With the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee poised to vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) on July 10, anti-LGBT activists are ramping up their misinformation campaign against the legislation, which would prohibit employers from discriminating against employees and job applicants based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
In the wake of the Supreme Court's historic decision to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), anti-gay activists have run out of excuses to explain their ongoing legal defeats in their fight against marriage equality.
Anti-gay activists have a long history of dreaming up wild excuses to explain away embarrassing losses in court:
This rationalization may have bought anti-gay groups time as their cases worked their way up the judicial ladder, but it won't do much to soften the blow of the Supreme Court's decision in Windsor v. United States.
The lead attorney defending DOMA in the Windsor case was Paul Clement, one of the country's most well-known and successful constitutional lawyers. Clement had been dubbed the "LeBron James of law," and his decision to take up DOMA's defense was celebrated by anti-gay groups across the country.
Focus on the Family celebrated Clement's announcement, calling it "really great news":
Ladies and gentlemen, it just doesn't get any better on a Monday than to hear that the House of Representatives has selected Paul Clement as its outside counsel to take on the defense of DOMA after the President and the Department of Justice's rather spectacular failure to do so.
I'm breathing just a little bit easier today. This is really great news. [emphasis added]
Maggie Gallagher, co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), was similarly overjoyed:
Paul Clement is one of the ablest litigators in the country, whose seven years acting as solicitor general is the longest period of continuous service since the 19th century. The solicitor general's job is arguing cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and Clement has argued more than 50 such cases.
As a friend of mine, himself an able litigator, put it: "He's the best. Boehner could not have made a better choice."
And so, thanks to Boehner, Obama's plan to sabotage DOMA's defense has backfired.
For the first time since Obama became president, we will have a legal eagle in the courtroom defending DOMA who actually wants to win the case. [emphasis added]
And Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, stated that Clement's defense would put the Supreme Court "in the best position" to uphold DOMA:
In the American system, everyone is entitled to have a good lawyer to make the best constitutional arguments. This puts the court in the best position to reach the right result. In the case of DOMA, having very good aggressive lawyers on both sides is what will put the courts in the best position correctly to hold that DOMA is perfectly constitutional. [emphasis added]
Less than an hour after the Supreme Court struck down a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), CNN invited anti-gay hate group leader Tony Perkins to comment on the decision and allowed him to promote damaging myths about marriage equality.
During the June 26 edition of CNN Newsroom, host Wolf Blitzer invited Perkins - president of the anti-gay hate group Family Research Council (FRC) - to comment on the Supreme Court's decision in Windsor v. United States, which struck down a provision of DOMA that prohibited the federal government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages.
Perkins responded by peddling a number of blatant falsehoods about marriage equality, none of which Blitzer challenged:
PERKINS: What we're going to see happen over time as this plays out in the jurisdictions that have adopted same-sex marriage, you're going to see a loss of parental rights as children are taught in school morals that are contradictory to their parents', religious liberty loss from business owners, bakers, florists and others who are forced to comply with a different view of marriage, as well as even churches - in some places religious organizations losing their tax exemption because they fail to comply with the force of the state in terms of redefining marriage.
Right-wing media have given Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, a platform to tie reports on increased sexual assaults in the military to the repeal of the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, contradicting studies that have found no link between the two.
In May 2013, the Department of Defense released its "Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military" for fiscal year 2012 which found that 26,000 service members were victims of sexual assault that year, 14,000 of which were male and 12,000 female.
Supporters of DADT cited the report as evidence that the policy's repeal has forced an "embrace of homosexuality" in the military and led to a growing trend in same-sex sexual assault. During an interview with WND, Donnelly continued her campaign against the repeal of DADT by claiming the report proved that the "the military suffers a wave of gay sex assaults." In a Washington Times op-ed, Donnelly added that the increase in sexual assaults reported by men should call into question claims that the repeal of DADT has been successful:
If these estimates are used to justify more funding for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office programs, they also should call into question Pentagon claims that repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy implemented in 1993 has been a complete "success."
