The right-wing media is pouncing on a federal judge's ruling striking down parts of Utah's anti-polygamy law, using the decision to assert that legalized polygamy is an inevitable consequence of the slippery slope created by marriage equality for same-sex couples.
On December 13, Judge Clark Waddoups, a U.S. District Court judge in Utah appointed by President George W. Bush, issued a decision finding that Utah's ban on "cohabitation" violated constitutionally protected rights of free exercise of religion and due process. The case, Brown v. Buhman, was brought by Kody Brown, a star of the reality television show "Sister Wives."
Conservative media outlets immediately linked the decision to the push for same-sex marriage rights. FrontPageMag proclaimed that "[t]urning gay marriage into a thing paves the way for legalizing polygamy. As everyone with a brain predicted." "Judge Cites Same-Sex Marriage in Declaring Polygamy Ban Unconstitutional," Breitbart.com reported. And even as he acknowledged that the decision didn't vindicate opponents of marriage rights for gay couples, Commentary's Jonathan Tobin declared that "[t]he floodgates have been opened."
In reality, here's what media outlets need to know about Judge Waddoups' ruling:
With Brown likely headed toward an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, it's far from clear whether Waddoups' ruling will stand. What should be obvious, though, is that contrary to the right wing's willful distortion of the decision, it's neither the inevitable consequence of same-sex marriage nor the first step toward legalized polygamy.
Major newspapers in Louisiana have been largely silent about the burgeoning state political career of Family Research Council (FRC) president Tony Perkins, mostly ignoring the hate group leader's history of extreme anti-LGBT politics.
Perkins' political ascendance in Louisiana began nearly two decades ago, with his election to the state House of Representatives. He served in that body from 1996 to 2004, making an unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2002. During his time in the legislature, Perkins founded the right-wing Louisiana Family Forum out of a reported "concern about the influence of the homosexual movement." He cemented his role as a social conservative leader when he assumed the presidency of the FRC in 2003.
While the FRC is based in Washington, Perkins has always kept one foot in Louisiana, commuting to Washington from the state every week, Perkins considered launching a primary challenge to Republican Sen. David Vitter in 2010, ultimately opting to sit that race out. Perkins has cultivated a close relationship with Gov. Bobby Jindal, who appointed Perkins to the Louisiana Commission on Marriage and Family in 2008. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), however, notes that Perkins skipped all of the commission's meetings.
Perkins' dismal attendance record notwithstanding, Jindal announced this September that he was naming Perkins to the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement, which is responsible for awarding grants, officer training, and law enforcement regulation. Slate noted that in a state where anti-sodomy laws remain on the books and gay men have recently been arrested for having sex, the virulently anti-gay Perkins now has a role overseeing law enforcement.
Within weeks of his appointment to the law enforcement commission, Perkins expressed interest in seeking the open U.S. House seat from Louisiana's sixth congressional district in 2014. Perkins would join what's likely to be a jam-packed field of Republicans vying for the seat, but he says he finds it "an attractive prospect to be closer to home."
If past is indeed prologue, social issues will be at the forefront of a Perkins congressional campaign. During his decade at the helm of the FRC, Perkins has amassed a record as one of the country's most rabid opponents of LGBT equality. The FRC's malicious, baseless smears against LGBT people led the SPLC to designate the organization an anti-gay hate group in 2010, and Perkins' own history of anti-LGBT commentary helps illuminate why.
A senior attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a far-right legal organization beloved by Fox News personalities, cheered India's Supreme Court for reinstating that country's ban on gay sex, calling the decision a model for the United States. ADF's support for the decision came a week after Fox host Bill O'Reilly praised the group on-air.
On December 11, India's Supreme Court restored a colonial-era law banning "carnal intercourse against the order of nature." The ruling overturned a 2009 ruling by the Delhi High Court finding the law unconstitutional. Under the 1861 statute, gay sex is punishable by a fine and up to 10 years in prison.
