Journalist Sarah Posner: Alliance Defending Freedom is advancing an anti-LGBTQ agenda in courts, and its alumni are infiltrating agencies and the judiciary
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There’s new reporting about anti-LGBTQ hate group leader Tony Perkins’ role in crafting the latest White House policy banning transgender troops from serving in the military -- and that’s only the most recent reminder that we should be very, very worried about the Trump administration’s coziness with anti-LGBTQ hate groups and extremists.
Hours after the White House released an updated policy banning transgender service members from serving in the military, Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern reported that “behind the scenes, a ‘panel of experts’” crafted a report justifying the ban. The so-called experts included Perkins, president of anti-LGBTQ hate group the Family Research Council (FRC), and the virulently anti-trans Ryan Anderson from the Heritage Foundation, who wrote an entire book dedicated to discrediting the transgender experience. Stern also reported that Vice President Mike Pence, who has a long history of anti-LGBTQ animosity and is a longtime friend of Perkins’, “played a leading role in the creation of this report.” This is yet another disturbing example of anti-LGBTQ extremists’ influence on White House policy and close relationships with the administration.
Just one day before Trump announced the new policy, Tyson Langhofer, director of the Center for Academic Freedom at the anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), spoke at an official youth outreach event at the White House. During the event, Justice Department Office of Public Affairs Director Sarah Isgur Flores praised ADF as a “great organization” and thanked Langhofer for its work.
Here are just some of the ways ADF and other anti-LGBTQ hate groups and extremists are directly influencing White House policy beyond the newly released ban:
After consulting with ADF, Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions released religious exemptions guidance making it easier for individuals and businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
ADF is reportedly in “negotiations” with the Trump administration to undo protections for incarcerated transgender people.
Perkins has bragged about how many times he has visited the White House.
Trump is nominating attorneys with ties to ADF for federal judgeships.
Former ADF legal counsel Matt Bowman works in the Health and Human Services Department (HHS), which has been employing more right-wing religious activists and has started a Conscience and Religious Freedom Division that makes it easier for health care providers to deny services to LGBTQ people, among others.
Former Family Research Council Chief of Staff Shannon Royce has emerged “as a pivotal player” at HHS as director of its Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
ADF client Sara Hellwege spoke at the HHS announcement of its anti-LGBTQ rule granting religious exemptions for health care providers to deny services to LGBTQ people.
At least four people who have worked for the Family Research Council were on Trump’s transition team.
These groups spent years under the Obama administration pushing anti-LGBTQ policies through municipalities and states and fighting equality in court while also strategizing over how to undo the progress that has happened over the past decade at the national level. Now the current administration is welcoming them to the table and fulfilling their wish lists. Trump made a clear play for these groups and their supporters' votes when he chose Pence as his running mate, and so-called “values voters” like Perkins have repeatedly abandoned their morals to defend Trump -- and reaped the rewards in policy.
We are witnessing a massive effort to roll back LGBTQ equality at all levels of government and on nearly every issue affecting the lives and rights of community members, and these groups are at the forefront of it. And there are repercussions outside of the policy realm: Their attacks are creating a more hostile, anti-LGBTQ environment in society at large. For the first time in four years, acceptance of LGBTQ people has decreased, and violence against the community is surging without many Americans even being aware of it.
The trans military ban was just the latest win for anti-LGBTQ hate groups. There will certainly be more. If you haven’t been alarmed by this yet, it’s time to be now.
Lawyers and allied attorneys from influential anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) have been working to pass and defend legislation in at least five states that allows child welfare agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ people, among others, in adoption and foster care. In 2017, three states passed anti-LGBTQ adoption laws, and a sweeping anti-LGBTQ religious exemptions law in Mississippi also included provisions about adoption and foster care. Georgia’s state Senate passed a similar bill in February, to be considered by its House, and at least three other states are considering similar bills this year.
States and municipalities across the country are increasingly considering measures to protect youth from the dangerous practice
Across the country, legislatures and policy makers are increasingly considering measures to protect LGBTQ minors from harmful conversion therapy, the discredited practice that seeks to turn LGBTQ people straight. As the efforts gain increased media attention, journalists have a responsibility to accurately portray the practice, including by noting that it has been called dangerous and ineffective by major medical associations, highlighting survivor voices when appropriate, avoiding spreading misinformation about the practice, and otherwise following best practices in reporting on conversion therapy.
A Media Matters study of coverage of a successful county-wide conversion therapy ban in Palm Beach County, FL, found that broadcast outlets there featured considerably more voices supportive of the harmful practice and largely failed to note that the practice has been thoroughly discredited and that sexuality cannot be forcibly changed. Here's what journalists can do to avoid similar traps in their own reporting on conversion therapy:
According to the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), nine states, Washington, D.C., and dozens of municipalities have active laws protecting LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy, which is also sometimes called “reparative therapy,” “ex-gay therapy,” or “sexual orientation change efforts.” Governors from both sides of the aisle have signed bills banning the dangerous practice, with four Republican governors and five Democratic governors passing bans in their states, but the Movement Advancement Project has estimated that current bans protect only about 27 percent of LGBTQ Americans. Had these bans not been in place, an additional 6,000 LGBTQ youth ages 13-17 would have undergone conversion therapy "from a licensed health care professional before age 18," according to a January 2018 report released by the Williams Institute.
At least 17 states (Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington) are currently considering bills that would ban conversion therapy, and many municipalities have passed or are considering similar ordinances. The Trevor Project, the leading crisis intervention and suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth, is working to have legislation submitted in all 50 states to protect youth from the dangerous practice, and in 2017, senators reintroduced a bill, the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act, that would have banned it nationwide. The bill, which did not come to a vote, was first introduced in 2015, aimed to classify conversion therapy as fraud, ultimately allowing state attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission to enforce the rule.
Many Americans are not aware of the prevalence of conversion therapy and may consider it mostly a problem of the past, but the groundbreaking January report by the Williams Institute estimated that approximately 20,000 LGBTQ youth, ages 13-17, will undergo conversion therapy in the United States before the age of 18 from a licensed professional in states that do not ban the practice. An additional 57,000 “will receive conversion therapy from religious or spiritual advisors before they reach the age of 18.” The report also estimated that approximately 698,000 LGBTQ adults have received conversion therapy at some point in their lives, including 350,000 who underwent it as adolescents.
The Williams Institute report also cited polling which found that conversion therapy is deeply unpopular, with only 8 percent of Americans believing that conversion therapy could change someone’s sexual orientation. At the state level, support for protecting LGBTQ youth from the dangerous practice is high; 71 percent of respondents to a poll in Florida, 64 percent of respondents to a Virginia poll, and 60 percent of respondents in a New Mexico poll supported a legal ban on conversion therapy.
There are a range of practices that fall under the umbrella of conversion therapy, from talk therapy to shock and aversion treatments, all of which are considered harmful. In their coverage of conversion therapy, journalists must resist pushing misinformation such as saying that the practice is harmless when it does not involve shock treatment or other blatantly physically harmful practices.
According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), conversion therapy involves “a range of dangerous and discredited practices that falsely claim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.” The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR)’s #BornPerfect fact sheet described a few examples that would fall under the range of conversion therapy practices, noting, “while some counselors still use physical treatments like aversive conditioning, the techniques most commonly used include a variety of behavioral, cognitive, psychoanalytic, and other practices that try to change or reduce same-sex attraction or alter a person’s gender identity.” NCLR continued, “While these contemporary versions of conversion therapy are less shocking and extreme than some of those more frequently used in the past, they are equally devoid of scientific validity and pose serious dangers to patients.” Furthermore, in a 2009 report, the American Psychological Association detailed some aversive conversion therapy techniques, including, “inducing nausea, vomiting, or paralysis; providing electric shocks; or having the individual snap an elastic band around the wrist when aroused by same-sex erotic images or thoughts.”
It is imperative that audiences understand that the entire range of such practices is dangerous and ineffective. For example, NBC News covered the report from the Williams Institute about conversion therapy, writing that the entire practice is “medically defunct” before noting that “currently, talk therapy is the most commonly used therapy technique,” though “some practitioners have also combined this with ‘aversion treatments,’ such as induced vomiting or electric shocks.”
While highlighting the range of practices associated with conversion therapy, journalists should avoid providing a platform for practitioners who claim conversion therapy is harmless because their practice does not include shock therapy. For example, Miami’s Fox affiliate WSVN 7News featured the testimony of local therapist Robert Otto who claims to help children with so-called “unwanted attractions”:
ROBERT OTTO: I don’t shock people. I don’t hook them up to a little buzzer and connect them to a wall socket and flip a switch if they have a wrong thought. I listen to them, and I help them understand how those thoughts happen and where they come from.
Though WSVN 7News’ segment followed Otto’s clip by noting that medical associations “oppose conversion therapy,” its audience may still inaccurately believe that conversion therapy is not dangerous when it does not involve physical pain. Talk therapy seeking to change sexual orientation or gender identity is still a dangerous form of conversion therapy.
Reporters covering efforts to protect LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy should always include that the practice has been debunked and rejected by all major medical associations as ineffective, harmful, and unscientific and that sexuality and gender identity cannot be forcibly changed.
The American Psychiatric Association’s official 2000 position statement on conversion therapy reaffirmed its 1998 position that “there is no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of ‘reparative therapy’ as a treatment to change one’s sexual orientation.” In addition, the organization wrote that it “opposes any psychiatric treatment, such as ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy, that is based on the assumption … that the patient should change his or her homosexual orientation.” Similarly, the American Psychological Association released a 2009 resolution saying, “The APA concludes that there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation.” A division of the American Counseling Association known as the Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues in Counseling also found that attempts “to alter or change gender identities and/or the sexual orientation of transgender clients across the lifespan may be detrimental, life-threatening, and are not empirically supported.” International organizations also recognize the junk science behind conversion therapy; according to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Therapies aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation have been deemed outside the scope of ethical practice.”
When discussing conversion therapy, journalists should highlight official statements and positions from major medical associations such as these. For example, FOX 4 News in Kansas City, MO, covered a recently introduced bill to ban conversion therapy statewide in Missouri, describing the practice as “widely seen as misguided, ineffective, and some say dangerous” and noting, “Medical experts say conversion therapy can inflict serious emotional harm, with direct links to depression, social isolation, and suicide risk.”
