With the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee poised to vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) on July 10, anti-LGBT activists are ramping up their misinformation campaign against the legislation, which would prohibit employers from discriminating against employees and job applicants based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
After inaccurately predicting that the Supreme Court would uphold California's Proposition 8, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly launched a series of flawed right-wing critiques of the Court's marriage equality decisions.
During the July 1 edition of his show, O'Reilly criticized the Supreme Court for its decisions on California's Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), suggesting that the Court relied on "loopholes" to override public opinion and defending the merits of both measures:
Fox News' restrained coverage of the Supreme Court's marriage equality decisions regarding Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) reveals how dramatically the network has shifted in its coverage of the marriage equality fight.
Following the Supreme Court's June 26 decisions to strike down Section 3 of DOMA and dismiss the Prop 8 case due to lack of standing, Fox News ran several segments asking guests to weigh in on the historic cases. Rather than giving into right-wing hysterics about marriage equality, however, Fox's coverage seemed to shy away from its typical culture war commentary.
During a segment on Happening Now, Fox's Jenna Lee explicitly asked her guests not to get into a debate about the merits of same-sex marriage:
LEE: We have a lot of issues to work through here. I don't want to start a conversation on the merits of same-sex marriage or not. What I'd like to talk about today is the role of government. Because that is a theme we see in a lot of our big stories, whether it's immigration or health care or anything else. It seems as if the Supreme Court today really made a big statement about that relationship. Sally, you just wrote a piece that just went up on FoxNews.com fits in perfectly with this titled, "What same-sex marriage decision tells us about America and the Constitution." What do you think it tells us?
A segment during America Live did feature hate group leader Tony Perkins, but it also included prominent gay rights activist and former Equality Matters president Richard Socarides, who easily debunked Perkins' fear mongering of the Supreme Court's rulings.
Breitbart.com editor-at-large and all-around homophobe Ben Shapiro is convinced that the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will result in the IRS rescinding non-profit tax exemptions from churches across the country - a delusional horror story that has no basis in reality.
In a June 26 post for Breitbart.com, Shapiro warned that the end of DOMA will result in the IRS targeting the non-profit tax exemptions of churches that refuse to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies:
Based on Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling, in which the Court majority determined that the Defense of Marriage Act's federal definition of marriage had to incorporate state-based same-sex marriages, Internal Revenue Service regulations could be modified to remove non-profit status for churches across the country.
The DOMA decision makes clear that marriage is a state-to-state issue, meaning that religious institutions that receive non-profit status on the federal level but do not perform or accept same-sex marriages in states where it is legal could have non-profit status revoked. Furthermore, should the IRS move to revoke federal non-profit status for churches, synagogues and mosques that do not perform same-sex marriage more generally, the Court could easily justify that decision on the basis of "eradicating discrimination" in religious education.
A few things to note here:
1. The DOMA Decision Had Nothing To Do With Tax Exempt Statuses For Churches. The Supreme Court's decision in Windsor v. United States dealt exclusively with whether the federal government should be allowed to deny federal benefits to same-sex couples who are legally married in their state. Allowing married gay couples to file joint tax returns has nothing at all to do with whether churches are required to perform same-sex weddings to maintain their tax exemptions.
2. Every State With Marriage Equality Already Has Exemptions For Churches. In every single state that's legalized marriage equality, churches are exempt from having to perform same-sex weddings. No church in America has ever been forced to perform a same-sex wedding. Laws like DOMA only deal with the civil definition of marriage, not the religious celebration of weddings.
Still, to support his claim, Shapiro cites two incidents.
The first is the 1983 Supreme Court decision in Bob Jones University v. United States, in which a religious school lost its tax exempt status due to its ban on interracial dating. What Shapiro fails to mention is that the decision explicitly excluded churches from its scope:
We deal here only with religious schools - not with churches or other purely religious institutions.
