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  • Right-wing media are freaking out as anti-LGBTQ hate groups are called out

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN & ERIN FITZGERALD


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters
     

    Following Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ controversial speaking engagement at an event hosted by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), right-wing media figures lashed out at ABC and NBC News for accurately reporting that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated ADF as an anti-LGBTQ hate group.

    On July 11, Sessions spoke at an event hosted by ADF, the nation’s largest anti-LGBTQ hate group. Many progressive and LGBTQ advocacy organizations objected to Sessions’ decision to attend the event, in part because of ADF’s long-standing history of anti-LGBTQ extremism. Sessions’ office initially refused to release the transcript of his speech, but it was leaked to the conservative and extreme anti-LGBTQ website The Federalist.

    In their reporting on Sessions’ speech, both ABC News and NBC News accurately noted that the SPLC has designated ADF as an “anti-LGBT hate group.” ABC reported that SPLC described ADF as a group that “specializes in supporting the recriminalization of homosexuality abroad, ending same-sex marriage and generally making life as difficult as possible for LGBT communities in the U.S. and internationally,” also adding that ADF objected to its hate group designation as a “lie.” The report also quoted SPLC’s deputy legal director for its LGBT Rights Project, who said ADF had “rightfully earned” the hate group label.

    In multiple reports, NBC News described ADF as “conservative Christian law firm that was designated a ‘hate group’ in 2016 by the Southern Poverty Law Center” and highlighted its role in promoting bathroom bans “aimed at keeping transgender people out of restrooms and other private facilities that correspond to their gender identity and presentation.” NBC noted ADF’s years-long attempts at criminalizing homosexuality and Sessions’ concerning record on LGBTQ issues. The network also included a response from an ADF attorney who attempted to delegitimize SPLC by calling it “increasingly irrelevant” and “extreme.”

    Following these reports, right wing media figures quickly attacked NBC and ABC News. ADF responded as well, issuing a statement demanding a retraction from ABC and claiming that the network had “committed journalistic malpractice,” saying it “cut and paste false charges ... by a radically left-wing, violence-inciting organization.”

    In a July 13 National Review article, senior writer and former ADF senior counsel David French called SPLC a “dangerous joke” that spreads “vicious hate.” French claimed that ADF was labeled a hate group “merely because [its members] advocate for orthodox Christian principles and the liberty to live those principles.” He also suggested that there are only two forms of extremism that SPLC should track -- “racist terrorists and white supremacists” -- and concluded that “media outlets who use the SPLC to assess Christian speech expose only their own bias and incompetence.”

    Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist, declared that ABC News reporters “smeared Christians who believe the Bill of Rights secures religious liberty as a ‘hate group’” and argued that ADF “is not a hate group at all, but a civil liberties organization that battles for religious liberty.” Hemingway went on to warn the media against using SPLC’s designations in the future, threatening that they would be turning “journalism into anti-religious propaganda on behalf of a partisan group” and could potentially “be perceived as enemies of average Americans.”

    Katrina Trinko, managing editor of The Daily Signal, wrote that SPLC’s designations put “conservatives’ safety at risk” of persecution and violence by the left, and that “once again, the mainstream media is demonstrating it doesn’t care about the impact of extremist rhetoric on conservatives.” Right-wing outlet The Daily Caller published a post about ADF’s demand that ABC News retract its story, writing that SPLC “frequently smears conservatives as ‘extremists.’” It also published tweets from conservatives who “blasted the media coverage of ADF as an obvious example of media bias.”

    During the July 14 edition of his show, Fox News prime-time host 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.’” Carlson asserted that NBC News and SPLC “think they’re in charge” of deciding “which ideas are legitimate and which ideas are so dangerous we must suppress them.” Carlson also hosted ADF Vice President Kristen Waggoner, who asserted that ABC and NBC had committed “journalistic malpractice,” and she and Carlson both said SPLC is a “scam.”

    In addition to the numerous right-wing media attacks, a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #SPLCexposed was launched by numerous other SPLC-identified hate groups and right-wing figures, including anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council, anti-immigrant hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform, and anti-Muslim extremist Brigitte Gabriel.

    This reaction is nothing new. Hate groups and far-right commentators have been predictably outraged in the past when mainstream media like The Associated Press and CBS News’ Bob Schieffer properly identified hate group representatives. Just last month, ADF similarly lashed out at Time magazine and columnist Judy Shepard over a piece outlining the extent of ADF’s anti-LGBTQ extremism and its body of work targeting trans students with bathroom bans in schools. In 2014, an ADF attorney asserted that the murder of Shepard’s son Matthew was a hoax to advance the “homosexual agenda.”


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    However, as Media Matters for America has noted, it is a myth that the SPLC bases its hate group designations on conservative or religious beliefs about sexuality and marriage. As SPLC stated in 2010, when it first began listing anti-LGBTQ hate groups, “viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups.” Organizations are labeled anti-LGBTQ hate groups when they knowingly spread “demonizing lies about the LGBT community,” engage in “baseless, incendiary name-calling,” or actively work to criminalize the lives of LGBTQ people.

    SPLC added ADF to its list of anti-LGBTQ hate groups in February 2017 because ADF’s leaders and affiliated 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’” and have also “supported the criminalization of homosexuality in several countries.”

