Issues ››› LGBT
  • The Worst Moments From Breitbart News Hire Curt Schilling

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Breitbart News will reportedly hire former MLB pitcher and ESPN analyst Curt Schilling to host a political talk radio show. Schilling was fired from ESPN for sharing an anti-transgender post on Facebook; he was previously suspended by the network for comparing Muslims to Nazis. Schilling has a long history of anti-Muslim, racially charged, sexist, and anti-Semitic commentary.

  • Even Though Debate Moderators Didn’t Pose Any LGBT-Related Questions, Both Candidates Brought Up LGBT People

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Over the course of three general election presidential debates, moderators failed to ask candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump a single question on LGBT equality. In the third and final debate, both candidates independently brought up LGBT people, though in drastically different terms, highlighting the need for a question to specifically parse policy positions on LGBT equality.

    The third presidential debate concluded without Fox News host Chris Wallace asking a question pertaining to LGBT equality. Prior to the debate, the National Center for Transgender Equality had urged Wallace to address the “critical issue” of transgender equality. This year saw an unprecedented number of anti-LGBT bills introduced in state legislatures, high-profile lawsuits from several states against federal policy guidance over transgender student equality, and the adoption of North Carolina's widely condemned HB 2, which, among other things, requires transgender people to use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificates.

    While Wallace failed to ask the candidates about their differing positions on LGBT equality, both Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump brought up LGBT people in the course of the debate. In answering a question on Supreme Court nominees, Clinton said that “we need a Supreme Court that will stand up … on behalf of the rights of the LGBT community” and that it is “important that we not reverse marriage equality.” In the second debate, Clinton had similarly said, “I want a Supreme Court that will stick with marriage equality” and pointed out that Trump has suggested that he would nominate justices who would “reverse marriage equality.”

    Trump didn’t bring up LGBT equality in the discussion of domestic policy. Instead, he mentioned LGBT people in an attack on the Clinton Foundation, calling the organization a “criminal enterprise” because it accepts donations from countries with anti-LGBT policies, saying “these are people that push gays off business -- off buildings.” This talking point is ripped straight from right-wing media pundits like Fox’s Sean Hannity, who have attempted to attack the Clinton Foundation by scandalizing donations from countries that have a history of discriminating against women and LGBT people. This line of attack ignores Trump’s business dealings in the exact same countries that donate to the Clinton Foundation. 

    Given that media have previously ignored Trump’s anti-LGBT record to falsely tout him as LGBT-friendly, the debates would have been the perfect chance for journalists to correct the mischaracterization of Trump as a “champion” of LGBT equality. 

    Methodology: Media Matters searched transcripts of the three presidential debates in The Washington Post for the terms “LGBT,” "gay," “lesbian,” “bisexual,” "transgender," "sexual orientation," "gender identity,” and “marriage.” 

  • Seven Pressing Debate Questions We Never Heard

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Presidential debate season is officially over, and critical policy questions that directly impact millions of Americans remain unasked just 19 days before the election.

    Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump met last night in Las Vegas, Nevada for the final presidential debate, which was likely the last chance for the candidates to discuss specific policy issues face-to-face before November 8. Just as in the previous two presidential debates this year, moderator Chris Wallace chose to focus questions on a handful of familiar topics. Even within the context of six pre-announced debate topics, Wallace could have asked questions on major policy issues that deserve thoughtful and substantive prime-time discussion from the presidential candidates, like affordable health care, climate change, or tax plans.

    But that didn’t happen. When debate discussions did manage to turn to policy specifics on critical topics like reproductive rights or gun violence prevention, Wallace didn’t ask necessary follow-up questions or offer clarifications on the facts. (Prior to the debate, Wallace announced his intention to be a debate timekeeper rather than fact-checker.)

    All in all, last night’s debate largely covered the same ground as the previous two debates, both in topics discussed and in tone. If any of the three debates had focused more aggressively on what’s truly at stake -- what voters have said they wanted asked, what people actually believe is most important for their own families and communities -- the questions in this debate cycle would have looked very different. And the answers could speak for themselves.

    Let’s explore just how hard the moderators dropped the ball.

    This year, the United States began the process of resettling its first climate refugees. A bipartisan group of top military experts warned that climate change presents a “strategically-significant risk to U.S. national security and international security.” While Clinton wants to build on President Obama’s climate change accomplishments, Trump wants to “cancel” the historic Paris climate agreement, “rescind” the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan, and dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency -- and he’s even called global warming a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.

    Moderators did not ask a single question about the effects of climate change in any of the three presidential debates or the vice presidential debate.

