Rachel Percelay

Author ››› Rachel Percelay
  • Reuters Foundation Exposes An Anti-LGBTQ Hate Group Representing America At UN Women’s Rights Event

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    The Thomas Reuters Foundation spotlighted the State Department’s decision to send a representative of an anti-LGBTQ hate group as one of the U.S.’s public delegates to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

    The State Department announced on March 13 that one of the U.S.’s two public delegates to the 61st session of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women would be Lisa Correnti, executive vice president for the Center for Family & Human Rights (C-FAM). The commission -- described on its website as “the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women” -- is being held at the U.N. headquarters in New York, NY, from March 13 through 24.

    Founded in 1997 to “monitor and affect the social policy debate at the United Nations,” C-FAM -- formerly known as the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute -- has been designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for five years due to its extreme rhetoric and spread of demonizing lies about LGBTQ people. C-FAM president Austin Ruse has proven himself so extreme that another anti-gay hate group cut ties with him in 2014 after Ruse said that liberal academics "should all be taken out and shot." Ruse has also served as a resident anti-gay columnist for Breitbart.com, where he voiced his support for laws criminalizing homosexuality, peddled the debunked conspiracy theory that the hate crime murder of gay teen Matthew Shepard was a hoax, and used the anti-transgender slur “trannies” to mock a 15-year-old transgender girl.

    Thomas Reuters Foundation -- the charitable arm of the Thomas Reuters news wire -- spotlighted C-FAM’s extremism and hate group designation in a March 15 article detailing C-FAM’s delegate status at the U.N. commission. The article also noted fears about the rollback of LGBTQ equality under President Donald Trump, who has surrounded himself with anti-LGBTQ extremists and hate group leaders. While not mentioned by the Reuters Foundation, the largest anti-LGBTQ hate group in the U.S. -- the Alliance Defending Freedom -- has had special consultative status at the U.N. since 2010.

    From the March 15 Reuters Foundation article:

    The Center for Family and Human Rights (C-FAM) was named this week by the U.S. State Department to attend the U.N.'s Commission on the Status of Women, an annual set of high-level meetings on women's equality and empowerment.

    C-FAM has been listed as an anti-LGBT hate group by nonprofit civil rights group the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for at least five years, said Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project.

    [...]

    The move comes as decisions by President Donald Trump's new administration raise fears of a rollback of LGBT rights.

    Trump has voiced support for LGBT rights, but his administration has revoked federal guidelines that let transgender students to use bathrooms of their choice. Vice President Mike Pence has expressed staunch opposition to gay rights.

    [...]

    Beirich said the inclusion of C-FAM "is taking the State Department in a very ugly direction" and failing to address the violence and discrimination faced by LGBT people in some places.

    [...]

    Jessica Stern, executive director of OutRight Action International, an LGBTI rights group, said C-FAM "regularly releases homophobic vitriol" on its website.

    "Maybe the violent mentality that got C-FAM labeled a hate group successfully panders to their base, but the U.S. government must ensure protection for the world's most vulnerable people," Stern said in a statement. [Thomas Reuters Foundation, 3/15/17

  • Reporting On Trans Rights Supreme Court Case, Major Outlets Failed To Call Alliance Defending Freedom A Hate Group

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    The anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) was quoted in four major publications’ coverage of the Supreme Court’s recent decision not to hear a monumental transgender equality case. The New York Times, The Washington Post, and CNN and Reuters wire services all failed to label ADF as a hate group, instead misleadingly identifying the extremist group as merely a “conservative Christian” organization and effectively erasing the context readers deserve.

    On March 6, the Supreme Court issued a one sentence order announcing it would not hear G.G v. Gloucester County School, which would have been its first major case on transgender equality. In its order, the Supreme Court vacated the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals’ previous ruling -- which stated that a transgender Virginia high school student, Gavin Grimm, had the right to access restrooms and locker rooms appropriate for his gender identity -- and asked the lower court to reevaluate the decision. This ruling was a direct result of President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of Obama-era nondiscrimination protections for transgender students last month.

    In reports on the March 6 Supreme Court order, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Reuters, and CNN’s wire service all quoted a representative of the anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom, according to a Media Matters search of four leading papers and three major wire services in the two days following the decision.

    The outlets all published similar variations of a statement from ADF’s communication director Kerri Kupec, who said that anti-transgender policies are needed to “protect” students’ privacy. None of the articles noted that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated ADF as an anti-LGBTQ hate group for its well-documented history of working domestically and internationally to criminalize gay sex, as well as spreading dangerous lies and misinformation that harm LGBTQ people and their families.

     A Washington Post blog also quoted an ADF representative, and while it did note that ADF opposes “allowing transgender children to use the bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity,” it similarly failed to contextualize ADF’s long track record of anti-LGBTQ extremism or hate group status. 

    ADF has an undeniably prominent role in leading the fight against transgender student equality. But the group is not merely a “conservative” an organization concerned with protecting “religious freedom” and “privacy.” It’s an extremist organization that has actively worked against protecting LGBTQ students from bullying in public schools. Identifying ADF as only a “conservative” or “conservative Christian” organization -- as the New York Times, The Washington Post, and Reuters did -- only helps ADF pretend its opposition to equality isn’t motivated by anti-LGBTQ animus.