    As a majority of Americans have grown to support LGBTQ equality, hate groups now cloak anti-LGBTQ extremism under the false pretense of protecting religious freedom or privacy, or protecting women and children from sexual assault. ADF, for instance, has recently made the rounds in the media for representing clients in “religious freedom” and “free speech” cases. But it is also the group behind many of the anti-LGBTQ bills proposed in state legislatures and bathroom bans proposed in school districts, which have been introduced in unprecedented numbers over the last two years.

    In the past, ADF has openly advocated to “recover the robust Christendomic theology of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries.” And in 2012, ADF published a list of suggested and discouraged terminology in its media guide, instructing readers to use the phrase “homosexual agenda” instead of “lesbian and gay civil rights movement,” refer to transgender people as “sexually confused,”and use the term “special privileges” when discussing anti-discrimination laws. In an amicus brief for Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 Supreme Court decision that declared anti-sodomy laws across the country unconstitutional, ADF argued that “the history of this country reflects a deep conviction that sodomy is criminally punishable conduct and not a constitutionally protected activity” and that “state legislatures have always possessed a broad authority to outlaw private, consensual sex.”

    ADF’s actions speak for themselves. Despite the group’s efforts to maintain its highly cultivated facade of respectability in the media, its history of anti-LGBTQ extremism cannot be undone or erased. When journalists employ SPLC’s hate group designation and contextualize ADF’s current work, they provide accurate, much-needed information to the public.

  • Fox affiliate in Texas hosted a hate group representative seven times in 10 days

    Fox 26 in Houston is owned and operated by 21st Century Fox

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Between May 29 and June 7, Fox 26 in Houston, TX, hosted anti-LGBTQ hate group representative Jared Woodfill seven times as a panelist to comment on local and national issues. Woodfill used three of his appearances to push for an extreme anti-transgender bathroom ban that his hate group has been lobbying to pass for over a year.

    In the 10 days starting when the Texas legislature officially adjourned on May 29, Woodfill, president of the Conservative Republicans of Texas (CRT), was a panelist on Fox 26’s What’s Your Point seven times: On May 29, May 30, May 31, June 1, June 5, June 6, and June 7. Fox 26 is part of a network of Fox News-owned and operated local stations.

    In three out of his seven appearances, Woodfill advocated for Texas to pass Senate Bill 6 (SB 6) during a special session of the legislature. SB 6 is an extreme anti-transgender bathroom ban that would prevent transgender people from using public facilities that align with their gender identity -- including students in public schools. On June 6, Gov. Greg Abbott called for a special session of the state legislature beginning on July 18. In a press conference announcing the special session, Abbott said, "We need a law that protects the privacy of our children in our public schools." In his June 6 appearance on What’s Your Point after Abbott’s announcement, Woodfill called Abbott’s decision a “big win”:

    While not mentioned in any of his appearances on Fox 26, Woodfill’s CRT has been designated an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center since 2016 for peddling extreme, demonizing lies about LGBTQ people. For example, in a March 15 press release, CRT called transgender women “perverted men and boys” and claimed that the “homosexual movement wants to use the power of law to force individuals, churches, schools, businesses and private organizations to accept, affirm and celebrate those individuals who promote and practice deviant and perverse sexual activity, starting with children in grade school.”

    Woodfill previously helped lead a years-long campaign against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). In 2015, Woodfill helped to successfully defeat HERO -- a comprehensive nondiscrimination ordinance protecting discrimination against people based on 15 different characteristics -- by peddling the debunked “bathroom predator” myth. Using the tag line “no men in women’s bathrooms,” Woodfill and others effectively fearmongered that sexual predators would exploit the ordinance to sneak into women's restrooms by pretending to be transgender.

    Woodfill and other anti-LGBTQ activists owed their success in part to lazy, uncritical reporting from local outlets, which helped misrepresent HERO and failed to debunk the “bathroom predator” myth. Fox 26’s reporting was particularly egregious, standing out for its unique and aggressive peddling of the “bathroom predator” myth and inaccurate criticism of HERO supporters. That kind of dishonest reporting was likely part of the reason that Woodfill regularly included clips of Fox 26's reporting in his messages to supporters.

    Now, Woodfill can just send out footage of himself on Fox 26 -- and that’s exactly what he’s done. On June 6, Woodfill posted his Fox 26 appearance from that day to CRT’s news website with the headline “Fox26Houston TV, Jared Woodfill defends Governor Abbott’s call for a special session to include SB 6, ‘No men in women’s bathrooms.’” Woodfill plugged that exact phrase on a May 29 appearance on Fox 26, essentially using the local Houston station as a platform to push his hate group’s slogan:

  • Four facts reporters should include in stories about Texas’ pending attack on the transgender community

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    The Texas legislature is currently debating bathroom ban legislation which could potentially target transgender youth in public schools or the entire transgender community in Texas. Reporters covering the bathroom bill-type legislation should avoid parroting anti-transgender misinformation peddled by anti-LGBTQ hate groups, and instead report the facts about transgender people, particularly the safety and necessity of protecting transgender youth.

    On May 22, the Texas House passed a bathroom bill amendment to Senate Bill 2078, a bill focusing on emergency operation plans for public school districts. While some school groups have said that the exact implications of the amendment are open to interpretation, the crux of the amendment would prohibit transgender students in public schools from using restrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity. But that amendment did not go far enough for the more conservative Texas Senate, which rejected the amendment on May 23. In response, the Senate then tacked on a more expansive bathroom bill provision to an unrelated proposal on county governments -- but a Democrat in the House has promised to reject the changes. The legislature is expected to continue to push for some form of bathroom ban before the session ends May 29.

