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  • Anti-LGBTQ powerhouse Alliance Defending Freedom had more than 100 allies in influential government positions in 2018

    ADF allies had positions of influence in Congress, federal agencies, state and federal courts, city and state governments, and local school boards — and we only know a fraction of its network

    Blog ››› ››› KAYLA GOGARTY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    This is the second part of a two-part investigation into ADF's network of allies in the government. Read the first part here and click here for Media Matters’ database of more than 100 ADF allied attorneys, Blackstone Legal Fellows, and current and former staff who held a government position in 2018.

    In 2018, extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) had allies in more than 100 positions throughout local, state, and federal government, according to a Media Matters analysis of a fraction of its network of thousands of lawyers.

    ADF allies in government have positions in multiple federal agencies, the U.S. Congress, state legislatures, school boards, city councils, and even federal courts. For years, ADF said it would work to “reclaim our nation’s judicial system” and advance its right-wing, anti-LGBTQ legal agenda through its staff and allies, including a vast allied attorney network, its Blackstone Legal Fellowship, and other training programs for conservative Christians interested or working in the legal profession.

    ADF has a troubling lack of transparency about its network of attorneys, which is particularly concerning given that so many of its allies hold influential positions in the government. To shed some light on ADF’s government influence, Media Matters has identified over 100 former ADF employees, allied attorneys, or participants in its Blackstone Legal Fellowship who held government positions in 2018. They likely represent only a fraction of the total number, as ADF claims to have thousands of allies in its networks whose associations with the group are difficult or impossible to track down.

    Media Matters determined each individual’s ADF affiliation based on news reporting, ADF’s website and press releases, archived ADF newsletters, self-reporting on LinkedIn or in professional bios, university materials and pamphlets, and other publicly available sources. This research also benefited from the Rewire.News database of over 100 ADF Blackstone Legal Fellowship alumni. Media Matters has previously identified over 50 ADF alumni who served as government officials in 2017, and in February, we reported nearly 300 allied attorneys that ADF identified in dozens of press releases and other posts on its website.

    ADF has allies working in state or local government positions in more than 25 different states and across the federal government, including the judiciary. Below is a selection of notable ADF allies from our database who hold several types of positions in government.

    ADF allies in federal agencies

    The Trump-Pence administration has enacted many of its worst anti-LGBTQ policies through federal agencies. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services has implemented policies making it easier for health care workers to refuse care to LGBTQ people based on religious beliefs; the Department of Defense has barred transgender service members from serving; and the Department of Education has rolled back guidance protecting transgender students, just to name a few. All of these departments employ ADF allies who may be able to affect and interpret LGBTQ-related policy changes.

    Several ADF allies have notable positions in federal agencies:

    • Kerri Kupec, former ADF legal counsel and director of communications, serves as director of the Office of Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of Justice, where she has defended the Trump-Pence administration’s policy of prohibiting transgender people from serving in the military. While at ADF, Kupec praised the current administration for rescinding the Obama administration’s guidance for trans-inclusive school facilities. Kupec held several positions in the DOJ Office of Public Affairs before becoming its director. She also served as a White House spokesperson helping with confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. During that time, the White House briefed ADF President Michael Farris with private information about the FBI investigation into reports that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted professor Christine Blasey Ford while they were in high school.

    • Former ADF senior legal counsel Matt Bowman currently works as deputy general counsel for the Department of Health and Human Services, which has notably been employing prominent right-wing religious activists under the Trump-Pence administration. The department started a conscience and religious freedom division and recently finalized a “Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care” rule, both of which make it easier for health care providers to deny services to LGBTQ people, among others. In fact, Bowman reportedly helped craft HHS regulations rolling back the Obama administration’s mandate requiring health insurance plans to cover birth control under the Affordable Care Act. While at ADF, Bowman represented the anti-abortion group March for Life in a 2014 lawsuit against the Obama-era mandate. Also during that time, Bowman wrote an op-ed arguing that the Obama administration’s LGBTQ-inclusive HHS regulations posed an “urgent threat against the rights of many Christian and pro-life institutions and individuals regarding their beliefs about the sanctity of human life and sexuality.”

    ADF allies in federal and state courts

    The Trump-Pence administration has nominated at least seven ADF allies for federal judgeships, and several federal courts include ADF allies as law clerks. ADF-affiliated judges are part of the Trump administration’s broader effort to “reshape the American judicial system” by filling the courts with conservative judges.

    Five federal judicial nominees with ties to ADF have been confirmed under the Trump-Pence administration:

    • Allison Jones Rushing was confirmed to the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in March 2019 even after LGBTQ and civil rights groups highlighted her previous internship with ADF. In her Senate Judiciary Committee nomination questionnaire, Rushing also noted her participation in speaking engagements for ADF as recently as 2017.

    • Allied attorney Kyle Duncan on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. Prior to his judicial appointment, Duncan was involved in several LGBTQ-related cases, including “defending Louisiana’s ban on same-sex marriage” and representing a Virginia school board in its case against a transgender high school student who wanted access to facilities that aligned with his gender identity.

    • Former Blackstone fellow Joseph Toth serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. His presence could impact LGBTQ veterans -- particularly transgender veterans who already face difficulty accessing necessary medical benefits -- now that the Trump-Pence administration has recently implemented its ban on transgender service members.

    • Allied attorney Michael Joseph Juneau serves on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana after being confirmed in 2018.

    • Jeremy Kernodle serves as a federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas after he was confirmed in 2018. Kernodle identified himself as an ADF allied attorney during the confirmation process but later asserted that he was not aware of his listing as an allied attorney until he began preparing for his nomination.

    The 2017 federal judicial nomination of ADF allied attorney Jeff Mateer was withdrawn after some of his extreme anti-LGBTQ comments were uncovered. He remains the first assistant attorney general in Texas. ADF allied attorney and former ADF senior counsel Thomas Marcelle is still awaiting Senate confirmation after his January re-nomination.

    Outside of federal courts, there are also at least two state Supreme Court justices with ADF connections:

    • Nels Peterson completed the Blackstone Legal Fellowship in 2002 and now serves as a Georgia Supreme Court justice after being appointed in 2017.

    • Blackstone Legal Fellow Brian Hagedorn was elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in April after previously serving on the state’s Court of Appeals. Hagedorn has an extensive history of anti-LGBTQ positions, such as arguing that “the idea that homosexual behavior is different than bestiality as a constitutional matter is unjustifiable. There is no right in our Constitution to have sex with whoever or whatever you want in the privacy of your own home (or barn).”

    ADF allies are representatives in Congress and state legislatures

    According to Freedom for All Americans, more than 150 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in state legislatures in 2018. ADF has played a direct role in shaping anti-LGBTQ legislation at the state level, including creating and distributing anti-LGBTQ model policies such as its “Student Physical Privacy Policy.” In 2017, legislatures in at least eight states introduced policies resembling that model. ADF also helped write, promote, and justify a discriminatory law in Mississippi that gives religious organizations, businesses, and individuals broad license to legally discriminate against LGBTQ people.

    There were at least seven ADF-affiliated lawmakers in the U.S. Congress and state legislatures in 2018:

    • In Congress, allied attorney and former ADF lawyer Mike Johnson represents the 4th District of Louisiana in the U.S. House of Representatives. Johnson was previously a state representative and sponsored a religious exemptions bill that would have made it easier to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

    • Arizona's J.D. Mesnard is concurrently working as both a state senator and a regional director for ADF’s Church Alliance. As part of the Church Alliance, Mesnard has to agree to ADF’s statement of faith which includes rejecting transgender people, same-sex relations, and sex outside of marriage. Prior to becoming a state senator in 2019, Mesnard served as a state representative for eight years, including two years as speaker of the House. While speaker, Mesnard released a workplace harassment policy for the state House that did not include protections for LGBTQ representatives.

    • Former senior counsel and allied attorney Steve O’Ban serves as a Washington state senator, a position he has held since 2013. ADF’s website noted that his time on staff there overlapped for several years with his time as a legislator. As a state senator, O’Ban voted against a bill protecting LGBTQ youth from the harmful and discredited practice of conversion therapy. In 2016, while both serving as a state senator and working for ADF, O’Ban sued the U.S. Department of Education on behalf of a school district that did not want to implement trans-inclusive facilities. He also argued in favor of suspending the Iowa Civil Rights Act for including protections based on gender identity.