Benjamin Bull, executive director of ADF Global, gave a December 12 interview with the news service of the anti-gay hate group the American Family Association and applauded the decision. Bull contrasted the Indian ruling with the U.S. Supreme Court's 2003 Lawrence v. Texas ruling overturning anti-sodomy laws:
"When given the same choice the Supreme Court of the United States had in Lawrence vs. Texas, the Indian Court did the right thing," says Bull, which was choose to "protect society at large rather than give in to a vocal minority of homosexual advocates."
The net effect is to protect the integrity of the family and by extension to protect traditional marriage.
In the Texas case, the state's high court struck down sodomy laws in a 6-3 decision that affected similar laws in other states.
The Texas case "laid the groundwork for the invalidation of traditional marriage by a number of courts subsequent to that," the attorney explains.
The Indian Supreme Court saw what had happened there "and was wise enough not to want to go down that road."
"America needs to take note that a country of 1.2 billion people has rejected the road towards same-sex marriage, and understood that these kinds of bad decisions in the long run will harm society," he adds.
The language of the Indian statute is identical to that found in many other current and former colonies of the British Empire, including Belize. In that country, ADF has supplied lawyers to defend the criminalization of gay sex.
Undisturbed by the group's rabidly anti-LGBT positions, Fox News has long maintained a cozy relationship with ADF. In an interview on his December 2 show, Bill O'Reilly effusively thanked ADF senior vice president Doug Napier for his group's efforts to combat the manufactured "War on Christmas." "God bless you, each and every one," O'Reilly gushed. Before O'Reilly's sycophantic interview, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson solicited donations for the group. Meanwhile, Fox reporters Shannon Bream, Megyn Kelly, and Elisabeth Hasselbeck have hosted ADF lawyers for one-sided interviews on the imagined dangers of anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people.
With the ADF giving its full-throated backing to the Indian court ruling and urging the U.S. to "take note" of the development, the organization has again demonstrated that its claims of "defending freedom" are little more than an Orwellian fraud. The question is whether Fox will continue to play along; and based on its track record, it seems the answer is yes.
Fox's Elisabeth Hasselbeck interviewed the owner of a Colorado bakery who was recently found to have violated the state's non-discrimination law by refusing to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, asking if he believed his rights had been violated by efforts to prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination.
During the December 10 edition of Fox & Friends, Hasselbeck invited Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Denver, to discuss a recent ruling by a Colorado judge that found that Phillips had violated that state's law against discrimination when he refused to serve a same-sex couple. Phillips was joined by his attorney Nicolle Martin, who does volunteer work at the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a group notorious for pushing for the criminalization of homosexuality internationally.
During the segment - which featured a graphic declaring "The Death Of Free Enterprise" - Hasselbeck asked Phillips why he believed he shouldn't have to abandon his "personal religious beliefs just to make a buck":
The Washington Times editorial board denounced a judge's ruling that a Denver baker violated Colorado's anti-discrimination law by not serving a same-sex couple, assailing "militant homosexual activists" for having the temerity to oppose business discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In a December 10 editorial, the Times cast the judge's decision as an affront to religious freedom, not bothering to distinguish between one's right to personally hold anti-LGBT religious views and discriminatory practices by a business operating in the public marketplace (emphasis added):
A Colorado court is making it a crime to refuse to cater to militant homosexual activists. Judge Robert N. Spencer held on Friday that a bakery owner who, citing his Christian religious beliefs, wouldn't bake a wedding cake for a homosexual couple must "cease and desist from discriminating" or pay fines so large that he'd go out of business.
In this clash of values, the religiously observant are relegated to the back of the legal bus. In Judge Spencer's view, the First Amendment's protection of freedom of religion must give way to a state anti-discrimination law, even though the Colorado Constitution clearly states, "Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as marriage in this state." The plaintiffs, Charlie Craig and David Mullins, were "married" in Massachusetts, where another court declared such unions to be legal. The couple had demanded that Jack Phillips, owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, produce a cake for a July 2012 reception in Colorado.
