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  • Alliance Defending Freedom spent big fighting against marriage equality in Latin America and Europe. It's losing.

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Last year, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a designated anti-LGBTQ hate group, fought against marriage equality in Latin American and European courts, including by presenting oral arguments before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) in the Americas. Multinational courts in both countries recently ruled or advised in favor of same-sex marriage and spousal recognition. The international courts’ opinions show that attempting to export anti-LGBTQ bigotry abroad is not always a winning battle, even as ADF gains influence in our court system.

    The IACHR is a part of the Organization of American States (OAS), an organization that “brings together all 35 independent states of the Americas and constitutes the main political, juridical, and social governmental forum in the Hemisphere.” On May 17 of last year, ADF International presented oral arguments before the IACHR against legalizing marriage equality in its member states. The IACHR was reviewing a petition submitted in 2016 by Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis, "who had vowed to increase rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the majority Catholic country.” Talking about the case, ADF International legal counsel Neydy Casillas had said, “While the right for men and women to marry is recognized under international law, there is no corresponding right to same-sex marriage or a name change based on ‘gender identity.’” Casillas continued, “The American Convention on Human Rights does not obligate Member States to recognize same-sex partnerships.”

    On January 9, Reuters reported that the IACHR ruled “that countries in the region should legalize same-sex unions.” According to AFP and Costa Rica’s Tico Times, the ruling “said gay married couples should have the same rights as heterosexual ones existing under each country’s laws.” The court also ruled that transgender people should be able to change their names on identification documents. In response, Costa Rica’s government said that it “would take steps to adopt the court’s criteria ‘in its totality.’” And on January 17, Panama’s government also “signaled it plans to comply” with the ruling, according to the Washington Blade.

    ADF International showcased this work in its Annual Report 2017, writing that its team argued “in defence of Costa Rica’s definition of marriage.” ADF and another anti-LGBTQ hate group, C-Fam, both participated in the 47th annual session of the OAS General Assembly.

    In a separate international case, ADF submitted an intervention in April to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) against a married Romanian and American gay couple who were fighting for their right to live together. The couple challenged Romanian authorities’ decision to refuse the American husband’s residence permit. On January 11, a senior adviser to the ECJ backed legal residency for same-sex couples under the definition of “spouse.” According to the BBC, “ECJ Advocate General Melchior Wathelet said the term ‘spouse’ included, under the freedom of residence of EU citizens and their family members, spouses of the same sex.” “Opinions given by ECJ advocate generals are non-binding on the court’s judges,” The Guardian noted, “but are normally followed by the full court.” The court decision, which is expected in a few months, “could have wider repercussions for the range of benefits and rights” same-sex married couples can claim.

    As expected, ADF saw the repercussions of the decision in a very different way. In April, ADF International legal counsel Adina Portaru, the “leading lawyer on the third party intervention,” released a statement saying, "Forcing a Member State to amend its national law to legally recognize same-sex relationships means deliberately ignoring a national democratic process." The statement also claimed that the ECJ "runs the risk of undermining the law" in many EU countries and "creating legal chaos as a result."

    ADF International also highlighted its work before the ECJ in its Annual Report 2017. Additionally, ADF gave legal assistance to a “Coalition for Family” in Romania that worked to collect 3 million signatures across the country in order to get a referendum “to amend the constitution to prohibit gay marriage” up for a vote. Anti-LGBTQ hate group Liberty Counsel also gave legal assistance and organized for Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to LGBTQ couples in 2015, to visit the coalition. The United Nations has granted ADF a special consultative status, which allows its attorneys access to treaty and convention drafting meetings. C-Fam also has the same status.

    ADF is the largest designated anti-LGBTQ hate group in the nation, and the group and its representatives have supported a number of extreme positions, including criminalizing gay sex both domestically and abroad. According to a major investigative report by The Nation’s Sarah Posner, ADF has “redoubled its efforts to portray its views as mainstream” amid its growing influence, including its role in the U.S. Supreme Court case Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. ADF’s international arm has grown to “50 team members in 8 countries,” with a budget of more than 3.5 million euros, and engagement in “580 ongoing legal matters in 51 countries.” Its work in international courts proves that ADF is not simply interested in “free speech” and is in fact dedicated to eroding every aspect of LGBTQ equality both in the U.S. and abroad. It is to be seen whether ADF’s arguments prove successful in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case before our own nation’s high court, but failures abroad illustrate that international courts aren’t falling for them.

