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Alliance Defending Freedom

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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.

  • Recent reporting on violence against trans inmates illustrates the dangers of Trump administration rescinding protections

    Anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom is negotiating with the Trump administration to undo Obama-era guidelines protecting transgender inmates

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The Trump administration is considering undoing protections for incarcerated transgender people after reportedly being in “negotiations” with anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). Transgender inmates are frequently housed with members of the opposite gender and experience the highest reported incidence of sexual violence in prisons and jails. The dangers they face are illustrated by a number of recent media reports on lawsuits trans women have filed regarding their treatment while incarcerated.

    On January 4, The Dallas Morning News reported that ADF is representing plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The suit demands that the bureau “remove all transgender inmates” from a female-only prison in Fort Worth, TX. In an effort to settle the lawsuit, ADF is “in negotiations with the federal government” over undoing policies that protect transgender inmates. The article predicted that the Trump administration was “likely to undo” those policies. ADF lawyer Gary McCaleb, who has also been active in ADF’s work against transgender student equality in schools, told The Dallas Morning News that he was “pretty confident” that the BOP would change some of its transgender inmate protections, particularly on the issue of whether transgender women are housed with non-trans prisoners. ADF’s work here is just one piece of its relentless campaign against LGBTQ equality.

    In weighing whether to remove protections for incarcerated trans people, ADF and the Trump administration will likely be taking aim at two pieces of Obama-era guidance. One is a January 18, 2017, “Transgender Offender Manual,” which gave guidance on the treatment of transgender inmates and sought to “ensure the Bureau of Prisons (Bureau) properly identifies, tracks, and provides services to the transgender population.” The other guidance likely to be affected is the Justice Department’s 2012 standards under the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA) that require detention facilities to “incorporate unique vulnerabilities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and gender nonconforming inmates into training and screening protocols.” Those rules say that “in deciding whether to assign a transgender or intersex inmate to a facility for male or female inmates, … the agency shall consider on a case-by-case basis whether a placement would ensure the inmate’s health and safety, and whether the placement would present management or security problems.”

    According to Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern, transgender protections under PREA can work as “a mechanism through which trans inmates essentially sue prisons for violating their rights under federal law.” Thus, the attempts by ADF and the Trump administration to alter those policies could affect transgender inmates’ ability to sue for inhumane treatment.

    Recent coverage of a number of lawsuits filed by transgender women who reported sexual and physical violence and harassment in prisons and jails demonstrates the countless hardships transgender inmates encounter. In November, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that a transgender woman filed a lawsuit against the county and jail officials after she was “placed in a male holding cell” in Allegheny County, PA. The woman was “raped and physically assaulted by [an] inmate -- despite her cries for help and seeking assistance through the cell’s emergency call button.” The woman also said she was “harassed physically and called derogatory names” and had men watch her shower and strip-search her.

    On January 5, the Associated Press reported that a transgender woman incarcerated in Illinois “is seeking a rarely granted transfer to a female prison” after experiencing “sexual assault, taunting and beatings” in male prisons. Her lawsuit described “how guards and fellow inmates would regularly single her out for brutal treatment,” saying “that guards made her and another transgender inmate perform sex acts on each other as the guards hurled slurs and laughed.” The AP reported on another filing from her lawyers that said it had been “devastating psychologically” for her to be unable to present “herself as a female” while incarcerated. The article noted the “greater risk of abuse” for trans inmates, including that “nearly 40 percent reported being victims of sexual misconduct by other inmates and guards — compared to around 4 percent of the general prison reporting such abuse.”

    On that same day, Reuters reported that the state of Massachusetts “asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a transgender woman” who is housed in a men’s prison. In her lawsuit, the woman said that she has been subjected “to strip searches by male guards” who “routinely groped” her and forced her “to shower in the presence of male inmates.” In yet another January report, the New York Post wrote that a transgender woman who was incarcerated in the notoriously violent Rikers Island jail complex is suing New York City and correction officials after being “beaten so severely by several guards that they broke her jaw, knocked out teeth and left her with two black eyes.”

    In December, Aviva Stahl wrote a piece for The Village Voice, titled “New York City Jails Still Can’t Keep Trans Prisoners Safe,” analyzing the state of incarcerated transgender people in the city's jails. Stahl’s report noted that advocates say the city’s Department of Correction has failed to protect transgender prisoners and that “some trans women have been denied entry” into the city’s Transgender Housing Unit (THU) or “been transferred into male facilities after their external genitalia were observed in medical exams.” Stahl noted that these failures are violations “of national prison anti-rape standards,” the very standards that could be affected by the negotiations between the ADF and the Trump administration. The article added that transgender people have “the highest reported incidence of sexual violence of any demographic group studied, more than eight times the rate for prisoners overall,” according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. A 2007 study found an even higher rate for transgender women: “59 percent of transgender women housed in men’s prisons had been sexually abused while incarcerated, as compared to 4 percent of non-transgender inmates in men’s prisons.”

    These abuses are happening even with the Obama-era protections in place. If ADF is successful in getting the Trump administration to rescind these limited protections, trans lives and bodies will be at still further risk.

  • 2017's worst anti-trans lies and smears 

    Media Matters looks back at some of the worst smears, lies, and liars attacking the transgender community in 2017

    Blog ››› ››› REBECCA DAMANTE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Right-wing media figures and anti-LGBTQ hate group representatives have a long history of spreading anti-trans hatred and lies, and 2017 was no different. From hate groups attacks on trans children and students to Alex Jones’ anti-LGBTQ extremism, Media Matters rounded up some of 2017’s most transphobic misinformers and their lies.

    Alex Jones cemented his place as an anti-trans extremist

    Hate groups and right-wing media figures attacked transgender children and students

    Hate groups and right-wing media continued to weaponize the thoroughly debunked “bathroom predator” myth

    Conservative media figures misinformed about the transgender military ban and told lies about trans service members

    Right-wing media figures used anti-trans language and slurs when talking about transgender people

    Alex Jones cemented his place as an anti-trans extremist

    Right-wing conspiracy theorist and ally to President Donald Trump Alex Jones has cemented his place as an anti-trans extremist this year as he repeatedly used the slur “tranny,” dehumanized trans people's existence, and spread vile rhetoric about them. Though Jones has repeatedly said he is “not against gay people,” Media Matters has documented a pattern of extreme anti-LGBTQ rhetoric that proves otherwise. 

    In one segment on his show, for example, Jones said that transgender women may be gay men who want “to go pick up more guys” by getting “breast implants” and trying to “doll [their] hair up.” On another episode, Jones compared a transgender man who had a baby to Jones deciding that he is a “50-foot, red, purple, striped giraffe” that “give[s] birth to leprechauns.” In other segments, Jones has said that accepting transgender people is a slippery slope to “brain chips” and suggested that former first lady Michelle Obama has a penis and may have killed late comedian Joan Rivers, saying that he was “not putting trannies down” with the comments.

    Jones accused transgender women of being gay men who want “to go pick up more guys” by getting breast implants and dolling up their hair.

    [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 7/10/17]

    Jones compared a pregnant transgender man to a “50-foot, red, purple, striped giraffe” that gives “birth to leprechauns.”

    [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 8/3/17]

    Jones said that accepting transgender people is a slippery slope to “brain chips.”

    [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 8/7/17

    Hate groups and right-wing media figures attacked transgender children and students

    In 2017, hate group leaders and right-wing media personalities continued their fight against LGBTQ equality in schools, attacking transgender students and children, their parents, and teachers who teach trans-inclusive lessons. These attacks are also happening on a policy level, with hate group Alliance Defending Freedom spending much of the year trying to block transgender student equality by inserting itself in debates at local school districts and in state legislatures about transgender students’ access to restroom facilities that align with their gender identity.

    In July, anti-LGBTQ hate group American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) President Dr. Michelle Cretella asserted that parents accepting their transgender children's’ gender identity is “child abuse” and spread myths and junk science about transgender people during an episode of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight. ACPeds is a small, deceptively named hate group with only a few hundred members that is meant to be confused with the 60,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics. In another example, right-wing media figures attacked a California elementary school teacher for reading two children’s books about gender identity to her kindergarten classroom after a transgender student brought one in to share. Right-wing website PJ Media suggested that parents “move out of [their] community” if they feel it is necessary to protect their children from being turned into “mind-numbed robots who nod affirmatively in the face of lies,” and anti-LGBTQ FoxNews.com contributor Todd Starnes called the events “an example of how schools have been indoctrination grounds for the LGBT agenda” and “activist bullies.”

    Anti-LGBTQ hate group ACPeds’ Cretella called accepting transgender children “child abuse.”

    [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 7/24/17]

    Hate groups and right-wing media continued to weaponize the thoroughly debunked “bathroom predator” myth

    Right-wing figures and anti-LGBTQ hate groups continued to reinforce the debunked “bathroom predator” myth, which asserts that policies allowing trans people to use restrooms that align with their gender identity will create an opening for sexual predators to assault women. That myth has been long debunked by experts and government officials in more than a dozen states, school administrators, and sexual assault and domestic violence prevention experts, but pundits and anti-LGBTQ figures continued to push the lie in 2017.

    On February 15, Tony Perkins, the president of anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council (FRC), dubiously claimed that Target’s trans-inclusive bathroom policy gives people a “good chance” of seeing a “live rendition of CSI … because increasingly you’ve had crime scenes in their restrooms and in their changing rooms.” Similarly, on an episode of a special panel show on Houston’s Fox 26, president of the anti-LGBTQ hate group Conservative Republicans of Texas (CRTx) Jared Woodfill said that “registered sex offenders who somehow believe that they’re a woman” would be “allowed to go into the restroom where our wives, our daughters, and our mothers are going to be.” In yet another example, Charmaine Yoest, a right-wing political commentator who is now in a top communications post at the Department of Health and Human Services, asserted that “the real issue” with trans-inclusive policies “is the opening that it provides for sexual predators … who might be using this as a way to get access to young girls and women.