    Several tragic mass shootings -- including the single deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, at the LGBT nightclub Pulse in Orlando, FL, in June -- have shaken the nation since the beginning of the election season. Gun deaths in the United States, both in instances of mass shootings and in more common day-to-day violence, vastly outnumber gun deaths in other Western democracies -- so much so that the American Medical Association has declared gun violence a public health crisis. And Americans are overwhelmingly ready for lawmakers to take action. Seventy-two percent of voters say gun policy is “very important” in determining their vote this year, and an astonishing 90 percent of voters -- representing both Democrats and Republicans -- think that strengthening background check requirements for firearm purchases is a good place to start, as does Clinton. Trump recently told the National Rifle Association -- which has endorsed him  -- that he opposes expanding background checks. 

    Moderators failed to ask a single question about specific policies for gun violence prevention in the first two presidential debates, and they failed to ask a question about background check policies specifically in any debate. In the final debate, Wallace asked about gun policies in the context of the Supreme Court’s 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision about the scope of the Second Amendment, but he failed to follow up when Trump skirted questions about the case and about his specific positions on several gun policies like his opposition to an assault weapons ban and his oft-repeated false claim that "gun-free" zones are responsible for public mass shootings. The entire exchange lasted just under five minutes.

    Though seven in 10 Americans support legal abortion and one in three American women report having had an abortion procedure, states have enacted 288 anti-choice laws since 2010. These laws are creating a crisis by preventing women from low-income families -- many already parents who are struggling to keep families afloat -- from receiving the health care services they need. Some evidence even suggests greater numbers of women are contemplating dangerous self-induced abortions due to a lack of access to care. Trump has espoused support for these types of restrictive laws, and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), wants to “send Roe v. Wade to the ash heap of history.”

    But moderators did not ask a question about the candidates’ stances on reproductive rights until the final debate -- when Chris Wallace asked about Roe v. Wade. Again, Trump repeatedly lied about abortion policy, and the misinformation was left hanging as Wallace pivoted to a new topic after about five minutes of discussion.

    How about tax policies? Tax rates are a critical issue that directly affect all Americans, and the candidates’ respective tax policy proposals could not differ more. Clinton’s plan would benefit low- and middle-income families most and hike tax rates only for the wealthiest earners and for corporations. Trump’s plan has been called “a multitrillion-dollar gift to the rich” that “screws the middle class,” and has been panned even by conservative economists and The Wall Street Journal. One analysis concluded that Clinton’s plan  “trims deficits,” while Trump’s plan could add $6.2 trillion to the national debt. These numbers directly impact  the short-term and long-term financial health of families and communities, and 84 percent of voters say the economy is “very important” in deciding their vote in 2016.

    Substantive questions about the candidates’ specific tax plans were missing from the debates, though Trump still managed to lie about his tax proposals on several occasions. When the candidates mentioned their tax plans briefly in the final debate when asked about the economy, Wallace again lived up to his promise not to fact-check.

    A record number of anti-LGBT bills have been introduced in state legislatures this year, and LGBT students face significantly more violence than their peers, but the debates did not include a single question about policy positions related to LGBT equality.

    About 70 percent of today’s college graduates leave school with student loans, and more than 43 million Americans currently have student debt. This economic squeeze is changing how Americans plan their families, buy homes, and spend their money. Clinton has responded by making college affordability a signature issue of her campaign, while Trump’s newly described plan could “explode the student debt crisis.” Neither candidate was asked to address this issue either.

    The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world -- we account for 5 percent of the world’s population but a whopping 25 percent of the world’s prison population. Inmate organizers recently launched what could be the nation’s largest prison strike to draw attention to deplorable prison conditions. The majority of Americans want to see changes to a federal prison system they believe is “too large, too expensive, and too often incarcerating the wrong people.” Moderators didn’t ask about criminal justice reform policies at all.

    The presidential debates instead largely focused on statements made on the campaign trail, whichever offensive comments Trump had made most recently, and -- again, always -- Hillary Clinton’s email use as secretary of state. Viewers might now  know a lot about these topics  -- or at least what each candidate has to say about them -- while still having very little information on the candidates’ starkly contrasting policy positions on issues with direct and immediate consequences to citizens’ daily lives.

    Americans relied on moderators to raise the questions they think about every day, to help them understand how the next president can help ensure that their families are safe, secure, and set up to thrive. It’s a shame the debates did not deliver. 

  • National Advocacy Organization Urges Debate Moderator Chris Wallace To Include A Question On “Bathroom Bills”

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    The National Center for Transgender Equality urged Fox News host Chris Wallace to address the “critical issue” of transgender equality when he moderates the third and final presidential debate on October 19. Despite the unprecedented number of anti-LGBT bills introduced into statehouses, moderators at the general-election vice presidential and presidential debates have so far failed to ask a single question on LGBT equality.

    The ongoing fight against LGBT nondiscrimination protections has been in the spotlight at the local, state, and national levels. This year saw an unprecedented number of anti-LGBT bills introduced in state legislatures, high-profile lawsuits from several states against federal policy guidance over transgender student equality, and adoption of North Carolinas widely condemned HB 2, which, among other things, requires transgender people to use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificates.