    • ADF allied attorney Matt Shea has served as Washington state representative for over a decade, and he touts his ties to ADF in both his campaign and government biographies. Shea is also a co-founder of the Washington Family Foundation, which is an anti-LGBTQ organization that later merged with the Family Policy Institute of Washington. The group is affiliated with the Family Policy Alliance and extreme anti-LGBTQ group Family Research Council. During his 2018 reelection campaign, Shea acknowledged that “he had distributed a four-page manifesto titled ‘Biblical Basis for War,’” which included violent language about people who flout “biblical law,” stating, “If they do not yield - kill all males.” It also condemned abortion and same-sex marriage. As a state representative, Shea has voted against multiple bills promoting LGBTQ equality, and he sponsored several anti-LGBTQ bills, including one defining marriage as between a man and a woman and another that would limit access for transgender people to facilities consistent with their gender identity. His extreme views expand beyond anti-LGBTQ rhetoric; Shea also has a history of working with anti-Muslim and militia groups.

    • Former Illinois state Rep. Peter Breen, Louisiana state Rep. Alan Seabaugh, and former Missouri state Rep. Kevin Corlew are some of the other state lawmakers connected to ADF.

    ADF allies are state attorneys general and solicitors general, and they are in state attorneys general offices

    The mandate of a state attorney general varies by state, but they are generally considered the state’s top legal official and “advise and represent their legislature and state agencies and act as the ‘People’s Lawyer’ for the citizens.”

    ADF has at least two allied attorneys serving as state attorneys general:

    • Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson has been tied to ADF for more than two decades, attending its first training program in 1997 and ultimately providing ADF with more than 10,000 hours of pro bono service. Notably, Clarkson served as local counsel alongside ADF in an ongoing case in Alaska regarding a women’s homeless shelter that denied entry to a transgender woman. He withdrew from the case the day after being appointed to his current position. As attorney general, Clarkson has broad powers to advise the governor and represent the state in legal matters, “including the furnishing of written legal opinions to the governor, the legislature, and all state officers and departments,” which can include supporting and defending anti-LGBTQ bills. In a 2019 interview with Clarkson, ADF wrote that he "remains committed to ADF ideals" as attorney general.

    • Montana Attorney General Timothy Fox is also an ADF allied attorney. Fox worked alongside ADF as local counsel on behalf of a church that was accused of violating state election law after congregants signed petitions for an amendment to the state constitution limiting the definition of marriage between a man and woman. Fox has used his office to fight against LGBTQ rights such as same-sex marriage and trans-inclusive facilities.

    Many states appoint solicitors general to oversee “the appellate operation in state attorney general offices.” State solicitors general can oversee the “preparation of legal opinions and appellate litigation,” determine whether the state should write or join amicus briefs, and even argue before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of their state, as ADF ally and Montana Solicitor General Dale Schowengerdt has done.

    ADF affiliates served as solicitors general in Montana and Nevada in 2018:

    In addition to these positions, ADF affiliates also staff attorneys general offices in states across the country, including Alaska, Arizona, Montana, Nevada, and Texas. In fact, there are four ADF affiliates in both the Arizona and Texas attorneys general offices:

    • ADF allies Evan Daniels, Joseph La Rue, Angelina Nguyen, and Esther Winne all work in Arizona’s attorney general office. The office has submitted briefs in support of ADF clients Jack Phillips, Breanna Koski, and Joanna Duka in cases working to overturn LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination policies.

    • ADF allies David Hacker, Heather Hacker, Jeff Mateer, and Austin Nimocks all worked in Texas’ attorney general office in 2018, though Nimocks has since left. Additionally, ADF Blackstone Fellow Ryan Bangert moved from the Missouri attorney general office to the Texas attorney general office in January 2019. The office has supported Texas’ anti-LGBTQ “bathroom bill,” which would have required transgender people in the state “to use bathrooms in public schools, government buildings and public universities” that do not align with their gender identity. It also joined 10 other states in suing the Obama administration over guidelines protecting trans students, and it filed legal briefs in support of the Trump-Pence administration’s discriminatory position against trans-inclusive bathroom policies. The office also submitted an amicus brief in support of ADF’s client Phillips alongside Arizona and several other states.

    Additional research by Brennan Suen and Rebecca Damante.

  • Extreme anti-LGBTQ groups Family Research Council and American College of Pediatricians were on Capitol Hill fighting the Equality Act

    The meetings follow a history of FRC and right-wing media inaccurately presenting ACPeds as a legitimate source and giving the group a platform to discredit trans-affirming science

    Blog ››› ››› KAYLA GOGARTY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Extreme anti-LGBTQ group the Family Research Council (FRC) brought American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) Executive Director Michelle Cretella and ex-trans activist Walt Heyer to meet with members of Congress to advocate against the Equality Act within a day of the bill’s introduction on March 13. The bill would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to existing civil rights nondiscrimination protections.

    Extreme anti-LGBTQ groups and right-wing media have regularly and inaccurately portrayed ACPeds as a legitimate medical organization to add a veneer of credibility to the broader anti-trans agenda, even though the group is a small, right-wing organization that traffics in extreme anti-LGBTQ animus.

    While there is limited information available on the substance of these congressional meetings, FRC’s public discussions with Cretella and Heyer around the time of the meetings pushed the debunked myth that trans-inclusive policies threaten the safety of women and girls and promoted an unvalidated hypothesis that transgender youth are coming out as a fad.

    In appearances around the lawmaker meetings, FRC and ACPeds pushed anti-trans myths

    In the day after the introduction of the Equality Act, Cretella participated in two interviews with FRC to discuss their shared opposition to the bill and to promote anti-trans policies. During those interviews, Cretella and FRC leaders acknowledged that they met with members of Congress and their staffs to discuss the bill.

    Outside of those appearances, FRC has not published materials about the meetings, so there is little information on which lawmakers the groups met with or what they discussed. On March 13, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) tweeted a picture with FRC President Tony Perkins, writing that the two discussed the work of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (for which Perkins is a commissioner).

    During the March 14 edition of Perkins’ podcast, he revealed that ACPeds joined FRC in meetings with members of Congress and their staffs to discuss anti-trans policies:

    TONY PERKINS (FRC PRESIDENT): So here’s the question: Is this transgenderism or gender dysphoria -- is it an issue of the mind, or is it an issue of the body?

    MICHELLE CRETELLA (ACPEDS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR): You know, Tony, that is the foundational question, and the answer is gender dysphoria, transgender belief is in the mind. And what we are facing in medicine, and psychology -- and as you said, from pre-K to the halls of Congress -- is a top-down tyranny of -- It’s basically a cult. It’s a cult that is telling us that children are born with the belief that they are trapped in the wrong body, and it’s simply not true.

    PERKINS: Now you joined us the other day on Capitol Hill for some briefings with lawmakers, and I -- you know, I deal with this stuff almost every day. But we can always learn, and I learned a lot from listening to you more about this where -- and you made some illustrations which I think are very important. When someone has anorexia or another type of situation that is really psychological, physiological, we treat it a certain way.

    Perkins’ comments comparing transgender identities to having an eating disorder mirror talking points from the flawed concept of so-called rapid-onset gender dysphoria, an unvalidated hypothesis that suggests teenagers are coming out as trans due to “social contagion.” However, the original study that promoted the concept was re-evaluated following complaints about its research and methodology, and on March 19, the academic journal which published it issued a correction to note that the study only “serves to develop hypotheses” and that the concept has not been validated.

    In addition to Perkins’ interview, FRC senior fellow Peter Sprigg also interviewed Cretella and Heyer in a Facebook video on March 14. During the interview, Sprigg acknowledged the Capitol Hill meetings, and Cretella falsely claimed that being trans is comparable to having anorexia. She also falsely claimed that trans-inclusive policies threaten the safety of women, a myth that has been repeatedly debunked. From the March 14 video:

    PETER SPRIGG (FRC SENIOR FELLOW): I want to move on to now to some of the policy issues, public policy issues, and you’ve been gracious enough to share on Capitol Hill today with members of Congress and their staffs who are considering a number of pieces of legislation that would make gender identity into a protected category under civil rights laws, notably one called the Equality Act, which would include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories.