    FRC’s Perkins claimed that Target’s trans-inclusive restroom policy gives people a “good chance” of seeing a “live rendition of CSI … because increasingly you’ve had crime scenes in their restrooms and in their changing rooms”

    [Fox Business, Varney & Co., 2/15/17]

    CRTx’s Woodfill claimed that “registered sex offenders who somehow believe that they’re a woman” would be “allowed to go into the restroom where our wives, our daughters, and our mothers are going to be” with trans-inclusive restroom policies.

    [Fox 26, What’s Your Point, 5/22/17]

    Former right-wing pundit Yoest said that “the real issue” with trans-inclusive policies “is the opening that it provides for sexual predators … who might be using this as a way to get access to young girls and women.”

    [CNN, CNN Newsroom, 2/23/17]

    Conservative media figures misinformed about the transgender military ban and told lies about trans service members

    When Trump announced he would ban transgender people from the military, right-wing media and hate groups pushed misinformation about transgender service members and called them “mentally ill.” (The ban has so far been paused by the courts.) Other right-wing lies about the ban included the claim that the cost of medically necessary health care for transgender service members would be in the billions, that allowing transgender members to serve would interfere with military readiness and cohesion, and that a majority of transgender people are unable to be deployed due to their health care needs. Analysts have found minimal additional costs involved in providing health care to transgender service members and no negative impacts on military cohesion or readiness.

    Right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro responded to the ban by saying that “the military should not accept mentally ill soldiers.” Shapiro tweeted that “no one has the ‘right’ to serve in the military,” and again implied that transgender people have a “mental illness.” Retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, who is the vice president of anti-LGBTQ hate group FRC, similarly pushed the myth that transgender people have some “kind of physical or mental illness” and claimed that their inclusion in the military was part of “a test bed for nothing but social experiments.” According to the American Psychological Association, “Identifying as transgender does not constitute a mental disorder.” Other leading medical organizations agree.

    FRC’s Boykin pushed the lie that transgender people are mentally ill, saying, "We shouldn't recruit people with any kind of physical or mental illness."

    [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 8/24/17]

    Shapiro claimed that “no one has the ‘right’ to serve in the military. People are 4F [unfit to serve] for a variety of reasons. Mental illness can be such a reason.”

    [Twitter, 7/26/17]

    Shapiro said that “The military should not accept mentally ill soldiers,” but Trump’s announcement “should not have been done by tweet.”

    [Twitter, 7/26/17]

    Right-wing media figures used anti-trans language and slurs when talking about transgender people

    Over the past year, right-wing media figures attacked transgender people with offensive language, anti-trans slurs, and even the denial of trans existence. In addition to the steadfast slandering of transgender people by Alex Jones, other right-wing media figures employed transphobic rhetoric that can have severe consequences on transgender people and youth. Calls from transgender youth to the Trevor Project’s suicide hotline increased this year, and the project cited “anti-transgender rhetoric” coming from elected officials and others as “putting lives at risk.”

    In a November rant lamenting the surge of LGBTQ victories in 2017 elections, right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh used the anti-trans slur “tranny” and insisted that LGBTQ people be referred to only as “homosexual,” saying, “the word is homosexual.” On Fox, Carlson hosted a transgender guest and insulted her by accusing transgender people of “faking” and repeatedly pushing the myth that people can just “decide” to be transgender on a whim. This kind of rhetoric places doubt on transgender existence.

    After trans candidates won 2017 elections, Limbaugh insisted that all LGBTQ people be referred to as “homosexual” and used the anti-trans slur “tranny.”

    [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 11/9/17]

    Carlson insulted a transgender guest and accused transgender people of "faking."

    [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 2/24/17]      

  • A compliant press helped bring Alliance Defending Freedom's anti-LGBTQ hate back into the mainstream in 2017

    The hate group led the fight against queer and trans equality this year, but many in the press fell for its "free speech" narrative

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) began 2017 by being designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and finished the year arguing before the Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commision. Throughout that time, ADF fervently opposed LGBTQ equality at every step while also moving its hardline extremism more and more into the mainstream. The media, in turn, aided the group’s efforts by largely failing to contextualize its unrelenting campaign against queer and trans people.

    In the landmark Masterpiece Cakeshop case, ADF is representing plaintiff Jack Phillips, who was sued after he refused to bake a wedding cake for Charlie Craig and David Mullins, a gay couple. ADF argued before the Supreme Court on December 5, and the court will decide the case next year. But Masterpiece Cakeshop is just the tip of the iceberg of ADF’s anti-LGBTQ work this year, all of which has one thing in common: seeking to make LGBTQ people second-class citizens.

    ADF spent the year attacking nearly every aspect of LGBTQ equality at the school, local, state, and federal level

    ADF’s representation of the plaintiff in Masterpiece Cakeshop case did not occur in a vacuum. The group and its allied lawyers have worked on at least eight other legal cases involving religious exemptions this year. Religious exemptions are often used by anti-LGBTQ groups and people to justify discrimination under the guise of “religious freedom.” ADF helped write, promote, and justify Mississippi’s sweeping anti-LGBTQ religious exemption law and fought for it in court, and it worked with Attorney General Jeff Sessions before he issued religious exemptions guidance in October. In addition, ADF has been leading the fight against transgender student equality in schools across the United States, including by influencing anti-trans “bathroom bills” in at least eight states.

    SPLC labeled ADF as an anti-LGBTQ hate group in February due to a history of the group’s leaders and affiliated lawyers “regularly demoniz[ing] LGBT people, falsely linking them to pedophilia, calling them ‘evil’ and a threat to children and society, and blaming them for the ‘persecution of devout Christians.’” The hate group designation was also conferred in part for ADF’s history of supporting anti-sodomy laws, which effectively criminalize homosexuality. In 2003, the group filed an amicus brief in Lawrence v. Texas that defended state sodomy laws and called “same-sex sodomy … a distinct public health problem.” ADF also supports attempts to turn LGBTQ people straight through dangerous conversion therapy, which every mainstream medical group has discredited for decades and which has severe mental and medical health consequences for its victims.

    ADF has worked hard to mainstream its image, but the media has a responsibility to start contextualizing the group

    One hallmark of ADF’s year -- as it headed to the Supreme Court for one of its most consequential cases -- has been its work alongside its allies and a sympathetic right-wing media to mainstream its image and move the goalposts on what is considered hate. In a report for The Nation, Sarah Posner summarized the group’s strategy: “Increasingly wary of being called discriminatory in the wake of a decision last year by the Southern Poverty Law Center to label it a hate group, ADF has redoubled its efforts to portray its views as mainstream.” Posner quoted First Amendment attorney Greg Lipper saying that ADF has been able to “‘take an extreme position’ and mainstream it so thoroughly that it has become ‘a viable theory at the Supreme Court.’”

    Media Matters has found that major newspapers like The Washington Post and The New York Times tend to avoid using SPLC’s “hate group” label when it comes to anti-LGBTQ groups but frequently identify other hate groups designated by SPLC, particularly white nationalist groups. ADF and its allies have taken advantage of media’s hesitancy to use the label and actively worked to discredit SPLC’s designation, especially when media outlets do use it. In September, ADF and a number of other groups wrote a letter to “members of the media” asking them to stop using the designation. The same groups signed a similar letter in June attacking a nonprofit database for using the designation; the database eventually succumbed to the pressure and announced its decision to stop using the label partly because of “harassment and threats directed at our staff and leadership.” The groups involved in these campaigns comprise a sort of “who’s who” of anti-LGBTQ bigotry and are highly influential.

    When ABC News and NBC News used the “hate group” designation to describe ADF in June reports, ADF demanded a retraction from ABC and began an aggressive media strategy to attack SPLC and attempt to discredit ABC’s and NBC’s reports. Right-wing media figures joined the chorus and echoed ADF's and others’ attacks on the designation, and ADF representatives soon made the rounds on Fox News, appearing on Fox & Friends, The Story with Martha MacCallum, and Tucker Carlson Tonight. The network has proven to be a safe space for the group to push this narrative. In July, Tucker Carlson called SPLC a “totally discredited but extremely rich left-wing organization” that attempts to “shut down legitimate debate by labeling ideas it disagrees with as ‘hate speech.’” Later in the segment, Carlson interviewed ADF Vice President Kristen Waggoner about ABC’s and NBC’s reports. In another segment, Carlson lamented that SPLC’s list of hate groups “lump[ed]” anti-LGBTQ groups with “Nazis and crazy people.” This flawed argument has been recycled thoroughly by hate groups and right-wing media.

    But it’s not just right-wing media that has been sympathetic to this campaign to discredit the “hate group” label. CNN changed a headline from “Here are all the active hate groups where you live” to “The Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of hate groups” after pressure from right-wing figures and media. News outlets are more than just hesitant to use the “hate group” label, though, and often fail to give any context to ADF’s work at all. Media outlets owe it to their audiences to, at the very least, contextualize ADF and groups like it. Yet a lot of coverage has been lacking in that context.

    Much of the reporting around the Masterpiece Cakeshop case fell into this trap. Time and time again, media outlets failed to contextualize ADF, instead simply noting that it was arguing the case or sometimes calling it “conservative.” In their reports on the case, The Washington Post, NPR, Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times all mentioned ADF’s role in the case but failed to mention its years-long campaign against LGBTQ equality, and those compose just a small sampling of a larger problem. A report by Time explicitly said that ADF “is making the argument that [the case] is fundamentally not about LGBTQ discrimination but about free speech” but also failed to note any of ADF’s other work combating LGBTQ equality. The piece did appropriately address the ramifications of the case for queer and trans rights, but it failed to counter ADF’s narrative or give background to its work, which would’ve shown the readers that ADF’s argument about the case “not [being] about LGBTQ discrimination” is without any merit in the context of its other work.

    Leaving out important context about ADF can give readers an impression that the case, or even ADF’s work as a whole, may truly be about “free speech” rather than discrimination against LGBTQ people. ADF’s history proves that, for the group, the Masterpiece case is not about so-called “artistic freedom” or the First Amendment; it’s about preventing LGBTQ people from being fully recognized citizens in public and even private life. If news outlets won’t call it hate in 2018, they can at least give enough information for their readers to see it for themselves.

  • It's not just Masterpiece Cakeshop: Alliance Defending Freedom is attacking nearly every aspect of LGBTQ equality

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    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.