    During the primary season, debate moderators failed to ask Democratic candidates a single question related to LGBT equality in any of the nine debates. Moderators asked Republican candidates several questions related to LGBT issues, including what their thoughts are on Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who refused to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples; how they would feel about collaborating with a gay-friendly corporate board; and whether “gay marriage dissenters have rights.” Both general-election presidential debates so far, as well as the vice presidential debate, have omitted questions on LGBT equality.

    In response to the lack of attention given to LGBT equality during the debates, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality sent moderator Wallace a letter on October 18 urging him to pose a question about transgender students’ rights to access appropriate bathrooms. The letter points to a model question proposed to the Open Debate Coalition by the mother of a transgender 12-year-old girl:

    In advance of the second presidential debate, the Open Debate Coalition allowed members of the public to submit questions for the moderators to consider. Amy, the mother of a transgender 12-year-old, submitted the following question: “What would you say to a trans kid forced to use a separate rest room in school?” She went on to write, “My 12 year-old daughter is transgender. She just started middle school, where she has to either use the boys’ restroom or a separate one, making her a target for teasing and bullying, or worse.” Over 6,000 people voted for Amy’s question, demonstrating that this issue is important for far more people than just the transgender community.

    As you prepare your questions, we urge you to consider including this crucial issue. We also ask you, of course, to treat these issues with the respect and dignity that we and our families deserve, without repeating the baseless scare tactics used by those who oppose our rights. In particular, if you ask a question about transgender people using the restrooms that match our gender, please take care to frame them as a matter of necessity and not as a matter of choice.

    Methodology: Media Matters searched transcripts of two presidential and one vice presidential debate, as well as nine Democratic and twelve Republican primary debates for the 2016 election cycle provided by the Washington Post for the search terms “LGBT,” "gay," “lesbian,” “bisexual,” "transgender," "sexual orientation," and "gender identity."

  • “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.”

  • Breitbart News Selectively Quotes WikiLeaks Email To Lie About Hillary Clinton’s Support Of Marriage Equality

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Breitbart News selectively quoted part of a stolen email chain published on WikiLeaks to falsely claim that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton “still privately opposes gay marriage.”

    Citing part of a hacked email chain involving Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta that was released by WikiLeaks, Breitbart News falsely claimed that the discussion proves Clinton "still privately opposes gay marriage, even though she has publicly flipped to embrace it in order to shore up support from the cultural left." As evidence that Clinton “still believes in traditional marriage,” Breitbart quoted an October 25, 2015, email from Clinton speechwriter Dan Schwerin, which read:

    I’m not saying double down or ever say it again. I’m just saying that she’s not going to want to say she was wrong about that, given she and her husband believe it and have repeated it many times. Better to reiterate evolution, opposition to DOMA when court considered it, and forward looking stance.

    In the selective part of the email chain quoted -- “she and her husband believe it and have repeated it many times” -- the “it” appears to refer Clinton’s alleged opposition to marriage equality. But as Snopes has already pointed out, the longer email chain makes it clear that the “belief” referred to was Clinton’s “assertion that DOMA was necessary to prevent a more restrictive constitutional amendment limiting same-sex marriage, not a belief in opposition to marriage equality.” Clinton first publicly declared her full support for marriage equality in 2013 after leaving the State Department, and she has repeatedly explained her evolution in support of same-sex marriage.

    Breitbart News -- previously operated by Steve Bannon, who now serves as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign CEO -- regularly publishes articles with the anti-LGBT slurs “trannies” and “faggot” in headlines, peddles anti-gay conspiracy theories, and features pieces by anti-LGBT hate group leaders.

    From the October 11 Breitbart News article:

    Hillary Clinton still privately opposes gay marriage, even though she has publicly flipped to embrace it in order to shore up support from the cultural left.

    Clinton campaign staffers struggled to figure out how to explain her onetime support for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which her husband signed into law, according to emails from John Podesta’s inbox that were leaked by Wikileaks.

    “What about broadening the perspectives at that time? Acknowledging there were a lot of diff views vs she was wrong. ?,” a Clinton campaign staffer mused to colleagues on October 25, 2015.

    Lead Clinton speechwriter Dan Schwerin explained that Clinton still believes in traditional marriage:

    I’m not saying double down or ever say it again. I’m just saying that she’s not going to want to say she was wrong about that, given she and her husband believe it and have repeated it many times. Better to reiterate evolution, opposition to DOMA when court considered it, and forward looking stance. 

  • 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.

  • Right-Wing Media’s Latest Dangerous Attack On Transgender People

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Right-wing media pundits are mocking efforts by schools and employers to ensure that transgender students and staff aren’t repeatedly and intentionally misgendered, calling it “political correctness” gone “wild.” But using someone’s appropriate pronoun is not only a journalistic best practice -- it’s also a vital step in ensuring the health and safety of transgender people, especially youth, who are at extremely high risk for encountering bullying and violence and engaging in suicidal ideation.