    These dangerous oversights are just the latest in mainstream outlets’ journalistic failure to accurately label anti-LGBTQ hate groups, despite employing SPLC’s designation for other extremist ideologies. And it does a disservice to readers looking for the full story -- to properly asses ADF’s red herring plea for “privacy,” readers need to know up front that the group is disreputable and driven by hate.

    Methodology:

    Media Matters searched major publications The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, CNN Wire, and the Associated Press in Nexis for coverage between 10 AM March 6, through 10 AM March 8, 2017, using the the search terms “Alliance Defending Freedom" OR “Defending Freedom.” OR "Family Research Council" OR "American Family Association" OR "Liberty Counsel." The same search was repeated for Reuters using a site search of the Reuters website, and The Wall Street Journal in Factiva.

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko. 

  • A Fox News Radio Anchor Is Headlining A Hate Group's Anti-LGBTQ Briefing

    ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Fox News radio host Todd Starnes is headlining a special “pastors’ briefing” at the Texas Capitol on March 6 and 7 whose sponsors include the anti-LGBTQ hate group the Family Research Council (FRC). Other speakers at the event include FRC’s president and vice president of church ministries and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton are also listed as unconfirmed speakers at the event, whose attendees will also go to a March 7 public hearing on the anti-transgender Senate Bill 6 (SB 6).

  • Daily Caller Mocks Anti-Semitic Graffiti: "FINALLY! The First Poop Swastika Of 2017"

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Pro-Trump right-wing web outlet The Daily Caller mocked an incident in which a swastika drawn with human feces was found in a gender-neutral bathroom at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), posting a piece with the headline “FINALLY! The First Poop Swastika Of 2017 Appears On An American College Campus.”

    The vandalism was found in a gender-neutral dorm bathroom over the weekend of February 18. The school’s public safety officials said that they are investigating the incident as “both an act of vandalism and potentially a crime of hate.” The anti-Semitic and possibly anti-LGBTQ incident came during a continuing national surge in anti-Semitic threats and hate crimes. Some RISD students also told local outlet NBC 10 that this is the latest in “a string of incidents with feces.”

    Notoriously anti-LGBTQ and misogynist Daily Caller reporter Eric Owens mocked the anti-Semitic vandalism in a February 27 article headlined “FINALLY! The First Poop Swastika Of 2017 Appears On An American College Campus.” Owens repeatedly referred to the feces as “poop,” writing that RISD students were “unsure about the meaning of the poop swastika.” Owens connected RISD’s anti-Semitic crime with a similar incident in October 2015, when a swastika drawn in feces was found in a dorm bathroom at the University of Missouri during a period of racial tension and protest on campus. The Daily Caller had repeatedly mocked the University of Missouri vandalism, using the tag “poop swastika” and running articles like “Who Is The Poop Nazi?” accompanied by an image of the infamous “Soup Nazi” from NBC’s Seinfeld.

    From the February 27 Daily Caller article: 

    A swastika created out of human feces appeared in a gender-neutral bathroom at a residence hall at Rhode Island School of Design last week.

    Officials at the highly selective art school just down the street from Brown University notified students that the swastika was, in fact, composed of human waste, according to local NBC affiliate WJAR.

    “It’s pretty shocking because I think everybody is wondering, you know, who it is,” Rhode Island School of Design student Cooper Thompson told WJAR.

    Students on the RISD campus were unsure about the meaning of the poop swastika.

    “You don’t know if it’s somebody who actually has a mental illness or you don’t know if it’s somebody who’s just trying to play a prank or they actually are anti-Semitic,” one student, Afi Goncalves, told the station.

    A third student, Rory Hernandez, noted that unauthorized poop art has become a trend at RISD lately.

    [...]

    America’s last campus poop swastika kerfuffle occurred in October 2015 on the campus of the University of Missouri.

    [...]

    Partly in response to the Gateway Hall poop swastika, a days-long protest ensued on Mizzou’s Columbia, Mo. campus.

    The protests centered on a group called Concerned Students 1950 and Jonathan Butler, a twentysomething graduate student and the son of a millionaire railroad executive, who went on a six-day hunger strike in November 2015.

    Previously: 

    Why Did The New York Times Call The Daily Caller “Moderate”?

    Campbell Brown's "Non-Partisan" News Site Hires Contributor With Long Anti-LGBT History

    Daily Caller Mocks Transgender Students "Running For Homecoming King, Queen, Whatever"

  • The Biggest Myth About Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups Debunked

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Anti-LGBTQ hate groups have been surprisingly successful in pushing the myth that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) bases its hate group designations on conservative or religious beliefs about sexuality and marriage. But SPLC has clearly stated multiple times that it designates organizations as “hate groups” when they engage in inflammatory, hateful name-calling, spread malicious lies and misinformation, or support the criminalization of LGBTQ people -- not because of biblical or conservative beliefs. Journalists have a responsibility to be armed with the facts and accurately cover SPLC’s recent report on extremism and designated hate groups.

    On February 15, SPLC released its annual census of hate and extremism in the United States for 2016, which includes 52 active anti-LGBTQ hate groups. Over the six years that it has tracked anti-LGBTQ extremism, SPLC has clearly and repeatedly explained that it designates anti-LGBTQ organizations as hate groups when they knowingly spread “demonizing lies about the LGBT community,” engage in “baseless, incendiary name-calling,” or actively work to criminalize LGBTQ people.