But despite widely accessible information about conversion therapy’s ineffectiveness, not all coverage includes this crucial fact. A Media Matters analysis of coverage of a ban in Palm Beach County, FL, found that only about 12 percent of segments mentioned that the practice has been debunked and that sexuality and gender identity cannot be forcibly changed.
Journalists have a responsibility to educate the public not just about the ineffectiveness of conversion therapy but also its harmful side effects and universal condemnation from major medical associations. According to HRC, “every major medical and mental health organization in the United States has issued a statement condemning the use of conversion therapy” because “there is significant anecdotal evidence of harm to LGBTQ people resulting from attempts to change their sexual orientation and gender identity.”
For example, in a review of studies on conversion therapy, the American Psychological Association wrote:
The reported negative social and emotional consequences [of conversion therapy] include self-reports of anger, anxiety, confusion, depression, grief, guilt, hopelessness, deteriorated relationships with family, loss of social support, loss of faith, poor self-image, social isolation, intimacy difficulties, intrusive imagery, suicidal ideation, self-hatred, and sexual dysfunction.
Additionally, the National Association of Social Workers has asserted that conversion therapy, “can lead to severe emotional damage”; the American Academy of Pediatrics has said that “it can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation”; and the Pan-American Health Organization, a regional office of WHO, has noted, “There are many testimonies about the severe harm to mental and physical health that such ‘services’ can cause. Repression of sexual orientation has been associated with feelings of guilt and shame, depression, anxiety, and even suicide.”
Journalists should always note in their coverage that the practice has dangerous side effects. For instance, The Arizona Republic’s website AZCentral noted the American Psychiatric Association’s list of harmful effects associated with conversion therapy and highlighted the Trevor Project’s list of side effects, which includes "increased depression, increased suicidal ideation and increased substance abuse.” In a segment covering the recent ban in Broward County, FL, CBS4 News Miami highlighted that conversion therapy is “ineffective, dangerous, and harmful to kids.” In contrast, while covering Washington state’s efforts to ban conversion therapy, CBS affiliate KIRO 7 News failed to mention that the practice has been debunked and is harmful to recipients. Similar segments aired several times without providing appropriate context on the dangers of conversion therapy.
Media sometimes fall into the trap of providing a platform for conversion therapy proponents to spread misinformation about the practice, and outlets often fail to contextualize those figures’ affiliations and backgrounds. Journalists should resist allowing these proponents to spew misinformation in an attempt to show “both sides” of the story, particularly as the practice has been opposed by all major medical organizations.
When covering a proposed ban in Virginia, Fox 5 D.C. gave an extended platform to conversion therapy advocate and practitioner Christopher Doyle, who claims that he got rid of his “unwanted attractions.” The segment failed to mention that Doyle is a major so-called “ex-gay” advocate who runs a pro-conversion therapy group called The National Task Force for Therapy Equality (NTFTE) and is a consultant for another group called Equality and Justice for All. He also signed on to a “Dear Legislator 2018” letter urging legislators to oppose conversion therapy bans. Both groups have been involved with major anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom and a number of other anti-LGBTQ groups and hate groups. Fox 5 D.C.’s segment failed to give any information about the dangers or ineffectiveness of conversion therapy and only referred to Doyle as a “psychotherapist.” Introducing the segment, reporter Ronica Cleary echoed his false point that these bans “do not help minors and can actually make the situation worse,” and throughout the segment, Doyle misinformed about the nature of conversion therapy, including saying, “It’s not licensed professional counselors that are doing bad work, it’s religious fanatics.” Doyle’s remark is in stark contrast to the Williams Institute, which has estimated that 20,000 LGBT youth “will receive conversion therapy from a licensed health care professional before they reach the age of 18.”
Similarly, NBC 12News in Phoenix, AZ, featured “California- and Texas-based therapist” David Pickup without context, where he falsely claimed that “there is no proof of harm.” The segment explicitly said that it would show “both sides of the issue," before featuring his comments. Pickup is a board member of pro-conversion therapy group the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) and works closely with Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays, in addition to being linked to Doyle’s group NTFTE. According to NCLR, NARTH encourages its members “to consider techniques that include hypnosis, behavior and cognitive therapies, sex therapies, and psychotropic medication, among others.”
Media Matters previously studied how West Palm Beach broadcast media provided a platform for another therapist tied to NARTH, Julie Hamilton, who also spread misinformation about conversion therapy. When featuring Hamilton, outlets failed to contextualize Hamilton’s ties to pro-conversion therapy groups or her book on the so-called “treatment” of “unwanted homosexual attractions.” Local media there also disproportionately featured testimony from supporters of conversion therapy even though the practice is deeply unpopular and widely condemned.
If outlets do insist on hosting figures with a history of anti-LGBTQ bigotry, they must contextualize their backgrounds and affiliations and at the very least debunk their misinformation. Outlets fail their audiences by giving uncritical platforms to misinformation, as multiple studies have found that audiences’ attitudes and opinions can be swayed even after myths are thoroughly debunked. Media coverage should also represent the communities affected by conversion therapy and not give heightened platforms to voices who support such a widely debunked practice.
Because proponents of conversion therapy frequently misrepresent the harms of the practice and claim they may be helping people, sharing stories of survivors of conversion therapy helps accurately depict the realities of such experiences and rebut the myth that conversion therapy is not harmful. Survivors should never be forced to relive their traumatic experiences with conversion therapy to a reporter or the public; however, outlets should make space for survivors who are ready and willing to share their experiences or for LGBTQ individuals who understand the risk it poses to their community.
For example, AZCentral’s report on a recently introduced bill in Arizona featured comments by Sam Brinton, a survivor and advocate who works with the Trevor Project. The report noted that Brinton, who uses the gender-neutral pronoun they, experienced post-traumatic stress disorder after undergoing conversion therapy and quoted them saying that “we need to be addressing this” problem in order “to stop LGBT youth from dying by suicide.” Brinton also published a New York Times op-ed about their experience surviving conversion therapy, where they wrote:
For over two years, I sat on a couch and endured emotionally painful sessions with a counselor. I was told that my faith community rejected my sexuality; that I was the abomination we had heard about in Sunday school; that I was the only gay person in the world; that it was inevitable I would get H.I.V. and AIDS.
But it didn’t stop with these hurtful talk-therapy sessions. The therapist ordered me bound to a table to have ice, heat and electricity applied to my body. I was forced to watch clips on a television of gay men holding hands, hugging and having sex. I was supposed to associate those images with the pain I was feeling to once and for all turn into a straight boy. In the end it didn’t work. I would say that it did, just to make the pain go away.
Similarly, Miami’s WSVN 7News interviewed Wilton Manors Vice Mayor Justin Flippen about the then-proposed ban in Broward County, FL, who described his personal experiences surviving conversion therapy: "I saw other young people in these sessions that struggled emotionally, mentally with who they felt they were and what they were being told by these professionals."
Also in Miami, CBS4 reported on the successful passage of Broward County’s ban and featured a transgender child and her accepting mother, who, the report said, were “thrilled to learn that Broward County commissioners passed this new ordinance.” Highlighting the stories of those who have survived conversion therapy helps humanize the issue and illustrate the risk it poses to LGBTQ people, and lifting up LGBTQ voices who have not undergone the dangerous treatment shows that they thrive when society accepts them for who they are rather than try to change them.
Anti-LGBTQ hate groups and extremists have stepped into a number of efforts to protect youth from conversion therapy and are attempting to block policies that would ban the practice. Outlets should be careful to not use hate groups as sources for this topic and should contextualize these groups if they include them in their coverage.
According to the Sun-Sentinel, a Broward County, FL, newspaper, anti-LGBTQ hate group Liberty Counsel has already filed a lawsuit against a successful ban in Tampa, FL, and has threatened to sue in Palm Beach County, FL. Liberty Counsel regularly engages in demonizing, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, including comparing LGBTQ people to pedophiles and claiming that marriage equality and inclusive nondiscrimination protections could lead to civil war and death. However, Sun-Sentinel’s coverage described it as a “legal group” or “nonprofit,” noting in an article only that it “has had other battles over religion and homosexuality.” By not exposing the bigotry of bad actors in this space, outlets fail to show the extremism that underlies support for conversion therapy.
Liberty Counsel has been vocally involved with current debates over conversion therapy, but its position is common among other often less-vocal hate groups. Anti-LGBTQ hate group ADF has repeatedly demonstrated its support for conversion therapy, including in court. ADF has frequently put LGBTQ youth in its crosshairs and has been leading the national campaign against transgender student equality in schools. At least a dozen of ADF’s anti-LGBTQ allies also support the harmful practice. Journalists must be cognizant of these groups, particularly when quoting figures who may be associated with them or highlighting their involvement in these debates.
Additional research by Rebecca Damante.
How media outlets promoted problematic narratives and anti-abortion misinformation
On January 19, the annual March for Life was held in Washington D.C. In covering both the anti-abortion protest and the lead-up to it, some media outlets promoted problematic narratives and anti-abortion misinformation.
Last year, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a designated anti-LGBTQ hate group, fought against marriage equality in Latin American and European courts, including by presenting oral arguments before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) in the Americas. Multinational courts in both countries recently ruled or advised in favor of same-sex marriage and spousal recognition. The international courts’ opinions show that attempting to export anti-LGBTQ bigotry abroad is not always a winning battle, even as ADF gains influence in our court system.
The IACHR is a part of the Organization of American States (OAS), an organization that “brings together all 35 independent states of the Americas and constitutes the main political, juridical, and social governmental forum in the Hemisphere.” On May 17 of last year, ADF International presented oral arguments before the IACHR against legalizing marriage equality in its member states. The IACHR was reviewing a petition submitted in 2016 by Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis, "who had vowed to increase rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the majority Catholic country.” Talking about the case, ADF International legal counsel Neydy Casillas had said, “While the right for men and women to marry is recognized under international law, there is no corresponding right to same-sex marriage or a name change based on ‘gender identity.’” Casillas continued, “The American Convention on Human Rights does not obligate Member States to recognize same-sex partnerships.”