  • Washington Blade highlights the influence of hate groups on White House policy

    Anti-LGBTQ extremists successfully lobbied for Trump to ban transgender people from the military. Now they’re promising action on so-called “religious freedom” guidance.

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF


    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters

    In an August 9 report, the Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson detailed the growing influence of anti-LGBTQ hate groups in setting federal policy, including their “intense lobbying” that influenced President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military and their push for a potential anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom” order.

    Last month, Newsweek’s Tom Porter wrote about the hate groups that “fiercely lobbied” for a reinstatement of the ban on transgender service members, which Trump announced via Twitter on July 26. The announcement stated that transgender people would not be allowed “to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.” Among the groups mentioned by Porter was the Family Research Council (FRC), whose leaders have bragged that they “have big communications channels with the Trump administration,” he wrote. FRC senior fellow Ken Blackwell was a member of Trump’s transition team and now sits on Trump’s so-called “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity,” which has been called the “voter suppression dream team.”

    On August 2, The New York Times wrote that FRC President Tony Perkins had spent months pressuring Trump to make a statement about transgender service members. The article included a quote from Perkins saying, “I’ve been to the White House I don’t know how many more times in the first six months this year than I was during the entire Bush administration.” Perkins has also boasted that he “was not surprised” by Trump’s announcement because FRC had been “working with the White House” on the issue.

    Johnson’s August 9 report in the Washington Blade highlighted “intense lobbying” by anti-LGBT lawmakers and hate groups such as FRC and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) for Trump to sign a religious freedom executive order, a draft of which was leaked to The Nation in February. Johnson added that although Trump hasn’t yet signed the order that the groups are floating -- which would “enable sweeping anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of ‘religious freedom’” -- he has empowered Attorney General Jeff Sessions “to issue guidance ensuring religious liberty.” He noted that Perkins, speaking on his radio show last month, “said action would come soon” on religious freedom guidance. In a speech to ADF, Sessions also promised that the Justice Department is “finalizing” guidance on “federal religious liberty protections.” From the Washington Blade:

    Prior to his August vacation, Trump announced his intent to ban transgender people from the U.S. military “in any capacity,” unilaterally instituting the anti-LGBT policy after the U.S. House — under Republican control, no less — rejected a narrower measure to undermine transgender service by denying military funds for transition-related health care.

    Trump’s declaration came after intense lobbying by anti-LGBT lawmakers and groups, who threatened to withhold support from major defense spending legislation unless the White House acted. That bill includes funds for Trump’s wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

    Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said in a statement after Trump’s announcement on transgender service his organization would withdraw its opposition to border wall payments.

    “Now that we are assured that the Defense Department has its fiscal priorities in order, Family Research Council withdraws our opposition to increasing the budget of the Department of Defense through the ‘Make America Secure Appropriations Act’ and looks forward to seeing that legislation pass,” Perkins said.

    Although Trump — despite entreaties from social conservatives — hasn’t signed an executive order circulating among federal agencies and advocacy groups that would enable sweeping anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of “religious freedom,” he did pen his name to a directive empowering U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to issue guidance ensuring religious liberty.

    Critics say that’s a red herring that could lead the U.S. government to give the OK for discrimination among federal contractors, private employer denial of family and medical leave to same-sex couples and federal workers refusing to process paperwork for LGBT people. Sessions had already stated the directive would be based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a 1993 law meant to preserve the rights of religious minorities that’s now used as an excuse for anti-LGBT discrimination.

    It remains to be seen when the administration will issue the guidance and the nature of the policy. On his weekly radio show late last month, Perkins said action would come soon and the U.S. government will be “on notice that they have to respect religious freedom” — code for social conservatives to mean anti-LGBT discrimination.

  • News outlets fail to report on what the GOP health care rollback means for LGBTQ Americans

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH


    Sarah Wasko/ Media Matters

    Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Americans will face greater hardship if Republicans in Congress succeed in reversing the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) patient protections and expansion of Medicaid -- and this is especially true for people living with HIV -- yet, print and television news have almost completely ignored their stories.

    LGBTQ Americans deal with higher rates of poverty, greater need for Medicaid, and higher rates of HIV infection than the general population. Republican plans to decimate Medicaid and roll back patient protections will create disproportionate impacts for LGBTQ Americans. Yet, according to new research from Media Matters, major print and television news outlets have been virtually silent on how GOP health care proposals may harm members of the LGBTQ community.