  • Six key takeaways from The Nation's investigative report on Alliance Defending Freedom’s “legal army”

    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"

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    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:

    1. ADF has “propelled” numerous attorneys “into state and federal government” and a number of its allies have influential cabinet and agency positions

    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.

    2. Trump is nominating attorneys with ties to ADF for federal judgeships

    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.

    3. Extreme anti-LGBTQ book The Homosexual Agenda “has long been on the reading list” for ADF’s Blackstone Legal Fellowship

    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.”

    4. To hide its extremist views, ADF has “very recently” tampered down "routinely traffick[ing] in slurs against the LGBTQ community"

    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.

    5. ADF-allied attorneys often do not disclose their relationships to the group

    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.”

    6. ADF’s guise of “religious liberty” is essentially exclusively focused on Christians

    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.

  • A hate group's anti-LGBTQ law just went into effect in Mississippi. Here's what you need to know.

    The Human Rights Campaign called Mississippi’s so-called “religious freedom” bill “the nation’s worst anti-LGBTQ state law”

    Blog ››› ››› REBECCA DAMANTE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A sweeping, so-called “religious freedom” bill went into effect in Mississippi on October 10, and advocates are calling it the “worst anti-LGBTQ state law in the U.S.” Mississippi’s “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” claims to protect “sincerely held religious beliefs” but would in fact give religious organizations, businesses, and individuals broad license to legally discriminate against LGBTQ people. The law is a legislative embodiment of the right-wing media myth that LGBTQ equality has led to the persecution of Christians, and it was heavily influenced and crafted in part by anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom, a powerful legal organization that has been involved in pushing similar legislation across the country.

    Mississippi’s extreme anti-LGBTQ law HB 1523 went into effect on October 10

    Mississippi’s anti-LGBTQ “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” (HB 1523), which Mother Jones called “one of the nation’s most sweeping religious exemption laws,” went into effect on October 10. The law permits “widespread discrimination based on ‘sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions.’” Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) signed the bill into law in April 2016, but its implementation stalled after a court challenge led to a district judge issuing an injunction that blocked the bill. On June 22, a federal appeals court lifted the district court’s injunction. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the law allows “discrimination by individuals, businesses, religiously-affiliated organizations — including hospitals, schools, shelters and others — against LGBT people, single mothers, and vulnerable young people in Mississippi” based on religious beliefs. After the law took effect on October 10, Lambda Legal and the Mississippi Center For Justice filed an appeal asking that the U.S. Supreme Court strike it down.

    Five things the media need to know about Mississippi’s HB 1523, “the nation’s worst anti-LGBTQ state law”:

    1. The bill codifies 3 “sincerely held religious beliefs,” including opposition to both marriage equality and sex outside of marriage

    According to the ACLU, HB 1523 is unique in that it makes Mississippi “the first state to codify discrimination based on a religious belief or moral conviction that members of the LGBTQ community do not matter.” Indeed, the bill purports to be designed to protect people with three specific “sincerely held religious religious beliefs”: that “marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman,” that “sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage,” and that “male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual's immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.” The law gives individuals, private associations, and religiously affiliated organizations license to legally make discriminatory actions against LGBTQ people and others under the guise of holding those three positions.

    2. HB 1523 is the “broadest" anti-LGBTQ law enacted since same-sex marriage was legalized

    According to The Associated Press, HB 1523 is “considered the broadest religious-objections state law enacted since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015.” The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has also spoken out against the law, calling it “the “worst anti-LGBTQ state law in the U.S.” and “probably the worst religious freedom bill to date.”

    HRC wrote that “under this law, almost any individual or organization could justify discrimination againist LGBTQ people, single mothers, unwed couples, and others.” The organization outlined examples of potential areas of discrimination, noting that “taxpayer funded faith-based organizations could: refuse to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples for provision of critical services including emergency shelter; deny children in need of loving homes placement with LGBTQ families including the child’s own family member; and refuse to sell or rent a for-profit home to an LGBTQ person.” It could also allow foster families to force LGBTQ children into dangerous “conversion therapy,” a harmful practice that attempts to change sexual orientation or gender identity and that has been discredited by every mainstream medical group. The law also allows religious organizations to terminate or discipline an employee “for being gay, trans, or pro-gay, even if they have roles that have nothing to do with religion or education,” according to The Daily Beast.

    The law’s text notes that the government cannot act against individuals who decline to treat, counsel, perform gender affirmation surgery, provide psychological services, or provide fertility services to LGBTQ individuals, single mothers, and others based on codified religious beliefs. According to The Daily Beast, HB 1523 would also give schools, businesses, and other organizations license to discriminate against transgender people, as this law could be used to force transgender individuals to use bathrooms that do not align with their gender identity or “to dress as their biological sex at birth.” The law explicitly allows employers and schools to establish "sex-specific standards or policies concerning employee or student dress or grooming.”

    Under HB 1523, even government employees are given legal protections to discriminate against LGBTQ people. The Daily Beast wrote that state employees can “proselytize, condemn homosexuals as sinners, argue that gay people should be killed, or put up posters condemning homosexuality as a sin” at their jobs without fear of discipline. The law explicitly allows state employees and judges to recuse themselves "from authorizing or licensing lawful marriages.” That means that county clerks, judges, and magistrates could refuse to authorize same-sex marriages without consequence.

    3. HB 1523 is the legislative embodiment of the right-wing media myth that LGBTQ equality has led to the persecution of Christians

    For years, right-wing media have peddled the myth that Christians are being persecuted by LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws, particularly focusing on anti-gay small-business owners who refuse to provide services for same-sex couples. Fox News has long touted stories of business owners -- including a photographer, baker, and florist -- who refused to provide services to same-sex couples and were then sued for violating nondiscrimination ordinances, and Fox News employees Todd Starnes and Erick Erickson have written books devoted to the anti-LGBTQ Christian persecution myth.

    Other right-wing media outlets have adopted a similar myth that LGBTQ-inclusive protections will lead to the persecution of Christians. For example, Jonathon Van Maren of Life Site News claimed that there has been a “rapid rise of rainbow fascism” leading to the destruction of businesses owned by Christians. Van Maren continued, “Christian business owners saw the wages they needed to feed their families dry up because they were targeted by gay activists and labeled hateful, homophobic bigots simply for declining to assist in celebrating a gay union.” A post in The Daily Caller listed examples of “LGBT anti-Christian bullying,” arguing that “the fight for respect and equal rights for gays and lesbians has ... occasionally been co-opted by anti-Christian bigots who target individuals’ businesses and threaten them with violence.” Some right-wing websites, like RedState, have used the pejorative term “gay mafia” to describe activists fighting business discrimination against LGBTQ people. A post using the term in its headline asserted that LGBTQ activists’ “primary objective is the complete and utter destruction of morality and Christianity in America–and in the end, the Constitutional rights of every American.”

    4. Anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom helped write, promote, and justify the law and fought for it in court

    According to The Washington Post, anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) was heavily involved in the creation of HB 1523, starting its work on the bill before the United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015. The Post reported that ADF lawyer Austin R. Nimocks first emailed a lawyer in Gov. Bryant’s office on June 24, 2015, and in one of his emails attached what he called a “model executive order that would prevent state governments from discriminating against their citizens because of their views or actions concerning marriage.” Mississippi’s bill “adopted many of the identical passages,” according to a brief by an attorney leading challenges against the bill. In March 2016, ADF attorney Kellie Fiedorek sent Bryant two drafts of a signing statement, which is “the final step in the legislative process,” saying, “We looked through a number of Gov. Bryant’s signing statements and tried to use his voice. Please feel free to pull from either one that is most helpful to you and your boss ... we’re here to serve.”

    ADF has also provided legal support to Bryant and other Mississippi officials. The group represented Bryant and John Davis, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, after a federal judge blocked the entire bill from taking effect on June 30, 2016. When the case reached the U.S Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, ADF attorneys joined Bryant in issuing a brief in favor of the law and were a part of his legal team.

    5. ADF has been involved in writing, promoting, and defending RFRAs in other states

    ADF has been directly involved in the drafting of other state “religious freedom” or “religious freedom restoration acts” (RFRAs), including working quietly with a state senator in Iowa earlier this year. There, ADF worked on legislation modeled after Indiana’s 2015 RFRA, signed by now-Vice President Mike Pence. The ACLU of Iowa successfully worked with partner groups and businesses to block its introduction. In 2014, ADF helped write Arizona’s SB 1062 -- a vetoed bill that would have expanded legal protections for businesses refusing service to gay customers -- and in 2015, ADF “had a hand in” writing Georgia's tabled RFRA.

    ADF lawyers have also testified on behalf of or directly promote so-called “religious freedom” bills; in fact, ADF’s vice president of media communications, Greg Scott, characterized enacting RFRAs as “a legislator’s most important duty.” In 2013, ADF senior counsel Joel Oster testified in favor of Kansas' RFRA, which was signed into law that year, and in 2015, ADF senior counsel Michael J. Norton testified in defense of Colorado’s failed "Freedom of Conscience Protection Act.” The organization also promoted a RFRA in Arkansas and helped advise Indiana lawmakers during the debate over the state’s RFRA. In 2016, ADF attorney Matt Sharp testified before the South Dakota legislature in support of a law promising to “ensure government nondiscrimination in matters of religious beliefs and moral convictions,” and ADF counsel Kellie Fiedorek spoke about the so-called “benefits” of a RFRA proposed in West Virginia.

    In addition, ADF's reach extends beyond its own representatives’ support for enacting RFRAs to state legislatures where ADF alumni and “allied attorneys” introduce and sponsor similar legislation. North Carolina state Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer (R) sponsored a failed 2015 RFRA in her state after having proudly boasted of her continued “involvement in promoting religious freedom and other family values as an Allied Attorney" with ADF on her now-defunct campaign website. Similarly, in Louisiana, House Rep. Mike Johnson (R), who previously worked as an attorney for ADF, sponsored another anti-LGBTQ RFRA in 2015.

