The third anniversary of the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) found the U.S. military intact and stronger than ever. Despite the utter failure of their previous doomsday predictions to materialize, the same voices of opposition to DADT are now making similar prophecies about potential moves to lift the military's discriminatory ban on transgender people.
Challenges remain for lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members. Three years removed from the repeal of DADT, they still face harassment, discrimination and difficulties obtaining veterans' benefits. One obstacle to equality looms particularly heavy post-DADT: the prohibition on transgender service.
The Pentagon currently prohibits transgender people from serving in the armed forces, a ban that forces over 15,000 men and women currently serving to lie about their identities and deters countless others from enlisting. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has indicated the military may review this policy, which, according to the Palm Center, a research institute focused on sexuality and the military, is without sound medical reasoning and could be lifted without harming readiness.
Unsurprisingly, conservative pundits have railed against proposals to lift the transgender ban.
Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay hate group Family Research Center (FRC) and one of Fox News' favorite social commentators, wrote in a March FRC newsletter that lifting the ban on transgender service members would be a "fatal blow to unit cohesion and readiness" that "could compromise our troops' safety." Perkins tied the issue to military sexual assault rates.
Elaine Donnelly, the president of the anti-gay Center for Military Readiness (who once said that human rights abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were a result of allowing women in the military) echoed Perkins, calling the idea of transgender military service an experiment that puts "an extra burden on men and women in the military that they certainly don't need or they don't deserve" and suggesting it would lead to an increase in sexual assaults.
Conservative commentator Erick Erickson ranted against the mere disclosure of the estimate that 15,000 transgender people are currently serving, and said that President Obama has "turned our military into some sort of weird social experiment." Meanwhile, right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh mocks the idea that transgender people should be allowed in the military with repeated uses of the term "tranny" and his token phrase "add-a-dick-to-me babe."
If the rhetoric sounds familiar, it should. Conservative media used the same attacks in their attempts to preserve DADT or replace it with a discriminatory policy even more extreme.
Three years ago, Perkins argued that repealing DADT would increase military sexual assault rates, undermine morale, and damage recruitment. Donnelly warned that after repealing DADT, "lesbians would take pictures of people in the shower" and gay service members might spread HIV through the ranks.
Erickson predicted the military bureaucracy would "go to war with Obama on the battlefield of public opinion" after DADT, while Limbaugh called the repeal "special treatment" for the gay community and intimated that it would lead to problems with "predation" and sexual harassment:
LIMBAUGH: Now, here's a question. It's an open-ended question. Will straight soldiers, heterosexuals, be able to claim sexual harassment by gays in the military? Or will such claims now be considered hate crimes? How is this gonna play out? Well, you know, because in our culture there are certain templates. It's like women never lie about rape, yet we got this ABC weather babe, you know, women never lie. Children never lie, yet we know that they do. This notion that there is predation in the homosexual community, oh, that never happens. Well, yeah, just like it never happens in the heterosexual. Of course it does. There are predators everywhere out there. Hate crimes are, if you're thinking about it, well, it's even worse than the crime that you commit. So anyway, it's a lot of stuff to shake out, so to speak.
These fears, predictably, proved unfounded. According to a Palm Center report published a year after the repeal of DADT:
Based on the substantial evidence we gathered in our research, we conclude that, during the one-year period following implementation of the policy change, DADT repeal has had no negative impact on overall military readiness or its component parts: unit cohesion, recruitment, retention, assaults, harassment or morale. While repeal produced a few downsides for some military members--mostly those who personally opposed the policy change--we identified important upsides as well, and in no case did negative consequences outweigh advantages. On balance, DADT repeal appears to have slightly enhanced the military's ability to do its job by clearing away unnecessary obstacles to the development of trust and bonding.
Such hateful attacks on transgender service members should disqualify these discredited pundits from commenting on the issue, but with the debate over lifting the transgender service ban heating up, it remains to be seen if media will finally stop offering them opportunities to comment.
