USA Today opened the new year by publishing an op-ed that recycles tired arguments against marriage equality, which has been legal since 2015. In doing so, the paper continued its pattern of giving anti-LGBTQ figures a platform to spread misinformation about queer people and issues.
The January 1 op-ed claimed that same-sex marriage has eroded “marital norms” and redefined marriage with “profound consequences.” Its authors are the Heritage Foundation’s Ryan T. Anderson and American Principles Project’s Robert P. George, both of whom have worked for years to undermine LGBTQ rights and spread misinformation about queer people.
USA Today has a history of publishing anti-LGBTQ op-eds
Anderson and George’s op-ed is just the latest example of USA Today elevating anti-LGBTQ views, a history that has included pushing medical misinformation about trans-affirming care and supporting legalized discrimination against LGBTQ people under the guise of “religious freedom.” Though the paper’s editorial board has taken stances in favor of LGBTQ people, USA Today also regularly posts anti-LGBTQ op-eds that traffic in bigotry and misinformation.
In 2019, the paper gave anti-trans parents group the Kelsey Coalition its largest mainstream platform when it posted an op-ed by the then-nascent group. The group, which is comprised of non-affirming parents and some anti-trans medical professionals, spreads anti-trans misinformation under the guise of promoting responsible parenting. The op-ed, written by a Kelsey Coalition parent, suggested that the author’s child -- and other trans children -- might not really know their own gender identity.
Anti-trans activist Walt Heyer, who formerly identified as trans and has been featured in Heritage Foundation panels and in its media outlet The Daily Signal, published a similar op-ed in USA Today in February, writing, “Hormones and surgery may alter appearances, but nothing changes the immutable fact of your sex” and calling trans-affirming care “radical.”
Additionally, extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has found a steady platform in USA Today to push its anti-LGBTQ agenda. Recent op-eds by the group and its clients include pieces supporting legalized discrimination against same-sex couples seeking wedding services, endorsing religious freedom exemptions to discriminate, and railing against the Southern Poverty Law Center for designating ADF as a hate group.
USA Today also has turned to Anderson for commentary opposing same-sex marriage in the past. In 2015, as the Supreme Court considered Obergefell v. Hodges, the historic case that ultimately brought marriage equality to all 50 states, USA Today published an op-ed in which Anderson wrote, “Marriage is based on the anthropological truth that men and women are distinct and complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the social reality that children deserve a mother and a father.”
The latest op-ed treads familiar -- and dated -- views on same-sex marriage, years after it became legal
USA Today seems to have done more than just greenlight the op-ed, which attempts to relitigate a battle that has been fought and won and offers a dated opinion that does not reflect current opinion. In fact, Anderson tweeted that USA Today specifically asked George and him to write it.
The commentary added nothing new to the conversation, relying on stale talking points, slippery slope scenarios, and supposed consequences equality has for people who wish to discriminate against LGBTQ people. The authors claimed that opposition to discrimination against LGBTQ people in adoption and in wedding services amounts to harassment. They also wrote that marriage equality “teaches that mothers and fathers are replaceable” and fearmongered about other types of nontraditional marriage, such as open relationships. Furthermore, George and Anderson lamented advocacy around transgender and nonbinary rights, treating them as if they go a step too far.
The authors and their organizations are relentless in advocating for anti-LGBTQ bigotry
Anderson is a Heritage Foundation "expert" and senior research fellow, and he has largely focused his efforts in recent years on attacking trans people. He and his organization have for years endorsed conversion therapy, a harmful and ineffective practice that seeks to change sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Heritage Foundation is an influential right-wing think tank that is “stocking” the Trump-Pence administration and that holds extreme views on LGBTQ people. The group has railed against LGBTQ equality for more than a decade, including supporting discrimination against LGBTQ people via religious exemptions, opposing marriage equality, and opposing the inclusion of gay scoutmasters in the Boy Scouts of America.
In 2019, Heritage hosted at least five panels pushing misinformation about trans people, several of which Anderson participated in, to try and sway public discourse about trans-inclusive policies like the Equality Act.
Similarly, George, whom GLAAD has called a “well-connected scholar and professor with anti-gay ideology,” has also supported religious exemptions for discrimination. He is the founder of American Principles Project, a conservative anti-LGBTQ group whose work includes pushing for “family first” policies that would exclude LGBTQ people from equal protection and make it harder for trans people to gain access to affirming care. In 2019, the group made national news for leading a misinformation campaign about trans athletes during the Kentucky governor’s race.
Furthermore, George was the chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, which led the fight against marriage equality in California. The group’s leader Brian Brown runs another organization, World Congress of Families, which is a notable force in the fight against LGBTQ equality around the world.