Right-wing media outlets are criticizing the Washington attorney general for enforcing non-discrimination laws against a florist who refused to offer her services for a same-sex wedding.
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit on April 9 against Arlene's Flowers and Gifts, a florist that refused to supply flowers for the wedding of a same-sex couple due to her religious beliefs. According to the lawsuit, the florist violated the state's Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits businesses from discriminating against customers on the basis of sexual orientation.
Right-wing media outlets have jumped on the story, touting it as evidence of the gay community's hostility towards religious freedom.
American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer cited the incident as an example of "homofascism":
Hate group leader Tony Perkins jumped at the opportunity to attack same-sex parents while peddling distortions about a new MSNBC ad on Fox News.
During the April 10 edition of Fox & Friends, host Gretchen Carlson invited Perkins on to criticize a new MSNBC ad in which Melissa Harris-Perry calls on America to think about child-rearing as a community effort. Perkins suggested that Perry's comments are part of the left's desire to move away from family structures headed by "a mom and a dad":
PERKINS: Kids are still born to moms and dads, to women and men. Still takes a man and a woman to create a child. Children aren't born to the neighborhood watch; they are born to a man and woman. There is a reason for that. God gives them to man and woman. And the reality is now we have decades worth of social science that show children do best with a mom and dad who love them, who are married, and care for them. Moving away from that notion, which the left would love to do, will be devastating for society. [emphasis added]
Fox News' Megyn Kelly whitewashed the extremism of one of America's most notorious anti-gay hate group leaders, suggesting that pro-gay activists are actually the intolerant ones.
During the April 8 edition of America Live, Kelly invited Tony Perkins - president of the anti-gay Family Research Council (FRC) - to discuss the reaction to the suicide of right-wing Pastor Rick Warren's son. Kelly condemned "haters" on the Internet who were using the tragedy as an excuse to attack Warren over his anti-gay views.
Near the end of the segment, Kelly asked Perkins how he felt about being "the subject of attacks" over his opposition to marriage equality, suggesting the pro-gay activists are the ones being intolerant:
KELLY: A lot of people thought, think, that Pastor Warren is on the wrong side of the gay marriage issue. You can relate to him in this way - not the being on the wrong side, I'm not passing a judgment on that - but you also oppose gay marriage and have been the subject of attacks, and it seems like some, not all, but some of those who want tolerance and acceptance, in their effort to get it, are very willing to pass judgment, alienate, attack, and go about it in a way that may be undermining the very thing they seek.
PERKINS: Absolutely, I think you're absolutely correct. I mean, just to show a little bit of human compassion to a parent who has lost a child would go a long way in showing that they just want to be accepted and enjoy tolerance. [emphasis added]
The irony of asking a hate group leader if he's bothered by the alleged "intolerance" of his critics seems to be lost on Kelly.
Fox News host Megyn Kelly attempted to whitewash the record of one of the country's most prominent anti-gay hate group leaders, ignoring his history of extreme bigotry towards the LGBT community.
During the April 3 edition of America Live, Kelly hosted Tony Perkins - president of the anti-gay hate group the Family Research Council (FRC) - to discuss the faux controversy surrounding comments made by Reverend Luis Leon during this Easter service attended by President Obama. During his homily, Leon highlighted examples of discrimination that he felt were promoted by the religious right:
It drives me crazy when the captains of the religious right are always calling us back ... for blacks to be back in the back of the bus ... for women to be back in the kitchen ... for immigrants to be back on their side of the border.
Kelly rejected the idea that Perkins and other "captains" of the religious right held bigoted and extreme views about the gay community:
KELLY: Tony Perkins, who is president of the Family Research Council. He is on as a captain of the religious right, who we believe is one of the ones being attacked by the reverend in that sermon.
KELLY: Tony, how alienating is that for you? As somebody who's been openly religious and a Christian conservative, to hear folks who believe as you do, that what you really want is you want blacks on the back of the bus, you want women back in the kitchen, you want gays in the closet, and you want immigrants back on their side of the border?