    In the past, journalists have often stumbled when reporting on transgender people’s access to bathrooms and locker rooms, sometimes parroting unfounded claims peddled by anti-LGBTQ hate groups. Here are four facts journalists should include in articles about pending public accomodation restrictions to ensure accurate, responsible reporting:

    1. Empirical data debunks the “bathroom predator” myth.

    Law enforcement and government officials in 16 states and the District of Columbia -- including experts in Austin, Dallas, and El Paso -- have all debunked the “bathroom predator” myth that sexual predators will exploit nondiscrimination protections for transgender people in public accommodations. Last year a national coalition of over 300 sexual assault and domestic violence prevention organizations also came out in opposition to anti-transgender bathroom bills and in favor of laws and policies that “protect transgender people from discrimination, including in accessing facilities that match the gender they live every day.”

    Additionally, school administrators from 23 school districts and four universities across the country with trans-inclusive nondiscrimination policies have debunked the notion that allowing transgender students to use school facilities that correspond with their gender identity is a safety risk, as claimed by Republican lawmakers in Texas. In total, these schools serve an estimated 1.5 million students each year without any incidents of sexual harassment, assault, or inappropriate behavior as a result of allowing trans students to access bathrooms that align with their gender identity (per reporting to Media Matters in 2014, 2015, and 2016).


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    2. National leading child welfare organizations oppose bathroom bills targeting transgender youth.

    Leading national child welfare and advocacy organizations oppose bathroom bills that single out transgender students for discrimination. Noting that empirical evidence already shows that transgender kids are “at heightened risk for violence, bullying and harassment,” last year leading national child welfare organizations signed a letter standing in opposition to “shameful” bathroom bans and called on “legislators across the country to reject these harmful measures.” Signees included the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Counseling Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Social Workers, and the National Education Association.

    Reporters should also be wary of the anti-LGBTQ hate group the American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds), a deceptively named extremist group with an estimated 200 to 500 members whose name is meant to be confused with the 60,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). ACPeds has been designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for spreading malicious lies about LGBTQ people and deliberately misrepresenting legitimate research to attack LGBTQ equality.

    3. Several federal courts have ruled that discrimination against transgender people is illegal sex discrimination.

    Earlier this year, the Supreme Court punted on ruling on whether a transgender Virginia high school student had the right to access restrooms and locker rooms appropriate for his gender identity. However, several lower courts have found that discrimination on the basis of gender identity is prohibited sex discrimination. From a 2016 New York Times analysis:

    The Supreme Court has not addressed whether the same language protects transgender rights, but several lower courts have. In 2004, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit found that it does, and some other courts have since agreed. But in 2007, the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit made the opposite finding.

    In 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled that discriminating against a transgender person was sex discrimination — not based on the civil rights statute, but based on the 14th Amendment. And last month, relying on a 1972 law, Title IX, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that a high school must allow a transgender student who was born anatomically female to use the boys’ bathroom.

    In 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled, as the Sixth Circuit did, that discrimination against transgender people violated the Civil Rights Act’s ban on sex discrimination, a decision hailed by advocates as the executive branch’s first unequivocal statement to that effect.

    4. Anti-LGBTQ hate groups and extremists with high-level Texas government connections are behind the push for bathroom bills.

    For over two years, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) -- the nation’s largest anti-LGBTQ hate group -- has been leading the fight against transgender student rights. By drafting model legislation and policies, testifying at hearings, and suing school districts, ADF has used its mammoth network of over 4,000 affiliated lawyers to convince local school boards, and last year North Carolina (via the infamous House Bill 2), to pass anti-transgender policies. ADF has high-level government connections throughout the country, including three former staff members in Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office.

    In addition to ADF representatives, a number of anti-LGBTQ extremists with high-level government connections have been pushing for a bathroom bill since before the 2017 legislative session began. Those extremists include:

    • Steven Hotze and Jared Woodfill of the anti-LGBTQ hate group the Conservative Republicans of Texas, which has called the word transgender a “euphemism, a weaker alternative, for the term pervert”;
    • Dave Welch, executive director of the Texas Pastor Council, who once compared repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to letting loose a “poisonous cloud of chemical weapons” that would “release GLBTQIA activists onto our soldiers like hound dogs of hell”; and
    • Jonathan Saenz of Texas Values, who has said that gay sex is a “dangerous and risky sexual activity that can fiercely jeopardize a person's well-being.”
  • New Reporting Exposes Anti-LGBTQ Hate Group Suing This Pennsylvania School District

    ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is the anti-LGBTQ hate group leading the national fight against transgender student equality. ADF recently filed a lawsuit against the Boyertown School District in Pennsylvania claiming that the district’s transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination policy “intentionally” violated a student’s “right to bodily privacy.” In reports, op-eds, and columns about the lawsuit, local print outlets in Pennsylvania are accurately labeling ADF as a hate group and exposing the group’s history of anti-LGBTQ extremism -- important context that national outlets often fail to provide when reporting on ADF.

  • How The Hate Group Alliance Defending Freedom Is Infiltrating Public Schools

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Media Matters first identified the anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) as the powerful legal group leading the national campaign against transgender student equality in November 2015. Since then, ADF has continued to email school districts, show up at school board meetings, and file lawsuits to oppose basic protections for transgender students -- and candidates who appear to be affiliated with ADF are even running in local school board races.