On January 9, Reuters reported that the IACHR ruled “that countries in the region should legalize same-sex unions.” According to AFP and Costa Rica’s Tico Times, the ruling “said gay married couples should have the same rights as heterosexual ones existing under each country’s laws.” The court also ruled that transgender people should be able to change their names on identification documents. In response, Costa Rica’s government said that it “would take steps to adopt the court’s criteria ‘in its totality.’” And on January 17, Panama’s government also “signaled it plans to comply” with the ruling, according to the Washington Blade.
ADF International showcased this work in its Annual Report 2017, writing that its team argued “in defence of Costa Rica’s definition of marriage.” ADF and another anti-LGBTQ hate group, C-Fam, both participated in the 47th annual session of the OAS General Assembly.
In a separate international case, ADF submitted an intervention in April to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) against a married Romanian and American gay couple who were fighting for their right to live together. The couple challenged Romanian authorities’ decision to refuse the American husband’s residence permit. On January 11, a senior adviser to the ECJ backed legal residency for same-sex couples under the definition of “spouse.” According to the BBC, “ECJ Advocate General Melchior Wathelet said the term ‘spouse’ included, under the freedom of residence of EU citizens and their family members, spouses of the same sex.” “Opinions given by ECJ advocate generals are non-binding on the court’s judges,” The Guardian noted, “but are normally followed by the full court.” The court decision, which is expected in a few months, “could have wider repercussions for the range of benefits and rights” same-sex married couples can claim.
As expected, ADF saw the repercussions of the decision in a very different way. In April, ADF International legal counsel Adina Portaru, the “leading lawyer on the third party intervention,” released a statement saying, "Forcing a Member State to amend its national law to legally recognize same-sex relationships means deliberately ignoring a national democratic process." The statement also claimed that the ECJ "runs the risk of undermining the law" in many EU countries and "creating legal chaos as a result."
ADF International also highlighted its work before the ECJ in its Annual Report 2017. Additionally, ADF gave legal assistance to a “Coalition for Family” in Romania that worked to collect 3 million signatures across the country in order to get a referendum “to amend the constitution to prohibit gay marriage” up for a vote. Anti-LGBTQ hate group Liberty Counsel also gave legal assistance and organized for Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to LGBTQ couples in 2015, to visit the coalition. The United Nations has granted ADF a special consultative status, which allows its attorneys access to treaty and convention drafting meetings. C-Fam also has the same status.
ADF is the largest designated anti-LGBTQ hate group in the nation, and the group and its representatives have supported a number of extreme positions, including criminalizing gay sex both domestically and abroad. According to a major investigative report by The Nation’s Sarah Posner, ADF has “redoubled its efforts to portray its views as mainstream” amid its growing influence, including its role in the U.S. Supreme Court case Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. ADF’s international arm has grown to “50 team members in 8 countries,” with a budget of more than 3.5 million euros, and engagement in “580 ongoing legal matters in 51 countries.” Its work in international courts proves that ADF is not simply interested in “free speech” and is in fact dedicated to eroding every aspect of LGBTQ equality both in the U.S. and abroad. It is to be seen whether ADF’s arguments prove successful in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case before our own nation’s high court, but failures abroad illustrate that international courts aren’t falling for them.
Anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom is negotiating with the Trump administration to undo Obama-era guidelines protecting transgender inmates
The Trump administration is considering undoing protections for incarcerated transgender people after reportedly being in “negotiations” with anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). Transgender inmates are frequently housed with members of the opposite gender and experience the highest reported incidence of sexual violence in prisons and jails. The dangers they face are illustrated by a number of recent media reports on lawsuits trans women have filed regarding their treatment while incarcerated.
On January 4, The Dallas Morning News reported that ADF is representing plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The suit demands that the bureau “remove all transgender inmates” from a female-only prison in Fort Worth, TX. In an effort to settle the lawsuit, ADF is “in negotiations with the federal government” over undoing policies that protect transgender inmates. The article predicted that the Trump administration was “likely to undo” those policies. ADF lawyer Gary McCaleb, who has also been active in ADF’s work against transgender student equality in schools, told The Dallas Morning News that he was “pretty confident” that the BOP would change some of its transgender inmate protections, particularly on the issue of whether transgender women are housed with non-trans prisoners. ADF’s work here is just one piece of its relentless campaign against LGBTQ equality.
In weighing whether to remove protections for incarcerated trans people, ADF and the Trump administration will likely be taking aim at two pieces of Obama-era guidance. One is a January 18, 2017, “Transgender Offender Manual,” which gave guidance on the treatment of transgender inmates and sought to “ensure the Bureau of Prisons (Bureau) properly identifies, tracks, and provides services to the transgender population.” The other guidance likely to be affected is the Justice Department’s 2012 standards under the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA) that require detention facilities to “incorporate unique vulnerabilities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and gender nonconforming inmates into training and screening protocols.” Those rules say that “in deciding whether to assign a transgender or intersex inmate to a facility for male or female inmates, … the agency shall consider on a case-by-case basis whether a placement would ensure the inmate’s health and safety, and whether the placement would present management or security problems.”
According to Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern, transgender protections under PREA can work as “a mechanism through which trans inmates essentially sue prisons for violating their rights under federal law.” Thus, the attempts by ADF and the Trump administration to alter those policies could affect transgender inmates’ ability to sue for inhumane treatment.
Recent coverage of a number of lawsuits filed by transgender women who reported sexual and physical violence and harassment in prisons and jails demonstrates the countless hardships transgender inmates encounter. In November, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that a transgender woman
On January 5, the Associated Press reported that a transgender woman incarcerated in Illinois “is seeking a rarely granted transfer to a female prison” after experiencing “sexual assault, taunting and beatings” in male prisons. Her lawsuit described “how guards and fellow inmates would regularly single her out for brutal treatment,” saying “that guards made her and another transgender inmate perform sex acts on each other as the guards hurled slurs and laughed.” The AP reported on another filing from her lawyers that said it had been “devastating psychologically” for her to be unable to present “herself as a female” while incarcerated. The article noted the “greater risk of abuse” for trans inmates, including that “nearly 40 percent reported being victims of sexual misconduct by other inmates and guards — compared to around 4 percent of the general prison reporting such abuse.”
On that same day, Reuters reported that the state of Massachusetts “asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a transgender woman” who is housed in a men’s prison. In her lawsuit, the woman said that she has been subjected “to strip searches by male guards” who “routinely groped” her and forced her “to shower in the presence of male inmates.” In yet another January report, the New York Post wrote that a transgender woman who was incarcerated in the notoriously violent Rikers Island jail complex is suing New York City and correction officials after being “beaten so severely by several guards that they broke her jaw, knocked out teeth and left her with two black eyes.”
In December, Aviva Stahl wrote a piece for The Village Voice, titled “New York City Jails Still Can’t Keep Trans Prisoners Safe,” analyzing the state of incarcerated transgender people in the city's jails. Stahl’s report noted that advocates say the city’s Department of Correction has failed to protect transgender prisoners and that “some trans women have been denied entry” into the city’s Transgender Housing Unit (THU) or “been transferred into male facilities after their external genitalia were observed in medical exams.” Stahl noted that these failures are violations “of national prison anti-rape standards,” the very standards that could be affected by the negotiations between the ADF and the Trump administration. The article added that transgender people have “the highest reported incidence of sexual violence of any demographic group studied, more than eight times the rate for prisoners overall,” according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. A 2007 study found an even higher rate for transgender women: “59 percent of transgender women housed in men’s prisons had been sexually abused while incarcerated, as compared to 4 percent of non-transgender inmates in men’s prisons.”
These abuses are happening even with the Obama-era protections in place. If ADF is successful in getting the Trump administration to rescind these limited protections, trans lives and bodies will be at still further risk.
Media Matters looks back at some of the worst smears, lies, and liars attacking the transgender community in 2017
Right-wing media figures and anti-LGBTQ hate group representatives have a long history of spreading anti-trans hatred and lies, and 2017 was no different. From hate groups attacks on trans children and students to Alex Jones’ anti-LGBTQ extremism, Media Matters rounded up some of 2017’s most transphobic misinformers and their lies.
Right-wing conspiracy theorist and ally to President Donald Trump Alex Jones has cemented his place as an anti-trans extremist this year as he repeatedly used the slur “tranny,” dehumanized trans people's existence, and spread vile rhetoric about them. Though Jones has repeatedly said he is “not against gay people,” Media Matters has documented a pattern of extreme anti-LGBTQ rhetoric that proves otherwise.
In one segment on his show, for example, Jones said that transgender women may be gay men who want “to go pick up more guys” by getting “breast implants” and trying to “doll [their] hair up.” On another episode, Jones compared a transgender man who had a baby to Jones deciding that he is a “50-foot, red, purple, striped giraffe” that “give[s] birth to leprechauns.” In other segments, Jones has said that accepting transgender people is a slippery slope to “brain chips” and suggested that former first lady Michelle Obama has a penis and may have killed late comedian Joan Rivers, saying that he was “not putting trannies down” with the comments.
Jones accused transgender women of being gay men who want “to go pick up more guys” by getting breast implants and dolling up their hair.
[Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 7/10/17]
Jones compared a pregnant transgender man to a “50-foot, red, purple, striped giraffe” that gives “birth to leprechauns.”
[Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 8/3/17]
Jones said that accepting transgender people is a slippery slope to “brain chips.”
[Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 8/7/17]
In 2017, hate group leaders and right-wing media personalities continued their fight against LGBTQ equality in schools, attacking transgender students and children, their parents, and teachers who teach trans-inclusive lessons. These attacks are also happening on a policy level, with hate group Alliance Defending Freedom spending much of the year trying to block transgender student equality by inserting itself in debates at local school districts and in state legislatures about transgender students’ access to restroom facilities that align with their gender identity.