It's not as though Mr. Phillips was unwilling to serve the groom or the other groom. "I'll make you birthday cakes, shower cakes, sell you cookies and brownies," Mr. Phillips told the men. "I just don't make cakes for same-sex weddings."
The activists here could easily have taken their business elsewhere (rather than to the ACLU), but they wanted to force Mr. Phillips to endorse their conduct, regardless of his deeply held values. Unlike, say, cookies and brownies, a wedding cake is a creative endeavor that communicates a message from the artist, Mr. Phillips' Alliance Defending Freedom attorney explains. "If the service or the product is expressive, if it sends a message, and the government says you have to make it, create it and carry it for someone else," ADF lawyer Nicolle Martin said on a Denver talk-radio show, "that is forced speech.
As is often the case, the Times' editorial board doesn't appear to understand what it's talking about. In this case, the notoriously homophobic paper at least managed to discern which side of this dispute a committed opponent of LGBT equality would take, but the Times' logical consistency stops there.
Take the Times' non-sequitur concerning marriage equality. It's true, as the editorial notes, that same-sex marriage remains illegal in Colorado. How, though, does this invalidate Judge Spencer's finding that Phillips' refusal to serve the couple was a violation of the state's anti-discrimination law? The law explicitly prohibits businesses from refusing to serve customers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Colorado's lack of marriage equality doesn't change that.
The Daily Caller mocked a rainbow flag-themed Christmas light display in Rome as "so gay." Rome's government opted to hang the lights on the city's main shopping street to combat homophobia after the recent high-profile suicide of a bullied gay teen in the city.
In a December 9 article, Daily Caller education editor Eric Owens reported on the display, calling it a departure from the "unexciting and noncontroversial monochrome white" lights hung along Via del Corso last year. Owens explained that this year's display was a response to the "alleged bullying" of a 14-year-old gay teen who committed suicide:
The traditional lights hanging along Rome's main shopping street are rainbow flag-themed this Christmas season.
The municipal government in Italy's capital city chose the multicolored motif for the mile-longish stretch of Via del Corso to convey its stance against homophobia, reports the Daily News.
The message is pertinent in Rome because a 14-year-old gay teenager committed suicide a few months ago in response to alleged bullying and his belief that his family would not accept his sexuality.
Last year, the famous lights over Via del Corso were an unexciting and noncontroversial monochrome white. In 2011, designers used the colors green, white and red to mark 150 years of Italian unification.
Owens - whose derisive reporting on LGBT teens has itself contributed to the problem of anti-LGBT cyberbullying - omitted evidence indicating that the late teen's bullying was more than just "alleged." Roman police officials found homophobic text messages on the teen's phone after he left a suicide note lamenting, "I am a homosexual, no one understands my drama and I do not know how to make it acceptable to my family."
The August suicide came mere months after another widely publicized suicide by an openly gay Roman teenager who encountered vicious homophobic bullying. For Owens, though, the Via del Corso display isn't so much an opportunity to highlight the widespread problem of anti-LGBT harassment and violence as it is another chance to snark about LGBT people and their allies.
It's unclear whether, in describing the lights as "so gay," Owens was expressing his aesthetic distaste for the display. He has, after all, written that "foolish" and "stupid" are perfectly legitimate definitions for the word "gay."
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson lashed out at gay rights activists for fighting against anti-LGBT business discrimination, suggesting that they are "evil" and that their effort to ensure equal treatment for LGBT customers is an intolerant campaign to "silence good."
In a December 9 post for his RedState.com blog, Erickson responded to a Colorado judge's recent ruling that a Denver baker violated the state's anti-discrimination law when he refused to serve a same-sex couple. Erickson endorsed anti-gay discrimination on the basis of religious views, writing that the ruling further imperils religious liberty and provides yet another example of how "your sexual preference instead of your faith" matters more in modern society (emphasis added):
Surely there are plenty of bakers who would bake a cake for David Mullins and Charlie Craig, the gay men who wanted the cake. But they went to Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Denver, CO. When Phillips declined because of his religious beliefs, Mullins and Craig went to the ACLU, which in turn complained to the state that Phillips was discriminating.
