Journalist Sarah Posner: Alliance Defending Freedom is advancing an anti-LGBTQ agenda in courts, and its alumni are infiltrating agencies and the judiciary
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On December 5, anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) will argue before the Supreme Court in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case on behalf of a baker who refused to serve a gay couple. ADF is a highly influential, right-wing legal group that has worked to impact policy at the local, state, national, and international level, from working to ban transgender students from using the restrooms that align with their gender identity to helping write and defend the country’s most sweeping anti-LGBTQ state law in Mississippi.
ADF is the largest anti-LGBTQ hate group and “has fast become a training ground for future legislators, judges, prosecutors, attorneys general, and other government lawyers"
The Nation’s Sarah Posner published a horrifying investigative report on anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the Christian “legal army” that is arguing before the Supreme Court on December 5 in the Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case. The Supreme Court’s decision on this case, which involves a Christian baker who refused to serve a gay couple, could have huge implications on LGBTQ peoples’ right to access otherwise public accommodations.
ADF is the largest anti-LGBTQ hate group in the country and has played a role in nearly every aspect of the modern right-wing battle against queer and trans rights. Media Matters has documented its years-long effort to combat transgender student equality in schools, advocating -- often through suing schools -- for discriminatory “bathroom bills” that prevent transgender students from using the restroom facilities that align with their gender identity. It has been involved in writing, promoting, and legally defending so-called “religious freedom” both as Justice Department guidance and as bills in a number of states, including one in Mississippi that has been called the “worst anti-LGBTQ state law in the U.S.” It has also supported harmful reparative therapy, which seeks to turn LGBTQ people “straight” and has been discredited by every mainstream medical group for decades as it has severe mental and medical health consequences for its victims. In 2013, ADF issued a memo in support of Russia’s “gay propaganda” law, which has led to the arrests of a number of LGBTQ activists and a climate where hate crimes against queer and trans people have doubled. Additionally, ADF works with more than a dozen other hate groups that are devoted to demonizing LGBTQ people and halting progress toward equal rights.
Posner’s November 28 report, “The Christian Legal Army Behind ‘Masterpiece Cakeshop,’” detailed ADF’s vast influence and its relentless campaign to combat LGBTQ equality. Here are six key takeaways from the piece:
In May, Media Matters identified at least 55 ADF-affiliated lawyers serving in federal, state, and local governments. The Nation’s report also detailed that ADF “has fast become a training ground for future legislators, judges, prosecutors, attorneys general, and other government lawyers—including, notably, in the Trump administration. Noel Francisco, Trump’s solicitor general, is an ADF-allied attorney.” According to the report, “at least 18 ADF-affiliated lawyers now work in 10 attorney-general offices” at the state level, including at least three in Texas. Texas’ office has led a number of other attorneys general in “two legal challenges to Obama-era rules protecting transgender rights.” Posner noted that ADF alumni also work as congressional staff, attorneys in the military and federal agencies, “state legislators, City Council members, district attorneys, and judges.” From the report:
In the past five years, state attorneys general in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin have hired former ADF staff attorneys, allied attorneys, and Blackstone Fellows. Still others in recent years have brought on ADF attorneys to act as special counsel for the state in cases involving touchstone issues for social conservatives. The Nebraska attorney general, Doug Peterson, has spoken at an ADF conference and called its lawyers “some of the best at what they do.” Attorneys general in Arizona and Oklahoma have brought on ADF staff and allied attorneys to assist in major litigation over abortion and LGBTQ rights. In Mississippi, the governor retained an ADF attorney to represent the state in defending a legal challenge to an anti-LGBTQ law that the organization had helped champion, after the state attorney general declined to defend it.
Posner identified four Trump federal judicial nominees with ties to ADF: Amy Coney Barrett (who was recently confirmed) and Kyle Duncan at the appeals court level and Jeff Mateer and Michael Joseph Juneau at the district court level. Mateer is one of the most vehemently anti-LGBTQ figures to be nominated to the judiciary. Trump also nominated Steven Grasz to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Grasz is a member of the board of the Nebraska Family Alliance, which is partnered with ADF. Media Matters has identified another nominee who was confirmed in August to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, Joseph Toth, who was an ADF Blackstone Fellow in 2005.