Shapiro also cites the 2006 case of Boston Catholic Charities, which voluntarily withdrew from adoption services rather than serve same-sex couples. Again, that incident didn't deal with a church, and has been debunked for a number of other reasons.
Shapiro joins a long line of conservative commentators in confusing civil marriage with religious marriage ceremonies, as well as confusing marriage laws with anti-discrimination laws.
In the wake of the Supreme Court's historic decision to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), anti-gay activists have run out of excuses to explain their ongoing legal defeats in their fight against marriage equality.
Anti-gay activists have a long history of dreaming up wild excuses to explain away embarrassing losses in court:
This rationalization may have bought anti-gay groups time as their cases worked their way up the judicial ladder, but it won't do much to soften the blow of the Supreme Court's decision in Windsor v. United States.
The lead attorney defending DOMA in the Windsor case was Paul Clement, one of the country's most well-known and successful constitutional lawyers. Clement had been dubbed the "LeBron James of law," and his decision to take up DOMA's defense was celebrated by anti-gay groups across the country.
Focus on the Family celebrated Clement's announcement, calling it "really great news":
Ladies and gentlemen, it just doesn't get any better on a Monday than to hear that the House of Representatives has selected Paul Clement as its outside counsel to take on the defense of DOMA after the President and the Department of Justice's rather spectacular failure to do so.
I'm breathing just a little bit easier today. This is really great news. [emphasis added]
Maggie Gallagher, co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), was similarly overjoyed:
Paul Clement is one of the ablest litigators in the country, whose seven years acting as solicitor general is the longest period of continuous service since the 19th century. The solicitor general's job is arguing cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and Clement has argued more than 50 such cases.
As a friend of mine, himself an able litigator, put it: "He's the best. Boehner could not have made a better choice."
And so, thanks to Boehner, Obama's plan to sabotage DOMA's defense has backfired.
For the first time since Obama became president, we will have a legal eagle in the courtroom defending DOMA who actually wants to win the case. [emphasis added]
And Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, stated that Clement's defense would put the Supreme Court "in the best position" to uphold DOMA:
In the American system, everyone is entitled to have a good lawyer to make the best constitutional arguments. This puts the court in the best position to reach the right result. In the case of DOMA, having very good aggressive lawyers on both sides is what will put the courts in the best position correctly to hold that DOMA is perfectly constitutional. [emphasis added]
Less than an hour after the Supreme Court struck down a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), CNN invited anti-gay hate group leader Tony Perkins to comment on the decision and allowed him to promote damaging myths about marriage equality.
During the June 26 edition of CNN Newsroom, host Wolf Blitzer invited Perkins - president of the anti-gay hate group Family Research Council (FRC) - to comment on the Supreme Court's decision in Windsor v. United States, which struck down a provision of DOMA that prohibited the federal government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages.
Perkins responded by peddling a number of blatant falsehoods about marriage equality, none of which Blitzer challenged:
PERKINS: What we're going to see happen over time as this plays out in the jurisdictions that have adopted same-sex marriage, you're going to see a loss of parental rights as children are taught in school morals that are contradictory to their parents', religious liberty loss from business owners, bakers, florists and others who are forced to comply with a different view of marriage, as well as even churches - in some places religious organizations losing their tax exemption because they fail to comply with the force of the state in terms of redefining marriage.
Fox News seems to have largely given up in its losing battle against marriage equality for gays and lesbians, but there's still one segment of the LGBT community that it feels comfortable openly mocking and demonizing on air: transgender people.
In late 2011, during the controversy surrounding Chaz Bono's participation on Dancing with the Stars, Fox News host Megyn Kelly made the surprising move of expressing her support for transgender people. During the September 1, 2011 edition of America Live, Kelly stated:
The transgendered, they go through so much pain and emotional turmoil in dealing with the effects of that disorder or whatever you want to call it and I don't think they need people piling on and mocking them once they do something that many people consider very brave. But that's me, that's my two cents. [emphasis added]
That sentiment wasn't shared by her Fox News co-workers, including Fox News "Medical A-Team" member Dr. Keith Ablow, who argued that supporting transgender people was "insane" and "psychologically destructive."