    As the nationwide fight for transgender equality becomes increasingly visible, conservative outlets continue to attack basic efforts to protect transgender people from discrimination. Right-wing mockery and fearmongering has targeted, in particular,  school administrators and local governments seeking to protect transgender people from repeated and intentional misgendering by peers or supervisors.

    The latest round of right-wing attacks came in response to the University of Michigan announcing that students would be able to designate personal pronouns on class rosters. The media attention began when the conservative blog The College Fix reported that University of Michigan student Grant Strobel “decided to change his preferred pronoun to ‘His Majesty’ - in an attempt to make the point that this policy has no basis in reality.”

    After making its way through web-based conservative outlets, the story popped up on the September 29 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, where host Bill O’Reilly declared that “political correctness [is] running wild on college campuses.” Fox’s Greg Gutfeld, who appeared as a guest, openly mocked the initiative by calling himself “Ms. Ann Arbor.” Bernard McGuirk, another guest on the show, went a step further and said that using a transgender person's appropriate pronouns is “madness” and causing society to turn into “bed-wetting losers”:

    BERNARD MCGUIRK: It started in the University of Wisconsin, University of Oregon and of course, as you might imagine, it’s not just political correctness -- it’s lunacy, it’s madness is what it is. And the college campuses used to be fun places, right? They used to be joyful places. Now they are like indoctrination camps. With these angry, thumb-sucking cry bullies looking to be victims, looking to be offended by somebody, and they're turning into language cops shoving all of this down people's throats and it often bleeds into the society at large is what happens.

    Right-wing media have long written off using appropriate pronouns for transgender people as another “political correctness” attack on free speech. But  journalistic guidelines established by The Associated Press, The New York Times, GLAAD, and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association all instruct journalists to refer to transgender people by their chosen names and pronouns, making it basic good practice for the media.

    More importantly, when others repeatedly and intentionally use the wrong pronoun for transgender people, it can have devastating effects on their mental health. The 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey reported that  transgender and gender-nonconforming respondents who had been repeatedly referred to by the wrong pronouns had a substantially higher frequency of lifetime suicide attempts than respondents overall (56 percent versus 41 percent).

    It’s no surprise that well-respected medical organizations also emphasize the importance of using correct pronouns, especially for transgender youth. A new guide from the Human Rights Campaign in partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians -- which together represent more than 66,000 pediatricians and pediatric specialists across the country -- stresses the need to affirm children’s gender identity through measures like affirming their appropriate pronouns. When families fail to affirm their child’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, youth are “at significantly increased risk of depression, substance abuse and suicide attempts.”

    The Washington Post recently highlighted the “wrenching” story of Kyler Prescott, a 14-year-old transgender boy from San Diego, CA, who killed himself after being repeatedly harassed and bullied about his gender identity. His mom is filing a lawsuit against the hospital that treated him a month before his suicide, claiming that the staff repeatedly addressed Kyler as a girl despite explicitly being informed otherwise, which added to his distress.

    When the media mock and condemn the importance of using the appropriate pronouns for transgender people, they set an irresponsible and harmful example for viewers to do the same.

  • Journalists Shocked VP Debate Failed To Discuss Pence’s Anti-LGBT Record 


    Following the 2016 vice presidential debate moderated by CBS’ Elaine Quijano, media figures were shocked that Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence was able to “escape” discussion of the “most controversial moment” of his career -- signing Indiana’s infamously anti-LGBT “religious freedom” law in 2015.Journalists highlighted Pence’s “aggressively” anti-LGBT track record, and noted that people were “up in arms on Twitter” at the “lack of discussion about Pence’s record on LGBT rights.”

  • What Media Need To Know About Mike Pence’s Economic Record

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) will face off on October 4 in a debate at Longwood University in Farmville, VA. As media outlets prepare for the only vice presidential debate of the 2016 election, they should have all facts about how Indiana really fared during Pence’s governorship.

  • At The VP Debate, Mike Pence Should Be Asked About Anti-LGBT "Religious Freedom" Laws

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Before he was chosen as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s vice presidential running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was arguably best known for the controversy over the “religious freedom” bill he signed into law in 2015. The continuing nationwide debate over “religious freedom” bills and Pence’s repeated refusal to stake out his position on anti-LGBT discrimination makes the vice presidential debate the perfect opportunity to find out where Pence really stands on so-called “religious freedom” laws.

    In March 2015, Pence signed Indiana's "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (RFRA) into law, a move The New York Times called the “most consequential - and controversial” decision Pence made as governor. The law -- which was criticized by religious leaders, members of the business community, legal scholars, and even the Republican mayor of Indianapolis -- provided a legal defense for individuals and business owners who cite their religious beliefs while discriminating against LGBT people.