    As SPLC stated in 2010, when it first began listing anti-LGBTQ hate groups, “viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups.” But despite SPLC’s clear explanations of its criteria, mainstream media outlets have long allowed anti-LGBTQ hate groups to defend themselves with that very myth. For example, a 2016 Media Matters study found that from June 2014 through June 2016, the only instance in which The New York Times referenced SPLC’s “hate group” label when reporting on an anti-LGBTQ organization was in an article that questioned the validity of the designation and SPLC’s expertise. The article improperly characterized the designation criteria, alleging that SPLC has been “criticized for including groups that fall within the conservative mainstream, like the Family Research Council, based on their stances on gay issues.”

    For years, media coverage of LGBTQ equality has followed a "God vs. gays" narrative that pits LGBTQ people against religious -- and specifically Christian -- communities. But in recent years, a growing number -- now a majority -- of Christians believe that “homosexuality should be accepted by society.” And current public opinion polls show that a majority of Americans from all religious denominations support same-sex marriages and broad-based LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections without religious exemptions. Now more than ever, it’s bad journalism to equate mainstream Christian organizations with hate groups that actively fund and manufacture junk science to serve as “evidence” to harass and attack LGBTQ people.

    The newest anti-LGBTQ hate group on SPLC’s list is the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a media-savvy legal giant with a $48 million-plus annual budget that has actively worked to criminalize gay people. Despite this background, journalists typically identify the group merely as a “Christian legal organization.” Given ADF’s staggeringly high number of active lawsuits and its successful track record with the United States Supreme Court, it’s a hate group that will remain in the media spotlight. Journalists need to be aware of ADF’s -- and other hate group’s -- extremism and history of spreading malicious disinformation and be ready to fact-check anti-LGBTQ lies. 

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko

  • 10 Facts About The Nation's Largest Anti-LGBTQ Hate Group

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has added the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) to its list of active anti-LGBTQ hate groups. Here are 10 terrifying facts about ADF everyone needs to know:

    1. SPLC Labeled ADF A Hate Group Because Of Its Extreme, Demonizing Lies About LGBT People. SPLC added ADF to its list of anti-LGBTQ hate groups because ADF’s leaders and affiliated lawyers have “regularly demonized LGBT people, falsely linking them to pedophilia, calling them ‘evil’ and a threat to children and society, and blaming them for the ‘persecution of devout Christians.’” As SPLC has repeatedly clarified, it does not list organizations as anti-LGBTQ hate groups on the basis of “opposition to same-sex marriage or the belief that the Bible describes homosexual activity as sinful.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2/15/17, 2/15/17]

    2. ADF Boasts A $48 Million-Plus Annual Budget And Over 3,000 “Allied Attorneys.” In 2015, ADF had a $48 million-plus annual budget. In addition to its staff of over 30 staff lawyers, the group marshals what it calls a “powerful global network” of over 3,100 ADF-trained “allied attorneys,” many of whom are expected to provide at least 450 hours of pro bono services within three years of attending one of ADF’s training programs. ADF’s elite “Blackstone Fellows” have worked or interned in at least nine state governments. [Media Matters, 1/25/17; Alliance Defending Freedom, accessed 2/15/172/15/172/15/17; Rewire, 5/13/14]

    3. ADF Defended The Constitutionality Of Criminalizing Gay Sex In The U.S. ADF has formally supported anti-sodomy laws since 2003, when it filed an amicus brief in Lawrence v. Texas to defend state sodomy laws on the grounds that gay sex is unhealthy, harmful, and a public health risk, writing that “same-sex sodomy is a distinct public health problem. It clearly is.” [Media Matters, 11/19/14, 1/25/17]

    4. ADF Has Expanded Its Anti-Choice, Anti-LGBTQ Extemism Internationally. While ADF has largely run out of options for promoting the criminalization of homosexuality in America, the group has taken its anti-sodomy agenda overseas. ADF has actively worked to promote and defend anti-sodomy laws that criminalize gay sex in Jamaica, Belize and India. In 2010, the United Nations granted special consultant status to ADF, allowing the group to help shape international human rights policy and treaties. More recently, the group has become involved in the Organization of American States, where ADF’s mission has been battling “abortion and radical sexual agendas.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2/15/17; Media Matters, 11/19/14]

    5. ADF Is Behind The National Push For Anti-LGBT “Religious Freedom” Laws. Since 2013, ADF has led the national push for so-called “religious freedom” laws (RFRAs) that seek to enshrine a legal right to discriminate against LGBTQ people. ADF was behind Arizona’s failed 2014 RFRA, Indiana’s controversial 2015 RFRA, and similar bills that were eventually killed in Colorado, Georgia, and Arkansas. [Media Matters, 4/16/15]

    6. ADF Is Leading The National Campaign For “Bathroom Bills” Targeting Transgender Youth. In 2014, ADF launched a national campaign to eliminate nondiscrimination protections for transgender students and instead enshrine its own legislation that would prevent transgender students from accessing facilities consistent with their gender identity. ADF has influenced discriminatory state and local school district policies across the country with so-called “bathroom bills,” like North Carolina’s infamous HB 2, that borrow language from ADF’s model legislation. [Media Matters, 11/5/15, 3/31/16]

