Moms for Liberty's ambitious plan to influence legislation, as revealed by internal documents obtained by Media Matters, is proving successful in states across the country.
Moms for Liberty is best known for its efforts to loudly overtake and intimidate public schools, but unbeknownst to many the group was terrorizing school boards while simultaneously planting a sophisticated state legislative advocacy infrastructure that it’s now using to strategically attack LGBTQ rights.
Media Matters acquired Moms for Liberty’s legislative advocacy blueprint, a 17-page resource guide detailing the group’s elaborate state legislative plan. It confirms that Moms for Liberty has formally established a legislative program and expanded its organizational jurisdiction from school boards to state legislatures. The document provides detailed instructions on how to establish meetings and relationships with legislators, along with guidance on creating calls to action and developing state legislative agendas.
Moms for Liberty’s Legislative Program is organized with a hierarchical power structure, positioning the executive national team — “National” — at the top. National apparently approves and oversees all state legislative agendas, as well as assists states by supplying resources such as lobby tools.
This year, Moms for Liberty members across the country have used their legislative advocacy network and partnerships with conservative politicians to wage a war against the LGBTQ community. On June 6, the Southern Poverty Law Center designated Moms for Liberty as an antigovernment extremist group.
Florida GOP Vice Chairman Christian Ziegler, who is also the husband of Moms for Liberty co-founder Bridget Ziegler, has described Moms for Liberty as “foot soldiers” for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Thus it’s no surprise that the group is spreading DeSantis’ anti-LGBTQ campaign all over the country.
Media Matters found that Moms for Liberty has been deeply involved in successful anti-LGBTQ bills in statehouses across the country.
Arkansas’ Moms for Liberty chapters were heavily involved in pushing a series of extreme anti-LGBTQ laws in early 2023. According to the Trans Legislation Tracker, Arkansas passed eight anti-trans bills. At least one co-sponsor of seven of those bills is affiliated with or has promoted Moms for Liberty.
- Bentley regularly shares Moms for Liberty’s Facebook posts.
- In one instance, Bentley shared a Moms for Liberty post encouraging members to support a bill, adding her own text that reads, “I am looking forward to voting yes on SB81 on Monday!”
State Sen. Jim Dotson co-sponsored SB125.
- Dotson was a featured speaker at a Moms for Liberty event about education in Arkansas.
- Sullivan was a featured speaker at a Moms for Liberty event discussing 2023 legislative packages in January.
- Lundstrum attended a Moms for Liberty chapter meeting and signed the “parent pledge.”
Moms for Liberty members in Arkansas also testified in support of anti-LGBTQ legislation.
- Moms for Liberty member Ginny Dowden testified in favor of HB1156 — an anti-trans bathroom bill — saying, “CRT and gender identity ideology are already the tools of entry into our educational institutions with the goal of fundamentally transforming schools’ environments and culture. … Do we as a society adhere to the age-old biological fact that men are men and women are women, or not?”
- Ila Campbell, co-chair of the Moms for Liberty chapter in Washington County, Arkansas, testified in favor of SB294. According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, the law “seeks to prohibit what conservatives have termed ‘indoctrination,’ meaning the teaching of ‘critical race theory’ and limit even age-appropriate education about sexual education, sexual orientation, and gender identity.”
Moms for Liberty has enormous influence in Florida, most notably via its close association with DeSantis, who was the keynote speaker at the group’s 2022 summit.
Florida chapters of Moms for Liberty have seriously amped up their legislative efforts and the group now hosts “legislative days” in Tallahassee. For the second year in a row the group invited members from all over the state to meet with legislators to discuss their legislative agenda. Florida House Speaker Paul Renner and Rep. Stan McClain were listed as speakers for the event. Legislative Days also have sponsorship opportunities, ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.
South Carolina replicated the same event, holding a Legislative Day for members to meet with legislators, hear “speakers that are influential” in their state’s government, and focus on the “legislative agenda” for the session.
Moms for Liberty members have been particularly active in Iowa, so much so that The Gazette — a news source located in Cedar Rapids — published a staff editorial titled “Moms for Liberty is now in charge at the Iowa Statehouse,” detailing the close relationship between the group and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds. The article notes that after Reynolds attended a Moms for Liberty event condemning “obscene” books, she had her staff modify her position to align with Moms for Liberty’s.
The Trans Legislation Tracker identified three Iowa anti-trans bills that successfully passed. Moms for Liberty members testified in favor of all three.
- SF482, an anti-trans bathroom bill, was supported by Moms for Liberty. Members testified at the subcommittee hearing on the bill and told legislators that “their children would feel uncomfortable if they knew they were using the same restroom facilities as a transgender person.”