    ADF’s involvement in drafting and promoting state RFRAs should not come as a surprise, as the organization's president, Michael Farris, co-chaired a committee that lobbied Congress to pass a federal RFRA in 1993. More recently, ADF consulted Attorney General Jeff Sessions on his sweeping religious freedom guidance, released October 6, which makes “it easier for businesses to discriminate against LGBT people and women” and “legal for nearly any business to fire someone or deny a person services based on religious objections.”

  • Alliance Defending Freedom and its allies support turning LGBTQ people straight through harmful reparative therapy

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Major anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has teamed up with a cohort of similar groups to whitewash their images and mainstream hate, and nearly every one of them supports harmful reparative therapy for LGBTQ people. Reparative therapy, which attempts to change sexual orientation or gender identity, has been discredited by every mainstream medical group for decades and has severe mental and medical health consequences for its victims. ADF is the largest anti-LGBTQ hate group in the country and a legal powerhouse; it’s currently preparing oral arguments for a Supreme Court case about LGBTQ discrimination under the guise of “religious” or “artistic” freedom.

  • Trump and Sessions issue anti-LGBTQ religious exemptions guidance, fulfilling promise to hate group Alliance Defending Freedom

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters
     

    The Trump administration released new guidance on October 6 making it easier for people or businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people under the guise of “religious freedom.” In July, Attorney General Jeff Sessions promised anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) -- which has been instrumental in passing similar laws across the country -- that the Justice Department would release such guidance.

    According to BuzzFeed, the new guidance “says the government cannot unduly burden people or certain businesses from practicing their faith, noting, ‘The free exercise of religion includes the right to act or abstain from action in accordance with one’s religious beliefs.’” The guidance includes “twenty principles” of religious liberty, including one that allows religious employers to “employ only persons whose beliefs and conduct are consistent with the employers’ religious precepts.” In other words, it gives license for religious employers to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals, single mothers, divorced persons, and other groups. It also says that protections for so-called “religious liberty” would apply to individuals “providing or receiving social services, education, or healthcare; … seeking to earn or earning a living; … employing others to do the same; … receiving government grants or contracts; or … otherwise interacting with federal, state, or local governments.” A separate principle in the guidance says it applies “not just to individuals, but also to organizations, associations, and at least some for-profit corporations,” and yet another says the government cannot “second-guess the reasonableness of a religious belief.” In sum, the broad memo “could give people of faith -- including government works and contractors -- a loophole to ignore federal bans on discrimination against women and LGBT people,” according to BuzzFeed.

    Sessions promised guidance along those lines in July when he addressed ADF in a closed-door speech that was eventually leaked to the right-wing, rabidly anti-LGBTQ website The Federalist. NBC News reported that during the speech, Sessions said President Donald Trump “has also directed me to issue guidance on how to apply federal religious liberty protections. The department is finalizing this guidance, and I will soon issue it.” Sessions continued, “The guidance will also help agencies follow the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Congress enacted RFRA so that, if the federal government imposes a burden on somebody’s religious practice, it had better have a compelling reason." NBC News spoke with numerous LGBTQ advocates who “suggested Sessions was more interested in protecting the right to discriminate than the freedom of religion.” BuzzFeed also reported that the Justice Department “consulted with religious and political groups with a history of opposing protections for LGBT people,” including ADF. The report noted that ADF has championed and embraced a strategy of “ambiguity in religious policies in the past, believing the scope can be litigated in court.”

    ADF is the largest anti-LGBTQ hate group in the nation and has played an instrumental role in enacting other discriminatory anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom restoration” acts in states across the country, including Mississippi’s law, which is expected to go into effect Tuesday. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has called the Mississippi law “by far the most sweeping and devastating state law to be enacted against LGBTQ people in the country,” adding that “under this law, almost any individual or organization could justify discrimination against LGBTQ people, single mothers, unwed couples, and others.” The Washington Post reported in July 2016 that ADF “played a key role in helping Mississippi’s legislature and governor write, promote and legally justify” the bill. The Post noted that ADF’s involvement was “notable … because state officials did not disclose aid from the organization” and that a lawyer challenging the bill said it “adopted many of the identical passages” in ADF’s “model executive order.” A lawsuit against the law stalled it from going into effect until this month. ADF attorneys “are part of the legal team representing Gov. Phil Bryant in the lawsuits,” according to ADF.

    In Iowa, ADF worked with a state senator on legislation modeled after Indiana’s 2015 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed by now-Vice President Mike Pence. The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa successfully worked with partner groups and businesses to block its introduction. ADF has also fought for and helped enact numerous other such acts in states across the country: It helped write Arizona’s SB 1062, which was ultimately vetoed; one of its lawyers testified in favor of Kansas’ religious freedom act, which passed in 2013; another one of its lawyers testified in defense of a failed religious freedom restoration act in Colorado; it “had a hand in” writing a proposed religious freedom restoration act in Georgia; it promoted a religious freedom restoration act in Arkansas; and it helped “advise” Indiana lawmakers during the state’s debate over its own act. ADF’s Kellie Fiedorek stood behind then-Gov. Pence when he signed the bill into law.

    ADF has supported a number of other extreme anti-LGBTQ positions, including criminalizing homosexuality. ADF (then called the Alliance Defense Fund) formally supported the criminalization of sodomy in the U.S. in 2003 when it filed an amicus brief in Lawrence v. Texas defending state sodomy laws in which it called “same-sex sodomy … a distinct public health problem.” When the court struck down anti-sodomy laws, ADF called the ruling “devastating.”

    The group is also leading the national campaign for “bathroom bills” targeting transgender youth and is representing plaintiff Jack Phillips in the upcoming Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission Supreme Court case. The case may similarly determine whether businesses serving the public have the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people under the guise of “religious” or “artistic freedom.” On October 6, in what was seen by some as an “unusual move,” the Justice Department filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court siding with ADF and its client in that case. ADF has demonstrated time and time again a commitment to chipping away at LGBTQ equality and turning members of the community into second class citizens, and Friday’s guidance by the Justice Department shows the group has powerful, like-minded allies in the Trump administration.

    Rebecca Damante contributed research to this report. Headline changed for clarity.

  • Hate group Alliance Defending Freedom seeks to expand public funding for schools that discriminate against LGBTQ students

    ››› ››› BRETT ROBERTSON

    Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is an anti-LGBTQ hate group and legal powerhouse that has vigorously promoted policies that discriminate against LGBTQ students in schools and is leading the fight against transgender students’ equal access to restroom facilities. The group has also litigated private school voucher cases in at least five states in an effort to make it easier for religious schools, including those that discriminate against LGBTQ students, to receive public funding. A recent U.S. Supreme Court victory by ADF may make it easier for voucher programs to expand to more states.

  • ADF and friends: Hate group Alliance Defending Freedom is at the center of an anti-LGBTQ industry

    ADF has coordinated with more than a dozen hate and right-wing groups to whitewash anti-LGBTQ hate as the group heads to the Supreme Court this fall

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is the largest anti-LGBTQ hate group in the nation and is representing plaintiff Jack Phillips in the upcoming Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission Supreme Court case. The case may determine whether businesses serving the public have the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people under the guise of “religious” or “artistic freedom.” ADF is also currently part of a joint effort, alongside a number of other anti-LGBTQ groups and hate groups, to undermine the “hate group” designation made by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). As such it has co-signed two letters opposing the designation and formally joined an “SPLCexposed” campaign.

    The group has supported a number of extreme, anti-LGBTQ positions, including criminalizing homosexuality. ADF (then called the Alliance Defense Fund) formally supported the criminalization of sodomy in the U.S. in 2003 when it filed an amicus brief in Lawrence v. Texas defending state sodomy laws in which it called “same-sex sodomy … a distinct public health problem.” When the court struck down anti-sodomy laws, ADF called the ruling “devastating” and continued its work supporting the criminalization of gay sex abroad, including in Jamaica, Belize, and India.

    According to SPLC, ADF representatives regularly slander and demonize LGBTQ people, including by pushing the myth that pedophilia and “homosexual behavior” are “often intrinsically linked.” An affiliated lawyer has also called marriage equality a sign of the “degradation of our human dignity” that has “led to a deification of deviant sexual practices.” The group is also leading the national campaign for “bathroom bills” targeting transgender youth.

    The legal powerhouse raked in more than $50 million in revenue in 2015 and has what it refers to as a “powerful global network” of over 3,100 ADF-trained “allied attorneys.” ADF’s influence is widespread. It has played a role in dozens of Supreme Court cases, including regarding abortion, religion, tuition tax credits, and LGBTQ issues; it has special consultative status at the United Nations; it has at least 55 affiliated lawyers serving in influential government positions at the state and federal levels; and it has attempted to sway local school policy across the country, often successfully.

    ADF has worked relentlessly to whitewash its image, joining a number of other anti-LGBTQ groups and hate groups to attack the “hate group” designation. Here is a list of ADF’s anti-LGBTQ allies in their coordinated effort to mainstream hate:

    Family Research Council

    Liberty Counsel

    Pacific Justice Institute

    National Organization for Marriage

    D. James Kennedy Ministries

    American College of Pediatricians

    American Family Association

    C-Fam

    Traditional Values Coalition

    Ruth Institute

    National Task Force for Therapy Equality / Equality and Justice for All

    Illinois Family Institute

    American Values

    Family Research Council

    FRC is one of ADF’s official “allied organizations” that co-signed both letters attacking the “hate group” designation, and is part of the “SPLCexposed” campaign with ADF.

    The Family Research Council (FRC) is another anti-LGBTQ hate group that has partnered with ADF and others to whitewash their extremism and cast doubt on their hate group status. FRC joined ADF in the “SPLCexposed” campaign as an official supporting partner. It also co-signed two letters with ADF, one attacking nonprofit database Guidestar for labeling them as hate groups and another asking the media to drop the “hate group” label. ADF also promotes FRC as an allied organization on its website, and FRC submitted an amicus brief in support of legalizing discrimination against LGBTQ people in the Masterpiece case.

    FRC’s official position is that “homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large” and “is by definition unnatural,” and the organization promotes the idea “that people can and should try to change their sexual orientation” or “just not act on it.”