    7. An ADF Attorney Once Called Matthew Shepard’s Murder A Hate Crime Hoax. During the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s annual national conference in 2014, ADF attorney Erik Stanley peddled the myth that Matthew Shepard's brutal anti-gay murder was fabricated in order to advance the "homosexual agenda." [Media Matters, 10/28/14

    8. ADF Believes In A “Homosexual Agenda” Dedicated To Destroying Christianity. ADF founder Alan Sears literally wrote the book on the alleged “homosexual agenda” -- his 2003 book The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today compared the gay "propaganda" movement to what "Hitler did so masterfully in Nazi Germany, to get the American public on their side." As SPLC noted, ADF “has also promoted the idea of a ‘homosexual agenda’ -- a nefarious scheme to destroy Christianity and, eventually, civilization.” [Media Matters, 4/16/15; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2/15/17]  

    9. ADF Has Long Opposed Anti-Bullying Efforts In Schools And Even Launched The “Day Of Truth” To Combat The “Day Of Silence.” ADF has long opposed anti-bullying efforts in public schools that include LGBTQ students; the group even made an “yardstick” that decried any anti-bullying policy that includes “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.” In 2005, ADF launched a “Day of Truth” campaign to combat the “promotion of the homosexual agenda” in schools to counter the ongoing “Day of Silence” organized by LGBTQ advocates, in which students remain silent as a protest and to help spread awareness about the effects of anti-LGBT bullying. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2/15/17]

    10. ADF Wields Significant Power In The U.S. Legal System. ADF utilizes an aggressive legal strategy and, according to a review of its press releases, has served as lead counsel in 57 court cases filed since January 2016. A review of successful petitions of the United States Supreme Court revealed that ADF is not only highly active, but also highly successful in getting its cases heard. From 2001 through 2015, ADF’s Supreme Court involvement ranked among the nation’s leading law firms, vastly surpassing almost all other legal advocacy groups. Many ADF alumni move on to serve in high-power roles in the government. Most notably, Austin Nimocks, former ADF senior counsel, now works for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, whose office is responsible for the multistate lawsuits challenging federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people in health care and protections for transgender students. [Alliance Defending Freedom, accessed 2/15/17; University of Southern California Law School, “Finding Certainty in Cert: An Empirical Analysis of the Factors Involved in Supreme Court Certiorari Decisions From 2001-2015,” 1/14/16; Media Matters, 8/26/16]

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko.

  • Journalists: Don’t Let Trump Pretend He’s “Supportive” Of LGBTQ Rights

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Following a flurry of rumors that the Trump administration is planning to overturn Obama-era LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections for federal employees and contractors, the White House issued a statement saying the president will continue to enforce the Obama order. The press release made the claim that Trump “continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights,” but journalists shouldn’t be fooled. President Donald Trump has a proven record of supporting anti-LGBTQ laws and surrounding himself with anti-LGBTQ extremists -- and he could still issue a broad executive order undermining equal protections under the guise of “religious freedom.”

    On Monday, numerous outlets reported on rumors that the Trump administration was planning to issue an executive order overturning President Obama’s 2014 order protecting LGBTQ federal contractors from workplace discrimination. Monday evening, the White House issued a statement claiming that Trump would not overturn the Obama-era nondiscrimination protections (emphasis added):

    President Donald J. Trump is determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community. President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election. The President is proud to have been the first ever GOP nominee to mention the LGBTQ community in his nomination acceptance speech, pledging then to protect the community from violence and oppression. The executive order signed in 2014, which protects employees from anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination while working for federal contractors, will remain intact at the direction of President Donald J. Trump.

    But his own record on LGBTQ equality disproves the White House’s claim that Trump is “respectful and supportive” of LGBTQ rights. Trump has long publicly opposed marriage equality, and in early 2016 he said he would “strongly consider” appointing Supreme Court justices who would overturn the court’s recent ruling in support of marriage equality. He has pledged to sign the First Amendment Defense Act, “religious freedom” legislation that would codify a broad right to anti-LGBTQ discrimination and nullify the current federal protections for LGBTQ people Trump just pledged to protect. And he has repeatedly surrounded himself with anti-LGBTQ extremists -- both on the campaign trail and in the White House. These extremists include hate group leaders like Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, who came to embrace Trump as a “teachable” candidate who Perkins could “shape.” 

    Yet despite Trump’s record, journalists have repeatedly fallen for his attempts to rebrand himself as LGBTQ-friendly. Throughout the 2016 campaign, multiple outlets ran with baseless claims that Trump is an advocate for the LGBTQ community:

    • NBC’s Hallie Jackson said in April that Trump "is considered one of the more LGBT-friendly Republican candidates";
    • in June, Politico fed into Donald Trump’s attempt to rebrand himself as an advocate for LGBT rights by describing his response to the Orlando mass shooting at a gay nightclub as a “welcoming tone toward LGBT Americans” and saying that “in Trump, pro-gay rights Republicans see a new hope”;
    • ABC’s Jonathan Karl called Trump the “most pro-gay rights” Republican presidential candidate ever; and
    • Fox’s Gregg Gutfeld falsely claimed that Trump supports marriage equality.