Conservative media figures have falsely accused President Obama of remaining silent about violence against Christians in Iraq, despite the fact that Obama himself and administration officials have condemned the persecution of Christians on multiple occasions, including when Obama announced U.S. military and humanitarian assistance to religious minorities in Iraq.
Anti-gay hate group leader Tony Perkins has appeared on Megyn Kelly's shows more than all other Fox News programs combined over the past two years.
Tony Perkins is the president of the Family Research Council (FRC), an organization that was labeled an anti-gay "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2010. He has called pedophilia "a homosexual problem," claimed that gay men "recruit" children into homosexuality, and endorsed a Uganda law that would have imposed the death penalty for homosexuality. His organization regularly produces anti-gay propaganda depicting gay people as abnormal, unnatural, and destined for "eternal damnation."
He's also one of Megyn Kelly's most frequent guests on Fox News. Kelly - who was once hailed as a harbinger of a "gay rights revolution" at Fox - has hosted Perkins more than all other Fox News programs combined in the past two years, according to an Equality Matters analysis. Hailed by Kelly as "a captain of the Religious Right," Perkins has become a familiar face to viewers of Kelly's shows:
Between America Live - Kelly's former Fox program - and The Kelly File, Kelly's shows account for 17 of Perkins' 30 Fox News appearances since the conclusion of the 2012 GOP primary season, when his cable news influence peaked:
Family Research Council (FRC) president Tony Perkins has all but ceased to appear as a guest on CNN and MSNBC. It's a dramatic change for the anti-gay hate group leader, whose constant appearances on cable news during the 2012 GOP primary cycle drew criticism from progressive faith groups.
Since becoming president of the Family Research Council in 2003, Perkins has used his position as a leader among social conservatives to command significant media attention. FRC hosts the annual Values Voters Summit, making Perkins an easy choice for networks looking for a prominent voice to comment on social conservatism and GOP politics.
Over time, networks also began turning to Perkins for commentary on LGBT issues like the fight over marriage equality and the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Perkins was happy to oblige - he has a history of making incendiary comments about LGBT people, and FRC has turned the production of anti-gay propaganda into an art form.
In 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center labeled FRC an anti-gay "hate group," citing the organization's propagation of known falsehoods about LGBT people.
That label, unfortunately, didn't stop cable news networks from continuing to invite Perkins on national television on behalf of social conservatives. During the 2012 Republican presidential primary season, Perkins appeared on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News a total of 56 times. MSNBC was particularly friendly to Perkins, with Hardball host Chris Matthews praising Perkins as an "honest conservative" who always tried "to find the truth" during a November 2011 interview:
Perkins' platform on cable news didn't sit well with audiences familiar with his long and sordid history of bigoted anti-LGBT rhetoric. Faithful America, a progressive Christian group dedicated to "reclaiming Christianity from the religious right," launched a petition in February 2012 asking the network to stop inviting Perkins on air. The petition garnered 20,000 signatures, which were delivered to MSNBC's headquarters.
Perkins' platform at MSNBC created an awkward situation for Hardball host Chris Matthews. At a March 2012 book event, Matthews was asked about his willingness to invite Perkins on his show and admitted that his critics "may be right." At a book signing a few weeks later, Matthews told Faithful America members that the group had "a good argument" for no longer hosting Perkins." Perkins did appear on Hardball once more, in a joint appearance with gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA. But rather than offer the warm welcome Perkins had come to expect, Matthews grilled Perkins on his anti-LGBT extremism.
In the summer of 2013, Faithful America launched a similar petition targeting CNN after the network hosted Perkins to discuss the Supreme Court's ruling on Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The petition urged CNN not to let Perkins "speak on behalf of America's Christians" and quickly gathered more than 32,000 signatures.