    According to SPLC, former FRC Vice President Rob Schwarzwalder accused gay youth of joining the Boy Scouts of America “for predatory purposes,” and various FRC representatives and publications have repeatedly compared homosexuality to pedophilia. Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at FRC, asserted that LGBTQ youth suicide rates would drop if the teenagers were “discourage[d] from self-identifying as gay, lesbian, or bisexual” and urged others “not to create a positive social environment for the affirmation of homosexuality.” In a 2010 appearance on MSNBC, Sprigg also said that “there would be a place for criminal sanctions against homosexual behavior,” a statement not out of step from FRC’s 2003 filing of an amicus brief supporting anti-sodomy laws. In 2011, FRC called for its supporters to pray for countries that had laws criminalizing sodomy and were being pressured by the U.S. to remove them, and it suggested that homosexuality “has had a devastating impact upon Africans,” citing the AIDS crisis as an example.

    FRC has a budget of tens of millions of dollars and wields significant influence in the current administration. Its senior fellow, Ken Blackwell, was officially appointed to President Donald Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which critics have described as a voter suppression effort. FRC President Tony Perkins embraced and endorsed Trump as a presidential candidate (and met with him at the White House in June). And at least four people who are affiliated with FRC, including Blackwell, were a part of Trump’s transition team.

    Liberty Counsel

    Liberty Counsel co-signed both letters with ADF and joined it in the “SPLCexposed” campaign.

    Liberty Counsel is an anti-LGBTQ hate group founded by Mat Staver, former dean of Liberty University School of Law, that “shares a close affiliation with Liberty University.” Liberty Counsel partnered with ADF in the “SPLCexposed” campaign and co-signed both letters with the group.

    Liberty Counsel filed an amicus brief in support of ADF’s client in the Masterpiece case, and it has expressed support for criminalizing homosexuality, filing a 2003 amicus brief in support of anti-sodomy laws. In 2012, the organization signed on to defend an anti-LGBTQ extremist who “allegedly played an instrumental part in the Ugandan parliament’s adoption of a draconian anti-LGBT bill that originally included the death penalty in some instances.”

    Staver has called LGBTQ History Month a "sexual assault on our children," repeatedly warned that the Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage would trigger a revolution and could lead to civil war, and claimed nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people will result in the "death of some individuals." Staver has also compared LGBTQ people to pedophiles, once saying that allowing gay youth and adults in the Boy Scouts will cause “all kinds of sexual molestation” and create a “playground for pedophiles to go and have all these boys as objects of their lust.”

    Former Liberty Counsel attorney Matt Barber said LGBTQ people “know intuitively that what they are doing is immoral, unnatural, and self-destructive,” adding that they have “tied their whole identity up in this sexual perversion.” In a column for WorldNetDaily, Barber called “disease, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide … consequences” of being gay.

    In 2014, Liberty Counsel brought in more than $5.5 million in revenue. The organization famously represented Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis in litigation after she refused to issue marriage licenses to same and opposite-sex couples in 2015; Talking Points Memo reported that Staver “compared Davis’ plight to that of Jews in Nazi Germany” during a radio interview.

    Pacific Justice Institute

    PJI is one of ADF’s official “allied organizations” and co-signed a letter with ADF asking the media to drop the “hate group” designation.

    Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) is an anti-LGBTQ hate group that also filed an amicus brief in the Masterpiece case. ADF lists PJI as an allied organization on its website, and PJI co-signed the letter along with ADF asking media outlets to drop the “hate group” designation. Notably, PJI has a history of fabricating stories to advance anti-LGBTQ narratives. The group led a smear campaign against a transgender teenager that led to her getting harassed and receiving death threats after her name was leaked to the public; as a result, the teenager was put on suicide watch. PJI relied on debunked claims to defame the student and accuse her of harassing other students, and a few news outlets retracted their stories about the matter after PJI’s claims were determined false. PJI also pushed a bogus story about a California mom who claimed that an REI sporting goods store kicked her out for complaining about a man frightening her daughter in the women’s restroom. It has also pushed fabricated stories about anti-LGBTQ students being bullied in California

    PJI’s president, Brad Dacus, has compared stopping marriage equality with stopping Nazis. In 1993, Dacus represented a baptist minister in court after he was removed from the city’s Human Rights Commission for suggesting that he agreed with the biblical punishment of stoning gay men to death; Dacus defended his client’s statement under the guise of so-called “freedom of religion.” Dacus claimed in 2012 that overturning the Defense of Marriage Act could create an “open heydey” for “polygamy” and “perhaps adult incest.” In 2015, PJI brought in $2 million in revenue, and the group conducts outreach on multiple international fronts, including to Slavic countries, China, and Korea.

    National Organization for Marriage

    NOM is one of ADF’s official “allied organizations” and is an official supporting partner of the “SPLCexposed” campaign.

    National Organization for Marriage (NOM) was founded in 2007 to fight same-sex marriage. ADF touts NOM as an allied organization on its website, and NOM is an official supporting partner of the “SPLCexposed” campaign.

    NOM ran its first anti-LGBTQ campaign in 2008 as one of the leading groups pushing Proposition 8 in California, a successful ballot initiative that invalidated marriage equality in the state before it was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2013. Early this month, NOM submitted an amicus brief in support of ADF’s client in the Masterpiece case.

    Though NOM’s influence and finances have decreased significantly in the years since marriage equality spread throughout the country, the group has significant ties to other prominent anti-LGBTQ groups. The Ruth Institute, a hate group, began as an arm of NOM, and NOM President Brian Brown also runs the World Congress of Families, an anti-LGBTQ hate group that worked closely with Russian lawmakers, activists, and officials as the country shaped its “gay propaganda” law. That law “has been seen as effectively criminalizing any public expression of same-sex relationships,” according to Mother Jones, and it has led to the arrests of activists and increased violence against LGBTQ people in Russia.

    In 2012, NOM became the subject of controversy in the U.S. when secret documents by the group were discovered attempting to pit minority groups against LGBTQ people. The documents outlined a strategy to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks” by “fanning the hostility” between the two groups. They also said it aimed to “interrupt this process of assimilation” for Latino people “by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity - a symbol of resistance to inappropriate assimilation.” According to SPLC, the group has repeatedly pushed the work of anti-LGBTQ extremists attempting to connect LGBTQ people to pedophilia, and Brown has said that marriage equality could lead to “normalizing pedophilia.” According to the Human Rights Campaign, Brown has been actively involved in anti-LGBTQ activism in Russia, including by advocating against gay adoption, telling Russians to “defend your values” and “protect our children.” Additionally, NOM was fined more than $50,000 in 2014 for violating campaign finance laws.

    D. James Kennedy Ministries

    The late D. James Kennedy was a key founder of ADF, and he also founded D. James Kennedy Ministries, one of ADF’s official “allied organizations.” The group also co-signed the letter to media asking outlets to drop the “hate group” label.

    D. James Kennedy Ministries, formerly known as Truth in Action, is an anti-LGBTQ hate group. The group is an official allied organization of ADF and co-signed the letter to media asking outlets to drop the “hate group” label in their coverage. The late D. James Kennedy, who founded the Ministries, was one of the key founders of ADF in 1993.

    The group has produced a series of anti-LGBTQ films, including one opposing allowing gay kids to join the Boy Scouts and saying that they would put “boys at serious risk.” It has a weekly radio program that regularly hosts anti-LGBTQ figures, giving them a platform to spread vitriol.

    According to Right Wing Watch, the group has repeatedly suggested that America is becoming Nazi Germany because of advancements in LGBTQ rights, once linking the Day of Silence -- a “student-led national event organized in thousands of schools, bringing awareness to the silencing effects of anti-LGBTQ name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools” -- with “Adolf Hitler’s birthday.” As Truth in Action, D. James Kennedy Ministries also released a film that displayed “images of the September 11 attacks, bombings, drug abuse, Adolf Hitler…and a married lesbian couple and the kiss between characters Kurt and Blaine on Glee” as a narrator discussed “everything that is evil in this world.” One of the group’s representatives asserted that “about 75 percent of those who struggle with homosexual or lesbian feelings were molested as children.” The group also said in 2012 that the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell would “jeopardize the military’s health and blood supply, since homosexual men are far more likely to be promiscuous and to have STDs, including HIV/AIDS.” In 2013, the group pushed a made-up story that a high school athlete was disqualified from competing at state level because he made a religious gesture, eventually scrubbing it from its website.

    In 2015, D. James Kennedy Ministries brought in nearly $5 million in revenue.

    American College of Pediatricians

    ACPeds co-signed both letters with ADF attacking the “hate group” designation, and ADF attorneys have filed multiple briefs in court alongside and on behalf of ACPeds.

    The American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) is a small anti-LGBTQ hate group of a few hundred members whose name is meant to be confused with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) -- a 60,000-member group comprising “leaders in the professional field.” ACPeds President Dr. Michelle Cretella co-signed both letters along with ADF attacking the hate designation. ADF attorneys have filed multiple briefs in court on behalf of ACPeds. The latter group has also filed an amicus brief in support of ADF’s clients in the Masterpiece case.

    According to SPLC, ACPeds hides “under the veneer of its professional-sounding name and claims” in order to “defame and discredit LGBT people, often by distorting legitimate research.” ACPeds began when a “small group of anti-LGBT physicians and other healthcare professionals broke away” from AAP after it began supporting the right of same-sex couples to adopt and foster-parent children. ACPeds has been relentless in its claim that it’s dangerous for children to identify as LGBTQ; its blog has suggested that “P for pedophile” should be a part of the LGBT acronym, and, in 2010, the group’s then-president sent a letter to more than 14,000 school district superintendents advocating for conversion therapy and outlining the so-called “health risks” of “claim[ing] a ‘gay’ identity.” Conversion therapy is a dangerous practice that has been “rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization for decades.”

    American Family Association

    Former AFA President Donald Wildmon was a key founder of ADF. AFA is one of ADF’s official “allied organizations” and co-signed both letters attacking the “hate group” designation.