    Journalists covering Trump’s most recent attempt at rebranding himself as LGBTQ-friendly shouldn’t fall for the same old trick -- though at least one already did. The claim that Trump is “respectful and supportive” of LGBTQ rights just because he isn’t dismantling Obama’s executive order is just further evidence that the press should stop treating White House statements as fact. 

    Additionally, as The New York Times noted, leaving in place the Obama protections “does not preclude another executive order that would roll back gay rights in other areas.” And as Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said in response to the White House statement, “LGBTQ refugees, immigrants, Muslims and women are scared today, and with good reason.” Journalists should be ready to call out hypocrisy in possible future anti-LGBTQ executive orders, especially “religious freedom”-type orders that could codify a broad right to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

  • Meet Anti-LGBTQ Extremism’s Insidious New Leader

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Michael Farris

    The extremist Christian legal giant Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) -- known for spearheading the anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ fight in state legislatures, nationally, and abroad -- just named a new president. Here’s what you need to know about ADF’s new leader, Michael Farris -- an experienced fearmongerer and fundamentalist lawyer who will lead the group's assault on LGBTQ rights.

    What Is The Alliance Defending Freedom?

    ADF is a Christian nonprofit based in Scottsdale, AZ, with a $48 million-a-year budget that works with over 3,100 allied attorneys nationally for the "right of people to freely live out their faith."

    Established as the “Alliance Defense Fund” in 1994, much of ADF's "religious freedom" work has long consisted of anti-LGBTQ activism. As part of the group’s mission “to recover the robust Christendomic theology of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries,” over the past two decades, ADF has supported criminalizing same-sex, consensual sexual activities, opposed anti-bullying efforts in public schools, and labeled the hate crime that led to the murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard a “hoax” to advance the "homosexual agenda." 

    Recently, ADF has been behind the national push for so-called “religious freedom” laws (RFRAs) that attempt to legalize anti-LGBTQ discrimination under the guise of “protecting” religious liberty. The group laid the groundwork for these laws by peddling the myth of “Christian persecution” -- the idea that Christians are under attack by the "homosexual agenda." ADF is also leading the nationwide campaign to pass “bathroom bills” -- like North Carolina’s House Bill 2 (HB 2) -- that ban transgender people, including students, from accessing bathroom and locker room facilities consistent with their gender identity.

    ADF has also taken its extremist agenda abroad through ADF International, a project of ADF that's trained “thousands” of lawyers that has, among other things, worked in Jamaica, Belize, and India to support laws that imprison gay people for having sex. They’ve also been actively involved in the U.N. and the Organization of American States in order to advance their anti-LGBTQ and anti-choice agenda.

    Who Is Michael Farris?

    Michael (Mike) Farris is a veteran of the religious right, dating back to his opposition of the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and role as the Washington state director of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority. In 1983, Farris founded the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), a self-described “Christian organization” that aims to defend “the constitutional right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children and to protect family freedoms.” Farris has a long-standing history attacking LGBTQ people and their families, which includes:

    • writing an amicus brief defending criminalization of gay sex in the 2003 Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas;
    • opposing federal hate crimes legislation protecting LGBTQ people in 2009 on the grounds that it would lead to “dangerous” restrictions on religious speech; and,
    • arguing against civil unions in 2004, by saying that “I fail to see the point of all the hard work it is going to take to pass a constitutional amendment if we are going to open the door for civil unions whether they are enacted by legislatures or by tyrannical courts.”

    More recently, Farris been fighting human rights declarations at the U.N. He’s also spoken out against “radical feminist proposals” and “homosexual and transgender ideology” for disrupting the “idea that gender is a distinction made by God.”

    A 2015 investigation by ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative news organization, profiled HSLDA’s “frightening” and “highly influential” lobbying power, even against basic forms of homeschool regulation. HSLDA has fought against required annual tests and evaluations of home-schooled students’ work, such as a 2009 bill in New Hampshire. The organization has opposed laws that would require criminal background check for parents who want to homeschool children, calling them “draconian.” They also aggressively lobbied against mandatory reporting laws in instances of suspected child abuse. HSLDA advises its members not to tell neighbors or families that they are homeschooling “for fear one of them would call social services.”

    Building on HSLDA’s success, in 2000 Farris founded Patrick Henry College (PHC) partly due to what he described as “a demand from homeschooling parents for a college that promoted courtship culture, in which male students ask female students’ fathers for permission to ‘court’ with marriage in mind.” One out of only a handful of colleges in the U.S. that eschews federal funds in order to avoid complying with government regulations, PHC has an “outsized influence as a training ground for the religious right and a pipeline to conservative jobs in Washington.” During the George W. Bush-era, the school had more White House interns than Georgetown University. In February 2014, New Republic ran a profile of PHC, titled “Sexual Assault at God's Harvard,” about the mishandling of sexual assault cases at the evangelical school. As detailed by reporter Kiera Feldman, the investigation found “the administration treated sexual assault perpetrators with impunity, discouraged women from going to the police, and blamed victims for dressing or behaving immodestly.” In response to a sexual assault report filed by a student, a dean at PHC replied, “If you were telling the truth about this, God would’ve kept you conscious.”