There will be no accommodation between gay rights activists and those seeking religious freedom to opt out of the gay rights movement. Gay rights activists demand tolerance for their lifestyle, but will not tolerate those who choose to adhere to their religious beliefs.
Increasingly, courts around the country are siding with the gay rights movement against those relying on the first freedoms of the country. While many would prefer to sit this out, they will be made to care.
Evil preaches tolerance until it is dominate and then it seeks to silence good. We are more and more rapidly arriving at a point in this country where Christians are being forced from the public square unless they abandon the tenets of their faith. In our secular society, Christianity is something you do on a Sunday and who you sleep with defines you.
For Christians defined by their faith, this paradigm of being defined by your sexual preference instead of your faith is deeply troublesome and will see more and more of these stories crop up.
Legal experts have already debunked Erickson's claim that anti-discrimination laws pose a threat to private religious views. As University of Pennsylvania law professor Tobias B. Wolff and Slate's Mark Joseph Stern have noted, there's a clear difference between holding anti-gay views personally and operating a business in the public marketplace that discriminates against people because of who they are.
Erickson professes his dislike for the notion that "who you sleep with defines you," but it's Erickson himself who's obsessed with denying people rights simply on the basis of their sexual orientation. Would Erickson feel as comfortable telling an interracial couple that "there are plenty of bakers who would bake a cake for them," but that racist bakers should have the right not to provide them one?
That Erickson sees nothing wrong with subjecting same-sex couples to the whims of business owners' personal views underscores the right-wing media's apparent belief that "who you sleep with" is perfectly legitimate grounds for public discrimination.
For Erickson to cloak his defense of anti-gay discrimination in a purported concern for "tolerance" is particularly rich, given his willingness to solicit donations for the extremist Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization working internationally to criminalize homosexuality.
Michael Fumento was once fired after it was revealed that he was writing in favor of industry interests while receiving money from those interests and authored a book titled The Myth Of Heterosexual AIDS. The New York Post now thinks you might want to know what he thinks about climate science.
The Post published an op-ed by Fumento on December 5 titled "Global-warming 'proof' is evaporating." In it, Fumento falsely suggested that a slowdown in recent temperatures means that "previous warming may not have been man-made at all" and compared accepting man-made climate change to "cult beliefs" and believing "before Columbus" that the Earth was flat (yes, Fumento appears to need a history lesson about Christopher Columbus in addition to a science lesson).
Like many pseudo-scientific "experts" on climate change, Fumento previously downplayed the dangers of cigarettes while receiving money from the tobacco industry. In the 1990s, Fumento was on the advisory board of the tobacco-funded "Advancement of Sound Science Coaliton" while downplaying the addictive nature of cigarettes and the dangers of secondhand smoke in the media.
It wasn't the last time Fumento took money from powerful industries while writing in favor of them. In 2006 Bloomberg BusinessWeek revealed that Fumento had received $60,000 from agribusiness giant Monsanto while writing columns in favor of both agribusiness and Monsanto. Soon after the revelation, Scripps Howard News Service canceled his syndicated column. Afterwards, Fumento published a public appeal for "patron support" for his writing, boasting that some of his published articles "have 50 hyperlinked citations in pieces only 900 words long."
Fumento, who is a lawyer and has no scientific training, has also previously pushed scientific misinformation. In 1990, Fumento wrote The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS; it only sold 12,000 copies, which he attributed to a conspiracy against him that included his own publisher. Despite the sensationalist title, Fumento did not actually argue that heterosexual people cannot get AIDS. Rather, he suggests that because rates of AIDS are low for the white, middle-class heterosexual people who do not use intravenous drugs, the U.S. is spending too much money on the issue. In order to downplay heterosexual transmission rates, Fumento stated in 1992 that former basketball player Magic Johnson, who contracted HIV, would "eventually probably" be "outed," and in any case probably has more opportunities to "have intercourse with inner-city black women than would a promiscuous heterosexual white basketball player."