    American Family Association (AFA) is an anti-LGBTQ hate group that filed an amicus brief in support of ADF’s client in the Masterpiece case. AFA is an official allied organization of ADF and co-signed both letters with ADF attacking the hate group designation. Former AFA President Donald Wildmon was a key founder of ADF, which was formed in 1993 when “a coalition of 35 Christian Right groups” joined together to found it. Wildmon’s son, Tim Wildmon, now runs the organization, which according to SPLC consists of a “200-station radio network, about 100 employees and a monthly AFA Journal sent to 180,000 people — largely on the basis of anti-gay appeals.”

    SPLC reported that, in early 2000s, AFA sent a mailer saying that it “must OPPOSE the spread of homosexual activity! Just as we must oppose murder, stealing, and adultery," adding that LGBTQ people “RECRUIT” children. The group ran a multi-year “ex-gay” campaign called “Truth In Love” that advocated for curing LGBTQ people. The campaign included an AFA film that claimed that “80% of homosexual men have a sexually transmitted disease.” The film also featured a man who had been a prominent “ex-gay” activist and who was later found to be “hosting orgies, taking drugs and having unprotected sex with other men without disclosing his HIV status” while he traveled around the country condemning “the homosexual lifestyle.” The film is still listed on AFA’s website, which claims it has been shown in “thousands of churches.”

    According to SPLC, AFA’s Bryan Fischer has repeatedly pushed a myth that the Nazi party was formed by LGBTQ people, saying that Nazism was “rooted in the homosexual movement” and “formed in a gay bar.” Fischer has said that Nazi Germany tried “homosexuality in the military” before asking, “How did that experiment work out?” He also claimed that “homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews.” According to SPLC, these discredited assertions came from “the Holocaust revisionist work of Scott Lively,” who claimed that “because of the ‘savage nature’ of gay men, they were able to instigate and carry out the Holocaust.” As recently as September 23, Fischer expressed support for criminalizing homosexuality, tweeting, “If injection drug abuse is contrary to public policy, homosexual conduct should too. And for the same reasons.”

    AFA brought in nearly $30 million in revenue in 2014, and the notoriousOne Million Moms” campaign is an offshoot of the group. It urges campaigns against and boycotts of what its members call “filth” in the entertainment media.

    C-Fam

    C-Fam and ADF have worked together on multiple international initiatives. C-Fam has hired some of ADF’s Blackstone Legal Fellows for summer positions, and the group co-signed the letter to the media attacking the “hate group” designation.

    The Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam), formerly known as the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, is an anti-LGBTQ hate group run by Austin Ruse. C-Fam and ADF have worked together and supported and promoted each other’s work on a number of causes. Ruse spoke before more than 100 of ADF’s Blackstone Legal Fellows and C-Fam hosted fellows for summer internships. Ruse co-signed the letter to media with ADF that asked media outlets to drop the “hate group” designation in their coverage. According to its website, C-Fam was founded “in order to monitor and affect the social policy debate at the United Nations and other international institutions” and focuses its work internationally.

    Ruse was the subject of controversy in 2014 when he said that “the hard left, human-hating people that run modern universities” should “all be taken out and shot.” He later had to apologize for the statement. Ruse also mocked a 15-year-old transgender activist, using the word “trannies” and employing her image in a post about HIV rates in the transgender community. He also denies that the 1998 anti-gay hate crime murder of Matthew Shepard was a hate crime, publishing multiple pieces on Breitbart saying that “homosexuality had little or nothing to do with his murder” and that Shepard “was not killed by gay bias, gay hatred.” Ruse has said that all countries should pass laws against homosexual behavior “even if unenforced,” in order to "help society to teach what is good" and “prevent such truly harmful practices as homosexual marriage and adoption.” According to GLAAD, Ruse has also claimed that, rather than bullying and social stigma, LGBTQ people and activism are the real cause of LGBTQ teen suicide and alcoholism. C-Fam brought in more than $1.8 million in revenue in 2015 and was granted special consultative status to the United Nations in 2014.

    Traditional Values Coalition

    TVC co-signed both letters with ADF attacking the “hate group” designation.

    Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) is an anti-LGBTQ hate group founded by Lou Sheldon and currently run by his daughter Andrea Lafferty. Lafferty co-signed both letters alongside ADF attacking the “hate group” designation.

    Sheldon has pushed the myth that LGBTQ people are pedophiles, claiming, “As homosexuals continue to make inroads into public schools, more children will be molested and indoctrinated into the world of homosexuality.” According to SPLC, TVC has also asserted that “homosexuals molest children at a far greater rate than do their heterosexual counterparts.” Lafferty, too, has pushed the myth, telling Breitbart News Daily that trans-inclusive bathroom policies at Target and Hershey Park made them “pedophile magnets and pervert magnets.” Lafferty also called transgender kids “psychologically unhealthy and unstable” and said that it’s the “ultimate act of child abuse” to affirm a transgender child’s identity. Lafferty also believes that transgender people should be banned from teaching.

    According to SPLC, Sheldon has also compared homosexuality “to smoking or drug use, not an immutable characteristic like race or ethnicity,” suggested forcibly placing AIDS victims into “cities of refuge,” and said in the 1990s that a newly passed hate crime law would “protect sex with animals and the rape of children as forms of political expression.” Similar to other anti-LGBTQ extremists, Sheldon has compared queer activists to Nazis, saying that attitudes about LGBTQ people “have been deliberately and deceitfully changed by a masterful propaganda/marketing campaign that rivals that of Adolph [sic] Hitler. In fact, many of the strategies used by homosexuals to bring about cultural change in America are taken from Hitler’s writings and propaganda welfare manuals.” In 2014, the group brought in more than $4.1 million in revenue, and it was granted remarkable access to the White House during President George W. Bush’s administration.

    Ruth Institute

    The Ruth Institute is one of ADF’s official “allied organizations” and co-signed the letter to media asking outlets to drop the “hate group” designation. Its founder has given a lecture to ADF Blackstone fellows.

    The Ruth Institute is an anti-LGBTQ hate group that began as an arm of NOM and split off in 2013. The Ruth Institute is an official allied organization of ADF and co-signed the letter with ADF asking media outlets to drop the “hate group” designation in their coverage. The group's founder and president, Jennifer Morse, has given a lecture to ADF Blackstone fellows in which she compared resisting the “sexual revolution” to standing up against Nazis.

    The group used to hold an annual student conference to prepare college students and recent graduates to defend “natural marriage.” According to SPLC, Morse “has mostly steered clear of the kind of vicious anti-LBGT rhetoric employed by some on the religious right,” but the group highlights a “Circle of Experts” on its website. These so-called “experts” spread vicious lies about LGBTQ people, including connecting LGBTQ activism to Nazism, pushing junk science that “children of same-sex couples fare worse,” and connecting them to pedophilia.

    Morse has said that LGBTQ people should stay celibate and has said that being gay is a “completely shameless activity,” according to GLAAD. She has repeatedly pushed a debunked connection between Nazis and LGBTQ people, saying that “the parallels are really quite chilling because the Nazis were able to scare people into being silent, and they scared people by threatening their jobs, and they scared people by creating an atmosphere of intimidation. I hate to say it but it is happening to us.” In another speech, Morse said that same-sex marriage is part of a “pagan ideology” that Christians should avoid like Nazism.

    National Task Force for Therapy Equality / Equality and Justice for All

    NTFTE and Equality and Justice for All’s Christopher Doyle co-signed both letters with ADF lamenting the “hate group” designation and received legal representation from ADF.

    “Ex-gay” activist Christopher Doyle runs The National Task Force for Therapy Equality (NTFTE) and is a consultant for Equality and Justice for All. Doyle and his group advocate for harmful reparative therapy under the guise of “therapy equality.” Doyle signed both letters along with ADF lamenting the “hate group” label, and ADF has previously provided legal representation for Doyle. NTFTE filed a report in May to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) attacking human rights organizations for what NTFTE called a “hate campaign” to ban reparative therapy. In the report, NTFTE described its purpose as to “secure therapy equality for clients that experience distress over unwanted same-sex attractions and gender identity conflicts.” According to The Washington Post, the complaint accused human rights groups “of committing ‘mass fraud’ and ‘actively distorting the scientific research by promoting the ‘Born Gay’ hoax.’” Doyle’s group Equality and Justice for All attempts to incorporate the harmful myth that LGBTQ people can change their orientation in the “formation of public policy.”

    Illinois Family Institute

    IFI’s website says it has a “working relationship” with ADF, as well as FRC and AFA, and it co-signed both letters attacking the “hate group” designation.

    Illinois Family Institute (IFI) is an anti-LGBTQ hate group active in Illinois. It’s Executive Director David Smith co-signed both letters along with ADF lamenting the “hate group” label. At the bottom of its website, IFI notes that it has a “working relationship” with ADF, FRC, and AFA.

    IFI has pressured school boards across Illinois to rescind policies that protect LGBTQ people and urged its supporters to get involved in school board elections. Additionally, according to SPLC, IFI has regularly pushed debunked data about LGBTQ people, including that “the median age of death of the homosexual man is 42. Only 9% live past age 65.”

    According to GLAAD, Smith has called homosexuality “depraved” and “unnatural” and equated LGBTQ couples with “incestuous couples” and pedophiles. One of IFI’s most extreme figures is Laurie Higgins, who once wrote a blog post published on the website opposingviews.com called “Church Should Fight Homosexuality Like It Did Nazism.” The piece compared the “failure of the church to oppose the extermination of Jews and the government usurpation of control of the church in Nazi Germany” to the “American church’s failure to respond appropriately to the spread of radical, heretical, destructive views of homosexuality.” Higgins claimed that Opposing Views changed the title of her article, and the article has since been removed for the website. In 2014, she attacked gay media personality Dan Savage as “repugnant” and said that she needed to “expose the dark realities of this pernicious movement” just as we must “view photos from Auschwitz” and “of lynchings.” Higgins called it “illuminating the necessity of occasionally viewing the evil in our midst.” She has also said that “there was something profoundly good for society about the prior stigmatization of homosexual practice … when homosexuals were ‘in the closet.’” Higgins has also repeatedly expressed support for Russia’s “gay propaganda” law, saying it “protects minors from homosexuality-affirming propaganda” and suggesting that “perhaps we need an anti-propagandizing-to-minors law” in the United States.