    Dr. Cretella, I wanted to ask you about one of the issues that has come up with respect to gender identity protections in public accommodation laws, which is: What does this do for the privacy and safety of women and girls?

    MICHELLE CRETELLA: Sure. You can’t -- if we protect gender identity as if it were a trait like sex, you eliminate girl and women rights. There are no women’s rights. Why? Because any man, any boy can simply proclaim, “I’m a girl.” All you have to do is say it. Being transgender -- OK, transgender people are real in the same sex that anorexic people are real. An anorexic person is a man or a woman who has anorexia, which is an emotional or mental disorder. Transgender people are a man or a woman, men or women, who have a disorder. So in public accomodations, if we protect gender identity, any man can walk into a woman’s restroom. Any man can walk into a women’s locker room, a women’s domestic shelter, homeless shelter, a -- women’s prisons, they can be housed with the women.

    Women and girls’ safety goes out the window, and this is not a bigoted statement. It is reality. Women have fallen prey to male violence for eons. It’s just a fact. It’s a biological fact that men are bigger, taller, stronger, faster. That’s biology, and that is why we’ve always protected women’s spaces and women’s sports.

    Anti-LGBTQ groups and right-wing media have elevated ACPeds’ bad science as an alternative to the legitimate American Association of Pediatrics

    Extreme anti-LGBTQ groups such as FRC regularly tout ACPeds as an expert source on scientific and medical issues related to LGBTQ people despite the fact that it is a discredited, partisan organization.

    ACPeds is a small and extreme anti-LGBTQ group of physicians that broke off from the legitimate American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) after it began supporting the right of same-sex couples to adopt children and provide foster care. While AAP is a professional organization of 67,000 pediatricians, ACPeds reportedly has only a few hundred members. Cretella and ACPeds have worked for years to discredit trans-affirming science, and right-wing media and anti-LGBTQ groups have elevated ACPeds’ bad science by presenting the group as a medical authority.

    Right-wing media add to the false perception of ACPeds’ credibility by citing the group as an alternative to trans-affirming AAP guidelines and by using Cretella as a source to dispute trans-affirming care and other trans-inclusive policies. For example, in response to an Associated Press interview with the lead author of AAP’s transgender policy about the differences between sex and gender, the American Family Association’s outlet OneNewsNow quoted Cretella disputing AAP’s points and calling the author a “transgender activist.”

    FRC in particular has given ACPeds a national platform to push anti-trans narratives for years, including hosting Cretella on a panel at its 2018 Values Voter Summit to compare affirming trans identities to “child abuse” with FRC’s Sprigg. In the last six months, Cretella has been on Perkins’ radio show at least three times to discuss the Equality Act, so-called rapid-onset gender dysphoria, and the Trump administration's anti-trans policies.

    FRC and other anti-LGBTQ groups have increasing influence over the Trump administration’s policies and enjoy regular access to members of Congress. For instance, Perkins played a leading role in crafting the Trump administration’s ban on trans service members in the military, and he was appointed as a commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

  • Anti-LGBTQ media and groups have been crying "censorship" as flawed research on trans teens is re-evaluated

    A Brown researcher published a flawed study about so-called "rapid-onset gender dysphoria" that relied on surveys from anti-trans websites. The report claimed that teens were coming out as trans due to “social contagion”; after concerns were raised, it is now under review.

    Blog ››› ››› BRIANNA JANUARY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Update (3/20/19): On March 19, PLOS ONE issued a correction and formal comment on Littman’s study. The journal’s editor-in-chief also issued an apology on PLOS ONE’s blog, noting, “We should have provided a better context of this research, its framing, and its limitations related to the study design.” The note continued, “In our view, the corrected article now provides a better context of the work, as a report of parental observations, but not a clinically validated phenomenon or a diagnostic guideline.”

    In August, a researcher at Brown University published flawed research about so-called “rapid-onset gender dysphoria,” a concept that suggests that young people may be coming out as trans due to “social and peer contagion” and that has not been recognized by any mainstream medical organization. Among other flaws, the study was widely criticized for surveying only parents found on anti-trans parent communities rather than transgender people themselves, and Brown and the academic journal that published the study have since pledged to re-evaluate the work. Right-wing media and anti-LGBTQ groups responded by calling the reassessment “academic censorship” and saying Brown and the journal had caved to “transgender activism.”

    Brown University researcher Lisa Littman published a flawed study that claims teens may be identifying as trans due to social influences

    A Brown University researcher published a study on so-called “rapid-onset gender dysphoria” that suggested teenagers were identifying as trans due to “social and peer contagion.” In August, Brown University researcher Dr. Lisa Littman published a study on so-called “rapid-onset gender dysphoria” (ROGD) in the online journal PLOS ONE. The study suggested that transgender youth are experiencing a new type of “rapid” gender dysphoria due to social influences, asserting that both multiple peers in pre-existing friend groups coming out as transgender and “increased exposure to social media/internet preceding a child’s announcement of a transgender identity” raise “the possibility of social and peer contagion.” From PLOS ONE (citations removed):

    The description of cluster outbreaks of gender dysphoria occurring in pre-existing groups of friends and increased exposure to social media/internet preceding a child’s announcement of a transgender identity raises the possibility of social and peer contagion. Social contagion is the spread of affect or behaviors through a population. Peer contagion, in particular, is the process where an individual and peer mutually influence each other in a way that promotes emotions and behaviors that can potentially undermine their own development or harm others.

    Littman’s study surveyed the parents of transgender people ages 11-27, circulating the survey on three websites: 4thwavenow.com, transgendertrend.com, and youthtranscriticalprofessionals.org. Those websites are online communities primarily for parents of transgender people who deny their children’s identities, and the study acknowledged that the survey was specifically targeted to “websites where parents and professionals had been observed to describe rapid onset of gender dysphoria.” In fact, according to trans researcher Julia Serano, the phrase “rapid-onset gender dysphoria” and accompanying acronym originated on those very websites in July 2016, before Littman’s study or abstract were released. The term and acronym are frequently used by parents who do not accept their children’s trans identities; there is even a website called parentsofrogdkids.com. Prior to releasing her full study, Littman published an abstract in the Journal of Adolescent Health in February 2017 describing supposed parental experiences with ROGD.

    Gender dysphoria is an established diagnosis involving “a difference between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender, and significant distress or problems functioning.” The American Psychiatric Association recommends affirming the gender expression of people with gender dysphoria, including through “counseling, cross-sex hormones, puberty suppression and gender reassignment surgery” as well as social transitions not involving medical treatments.

    After fielding concerns about Littman’s methodology, Brown and PLOS ONE announced they would re-assess her research

    PLOS ONE is seeking “further expert assessment on the study’s methodology and analyses” after receiving complaints. On August 27, PLOS ONE announced that it would re-evaluate Littman’s study due to “concerns raised on the study’s content and methodology.” Slate’s Alex Barasch noted that “re-evaluating a study’s content and methodology doesn’t stymie the scientific process; it’s a natural and necessary extension of it.” From PLOS ONE’s announcement:

    PLOS ONE is aware of the reader concerns raised on the study’s content and methodology. We take all concerns raised about publications in the journal very seriously, and are following up on these per our policy and [Committee on Publication Ethics] guidelines. As part of our follow up we will seek further expert assessment on the study’s methodology and analyses. We will provide a further update once we have completed our assessment and discussions.

    Brown University removed a news article about the study after receiving complaints about Littman’s research and its methodology. After experts and advocates pointed out several flaws in the study’s methodology and PLOS ONE announced its own re-evaluation, “Brown determined that removing the article from news distribution is the most responsible course of action.” The next day, the dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health issued a letter confirming that the article had been removed “because of concerns about research methodology,” acknowledging concerns that the flawed study’s conclusions could harm the transgender community, and reiterating the university’s commitment to academic freedom and “the value of rigorous debate informed by research.” On September 5, the university released an expanded statement, proclaiming, “Brown does not shy away from controversial research.” The statement claimed that the article’s removal from the university’s news site was “not about academic freedom,” but rather “about academic standards,” noting that “academic freedom and inclusion are not mutually exclusive.”