    In 2015, Media Matters published a piece about ADF’s campaign to influence local school district policies and pass state-level legislation that would ban transgender students from accessing bathroom and locker room facilities consistent with their gender identity. In December 2014, ADF started emailing public school districts across the country to "advise" them of its recommended "Student Physical Privacy" policy. In February 2015, ADF released a model state-level bill to prohibit all public school transgender students from using any facilities that correspond with their gender identity. Later that year, legislators in Nevada, Kentucky, Minnesota, Texas and Wisconsin all proposed versions of ADF's bill. Similarly, North Carolina’s disastrous anti-transgender House Bill 2 (HB 2), which passed in spring 2016, closely mirrors ADF’s model state-level bill regarding student bathroom access.

    In the 2017 legislative session, over 20 anti-transgender “bathroom bills” have been proposed in state legislatures across the nation. While none of these bills have passed yet, ADF continues to use its nearly $50 million annual budget and employ its mammoth network of over 3,000 allied attorneys to try to convince public school districts to adopt discriminatory, anti-transgender policies. The organization also appears to be trying to install friendly candidates on local school boards to further its causes.

    It’s impossible to know the extent of ADF’s anti-transgender activism, especially because many of its 3,000-plus “allied attorneys” never publicly identify themselves as such. Below is a nonexhaustive list of situations in which ADF representatives or affiliated individuals testified at local school events and ran in local school board races, sued school districts with transgender-inclusive policies, and sent letters to schools urging them to institute anti-transgender policies.

    ADF Representatives Testified At Local School Events

    March 20, 2017: ADF legal counsel Douglas Wardlow testified against a transgender-inclusive policy at an Anoka-Hennepin School Board meeting in Minnesota. Prior to his testimony, Wardlow sent a letter to the school board in which he cited discredited anti-LGBTQ junk science researchers Mark Regnerus and Paul McHugh to support his claim that protecting transgender students from discrimination isn’t supported by medical experts (it is). This “research” included a widely denounced report by McHugh attacking transgender people that was published in a journal -- The New Atlantis -- that is not “subject to rigorous peer review” as scientific research usually is. The New Atlantis is published by the Ethics and Public Policy Center, which is dedicated to “applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy.”

    September 7, 2016: ADF legal counsel Caleb Dalton testified at a public hearing in Prince William County, VA, on a proposed LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination policy for the district. As reported by the Washington Blade, Dalton told the school board that the district could face legal liability if it approved the proposal.     

    May 12, 2016: Ken Fletcher, ADF’s senior director of strategic relations, testified at a Board of Education meeting in Fannin County, GA, regarding rumors that the county was going to institute a transgender-inclusive restroom policy (those rumors were false). In his testimony, Fletcher cited the anti-LGBTQ hate group the American College of Pediatricians (a deceptively named extremist group with an estimated 200 to 500 members whose name is meant to be confused with the 60,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics) to claim that schools should lead transgender girls away from being transgender and “cure” their so-called “gender confusion” so that they do not “lead a life of heartbreak.”

    May 9, 2016: ADF senior counsel Matt Sharp advised the Horry County Board of Education in South Carolina during a specially called board meeting to give the school board “legal advice” regarding Title IX. After speaking with Sharp and two other lawyers employed by the district, the board agreed not to change its existing policy of allowing transgender students to use facilities that align with their gender identity.

    ADF Sued School Districts For Implementing Transgender-Inclusive Policies

    March 2017: ADF sued the school district of Boyertown, PA, for allegedly violating the “privacy” of a cisgender boy because the school had a trans-inclusive locker room policy.

    September 2016: ADF sued the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and the Virginia Public School District in Minnesota on behalf of a group of 10 parents calling themselves “Privacy Matters,” who said that their children’s privacy was violated by a transgender student “twerking” in the locker room.

    June 2016: ADF sued the DOE on behalf of the Highland Local School District in Ohio because it said it was set to lose federal funding if it didn’t let a transgender girl use the girl’s restroom.

    May 2016: ADF sued the DOE and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on behalf of a group called “North Carolinians for Privacy” in response to the DOJ’s lawsuit regarding North Carolina’s anti-LGBTQ HB 2 law.

    May 2016: ADF sued the Palatine, IL, Township High School District 211 and the DOE on behalf of an anonymous group called “Students and Parents for Privacy,” saying a transgender-inclusive policy created an "intimidating and hostile" environment for students who share the locker room with the transgender student.

    ADF Affiliates Running For School Boards

    March 2017: In Palatine, IL, an ADF-affiliated group called “D211 Parents for Privacy” is advocating for ADF’s model policy and has endorsed three candidates for the board of education in that district. It’s also targeting current school board members who voted in favor of the transgender-inclusive policy.

    September 2016: ADF-affiliated attorney Derrick Good was tapped as an “emergency replacement” for a school board in Jefferson County, MO, after a controversy arose in 2015 when a Hillsboro High School student asked to use locker rooms and bathrooms that corresponded to her gender identity. Good, who said that people make "decisions" about being transgender, helped the district install an anti-transgender policy that prohibits transgender youth from using restrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity.

    ADF Sent Letters To Local Schools

    January 2017: ADF sent a letter to the school district of Egg Harbor Township, NJ, saying that it was ready to “litigate if necessary” regarding a proposed transgender-inclusive policy.