A new Equality Matters analysis finds that both MSNBC and CNN have largely ended their practice of hosting Perkins in the months since the end of the 2012 GOP primary. Perkins hasn't appeared on MSNBC since March 2013, when the Supreme Court heard arguments in two marriage equality cases. Meanwhile, Perkins' appearances on CNN have steadily declined in the last year, and he hasn't been on the network since February: At Fox News, on the other hand, Perkins' appearances have held steady and actually increased in the past year:
Family Research Council (FRC) president Tony Perkins has appeared significantly less frequently on CNN and MSNBC in the wake of petitions calling on the networks to stop hosting him. Perkins, whose organization has been labeled an anti-gay "hate group," continues to appear frequently on Fox News.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an organization dedicated to combatting anti-Semitism, condemned Family Research Council (FRC) president and regular Fox News and CNN guest Tony Perkins for his "deeply offensive" comments comparing LGBT non-discrimination protections with the Holocaust.
On June 6, Perkins blasted a Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruling finding that a baker had violated the state's anti-discrimination law by refusing to bake a cake for a gay couple, asking on his radio program Washington Watch, "I'm beginning to think, are re-education camps next? When are they going to start rolling out the boxcars to start hauling off Christians?" Perkins' remarks echoed his statement in April that the LGBT movement "reminds me of Nazi Germany."
In a June 10 statement, ADL President Abraham Foxman denounced Perkins' comments, calling them "offensive and inappropriate":
Tony Perkins' invocation of the Holocaust in his statement referring to a judge's finding that a baker unlawfully discriminated against gay customers is offensive and inappropriate.
There is no comparison between contemporary American political issues and the actions of Hitler's regime during the Holocaust. Such inappropriate analogies only serve to trivialize the Holocaust and are deeply offensive to Jews and other survivors, as well as those Americans who fought valiantly against the Nazis in World War II.
We urge Perkins to apologize and to refrain from using Holocaust imagery to make his point.
Extreme anti-LGBT rhetoric has defined Perkins' career, and the FRC's defamatory attacks on the LGBT community led the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to designate it an anti-gay hate group in 2010.
Despite that record, Perkins and FRC are frequent fixtures on CNN and Fox News. Fox's Megyn Kelly in particular has given Perkins the star treatment, inviting him onto The Kelly File to attack basic non-discrimination policies and to champion anti-LGBT business discrimination.
Given his reputation, Perkins isn't likely to take the ADL's advice to heart. But media outlets might want to reconsider whether it's wise to provide him a forum to continue peddling his apoplectic attacks on LGBT equality.
Time published an article documenting the Family Research Council's (FRC) annual "Watchmen on the Wall" conference, glossing over the anti-gay hate group's extreme positions.
In a May 30 story titled "Watchmen on the Wall: Pastors Prepare to Take Back America," Time correspondent Elizabeth Dias offered a profile of FRC's annual "Watchmen on the Wall" conference. The article offered a one-sided depiction of FRC's efforts "advocate for... Biblical values," framing the group's struggle as an effort to fight back against a culture in which "religion is losing its public influence" (emphasis added):
[A group of 50] pastors had come to the nation's capital as part of the annual "Watchmen on the Wall" Washington briefing, a conference sponsored by the Family Research Council to connect pastors with policy makers and legislators and to encourage the pastors to advocate for those Biblical values FRC believes should be advanced in America.
This year's briefing focused on defending the idea that marriage only should exist between a man and woman and on countering what many conservative Christians believe are widespread attacks on Christian religious liberty. "There is an all-out assault on Biblical marriage, with judges overturning the will of the vast majority of voters in some states [...] Religious organizations and Christian-owned businesses are being forced to provide insurance plans that cover abortions and abortion-inducing drugs or face fines and punishment...and the list goes on," FRC president Tony Perkins wrote in a welcome letter to attendees. "It would appear that lawlessness has been unleashed upon our country and culture as we witness an unprecedented and outrageous abuse of power by governing authorities."
For many of them, the battle goes beyond politics: it is spiritual warfare. As senior FRC fellow E.W. Jackson preached to the gathering, the ACLU and the Foundation for the Freedom from Religion, in trying to stop Christian prayer at public events, represent a movement "not simply [of] human beings who disagree with us--it is demonic power moving to shut down the power of God."