According to Posner, testimonials from students who were part of ADF’s law school training program the Blackstone Legal Fellowship “hint at an ideology firmly opposed to secular government and law.” She noted that ADF’s longtime President Alan Sears’ extreme anti-LGBTQ book, The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today, “has long been on the reading list” for the fellowship. The book pushes a number of myths about LGBTQ people, including that they are promoting “sexual relations between adults and children, known as pedophilia.”
The Nation’s report acknowledged a shift in ADF’s rhetoric as it has “redoubled its efforts to portray its views as mainstream” amid its growing influence, including at the Supreme Court, and after being labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Posner noted that “until very recently, ADF routinely trafficked in slurs against the LGBTQ community, consistently depicting LGBTQ people as promiscuous, uncommitted, and unfit to parent.” From the report:
In a 2006 case in Maryland, ADF maintained that “sexual fidelity is rare among homosexual men” and that “the average homosexual relationship is short.” In a 2009 case in West Virginia, arguing against a lesbian couple’s adoption of a baby they had fostered, ADF noted that the couple had insisted that the court be “forced to treat their home as just as good as any other.” But, ADF wrote, “this cannot be.” Although the organization had long opposed allowing same-sex couples to marry, in another parenting case, this one in Arkansas in 2010, it used the fact that the couple could not marry as an argument against allowing them to adopt. “It is logical to prevent children’s exposure to the illicit sexual conduct and revolving-door of adult sexual partners that often accompany cohabitation,” ADF argued.
Media Matters has repeatedly found a lack of transparency with ADF-allied attorneys, as many of its 3,200-plus reported allies do not publicly identify their affiliation with the group. In her report, Posner noted that Trump’s solicitor general, Noel Francisco, was identified as an allied attorney in a 2016 ADF press release but that the relationship is not one “that he has made public,” including in a questionnaire “submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee in advance of his May confirmation hearing.” She continued, “Francisco’s only acknowledgment of his ADF ties was a mention, on a list of speaking engagements, of his participation on a 2015 panel on law-firm recruiting hosted by the Blackstone Legal Fellowship.”
The Nation conducted “a review of 146 of ADF’s appellate and Supreme Court briefs” and found that its lawyers “are focused almost exclusively on the religious rights of Christians.” Of cases that involved non-Christian religious plaintiffs, the group’s lawyers “weighed in” on only five instances and expressed support for the non-Christian plaintiffs only two times. From the report:
[W]e found just five instances in which ADF’s lawyers weighed in on appellate cases involving religious plaintiffs who were not Christian. In only two of them did ADF express support for the religious-minority plaintiff—once in a case in which a rabbinical organization challenged a public-health regulation on circumcision, and once in support of an Orthodox Jewish day school claiming that a local permitting process violated its religious rights. ADF also weighed in on two cases in support of Muslim prisoners who claimed their religious rights had been violated, but in neither did it address the particular facts of the case, making only arguments about what it considered to be a proper interpretation of the relevant statute and, in one case, how that interpretation would affect Christian organizations.
Following President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would reverse the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), right-wing media rushed to praise Trump’s actions by stereotyping DACA recipients, or “Dreamers,” as criminals and gang members. They also falsely claimed that the program constitutes a form of “amnesty,” that DACA recipients take jobs from native-born Americans, that the program is unconstitutional, and that President Barack Obama did not take any action to pass comprehensive immigration reform during his tenure.
Media figures and political strategists flocked to the Sunday shows to speculate that Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly will promote “discipline” and reduce “chaos” as White House chief of staff, and that Trump will listen to him because he “respects” military officers. What their analyses left out is Kelly’s extreme policy position on immigration and his defense of Trump’s chaotic Muslim travel ban implementation.