    Researchers, experts, and journalists have found several flaws with Littman’s research

    The World Professional Association for Transgender Health urged restraint of the term “ROGD” and noted that it has not been “recognized by any major medical professional association.” The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), which publishes the internationally accepted Standards of Care and Ethical Guidelines for managing gender dysphoria, released a position statement about ROGD on September 4, noting that it “is not a medical entity recognized by any major professional association” and has not gone through “the deliberative processes by which diagnostic entities and clinical phenomena are classified and established.” WPATH’s statement said ROGD “constitutes nothing more than an acronym created to describe a proposed clinical phenomenon that may or may not warrant further peer-reviewed scientific investigation.” From the September 4 statement (emphasis original):

    At present, WPATH asserts that knowledge of the factors contributing to gender identity development in adolescence is still evolving and not yet fully understood by scientists, clinicians, community members, and other stakeholders in equal measure. Therefore, it is both premature and inappropriate to employ official-sounding labels that lead clinicians, community members, and scientists to form absolute conclusions about adolescent gender identity development and the factors that may potentially influence the timing of an adolescent’s declaration as a different gender from birth-assigned sex.

    ...

    WPATH also urges restraint from the use of any term—whether or not formally recognized as a medical entity—to instill fear about the possibility that an adolescent may or may not be transgender with the a priori goal of limiting consideration of all appropriate treatment options in accordance with the aforementioned standards of care and clinical guidelines.

    Researchers writing in PinkNews: Littman’s study “was heavily biased towards specific groups” and “tells us less about trans teenagers than it does about the parents being surveyed.” Writing for PinkNews, researchers Florence Ashley of McGill University and Alexandre Baril of the University of Ottawa said Littman’s research “was heavily biased towards specific groups and in no way can be said to be representative of the general population” because it surveyed parents from specific anti-trans websites. Their report contended that “the study tells us less about trans teenagers than it does about the parents being surveyed.” They also pointed out that research suggesting that trans identities are the result of a “contagion” attempts to frame the narrative in a way that “distinguishes ‘good,’ true transgender people from ‘bad,’ fake trans people, allowing proponents to claim that they have nothing against trans people — well, at least the real ones.”

    Slate’s Alex Barasch: “The sites that participants were culled from are full of damning evidence of bias” against transgender people. Barasch noted that Littman’s study was “purportedly about 256 trans-identified ‘adolescents and young adults,’” but it is “perhaps fairer to say that it’s about their parents, who participated in a 90-question survey about their relationships with and perceptions of their children—with no input from the kids themselves, and no controls to speak of.” Barasch identified several problems with the study’s sample, including that it sourced parental reporting from websites with anti-trans biases such as 4thwavenow.com, which “hosts long missives from parents who have strenuously denied their children’s identities for years.” He continued, “In exclusively surveying parents from these ‘gender critical’ spaces, Littman sharply limited both the relevance and the validity of her results.”

    Barasch added that “one of the study’s most glaring flaws” is that Littman made no effort to substantiate the claims of the parents who participated in her study by speaking to their transgender children. He noted that the study’s findings about "the worsening of parent-child relationships" after the child came out and the children's preference to befriend other LGBTQ kids actually weakened its conclusions about trans identities being a “social contagion” because young LGBTQ people would be more likely to “flock together online or in-person” if they face “skepticism and hostility at home.”

    Finally, Barasch noted that the concept of ROGD “treats the emergence of dysphoria around or after puberty as something new and unusual that should be treated with suspicion” when in fact the medical community recognizes late-onset gender dysphoria, which describes the emergence of dysphoria “around puberty or much later in life.” Barasch highlighted examples of PLOS ONE retracting several other studies that featured “questionable research” and pointed out that “peer review isn’t an automatic assurance of ironclad science” and that the review of the study “is both standard and vital.”

    Researcher Julia Serano: The concept of ROGD originated in 2016 on three blogs “that have a history of promoting anti-transgender propaganda.” In an essay on Medium, biologist and transgender activist Julia Serano explained that the concept of ROGD was not new, but originated in 2016 on three anti-trans blogs -- the same blogs from where Littman drew her sample. Thus, Serano wrote, Littman’s study was “entirely based on the opinions of parents who frequent the very same three blogs that invented and vociferously promote the concept of ROGD.” She contended, “This is the most blatant example of begging the question that I have ever seen in a research paper.” Serano also refuted the study’s assertion that gender dysphoria in the surveyed parents’ children was “rapid,” writing that “the word ‘rapid’ in ROGD doesn’t necessarily refer to the speed of gender dysphoria onset. … Rather, what’s ‘rapid’ about ROGD is parents’ sudden awareness and assessment of their child’s gender dysphoria (which, from the child’s standpoint, may be long standing and thoughtfully considered).”

    Brynn Tannehill in The Advocate: Transgender youth featured in the study may have avoided coming out to “hostile parents,” which could have led to parents perceiving their gender identity development as “rapid.” Responding to an abstract of Littman’s study released in 2017, transgender advocate and author Brynn Tannehill -- who recently published an explanatory book about transgender issues -- pointed out flaws in the hypothesis that young people may be identifying as transgender because of other LGBTQ friends and online LGBTQ media. She noted that “transgender youth in unsupportive homes are much more likely to share their thoughts and feelings with LGBT friends at school and peers online than family.” Tannehill added that those youth often “stick to ‘safe’ LGBT social groups” and “delay telling hostile parents until they cannot bear not to,” which could explain why the parents Littman surveyed from unsupportive online communities thought that their child’s identity came on rapidly.

    Tannehill in INTO: “Littman failed to mention the viewpoints of the groups from which she drew her sample” and did not interview supportive parents or trans youth. Writing for the digital magazine INTO, Tannehill reiterated that the study “failed to address the much more realistic explanation that transgender teens with anti-trans parents look for support from other LGBTQ youth online because they fear the reaction of their families.” She also noted that Littman did not acknowledge the anti-trans viewpoints of the websites from which she drew or sampled, “nor did she make any attempt to reach out to groups for supportive parents” or interview transgender youth.

    Extreme anti-LGBTQ groups have claimed Brown “is in denial about transgender identity” and “caved to cross-dressers”

    Family Research Council’s Cathy Ruse: Littman’s study “reveals trouble in transgender paradise.” Cathy Ruse of the extreme anti-LGBTQ group Family Research Council wrote a post in The Stream attacking Brown University for removing news about Littman’s study from its website. Ruse called the move “censorship” and asserted that “there’s an alarming trend of adolescents suddenly announcing they’re in the wrong body.” She also defended the study’s survey of parents rather than the actual transgender young people the study was about, writing that this “acknowledged limitation of the study” is a response to clinicians accepting what transgender patients tell them “at face value, never seeking the parents’ perspective.” Ruse has a history of disparaging trans identities, and she has previously suggested that affirming transgender children “can be child abuse.”

    American College of Pediatricians’ Michelle Cretella: Littman’s study “was quickly silenced” because “transgender activists called for censorship.” Writing for The Heritage Foundation’s right-wing outlet The Daily Signal, American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) President Michelle Cretella said that Littman’s study “was quickly silenced by activists and by Brown University,” which “disconnected its link to the study and issued an apology” for it because “transgender activists called for censorship.”

    ACPeds is a small and extreme anti-LGBTQ group of physicians that broke off from the legitimate American Association of Pediatrics (AAP). Cretella and ACPeds have worked for years to discredit trans-affirming science and policy under the veneer of credibility offered by the group’s misleading name, which “is easily confused with the AAP.” Cretella has claimed that affirming transgender youth is child abuse.

    ACPeds’ Dr. Andre Van Mol posted several times about ROGD on Twitter. ACPeds’ Dr. Andre Van Mol retweeted several posts about Littman’s study, including from two of the anti-transgender parent forums where Littman sourced her data. Van Mol promoted a tweet linking to a petition calling for Brown to “defend academic freedom and scientific inquiry” by supporting Littman and her study. He also tweeted a link to an article about Littman’s study and asserted, “Idealogues (sic) are trying to suppress a study that shows the effect of peer pressure on transgenderism.” Van Mol has a long anti-LGBTQ record, including advocacy in favor of forcibly changing sexuality or gender identity through the discredited and harmful practice of conversion therapy. He has actively worked to oppose measures to protect LGBTQ people from the practice.