From the December 4 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Far-right website WND teased an article on the possibility that gay men will soon be allowed to donate blood with a banner asking, "Does Obama Want You Infected With This?"
From WND's home page:
WND's December 3 article noted that a federal advisory panel is considering lifting the blanket ban on donations by gay men, in effect since 1985. The website hyped one researcher's support for the ban, citing statistics showing that men who have sex with men constitute the majority of HIV infections to justify prohibiting all gay men from donating blood, regardless of whether they practice safe sex or are monogamous:
Should homosexual men - a group with the highest HIV-infection rates in the nation - be allowed to donate blood?
That's the question the federal government is considering this week as it re-evaluates whether it should lift the 30-year ban on homosexual blood donation.
On Thursday, members of the Department of Health and Human Services Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability will revisit the issue.
But a leading pathologist is warning that the move would heighten the risk of spreading HIV to other Americans.
Dr. Jay Brooks, an expert in blood banking and transfusion at the University of Florida's College of Medicine, told WND the problem with "donations from men who've had sex with men is that they have a much higher prevalence of HIV than the heterosexual community."
"They have a much higher prevalence," he emphasized.
Conveniently, WND omitted the fact that the American Medical Association (AMA) opposes the ban, calling it "discriminatory" and "not based on sound science." Under current policy, a heterosexual woman who has had intercourse with an AIDS- or HIV-infected partner can give blood after a one-year waiting period. Any gay man who has had sex since 1977, however, can never donate. According to the AMA, a case-by-case approach makes far more sense than a sweeping ban.
Other countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Japan, and South Africa have already lifted bans on gay blood donations.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is a Scottsdale, AZ-based legal group committed to rolling back the rights of women and LGBT people on the grounds of "religious liberty." The organization has played a leading role in combatting marriage equality and non-discrimination policies in the U.S. while working internationally to criminalize homosexuality. Despite its rabid anti-LGBT extremism, ADF receives reliably friendly treatment from Fox News.
Established as the Alliance Defense Fund in 1994, ADF's founders include such religious right leaders as Focus on the Family's James C. Dobson and Campus Crusade for Christ's Bill Bright. According to ADF's website, the organization changed its name to Alliance Defending Freedom in 2012 to highlight its "enduring mission to gain justice for those whose faith has been unconstitutionally denied in the areas of religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family."
Headed by President, CEO, and General Counsel Alan Sears, staffed by more than 40 attorneys, and boasting an annual budget in excess of $30 million, ADF bills itself as "a servant ministry building an alliance to keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel by transforming the legal system." As part of its effort to remake the American legal system along quasi-theocratic lines, ADF has:
ADF's relentless legal campaign against LGBT equality led the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to describe the organization as "virulently anti-gay." SPLC proved instrumental in exposing an aspect of ADF's work that the organization chooses not to tout on its website - its international work to criminalize homosexuality.
Both CNN and MSNBC devoted significant coverage to the Obama administration's commemoration of World AIDS Day on December 2. Fox News, on the other hand, spent less than 20 seconds acknowledging President Obama's speech outlining significant new efforts to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Syndicated columnist and radio host Dennis Prager uncritically recited Stephen Jimenez's shoddily-reported claims that Matthew Shepard's 1998 murder wasn't an anti-gay hate crime, using the claims put forth in Jimenez's discredited book to assail the "lies" allegedly used to advance progressive goals.
In a December 3 column for National Review Online, Prager joined the chorus of right-wing praise for The Book of Matt -- a book which attempts to prove that Matthew Shepard's murder wasn't motivated by anti-gay bias. In the book, Jimenez claims that Aaron McKinney and Aaron Henderson attacked Shepard as part of a meth deal gone wrong, not because Shepard was gay. Filled with wild conjecture, questionable or anonymous sources, and cavalier dismissals of strong evidence of McKinney's homophobia, the book has nevertheless served as a rallying cry for right-wing media figures determined to undermine the LGBT movement galvanized by Shepard's death.