KELLY: It seems like some have given a pass to those who would criticize Christians, conservative Christians and their views on gay marriage, for example, because they just say, 'look, you are just bigots. That's just all there is to it. You're bigots if you're not behind gay rights and that's the civil rights issue of our time and therefore if you're on the wrong side of it you deserve to be condemned.'
PERKINS: Well, as was stated, he rolled into this statement he made on Sunday some very, very loaded language to portray those who would be against the redefinition of marriage as if they were bigots that wanted to see African-Americans at the back of the bus and women back in the kitchen. As Cal [Thomas] said, I don't know what time capsule he came out of, but clearly he is not able to discern the difference between those issues.
But if Leon's comments apply to anyone on the religious right, it's Tony Perkins.
NBC News correspondent Luke Russert challenged Family Research Council (FRC) president Tony Perkins over his views on same-sex parenting, pointing out that research used to back Perkins' claims is deeply flawed.
During the March 27 edition of MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports, guest host Russert invited Perkins to explain his views on the federal Defense of Marriage Act's (DOMA) constitutionality and the supposed harms of legalizing same-sex marriage. Perkins incorrectly asserted that the part of DOMA being challenged in court actually protected states' rights before going on to claim that studies showed children did best when raised by a heterosexual couple:
PERKINS: When you look at the amount of social science research that we have amassed over the last several decades, it's clear that kids do best with a mom and a dad ... The evidence does not suggest that children do best just with two parents or three parents. The evidence says a mom and a dad. So, from a public policy standpoint, our preference is that children have a mom and a dad.
After Russert pushed back against Perkins' claim, the two scuffled over a notorious study on same-sex parenting conducted by University of Texas associate professor Mark Regnerus:
RUSSERT: Yes, but there are studies also, especially from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which suggest that having a two-person home, even if it is a same-sex couple, is actually beneficial for children. So there are questions about your facts on that question. I'd like to ask you, though -
PERKINS: It's interesting that they failed to acknowledge one of the most widespread, deep surveys on that that Mark Regnerus did out of Texas. They completely ignored that, and of course the American College of Pediatricians -
RUSSERT: Right, but on that survey there was real questions about A its funding, which was done by some conservative backers, as well as the questioning methods, and we can have a research methods debate at another time.
When the Boy Scouts announced in late January that it would be reviewing its ban on openly gay members, it should have sparked a national conversation about discrimination against LGBT youth. Instead, mainstream media outlets allowed their coverage to be hijacked by anti-gay conservatives fear mongering that gay scout leaders might sexually abuse young boys.
In the week following the Boy Scouts' announcement that it would be reviewing its ban on gay members, cable news coverage of the story repeatedly forwarded the claim that allowing gay scout leaders would increase the likelihood of child sexual abuse. According to an Equality Matters report, over half of Fox News' and CNN's segments about the story included references to pedophilia:
As the Boy Scouts of America considered lifting its ban on openly gay members, cable news network coverage of the story gave undue attention to the right-wing smear that exposing young boys to gay scout leaders would put them at higher risk of sexual abuse and/or assault.
The Family Research Council (FRC) has been one of the leading voices in the media condemning the effort to repeal the Boy Scouts' ban on openly gay members. FRC's talking points, however, are the same ones the organization used to lobby against the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy - all of which turned out to be completely baseless.
Since news broke that the Boy Scouts would be reconsidering their ban on openly gay members, FRC has been making the rounds on mainstream media outlets warning that lifting the ban would heighten incidences of sexual abuse and undermine the organization's retention.
If FRC's talking points sound familiar, it's because they're carbon copies of the (thoroughly disproven) arguments the group used while lobbying against the repeal of the military's ban on openly gay service members.
Family Research Council (FRC) president Tony Perkins appeared on Fox News to warn that lifting the Boy Scouts' ban on gay members would expose scouts to higher rates of sexual abuse and molestation, after a week of making the rounds on mainstream media outlets to provide anti-gay commentary in the debate.