In fact, it appears that most of Fox News' employees have ignored Kelly's suggestion. Over the past several years, the network has routinely made the transgender community a target of its mockery, misinformation, and general anti-LGBT fear mongering:
Fox News' inaccurate, defamatory, and dehumanizing coverage of the transgender community contributes to transphobic violence and discrimination according to several groups working toward transgender equality.
No story about transgender people is too insignificant for Fox News reporter Todd Starnes to cover as a "culture war" horror story, especially if the story gives him the opportunity to use inaccurate and transphobic slurs in his reporting.
In a June 3 article for Fox News Radio, Starnes reported on a Nashville woman who complained after she encountered a transgender woman in a restaurant bathroom. The story included various quotes from the disgruntled woman's husband, inappropriately referring to the transgender woman as a man and commenting that her presence in the public restroom "poses a safety hazard":
David Staton, whose wife had the disquieting run-in while eating out at Amerigo, a restaurant in the country music capital, has a simple solution.
"There needs to be some sort of law that says if you are born a man with man-parts, you go to the men's bathroom," said Staton. "In a family restaurant, men should go to the men's room and women should go to the women's."
Staton and his wife were celebrating a date night on Saturday by eating dinner at Amerigo - a regional Italian restaurant chain in Nashville.
Sitting just a few tables away was a group of cross-dressers.
"These guys were well over six feet tall, big burly men in dresses," he told Fox News. "The whole restaurant noticed them."
And Staton's wife especially noticed them after an encounter in the ladies room of the Nashville establishment.
"It was a small restroom and she was waiting for a stall," he said. "And that's when she came face to face with a guy well over six feet. She immediately blurted out, 'Am I in the men's bathroom?'"
She was not.
Staton said the man went over to the mirror to fix his lipstick and told his wife, "It's okay. It's okay."
He said it poses a safety hazard - especially for families with young daughters.
"No dad or parent should have to wonder - is my little girl going into the women's bathroom with men in there," he said. "To have a man in the women's bathroom is a dangerous thing. That's just so wrong on so many levels." [emphasis added]
On Twitter, Starnes continued his hobby of making derogatory remarks about transgender people by echoing Staton's comments, referring to the transgender woman as a "burly man wearing a dress":
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly reinforced bogus stereotypes about gender and masculinity, telling a guest on his show that, if his son likes the color pink, "you might have to send him to camp."
During the June 3 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly discussed a Wisconsin elementary school that offered its students the chance to voluntarily dress up as the opposite gender as a part of the school's Spirit Week celebrations. O'Reilly and his guest, comedian Adam Carolla, criticized the event, calling the school's teachers "pinheads":
O'REILLY: You know why they're doing this, though, right?
O'REILLY: Well, it's all about anti-bullying and putting the children in other people's positions so they don't make fun of girls and boys. It's a politically correct tactic that's far too sophisticated for the children to understand and that's why it's stupid, and that's why these educators are pinheads.
CAROLLA: It's interesting.
O'REILLY: Because while they may have a noble intent, they have no idea how children process things. You don't dress up like a little girl when you're five and you're a boy. That's just stupid. Go ahead.
CAROLLA: Putting a boy in a poodle skirt and saddle shoes-
O'REILLY: Yeah, I mean it's insane.
CAROLLA: Is bullying. I mean, listen, I have a six-year-old son, I have twins. He had to ride in his sister's pink car seat the other day for a mile and he screamed like a stuck pig the entire time.
O'REILLY: That's a good sign. That's a good sign because, if he had liked that, you might have to send him to camp.
In addition to being factually inaccurate - the gender-swap day was proposed by the school's student council and had nothing to do with bullying - O'Reilly's comments are harmful to LGBT youth and the people who raise them.