    Media Matters reviewed major broadcast and cable news providers (ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC) available via Nexis from May 4 through July 13 and found only two significant segments discussing how the Republican health care rollback would affect LGBTQ people and only two other unrelated segments discussing how the rollback would affect Americans living with HIV. A Media Matters review during the same period of time of print newspapers available via Nexis and Factiva (Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal) found only three print articles that discussed how the GOP health care plan may affect the LGBTQ community and/or people living with HIV.

    A July 12 analysis from Media Matters found a similar lack of reporting by major television and print news outlets on how communities of color may be affected by Republican health care proposals. Additional Media Matters research has found that television news missed an opportunity to report on the unprecedented nature of the Senate’s health care secrecy and that television coverage had drowned out reports on how the legislation would impact tens of millions of Americans in favor of airing stories focused on the bill’s political machinations. Previous Media Matters research revealed that newspapers kept reports on health care off the front page during crucial periods of debate and that broadcast and cable news coverage neglected to consider diversity when booking guests to discuss health care-related topics.

    LGBTQ news outlets including The Advocate, NBC Out, and The Washington Blade have all covered how Republicans plans to roll back Medicaid would affect LGBTQ Americans as well as the more than 1 million people living with HIV. According to the Center for American Progress (CAP), Medicaid is of significant importance for many LGBTQ Americans who face higher rates of poverty than the general population, and these higher rates of poverty correlate with fewer LGBTQ Americans having health insurance. On July 6, CAP reported that the ACA repeal legislation being considered by the Republican-led Senate -- the so-called Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) -- may result in up to 560,000 LGBTQ Americans losing Medicaid coverage while restricting health care access for transgender Americans. From the report:

    The BCRA slashes Medicaid by $772 billion over 10 years and would end Medicaid expansion over time:

    • Medicaid covers at least 1.8 million LGBTQ adults, including 31 percent of LGBTQ adults living with a disability and 40 percent of LGBTQ adults with incomes under 250 percent of the federal poverty level.
    • An estimated 560,000 LGBTQ adults will lose coverage if Medicaid expansion is ended.
    • The BCRA prohibits federal Medicaid reimbursements for Planned Parenthood for one year; Planned Parenthood is one of the country’s largest providers of transgender-inclusive health care.

    On February 14, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that the ACA’s Medicaid expansion has lowered the uninsurance rates for people living with HIV from 22 percent to 15 percent from 2012 to 2014. The California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Centers found that in California alone, the Medicaid expansion covered an additional 11,500 people living with HIV. Coverage and care for those living with HIV is of significant concern for many in the LGBTQ community, as the Kaiser Foundation points out, because gay and bisexual men make up 56 percent of Americans living with HIV and 55 percent of all HIV-related deaths in the U.S. despite comprising just 2 percent of the American population.

    If congressional Republicans are successful enacting their health care agenda, it could cause real harm to the nearly 69 million Americans enrolled in Medicaid, making it crucially important that news outlets tell their stories.

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted a Nexis and Factiva search of print editions of the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal from May 4 through July 13, 2017. Media Matters also conducted a Nexis search of available transcripts of broadcast and cable news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC over the same time period.

    We identified and reviewed all broadcast and cable news segments and noneditorial articles that included any of the following keywords: gay or lesbian or transgender or bisexual or LGBT or LGBTQ or queer or same-sex within 10 words of health care or healthcare or health reform or AHCA or Trumpcare or American Health Care Act or ACA or Obamacare or Affordable Care Act or CBO or BHCA or Medicaid.

  • LGBTQ media highlight repercussions of Trump’s budget proposals

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH


    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters

    News outlets, experts, and health care advocates blasted President Donald Trump’s federal budget proposal that would rip health care away from millions while eliminating key HIV prevention and research programs. If enacted, these cuts would have a disproportionately devastating impact on members of the LGBTQ community, who rely more heavily on Medicaid than the general public does and face higher rates of HIV infection.

    Outcries continue to grow in response to Trump’s federal budget proposal for the 2018 fiscal year. The proposal faced immediate criticism for its unrealistic revenue projections and was branded by critics as a “repugnant grab bag” of cuts to vital anti-poverty and public health programs to pay for part of a massive tax cut for top earners. The latest criticism of Trump’s budget comes from public health experts and LGBTQ media, which are pointing out that its cuts to Medicaid, coupled with harsh reductions in funding of HIV treatment, prevention, and research add up to a reprehensible swipe at the LGBTQ community.