In July, anti-LGBTQ hate group American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) President Dr. Michelle Cretella asserted that parents accepting their transgender children's’ gender identity is “child abuse” and spread myths and junk science about transgender people during an episode of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight. ACPeds is a small, deceptively named hate group with only a few hundred members that is meant to be confused with the 60,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics. In another example, right-wing media figures attacked a California elementary school teacher for reading two children’s books about gender identity to her kindergarten classroom after a transgender student brought one in to share. Right-wing website PJ Media suggested that parents “move out of [their] community” if they feel it is necessary to protect their children from being turned into “mind-numbed robots who nod affirmatively in the face of lies,” and anti-LGBTQ FoxNews.com contributor Todd Starnes called the events “an example of how schools have been indoctrination grounds for the LGBT agenda” and “activist bullies.”
Anti-LGBTQ hate group ACPeds’ Cretella called accepting transgender children “child abuse.”
[Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 7/24/17]
Right-wing figures and anti-LGBTQ hate groups continued to reinforce the debunked “bathroom predator” myth, which asserts that policies allowing trans people to use restrooms that align with their gender identity will create an opening for sexual predators to assault women. That myth has been long debunked by experts and government officials in more than a dozen states, school administrators, and sexual assault and domestic violence prevention experts, but pundits and anti-LGBTQ figures continued to push the lie in 2017.
On February 15, Tony Perkins, the president of anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council (FRC), dubiously claimed that Target’s trans-inclusive bathroom policy gives people a “good chance” of seeing a “live rendition of CSI … because increasingly you’ve had crime scenes in their restrooms and in their changing rooms.” Similarly, on an episode of a special panel show on Houston’s Fox 26, president of the anti-LGBTQ hate group Conservative Republicans of Texas (CRTx) Jared Woodfill said that “registered sex offenders who somehow believe that they’re a woman” would be “allowed to go into the restroom where our wives, our daughters, and our mothers are going to be.” In yet another example, Charmaine Yoest, a right-wing political commentator who is now in a top communications post at the Department of Health and Human Services, asserted that “the real issue” with trans-inclusive policies “is the opening that it provides for sexual predators … who might be using this as a way to get access to young girls and women.
FRC’s Perkins claimed that Target’s trans-inclusive restroom policy gives people a “good chance” of seeing a “live rendition of CSI … because increasingly you’ve had crime scenes in their restrooms and in their changing rooms”
[Fox Business, Varney & Co., 2/15/17]
CRTx’s Woodfill claimed that “registered sex offenders who somehow believe that they’re a woman” would be “allowed to go into the restroom where our wives, our daughters, and our mothers are going to be” with trans-inclusive restroom policies.
[Fox 26, What’s Your Point, 5/22/17]
Former right-wing pundit Yoest said that “the real issue” with trans-inclusive policies “is the opening that it provides for sexual predators … who might be using this as a way to get access to young girls and women.”
[CNN, CNN Newsroom, 2/23/17]
When Trump announced he would ban transgender people from the military, right-wing media and hate groups pushed misinformation about transgender service members and called them “mentally ill.” (The ban has so far been paused by the courts.) Other right-wing lies about the ban included the claim that the cost of medically necessary health care for transgender service members would be in the billions, that allowing transgender members to serve would interfere with military readiness and cohesion, and that a majority of transgender people are unable to be deployed due to their health care needs. Analysts have found minimal additional costs involved in providing health care to transgender service members and no negative impacts on military cohesion or readiness.
Right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro responded to the ban by saying that “the military should not accept mentally ill soldiers.” Shapiro tweeted that “no one has the ‘right’ to serve in the military,” and again implied that transgender people have a “mental illness.” Retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, who is the vice president of anti-LGBTQ hate group FRC, similarly pushed the myth that transgender people have some “kind of physical or mental illness” and claimed that their inclusion in the military was part of “a test bed for nothing but social experiments.” According to the American Psychological Association, “Identifying as transgender does not constitute a mental disorder.” Other leading medical organizations agree.
FRC’s Boykin pushed the lie that transgender people are mentally ill, saying, "We shouldn't recruit people with any kind of physical or mental illness."
[Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 8/24/17]
Shapiro claimed that “no one has the ‘right’ to serve in the military. People are 4F [unfit to serve] for a variety of reasons. Mental illness can be such a reason.”
No one has the "right" to serve in the military. People are 4F for a variety of reasons. Mental illness can be such a reason.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) July 26, 2017
Shapiro said that “The military should not accept mentally ill soldiers,” but Trump’s announcement “should not have been done by tweet.”
1. The military should not accept mentally ill soldiers.
2. This should not devalue the heroism of those who want to serve. (/1)
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) July 26, 2017
Over the past year, right-wing media figures attacked transgender people with offensive language, anti-trans slurs, and even the denial of trans existence. In addition to the steadfast slandering of transgender people by Alex Jones, other right-wing media figures employed transphobic rhetoric that can have severe consequences on transgender people and youth. Calls from transgender youth to the Trevor Project’s suicide hotline increased this year, and the project cited “anti-transgender rhetoric” coming from elected officials and others as “putting lives at risk.”
In a November rant lamenting the surge of LGBTQ victories in 2017 elections, right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh used the anti-trans slur “tranny” and insisted that LGBTQ people be referred to only as “homosexual,” saying, “the word is homosexual.” On Fox, Carlson hosted a transgender guest and insulted her by accusing transgender people of “faking” and repeatedly pushing the myth that people can just “decide” to be transgender on a whim. This kind of rhetoric places doubt on transgender existence.
After trans candidates won 2017 elections, Limbaugh insisted that all LGBTQ people be referred to as “homosexual” and used the anti-trans slur “tranny.”
[Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 11/9/17]
Carlson insulted a transgender guest and accused transgender people of "faking."
[Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 2/24/17]
The hate group led the fight against queer and trans equality this year, but many in the press fell for its "free speech" narrative
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) began 2017 by being designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and finished the year arguing before the Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commision. Throughout that time, ADF fervently opposed LGBTQ equality at every step while also moving its hardline extremism more and more into the mainstream. The media, in turn, aided the group’s efforts by largely failing to contextualize its unrelenting campaign against queer and trans people.
In the landmark Masterpiece Cakeshop case, ADF is representing plaintiff Jack Phillips, who was sued after he refused to bake a wedding cake for Charlie Craig and David Mullins, a gay couple. ADF argued before the Supreme Court on December 5, and the court will decide the case next year. But Masterpiece Cakeshop is just the tip of the iceberg of ADF’s anti-LGBTQ work this year, all of which has one thing in common: seeking to make LGBTQ people second-class citizens.
ADF’s representation of the plaintiff in Masterpiece Cakeshop case did not occur in a vacuum. The group and its allied lawyers have worked on at least eight other legal cases involving religious exemptions this year. Religious exemptions are often used by anti-LGBTQ groups and people to justify discrimination under the guise of “religious freedom.” ADF helped write, promote, and justify Mississippi’s sweeping anti-LGBTQ religious exemption law and fought for it in court, and it worked with Attorney General Jeff Sessions before he issued religious exemptions guidance in October. In addition, ADF has been leading the fight against transgender student equality in schools across the United States, including by influencing anti-trans “bathroom bills” in at least eight states.
SPLC labeled ADF as an anti-LGBTQ hate group in February due to a history of the group’s leaders and affiliated lawyers “regularly demoniz[ing] LGBT people, falsely linking them to pedophilia, calling them ‘evil’ and a threat to children and society, and blaming them for the ‘persecution of devout Christians.’” The hate group designation was also conferred in part for ADF’s history of supporting anti-sodomy laws, which effectively criminalize homosexuality. In 2003, the group filed an amicus brief in Lawrence v. Texas that defended state sodomy laws and called “same-sex sodomy … a distinct public health problem.” ADF also supports attempts to turn LGBTQ people straight through dangerous conversion therapy, which every mainstream medical group has discredited for decades and which has severe mental and medical health consequences for its victims.
One hallmark of ADF’s year -- as it headed to the Supreme Court for one of its most consequential cases -- has been its work alongside its allies and a sympathetic right-wing media to mainstream its image and move the goalposts on what is considered hate. In a report for The Nation, Sarah Posner summarized the group’s strategy: “Increasingly wary of being called discriminatory in the wake of a decision last year by the Southern Poverty Law Center to label it a hate group, ADF has redoubled its efforts to portray its views as mainstream.” Posner quoted First Amendment attorney Greg Lipper saying that ADF has been able to “‘take an extreme position’ and mainstream it so thoroughly that it has become ‘a viable theory at the Supreme Court.’”
Media Matters has found that major newspapers like The Washington Post and The New York Times tend to avoid using SPLC’s “hate group” label when it comes to anti-LGBTQ groups but frequently identify other hate groups designated by SPLC, particularly white nationalist groups. ADF and its allies have taken advantage of media’s hesitancy to use the label and actively worked to discredit SPLC’s designation, especially when media outlets do use it. In September, ADF and a number of other groups wrote a letter to “members of the media” asking them to stop using the designation. The same groups signed a similar letter in June attacking a nonprofit database for using the designation; the database eventually succumbed to the pressure and announced its decision to stop using the label partly because of “harassment and threats directed at our staff and leadership.” The groups involved in these campaigns comprise a sort of “who’s who” of anti-LGBTQ bigotry and are highly influential.
When ABC News and NBC News used the “hate group” designation to describe ADF in June reports, ADF demanded a retraction from ABC and began an aggressive media strategy to attack SPLC and attempt to discredit ABC’s and NBC’s reports. Right-wing media figures joined the chorus and echoed ADF's and others’ attacks on the designation, and ADF representatives soon made the rounds on Fox News, appearing on Fox & Friends, The Story with Martha MacCallum, and Tucker Carlson Tonight. The network has proven to be a safe space for the group to push this narrative. In July, Tucker Carlson called SPLC a “totally discredited but extremely rich left-wing organization” that attempts to “shut down legitimate debate by labeling ideas it disagrees with as ‘hate speech.’” Later in the segment, Carlson interviewed ADF Vice President Kristen Waggoner about ABC’s and NBC’s reports. In another segment, Carlson lamented that SPLC’s list of hate groups “lump[ed]” anti-LGBTQ groups with “Nazis and crazy people.” This flawed argument has been recycled thoroughly by hate groups and right-wing media.