    The furious backlash to the law put Pence in the center of a nationwide media firestorm, which included a disastrous interview on ABC’s This Week where Pence repeatedly refused to answer a question about whether the RFRA legalized discrimination against LGBT people. At a town hall this past February, Pence again refused to answer whether anti-LGBT discrimination should be legal. 

    The Indiana RFRA is just one component of Pence’s longheld opposition to LGBT equality. Previously, Pence has:

    • said that gay couples signaled a “societal collapse” as part of a 2006 speech advocating for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman;
    • pledged to oppose allowing gay people to serve in the military under “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” because “the presence of homosexuals in the ranks weakens unit cohesion”; and
    • called the 2009 expansion of federal hate crime legislation to include crimes based on sexual orientation a “radical social agenda.”

    Where Pence now stands on so-called “religious freedom” legislation and anti-LGBT discrimination is also a question of importance for Republicans. After the fierce criticism of the RFRA, Pence signed a “fix” to the law aimed at preventing businesses from using the measure to to justify discriminating against LGBT people. That decision drew ire from Christian conservatives who felt betrayed by the move. A Politico article in July noted that evangelicals are “still peeved” over his backtracking on the RFRA, with right-wing Iowa radio host Steve Deace calling it “the worst we’ve ever been stabbed in the back by a Republican.”

    The Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) has already made it clear that he supports nondiscrimination protections for the LGBT community. The October 4 vice presidential debate gives CBS News' Elaine Quijano the chance to ask Pence -- running as part of a presidential ticket that’s attempted to appeal to LGBT voters -- for a definitive answer on whether he supports “religious freedom” legislation that legalizes discrimination against LGBT people. 

  • Johns Hopkins Professors Condemn Anti-LGBT Junk Science In Baltimore Sun Op-Ed

    Professors: “Findings Could Further Stigmatize And Harm The Health Of The LGBTQ Community”

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    Faculty members at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health disassociated themselves from a recent report on LGBT health published by fellow Hopkins colleagues in a non-peer review journal, condemning the “troubling” report in a op-ed in The Baltimore Sun for “mischaracterizing” scientific evidence in a way that will “further stigmatize and harm the health of LGBTQ communities.” 

    Three faculty members from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health published an op-ed on September 28 in The Baltimore Sun criticizing a new report on LGBT health that they say is cause for “concern” because it “mischaracterizes the current state of the science on sexuality and gender.” The recent report is written by current Hopkins “scholar in residence” Lawrence Mayer and faculty member Paul McHugh. McHugh has long peddled anti-LGBT pseudoscience and refused to accept medical consensus on LGBT health, having previously written op-eds for The Wall Street Journal in which he lamented the increasing visibility of transgender rights and warned that transgender identities should be treated as "confusions" and illnesses.

    The authors of the op-ed cited concerns with the report’s analysis and conclusion, noting that previous research was inexplicably excluded from the study. Additionally, the report was published in a journal -- The New Atlantis -- that that is not “subject to rigorous peer review” normal of scientific research. 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.” The Hopkins faculty also expressed their fear that “the report's findings could further stigmatize and harm the health of LGBTQ communities.”

    From the September 28 Baltimore Sun op-ed:

    That is why the recent report, released by one current and one former member of our faculty on the topic of LGBTQ health, is so troubling. The report, "Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological and Psychological and Social Sciences," was not published in the scientific literature, where it would have been subject to rigorous peer review prior to publication. It purports to detail the science of this area, but it falls short of being a comprehensive review.


    As now stated, the report's findings could further stigmatize and harm the health of LGBTQ communities, and the report is already being widely touted by organizations opposed to LGBTQ rights.

    Because of the report, the Human Rights Campaign has warned Johns Hopkins that it is reviewing, and may remove from the institution, its high ranking in the HRC Healthcare Equality Index. The national benchmarking tool evaluates health care facilities' policies and practices related to equity and inclusion of their LGBTQ patients, visitors and employees.

    We wish to make clear that there are many people at Hopkins who hold a profound and long-standing commitment to the health, wellness, well-being, and fair and non-stigmatizing treatment of LGBTQ people and communities. We do not believe that the "Sexuality and Gender" report cited above is a comprehensive portrayal of the current science, and we respectfully disassociate ourselves from its findings.

  • A Media Guide To The Hyde Amendment And Its Anti-Choice Legacy

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    September 25 marked the start of a week of action by reproductive rights advocates to raise awareness about the Hyde amendment, its anti-choice legacy, and recent efforts to catalyze support for its repeal.

    The United for Abortion Coverage Week of Action, led by All* Above All’s coalition of reproductive rights activists, not only demarcates the 40th anniversary of the oppressive anti-choice measure’s adoption, but also comes at a significant time politically. Despite the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt -- which struck down medically unnecessary anti-choice restrictions on abortion access in Texas -- right-wing media and anti-choice politicians have continued to push misinformation about abortion and have doubled down on their support for the Hyde amendment.