    May 2016: ADF convinced Grayson County, VA, to institute its “Student Physical Privacy Policy.” The superintendent told ThinkProgress that ADF claimed that “if we adopt their policy and it is contested,” ADF would come to the school district’s defense for free. During the debate over the policy, Virginia State Sen. Bill Carrico, who reported a $5,000 gift from ADF in 2014 for a trip with his wife to a conference in Naples, FL, also assured the district that ADF would defend the policy “all the way up to the Supreme Court, if necessary.” Prior to the debate, Carrico said that he had spoken with “legal organizations about the possibility of bringing suit against the Obama administration” regarding its guidance on transgender students. 

    May 3, 2016: ADF sent a letter to the Berkeley County School Board in South Carolina arguing that a transgender-inclusive restroom policy would “endanger students’ privacy and safety, undermine parental authority, violate religious students’ free exercise rights and severely impair an environment conducive to learning.”

    May 2, 2016: ADF sent a letter to the school board in Candia, NH, urging it to adopt ADF’s model anti-transgender policy. At a school board meeting on May 5, 2016, multiple speakers urged the board to adopt ADF’s model policy. But the meeting ended with the school district instituting a transgender-inclusive policy.

    April 28, 2016: ADF sent a letter to the Durham, NC, school board of directors and superintendent saying the school district had no obligation to protect transgender students and could be held legally liable for instituting a transgender-inclusive policy. ADF later sued the district after it instituted a transgender-inclusive policy.

    March 2016: ADF sent a letter to the Westwood Regional High School District in northern New Jersey opposing its transgender-inclusive policy. The policy passed with “little opposition” from school board members or the general public.

    February 29, 2016: In an article about a proposed bathroom bill in South Dakota that was drafted using ADF’s language, The Washington Post reported that ADF had sent its model school policy to “thousands” of school districts nationwide, which it described as an effort to protect the “bodily privacy” of children.

    January 2016: ADF sent letters to “every Tennessee school district” saying that districts could be at risk of “legal liability” for instituting transgender-inclusive policies.

    ADF Otherwise Influenced Schools To Pass Its Model Policy

    December 18, 2015: Political Research Associates reported that ADF’s model policy is also being disseminated through a project of the anti-LGBTQ group Focus on the Family (FOTF). The project website provides a “Tell a School” tool that allows visitors to share ADF’s Student Physical Privacy Policy with their local school boards, allowing ADF’s model policy to be sent through FOTF’s website without the sender even reading it.

    December 2, 2015: At least seven different people who have children in Township High School District 211 in Palatine, IL, cited ADF’s privacy policy while testifying in a special school board meeting after the board instituted a transgender-inclusive policy.

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko.

  • A Fox News Radio Anchor Is Headlining A Hate Group's Anti-LGBTQ Briefing

    ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Fox News radio host Todd Starnes is headlining a special “pastors’ briefing” at the Texas Capitol on March 6 and 7 whose sponsors include the anti-LGBTQ hate group the Family Research Council (FRC). Other speakers at the event include FRC’s president and vice president of church ministries and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton are also listed as unconfirmed speakers at the event, whose attendees will also go to a March 7 public hearing on the anti-transgender Senate Bill 6 (SB 6).

  • 10 Facts About The Nation's Largest Anti-LGBTQ Hate Group

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has added the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) to its list of active anti-LGBTQ hate groups. Here are 10 terrifying facts about ADF everyone needs to know:

    1. SPLC Labeled ADF A Hate Group Because Of Its Extreme, Demonizing Lies About LGBT People. SPLC added ADF to its list of anti-LGBTQ hate groups because ADF’s leaders and affiliated 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.’” As SPLC has repeatedly clarified, it does not list organizations as anti-LGBTQ hate groups on the basis of “opposition to same-sex marriage or the belief that the Bible describes homosexual activity as sinful.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2/15/17, 2/15/17]

    2. ADF Boasts A $48 Million-Plus Annual Budget And Over 3,000 “Allied Attorneys.” In 2015, ADF had a $48 million-plus annual budget. In addition to its staff of over 30 staff lawyers, the group marshals what it calls a “powerful global network” of over 3,100 ADF-trained “allied attorneys,” many of whom are expected to provide at least 450 hours of pro bono services within three years of attending one of ADF’s training programs. ADF’s elite “Blackstone Fellows” have worked or interned in at least nine state governments. [Media Matters, 1/25/17; Alliance Defending Freedom, accessed 2/15/172/15/172/15/17; Rewire, 5/13/14]

    3. ADF Defended The Constitutionality Of Criminalizing Gay Sex In The U.S. ADF has formally supported anti-sodomy laws since 2003, when it filed an amicus brief in Lawrence v. Texas to defend state sodomy laws on the grounds that gay sex is unhealthy, harmful, and a public health risk, writing that “same-sex sodomy is a distinct public health problem. It clearly is.” [Media Matters, 11/19/14, 1/25/17]

    4. ADF Has Expanded Its Anti-Choice, Anti-LGBTQ Extemism Internationally. While ADF has largely run out of options for promoting the criminalization of homosexuality in America, the group has taken its anti-sodomy agenda overseas. ADF has actively worked to promote and defend anti-sodomy laws that criminalize gay sex in Jamaica, Belize and India. In 2010, the United Nations granted special consultant status to ADF, allowing the group to help shape international human rights policy and treaties. More recently, the group has become involved in the Organization of American States, where ADF’s mission has been battling “abortion and radical sexual agendas.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2/15/17; Media Matters, 11/19/14]