    American Values

    American Values President Gary Bauer co-signed the letter with ADF asking media outlets to drop the “hate group” label.

    American Values President Gary Bauer served as FRC’s second president from 1988 through 1999. Bauer co-signed the letter along with ADF calling on media to drop the “hate group” label. According to SPLC, Bauer’s work “raised the FRC’s profile, increased its effectiveness, and built a national network of ‘concerned citizens’ during the Clinton Administration.” He also “brought in several anti-gay researchers who pumped out defamatory material about the LGBT community” during his time at FRC. In a 1998 appearance at Harvard Kennedy School, Bauer expressed support for anti-sodomy laws, saying that “states have a right to, in their laws and in their codes, to decide which sexual activity they want to discourage in a variety of ways.” During that appearance, he also said that “it would be a terrible mistake to add conduct to civil rights codes” in a question about legal discrimination against LGBTQ people at workplace. Bauer said, “It would be a disaster to take something like conduct, homosexual conduct, and attempt to fold it into the rubric of civil rights laws that we have.” He continued to say that he believes landlords should be able to refuse housing to LGBTQ people.

    Bauer served in President Ronald Reagan’s White House, where he fought to prevent Reagan from appointing a “known homosexual” to his commission on AIDS, instead suggesting a “reformed” ex-gay who is “not currently living a gay life style.” In 2012, Bauer similarly called former presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s decision to hire an openly gay staffer a “disappointment” and attacked the staffer for being “an outspoken advocate of redefining normal marriage.” Bauer has also attempted to link the Obama administration’s support for same-sex marriage and crime in Chicago, asking how “the radical idea of men marrying other men” is “going to help the black family?”

  • Anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom attacks Michigan school district for trans-inclusive policy

    ADF wrote a letter mentioning possible litigation to a Michigan school district over a trans-inclusive bathroom policy

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN & ALEX MORASH


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    International anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is once again trying to stop a local school district’s attempts to create an inclusive environment for transgender students. ADF sent a letter that mentioned possible litigation against the Grass Lake Community Schools district in Michigan and urged it to reverse a policy that allows transgender students to use the restrooms that align with their gender identity.

    During a September 18 Grass Lake school board meeting, anti-LGBTQ parent activists spoke out against the board’s policy allowing transgender students to use restroom facilities that align with their gender identity. Parent activists had previously distributed fliers opposing the policy, and a Facebook page they created touted an August 14 letter from ADF to the Grass Lake school board.

    ADF’s letter urged the school district to “reverse the policy, … which states that students will be allowed to use sex-separated facilities such as restrooms and locker rooms corresponding to their gender identity regardless of biological sex.” The letter also threatened that the policy opens “the school district to a risk of litigation.”

    ADF has demonstrated a pattern of getting involved with local and state school policy, and has led the fight to deny transgender students equal access to school facilities. Recently, ADF emailed a letter to school districts across the nation in an attempt to push its model anti-transgender policies that would prevent students from using the restrooms that aligns with their gender identity; the group sent thousands of similar letters in 2014. Media Matters has identified at least four states and a number of schools whose "privacy" policy closely mirrored ADF's. Over the years, ADF has also sent out multiple letters threatening local schools and districts, just like Grass Lake, with litigation for proposing or implementing transgender-inclusive policies, and has sued the Department of Education and a number of school districts for implementing the policies. ADF affiliates and representatives have also run for school board positions in multiple states and have testified at local school events.

    The mother of a young transgender boy in the Grass Lake school district testified at the September 18 meeting, saying that her son is “now not able to make it through a full day of school every day because the depression is setting in because in his mind he is no longer good enough, he is no longer legitimate.” According to WILX 10, after the school board decided to allow the students to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity, it asked her son and other transgender students to use the gender neutral bathroom while they built stalls “around the urinals in boys bathrooms.” The mother continued that the boy felt that in having to use a private bathroom, he was being forced to “accommodate all the people who must hate him,” adding that it’s “destroying him.”

    The anti-LGBTQ parent group that received support from ADF mounted a Change.org petition to end the trans-inclusive policy. The petition claimed it’s “not true” that “transgender children MUST be allowed in the bathroom they identify with because suicide is a risk”: 

    We are being told that transgender children MUST be allowed in the bathroom they identify with because suicide is a risk if they aren't fully supported by the entire community. But this is not true. Even in a supportive setting, the risk of suicide stays the same or goes up.

    In reality, researchers at The Williams Institute, an LGBTQ think tank at the UCLA School of Law, reported that denial of access to restrooms is a serious issue. They said 60 percent of transgender students who responded to the 2015 National School Climate Survey were forced to use a bathroom that did not match their gender identity and that they reported negative physical and mental health impacts: “With respect to restroom access specifically, transgender students who are prohibited from using, or experience problems accessing, restrooms consistent with their gender identity report greater absenteeism, poorer school performance, withdrawing from public spaces and events, physical and mental health impacts (such as bladder infections, discomfort, and anxiety), having to change schools, or dropping out.”

  • You don't have to wear a hood to spread hate

    Anti-LGBTQ hate groups are calling on the media to drop their hate designation because they're not "neo-Nazis and the KKK"

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Anti-LGBTQ hate groups have been attacking the media and others for citing the hate group designation conferred by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and trying to distance themselves from what they characterize as the “true hate” of well-known hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and neo-Nazi groups.

    On September 6, a number of anti-LGBTQ and other hate groups signed onto a letter asking for the media to stop using the “hate group” label when discussing them, saying, “To associate public interest law firms and think tanks with neo-Nazis and the KKK is unconscionable, and represents the height of irresponsible journalism. All reputable news organizations should immediately stop using the SPLC’s descriptions of individuals and organizations based on its obvious political prejudices.”

    But the line for what makes a hate group does not begin at violence, Nazism, or white supremacy; anti-LGBTQ hate groups and others are designated as such for spreading dangerous lies and hateful rhetoric about the queer community that do real harm. The designation is also conferred for attempting to criminalize the existence of LGBTQ people both in the United States and internationally by pushing legislation like anti-sodomy laws. These anti-LGBTQ groups have a pervasive history of attacking and slandering queer people and pushing for policies that negatively impact their mental and physical well-being -- and that’s enough to label them with the word “hate.”

    Anti-LGBTQ hate groups are trying to discredit their hate designation because they are listed alongside Nazi and white supremacist groups

    These hate groups spread demonizing and harmful myths about LGBTQ people, including comparing them to pedophiles

    Demonizing rhetoric puts LGBTQ people at risk

    Anti-LGBTQ hate groups have advocated for the criminalization of homosexuality domestically and abroad

    Anti-LGBTQ hate groups endorse harmful reparative therapy for LGBTQ youth

    Anti-LGBTQ hate groups’ argument that they are not neo-Nazis sets the bar for hatred too high

    Anti-LGBTQ hate groups are trying to discredit their hate designation because they are listed alongside Nazi and white supremacist groups

    Anti-LGBTQ hate groups such as the Family Research Council (FRC), Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), and Liberty Counsel have launched a coordinated, ongoing campaign against media outlets for accurately citing their hate group designation in reports. Each of those groups signed a September 6 letter -- along with the conservative Media Research Center and numerous hate groups from other extremist ideologies such as the anti-Muslim Center for Security Policy and the anti-immigrant Immigration Reform Law Institute -- asking media not to use the label and lamenting that their groups were associated “with neo-Nazis and the KKK.” These groups and their allies in right-wing media have previously made a concerted effort to raise the bar for what should be counted as a hate group, often relying on that same argument that they should not be lumped in with neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and the KKK.

    Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver recently posted a video on YouTube criticizing his group’s SPLC-conferred hate designation, noting that the SPLC also “lists some organizations like the KKK and other real, violent organizations as hate groups, and certainly they are hate groups.” Staver also noted that organizations including Liberty Counsel were lumped “right in with violent organizations,” citing that fact as a reason to discredit the designation. In a June post, ADF wrote that “true hate is animosity toward others, and it often takes the form of violence” and called its own efforts to limit transgender people’s access to restrooms “really just a disagreement.” Additionally, ADF’s Casey Mattox wrote in a September 5 op-ed that “a list of KKK, Neo-Nazi, and other violent groups could be a non-partisan service to the public.” But he attacked SPLC’s inclusion of other types of hate groups, writing, “The Southern Poverty Law Center has no problem lumping Nazis together with ordinary pro-family Christian policy and legal organizations like Alliance Defending Freedom.”

    Since it was named a hate group in 2010, FRC has criticized the SPLC for “lumping us together with neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan” and attempted to set itself apart from what it calls “genuine” hate groups like the KKK. Hate group American Family Association (AFA) published a post in August decrying the fact that groups that believe “that homosexual practice is sinful or that gays can change or that Bruce Jenner is not a woman” are considered anti-LGBTQ and that such groups appear on SPLC’s “hate list side by side with the KKK, neo-Nazis,” and others.

    Anti-LGBTQ hate groups’ allies in the media have also pushed this line. Mark Kellner of the “conservative-leaning ‘Get Religion’ website” asserted, “One may or may not like the legal advocacy of the Alliance Defending Freedom, but they’re not a bunch of hooded-sheet Klanners burning crosses,” according to The Washington Post. While interviewing an ADF representative, Fox News’ Martha MacCallum said there was a “pretty broad understanding of” the SPLC’s inclusion of groups like the KKK and Westboro Baptist Church in its hate group list before casting doubt on the inclusion of ADF. She called SPLC “a group well-known for their partisan designation of so-called hate groups” and said that though SPLC “sort of had a credible background” in the past, “they have swayed and gotten a lot of negative attention in the recent years.” Right-wing newspaper The Washington Examiner and anti-abortion outlet LifeSite also echoed the talking point.

    Unsurprisingly, white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups also engage in anti-LGBTQ extremism and spread the same kind of myths and hateful rhetoric that the anti-LGBTQ groups do, including that gay people can be “cured” or that they are more likely to molest children. Though neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups are often violent, SPLC does not consider violence the only measure of a hate group. According to SPLC, its hate group designation applies to white supremacist groups that “range from those that use racial slurs and issue calls for violence to others that present themselves as serious, non-violent organizations and employ the language of academia.”