    How Will Farris Lead ADF’s Attacks On LGBTQ Equality?

    Fearmongering was an integral part of HSLDA’s success in cultivating an active and involved membership base. Under Farris’ leadership, ADF will likely ramp up its campaign to convince supporters that any gains in LGBTQ equality will lead to widespread persecution of Christians or an influx of “bathroom predators.”

    Fitting with ADF’s vision of an American legal system rooted in 3rd century Christian theology, Farris has long advocated for a cultural change to shape American politics towards the far religious right. Farris also founded another organization, Generation Joshua, a 7,500 member organization that seeks to train teens to be the “next generation of Christian leaders and citizens.” While ADF already has a vast domestic and international training program to recruit lawyers and law students to provide pro-bono hours for anti-LGBTQ legal work, Farris’ work with K-12 and undergraduate students could lay the groundwork for ADF expanding its training to younger ages.

    In addition to his work training the “next generation” of far right leaders, Farris has already led legal fights on the international front. ADF’s biography of Farris spotlights his international work, both through HSLDA’s international arm and his “successful opposition to various United Nations treaties designed to control American domestic policy.” This “success” includes Farris’ opposition to ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a landmark human rights treaty that all U.N. countries have ratified -- except the United States. ADF already has “special consultative” status at the U.N., which allows ADF lawyers “virtually unfettered access to U.N. missions during key convention and treaty-drafting meetings.” Instead of simply opposing the United States ratifying human rights treaties, Farris will now be in the position to convince other member states to dangerously advance anti-LGBTQ and anti-choice positions.

    * Image courtesy of Sarah Wasko

  • Meet The Anti-LGBTQ Extremists Leading The Assault On Equality In Texas

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    When Texas’ 85th legislative session officially kicks off on January 10, anti-LGBTQ extremists in the state will be well into their campaigns to pass a slew of laws attacking LGBTQ equality.

    Lawmakers in the state have already prefiled an avalanche of anti-LGBTQ laws. On the first day of the prefiling session, in November, a Republican filed a North Carolina-style bill to undermine local nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people. Another prefiled bill would require public school teachers and counselors to out LGBTQ students to parents. And on January 5, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) announced the filing of another North Carolina-style “bathroom bill.”

    A number of anti-LGBTQ extremists with high-level government connections are behind these and other regressive bills that will arise over the 140-day state legislative session. They include:

    Jonathan Saenz, president of Austin-based Texas Values:

    • said gay sex is a “dangerous and risky sexual activity that can fiercely jeopardize a person's well-being”;
    • advocates for discredited and harmful “ex-gay” conversion therapy; and
    • agreed that gay activists are trying to put Christians in “concentration camp[s].”

    Jonathan Saenz is the president of Texas Values, the lobbying arm of the Plano-based Liberty Institute, an organization notorious for peddling malicious misinformation to stoke fears about threats to religious liberty, including warning about a “reverse Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for Christians in the military. Saenz gained some notoriety in 2014 after it was revealed that he founded Texas Values after his wife left him for another woman in 2011.

    Saenz has high-level allies in the Texas government, including Gov. Greg Abbott’s outreach director, Ben Taylor, who called Saenz a “good friend.” A year and a half ago, Taylor emailed Saenz a copy of the governor’s statement regarding the 2015 Texas Supreme Court decision allowing a same-sex divorce, to which Saenz responded, “Maybe we need a special session to make same sex divorce illegal.”

    Saenz took credit for both drafting and pushing through Texas’ “Pastor Protection Act,” which became law in 2015; it allows clergy to refuse to perform marriages that violate their religious beliefs. Previously, he was a vocal supporter of keeping Texas’ unconstitutional, defunct anti-sodomy law on the books and a proponents of denying benefits to same-sex spouses of government employees, even if the benefits were offered to opposite-sex spouses.

    In addition to pushing anti-LGBTQ extremism, Saenz has lambasted evolution as a "left-wing ideology" that "any respectable scientist" should see through. He's also a strong proponent of having Bible classes in public schools, accusing opponents of such classes of being "enemies of religious freedom."

    Dave Welch, executive director of the Texas Pastor Council:

    • called former Houston Mayor Annise Parker a “sodomite”; and
    • compared repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to letting loose a “poisonous cloud of chemical weapons” that would “release GLBTQIA activists onto our soldiers like hound dogs of hell.”

    In 2003, extremist Texas pastor Dave Welch founded the Houston Area Pastor Council (HAPC), which is described as an "affiliate" of the national U.S. Pastor Council (USPC) and Texas Pastor Council (TXPC), though it's unclear if the organizations are actually distinguishable. As HAPC/USPC/TXPC’s spokesperson, Welch routinely espouses hateful anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, including reffering to gay people as a "morally depraved special interest group" and people who support LGBT rights as part of the "forces of spiritual darkness."

    In 2009, Welch joined an anti-gay smear campaign against Annise Parker, then Houston’s city controller, warning voters of a “gay takeover” of city hall. After Parker was elected mayor, Welch declared that her election, along with President Obama’s, were signs of America's "cancer of the soul." In a 2010 newsletter, Welch attacked Parker for supporting the city's pride parade, calling her a "sodomite" and a leader of “amoral depravity.”