Prager's column continues in that same vein, indicating a stronger interest in using the book as a cudgel against progressives than actually getting to the bottom of Shepard's murder (emphasis added):
It turns out that Matthew Shepard's murder had nothing to do with his being gay.
As early as 2004, the ABC News program 20/20 broadcast (to its credit) a denial by both murderers, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, that the murder had anything to do with Shepard's being gay. It was, they both claimed, a robbery gone bad.
"It was not because me and Aaron had anything against gays," Henderson told ABC.
As a result, ABC News was widely attacked by all those who had a vested interest not in truth but in maintaining the homophobia story: the liberal media, the gay-rights movement, and the lawyers for the victim's mother.
Now a book has been published, written by Stephen Jimenez, himself a gay man, that confirms the accuracy of the 2004 ABC News report. Matthew Shepard was involved in the hyperactive Wyoming meth drug culture; he was murdered over a drug deal; and his primary murderer was a bisexual who had probably slept with Shepard.
[I]t shows how powerful the left-wing media are, how they are dedicated to agendas rather than to truth, and how much of what Americans believe is shaped accordingly.
It would indeed be convenient for Jimenez's cheerleaders if only those with "a vested interest" were disputing his account of Shepard's murder. In reality, however, The Book of Matt has been condemned by Tim Newcomb, Henderson's appellate attorney, former Laramie police commander David O'Malley, and Detective Rob Debree, who said that investigators thoroughly probed the drug issue before concluding that Shepard's murder wasn't a "meth crime."
Meanwhile, despite changing his story on multiple other aspects of the case, McKinney -- a self-proclaimed "homofobick [sic]" individual -- has consistently denied knowing Shepard prior to the attack.
Given his determination to call out allegedly biased or unreliable critics, you'd think Prager would apply the same scrupulous standards of objectivity and reliability to Jimenez's sources. They include confessed meth addicts, a disbarred attorney who agreed to talk to Jimenez on the condition that he disputed the conventional understanding of Shepard's death, and one purported former lover of Shepard's - whom Newcomb revealed had apparently attempted to extract money in exchange for information on the case. But Prager simply transcribes Jimenez's arguments as the gospel truth, apparently uninterested in the sources behind them.
Fox News' Bill O'Reilly kicked off his annual obsession with the War on Christmas by blessing the Alliance Defending Freedom organization, an extremist anti-gay group O'Reilly credited with helping him save the holiday.
O'Reilly has become infamous for his annual fight against the so-called War on Christmas, a manufactured issue that O'Reilly has covered more than actual, ongoing wars for the past two years. He promised to continue the annual battle on the December 2 edition of his Fox program, decrying how the efforts of "secular groups" have resulted in "Happy Holidays syndrome" and wondering, "why are we allowing anti-Christmas madness?" O'Reilly went on to applaud the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) for its help in the fight:
O'REILLY: So once again this year, I will keep an eye on the situation. Helping me is the Alliance Defending Freedom organization based in Scottsdale, Arizona. They have been very successful in defending traditional rights in the courts. Therefore I say to them, 'God bless you, each and every one,' with apologies to Dickens.
O'Reilly then hosted ADF's senior vice president, Doug Napier, to discuss the organization's legal battles, which Napier described as a fight for Christians' "right to enjoy the season without the interference of a few bah humbug bullies." O'Reilly repeatedly allowed Napier to hype the ADF and its website, and the two men praised one another for their War on Christmas efforts:
NAPIER: And what we have to do -- and you're doing a great job, Bill, of getting the information out to the American public -- Alliance Defending Freedom sent out 13,000 letters to school districts to tell the truth about Christmas. Armed with the truth, Christmas can come back in, and the bah humbug folks can go out.
O'REILLY: It's good to let people know that your organization will defend them gratis, pro bono, if they are harassed by these other people.
What O'Reilly omitted from his praise of the ADF for "defending traditional rights" is that the group is "virulently anti-gay," as the Southern Poverty Law Center put it. ADF has fought against gay rights at every turn and linked homosexuality to pedophilia, even currently working internationally to criminalize homosexuality.
From the December 2 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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