But it’s not just right-wing media that has been sympathetic to this campaign to discredit the “hate group” label. CNN changed a headline from “Here are all the active hate groups where you live” to “The Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of hate groups” after pressure from right-wing figures and media. News outlets are more than just hesitant to use the “hate group” label, though, and often fail to give any context to ADF’s work at all. Media outlets owe it to their audiences to, at the very least, contextualize ADF and groups like it. Yet a lot of coverage has been lacking in that context.
Much of the reporting around the Masterpiece Cakeshop case fell into this trap. Time and time again, media outlets failed to contextualize ADF, instead simply noting that it was arguing the case or sometimes calling it “conservative.” In their reports on the case, The Washington Post, NPR, Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times all mentioned ADF’s role in the case but failed to mention its years-long campaign against LGBTQ equality, and those compose just a small sampling of a larger problem. A report by Time explicitly said that ADF “is making the argument that [the case] is fundamentally not about LGBTQ discrimination but about free speech” but also failed to note any of ADF’s other work combating LGBTQ equality. The piece did appropriately address the ramifications of the case for queer and trans rights, but it failed to counter ADF’s narrative or give background to its work, which would’ve shown the readers that ADF’s argument about the case “not [being] about LGBTQ discrimination” is without any merit in the context of its other work.
Leaving out important context about ADF can give readers an impression that the case, or even ADF’s work as a whole, may truly be about “free speech” rather than discrimination against LGBTQ people. ADF’s history proves that, for the group, the Masterpiece case is not about so-called “artistic freedom” or the First Amendment; it’s about preventing LGBTQ people from being fully recognized citizens in public and even private life. If news outlets won’t call it hate in 2018, they can at least give enough information for their readers to see it for themselves.
On December 5, anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) will argue before the Supreme Court in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case on behalf of a baker who refused to serve a gay couple. ADF is a highly influential, right-wing legal group that has worked to impact policy at the local, state, national, and international level, from working to ban transgender students from using the restrooms that align with their gender identity to helping write and defend the country’s most sweeping anti-LGBTQ state law in Mississippi.
Anti-LGBTQ hate group ADF is leading an insidious, nationwide fight against transgender students' access to restroom facilities that align with their gender identity
The Human Rights Campaign called Mississippi’s so-called “religious freedom” bill “the nation’s worst anti-LGBTQ state law”
A sweeping, so-called “religious freedom” bill went into effect in Mississippi on October 10, and advocates are calling it the “worst anti-LGBTQ state law in the U.S.” Mississippi’s “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” claims to protect “sincerely held religious beliefs” but would in fact give religious organizations, businesses, and individuals broad license to legally discriminate against LGBTQ people. The law is a legislative embodiment of the right-wing media myth that LGBTQ equality has led to the persecution of Christians, and it was heavily influenced and crafted in part by anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom, a powerful legal organization that has been involved in pushing similar legislation across the country.
Mississippi’s anti-LGBTQ “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” (HB 1523), which Mother Jones called “one of the nation’s most sweeping religious exemption laws,” went into effect on October 10. The law permits “widespread discrimination based on ‘sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions.’” Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) signed the bill into law in April 2016, but its implementation stalled after a court challenge led to a district judge issuing an injunction that blocked the bill. On June 22, a federal appeals court lifted the district court’s injunction. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the law allows “discrimination by individuals, businesses, religiously-affiliated organizations — including hospitals, schools, shelters and others — against LGBT people, single mothers, and vulnerable young people in Mississippi” based on religious beliefs. After the law took effect on October 10, Lambda Legal and the Mississippi Center For Justice filed an appeal asking that the U.S. Supreme Court strike it down.
According to the ACLU, HB 1523 is unique in that it makes Mississippi “the first state to codify discrimination based on a religious belief or moral conviction that members of the LGBTQ community do not matter.” Indeed, the bill purports to be designed to protect people with three specific “sincerely held religious religious beliefs”: that “marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman,” that “sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage,” and that “male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual's immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.” The law gives individuals, private associations, and religiously affiliated organizations license to legally make discriminatory actions against LGBTQ people and others under the guise of holding those three positions.
According to The Associated Press, HB 1523 is “considered the broadest religious-objections state law enacted since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015.” The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has also spoken out against the law, calling it “the “worst anti-LGBTQ state law in the U.S.” and “probably the worst religious freedom bill to date.”
HRC wrote that “under this law, almost any individual or organization could justify discrimination againist LGBTQ people, single mothers, unwed couples, and others.” The organization outlined examples of potential areas of discrimination, noting that “taxpayer funded faith-based organizations could: refuse to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples for provision of critical services including emergency shelter; deny children in need of loving homes placement with LGBTQ families including the child’s own family member; and refuse to sell or rent a for-profit home to an LGBTQ person.” It could also allow foster families to force LGBTQ children into dangerous “conversion therapy,” a harmful practice that attempts to change sexual orientation or gender identity and that has been discredited by every mainstream medical group. The law also allows religious organizations to terminate or discipline an employee “for being gay, trans, or pro-gay, even if they have roles that have nothing to do with religion or education,” according to The Daily Beast.
The law’s text notes that the government cannot act against individuals who decline to treat, counsel, perform gender affirmation surgery, provide psychological services, or provide fertility services to LGBTQ individuals, single mothers, and others based on codified religious beliefs. According to The Daily Beast, HB 1523 would also give schools, businesses, and other organizations license to discriminate against transgender people, as this law could be used to force transgender individuals to use bathrooms that do not align with their gender identity or “to dress as their biological sex at birth.” The law explicitly allows employers and schools to establish "sex-specific standards or policies concerning employee or student dress or grooming.”
Under HB 1523, even government employees are given legal protections to discriminate against LGBTQ people. The Daily Beast wrote that state employees can “proselytize, condemn homosexuals as sinners, argue that gay people should be killed, or put up posters condemning homosexuality as a sin” at their jobs without fear of discipline. The law explicitly allows state employees and judges to recuse themselves "from authorizing or licensing lawful marriages.” That means that county clerks, judges, and magistrates could refuse to authorize same-sex marriages without consequence.
For years, right-wing media have peddled the myth that Christians are being persecuted by LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws, particularly focusing on anti-gay small-business owners who refuse to provide services for same-sex couples. Fox News has long touted stories of business owners -- including a photographer, baker, and florist -- who refused to provide services to same-sex couples and were then sued for violating nondiscrimination ordinances, and Fox News employees Todd Starnes and Erick Erickson have written books devoted to the anti-LGBTQ Christian persecution myth.
Other right-wing media outlets have adopted a similar myth that LGBTQ-inclusive protections will lead to the persecution of Christians. For example, Jonathon Van Maren of Life Site News claimed that there has been a “rapid rise of rainbow fascism” leading to the destruction of businesses owned by Christians. Van Maren continued, “Christian business owners saw the wages they needed to feed their families dry up because they were targeted by gay activists and labeled hateful, homophobic bigots simply for declining to assist in celebrating a gay union.” A post in The Daily Caller listed examples of “LGBT anti-Christian bullying,” arguing that “the fight for respect and equal rights for gays and lesbians has ... occasionally been co-opted by anti-Christian bigots who target individuals’ businesses and threaten them with violence.” Some right-wing websites, like RedState, have used the pejorative term “gay mafia” to describe activists fighting business discrimination against LGBTQ people. A post using the term in its headline asserted that LGBTQ activists’ “primary objective is the complete and utter destruction of morality and Christianity in America–and in the end, the Constitutional rights of every American.”
According to The Washington Post, anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) was heavily involved in the creation of HB 1523, starting its work on the bill before the United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015. The Post reported that ADF lawyer Austin R. Nimocks first emailed a lawyer in Gov. Bryant’s office on June 24, 2015, and in one of his emails attached what he called a “model executive order that would prevent state governments from discriminating against their citizens because of their views or actions concerning marriage.” Mississippi’s bill “adopted many of the identical passages,” according to a brief by an attorney leading challenges against the bill. In March 2016, ADF attorney Kellie Fiedorek sent Bryant two drafts of a signing statement, which is “the final step in the legislative process,” saying, “We looked through a number of Gov. Bryant’s signing statements and tried to use his voice. Please feel free to pull from either one that is most helpful to you and your boss ... we’re here to serve.”
ADF has also provided legal support to Bryant and other Mississippi officials. The group represented Bryant and John Davis, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, after a federal judge blocked the entire bill from taking effect on June 30, 2016. When the case reached the U.S Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, ADF attorneys joined Bryant in issuing a brief in favor of the law and were a part of his legal team.
ADF has been directly involved in the drafting of other state “religious freedom” or “religious freedom restoration acts” (RFRAs), including working quietly with a state senator in Iowa earlier this year. There, ADF worked on legislation modeled after Indiana’s 2015 RFRA, signed by now-Vice President Mike Pence. The ACLU of Iowa successfully worked with partner groups and businesses to block its introduction. In 2014, ADF helped write Arizona’s SB 1062 -- a vetoed bill that would have expanded legal protections for businesses refusing service to gay customers -- and in 2015, ADF “had a hand in” writing Georgia's tabled RFRA.
ADF lawyers have also testified on behalf of or directly promote so-called “religious freedom” bills; in fact, ADF’s vice president of media communications, Greg Scott, characterized enacting RFRAs as “a legislator’s most important duty.” In 2013, ADF senior counsel Joel Oster testified in favor of Kansas' RFRA, which was signed into law that year, and in 2015, ADF senior counsel Michael J. Norton testified in defense of Colorado’s failed "Freedom of Conscience Protection Act.” The organization also promoted a RFRA in Arkansas and helped advise Indiana lawmakers during the debate over the state’s RFRA. In 2016, ADF attorney Matt Sharp testified before the South Dakota legislature in support of a law promising to “ensure government nondiscrimination in matters of religious beliefs and moral convictions,” and ADF counsel Kellie Fiedorek spoke about the so-called “benefits” of a RFRA proposed in West Virginia.
In addition, ADF's reach extends beyond its own representatives’ support for enacting RFRAs to state legislatures where ADF alumni and “allied attorneys” introduce and sponsor similar legislation. North Carolina state Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer (R) sponsored a failed 2015 RFRA in her state after having proudly boasted of her continued “involvement in promoting religious freedom and other family values as an Allied Attorney" with ADF on her now-defunct campaign website. Similarly, in Louisiana, House Rep. Mike Johnson (R), who previously worked as an attorney for ADF, sponsored another anti-LGBTQ RFRA in 2015.