The article failed to note that the FRC is a Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)-designated anti-gay hate group, owing to the malicious anti-LGBT rhetoric of FRC figures like FRC president Tony Perkins, who has endorsed a Ugandan bill that would have imposed the death penalty for homosexuality, asserted that gay people face "eternal damnation," and compared gays with terrorists. Along with other FRC personalities, Perkins has accused gay men of preying on children and condemned efforts to curb anti-LGBT bullying as part of an effort to "recruit" children "into that lifestyle."
Megyn Kelly was supposed to be a harbinger of Fox News' "gay rights revolution," but she's used her primetime spot to enable some of the country's most extreme anti-LGBT activists.
At the height of the controversy over Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson's homophobic remarks in a December 2013 interview with GQ magazine, Kelly invited GLAAD consultant Jeremy Hooper to appear on The Kelly File and weigh in on the firestorm.
She also invited Tony Perkins, president of the notorious anti-gay hate group the Family Research Council (FRC), to appear immediately afterward.
During his segment, Hooper urged Kelly to hold Perkins accountable for his extensive history of bigoted rhetoric. "What specifically? Because I'll ask him," Kelly promised. Hooper pointed to Perkins' endorsement of a Ugandan bill that would have imposed the death penalty for homosexuality, his claim that gay people face "eternal damnation," and his comparisons of gay people with terrorists.
In the segment that followed, however, Kelly didn't ask Perkins to explain his virulent anti-gay rhetoric. Instead, she introduced him as the leader of "a group whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and culture from a Christian worldview":
Kelly's failure to hold Perkins accountable is a case study in her broader habit of mainstreaming anti-gay hate.
In the seven months since The Kelly File launched in October of 2013, Fox's 9 p.m. hour has been a friendly forum for some of the country's most odious anti-gay extremists, including Perkins, the far-right legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), and, most recently, the Benham brothers, the home renovators whose rabidly anti-gay activism led HGTV to cancel their planned reality show.
Since Kelly's promotion to Fox's prime-time lineup, she has hosted Perkins six times. (Filling in for Kelly on the December 27 edition of the program, Shannon Bream hosted Perkins an additional time.) Perkins has used his appearances to condemn Gov. Jan Brewer's (R-AZ) veto of her state's license-to-discriminate bill, champion anti-LGBT discrimination, opine on openly gay NFL draftee Michael Sam, and lambaste HGTV for cancelling the Benham brothers' planned show.
Kelly's willingness to grant Perkins a platform isn't a recent development. As a daytime host on Fox's America Live, she provided Perkins the opportunity to peddle anti-gay talking points with impunity - and often parroted the same talking points herself, asking Perkins why gay rights activists are so intolerant and defending him and other "openly religious" leaders against charges of bigotry.
Meanwhile, Kelly has invited ADF to defend anti-gay business discrimination on her program. While other cable news anchors have exposed ADF's anti-gay extremism - including its international work to criminalize homosexuality - Kelly gave the group the same treatment she afforded Perkins, failing to hold ADF to account for its disturbing work.
The Benham brothers could also count on Kelly to downplay their history of strident anti-gay and Islamophobic activism, including condemning homosexuality as "demonic" and "destructive." On the May 19 edition of her show, she called the backlash to their activism "incredible," asking them to enlighten viewers on their "more traditional views":
Right-wing media equated sensitivity training to "re-education camp" after an NFL player was disciplined for homophobic tweets.
On May 10, University of Missouri football player Michael Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams, becoming the first openly gay player drafted into the NFL. ESPN aired footage of Sam sharing a celebratory kiss with his boyfriend. Following the kiss, Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones reacted by tweeting "omg" and "horrible." The Dolphins fined Jones and barred him from team activities until he undergoes sensitivity training.
The conservative media took the opportunity to liken the sensitivity training requirement to being forced into a re-education camp. Fox personalities and guests alike proclaimed that Jones was being sent to a re-education camp, a claim The Washington Times echoed, calling the sensitivity training "modern-day equivalent of a re-education camp." Predictably, Rush Limbaugh joined conservatives decrying Jones "going to re-education camp" as "just creepy."