- SF496 is a bill that puts “restrictions on Iowa schools when it comes to gender identity, sexual orientation and school libraries, and require schools to provide parents with course materials and the option to opt out of school instruction.” According to The Gazette, many Moms for Liberty members testified in support of the bill.
- SF538, an anti-trans law prohibiting Iowa doctors from providing puberty blockers, hormone therapy, or gender-affirming surgeries to trans minors, was supported by Samantha Fett, a Moms for Liberty member, who said, “Teenagers’ ability to accurately assess risk is limited, their brains are simply not developed to fully assess things like adults are.”
According to the Trans Legislation Tracker, Indiana has passed three anti-trans laws in 2023. State Sen. Stacey Donato, co-sponsor of all three bills, is a member of the private Facebook group for the Moms for Liberty chapter in Howard County, Indiana. The same chapter hosted an event featuring Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita on May 25.
- HB1608, a bill that bans discussion of LGBTQ people in schools and forces teachers to out students who request to be referred to by a different name or pronoun, was supported by all nine Indiana chapters of Moms for Liberty. Paula Davis, who represented the chapters, spoke in favor of the bill, saying, “This is not about whether or not I agree with homosexual lifestyle. This is about my right as a parent to guarantee my children are not being told the morals and values of their parents are wrong.”
Media Matters obtained an April 2023 newsletter from the Campbell County, Kentucky, and Boone County, Kentucky, chapters of Moms for Liberty sharing emails of support they received from Kentucky legislators Jennifer Decker, George “Max” Wise, and Steve Rawlings. Decker, Wise, and Rawlings all voted in favor of the two successful anti-trans laws passed in Kentucky this year.
A March newsletter also obtained by Media Matters included a cruel segment about the death by suicide of Kentucky Sen. Karen Berg’s son, Henry. Moms for Liberty misgendered Henry, calling him Berg’s “daughter” and claiming that the senator used her son’s death to “push her agenda for trans rights.” The group also claims that Henry died because of mental illness, not because “he was never accepted.”
- Moms for Liberty member Mirna Eads spoke in favor of SB150, described by the ACLU of Kentucky as an “omnibus anti-trans bill aimed at LGBTQ children and adolescents.” Eads claimed that “we need to fix the mental part of the child, not the physical part. A 13-year-old doesn’t know what they what. Don’t even know what they want to be when they grow up.”
- In a February newsletter, the group recounted meeting with “several legislatures” and sitting in on the committee hearing of SB150. “We were also able to discuss and give out our obscene book binders and the pdf to show our legislatures of what is really in our school libraries!”
Moms for Liberty members testified in favor of three anti-LGBTQ bills passed in Montana.
- HB234, an “obscene materials” law, was supported by the president of the Yellowstone County, Montana, chapter of Moms for Liberty, Alba Pimentel. Pimental told legislators that “if the explicit content keeps arising in our schools, I am afraid it is not a place where my children would belong.” She was also invited to speak at a “celebration of parents” in the Capitol Rotunda in early January.
- Moms for Liberty member Jessie Browning spoke in favor of an SB518, a bill that forces teachers to out students for using new names or pronouns and allows for intentional misgendering and deadnaming of trans students, saying, “This bill will clarify the rights of all Montana parents.” Browning also testified in favor of HB359, a bill prohibiting minors from attending drag shows, claiming that they cause harm to children.
Moms for Liberty members testified in favor of North Dakota’s anti-LGBTQ bills and were even praised by co-founder Tiffany Justice for their efforts.
- HB1522, a bill that bans “transgender students from using the restrooms that match their gender identity, force teachers and schools to ‘out’ a trans student to their parents, and prohibit schools and government entities from adopting policies that acknowledge the gender identity of their students or employees,” was supported by Moms for Liberty. The chair of the Williams County chapter of Moms for Liberty testified in favor of the bill and submitted a written statement.
- Susan Draper, vice chair of the Williams County chapter of Moms for Liberty, testified in support of HB1249, a bill that bans trans athletes from competing on sports teams that match their lived gender.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is a strong ally of Moms for Liberty and on April 27, Noem signed the group’s “parent pledge” promising to “advance policies that strengthen parental involvement and decision-making.”
- South Dakota passed HB1080, a bill prohibiting gender-affirming medical care for minors, which Noem signed into law. Three of the bill’s co-sponsors – state Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller, Rep. Aaron Alyward, and Rep. John Sjaarda – have also taken Mom’s for Liberty’s parent pledge.
Update (6/6/23): This piece has been updated to reflect the Southern Poverty Law Center’s designation of Moms for Liberty as an antigovernment extremist group.