    During this week of action -- and beyond -- here’s what the media needs to know about the Hyde amendment, its legacy, and the efforts of reproductive rights activists to eliminate the anti-choice funding restriction once and for all.

    What Is The Hyde Amendment?

    If It’s Been Around For 40 Years, Why Is It Just Now Becoming A Campaign Issue?

    What Are Right-Wing Media Saying About Funding For Abortion And Reproductive Health Services?

    Who Does The Hyde Amendment Most Impact?

    What Can Be Done About The Hyde Amendment?

    What Is The Hyde Amendment?

    The Hyde amendment is a restriction on federal funding for abortion services. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), this restriction -- commonly called the Hyde amendment after its first sponsor, Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) -- was first passed as a budgetary rider “to the fiscal 1977 Medicaid appropriation.” Every year since, “the Hyde Amendment has been reenacted” to prevent the use of federal Medicaid funds from covering abortion services, except in case of rape or incest or to protect the life of the mother.

    Because of its restrictions, the Hyde amendment has created a significant barrier for low-income patients attempting to access safe and legal abortion care. Considering the number of financial and logistical barriers women already face in trying to access abortion, the Hyde amendment adds an additional and unnecessary complication.

    If It’s Been Around For 40 Years, Why Is It Just Now Becoming A Campaign Issue?

    In January, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton decided to “publicly do battle against Hyde,” by making the repeal of the anti-choice restriction a top priority, Rebecca Traister wrote in New York magazine. Beyond being the first presidential nominee to publicly speak against the Hyde amendment, Clinton “dropped a bomb on the political conversation about abortion” by drawing attention to “the relationship between reproductive-health-care access and economic inequality,” Traister argued. 

    The Democratic Party also formally adopted repealing the Hyde amendment as a priority in its platform -- marking the first time a major political party has targeted the anti-choice restriction on this scale.

    Although Clinton and the Democratic Party are drawing much-needed attention to the problematic Hyde amendment, the renewed focus on its impact did not originate with them. Instead, as All* Above All co-chair Jessica González-Rojas explained to The Guardian, the credit belongs with “Women of color leaders” who “have been calling for the repeal of Hyde for decades when most mainstream reproductive rights groups did not prioritize this issue.”

    Similarly, ThinkProgress reported in early September, although Hillary Clinton’s commitment to repealing the Hyde amendment “ quickly shot the controversial idea into mainstream political conversations,” it has been the “end goal of dozens of resilient reproductive justice organizations that have been pushing to repeal the Hyde Amendment for decades.”

    Now, during this week of action, All* Above All has mobilized a grass-roots coalition involving “68 organizations in 38 states" working "to show support for lifting bans on abortion coverage for low-income women.” Reproductive rights advocates are not the only ones drawing attention to the Hyde amendment during the election, however.

    More recently, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump released a letter announcing that he has a new “pro-life coalition,” led by known anti-choice extremist Marjorie Dannenfelser. As part of the announcement, Trump committed himself to making the Hyde amendment “permanent law” in order to prevent “taxpayers from having to pay for abortions.” Trump also promised to defund Planned Parenthood and ban abortion after 20 weeks on the faulty premise that a fetus can feel pain by that point in gestation.

    What Are Right-Wing Media Saying About Funding For Abortion And Reproductive Health Services?

    Right-wing media have a history of not only attacking Planned Parenthood, but also spreading misinformation about the Hyde amendment and federal funding for other reproductive health care services.

    For example, during the December 22 edition of Fox News’ The Five, co-host Eric Bolling reacted to co-host Dana Perino’s statement that “defunding Planned Parenthood” is problematic politically by arguing that funding for abortion services should be “separate” from funding for “women’s services.” Although Bolling did not explicitly name the Hyde amendment, he pushed for Republicans to "defund the abortion part of Planned Parenthood” and set up a “Chinese wall” between abortions and Planned Parenthood’s other services.

    Right-wing media have also misled the public about how much of Planned Parenthood’s resources are strictly devoted to abortion, dismissing the many other types of health care the organization provides to both women and men. In July 2015, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and Fox co-host Andrea Tantaros advocated for defunding Planned Parenthood because, as O’Reilly argued, he did not want “tax dollars going” to abortion providers. Tantaros supported this statement and repeated the myth that because Americans have ample alternatives to Planned Parenthood, “taxpayer dollars should not have to go” to abortion providers.

    Beyond the Hyde amendment, right-wing media have also spread misinformation about the nature of Title X family planning funds that are used by providers like Planned Parenthood to supply necessary reproductive health care such as contraception, testing for sexually transmitted infections, and cancer screenings. Right-wing media have argued that Planned Parenthood is an inappropriate recipient of Title X funds, because the organization is incapable of providing wider reproductive health care. In reality, Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers are an essential resource for reproductive health care in many communities.