Real re-education camps are known for their vast human rights violations and still exist in countries like North Korea and China. A report on North Korea's camps in the Wall Street Journal highlighted the inhumane conditions at the camps:
North Koreans can end up in re-education camps for such crimes as listening to foreign radio broadcasts, secretly practicing a religion, or crossing the border to China in search of food. Inmates are subjected to forced labor and are required to memorize political tracts. They receive little food, no medical care and sometimes serve multiyear terms wearing the clothes in which they arrived at camp. I interviewed a woman who had been wearing high heels when she was arrested and had to bind her feet in rags when those wore out. Many prisoners die of abuse or malnutrition.
The New York Times described the conditions in China's "Re-education Through Labor" camps:
Conditions in re-education camps are dire: Physical abuse by guards and the criminal elements they entrust to enforce "order" is common, as are long hours of arduous work with no rest day; institutionalized corruption; deficient health care; and what the Justice Ministry refers to as "abnormal deaths."
Sensitivity training is nothing new in the NFL. In August 2013, Philadelphia Eagles receiver Riley Cooper attended sensitivity training after he used a racial slur. A typical training session lasts between two and four hours.
It should be obvious that comparing sensitivity training for a player's bigoted, anti-gay comments to brutal re-education camps in oppressive regimes are ridiculous, but right-wing media continue to embrace hyperbole in their opposition to gay rights.
Fox News host Megyn Kelly invited anti-gay hate group leader Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council (FRC) to comment on HGTV's decision to cancel a program that would have starred a rabid anti-gay extremist, pushing the FRC's own talking points to baselessly frame HGTV's decision as an attack on Christians.
On May 6, Right Wing Watch reported that David Benham, who along with his brother Jason was slated to star in a fixer-upper reality show called Flip It Forward, had an extensive record of anti-choice, anti-gay, and anti-Muslim activism. David Benham explained to far-right radio host Janet Mefferd in 2012 that he and his brother had participated in a protest of the Democratic National Convention to take a stand against "homosexuality and its agenda that is attacking the nation," abortion, divorce, and "demonic ideologies" circulating in the education system. Benham has also compared the anti-gay marriage fight to the struggle against Nazi Germany and highlighted Leviticus' prescription of death for gay sex.Benham's views on Muslims are no kinder; he has declared that "Islam takes life and enslaves it" and protested in front of mosques while shouting "Jesus Hates Muslims."
Faced with a public outcry, HGTV announced on May 7 that it had "decided not to move forward" with Flip It Forward.
During the May 8 edition of The Kelly File, Kelly asked Perkins to weigh in on the controversy. Kelly suggested that while HGTV would have been condemned for cancelling a show featuring gay stars, the Benhams were being punished because, unlike gay people, Christians' rights aren't as "protected and recognized in this country":
Fox News criticized the Supreme Court's decision not to hear a case involving a New Mexico photographer who was sued after refusing to serve a same-sex couple, inviting a hate group leader to condemn non-discrimination laws and asserting that prohibiting businesses from refusing service to gay people is a form of "involuntary servitude."
On April 7, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from Elane Photography, a New Mexico studio that was sued under the state's non-discrimination statute after its owner refused to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony. Though it's unclear what motivated the Supreme Court's decision, opponents of LGBT equality condemned the Supreme Court for allegedly refusing to protect religious liberty.
One of the Supreme Court's critics was Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay hate group Family Research Council (FRC), who appeared on The Kelly File with Megyn Kelly to condemn New Mexico's non-discrimination law:
Fox News dedicated its first segment on Gov. Brewer's veto of Arizona's anti-gay bill to an interview with one of America's most notorious anti-gay hate group leaders.
On February 26, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer announced that she had vetoed Senate Bill 1062, which would have allowed businesses and individuals to engage in legal discrimination by denying services to gay people on religious grounds. Brewer said that the bill "does not address a specific or pressing concern," and that it "is broadly worded, and could result in unintended and negative consequences."