    5. ADF Is Behind The National Push For Anti-LGBT “Religious Freedom” Laws. Since 2013, ADF has led the national push for so-called “religious freedom” laws (RFRAs) that seek to enshrine a legal right to discriminate against LGBTQ people. ADF was behind Arizona’s failed 2014 RFRA, Indiana’s controversial 2015 RFRA, and similar bills that were eventually killed in Colorado, Georgia, and Arkansas. [Media Matters, 4/16/15]

    6. ADF Is Leading The National Campaign For “Bathroom Bills” Targeting Transgender Youth. In 2014, ADF launched a national campaign to eliminate nondiscrimination protections for transgender students and instead enshrine its own legislation that would prevent transgender students from accessing facilities consistent with their gender identity. ADF has influenced discriminatory state and local school district policies across the country with so-called “bathroom bills,” like North Carolina’s infamous HB 2, that borrow language from ADF’s model legislation. [Media Matters, 11/5/15, 3/31/16]

    7. An ADF Attorney Once Called Matthew Shepard’s Murder A Hate Crime Hoax. During the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s annual national conference in 2014, ADF attorney Erik Stanley peddled the myth that Matthew Shepard's brutal anti-gay murder was fabricated in order to advance the "homosexual agenda." [Media Matters, 10/28/14

    8. ADF Believes In A “Homosexual Agenda” Dedicated To Destroying Christianity. ADF founder Alan Sears literally wrote the book on the alleged “homosexual agenda” -- his 2003 book The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today compared the gay "propaganda" movement to what "Hitler did so masterfully in Nazi Germany, to get the American public on their side." As SPLC noted, ADF “has also promoted the idea of a ‘homosexual agenda’ -- a nefarious scheme to destroy Christianity and, eventually, civilization.” [Media Matters, 4/16/15; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2/15/17]  

    9. ADF Has Long Opposed Anti-Bullying Efforts In Schools And Even Launched The “Day Of Truth” To Combat The “Day Of Silence.” ADF has long opposed anti-bullying efforts in public schools that include LGBTQ students; the group even made an “yardstick” that decried any anti-bullying policy that includes “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.” In 2005, ADF launched a “Day of Truth” campaign to combat the “promotion of the homosexual agenda” in schools to counter the ongoing “Day of Silence” organized by LGBTQ advocates, in which students remain silent as a protest and to help spread awareness about the effects of anti-LGBT bullying. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2/15/17]

    10. ADF Wields Significant Power In The U.S. Legal System. ADF utilizes an aggressive legal strategy and, according to a review of its press releases, has served as lead counsel in 57 court cases filed since January 2016. A review of successful petitions of the United States Supreme Court revealed that ADF is not only highly active, but also highly successful in getting its cases heard. From 2001 through 2015, ADF’s Supreme Court involvement ranked among the nation’s leading law firms, vastly surpassing almost all other legal advocacy groups. Many ADF alumni move on to serve in high-power roles in the government. Most notably, Austin Nimocks, former ADF senior counsel, now works for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, whose office is responsible for the multistate lawsuits challenging federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people in health care and protections for transgender students. [Alliance Defending Freedom, accessed 2/15/17; University of Southern California Law School, “Finding Certainty in Cert: An Empirical Analysis of the Factors Involved in Supreme Court Certiorari Decisions From 2001-2015,” 1/14/16; Media Matters, 8/26/16]

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko.

  • Meet The Anti-LGBTQ Extremists Leading The Assault On Equality In Texas

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    When Texas’ 85th legislative session officially kicks off on January 10, anti-LGBTQ extremists in the state will be well into their campaigns to pass a slew of laws attacking LGBTQ equality.

    Lawmakers in the state have already prefiled an avalanche of anti-LGBTQ laws. On the first day of the prefiling session, in November, a Republican filed a North Carolina-style bill to undermine local nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people. Another prefiled bill would require public school teachers and counselors to out LGBTQ students to parents. And on January 5, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) announced the filing of another North Carolina-style “bathroom bill.”

    A number of anti-LGBTQ extremists with high-level government connections are behind these and other regressive bills that will arise over the 140-day state legislative session. They include:

    Jonathan Saenz, president of Austin-based Texas Values:

    • said gay sex is a “dangerous and risky sexual activity that can fiercely jeopardize a person's well-being”;
    • advocates for discredited and harmful “ex-gay” conversion therapy; and
    • agreed that gay activists are trying to put Christians in “concentration camp[s].”

    Jonathan Saenz is the president of Texas Values, the lobbying arm of the Plano-based Liberty Institute, an organization notorious for peddling malicious misinformation to stoke fears about threats to religious liberty, including warning about a “reverse Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for Christians in the military. Saenz gained some notoriety in 2014 after it was revealed that he founded Texas Values after his wife left him for another woman in 2011.

    Saenz has high-level allies in the Texas government, including Gov. Greg Abbott’s outreach director, Ben Taylor, who called Saenz a “good friend.” A year and a half ago, Taylor emailed Saenz a copy of the governor’s statement regarding the 2015 Texas Supreme Court decision allowing a same-sex divorce, to which Saenz responded, “Maybe we need a special session to make same sex divorce illegal.”