ADF’s involvement in drafting and promoting state RFRAs should not come as a surprise, as the organization's president, Michael Farris, co-chaired a committee that lobbied Congress to pass a federal RFRA in 1993. More recently, ADF consulted Attorney General Jeff Sessions on his sweeping religious freedom guidance, released October 6, which makes “it easier for businesses to discriminate against LGBT people and women” and “legal for nearly any business to fire someone or deny a person services based on religious objections.”
Major anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has teamed up with a cohort of similar groups to whitewash their images and mainstream hate, and nearly every one of them supports harmful reparative therapy for LGBTQ people. Reparative therapy, which attempts to change sexual orientation or gender identity, has been discredited by every mainstream medical group for decades and has severe mental and medical health consequences for its victims. ADF is the largest anti-LGBTQ hate group in the country and a legal powerhouse; it’s currently preparing oral arguments for a Supreme Court case about LGBTQ discrimination under the guise of “religious” or “artistic” freedom.
The Trump administration released new guidance on October 6 making it easier for people or businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people under the guise of “religious freedom.” In July, Attorney General Jeff Sessions promised anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) -- which has been instrumental in passing similar laws across the country -- that the Justice Department would release such guidance.
According to BuzzFeed, the new guidance “says the government cannot unduly burden people or certain businesses from practicing their faith, noting, ‘The free exercise of religion includes the right to act or abstain from action in accordance with one’s religious beliefs.’” The guidance includes “twenty principles” of religious liberty, including one that allows religious employers to “employ only persons whose beliefs and conduct are consistent with the employers’ religious precepts.” In other words, it gives license for religious employers to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals, single mothers, divorced persons, and other groups. It also says that protections for so-called “religious liberty” would apply to individuals “providing or receiving social services, education, or healthcare; … seeking to earn or earning a living; … employing others to do the same; … receiving government grants or contracts; or … otherwise interacting with federal, state, or local governments.” A separate principle in the guidance says it applies “not just to individuals, but also to organizations, associations, and at least some for-profit corporations,” and yet another says the government cannot “second-guess the reasonableness of a religious belief.” In sum, the broad memo “could give people of faith -- including government works and contractors -- a loophole to ignore federal bans on discrimination against women and LGBT people,” according to BuzzFeed.
Sessions promised guidance along those lines in July when he addressed ADF in a closed-door speech that was eventually leaked to the right-wing, rabidly anti-LGBTQ website The Federalist. NBC News reported that during the speech, Sessions said President Donald Trump “has also directed me to issue guidance on how to apply federal religious liberty protections. The department is finalizing this guidance, and I will soon issue it.” Sessions continued, “The guidance will also help agencies follow the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Congress enacted RFRA so that, if the federal government imposes a burden on somebody’s religious practice, it had better have a compelling reason." NBC News spoke with numerous LGBTQ advocates who “suggested Sessions was more interested in protecting the right to discriminate than the freedom of religion.” BuzzFeed also reported that the Justice Department “consulted with religious and political groups with a history of opposing protections for LGBT people,” including ADF. The report noted that ADF has championed and embraced a strategy of “ambiguity in religious policies in the past, believing the scope can be litigated in court.”
ADF is the largest anti-LGBTQ hate group in the nation and has played an instrumental role in enacting other discriminatory anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom restoration” acts in states across the country, including Mississippi’s law, which is expected to go into effect Tuesday. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has called the Mississippi law “by far the most sweeping and devastating state law to be enacted against LGBTQ people in the country,” adding that “under this law, almost any individual or organization could justify discrimination against LGBTQ people, single mothers, unwed couples, and others.” The Washington Post reported in July 2016 that ADF “played a key role in helping Mississippi’s legislature and governor write, promote and legally justify” the bill. The Post noted that ADF’s involvement was “notable … because state officials did not disclose aid from the organization” and that a lawyer challenging the bill said it “adopted many of the identical passages” in ADF’s “model executive order.” A lawsuit against the law stalled it from going into effect until this month. ADF attorneys “are part of the legal team representing Gov. Phil Bryant in the lawsuits,” according to ADF.
In Iowa, ADF worked with a state senator on legislation modeled after Indiana’s 2015 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed by now-Vice President Mike Pence. The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa successfully worked with partner groups and businesses to block its introduction. ADF has also fought for and helped enact numerous other such acts in states across the country: It helped write Arizona’s SB 1062, which was ultimately vetoed; one of its lawyers testified in favor of Kansas’ religious freedom act, which passed in 2013; another one of its lawyers testified in defense of a failed religious freedom restoration act in Colorado; it “had a hand in” writing a proposed religious freedom restoration act in Georgia; it promoted a religious freedom restoration act in Arkansas; and it helped “advise” Indiana lawmakers during the state’s debate over its own act. ADF’s Kellie Fiedorek stood behind then-Gov. Pence when he signed the bill into law.
ADF has supported a number of other extreme anti-LGBTQ positions, including criminalizing homosexuality. ADF (then called the Alliance Defense Fund) formally supported the criminalization of sodomy in the U.S. in 2003 when it filed an amicus brief in Lawrence v. Texas defending state sodomy laws in which it called “same-sex sodomy … a distinct public health problem.” When the court struck down anti-sodomy laws, ADF called the ruling “devastating.”
The group is also leading the national campaign for “bathroom bills” targeting transgender youth and is representing plaintiff Jack Phillips in the upcoming Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission Supreme Court case. The case may similarly determine whether businesses serving the public have the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people under the guise of “religious” or “artistic freedom.” On October 6, in what was seen by some as an “unusual move,” the Justice Department filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court siding with ADF and its client in that case. ADF has demonstrated time and time again a commitment to chipping away at LGBTQ equality and turning members of the community into second class citizens, and Friday’s guidance by the Justice Department shows the group has powerful, like-minded allies in the Trump administration.
Rebecca Damante contributed research to this report. Headline changed for clarity.
ADF has coordinated with more than a dozen hate and right-wing groups to whitewash anti-LGBTQ hate as the group heads to the Supreme Court this fall
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is the largest anti-LGBTQ hate group in the nation and is representing plaintiff Jack Phillips in the upcoming Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission Supreme Court case. The case may determine whether businesses serving the public have the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people under the guise of “religious” or “artistic freedom.” ADF is also currently part of a joint effort, alongside a number of other anti-LGBTQ groups and hate groups, to undermine the “hate group” designation made by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). As such it has co-signed two letters opposing the designation and formally joined an “SPLCexposed” campaign.
The group has supported a number of extreme, anti-LGBTQ positions, including criminalizing homosexuality. ADF (then called the Alliance Defense Fund) formally supported the criminalization of sodomy in the U.S. in 2003 when it filed an amicus brief in Lawrence v. Texas defending state sodomy laws in which it called “same-sex sodomy … a distinct public health problem.” When the court struck down anti-sodomy laws, ADF called the ruling “devastating” and continued its work supporting the criminalization of gay sex abroad, including in Jamaica, Belize, and India.
According to SPLC, ADF representatives regularly slander and demonize LGBTQ people, including by pushing the myth that pedophilia and “homosexual behavior” are “often intrinsically linked.” An affiliated lawyer has also called marriage equality a sign of the “degradation of our human dignity” that has “led to a deification of deviant sexual practices.” The group is also leading the national campaign for “bathroom bills” targeting transgender youth.
The legal powerhouse raked in more than $50 million in revenue in 2015 and has what it refers to as a “powerful global network” of over 3,100 ADF-trained “allied attorneys.” ADF’s influence is widespread. It has played a role in dozens of Supreme Court cases, including regarding abortion, religion, tuition tax credits, and LGBTQ issues; it has special consultative status at the United Nations; it has at least 55 affiliated lawyers serving in influential government positions at the state and federal levels; and it has attempted to sway local school policy across the country, often successfully.
ADF has worked relentlessly to whitewash its image, joining a number of other anti-LGBTQ groups and hate groups to attack the “hate group” designation. Here is a list of ADF’s anti-LGBTQ allies in their coordinated effort to mainstream hate:
FRC is one of ADF’s official “allied organizations” that co-signed both letters attacking the “hate group” designation, and is part of the “SPLCexposed” campaign with ADF.
The Family Research Council (FRC) is another anti-LGBTQ hate group that has partnered with ADF and others to whitewash their extremism and cast doubt on their hate group status. FRC joined ADF in the “SPLCexposed” campaign as an official supporting partner. It also co-signed two letters with ADF, one attacking nonprofit database Guidestar for labeling them as hate groups and another asking the media to drop the “hate group” label. ADF also promotes FRC as an allied organization on its website, and FRC submitted an amicus brief in support of legalizing discrimination against LGBTQ people in the Masterpiece case.
FRC’s official position is that “homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large” and “is by definition unnatural,” and the organization promotes the idea “that people can and should try to change their sexual orientation” or “just not act on it.”
According to SPLC, former FRC Vice President Rob Schwarzwalder accused gay youth of joining the Boy Scouts of America “for predatory purposes,” and various FRC representatives and publications have repeatedly compared homosexuality to pedophilia. Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at FRC, asserted that LGBTQ youth suicide rates would drop if the teenagers were “discourage[d] from self-identifying as gay, lesbian, or bisexual” and urged others “not to create a positive social environment for the affirmation of homosexuality.” In a 2010 appearance on MSNBC, Sprigg also said that “there would be a place for criminal sanctions against homosexual behavior,” a statement not out of step from FRC’s 2003 filing of an amicus brief supporting anti-sodomy laws. In 2011, FRC called for its supporters to pray for countries that had laws criminalizing sodomy and were being pressured by the U.S. to remove them, and it suggested that homosexuality “has had a devastating impact upon Africans,” citing the AIDS crisis as an example.
FRC has a budget of tens of millions of dollars and wields significant influence in the current administration. Its senior fellow, Ken Blackwell, was officially appointed to President Donald Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which critics have described as a voter suppression effort. FRC President Tony Perkins embraced and endorsed Trump as a presidential candidate (and met with him at the White House in June). And at least four people who are affiliated with FRC, including Blackwell, were a part of Trump’s transition team.