    Illinois Family Institute’s Laurie Higgins: Brown “cave[d] to cross-dressers and their collaborators.” Laurie Higgins of the extreme anti-LGBTQ state organization Illinois Family Institute wrote that Brown “cave[d] to cross-dressers and their collaborators” after feeling “the wrath of men in dresses with flowing tresses and bearded women in dungarees.” Higgins called Brown’s removal of its article about the study “censorship” and claimed, “No matter how well a study is designed and executed, if trannies don’t like the findings, ‘progressive’ universities will not draw attention to it even if the study is conducted by their own faculty.” Higgins previously called transgender identity a “superstition” and compared trans people and their allies to a cult. She has also praised the Trump-Pence administration’s plan to redefine “gender” to exclude the transgender community.

    Right-wing media and proponents of the study have called the re-evaluation “academic censorship” and said Brown and PLOS ONE caved to LGBTQ activists

    Proponents of ROGD launched a petition to “defend academic freedom and scientific inquiry” by supporting Littman’s research. Supporters of the ROGD concept launched a petition urging Brown and PLOS ONE to “defend academic freedom and scientific inquiry” in response to the study’s re-evaluation. The petition implies that the study was being censored, claiming that Brown and PLOS ONE should “resist ideologically-based attempts to squelch controversial research evidence.” The petition, which currently has 4,900 signatures, was shared by some of the same anti-trans websites where Littman collected data for her study, including 4thwavenow and Transgender Trend.

    Fox News’ Tucker Carlson on Brown’s decision: “Acknowledging reality itself becomes a criminal act; superstition reigns. The dark ages have arrived.” Fox prime-time host Tucker Carlson claimed that Brown was “censoring” Littman’s study and stopped promoting it because “activists descended” and “were offended by the conclusions of the study.” Carlson claimed that activists found Littman’s conclusions “ideologically inconvenient and therefore unacceptable.” He also asserted that they “demanded that the data be suppressed, and remarkably, Brown caved to their demands.” Carlson has previously denied the existence of the trans community, claimed that trans-affirming policies would hurt women, and hosted anti-transgender guests like ACPeds’ Cretella on his show. From the September 11 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight:

    TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): Brown University is censoring a scientific study by one of its own researchers because political activists don't like it. In a paper published earlier this month, a tenured Brown professor called Lisa Littman found that teenagers who say they want to switch genders are often influenced, not surprisingly, by friends and social media like all young people are. Well, the study was solid enough to be picked up by a reputable scientific journal. In fact, Brown’s PR department sounded a press release promoting the study. But then activists descended. They were offended by the conclusions of the study, not because the conclusions were wrong -- no one even argued they were wrong -- but because the conclusions were ideologically inconvenient and therefore unacceptable. They demanded that the data be suppressed, and remarkably, Brown caved to their demands. The university yanked the press release and apologized for sending it in the first place.

    This is not really about Brown. This is what it looks like when reason itself dies: Politics trump science; empirical conclusions are banned; acknowledging reality itself becomes a criminal act; superstition reigns. The dark ages have arrived. This is what they told you the Christian right wanted to do. They were lying. As soon as they took power, they did it themselves. Of course.

    The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro: “The left went insane” over Littman’s study, “so Brown caved” in an act of “academic tyranny.” The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro claimed that “Brown immediately caved” by removing its article because “any effort to actually research the environmental component of transgenderism is met with raucous calls for censorship.” Shapiro alleged that PLOS ONE and Brown “turned against the study because it offended politically correct sensibilities about transgenderism” and called the situation “academic tyranny.”

    Shapiro: “Science is taking a back seat to the realities of political correctness.” On his show, Shapiro repeated talking points from his Daily Wire post and claimed that Brown had “buried the study” and “caved” because “it offended politically correct sensibilities about transgenderism.” He called the move “insane,” claimed that “science is taking a back seat to the realities of political correctness,” and called leaders at Brown “cowards.” Shapiro then predicted that Brown would fire Littman, saying that the left “will go after anyone who does not follow the basic leftist consensus on politics, they will destroy science in order to do so, and they will censor people.” Shapiro has a history of anti-transgender bigotry, including calling transgender troops “mentally ill soldiers” and mocking transgender men and women who date them. He has also called being trans a “mental disorder” and “tyranny of the individual.”

    One America News’ Liz Wheeler: “This is even creepier, I think, than just stifling free speech. This is akin to book banning and book burning.” On the September 7 edition of One America News’ The Tipping Point, host Liz Wheeler railed that Brown’s decision to remove its article on the study was “even creepier, I think, than just stifling free speech,” comparing it to “book banning and book burning.” She continued, “This is taking a scientific study because it doesn't substantiate your political view and erasing it. That's so creepy.” Wheeler’s guest Amber Athey, a Daily Caller contributor, asserted that Brown “decided to get rid of the study not because they think that it didn’t meet scientific standards but just because they don’t like the results of it.”

    Wheeler: Brown is participating in “thought control. … That’s incredible scary. That is 1984.” In another segment, Wheeler repeatedly claimed that Brown’s removal of its post about the study was an example of “thought control.” Wheeler and her guest, The Daily Caller’s Anders Hagstrom, compared the situation to the dystopian novel 1984 and the Soviet era. Wheeler had previously criticized the Boy Scouts for accepting transgender youth and has suggested that affirming trans identities will lead to accepting “transracial, “transable,” and “transbaby” identities in which people believe themselves to be of a different race, ability or disability, or age. From the September 17 edition of One America News’ The Tipping Point:

    ANDERS HAGSTROM (REPORTER, THE DAILY CALLER): I know there’s a study at Brown college where a similar thing happened where this -- I can't remember if it was a he or a she who did this study, but they basically found that something regarding transgenders and a gender dysphoria and the way that children may grow out of it. And people objected to what that study found, and they just said, “OK, you're not allowed to publish that anymore. You can’t do any more research.”

    LIZ WHEELER (HOST): Right, because it might offend activists who are advocating for the transgender ideology.

    HAGSTROM: Yeah, exactly, because it might offend people.

    WHEELER: This is why I say this is thought control, because when you pick and choose what information is to be made public, and you pick and choose what you're going to hide from the American people because it might influence their thought in a way that you don't want. That's incredibly scary. That is 1984. That is thought control. It goes beyond the speech control.

    HAGSTROM: It’s Soviet, yeah.

    WHEELER: The way that you control speech is you control what people are allowed to put in their heads so that they can form those ideas. It's terrifying, and it’s sanctioned now by liberals on these campuses.

    Breitbart’s Tom Ciccotta: “Brown University has decided that not displeasing the LGBT community is more important than having its professors research this phenomenon.” On August 30, Breitbart News’ Tom Ciccotta wrote that Brown had “censored a research paper on gender dysphoria” because the university “decided that not displeasing the LGBT community is more important than having its professors research this phenomenon.” Breitbart often pushes anti-transgender narratives and cites ACPeds’ anti-transgender positions as credible.

    The Federalist’s Robert Tracinski: “Is transgender the new anorexia?” The Federalist’s Robert Tracinski called Littman’s study a “blockbuster” for arguing that transgender identities “might be a ‘social contagion’ -- a maladaptive coping technique for troubled teens, spread by peer groups and the Internet.” Tracinski claimed that Brown retracted its press release “in response to a furious outcry from transgender activists” who saw the research as a “threat.” He also posited that the study began because researchers saw “eerie parallels” of “social contagion” between eating disorders such as anorexia and transgender identities, and then highlighted the study’s assertion that so-called ROGD, “with the subsequent drive to transition, may represent a form of intentional self-harm.” He further claimed that medical professionals who offer gender-affirming care are “ideologically motivated gender dysphoria specialists” who “have engaged in massive malpractice in their zeal to ‘affirm’ their young patients’ self-diagnosis.”