After the 2016 election, Breitbart.com announced its plan to expand into France and Germany, and Italy is reportedly now a target as well. Breitbart’s current European bureau, Breitbart London, appears to be in charge of the website’s Europe content and has a close relationship with the nativist UK Independence Party (UKIP). That, coupled with its anti-immigrant content, suggests that the site will try to spread its nativism across Europe by continuing to stoke racist sentiment and allying with anti-immigrant political parties.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump implied that Huma Abedin, an aide to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, is a security risk because of her mother’s current and her own former employment at an academic journal that writes about Muslims. Trump’s attack follows years of smears about Abedin from informal Trump adviser Roger Stone and right-wing media outlets, which said that Abedin is disloyal to the United States and that she is a secret “Muslim Brotherhood” agent.
Media figures are calling out the “bizarre” and “extreme” anti-abortion record of Donald Trump’s vice presidential running mate, Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN). They called Pence “the most anti-abortion presidential or VP candidate we’ve had,” and noted that he “became a conservative hero” by virtue of his “longstanding, implacable and dogged” opposition to abortion.
Media outlets and figures from across the political spectrum criticized House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) for refusing to condemn Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump in his March 23 speech where he called for "elevating the national political discourse." According to media figures, Ryan's refusal to condemn Trump amounts to a "tacit acceptance" and "de facto endorsement."
Newman Joins Hate Group Leader Tony Perkins To Lead Cruz's "Pro-Life" Agenda
On January 27, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz announced the formation of his new anti-choice coalition: "Pro-Life For Cruz." As part of the announcement, Cruz named anti-choice extremist Troy Newman as a "national co-chair" of the group, despite Newman's problematic history of harassing abortion providers and endorsing violent rhetoric about them.
Reporting for The Nation on January 28, George Zornick detailed why Cruz's "doubling down on his connection with Newman" was as problematic as Newman's own appalling history of anti-choice activism. According to Zornick, Cruz praised Newman for having "led the charge for the pro-life cause" and being a "true inspiration." Yet Newman has a well-established history of harassing abortion providers and spouting violence-endorsing rhetoric against them.
As the president of the anti-choice organization Operation Rescue, Newman argued that "the murder of abortion doctors is legally permissible" and he openly harassed clinic employees. In his radical book Their Blood Cries Out, Newman suggested that 9/11, AIDS, and even California's historic drought were all punishments from God for allowing legal abortion. Newman's views are so extreme that, as The New York Times reported in 2015, Australia cancelled Newman's visa over "concerns that he might encourage violence against abortion providers or women seeking the procedures."
Most recently, Newman served as a board member of The Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the organization responsible for propagating a smear campaign so fraudulent that the organization earned the title of Media Matters' Misinformer of the Year for 2015. Last week, the president of CMP, David Daleiden, and one of his co-conspirators were indicted by a grand jury in Harris County, Texas for their involvement in this attack on Planned Parenthood. Troy Newman is no longer on the board of CMP -- as The New York Times reported, he "resigned from the center's board when Mr. Daleiden was indicted."
As The Nation's Zornick noted, Cruz also praised Tony Perkins, the leader of known hate group Family Research Council for agreeing to lead the "Pro-Life For Cruz" coalition. From The Nation:
With the Iowa caucuses only days away, Senator Ted Cruz has announced the formation of a "Pro-Lifers for Cruz" coalition that aims to "champion every child, born and unborn."
Among the national co-chairs of that coalition is Troy Newman, one of the more malevolent figures in the anti-choice movement. He is the president of the radical anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, and a board member at the Center for Medical Progress, which just saw two employees indicted in Houston for deceptions conducted while creating the now-infamous "baby parts" videos that targeted Planned Parenthood.
Newman has often suggested that the murder of abortion doctors is legally permissible, and his group has been connected to several notorious anti-choice acts of violence over the past 20 years.
It would be virtually impossible not to be aware of this fact--it defines Newman's career--yet Cruz said in a statement Wednesday that "Every single national co-chair in this coalition has led the charge for the pro-life cause and is a true inspiration." Newman formally endorsed Cruz back in November, which created a small stir-up in the press, and Cruz is now doubling down on his connection with Newman.
Pro-choice advocates quickly noticed Cruz's bear hug of Newman. "Given that this announcement came out after [David Daleiden's] indictment, I'm pretty shocked that he included him," said Sasha Bruce, NARAL's vice president of campaigns and strategies. "It's not enough that he made his endorsement at a presidential level of somebody who advocates violence, he has now been indicted."