    As a result, in September 2016, the Obama administration proposed a rule that would stop anti-choice lawmakers from diverting federal family planning money -- distributed to states through Title X of the Public Health Service Act -- away from Planned Parenthood. As The New York Times explained, “The rule would make clear that state governments must apportion Title X funds based on a provider’s ability to perform family planning services effectively -- not on other factors like whether a provider also offers abortions.” In April, the Obama administration had “warned officials in all 50 states” that blocking Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid funding is likely “out of compliance with federal law,” according to The Washington Post.

    Nevertheless, right-wing media alleged that the proposed rule would ensure that there are “millions more in taxpayer dollars for the nation’s abortion market leader at the expense of women’s health.”

    Even when not discussing the Hyde amendment or abortion funding, right-wing media have frequently misrepresented the severity of anti-choice restrictions and downplayed the ways these requirements have made abortion and other reproductive health services less accessible.

    This is an issue that has spread beyond just right-wing media. In a recent study, Media Matters analyzed 14 months of evening cable news discussion about reproductive rights and found that media frequently ignore or underestimate the impact of economic barriers when talking about abortion access. In this study we found that only eight news segments even briefly mentioned the economic barriers women face to accessing abortion.

    Who Does The Hyde Amendment Most Impact?

    1. Low-Income Patients

    Low-income patients and their families are one of the primary groups affected by the Hyde amendment’s restriction on funding for abortion services.

    The Guttmacher Institute found in a July 2016 study that the “number of women potentially affected by the Hyde Amendment is substantial” given the significant number of women dependent on federally subsidized medical services. According to Guttmacher’s director of public policy, Heather Boonstra, for women between 15 and 33 who depend on Medicaid, 60 percent live in places (35 states and D.C.) “that do not cover abortion, except in limited circumstances.” As a result, approximately 7 million women are potentially impacted by Hyde’s restrictions on federal funding for abortion care.

    In January, Slate’s Christina Cauterucci highlighted Clinton’s focus on repealing the Hyde amendment because of its disproportionate impact on low-income patients. According to Clinton, abortion is not accessible enough “'as long as we have laws on the book like the Hyde Amendment making it harder for low-income women to exercise their full rights.'” Cauterucci concluded that if Clinton succeeded in making the repeal of Hyde a central issue in the campaign, it would be “a long-overdue step toward addressing the intersection between economic insecurity and reproductive health.”

    The National Women’s Law Center explained in 2015 that “because of the high cost of the procedure, low-income women are often forced to delay obtaining an abortion,” which increases the out-of-pocket costs. Thus the Hyde amendment exacerbates the substantial financial disadvantage low-income persons already face in obtaining abortion care.

    2. Women Of Color

    Women of color -- especially black women, Latinas, and Native Americans -- suffer a particularly disparate impact from the Hyde amendment’s ban on federal abortion coverage.

    According to a September 2016 research brief from Ibis Reproductive Health and All* Above All on the impact of out-of-pocket costs on abortion access, “Because low-income women and women of color are disproportionately covered by public health insurance programs, restrictions in coverage increase their socioeconomic disadvantage.”

    This assessment matched the findings of the National Women’s Law Center’s study, which noted that women of color were not only “more likely than White women to face financial barriers when seeking abortions” but also “more likely to experience unintended pregnancy, due to racial, ethnic, gender, and economic healthcare inequalities.”

    Black Women

    In 2015 the National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda reported that “black women have more than double the unintended pregnancy rate of white women,” which is particularly concerning given that “the risk of death from pregnancy complications was nearly three and a half times higher for Black women than for white women.”

    According to a recent Guttmacher Institute fact sheet, black women do experience higher rates of unintended pregnancy and more frequently elect to abort. Think Progress’ Kira Lerner explained these numbers simply reflect “the difficulties that many women in minority communities face in accessing high-quality contraceptive services and in using their chosen method of birth control consistently and effectively.” Lerner noted black women also experience a “racial disparity … for other health measures including rates of diabetes, breast and cervical cancer and sexually transmitted infections.”


    Latinas’ access to reproductive care is significantly impacted not just by the Hyde amendment but also by the financial and logistical barriers created by anti-choice restrictions in states, like Texas, that have a high percentage of Latinos.

    According to a joint op-ed from the executive directors of Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, and Voto Latino, “The first woman known to die of an unsafe illegal abortion after the Hyde Amendment was a Latina” named Rosie Jimenez, who “died from septic shock in October 1977” months after the Hyde amendment first went into effect. Since then, the op-ed explained, the Hyde amendment has continued to have “an especially devastating effect” on Latina communities, due to their high national rates of Medicaid enrollment.

    In an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of abortion provider Whole Woman’s Health, NLIRH explained the material consequences of barriers created by state anti-choice restrictions, like Texas’ HB 2. NLIRH argued that due to the "significant geographic, transportation, infrastructure, and cost challenges" Latinas already face when seeking medical care, clinic closures caused by Texas’ anti-choice law would create "severe burdens in accessing reproductive healthcare."