Liberty Counsel co-signed both letters with ADF and joined it in the “SPLCexposed” campaign.
Liberty Counsel is an anti-LGBTQ hate group founded by Mat Staver, former dean of Liberty University School of Law, that “shares a close affiliation with Liberty University.” Liberty Counsel partnered with ADF in the “SPLCexposed” campaign and co-signed both letters with the group.
Liberty Counsel filed an amicus brief in support of ADF’s client in the Masterpiece case, and it has expressed support for criminalizing homosexuality, filing a 2003 amicus brief in support of anti-sodomy laws. In 2012, the organization signed on to defend an anti-LGBTQ extremist who “allegedly played an instrumental part in the Ugandan parliament’s adoption of a draconian anti-LGBT bill that originally included the death penalty in some instances.”
Staver has called LGBTQ History Month a "sexual assault on our children," repeatedly warned that the Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage would trigger a revolution and could lead to civil war, and claimed nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people will result in the "death of some individuals." Staver has also compared LGBTQ people to pedophiles, once saying that allowing gay youth and adults in the Boy Scouts will cause “all kinds of sexual molestation” and create a “playground for pedophiles to go and have all these boys as objects of their lust.”
Former Liberty Counsel attorney Matt Barber said LGBTQ people “know intuitively that what they are doing is immoral, unnatural, and self-destructive,” adding that they have “tied their whole identity up in this sexual perversion.” In a column for WorldNetDaily, Barber called “disease, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide … consequences” of being gay.
In 2014, Liberty Counsel brought in more than $5.5 million in revenue. The organization famously represented Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis in litigation after she refused to issue marriage licenses to same and opposite-sex couples in 2015; Talking Points Memo reported that Staver “compared Davis’ plight to that of Jews in Nazi Germany” during a radio interview.
PJI is one of ADF’s official “allied organizations” and co-signed a letter with ADF asking the media to drop the “hate group” designation.
Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) is an anti-LGBTQ hate group that also filed an amicus brief in the Masterpiece case. ADF lists PJI as an allied organization on its website, and PJI co-signed the letter along with ADF asking media outlets to drop the “hate group” designation. Notably, PJI has a history of fabricating stories to advance anti-LGBTQ narratives. The group led a smear campaign against a transgender teenager that led to her getting harassed and receiving death threats after her name was leaked to the public; as a result, the teenager was put on suicide watch. PJI relied on debunked claims to defame the student and accuse her of harassing other students, and a few news outlets retracted their stories about the matter after PJI’s claims were determined false. PJI also pushed a bogus story about a California mom who claimed that an REI sporting goods store kicked her out for complaining about a man frightening her daughter in the women’s restroom. It has also pushed fabricated stories about anti-LGBTQ students being bullied in California
PJI’s president, Brad Dacus, has compared stopping marriage equality with stopping Nazis. In 1993, Dacus represented a baptist minister in court after he was removed from the city’s Human Rights Commission for suggesting that he agreed with the biblical punishment of stoning gay men to death; Dacus defended his client’s statement under the guise of so-called “freedom of religion.” Dacus claimed in 2012 that overturning the Defense of Marriage Act could create an “open heydey” for “polygamy” and “perhaps adult incest.” In 2015, PJI brought in $2 million in revenue, and the group conducts outreach on multiple international fronts, including to Slavic countries, China, and Korea.
NOM is one of ADF’s official “allied organizations” and is an official supporting partner of the “SPLCexposed” campaign.
National Organization for Marriage (NOM) was founded in 2007 to fight same-sex marriage. ADF touts NOM as an allied organization on its website, and NOM is an official supporting partner of the “SPLCexposed” campaign.
NOM ran its first anti-LGBTQ campaign in 2008 as one of the leading groups pushing Proposition 8 in California, a successful ballot initiative that invalidated marriage equality in the state before it was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2013. Early this month, NOM submitted an amicus brief in support of ADF’s client in the Masterpiece case.
Though NOM’s influence and finances have decreased significantly in the years since marriage equality spread throughout the country, the group has significant ties to other prominent anti-LGBTQ groups. The Ruth Institute, a hate group, began as an arm of NOM, and NOM President Brian Brown also runs the World Congress of Families, an anti-LGBTQ hate group that worked closely with Russian lawmakers, activists, and officials as the country shaped its “gay propaganda” law. That law “has been seen as effectively criminalizing any public expression of same-sex relationships,” according to Mother Jones, and it has led to the arrests of activists and increased violence against LGBTQ people in Russia.
In 2012, NOM became the subject of controversy in the U.S. when secret documents by the group were discovered attempting to pit minority groups against LGBTQ people. The documents outlined a strategy to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks” by “fanning the hostility” between the two groups. They also said it aimed to “interrupt this process of assimilation” for Latino people “by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity - a symbol of resistance to inappropriate assimilation.” According to SPLC, the group has repeatedly pushed the work of anti-LGBTQ extremists attempting to connect LGBTQ people to pedophilia, and Brown has said that marriage equality could lead to “normalizing pedophilia.” According to the Human Rights Campaign, Brown has been actively involved in anti-LGBTQ activism in Russia, including by advocating against gay adoption, telling Russians to “defend your values” and “protect our children.” Additionally, NOM was fined more than $50,000 in 2014 for violating campaign finance laws.
The late D. James Kennedy was a key founder of ADF, and he also founded D. James Kennedy Ministries, one of ADF’s official “allied organizations.” The group also co-signed the letter to media asking outlets to drop the “hate group” label.
D. James Kennedy Ministries, formerly known as Truth in Action, is an anti-LGBTQ hate group. The group is an official allied organization of ADF and co-signed the letter to media asking outlets to drop the “hate group” label in their coverage. The late D. James Kennedy, who founded the Ministries, was one of the key founders of ADF in 1993.
The group has produced a series of anti-LGBTQ films, including one opposing allowing gay kids to join the Boy Scouts and saying that they would put “boys at serious risk.” It has a weekly radio program that regularly hosts anti-LGBTQ figures, giving them a platform to spread vitriol.
According to Right Wing Watch, the group has repeatedly suggested that America is becoming Nazi Germany because of advancements in LGBTQ rights, once linking the Day of Silence -- a “student-led national event organized in thousands of schools, bringing awareness to the silencing effects of anti-LGBTQ name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools” -- with “Adolf Hitler’s birthday.” As Truth in Action, D. James Kennedy Ministries also released a film that displayed “images of the September 11 attacks, bombings, drug abuse, Adolf Hitler…and a married lesbian couple and the kiss between characters Kurt and Blaine on Glee” as a narrator discussed “everything that is evil in this world.” One of the group’s representatives asserted that “about 75 percent of those who struggle with homosexual or lesbian feelings were molested as children.” The group also said in 2012 that the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell would “jeopardize the military’s health and blood supply, since homosexual men are far more likely to be promiscuous and to have STDs, including HIV/AIDS.” In 2013, the group pushed a made-up story that a high school athlete was disqualified from competing at state level because he made a religious gesture, eventually scrubbing it from its website.
In 2015, D. James Kennedy Ministries brought in nearly $5 million in revenue.
ACPeds co-signed both letters with ADF attacking the “hate group” designation, and ADF attorneys have filed multiple briefs in court alongside and on behalf of ACPeds.
The American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) is a small anti-LGBTQ hate group of a few hundred members whose name is meant to be confused with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) -- a 60,000-member group comprising “leaders in the professional field.” ACPeds President Dr. Michelle Cretella co-signed both letters along with ADF attacking the hate designation. ADF attorneys have filed multiple briefs in court on behalf of ACPeds. The latter group has also filed an amicus brief in support of ADF’s clients in the Masterpiece case.
According to SPLC, ACPeds hides “under the veneer of its professional-sounding name and claims” in order to “defame and discredit LGBT people, often by distorting legitimate research.” ACPeds began when a “small group of anti-LGBT physicians and other healthcare professionals broke away” from AAP after it began supporting the right of same-sex couples to adopt and foster-parent children. ACPeds has been relentless in its claim that it’s dangerous for children to identify as LGBTQ; its blog has suggested that “P for pedophile” should be a part of the LGBT acronym, and, in 2010, the group’s then-president sent a letter to more than 14,000 school district superintendents advocating for conversion therapy and outlining the so-called “health risks” of “claim[ing] a ‘gay’ identity.” Conversion therapy is a dangerous practice that has been “rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization for decades.”
Former AFA President Donald Wildmon was a key founder of ADF. AFA is one of ADF’s official “allied organizations” and co-signed both letters attacking the “hate group” designation.
American Family Association (AFA) is an anti-LGBTQ hate group that filed an amicus brief in support of ADF’s client in the Masterpiece case. AFA is an official allied organization of ADF and co-signed both letters with ADF attacking the hate group designation. Former AFA President Donald Wildmon was a key founder of ADF, which was formed in 1993 when “a coalition of 35 Christian Right groups” joined together to found it. Wildmon’s son, Tim Wildmon, now runs the organization, which according to SPLC consists of a “200-station radio network, about 100 employees and a monthly AFA Journal sent to 180,000 people — largely on the basis of anti-gay appeals.”
SPLC reported that, in early 2000s, AFA sent a mailer saying that it “must OPPOSE the spread of homosexual activity! Just as we must oppose murder, stealing, and adultery," adding that LGBTQ people “RECRUIT” children. The group ran a multi-year “ex-gay” campaign called “Truth In Love” that advocated for curing LGBTQ people. The campaign included an AFA film that claimed that “80% of homosexual men have a sexually transmitted disease.” The film also featured a man who had been a prominent “ex-gay” activist and who was later found to be “hosting orgies, taking drugs and having unprotected sex with other men without disclosing his HIV status” while he traveled around the country condemning “the homosexual lifestyle.” The film is still listed on AFA’s website, which claims it has been shown in “thousands of churches.”