    Despite his extremism, Welch’s group frequently hosts high-level politicians and policymakers in Texas. In October, Lt. Gov. Patrick held a special conference call with members of TXPC to discuss faith-based improvements to the state’s foster care system. Texas Monthly investigated Attorney General Ken Paxton’s first two years in office and found that Welch successfully lobbied Paxton’s office to file an amicus brief in defense of a bishop accused of violating campaign finance laws. Before Welch got involved, Abbott, who was attorney general at the time, declined to file an amicus brief in defense of the bishop, whose ministry is recognized as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

    Steven Hotze, president/CEO of the Conservative Republicans of Texas:

    • warned that LGBTQ equality is part of a communist plot to take down America;
    • brandished a sword on stage while vowing to “fight the homosexuals”; and
    • made unsubstantiated medical claims that birth control makes women “less attractive” and that men who lose their testicles “have difficulty reading a map.”

    Dr. Steven Hotze is the CEO and founder of the Conservative Republicans of Texas, a group that SPLC has designated an anti-LGBTQ hate group for spreading malicious lies about LGBTQ people. Hotze has been an anti-gay activist in Texas since the 1980s. After the U.S. Supreme Court made its 2015 marriage equality decision, Hotze urged Paxton to fight the “illegitimate SCOTUS ruling,” saying that the justices “hate God and want to let the Sodomites queer our country.” Hotze later kicked off his own multicity tour of Texas in protest of the marriage equality ruling by brandishing a sword to an audience while vowing to “fight the homosexuals” and the “satanic cults” that drive them.

    While speaking at an anti-LGBTQ extremist conference this year, Hotze compared LGBTQ people to termites and warned that LGBTQ equality is part of a long-term communist plot to take down America. Hotze, who has a medical degree, also dabbles in questionable medical practices -- a 2005 investigation into his “alternative” practices found that his literature made unsubstantiated claims that birth control makes women “less attractive” and that men who lose their testicles “have difficulty reading a map, performing math problems and making decisions.”

    Despite his extremism and dubious medical practices, Hotze has long been an influential figure in the Texas conservative movement, with Republican candidates seeking his endorsement. Hotze was also touted as a hero on Fox News in 2014 for filing a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act. Hotze also released a series of auto-tuned songs with titles like “God Fearing Texans Stop Obamacare,” one of which included the refrain “We will defeat Obama and the socialists.”

    Jared Woodfill, recently appointed president of the Conservative Republicans of Texas:

    • called the word “transgender” a “euphemism, a weaker alternative, for the term pervert”; and
    • says being LGBTQ is a “wicked lifestyle.”

    A board member of Texas Values Action and previous Harris County GOP chairman, Jared Woodfill currently serves as president of Hotze’s Conservative Republicans of Texas. Along with Hotze, Woodfill previously helped lead the campaign against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). Woodfill successfully defeated the comprehensive nondiscrimination ordinance by fearmongering and peddling the debunked “bathroom predator” myth.

    This past summer, Woodfill and the Conservative Republicans of Texas launched a campaign to boycott Target for its transgender-inclusive restroom policy. The “Campaign for USA” website smears the word “transgender” as a “euphemism, a weaker alternative, for the term pervert.” It also accuses the “LGBT homosexual political movement” of wanting to make it “mandated that this wicked lifestyle be taught to children in school” so that children can be “recruited into the homosexual lifestyle.”

    Conservative Republicans of Texas has infused $1.6 million into Texas elections over the last five years. While he doesn’t have the same high-level government connections as Welch and Saenz do, Woodfill is frequently featured as a guest commentator on Houston’s Fox 26, the TV station that helped fuel the repeal of HERO with its unique and aggressive peddling of the "bathroom predator" myth.

  • Anti-LGBTQ Junk Science And Fake News Are Poised To Harm the Future of LGBTQ Equality

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Pseudoscience and lies have long been the favorite tactics of anti-LGBTQ extremists, but now that the incoming U.S. president is highly influenced by hate groups, fake news purveyors, and far-right publications that peddle such misinformation, these smoke and mirror tactics are well-positioned to harm LGBTQ equality.

    Right-Wing Sites Regularly Peddle Anti-LGBTQ Junk Science

    For decades, junk science has been used to attack LGBTQ people as unhealthy and dangerous. Longtime LGBTQ advocate and journalist Claude Summers recently defined the purpose of anti-LGBTQ junk science as “not to persuade the scholarly community, which will immediately note its sloppy methodology,” but to “provide naïve readers some quasi-respectable justifications for their prejudices and to fuel social conservative political chatter.”

    After scientific consensus rejected the “sickness theories” of homosexuality in the 1970s, “anti-LGBT professionals retreated from mainstream scientific organizations and formed their own groups,” Summers explained. These fringe splinter groups, like the deceptively named American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) -- an anti-LGBTQ hate group with about 500 members whose name is meant to be confused with the 60,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) -- funnel debunked “research” to anti-LGBTQ extremist organizations like the Family Research Council (FRC), also a designated hate group. FRC and its allies peddle this misinformation as widely as possible to be used as ammunition in the fight against equality.