    Saenz took credit for both drafting and pushing through Texas’ “Pastor Protection Act,” which became law in 2015; it allows clergy to refuse to perform marriages that violate their religious beliefs. Previously, he was a vocal supporter of keeping Texas’ unconstitutional, defunct anti-sodomy law on the books and a proponents of denying benefits to same-sex spouses of government employees, even if the benefits were offered to opposite-sex spouses.

    In addition to pushing anti-LGBTQ extremism, Saenz has lambasted evolution as a "left-wing ideology" that "any respectable scientist" should see through. He's also a strong proponent of having Bible classes in public schools, accusing opponents of such classes of being "enemies of religious freedom."

    Dave Welch, executive director of the Texas Pastor Council:

    • called former Houston Mayor Annise Parker a “sodomite”; and
    • compared repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to letting loose a “poisonous cloud of chemical weapons” that would “release GLBTQIA activists onto our soldiers like hound dogs of hell.”

    In 2003, extremist Texas pastor Dave Welch founded the Houston Area Pastor Council (HAPC), which is described as an "affiliate" of the national U.S. Pastor Council (USPC) and Texas Pastor Council (TXPC), though it's unclear if the organizations are actually distinguishable. As HAPC/USPC/TXPC’s spokesperson, Welch routinely espouses hateful anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, including reffering to gay people as a "morally depraved special interest group" and people who support LGBT rights as part of the "forces of spiritual darkness."

    In 2009, Welch joined an anti-gay smear campaign against Annise Parker, then Houston’s city controller, warning voters of a “gay takeover” of city hall. After Parker was elected mayor, Welch declared that her election, along with President Obama’s, were signs of America's "cancer of the soul." In a 2010 newsletter, Welch attacked Parker for supporting the city's pride parade, calling her a "sodomite" and a leader of “amoral depravity.”

    Despite his extremism, Welch’s group frequently hosts high-level politicians and policymakers in Texas. In October, Lt. Gov. Patrick held a special conference call with members of TXPC to discuss faith-based improvements to the state’s foster care system. Texas Monthly investigated Attorney General Ken Paxton’s first two years in office and found that Welch successfully lobbied Paxton’s office to file an amicus brief in defense of a bishop accused of violating campaign finance laws. Before Welch got involved, Abbott, who was attorney general at the time, declined to file an amicus brief in defense of the bishop, whose ministry is recognized as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

    Steven Hotze, president/CEO of the Conservative Republicans of Texas:

    • warned that LGBTQ equality is part of a communist plot to take down America;
    • brandished a sword on stage while vowing to “fight the homosexuals”; and
    • made unsubstantiated medical claims that birth control makes women “less attractive” and that men who lose their testicles “have difficulty reading a map.”

    Dr. Steven Hotze is the CEO and founder of the Conservative Republicans of Texas, a group that SPLC has designated an anti-LGBTQ hate group for spreading malicious lies about LGBTQ people. Hotze has been an anti-gay activist in Texas since the 1980s. After the U.S. Supreme Court made its 2015 marriage equality decision, Hotze urged Paxton to fight the “illegitimate SCOTUS ruling,” saying that the justices “hate God and want to let the Sodomites queer our country.” Hotze later kicked off his own multicity tour of Texas in protest of the marriage equality ruling by brandishing a sword to an audience while vowing to “fight the homosexuals” and the “satanic cults” that drive them.

    While speaking at an anti-LGBTQ extremist conference this year, Hotze compared LGBTQ people to termites and warned that LGBTQ equality is part of a long-term communist plot to take down America. Hotze, who has a medical degree, also dabbles in questionable medical practices -- a 2005 investigation into his “alternative” practices found that his literature made unsubstantiated claims that birth control makes women “less attractive” and that men who lose their testicles “have difficulty reading a map, performing math problems and making decisions.”

    Despite his extremism and dubious medical practices, Hotze has long been an influential figure in the Texas conservative movement, with Republican candidates seeking his endorsement. Hotze was also touted as a hero on Fox News in 2014 for filing a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act. Hotze also released a series of auto-tuned songs with titles like “God Fearing Texans Stop Obamacare,” one of which included the refrain “We will defeat Obama and the socialists.”

    Jared Woodfill, recently appointed president of the Conservative Republicans of Texas:

    • called the word “transgender” a “euphemism, a weaker alternative, for the term pervert”; and
    • says being LGBTQ is a “wicked lifestyle.”

    A board member of Texas Values Action and previous Harris County GOP chairman, Jared Woodfill currently serves as president of Hotze’s Conservative Republicans of Texas. Along with Hotze, Woodfill previously helped lead the campaign against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). Woodfill successfully defeated the comprehensive nondiscrimination ordinance by fearmongering and peddling the debunked “bathroom predator” myth.

    This past summer, Woodfill and the Conservative Republicans of Texas launched a campaign to boycott Target for its transgender-inclusive restroom policy. The “Campaign for USA” website smears the word “transgender” as a “euphemism, a weaker alternative, for the term pervert.” It also accuses the “LGBT homosexual political movement” of wanting to make it “mandated that this wicked lifestyle be taught to children in school” so that children can be “recruited into the homosexual lifestyle.”

    Conservative Republicans of Texas has infused $1.6 million into Texas elections over the last five years. While he doesn’t have the same high-level government connections as Welch and Saenz do, Woodfill is frequently featured as a guest commentator on Houston’s Fox 26, the TV station that helped fuel the repeal of HERO with its unique and aggressive peddling of the "bathroom predator" myth.