According to SPLC, AFA’s Bryan Fischer has repeatedly pushed a myth that the Nazi party was formed by LGBTQ people, saying that Nazism was “rooted in the homosexual movement” and “formed in a gay bar.” Fischer has said that Nazi Germany tried “homosexuality in the military” before asking, “How did that experiment work out?” He also claimed that “homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews.” According to SPLC, these discredited assertions came from “the Holocaust revisionist work of Scott Lively,” who claimed that “because of the ‘savage nature’ of gay men, they were able to instigate and carry out the Holocaust.” As recently as September 23, Fischer expressed support for criminalizing homosexuality, tweeting, “If injection drug abuse is contrary to public policy, homosexual conduct should too. And for the same reasons.”
AFA brought in nearly $30 million in revenue in 2014, and the notorious “One Million Moms” campaign is an offshoot of the group. It urges campaigns against and boycotts of what its members call “filth” in the entertainment media.
C-Fam and ADF have worked together on multiple international initiatives. C-Fam has hired some of ADF’s Blackstone Legal Fellows for summer positions, and the group co-signed the letter to the media attacking the “hate group” designation.
The Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam), formerly known as the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, is an anti-LGBTQ hate group run by Austin Ruse. C-Fam and ADF have worked together and supported and promoted each other’s work on a number of causes. Ruse spoke before more than 100 of ADF’s Blackstone Legal Fellows and C-Fam hosted fellows for summer internships. Ruse co-signed the letter to media with ADF that asked media outlets to drop the “hate group” designation in their coverage. According to its website, C-Fam was founded “in order to monitor and affect the social policy debate at the United Nations and other international institutions” and focuses its work internationally.
Ruse was the subject of controversy in 2014 when he said that “the hard left, human-hating people that run modern universities” should “all be taken out and shot.” He later had to apologize for the statement. Ruse also mocked a 15-year-old transgender activist, using the word “trannies” and employing her image in a post about HIV rates in the transgender community. He also denies that the 1998 anti-gay hate crime murder of Matthew Shepard was a hate crime, publishing multiple pieces on Breitbart saying that “homosexuality had little or nothing to do with his murder” and that Shepard “was not killed by gay bias, gay hatred.” Ruse has said that all countries should pass laws against homosexual behavior “even if unenforced,” in order to "help society to teach what is good" and “prevent such truly harmful practices as homosexual marriage and adoption.” According to GLAAD, Ruse has also claimed that, rather than bullying and social stigma, LGBTQ people and activism are the real cause of LGBTQ teen suicide and alcoholism. C-Fam brought in more than $1.8 million in revenue in 2015 and was granted special consultative status to the United Nations in 2014.
TVC co-signed both letters with ADF attacking the “hate group” designation.
Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) is an anti-LGBTQ hate group founded by Lou Sheldon and currently run by his daughter Andrea Lafferty. Lafferty co-signed both letters alongside ADF attacking the “hate group” designation.
Sheldon has pushed the myth that LGBTQ people are pedophiles, claiming, “As homosexuals continue to make inroads into public schools, more children will be molested and indoctrinated into the world of homosexuality.” According to SPLC, TVC has also asserted that “homosexuals molest children at a far greater rate than do their heterosexual counterparts.” Lafferty, too, has pushed the myth, telling Breitbart News Daily that trans-inclusive bathroom policies at Target and Hershey Park made them “pedophile magnets and pervert magnets.” Lafferty also called transgender kids “psychologically unhealthy and unstable” and said that it’s the “ultimate act of child abuse” to affirm a transgender child’s identity. Lafferty also believes that transgender people should be banned from teaching.
According to SPLC, Sheldon has also compared homosexuality “to smoking or drug use, not an immutable characteristic like race or ethnicity,” suggested forcibly placing AIDS victims into “cities of refuge,” and said in the 1990s that a newly passed hate crime law would “protect sex with animals and the rape of children as forms of political expression.” Similar to other anti-LGBTQ extremists, Sheldon has compared queer activists to Nazis, saying that attitudes about LGBTQ people “have been deliberately and deceitfully changed by a masterful propaganda/marketing campaign that rivals that of Adolph [sic] Hitler. In fact, many of the strategies used by homosexuals to bring about cultural change in America are taken from Hitler’s writings and propaganda welfare manuals.” In 2014, the group brought in more than $4.1 million in revenue, and it was granted remarkable access to the White House during President George W. Bush’s administration.
The Ruth Institute is one of ADF’s official “allied organizations” and co-signed the letter to media asking outlets to drop the “hate group” designation. Its founder has given a lecture to ADF Blackstone fellows.
The Ruth Institute is an anti-LGBTQ hate group that began as an arm of NOM and split off in 2013. The Ruth Institute is an official allied organization of ADF and co-signed the letter with ADF asking media outlets to drop the “hate group” designation in their coverage. The group's founder and president, Jennifer Morse, has given a lecture to ADF Blackstone fellows in which she compared resisting the “sexual revolution” to standing up against Nazis.
The group used to hold an annual student conference to prepare college students and recent graduates to defend “natural marriage.” According to SPLC, Morse “has mostly steered clear of the kind of vicious anti-LBGT rhetoric employed by some on the religious right,” but the group highlights a “Circle of Experts” on its website. These so-called “experts” spread vicious lies about LGBTQ people, including connecting LGBTQ activism to Nazism, pushing junk science that “children of same-sex couples fare worse,” and connecting them to pedophilia.
Morse has said that LGBTQ people should stay celibate and has said that being gay is a “completely shameless activity,” according to GLAAD. She has repeatedly pushed a debunked connection between Nazis and LGBTQ people, saying that “the parallels are really quite chilling because the Nazis were able to scare people into being silent, and they scared people by threatening their jobs, and they scared people by creating an atmosphere of intimidation. I hate to say it but it is happening to us.” In another speech, Morse said that same-sex marriage is part of a “pagan ideology” that Christians should avoid like Nazism.
NTFTE and Equality and Justice for All’s Christopher Doyle co-signed both letters with ADF lamenting the “hate group” designation and received legal representation from ADF.
“Ex-gay” activist Christopher Doyle runs The National Task Force for Therapy Equality (NTFTE) and is a consultant for Equality and Justice for All. Doyle and his group advocate for harmful reparative therapy under the guise of “therapy equality.” Doyle signed both letters along with ADF lamenting the “hate group” label, and ADF has previously provided legal representation for Doyle. NTFTE filed a report in May to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) attacking human rights organizations for what NTFTE called a “hate campaign” to ban reparative therapy. In the report, NTFTE described its purpose as to “secure therapy equality for clients that experience distress over unwanted same-sex attractions and gender identity conflicts.” According to The Washington Post, the complaint accused human rights groups “of committing ‘mass fraud’ and ‘actively distorting the scientific research by promoting the ‘Born Gay’ hoax.’” Doyle’s group Equality and Justice for All attempts to incorporate the harmful myth that LGBTQ people can change their orientation in the “formation of public policy.”
IFI’s website says it has a “working relationship” with ADF, as well as FRC and AFA, and it co-signed both letters attacking the “hate group” designation.
Illinois Family Institute (IFI) is an anti-LGBTQ hate group active in Illinois. It’s Executive Director David Smith co-signed both letters along with ADF lamenting the “hate group” label. At the bottom of its website, IFI notes that it has a “working relationship” with ADF, FRC, and AFA.
IFI has pressured school boards across Illinois to rescind policies that protect LGBTQ people and urged its supporters to get involved in school board elections. Additionally, according to SPLC, IFI has regularly pushed debunked data about LGBTQ people, including that “the median age of death of the homosexual man is 42. Only 9% live past age 65.”
According to GLAAD, Smith has called homosexuality “depraved” and “unnatural” and equated LGBTQ couples with “incestuous couples” and pedophiles. One of IFI’s most extreme figures is Laurie Higgins, who once wrote a blog post published on the website opposingviews.com called “Church Should Fight Homosexuality Like It Did Nazism.” The piece compared the “failure of the church to oppose the extermination of Jews and the government usurpation of control of the church in Nazi Germany” to the “American church’s failure to respond appropriately to the spread of radical, heretical, destructive views of homosexuality.” Higgins claimed that Opposing Views changed the title of her article, and the article has since been removed for the website. In 2014, she attacked gay media personality Dan Savage as “repugnant” and said that she needed to “expose the dark realities of this pernicious movement” just as we must “view photos from Auschwitz” and “of lynchings.” Higgins called it “illuminating the necessity of occasionally viewing the evil in our midst.” She has also said that “there was something profoundly good for society about the prior stigmatization of homosexual practice … when homosexuals were ‘in the closet.’” Higgins has also repeatedly expressed support for Russia’s “gay propaganda” law, saying it “protects minors from homosexuality-affirming propaganda” and suggesting that “perhaps we need an anti-propagandizing-to-minors law” in the United States.
American Values President Gary Bauer co-signed the letter with ADF asking media outlets to drop the “hate group” label.
American Values President Gary Bauer served as FRC’s second president from 1988 through 1999. Bauer co-signed the letter along with ADF calling on media to drop the “hate group” label. According to SPLC, Bauer’s work “raised the FRC’s profile, increased its effectiveness, and built a national network of ‘concerned citizens’ during the Clinton Administration.” He also “brought in several anti-gay researchers who pumped out defamatory material about the LGBT community” during his time at FRC. In a 1998 appearance at Harvard Kennedy School, Bauer expressed support for anti-sodomy laws, saying that “states have a right to, in their laws and in their codes, to decide which sexual activity they want to discourage in a variety of ways.” During that appearance, he also said that “it would be a terrible mistake to add conduct to civil rights codes” in a question about legal discrimination against LGBTQ people at workplace. Bauer said, “It would be a disaster to take something like conduct, homosexual conduct, and attempt to fold it into the rubric of civil rights laws that we have.” He continued to say that he believes landlords should be able to refuse housing to LGBTQ people.
Bauer served in President Ronald Reagan’s White House, where he fought to prevent Reagan from appointing a “known homosexual” to his commission on AIDS, instead suggesting a “reformed” ex-gay who is “not currently living a gay life style.” In 2012, Bauer similarly called former presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s decision to hire an openly gay staffer a “disappointment” and attacked the staffer for being “an outspoken advocate of redefining normal marriage.” Bauer has also attempted to link the Obama administration’s support for same-sex marriage and crime in Chicago, asking how “the radical idea of men marrying other men” is “going to help the black family?”