    Native Americans

    Native Americans are disparately impacted not only by restrictions on federal funding for abortion, but also by a lack of public awareness about the unique barriers to reproductive health care faced by their communities.

    As Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center executive director Charon Asetoyer explained to Salon, despite the disparate impact anti-choice restrictions have on Native American communities, Native people are often a “silent population” in national conversations about reproductive rights. For example, she noted that although Native Americans are entitled to receive care through the federally funded Indian Health Service (IHS), “We are still struggling to aspire to the Hyde Amendment while others work to get rid of it.”

    Indeed, as a 2002 survey of Native American women’s reproductive health care access found, 85 percent of IHS offices “often refuse to provide Native American women even the limited access to abortion services to which they are legally entitled under the Hyde Amendment.”

    As a result, Asetoyer continued, many Native Americans who wish to access abortion services are forced to incur higher out-of-pocket costs in order to travel to the nearest abortion provider when “A lot of the time women in these situations don’t even have an automobile to drive to the nearest Planned Parenthood, let alone the money to pay for the procedure.”

    3. LGBT Persons

    In an op-ed for Advocate, National LGBTQ Task Force representative Candace Bond-Theriault affirmed that the LGBTQ and reproductive justice movements are “inseparable” because “many of the same people who propose policies that discriminate against LGBTQ people also [are] actively working to deny access to reproductive health care.”

    While the Hyde amendment makes abortion care inaccessible for many, Bond-Theriault highlighted how anti-choice restrictions additionally perpetuate structural inequalities wherein individuals are “stigmatized because of the personal bodily choices that [they] make.”

    Lambda Legal’s Camilla Taylor, Caroline Sacerdote, and Kara Ingelhart previously explained the pervasive and negative forms of stigma that both movements address, noting that, “People who have an abortion -- whether members of the LGBT community or not -- experience something familiar to all LGBT people: stigma.” They emphasized the importance of combating abortion stigma because, “As the LGBT community knows all too well, it is hard to fight against efforts to roll back your civil rights when you have to remain in the closet.”

    In an op-ed titled “Abortion Access and Trans Health Care Are Bound Together in Texas,” Texas Equal Access Fund president Nan Little Kirkpatrick wrote that “the Hyde amendment is discrimination in health care” faced by those attempting to “exercise their reproductive rights as granted by the Supreme Court.” She argued that the effort to take down structurally oppressive measures like the Hyde amendment “expressly highlights the ways that the movements for trans and reproductive justice intersect” because both involve “bodily autonomy.”

    4. Service Members And Veterans

    Because the Hyde amendment is a restriction on federal abortion funding, its impact is felt by anyone dependent on federally subsidized medical care, including service members or veterans.

    After the Supreme Court’s 5-3 decision against Texas’ anti-choice law HB 2, Salon’s Amanda Marcotte named the repeal of the Hyde amendment one of the next major goals for pro-choice advocates. According to Marcotte, “The effects of the Hyde Amendment have been devastating” for both low-income families and service members because it means “no federal employees, service women, veterans or women on Medicaid have access to coverage for abortion.”

    What Can Be Done About The Hyde Amendment?

    As Steph Herold, managing director of the Sea Change Program, wrote in an op-ed for Rewire, All* Above All “is playing a pivotal role by introducing pro-active abortion access legislation and encouraging elected officials to come out against the Hyde Amendment.”

    The organization represents a coalition of reproductive justice advocates and women of color whose goals are to catalyze action to “restore public insurance coverage so that every woman, however much she makes, can get affordable, safe abortion care when she needs it.”

    From September 25 to October 1, All* Above All is leading a week of action, which includes “130 activities hosted by 68 organizations in 38 states to show support for lifting bans on abortion coverage for low-income women.” The United for Abortion Coverage Week of Action also includes “a multi-city ad campaign amplifying the voices of Catholics [for choice] across the county” as well as a “celebration of local victories” to earn recognition for the need to repeal oppressive anti-choice restrictions like the Hyde amendment.

    In addition, All* Above All has mobilized support for the EACH Woman Act, proposed legislation that would repeal the Hyde amendment and guarantee “coverage for abortion for every woman, however much she earns or however she is insured.” According to All* Above All, the bill now has over 120 co-sponsors who have committed themselves to affirming that people have the right to make the best reproductive health care decision for themselves and their families.

    To mark 40 years of the Hyde amendment’s dangerous anti-choice legacy, NARAL Pro-Choice America shared the stories of several individuals “from diverse backgrounds and experiences [who] came together to support repeal of Hyde.” Although their stories represent a variety of experiences in trying to gain access to necessary abortion care, the common refrain and message to the media was clear. As one of the individuals, Mary Tobin, wrote: “If equality is truly a pillar that our country represents and embraces, then the repeal of the Hyde Amendment is crucial to upholding our country’s identity.”