    The Federalist’s Joy Pullman: Brown “repressed” the study because it reinforces the idea that “transgenderism looks a lot like a dangerous fad.” Federalist Executive Editor Joy Pullmann wrote that Brown had “repressed” Littman’s study “after a transgender activist feeding frenzy.” She continued, “The reason trans activists went nuts is that the study reinforces what plenty of parents, public health experts, and doctors have been saying: Transgenderism looks a lot like a dangerous fad.” She also said that transgender advocates “demand[ed] suppressing the results” and that Brown “chose to prioritize the unreasonable demands of a tiny minority above the potential well-being of children and the process of scientific inquiry.” Pullman admitted that “the study design has many flaws — self selection and self reporting among them.” However, she claimed that it was “comparable in quality to studies that LGBT activists amplify when it serves their narratives.” Despite its flaws, Pullman still praised the study because “Littman found a number of things that make transgender narratives look terrible.” The Federalist is a go-to outlet for conservatives to push anti-LGBTQ stories, compare transgender inclusion to “transgender authoritarianism,” and call gender-affirming procedures “mutilation.” From the August 31 post:

    This makes it obvious why transgender activists do not want this information public. It suggests many gender dysphoric young people hit a rough patch in life (or several), have poor or immature coping skills, and got the message from peers, online, or both that transgenderism was a handy, simple explanation for their feelings that also offered instant social acceptance and attention.

    National Review’s Madeleine Kearns: Brown “succumbed to political pressure” and “sacrificed its core principles of scientific inquiry and truth-seeking.” In a post titled “Why Did Brown University Bow to Trans Activists?” National Review’s Madeline Kearns claimed that Brown and PLOS ONE “succumbed to political pressure” by re-evaluating the study and that the university “appears more concerned with its marketability than with finding truth,” which she said “undermines academic freedom.” Though she acknowledged that there were concerns about the sample of parents coming from 4thwavenow and other biased websites, Kearns suggested that Brown’s removal of its article about Littman’s study was “cowardice” and “part of a bigger trend” -- an example of how “a radical ideological lobby has, once again, been highly effective in bullying dissenters into silence.” She concluded that Brown “sacrificed its core principles of scientific inquiry and truth-seeking to the feelings of ‘some members’ of their community.” National Review has a history of providing a platform to anti-LGBTQ figures such as anti-transgender conservative commentator David French, who in a May 9 article repeatedly misgendered Chelsea Manning and declared, “He’s a man.”

  • These national anti-LGBTQ groups are working to make anti-trans discrimination legal in Massachusetts

    ››› ››› KAYLA GOGARTY

    National anti-LGBTQ groups are aligned with and have worked alongside a campaign in Massachusetts that would repeal the state’s trans-inclusive nondiscrimination protections, which protect transgender people from discrimination in housing and the workplace and give them equal access to public facilities such as bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity. The anti-trans Keep MA Safe campaign was started by Massachusetts Family Institute, a state anti-LGBTQ group with direct ties to major national groups Family Policy Alliance, Alliance Defending Freedom, and Family Research Council.

  • Only MSNBC hosted LGBTQ opponents of the Trump-Pence administration's plan to define away trans identities

    While MSNBC aired segments featuring six LGBTQ people, Fox News hosted anti-LGBTQ group leader Tony Perkins and two anti-trans gay women

    Blog ››› ››› BRIANNA JANUARY


    Melisa Joskow / Media Matters

    The Trump-Pence administration is “considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth,” which would be “the most drastic move yet in a governmentwide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people,” according to an October 21 New York Times report. When TV news reported on the proposal, only MSNBC hosted LGBTQ guests to condemn it, while Fox hosted primarily anti-trans voices, including two gay women and major anti-LGBTQ group leader Tony Perkins.

    The Times reported that the definition would be established under Title IX, which bars “gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance.” Title IX is enforced in part by the “Big Four” federal agencies -- the departments of Education, Justice, Health and Human Services, and Labor -- most of which currently employ anti-LGBTQ group alumni who would potentially implement the policy. According to the Williams Institute, there are roughly 1.4 million American adults who identify as transgender, all of whom would be impacted by the proposed change. CNN reported that “if adopted, such a definition could exclude transgender people from existing federal civil rights protections in education, employment and access to health care.” The move is part of a greater trend of the Trump-Pence administration going after transgender people, and transgender advocates and their allies have sounded the alarm about the proposal and are fighting back.

    How TV news covered the proposal

    Following the Times’ reporting on the Trump-Pence administration’s proposal, broadcast and cable TV news spent a moderate amount of time covering the issue. MSNBC turned to transgender and queer guests to discuss the impacts of the proposal, while Fox News hosted primarily anti-transgender guests, including Perkins. Though generally critical of the proposal, CNN’s segments relied entirely on CNN hosts, commentators, and reporters, none of whom openly identify as LGBTQ.

    In discussing the proposal, MSNBC hosted six LGBTQ people, four of whom identify as trans, who were able to explain the personal impact the Trump administration’s proposal would have on the trans community.

    On October 23, MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson hosted Laverne Cox, a transgender actress and activist, who outlined the Trump-Pence administration’s history of anti-trans policies, as well as those proposed around the country in state legislatures. Cox said that state legislatures “are continually trying to introduce legislation banning transgender people from public life” but noted that “we have fought those battles, and we have won.” She explained that “over and over again the courts have held that transgender people are covered by Title IX and Title VII.” Cox said, “They want to make us afraid, but we need not be afraid.”

    MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson aired an October 22 segment featuring National Center for Transgender Equality's (NCTE) Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, who was the first out transgender person to be appointed to a White House job. Freedman-Gurspan called the proposal “an abomination” and highlighted that the new definition does not align with medical consensus or the lived experiences of trans people. She also noted the many anti-trans actions and rhetoric of the Trump-Pence administration and highlighted activism by the trans community and their allies who are ready to fight the proposal. Freedman-Gurspan ended the segment by saying, “We won’t be erased. We are standing up. … We are going to get through this.”

    During other segments, MSNBC also hosted Mara Keisling, a trans woman and president of NCTE; Hannah Simpson, a trans woman and activist; Masha Gessen, an LGBTQ journalist; and Sarah Kate Ellis, a lesbian and president of GLAAD. Additionally, Rachel Maddow, an out lesbian, did a monologue on her October 22 show about the proposal in which she contextualized the history of Republican administrations rolling back LGBTQ rights.

    While MSNBC turned to LGBTQ people who were either transgender or trans allies for their insights on the potential impact of the Trump-Pence administration’s proposal, Fox News hosted primarily anti-transgender guests, including two gay women and extreme anti-LGBTQ group Family Research Council’s (FRC) President Tony Perkins.

    In Fox News’ first substantial segment about the proposal, Fox News at Night with Shannon Bream aired a debate between liberal radio host Ethan Bearman and FRC’s Perkins, who was also appointed to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in May. During the segment, Perkins praised the proposal and resorted to fearmongering when presented with historical facts about gender identity. Perkins also pushed the the thoroughly debunked myth that trans-inclusive policies pose a threat to the safety of women and girls. From the segment:

    What we’re doing by this policy that was put in place without an act of Congress -- this was the Obama administration -- we’re putting people at risk. We're actually denying people equal protection under the law, because under this, we would force women that are going to battered shelters for abused women, we would force them under government policy to be housed with men, biological men. This makes no sense.

    On October 23, Tucker Carlson, who has an anti-transgender track record himself, hosted Tammy Bruce, an anti-trans lesbian and president of the conservative group Independent Women’s Voice. In the past, Bruce has criticized trans-inclusive restrooms and compared being transgender to “a child” thinking they are “a cocker spaniel. She has also defended Jack Phillips, the Christian baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple and who was represented by extreme anti-LGBTQ powerhouse Alliance Defending Freedom at the Supreme Court. During the segment, Carlson claimed that the government recognizing the trans community would hurt women, and Bruce leveraged her identity as a lesbian to dismiss the impact of the proposal on trans people.

    Additionally, Fox News’ The Story with Martha MacCallum hosted Camille Paglia, also an LGBTQ-identified person who is critical of trans identities. During the segment, Paglia pushed anti-trans narratives about biology and said that trans-inclusive policies are “unfair” in areas like athletics. She also described herself as transgender while criticizing the trans community. Paglia has made similar comments in the past, saying, "Although I describe myself as transgender (I was donning flamboyant male costumes from early childhood on), I am highly skeptical about the current transgender wave." In other reporting, it appears that she identifies as gay and uses female pronouns.