    These hate groups spread demonizing and harmful myths about LGBTQ people, including comparing them to pedophiles

    SPLC has said that its designation of anti-LGBTQ groups is “based on their propagation of known falsehoods — claims about LGBT people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities — and repeated, groundless name-calling.” These myths have real consequences for LGBTQ people, who are often at increased risk for violence, sexual assault, and mental illness.

    SPLC designated ADF a hate group because its leaders and allied lawyers have “regularly demonized LGBT people, falsely linking them to pedophilia, calling them ‘evil’ and a threat to children and society, and blaming them for the ‘persecution of devout Christians.’” Former ADF President Alan Sears called pedophilia and “homosexual behavior … often intrinsically linked.” Similarly, FRC’s Tony Perkins has pushed the myth that gay men are linked to pedophilia, and another FRC representative similarly accused gay youth of joining the Boy Scouts of America “for predatory purposes.” Liberty Counsel’s Staver called LGBTQ History Month a "sexual assault on our children" and has also compared LGBTQ people to pedophiles, once saying that allowing gay youth and adults in the Boy Scouts will cause “all kinds of sexual molestation” and create a “playground for pedophiles to go and have all these boys as objects of their lust.”

    The myth that LGBTQ people are linked to pedophilia has been repeatedly debunked, and according to SPLC, “depicting gay men as a threat to children may be the single most potent weapon for stoking public fears about homosexuality.” The American Psychological Association found that “fears about children of lesbian or gay parents being sexually abused by adults … have received no scientific support.” SPLC also called the myth “probably the leading defamatory charge leveled against gay people.”

    Anti-LGBTQ groups’ extreme rhetoric expands well beyond pushing the dangerous myth that gay men are pedophiles. Liberty Counsel’s Staver has said that same-sex relationships are “destructive to individuals and … destructive to our very social fabric.” A Liberty Counsel attorney said that LGBTQ peoples’ lives are “controlled by this lust, this passion, that has kind of overwhelmed them, and so you have kind of the essence of a lack of self control.” Former Liberty Counsel attorney Matt Barber said that LGBTQ people “know intuitively that what they are doing is immoral, unnatural, and self-destructive,” adding that they have “tied their whole identity up in this sexual perversion.” Barber has also said that homosexuality is “always and forever, objectively and demonstrably wrong. It is never good, natural, right or praiseworthy.”

    FRC’s Perkins said that it’s “disgusting” to tell queer youth that their lives will get better. Though Perkins criticizes the SPLC for using “hate group” label for his organization, he has used similar language against LGBTQ activists, calling them “hateful, vile, … spiteful” and saying that they are the “height of hatred” and engaged in “an agenda that will destroy them and our nation.” When talking about the “homosexual agenda,” ADF’s then-President Sears once said, “There is no room for compromise with those who would call evil ‘good.’” One ADF allied-attorney said that same-sex marriage is a sign of the “degradation of our human dignity” and that it has “led to a deification of deviant sexual practices.” And ADF’s senior counsel said in 2014 that “the endgame of the homosexual legal agenda is unfettered sexual liberty and the silencing of all dissent.”

    Demonizing rhetoric puts LGBTQ people at risk

    Anti-LGBTQ rhetoric that demonizes LGBTQ people by, for example, comparing them to pedophiles, poses a danger to an already at-risk community. An August report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs found that anti-LGBTQ “hate-violence-related homicides” have increased from 2016, including a sharp increase in trans women of color being murdered in America. Suicide rates for lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are four times higher than that of their straight peers, and 40 percent of transgender adults “reported having made a suicide attempt.” The Trevor Project noted that “each episode of LGBT victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average.” Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that “compared with other students, negative attitudes toward LGB persons may put these youth at increased risk for experiences with violence,” also noting the “greater risk for depression, suicide, [and] substance use.” The CDC added:

    “For youth to thrive in schools and communities, they need to feel socially, emotionally, and physically safe and supported. A positive school climate has been associated with decreased depression, suicidal feelings, substance use, and unexcused school absences among LGB students.”

    Despite the CDC calling for safe and supportive spaces to address the mental health crisis among LGBTQ people, Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at FRC, asserted that "the most effective way of reducing teen suicide attempts [among LGBTQ youth] is not to create a positive social environment for the affirmation of homosexuality. Instead, it would be to discourage teens from self-identifying as gay, lesbian, or bisexual." Liberty Counsel’s Barber has called “disease, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide … consequences” of being gay.

    Anti-LGBTQ hate groups have advocated for the criminalization of homosexuality domestically and abroad

    Anti-LGBTQ hate groups have advocated for anti-sodomy laws, which effectively criminalize homosexuality, both in the United States and abroad. Many of these groups filed briefs in support of anti-sodomy laws as part of the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas case before the Supreme Court, which declared it unconstitutional to outlaw sodomy. The groups also condemned the court’s decision after it was announced. ADF formally supported the criminalization of sodomy in the U.S. when it filed its amicus brief in Lawrence, which called “same-sex sodomy … a distinct public health problem.” Liberty Counsel and FRC also filed briefs in support of anti-sodomy laws. In a 2010 appearance on MSNBC, an FRC representative agreed that the United States should “outlaw gay behavior” and said, “The Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which overturned the sodomy laws in this country, was wrongly decided. I think there would be a place for criminal sanctions against homosexual behavior.” Many states still have anti-sodomy laws on the books, and gay men have been arrested as recently as 2015 for “crimes against nature.”

    After they failed in their attempts to criminalize homosexuality in the United States, many anti-LGBTQ organizations turned to working to criminalize gay sex abroad. ADF called the Lawrence ruling “devastating” and has used the decision to raise money for its work abroad. In 2012, ADF officials spoke at a conference in Jamaica in support of its anti-sodomy law, which is still in effect and can punish LGBTQ people with “10 years of hard labor.” ADF has also provided “advice, legal assistance and strategy” to efforts to defend a law in Belize that criminalizes gay sex and has applauded a 2011 decision in India that restored a criminalization statute that could punish gay sex with up to 10 years in prison. There is still a pending court challenge to that case.

    Liberty Counsel has also defended the criminalization of homosexuality abroad. In 2012, Liberty Counsel signed on to defend American anti-LGBTQ extremist Scott Lively, who “allegedly played an instrumental part in the Ugandan parliament’s adoption of a draconian anti-LGBT bill that originally included the death penalty in some instances.” Lively was being sued for his “involvement in anti-LGBT efforts in Uganda, which included his active participation in the development of anti-LGBT policies aimed at revoking rights of LGBT people, [and which] constituted persecution." The lawsuit against Lively was dismissed, but the judge in the case noted that “Lively proposed 20-year prison sentences for gay couples in Uganda ‘who simply lead open, law-abiding lives.’” LGBTQ rights activists in Uganda called the bill “essentially his creation.” In 2011, FRC, too, showed its support for criminalizing homosexuality abroad when it called for its supporters to pray for countries that had laws criminalizing sodomy and were being pressured by the U.S. to remove them. FRC suggested that homosexuality “has had a devastating impact upon Africans” and cited the AIDS crisis as an example.

    ADF has pushed for other harmful anti-LGBTQ policies that have been ruled human rights violations abroad. In 2015, ADF International filed an intervention (like an amicus brief) in the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) regarding a case against “mandatory sterilization” for transgender people who are trying to change their names or gender on government IDs. According to SPLC, ADF attorneys “argued that European member states should have the right to determine what sorts of medical treatments and diagnoses they require of transgender citizens seeking new documentation, including sterilization.” ECtHR ruled in favor of the transgender plaintiffs and against sterilization requirements after activists “argued for years that the sterilization requirement was an institutionalized violation of human rights,” according to The New York Times.

    Anti-LGBTQ hate groups endorse harmful reparative therapy for LGBTQ youth

    Anti-LGBTQ hate groups frequently push the myth that LGBTQ people can “change” and advocate for harmful “reparative therapy,” which the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) calls “a range of dangerous and discredited practices that falsely claim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.” HRC noted that though those practices “have been rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization for decades,” the practice is legal and being used in many places across the United States. HRC compiled the positions of more than a dozen medical and counseling organizations against “reparative therapy.” For instance, the American Academy of Pediatrics said that the practice “can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation.” Similarly, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) said that the so-called therapy’s potential risks “include depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient.”

    Despite this universal condemnation, hate groups have explicitly endorsed “reparative therapy” and have even defended it in court. ADF represented a licensed psychotherapist who claimed he could help LGBTQ people get rid of “unwanted same-sex attractions” in Maryland, according to The Baltimore Sun. The therapist hired ADF to determine whether he could file a defamation case against a Maryland lawmaker who “introduced a bill … that would have banned licensed clinicians from providing [reparative] therapy to minors.” An ADF-allied attorney also represented a plaintiff in New Jersey who was challenging the state’s ban on ex-gay therapy. An FRC “Washington Update” post said that “gay-conversion therapy … has been hugely successful at steering young people toward their natural expression of sexuality.” FRC’s Sprigg has written a number of posts in support of reparative therapy on FRC’s website, and he has even accused medical groups like the APA of not being “immune to political and ideological bias, particularly on the issue of homosexuality.” Similarly, Liberty Counsel has also showed support for reparative therapy, with Staver submitting a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court and testifying before Congress on what he called “the attacks on religious freedom of licensed mental health professionals, minors, and their parents.” Liberty Counsel also launched a “Change is Possible Campaign” in 2006, which encouraged students “to start Gay to Straight Clubs, and ask that the ex-gay viewpoint be included in all diversity day presentations that discuss homosexuality.”

    Anti-LGBTQ hate groups’ argument that they are not neo-Nazis sets the bar for hatred too high

    The bar for what is considered hatred cannot be so high that only the KKK and neo-Nazis are considered hate groups, despite repeated attempts by anti-LGBTQ hate groups to set the standard there. These groups’ attempts to criminalize homosexuality in the U.S. and abroad and to demonize and slander LGBTQ people have had real, harmful effects on the community. Hatred has many forms and should be denounced on all levels, whether it is physical violence from neo-Nazis or attempts by anti-LGBTQ groups to criminalize the very existence of queer and transgender people.