlets have given platforms to Hamilton and Pickup to spread misinformation about conversion therapy. And before the Massachusetts legislature failed to get its bill on the governor's desk this year, MFI President Andrew Beckwith said that his group was "already working with attorneys at Liberty Counsel and Alliance Defending Freedom to challenge this bill should it become law" before asserting that the NIFLA decision "undermines the legal basis upon which" protections from conversion therapy rely.

    These challenges aren’t new or unique for the group; Liberty Counsel has worked to overturn efforts to protect LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy for years, including failed attempts to challenge measures in New Jersey and California. According to ATCSI, the group is “seeking to reopen” those cases “and to challenge the laws passed in every state where ‘therapy ban’ legislation has be (sic) enacted.” Liberty Counsel's Staver even went on an anti-LGBTQ rant before a House subcommittee in which he called California and New Jersey laws prohibiting the practice “religious discrimination” and “one of the greatest assaults on children and families that has arisen in recent times.”

    The Supreme Court has previously turned away multiple challenges to laws protecting LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy, but it could take up a case in the future given the recent ruling in NIFLA and new justices sitting or potentially sitting on the court. Following the NIFLA ruling, journalists have already speculated that the Supreme Court could take up a conversion therapy case in the future. While it is unclear how Justice Kavanaugh would side on a case about protections from conversion therapy, it is clear that the same extreme anti-LGBTQ groups challenging those measures in court are clamouring for his confirmation. These groups have claimed that Kavanaugh will defend their issues as a Supreme Court justice, and conversion therapy very much could be one of those issues that Kavanaugh has a chance to defend.

  • Media should stop treating Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation as inevitable

    Activists and concerned citizens are fired up and engaged in the fight against Kavanaugh

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN & MILES LE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Ever since President Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to fill retiring Anthony Kennedy’s Supreme Court seat, media outlets have continually downplayed the energy and activism of those working to oppose this far-right nominee’s confirmation, treating it as a fait accompli.

    Trump announced Kavanaugh’s nomination on July 9, 2018, a week and a half after Justice Anthony Kennedy disclosed that he would be retiring from the Supreme Court (he officially retired July 31). Despite Kavanaugh’s record as “an uncommonly partisan judge” with troubling views on the environment, labor, LGBTQ discrimination, abortion rights, gun safety, immigration, and more, many media figures portrayed him as a centrist pick who is “within the broad mainstream” and “not as far right” as other options Trump considered.

    In addition, many outlets have treated his confirmation as inevitable. For example, The Washington Post and The New York Times argued that activists weren’t engaged in the fight to stop Kavanaugh. As the Post wrote, “Democrats have all but acknowledged that they are unable to stop the Senate from confirming Trump nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court this fall,” while the Times blamed everything from upcoming midterm elections to activists’ inability to compete with “an almost daily barrage of other Trump administration actions” for the perceived lack of energy. New York magazine similarly argued that “the resistance to Kavanaugh has remained on a low flame, failing to boil over into the righteous fury that characterized the battle over Obamacare repeal last summer.”

    However, as Rewire.News’ Katelyn Burns reported, “Brett Kavanaugh’s ascension to the U.S. Supreme Court is not inevitable.” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund told Burns, “A veneer of inevitability has been the actual strategy that the people backing Kavanaugh have used,” but activists are “countering that and saying, ‘No way.'” HuffPost guest writer Robert Creamer similarly argued that treating Kavanaugh’s nomination as inevitable “plays right into the hands of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who hopes to create a self-fulfilling prophecy.” Creamer pointed to Kavanaugh’s extremely narrow path to confirmation -- with Republicans having “a tiny effective majority of 50 to 49 in the Senate” -- as well as his incredibly low approval numbers, and the “unprecedented nationwide campaign to resist” his confirmation, as evidence that the fight against Kavanaugh is far from over. As Teen Vogue columnist Lauren Duca wrote: “When you subscribe to the myth of inevitability, you confirm it as reality, and for anyone who gives a sh*t about equality and/or democracy, that is simply not an option.”

    Outlets may not be reporting on the vast amount of activist energy against Kavanaugh, but people are fired up and making their feelings known:

    Kavanaugh's confirmation isn't inevitable -- he's got the lowest approval ratings of any Supreme Court nominee in decades, in addition to an extreme record on a number of consequential topics. The hearings to confirm Kavanaugh start soon. And media shouldn’t erase or ignore the very real opposition to his confirmation that’s on display across the country.