    CNN had at least eight separate significant discussions, news reads, or reports covering the proposal but failed to host a single LGBTQ person in its reporting. Though the network’s coverage was generally critical of the proposal, CNN’s shows only used staff commentators and reporters to discuss it.

    Broadcast TV news outlets ABC and CBS barely covered the story at all, only airing news reads with no comprehensive segments or reporting, and both networks failed to feature any LGBTQ voices. NBC, however, aired a package on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt that included a clip from NCTE’s Freedman-Gurspan’s appearance on MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson. It also aired a report on Today.

    Additionally, PBS aired a segment featuring LGBTQ legal group Lambda Legal’s Sharon McGowan and was the only TV outlet so far to contextualize the anti-LGBTQ track record of Roger Severino, head of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, the department spearheading the proposal.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts for cable TV coverage appearing between October 21 and 23 on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC -- as well as transcripts of broadcast TV coverage on ABC, NBC, and CBS -- for mentions of the words “transgender” or “health and human services” as well as mentions of the words or variations of the words “trans,” “sex,” or “gender” occurring within 10 words of the words or variations of the words “memo,” “policy,” “definition” or “Trump.” Additionally, Media Matters conducted searches on Snapstream for the same time frame for the same terms. “Significant discussion” is defined as two or more speakers in the same segment discussing the proposal with one another.

  • These anti-LGBTQ group alumni work in federal agencies that will interpret potential anti-trans definition of gender

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The Trump-Pence administration is “considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth,” according to an October 21 story in The New York Times. The definition would be established under Title IX, which bars “gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance.” Title IX is enforced in part by the “Big Four” federal agencies -- the departments of Education, Justice, Health and Human Services, and Labor -- where numerous alumni and allies of major anti-LGBTQ groups currently work.

    According to the Times, the move is considered “the most drastic” yet in the administration’s onslaught against transgender rights, and “the new definition would essentially eradicate federal recognition” of the trans community. The effort is being led by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its Office for Civil Rights, whose director, Roger Severino, formerly worked for the right-wing Heritage Foundation alongside many other anti-LGBTQ staff who fill the Trump-Pence administration.

    The departments charged with enforcing Title IX are staffed with several alumni from anti-LGBTQ groups, including the extreme and influential Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and Family Research Council (FRC). The following people with positions in the departments of Justice, Education, Labor, and HHS have ties to anti-LGBTQ groups:

    In addition to their former work at anti-LGBTQ groups, several of these agency staff have said or supported extreme anti-LGBTQ measures. DOJ's Kupec was a visible spokesperson for ADF and made numerous media appearances defending the group’s anti-LGBTQ work. HHS’ Royce has promoted the dangerous and ineffective practice of conversion therapy, saying that “the ex-gay movement is a very important part of the story” and that she had counseled “people who were in a homosexual lifestyle.” She contended then that they “generally found themselves in a desperate place” and “have tried to find fulfillment in ways that are against God’s principles,” using that claim to argue against same-sex marriage. Her former employer, FRC, has vehemently supported conversion therapy. Another HHS staffer, Bowman has said that advocates for same-sex marriage have an “appetite for McCarthyism” and compared them to thugs. Additionally, two other FRC alumni -- Charmaine Yoest and Teresa Manning -- temporarily worked for the Trump-Pence HHS. Yoest moved to a White House job, and Manning abruptly stepped down from the job.

    HHS’ suggested language defines sex “as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with,” which defies medical consensus and the lived experiences of trans and gender-nonconforming people all over the world. Vox’s German Lopez described how the proposal would affect the everyday lives of transgender Americans:

    The proposal would effectively erase protections for trans people, who identify with a gender different from the one assigned to them at birth, from federal civil rights laws — ensuring that the laws do not prohibit discrimination against trans people in any setting, including the workplace, housing, schools, and health care.

    Furthermore, the Human Rights Campaign’s Charlotte Clymer outlined other examples of severe consequences that could result in the administration’s “severely restrictive and narrow definition of sex”:

    • Same-sex couples and their families could be turned away from emergency shelters

    • A transgender person could have their insurance deny them coverage for transition related care

    • A gay man could be harassed about being gay at a job skills training

    • An elderly same-sex couple could be denied in home meal service

    • A transgender woman could be turned away from a hospital for a broken ankle

    Additional research by Kayla Gogarty.

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

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

    Blog ››› ››› BRIANNA JANUARY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • GOP-backed congressional nominee promoted pamphlet that pushes harmful conversion therapy

    Mark Harris-endorsed guide falsely claims that sexual orientation can sometimes be changed “as a result of therapeutic interventions”

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Mark Harris, a Republican-backed congressional nominee in North Carolina, previously endorsed a pamphlet claiming that sexual orientation can be forcibly changed, including through the debunked and harmful practice of conversion therapy.

    Harris is the Republican nominee in North Carolina’s 9th District. The National Republican Congressional Committee selected Harris for its “Young Guns” program, which “identifies candidates across the country who embody the principles of the House Republican Conference and show promise of running a successful campaign.”

    He has been heavily involved in fighting against LGBTQ equality in North Carolina, where he used to be the pastor of First Baptist Charlotte. While in that position, Harris appeared in anti-LGBTQ media outlets such as Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network and American Family Association’s American Family Radio

    He has also been a go-to pastor for the Family Research Council (FRC), an extreme anti-LGBTQ organization that produces its own media content and policy papers. Harris has spoken at numerous FRC events and has been a member of Watchmen on the Wall, FRC’s ministry program. FRC is one of the most influential and extreme anti-LGBTQ groups in the country; it claims that “homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large” and “is by definition unnatural.”

    Harris has been integral in promoting FRC’s Culture Impact Team program, which aims to get churches more involved with political matters such as registering voters and distributing policy information.

    Harris appeared in a 2016 training video for the Culture Impact Team program in which he said he loved that FRC-produced documents “like the Top Ten Myths About Homosexuality” help “equip” Christians to have conversations with others. He later encouraged church leaders to put those types of material “in the hands of our people” so that “we're able to share the truth.”

    MARK HARRIS: Today Christians are somehow stepping back from the water coolers where we work and those other places that I mentioned and there's a good reason why -- because our people no longer feel equipped and confident in what they're saying. You see, the Culture Impact Team serves a very important role in helping to equip our people, and we have a partner in the Family Research Council that produces documents.

    In an earlier session you heard about all of the things that you could have in a Culture Impact Center. Well, what I love about that is the things that you're able to provide to your congregation will help them be equipped on the issues facing us. Documents like The Top Ten Myths About Homosexuality; documents like Why Christians Should Seek To Influence Government For Good; documents like Modern Slavery: How To Fight Human Trafficking In Your Community; documents like Is Common Core Good For America's Students?; or The Bible's Teaching On Marriage And Family; The Best Pro-Life Arguments For Secular Audiences; and yes, The Top Ten Myths About Abortion.

    You see, these documents, put in the hands of our people, give them the sense of confidence and the sense of boldness to have those conversations once again that they are backing away from having because they do not feel equipped. You see, I think our pastors need and would look to a Culture Impact Team to help them put this kind of material in the hands of our people. At First Baptist Charlotte, we have a Culture Impact Center where we're able to provide these as long -- as well as other documents alongside them, that we're able to share the truth in the real story. And by the way, I'll tell you one of the things I love about all of these documents -- the last several pages of every one of them are filled with endnotes and filled with footnotes which just remind me these documents aren't written by just some average political hack; these are documents that are written by some of the sharpest minds and greatest scholars in American politics as well as biblical worldviews that are guiding them in their thought.


    Harris holding “The Top Ten Myths About Homosexuality” pamphlet

    “The Top Ten Myths About Homosexuality” is a virulently anti-LGBTQ guide that was written by anti-LGBTQ commentator and FRC senior fellow for policy studies Peter Sprigg. The pamphlet promotes the lie that sexual orientation can sometimes be changed and that harmful conversion therapy is a solution. It falsely claims that “research confirms that such change does occur -- sometimes spontaneously, and sometimes as a result of therapeutic interventions” and “there is no scientific evidence that change efforts create greater harm than the homosexual lifestyle itself.”

    From the pamphlet:

    Myth No. 2: Sexual orientation can never change.

    Fact: Thousands of men and women have testified to experiencing a change in their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. Research confirms that such change does occur -- sometimes spontaneously, and sometimes as a result of therapeutic interventions.

    Myth No. 3: Efforts to change someone’s sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual are harmful and unethical.

    Fact: There is no scientific evidence that change efforts create greater harm than the homosexual lifestyle itself. The real ethical violation is when clients are denied the opportunity to set their own goals for therapy.

    The guide’s claims are lies. As Media Matters’ Brianna January has noted, conversion therapy “has been debunked and rejected by all major medical associations as ineffective, harmful, and unscientific.”

    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.”

    The anti-LGBTQ pamphlet also claims to debunk such facts as “Children raised by homosexuals are no different from children raised by heterosexuals, nor do they suffer harm” and “Homosexuals are no more likely to molest children than heterosexuals,” though both of those are accurate statements.

    Media Matters previously reported that in 2015, Harris claimed that the country had descended into “moral decay” and cited as one of several examples that “we have watched in one generation where homosexuality was once criminalized to now we see the criminalization of Christianity.”

  • Right-wing media pastor and GOP-backed congressional nominee favorably remembered when “homosexuality was once criminalized”

    Mark Harris: “We have watched in one generation where homosexuality was once criminalized to now we see the criminalization of Christianity”

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Mark Harris is a pastor and GOP-backed congressional nominee who has regularly appeared in right-wing media outlets and worked with a notorious anti-LGBTQ group. In previously unreported comments, Harris said in 2015 that the country had descended into “moral decay” and cited as one of several examples that “we have watched in one generation where homosexuality was once criminalized to now we see the criminalization of Christianity.”

    Harris won the Republican nomination in North Carolina’s 9th District by defeating sitting Rep. Robert Pittenger in the state’s May GOP primary.

    Harris, who has been heavily involved in fighting against LGBTQ equality in North Carolina, was previously the pastor of First Baptist Charlotte. His sermons were streamed online and distributed through podcasts. He has regularly appeared in anti-LGBTQ media, making appearances on outlets such as Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network and anti-LGBTQ group American Family Association’s American Family Radio.

    Harris has also been a go-to pastor for the Family Research Council (FRC), an extreme anti-LGBTQ organization that produces its own media content and policy papers. He has been a member of FRC’s ministry arm Watchmen on the Wall. He has also spoken at numerous FRC-affiliated events, including several that have been broadcasted nationwide by the group. FRC is one of the most influential anti-LGBTQ groups in the country and its 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.”

    FRC Action, the political arm of FRC, endorsed Harris in April. FRC President Tony Perkins wrote in May that Harris is “one of FRC's Watchmen pastors who was critical in FRC Action’s highly successful effort in the 2016 general election.”

    Harris and FRC are a perfect fit when it comes to anti-LGBTQ activity.

    In a 2015, Harris spoke at an event in Jomeokee, NC, and complained that the nation is “floundering in moral decay,” explaining in part that “we have watched in one generation where homosexuality was once criminalized to now we see the criminalization of Christianity.” From his speech:

    MARK HARRIS: We are a nation that is so out of balance in our economy, in our foreign policy, in our treatment of the Constitution. But I want to leave you this afternoon as I wrap up with truly the most detrimental imbalance which many will argue is the root to all the others and that is, ladies and gentlemen, I've come here today to declare to you that we are a nation which is spiritually out of balance in every way.

    In one generation you and I have witnessed this country sliding from a nation who once shared a moral vision based on Judeo-Christian ethic to a nation floundering in moral decay. In one generation we have watched our nation who once believed in lifelong marriages to the same spouse to a divorce rate now well over 50 percent. We have watched in one generation where homosexuality was once criminalized to now we see the criminalization of Christianity. And I could go on and on with the entertainment, with the education, with the life issue.

    In 2013, as then-Right Wing Watch writer Brian Tashman documented, Harris said: “I’ve yet to buy in, as there is not the medical evidence, that an individual that chooses the homosexual lifestyle is born that way. That is a choice.” In a recent interview with Roll Call, Harris stood by those remarks. 

    Roll Call also reported that Harris said that women should submit to their husbands. The Washington, D.C.-based publication added that Harris said in an interview “that a wife submitting to her husband does not mean that they are not equal. He said he regularly mentions that in counseling sessions and when he presides at weddings.”

  • Extreme anti-LGBTQ groups are uniting behind Trump Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Extreme anti-LGBTQ groups such as the Family Research Council and Liberty Counsel are unifying behind President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

    Trump nominated Kavanaugh to the court on July 9, and soon after, extreme anti-LGBTQ groups started pouring in praise. As a result, LGBTQ advocates and groups have sounded the alarm. The highly influential Family Research Council (FRC), whose president, Tony Perkins, reportedly was “involved in discussions with the White House” on the nomination, promoted Kavanaugh “heavily” when he was initially nominated to the D.C. Circuit in 2005, and Perkins quickly responded to his Supreme Court nomination by pledging “to help move the grassroots to gain the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh.” He also praised Kavanaugh for previous rulings on “religious freedom and free speech” issues and for his “long and praiseworthy history of judging as an originalist.” FRC’s 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 “every effort should be made to assist such persons to overcome those attractions,” including by actively working against efforts to protect LGBTQ youth from the harmful and discredited practice of conversion therapy.

    Other extreme anti-LGBTQ organizations mirrored FRC’s messaging. Liberty Counsel praised Kavanaugh for a “pragmatic approach to judging” and compared his originalist judicial philosophy to that of notoriously anti-LGBTQ Justice Antonin Scalia. The group’s founder and chairman, Mat Staver, said, “I support the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court,” and called him “the right kind of judge we need on the bench.” Staver is known for using extreme rhetoric against LGBTQ people, including comparing them to pedophiles and saying that LGBTQ History Month is a “sexual assault on our children.”

    The National Organization for Marriage, a group that was instrumental in rolling back marriage equality in California in 2008, called Kavanaugh an “outstanding pick” who “will be strong on our issues” and a “constitutionalist.” The group noted that it “intends to do everything [it] can to secure the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh,” including launching a “Marriage Hero campaign” to organize anti-LGBTQ people at a grass-roots level in favor of his nomination. A July 10 blog post outlined several reasons NOM supports Kavanaugh.

    The Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), which in 2013 led a smear campaign against a transgender teenager who was harassed and received death threats after her name was leaked to the public, issued a statement calling Kavanaugh “fair and faithful to the Constitution” and noting that he had ruled in favor of PJI’s clients in a case about prayer at the presidential inauguration. PJI’s statement, however, was less enthusiastic than that of other groups and asserted that there are “important unanswered questions about his jurisprudence” and characterized his record on abortion issues as “mixed.” The American Family Association (AFA) showed a similar hesitation and initially called on its supporters to oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination. The following day, however, AFA issued another statement walking back its opposition and lining up more closely with other extreme anti-LGBTQ groups:

    [A]fter hearing the concerns of some of our supporters, and after hearing the passionate defense of Judge Kavanaugh by many we consider to be friends in the pro-life movement, we are willing to let this process play out. We eagerly await the confirmation hearings when we hope to get clarification from Judge Kavanaugh on aspects related to our concerns.

    Though extreme group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) claims to not “take a position on the merits of Supreme Court nominees,” its Twitter account posted a New York Times op-ed by a liberal law professor making the case to confirm Kavanaugh. Several ADF staff and board members have also tweeted in support of the nomination or shared articles backing the choice. ADF is one of the most influential anti-LGBTQ groups in the country and is leading the fight against LGBTQ equality at nearly every level, including working to combat transgender student equality, codifying discrimination against the community via religious exemptions, and exporting its anti-LGBTQ agenda abroad.

    It’s clear that though a few anti-LGBTQ groups showed some initial hesitation toward Kavanaugh’s nomination, they have quickly coalesced behind him. These groups are highly coordinated and would not support a nominee who they did not think shared their extreme anti-LGBTQ values. AFA’s statement reversing its opposition to Kavanaugh due to “the passionate defense of Judge Kavanaugh by many we consider to be friends in the pro-life movement” is telling on its own; these groups know what they would be getting with a Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh, and it won’t be good for LGBTQ people.

    Additional research by Rebecca Damante.