    Right-wing outlets like Breitbart and The Daily Caller are the go-to platforms for anti-LGBTQ activists looking to push hateful lies and myths. Breitbart in particular regularly pushes pseudoscientific attacks on transgender people. Since March 2016, Breitbart authors have cited ACPeds to falsely claim that affirming transgender youths’ gender identity is a “form of child abuse” in at least 19 different articles. The talking point originated from an American College of Pediatricians “report,” which was quickly touted in other right-wing outlets like The Blaze and The Daily Caller. As The Daily Beast’s Samantha Allen highlighted, right-wing journalists published ACPed’s “child abuse” claim “without contrasting their primary source with the AAP.”

    This type of anti-LGBTQ pseudoscience isn’t confined to right-wing web outlets. On Fox News, “Medical A Team” member Dr. Keith Ablow frequently pushes harmful anti-transgender misinformation. In April, Ablow speculated wildly about medical care for transgender youth, and proposed his own harmful “treatments,” akin to conversion therapy, that go against scientific evidence and professional standards from mainstream medical associations.

    Even mainstream outlets like The Associated Press and NPR have allowed well-known purveyors of junk science to attack LGBTQ people.

    Fake News Reinforces Myths Pushed By Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups

    The potential real-life impact of fake news was starting to become apparent several months before it took center stage in the 2016 election. In May, BuzzFeed spotlighted a slew of anti-transgender fake news stories that had gone viral. These fake news stories spiked largely in response to increased media coverage of so-called “bathroom bills” and North Carolina’s anti-LGBTQ law (HB 2). The measure broadly bans transgender people from using bathrooms that align with their gender identity in publicly run facilities and schools.

    Many of the fake stories BuzzFeed profiled -- like an “article” about a transgender women getting caught taking pictures of underage girls at Target -- stem from the anti-LGBTQ “bathroom predator” myth, which purports that sexual predators will pretend to be transgender in order to exploit nondiscrimination laws and sneak into women’s restrooms. Fake news preys on long-standing misconceptions and stereotypes and exploits them to confirm unsubstantiated fears. BuzzFeed interviewed the owner of several fake news sites, who said the stories are a way to make “easy money” by capitalizing off of “the political polarization and anti-LGBT stance at the heart of HB 2.”

    In the past, anti-LGBTQ hate groups were the ones spreading fake “bathroom predator” stories -- and outlets like Fox News fell for it. But now, the sheer profitability of clickbait fake news means that even if hate groups aren’t peddling these stories themselves, fake news is helping to buttress anti-LGBTQ talking points by relying on misconceptions and controversy for their content. A recent BuzzFeed News survey found that fake news headlines “fool American adults about 75% of the time” --meaning that all of these fabricated stories and fact-free science could have a real-life impact on public opinion about LGBTQ people.

    Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, voiced her concern that these lies -- one of which ended with a vigilante shooting a transgender woman -- could fuel anti-transgender violence. Whether because of these fake news stories or not, 2016 has been the deadliest year on record for transgender people.

    The Trump Administration Is Stocked With Purveyors Of Right-Wing Media’s Anti-LGBTQ Myths And Pseudoscience

    While pseudoscience and lies have long been staple tools of anti-LGBTQ extremist organization, the two tactics are now more likely than ever to be employed to justify anti-LGBTQ policies, given the incoming Trump administration. FRC -- the hate group with years of experience peddling anti-LGBTQ junk science -- has a growing influence on Trump’s transition team.

    FRC president Tony Perkins played a pivotal role in Trump’s campaign and helped shape the Republican Party platform. During the Republican National Convention, he was successful in adding support for “ex-gay” conversion therapy, a discredited, harmful practice that falsely claims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and has been denounced by every major medical organization. Since the election, some of Perkins’ FRC affiliates have won spots in Trump’s transition team. Wired’s Emma Ellis spotlighted the hate group’s growing influence on the Trump administration, which includes the following members affiliated with FRC:

    In addition to FRC’s influence on the administration, Breitbart’s brand of anti-LGBTQ pseudoscience has a champion in Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist and senior counselor. Bannon led Breitbart from 2012 through August of this year, when he became the chief executive of Trump’s campaign. In addition to peddling anti-gay junk science, under Bannon’s leadership the site made a “noticeable shift toward embracing ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right. Racist ideas. Anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideas -- all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the ‘Alt-Right,’” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

    Trump’s nominees for cabinet positions also have a history of pushing harmful myths about LGBTQ people. Combined with FRC and Breitbart, individual anti-LGBTQ extremists are well-poised to gin up junk science attacks and use them to influence policy making throughout the Trump administration. LGBTQ advocates and journalists have already documented some of their fears about the potential consequences of the resurgence of anti-LGBTQ pseudoscience, including:

    • a comeback of “ex-gay” conversion therapy programs;
    • revocation of the Obama administration’s recommendation to treat transgender students in accordance with their gender identity;
    • repeal of the Affordable Care Act and its health care protections for LGBTQ people; and
    • passage of the so-called “First Amendment Defense Act,” federal “religious freedom” legislation that would permit discrimination against LGBTQ people.

    Junk science can be easily debunked, as long as reporters are armed with the facts. Journalists should be prepared to counter the false narratives behind the coming attacks on LGBTQ equality.