    Cuts to Medicaid would disproportionately affect the LGBTQ community, which faces higher levels of poverty than the public at large. On May 28, NBC Out reported that Trump’s budget would hit the LGBTQ community in several ways. Stephen Forssell, director of George Washington University’s graduate program in LGBTQ health policy, explained that Medicaid is “hugely important” for LGBTQ Americans, who are more likely than others to rely on the program:

    Medicaid is "hugely important" for the LGBTQ community," (sic) Gruberg told NBC Out, noting that 18 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have Medicaid compared to 8 percent of non-LGBTQ people.

    Gruberg also noted that Medicaid is the "largest source of coverage for people with HIV in the U.S.," adding that "a $1.4 trillion cut to Medicaid over 10 years will be detrimental to the ability of people living with HIV to get the health care they need to survive."

    HIV funding is of great concern for the LGBTQ community and faces steep cuts in the White House’s budget. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) outlined that the fiscal year 2018 budget would include a $59 million reduction to the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program, including eliminating all its funding for LGBTQ and minority education and HIV prevention. The Ryan White HIV/AIDS program funds health care services for individuals living with HIV as well as public service education programs about the virus. The program is named after an HIV activist who fought for the program’s enactment before tragically passing away just months before it was authorized after battling the virus.

    On May 31, the Washington Blade highlighted the funding cuts to the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program and an additional $186 million in proposed cuts to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) work on HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Doug Wirth, CEO of the nonprofit Amida Care, called Trump’s budget proposal a “cruel and callous attack” on those living with HIV. Advocacy groups argued that the funding cuts would lead to “more suffering” for those living with HIV, and the AIDS Institute criticized the White House’s “severe cuts” while noting that the 19 percent cut to the CDC’s HIV prevention program would set back efforts to eliminate the virus.

    According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, gay and bisexual men represent 2 percent of the American population but make up 56 percent of all Americans living with HIV and 55 percent of all HIV-related deaths in the U.S. The CDC reported that while HIV diagnoses have declined overall in recent years, diagnoses have increased among gay and bisexual men. The CDC found that much of the increase was among men of color and even projected that one out of every two black gay and bisexual men would become infected with the virus during their lives. Currently, gay and bisexual men make up 67 percent of all new HIV infections:

    Trump’s cuts to HIV programs are eerily reminiscent of cuts Vice President Mike Pence imposed on Indiana during his tenure as governor. Pence followed through on right-wing media’s obsession with defunding Planned Parenthood and cut funding to the health care provider ostensibly to reduce abortions, but in doing so actually shut down access to the only HIV testing centers available to many Indiana residents and may have inadvertently caused an HIV epidemic in rural parts of the state. Pence has a long history of supporting right-wing media causes against the LGBTQ community and during the 2016 presidential campaign was called out by MSNBC host Rachel Maddow for statements he made while serving in Congress.

    Trump campaigned as an alleged ally of the LGBTQ community, but community leaders recently slammed his “shameful” refusal to sign a proclamation declaring June LGBTQ Pride month, ending an eight-year tradition. The Trump administration also faced pushback after it announced it would not allow Americans to self-identify as LGBTQ in the 2020 national census.

  • Media Hounding Obama's '96 Gay Marriage Stance

    Blog ››› ››› KERRY ELEVELD

    The White House may have to change the narrative on marriage equality soon if the media continues questioning President Barack Obama's 1996 pro-gay marriage stance.

    In a '96 candidate questionnaire when Obama was running for Illinois State Senate, he stated: "I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages."

    When White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about the matter at Monday's briefing, he was in a serious bind.

    "I think there's a whole host of issues that I would direct you to the campaign on different questionnaires and I would again reiterate what the president has said recently [about his evolving views] on that issue," Gibbs told Washington Blade reporter Chris Johnson.

    Pressed by Johnson on whether he disputed the accuracy of the questionnaire, Gibbs channeled his first dodge.

    "Again, I'm happy to send you the several thousand clips of which went around during the course of 2008 on a whole host of those issues," he said.

    Obama's '96 marriage stance was also referred to in two separate op-eds over the weekend: Dan Savage's Sunday New York Times piece urging the president to address marriage equality in his State of the Union address and my Washington Post op-ed on Friday, which pointed out the inherent flaw in Obama's civil unions stance.

    White House aides have never faced serious questioning on the matter of Obama's previous stance and the reasons for his devolution on same-sex marriage - an explanation on which I'm sure they'd rather not deliberate.

    But I have spoken with enough mainstream journalists to know that they are already curious about what "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal means for marriage equality and, if the president's '96 positioning becomes part of the mainstream discussion, the White House will have to find a way to redirect this recurring loop in the media before President Obama enters the thick of the 2012 election.