  • “It’s Time For Us To Be Afraid Again”: Charlotte Observer Investigates Anti-LGBT Discrimination In North Carolina After HB 2

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    A Charlotte Observer special report investigated the extent of anti-LGBT discrimination in North Carolina in the wake of the state’s discriminatory House Bill 2 (HB 2), finding that LGBT people have “for years been subjected to bullying, harassment, discrimination and sometimes violence” and that HB 2 “heightens fear in North Carolina.” The piece included interviews with scholars and advocates who say the law, which was passed in March, “has given people permission to hate.”

    As the controversy over North Carolina’s HB 2 continues, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has defended the law -- which, among other things, prohibits localities from enacting nondiscrimination provisions on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity -- by saying that he isn’t aware of any examples of anti-LGBT discrimination in North Carolina.

    But the major special report from The Charlotte Observer found 59 people in 50 counties who had been subject to verbal slurs, threats, and even physical assaults because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The paper included reports on each person, an interactive map and videos -- which demonstrate that while McCrory and HB 2 proponents say the law “protects public safety,” the LGBT victims of bullying, harassment, discrimination, and violence “say otherwise.”

    In addition to noting years of discrimination against LGBT people, the Observer reported that since the passage of HB 2, “transgender residents said they feel as if they’re being watched.” The paper also spoke with two women -- neither of whom is transgender -- who also reported “being harassed at a restroom” due to their gender expression. The Observer also pointed out that 14 years of FBI crime statistics show that LGBT people were “targeted at higher rates than any other minority group in the country.”  

    From the October 12 Charlotte Observer special report

    Public records and interviews across the state suggest that targeting of LGBTQ residents is so commonplace that many take it for granted as a sad – and sometimes dangerous – fact of their lives.

    [...]

    Gregory Herek, a psychology professor at the University of California-Davis who is an expert on anti-gay violence, said HB2 sends a broad symbolic message: “It’s conveying to people in the state who are LGBT that they are not full citizens.”

    The new law, scholars and advocates believe, has given people permission to hate.

    Three weeks after HB2 was adopted, someone responded to a sign critical of the governor by leaving a note on an Asheville woman’s car: “Burn in Hell, nasty faggot! I ♥ HB2!' "

    The next day in Charlotte, instead of tipping a waitress who is lesbian, a group of female customers at Zada Jane’s in Plaza Midwood left a Bible verse, Leviticus 20:13, which holds that sex between two men is “an abomination” punishable by death.

    [...]

    Said Josh Burford, assistant director for sexual and gender diversity at UNC Charlotte: “It’s time for us to be afraid again.”

  • AP Relies On Discredited Anti-LGBT Junk Science To Attack Transgender People

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    The Associated Press published quotes from discredited doctor Paul McHugh attacking the legitimacy of transgender identities and transgender people’s right to health care without providing any context on his reputation or history of peddling anti-LGBT junk science. Faculty members at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health recently disassociated themselves from McHugh -- condemning him for “mischaracterizing” scientific evidence to “further stigmatize and harm” LGBT people -- and have urged the university to do the same.

    In Pennsylvania, three transgender students are suing their school district for prohibiting them from using the appropriate restroom for their gender identity, according to The Associated Press. The October 6 article featured a quote from a 2014 essay written by Johns Hopkins professor Paul McHugh in which he argued that transgender identities are “confusions” that should not be affirmed. McHugh’s depiction of transgender people as mentally ill and in need of “prevention” treatments contradicts expert medical consensus agreed on by national organizations, including the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

    McHugh has a long history of peddling anti-LGBT pseudoscience and ignoring established evidence-based best practices for providing physical and mental health care for LGBT people. Most recently, McHugh published a report that smeared LGBT people with faulty attacks based on questionable analysis of existing research. McHugh’s colleagues at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found the report and methodology so “troubling” that they published an op-ed in The Baltimore Sun condemning the report for “mischaracterizing” scientific evidence in a way that will “further stigmatize and harm the health of LGBTQ communities.” In addition, nearly 700 members of the Johns Hopkins community -- including more than 30 faculty members, 264 Hopkins alumni, and more than 100 staff, medical interns, medical residents and fellows -- have formally called for Hopkins to distance itself from McHugh’s latest “misguided, misinformed attack on LGBT communities.”

    But the Associated Press article introduced McHugh as an “expert” even though he has been widely discredited, and it made no mention of his history of peddling anti-LGBT junk science, nor the controversy surrounding his recent report.

    From the October 6 AP article:

    Three transgender seniors at a Pennsylvania high school, including the oldest sibling of teen singing star Jackie Evancho, have sued their school district for making them use restrooms corresponding to their biological sex.

    [...]

    The lawsuit contends they were "designated" male or female on their birth certificates and are being discriminated against by the new policy, which their federal lawsuit seeks to reverse. They're also seeking unspecified monetary damages, other policies to avoid transgender discrimination and training for administrators.

    "The reality is Juliet is a girl, Elissa is a girl and A.S. is a boy," Gonzalez-Pagan said, noting that the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has weighed in on the need to allow people to pursue their true gender identity.

    Some experts disagree, notably Paul McHugh, the former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, which pioneered sexual reassignment surgery but later discontinued the practice as harmful.

    "(P)olicy makers and the media are doing no favors either to the public or the transgendered by treating their confusions as a right in need of defending rather than as a mental disorder that deserves understanding, treatment and prevention," McHugh originally wrote in a 2014 editorial essay that's been reprinted in several publications.