During the January 3 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ, Perkins repeated the widely debunked myth that allowing gay men to participate in the Boy Scouts would raise the risk of child sexual abuse in an interview with host Shannon Bream:
BREAM: How do you respond to those who say that the suggestion that somehow a gay scout master would be a threat to a child suggests that they would act inappropriately simply because of their sexual orientation, and they find that insulting?
PERKINS: Yeah, that's a good question, Shannon. Although there is a higher incidence of men who self-identify as homosexual who abuse children, not every homosexual is attracted to children. We've never said that, no one has ever said that. But let's be real. It doesn't pass the parent test. As a parent of three daughters, I wouldn't want my neighbor, who is a heterosexual, a man, camping out with my girls. So why would I want a man who is attracted to men camping out with my boys? [...]
BREAM: The Boston Globe had an editorial that said basically gay soldiers now serve openly in our armed forces, gay marriage is legal in a number of states. They say Eagle Scouts have been returning their badges in protest, that the country has changed and it's time for the Boy Scouts to change with that.
PERKINS: Well, first off, we're not talking about grown men, we're talking about children who are impressionable and cannot make informed decisions. That's why we treat them as children. And they're going to be in an environment where they are going to be secluded from their parents in many cases. And it's not just about scout leaders, it's about other scouts. Look, last fall the Boy Scouts were forced to release about 15,000 pages from what they call their "Perversion Files." They had identified between the 1960s and the 1990s, about 1900 individuals who preyed upon children. Now that was with the policy they had in place. They still had a problem and paid out millions of dollars. [emphasis added]
An Equality Matters report found that cable news outlets were lacking in their coverage of the reemergence of Uganda's proposed "Kill the Gays" bill - a measure that would put LGBT Ugandans at risk of suffering the death penalty.
During the December 5 edition of MSNBC's NOW with Alex Wagner, Kerry Kennedy, president of the Robert F. Kenedy Center for Justice & Human Rights, warned that major media outlets weren't drawing enough attention to international human rights abuses, including Uganda's proposed anti-homosexuality bill:
KENNEDY: I think there is a tremendous amount of compassion and concern by ordinary Americans. I hate to say this on this TV show, but you're actually covering those issues. And a lot of places just aren't to the extent that they used to. So I think that's part of the problem.
Kennedy was right.
Since Uganda's Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga vowed in late October to bring the anti-gay law to a vote, cable news networks have spent just over 15 minutes covering the issue. Significantly more time was devoted to covering "Gangnam Style," a Korean pop song that went viral this summer:
Kennedy was also correct in noting the decline in coverage of Uganda's anti-gay bill in the years since it was first introduced. In 2010, when the "Kill the Gays" bill seemed near to becoming a reality in Uganda, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow ran multiple segments spotlighting the measure, noting its ties to prominent American evangelical leaders (and politicians) and grilling its supporters over their anti-gay extremism.
MSNBC spent less than five minutes discussing the bill over the course of two segments (including Kennedy's mention on NOW).
Fox News fared even worse, failing to mention the "Kill the Gays" bill even once over the course of the study.
Cable news networks could have easily picked up any of the several angles in covering the potential passage of Uganda's anti-homosexuality law. In November, Speaker Kadaga pledged to pass the law as a "Christmas Gift" to the measure's supporters. There's been significant confusion and misreporting over the measure's death penalty provision, as well as the scope of who could be targeted under the law. The U.S. State Department has warned Uganda about the measure, causing a rift between the countries.
And then, of course, there are the bill's ties to prominent members of the U.S. religious right. One such member is Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay Family Research Council (FRC), who in last month tweeted in support of the "Kill the Gays" bill, writing:
Perkins has previously denied supporting Uganda's "Kill the Gays" measure, while also claiming the FRC does not sanction other attempts to criminalize homosexuality. He's also a regular guest on all three cable news networks.
To see the full Equality Matters report, click here.
From the December 14 edition of CNN's Early Start:
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