The Nation's National Affairs Correspondent Joan Walsh explained that Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has "mainstream[ed] the ugliest right-wing conspiracy theories about both Clintons" and his newest attempt to blame Hillary Clinton for the past actions of her husband "takes a special kind of misogyny."
Since launching his presidential campaign, Donald Trump has attacked nearly every Republican and Democratic presidential candidate, but his attacks on Hillary Clinton have drawn special praise from right-wing media. After Trump attacked Clinton for returning late to a December 19 debate, Fox News' Andrea Tantaros called him "masterful" for supposedly "baiting" the Democratic frontrunner in a way that made her look like "a whiny, weak female." The hosts of Fox News' Fox & Friends neglected to question Trump about his anti-Clinton tirade, even though mainstream media lambasted him for his "vulgar" and "astonishingly sexist" lines of attack. More recently, several conservative outlets and personalities -- including Brietbart News, RedState, Rush Limbaugh, and Jeffrey Lord -- were quick to defend Trump, and scapegoat Hillary Clinton, after Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric was featured in a recruitment video produced by an Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group.
In the January 5 article, Joan Walsh explained that Trump, who has a long history of injecting fringe news and conspiracy theories into mainstream news coverage, is simply "doing what he's so good at doing: dragging ugly mutant ideas from the dark, dank swamps of right-wing paranoia and setting them free" to "whip up the GOP base." In response to mounting accusations of sexism, Walsh explained how "with typical Trump logic, he's retaliating with one of the most sexist insults to Clinton so far in this campaign." From The Nation:
Donald Trump, the man of the bottomless bottom, is making headlines for slurring Hillary Clinton as an "enabler" of her husband's sexual misbehavior. Chris Matthews of MSNBC's Hardball, who doesn't shock easily, seemed staggered by it Monday night, insisting he'd never heard such a claim about Clinton before. "It's beyond indecent," he said.
It may be beyond indecent, and I accept that Matthews never heard it said before. But calling Clinton an "enabler," and making similar nasty charges about her supposed responsibility for Bill Clinton's sexual conduct, have long been staples of Hillary-hate on the right--and some mainstream pundits have dipped a toe in the hate swamp on occasion, too.
With a five-minute Google search I found Roger Stone, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Pat Buchanan, Joe Walsh, and Laura Ingraham making that claim. And back in 2003, Hillary-hater-in-chief Maureen Dowd of The New York Times defended Arnold Schwarzenegger by blaming Clinton for encouraging feminists to ignore her husband's bad behavior.
"Feminism died," Dowd raved, "in 1998 when Hillary allowed henchlings and Democrats to demonize Monica as an unbalanced stalker, and when Gloria Steinem defended Mr. Clinton against Kathleen Willey and Paula Jones by saying he had merely made clumsy passes, then accepted rejection, so there was no sexual harassment involved." But Dowd is alone among mainstream journalists in what she's willing to fling at Hillary Clinton; for the most part, the Clinton-as-enabler slur is confined to the right.
Trump is doing what he's so good at doing: dragging ugly mutant ideas from the dark, dank swamps of right-wing paranoia and setting them free in the mainstream, where they shock some journalists, disgust most Americans and whip up the GOP base. The GOP front-runner got angry when Clinton accused him of sexism (after he said she'd been "schlonged" by Barack Obama in 2008 and called her mid-debate bathroom break "disgusting.") Of course, with typical Trump logic, he's retaliating with one of the most sexist insults to Clinton so far in this campaign. Blaming a woman for her husband's infidelity takes a special kind of misogyny. It will only worsen his already sizable gender gap at the polls.
On December 17, Newsweek published a cover story entitled: "America's Abortion Wars (And How to End Them)." The article argued that the solution to the "brutal stalemate" between pro-choice and anti-choice advocates was for both sides to let go of "bumper-sticker logic" and instead bankroll policy measures to support lower-income women who choose to give birth.
In a December 21 response for The Nation, Katha Pollitt criticized Newsweek for mischaracterizing the debate over abortion and failing to recognize the strategies of pro-choice supporters, in particular those of reproductive justice proponents. Pointing to the long history of anti-choice violence against abortion providers, Pollitt argued that Newsweek's cover story supported a false equivalency between the goals of the pro-choice and anti-choice movements, explaining the two sides couldn't be equated because "in the so-called abortion wars, only one side is murdering the other."
She concluded that by distorting the problem and proposing inadequate policy reforms, Newsweek problematically elevated the credibility of the anti-choice movement and minimized the actual needs of pregnant women and parents:
Sorry, Newsweek. In the so-called abortion wars, only one side is murdering the other. Pro-choicers don't invade Christian "crisis pregnancy centers," guns blazing; they don't picket Catholic churches and scream at the people going into worship. Only one side wants to force women to do their bidding. Only one side fights broad access to birth control and realistic sex education. Only one side has allied itself with the Republican Party, which wants to cut every program and rescind every law that helps women and children and promotes gender equality in the workplace.
But then, Eichenwald doesn't seem to know much about the actually existing reproductive-rights movement. As if drawing a rabbit out of a hat, he points out that the majority of women (69 percent) who have abortions today are poor or low-income. This will come as a surprise to few people involved with supporting abortion rights and access--or who have spent an afternoon in a clinic waiting room. He notes that a study shows that three-quarters of women choosing abortion give finances as one reason (he skips over the study's conclusion that typically women give multiple reasons, including responsibilities to others, lack of a partner and not being ready for motherhood). Since poverty is the cause, the way to end the abortion wars is for both sides to "put down their placards and open their wallets"--i.e., support laws and programs that will help poor women keep their pregnancies if they want them. "Here," he writes, "are all the new costs": an increase in the minimum wage, free government-funded daycare, free prenatal care, stronger legal protection for pregnant workers, and an end to the fight against Obamacare.
It's a pretty minimal list--it doesn't even include paid parental leave or subsidies for low-income women who want to go to college as mothers, or help with housing or support in escaping abusive men. It doesn't consider that having a baby affects a woman's life forever, not just while she's pregnant or a new mother. And it has a strange focus on adoption as part of the solution. If he'd looked into the literature on adoption, he would have discovered that very few women (and black women least of all) are interested in having babies to give to adoptive couples--even ones who are willing to pay for their prenatal care, as he suggests. Almost all women who go through pregnancy and childbirth seem to want to keep the child.
That he considers his list complete shows that Eichenwald hasn't spent a lot of time looking at women's lives. He's spent even less looking at the pro-choice movement, which he seems to think is a bunch of child-hating tightwads, when in fact most pro-choicers are Democrats. The anti-tax crowd is in the other party--the anti-choice party.
Worst of all, he does not seem to know that the brilliant new idea he thinks he figured out on his own is what today's reproductive-rights movement is all about. That women need the right to have babies as well as not to have them, that freedom from poverty--and racism and violence--is part of that right, is called reproductive justice, and for 20 years it's been gradually replacing the libertarian "choice" framework for the abortion-rights movement. Today even Planned Parenthood embraces it. If only Eichenwald had picked up the phone and actually talked to some pro-choice leaders and thinkers. Loretta Ross, founder of the black-feminist organization SisterSong, where the reproductive-justice framework originated, could have set him straight in five minutes.
Media outlets roundly urged Congressional leaders to pass gun safety legislation in the wake of the deadly San Bernardino mass shooting -- including stronger gun violence prevention laws on military-style weapons, background checks, and rolling back concealed-carry laws -- and chastised politicians for their complicity in the "crisis in American society" where "gun carnage ... has come to define America."
Mainstream media are calling out conservative outlets such as Fox News for connecting the Black Lives Matter movement to the deaths of police officers and increases in crime, writing that such claims "have a lack of evidence" and are based on "junk science and political opportunism."
As companies cut ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) following a campaign led by ColorOfChange, Fox News has defended the conservative legislation organization, accusing ColorOfChange of using "fascist tactics" and inviting ALEC supporters and officials on to defend their actions. ALEC, an organization that drafts model bills for conservative state lawmakers, has pushed for controversial "Stand Your Ground" and voter ID laws across the country.