Fox's Megyn Kelly opened the February 26 edition of her show with a segment on Brewer's veto that featured Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay Family Research Council. Kelly gave Perkins a platform to lambast the veto as an example of "how fundamental freedoms are trampled," while citing a New Mexico couple who were prosecuted for refusing service to a same-sex couple as proof that the law differs from discrimination against mixed-race couples in that it "address[es] some very significant problems":
After assuring a GLAAD official that she would challenge an anti-gay hate group leader on his history of extreme rhetoric, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly welcomed Family Research Council president Tony Perkins to defend a Duck Dynasty star, never mentioning his nor FRC's anti-gay extremism and hate group designation.
Phil Robertson of A&E's popular Duck Dynasty show, made national headlines this week after calling homosexuality illogical and comparing it to bestiality during an interview with GQ magazine. Citing his remarks, on December 18 A&E announced it would be placing Robertson on indefinite hiatus.
During the following evening's edition of The Kelly File, Kelly invited on GLAAD's Jeremy Hooper followed by Family Research Council (FRC) president Tony Perkins to discuss Robertson's anti-gay comments.
Hooper challenged Kelly to hold Perkins accountable for his anti-gay record and vile rhetoric, to which Kelly promised, "What specifically? Because I'll ask him."
But Kelly never asked Perkins to explain his extreme stances against the gay community, nor did she acknowledge that the FRC is a designated hate group. Instead she merely identified FRC as "a group whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and culture from a Christian world view"--a description that continues Fox's trend of referring to anti-gay extremism as Christianity. Perkins went on to defend Robertson as upholding "biblical morality" and attack homosexuality as "sexual immorality."
Conservative media outlets have repeatedly asserted that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) - federal legislation that would ban employment discrimination against LGBT workers - discriminates against Christian businesses, but a new report from PolitiFact has rated that claim "False."
On December 16, PolitiFact evaluated a fundraising email from the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) which claimed that ENDA would unfairly punish Christian businesses. PolitiFact rated TVC's claim "false," noting that ENDA includes religious exemptions that are actually more generous than those contained in other federal non-discrimination laws.
PolitiFact also noted that non-religious businesses operated by religious individuals have to comply with the law regardless of the business owner's faith (emphasis added):
Under Title VII [of the Civil Rights Act of 1964], and therefore under ENDA, religious organizations, which need not be church-run, would be exempt. Additionally, all businesses with fewer than 15 employees are exempt, whether they're religious or not.
Nelson Tebbe, a professor at Brooklyn Law School who specializes in religious liberty, said ENDA's religious exemption exceeds Title VII's.
"It's broader because the religious exemption in Title VII only allows religious organizations to discriminate [against LGBT individuals] on the basis of religion," he said. But it doesn't allow religious groups to discriminate based on factors like an employee's gender or race.
So by permitting religious organizations to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, ENDA allows them more flexibility than Title VII.
The bill's religious exemption indicates that churches, church-run initiatives and other religious businesses need not comply by employing people of all sexualities and gender identities. And there's no special negative treatment for Christians.
Businesses of any religion could qualify for the exemption. Individuals of any faith who oppose sexuality would have to abide by the law, so no religion is singled out.
We rate this claim False.
The myth that ENDA would discriminate against Christian businesses has been widely debunked, but that hasn't stopped the lie from gaining prominence among right-wing media outlets.
CNN allowed hate group leader Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), to baselessly accuse marriage equality of creating a slippery slope to polygamy after asking him whether the growing acceptance of homosexuality was to blame for the decriminalization of polygamous relationships in Utah.
On December 13, in the case Brown v. Buhman, U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups struck down a portion of Utah's anti-polygamy statute which aimed at prohibiting polygamous cohabitation, stating that the measure violated constitutionally protected rights of free exercise of religion and due process. Waddoups also cited the Supreme Court's 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down state laws criminalizing gay sex. According to Waddoups, Lawrence pointed to "deeper liberty interests at issue in the home and personal relationships."
During the December 16 edition of CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront, guest host Jake Tapper invited Perkins and anti-polygamy activist Laurie Allen to ask if Waddoups' decision was a result of the slippery slope created by the decriminalization of gay sex in Lawrence v. Texas. During the segment, Tapper read a Tweet from former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum claiming his predictions about gay marriage leading to polygamy were true and asked "do you think it's fair to make that link" between gay marriage and polygamy?: