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Erick Erickson's Campaign For A Draconian Anti-Gay Law In Georgia

March 19, 2015 10:35 am ET by Rachel Percelay

Fox News contributor Erick Erickson is aggressively lobbying for a "religious freedom" bill in Georgia that would create a broad license to discriminate against LGBT people on the basis of religion.

For the past two months, Fox News contributor, editor, and radio host Erick Erickson has been relentlessly campaigning for the passage of SB 129, a so-called "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (RFRA) that has already passed the Georgia Senate. The proposed RFRA would enshrine the ability of businesses and state employees to refuse service to LGBT people. Southern faith leadersreligious liberty scholarsbusinesses and even some conservative lawmakers have publicly denounced RFRAs over concerns that they would create a blank check for anti-gay discrimination. 

Erickson, who has compared gay people to terrorists and believes businesses who serve same-sex weddings are "aiding and abetting" sin, might be SB 129's most vocal and prominent supporter. Between February 18 and March 18, he sent 11 emails in support of the bill to the list of subscribers to his radio show, wrote 8 blog posts about the measure on RedState, and has lobbied for the law on at least 5 of his radio shows. Erickson frequently touts the myth of Christian persecution across media platforms to advocate for RFRA, telling subscribers in a March 10 email:

If you are not willing to pick up the phone, we will lose.  Our religious liberty protections in Georgia will start being eroded by left-wing activists inside and outside the judiciary.


Start calling now.  Insist they tell the Speaker to bring S.B. 129 to the floor immediately without amendments.  Your right to worship and practice your beliefs is on the line.  And yes, it can happen here in Georgia. 

Erickson has also falsely claimed that, without RFRA, local non-discrimination ordinances will force churches to build unisex bathrooms and dictate that "a man who says he's a woman should be able to use the women's bathroom;" in fact, churches are largely exempt from non-discrimination laws.

On March 18, Erickson announced that he will be recording calls to constituents in several districts across Georgia, especially in areas where he has "a regular media presence:"

It is the perfect robocall for a state whose elected officials claim not just to be "Republican", but to be Christians and conservatives.

We're moving from "make them see the light" to "make them feel the heat."

It is no surprise that Erickson is working to rally his supporters behind this type of license-to-discriminate legislation, given his cozy relationship with the extreme anti-LGBT organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). ADF is a multi-million dollar organization that works with "2,400 allied attorneys" nationally to draft and pass RFRA laws.  As CNN put it, ADF has provided the "genetic code" behind RFRAs across the country.

Erickson has long been a vocal supporter of ADF - their "religious freedom" work so inspired him that he previously begged readers of his blog to donate money to the organization. The close relationship between Erickson and ADF is a two way street - ADF hosted "An Evening with Erick Erickson" that focused on the "increasingly aggressive attack" on religious liberty. Just recently, in lobbying for SB 129 on his March 5 radio show, Erickson hailed  ADF as a "wonderful wonderful organization" that "defend[s] Christians."

With their mouthpieces at Fox promoting their narrative of Christian persecution, ADF has helped craft a number of RFRA bills being considered in states across the country. It remains to be seen if Erickson will continue his role as ADF's cheerleader in its mission to enshrine anti-LGBT discrimination in the law one state at a time. 

CBS Shows How Easy It Is To Properly Cover A Transgender News Story

March 18, 2015 2:45 pm ET by Carlos Maza

CBS produced an informative, well-researched, and compassionate segment about the military’s ban on transgender service members, setting an example for other networks on how to properly cover transgender stories.

The March 17 edition of CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley featured a segment on the military’s current ban on transgender service members, a policy that’s coming under increasing scrutiny. The segment followed the story of Landon Wilson, a former Navy sailor who was discharged after his commanding officer discovered he was transgender in 2013:

The segment was a remarkably simple example of how major news networks can and should discuss transgender issues. It allowed transgender people, including Wilson, to speak for themselves. It highlighted the extreme levels of discrimination faced by the transgender community. And it took time to provide basic information about being transgender to its audience, including dispelling the myth that transitioning requires hormone therapy or surgery.

CBS medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook ended the segment by stating, "It’s difficult for people to understand that a person’s biological sex can be different from a person’s gender. Ignorance about that has led to discrimination for transgender people in all walks of life, not just the military."

In a piece about the segment at The Huffington Post, LaPook explained why he felt it was necessary to educate viewers about being transgender, writing, “if we're going to have a meaningful national conversation, we have to start by understanding the vocabulary.”

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Meet Alveda King, The Fox News Contributor Who Blames Natural Disasters On Gay Marriage

March 11, 2015 5:11 pm ET by Rachel Percelay

Fox News has hired Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to "provide social and cultural commentary" for the network as a contributor. King is an extreme anti-LGBT activist who has compared same-sex marriage to genocide and claims homosexuality is a "knockoff" sexuality created by the devil.

On March 6, Fox News announced that it signed King as a contributor to "provide social and cultural commentary" for the network. Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes touted King's "passion and mission for social change" as a "valuable contribution" to the network.

But unlike her uncle, Alveda King -- who goes by "Dr. King" after receiving an honorary degree from Saint Anselm College -- is primarily known for her work as a right-wing activist, including her extensive opposition to LGBT equality and reproductive freedom. King currently serves as the Director of African-American Outreach at the anti-choice organization Priests for Life, and previously served on the boards of multiple conservative organizations, including Heartbeat International, Georgia Right to Life, and Abortion Recovery International.  

King's decade plus history of speaking against LGBT and reproductive rights has won her praise among conservative. She was a featured speaker for Glenn Beck's 2010 "Restoring Honor" rally in 2010, and has previously been a frequent guest on Fox. In a Salon profile detailing Beck's love for King, Loretta J. Ross, a black reproductive rights activist, noted that conservatives have recruited King "to be a front, to be a face ... It's a culture war wedge, to try to use gay rights and abortion as a way to build rifts in the black community." 

King's Anti-LGBT Extremism

King's anti-LGBT extremism is rooted in her radical opposition to reproductive freedom. She sees "homosexuality" as one of the heads on a "three-headed monster" representing "a triple threat in the form of black genocide" (the other two heads of this monster are racism and abortion rights). While King asserts that she does not "hate homosexual people" and maintains she adopts the "hate the sin and love the sinner" practice, she has a long history of preaching anti-LGBT rhetoric and lobbying for anti-gay groups.  

Photo credit: Alveda King's blog

King is perhaps best known by LGBT activists for a speech she gave at a 2010 rally for the anti-LGBT National Organization for Marriage, during which she linked same-sex marriage to genocide:

KING: It is statistically proven that the strongest institution that guarantees procreation and continuity of the generations is marriage between one man and one woman. I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to be extinct and none of us wants to be. So we don't want genocide, we don't want to destroy the sacred institution of marriage.

But King's homophobic extremism has a richer and deeper history. King has equated same-sex marriage with polygamy and "self-destruct[ion]" and argued that natural disasters are the result of "homosexual marriage" and abortion. In January, King completed a three-part commentary defined homosexuality as a "counterfeit model" made by the devil (emphasis added):

IMPORTANT - GOD didn't design homosexuality. The meddling USURPER stole the keys to the laboratory, made KNOCKOFFS and goofed up perfection. He tried to make the unnatural a natural thing. Don't blame GOD!


To make matters worse, the counterfeit models are plagued with so many other viral issues, like adultery, fornication, child molestation and abuse, burning lust, subsequent mental and physical attacks, and on and on and on. Truly the counterfeit models that war against the original procreative design are fraught with issues. 

King claims to empathize with LGBT people by equating being gay with her own difficulties losing weight, claiming that just as the devil made people gay, the devil also made her fat (emphasis added):

I am struggling with my weight, and no, I don't want to be fat. And no, God didn't make me fat. Evil forces as old as the Garden of Eden tricked me into certain behaviors and decisions that have impacted my weight.


So, does that mean that the same is true for someone who struggles for, say, a taste of homosexual passion in their flesh? Absolutely!

King also edited an anti-LGBT book entitled Life at All Costs: An Anthology of Voices from 21st Century Black Prolife Leaders. The anthology, which King praised as "the civil rights legacy," devotes an entire chapter to "Why Homosexuality is Wrong," that links homosexuality to pedophilia by suggesting that gay men might be "predator male[s] seeking to gratify [their] unnatural sexual urges upon the innocent."

Relationship With MLK

King draws on her relationship with her uncle to legitimize her extremist agenda, arguing that MLK would have opposed same-sex marriage and would not have "embraced the homosexual agenda that the current NAACP is attempting to label as a civil rights agenda."

In 1997, King toured the country condemning gay rights, stating that she was "very familiar with how [MLK] felt about the Bible and the standards of the Bible." At a rally in San Francisco, she declared: "To equate homosexuality with race is to give a death sentence to civil rights. No one is enslaving homosexuals...or making them sit in the back of the bus."

Photo credit: The Advocate

Her anti-LGBT extremism has put her at odds with MLK's late wife, Coretta Scott King, who was a vocal proponent of LGBT equality. Alveda King feuded with Coretta Scott King over gay rights, directly attacking Coretta for her support of LGBT equality in a 1994 letter, saying it would bring "curses on your house and your people ... cursing, vexation, rebuke in all that you put your hand to, sickness will come to you and your house, your bloodline will be cut off." Alveda has also dismissed her aunt's positions, stating "I've got his DNA. She doesn't, she didn't... Therefore I know something about him. I'm made out of the same stuff."

King has also feuded with the NAACP over its support for marriage equality. In 2012, she recorded a radio commercial for Maryland Marriage Alliance in which she decried the NAACP's support of gay rights as an "unholy alliance."

On Fox News, King will likely continue her work opposing basic legal protections for LGBT people, especially considering Fox's ongoing defense of businesses who refuse to serve gay customers. On March 2, days before announcing her new role at Fox, King spoke at a March 2 Georgia "Religious Freedom Rally" in support of passing Georgia's SB 129 -- a "religious freedom" bill that would create a broad license to deny service to LGBT people on religious grounds. King read from MLK's 1967 sermon "Why Jesus Called a Man a Fool," after which she invoked MLK's legacy to support the measure:

KING: [MLK] is the son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., my granddaddy, the brother of my father Reverend A.D. Williams King, the uncle of Evangelist Alveda King. I want to urge you today to pass the religious liberty bill.


So I want to urge you to remember the God of Martin Luther King Jr., the Lord of Martin Luther King Jr. Jesus Christ. Holy spirit, I ask you to support the religious liberty bill.


We still have a dream and it is rooted in the American dream. And together we must stand, so please stand and make sure that we pass religious liberty bill. 

Similar laws are now emerging in states across the country, thanks in part to Fox News' championing of anti-gay business owners whose "religious freedoms" are allegedly threatened by LGBT equality. Given her uncle's legacy, King offers the network a chance to further disguise this kind of anti-LGBT discrimination as a fight for the "civil rights" of anti-gay Christians. Expect to hear a lot more about MLK's legacy on Fox News, especially when it's used as a tool to legitimize his niece's vile and extreme anti-LGBT ideology.

Fox News Defends Navy Chaplain Who Allegedly Discriminated Against Gays, Women

March 10, 2015 7:04 pm ET by Carlos Maza

Fox News commentator and serial anti-LGBT misinformer Todd Starnes rushed to the defense of a Navy chaplain who was disciplined after allegedly "discriminat[ing] against students who were of different faiths and backgrounds." According to a Navy document, the chaplain shamed a female student for having premarital sex and told another student that "the penis was meant for the vagina and not for the anus."

On March 9, Starnes published a report on the chaplain, Lt. Cmdr. Wes Modder, who was given a "detachment for cause" from his unit after an investigation concluded that he had discriminated against students at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command (NNPTC) in South Carolina.

Modder is now being represented by the anti-gay legal group Liberty Institute, which alleges that Modder is being discriminated against because of his religious beliefs. In his report, Starnes echoed the Liberty Institute's allegation that Modder was punished for his Christianity:

Michael Berry, a military veteran and attorney with Liberty Institute a law firm that specializes in religious liberty cases is representing Modder. He accused the military of committing a gross injustice against the chaplain in a letter to the Navy. He told me they will respond forcefully and resolutely to the allegations -- which they categorically deny.

"We are starting to see cases where chaplains have targets on their backs," Berry said. "They have to ask themselves, 'Do I stay true to my faith or do I keep my job?'"

He said Modder is being punished because of his Christian faith.

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Fox News Attacks Planet Fitness’ Trans-Inclusive Locker Room Policy

March 10, 2015 1:10 pm ET by Carlos Maza

Fox News criticized Planet Fitness for its policy allowing transgender members to use the restrooms and locker rooms they feel comfortable with, inviting discredited psychiatrist and Fox News contributor Dr. Keith Ablow to peddle bogus stereotypes about transgender people

Last month, a Michigan woman named Yvette Cormier complained to the management of the Midland Planet Fitness gym after she saw a transgender woman named Carlotta Sklodowska using the women’s locker room. When management informed Cormier that transgender members were allowed to use the locker room of their choice, Cormier spent four days approaching other women at the gym and informing them that a “man” was using the women’s locker room. Planet Fitness asked her to stop. When she refused, the gym cancelled her membership, stating the she had violated the company’s trademark “no judgment” policy. 

During the March 10 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck invited Ablow, the Fox News contributor notorious for making grossly inaccuratemisleading, and offensive claims about the transgender community, to criticize Planet Fitness’s policy. The segment, which labeled the situation “Legal INSANITY,” began with Hasselbeck referring to Sklodowska as a “man” and quickly devolved into transphobic stereotypes:

ABLOW: It’s tough to speak about because we’re so politically correct now that we get tongue tied. We can’t say the obvious, which is this is craziness. You’re kicking out members because they feel uncomfortable that someone who seems to be a man to them and is genetically is looking at them naked when they’re unclothed as women? That’s craziness.


ABLOW: We are being bullied into accepting things that are untrue to our core feelings.

Ablow went on to compare being transgender to pretending to be a different age or race and urged viewers to cancel their memberships with Planet Fitness.

Contrary to Ablow’s assertions, there’s no evidence that Sklodowska was “looking” at other women in the locker room naked. Sklodowska, who reportedly used the gym twice as a guest of another member, claims she was only using the locker room to store her coat and purse while working out.

And transgender people aren’t delusional or pretending – major professional medical organizations, including the American Psychiatric Association and American Psychological Association, recognize transgender people as real and deserving of respect and acknowledgment. Ablow, on the other hand, has demonstrated no expertise in issues surrounding gender identity. 

Fox’s fearmongering is part of a broader “conservative assault” on transgender access to places of public accommodation, based largely on the thoroughly debunked myth that men will sneak into women’s restrooms. It’s a scare tactic that ignores the fact that transgender people are actually the ones most at risk for being targeted and harassed in public restrooms.


Gretchen Carlson Lashes Out At School Recommendations For Transgender Students

Watch A Child Dismantle Fox's Panic Over Gender-Neutral Restrooms

15 Experts Debunk Right-Wing Transgender Bathroom Myth

VIDEO: How Fox 26's Lazy Reporting Threatens Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance

March 02, 2015 1:56 pm ET by Carlos Maza

Throughout the debate over Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), the Fox TV affiliate in Houston, KRIV, has uncritically repeated the widely debunked myth that HERO would allow sexual predators to sneak into women’s restrooms, contributing to public misunderstanding of the ordinance.

For the past year, Houston has been embroiled in a debate over the ordinance. HERO, which passed in May, bans discrimination on the basis of characteristics like sex, race, disability status, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

Opponents of HERO have since fought to put the measure up for a public repeal vote, baselessly claiming that the law would allow male sexual predators to sneak into women’s restrooms by pretending to be transgender. Experts in states and cities that have similar laws on the books have debunked this horror story, calling it “beyond specious.”

But that hasn’t stopped Fox 26 in Houston from uncritically repeating the talking point in its HERO reporting:

Fox 26’s reporting is symptomatic of the kind of “he said, she said” journalism that often derails public debates about even basic legal protections for LGBT people. In order to appear balanced, news outlets will uncritically repeat both sides’ talking points in their reporting without resolving which side is actually telling the truth.

Research shows that this kind of false equivalency actually ends up reinforcing misinformation: audiences start to believe the lie through mere repetition.

Journalism is about more than just repeating talking points and hoping audiences can figure out the truth. It’s about actually doing the work to dispel falsehoods about issues that are important to the public. Fox 26 should be working to expose lies about Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance, not peddling them to a broader audience.

Video created by Coleman Lowndes.


Houston Fox Affiliate Peddles Transphobic Attack On Equal Rights Ordinance

Fox News Is Trying To Kill Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance

Houston Media Helped Spread Lies About The City’s Non-Discrimination Ordinance

Facebook, Fox Entertainment Executives Spoke At Media Conference Featuring Anti-LGBT, Islamophobic Extremists

February 26, 2015 10:58 am ET by Carlos Maza & Rachel Percelay

Top executives from Facebook and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment spoke at a conference for right-wing media personalities that features a number of anti-LGBT groups and Islamophobes and is co-sponsored by a right-wing birther website that has suggested President Obama is secretly gay.

National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) is holding its International Christian Media Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, from February 23-26. According to the convention’s website:

The NRB International Christian Media Convention is a four-day, jam-packed event that connects, equips, and edifies thousands of Christian communicators.


The bottom line is that when you leave the NRB International Christian Media Convention you will be energized, empowered, and made more effective in reaching the lost for Christ.

In an interview with Radio World, NRB President Jerry Johnson said the conference would focus on training attendees to better use new-media platforms to reach young people with their messages. In the interview, Johnson specifically expressed his concern about “a new tone on the marriage issue, on sexuality, on so-called same-sex marriage and even on Islam” that could supposedly threaten broadcasters’ freedom to speak about those topics.

Perhaps in service of the goal of reaching young people, NRB enlisted the help of top executives from Facebook and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Simon Swart is the executive vice president of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and helped launch Fox’s “Fox Faith” movie distribution label targeting the Christian community in 2006. On February 23, he spoke at the NRB conference’s “Film & Entertainment Summit,” leading a talk on “Successfully Distributing and Marketing to the World.”

Katie Harbath is manager for policy at Facebook. On February 25, she spoke at the conference’s Digital Media Summit, which Johnson specifically cited as a way to get his organization’s message to reach the “current generation.” Habath spoke on a panel led by Eric Metaxas, a conservative author who has written in defense of “ex-gay” therapy and pointed to gay-affirming churches to compare conditions in America to those in Nazi Germany.

Both Swart and Harbath agreed to speak at the conference despite the presence of extreme anti-gay hate groups, Islamophobic figures, and the co-sponsorship of a right-wing publication that has repeatedly suggested that Obama is secretly gay and wasn’t born in the United States.

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Fox News And CNN Ignore Passage Of Major Anti-LGBT Law In Arkansas

February 25, 2015 9:40 am ET by Rachel Percelay


Fox News and CNN ignored the passage of a major anti-LGBT law in Arkansas. Will cable news outlets keep silent as conservatives push for similar legislation across the country?

On February 23, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) allowed Arkansas SB 202 to become law. The law prohibits cities and counties from adopting non-discrimination protections that are stronger than those adopted by the state government, effectively banning local protections for LGBT Arkansans in housing, employment, and public accommodations. According to an Equality Matters analysis, since it was first filed in the state senate on February 2, SB 202 has received no coverage from either Fox News or CNN:  

By contrast, on the February 19 edition of MSNBC's The Rundown With José Díaz-Balart, Díaz-Balart noted the lack of national attention on SB 202 and detailed the anti-LGBT nature of the new law:

Díaz-Balart compared Arkansas bill to Arizona's SB 1062, another anti-LGBT bill that garnered extensive headlines last year. Both CNN and Fox News comprehensively covered the debate over Arizona's legislation - CNN repeatedly profiled the anti-gay group behind the measure and grilled supporters of the bill about its impact on LGBT customers. Some Fox figures even objected to the legislation, calling it "profoundly unconstitutional" and "potentially dangerous." But according to an Equality Matters analysis, both Fox and CNN ignored the passage of Arkansas' anti-LGBT law.

The deceptiveness used by SB 202's supporters was ripe for media exposure. As Díaz-Balart noted, the law is entitled the "Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act," with a declared purpose of improving intrastate commerce by creating "uniform nondiscrimination laws and obligations." Yet as Associate Press Correspondent Andrew DeMillo explained, not a single employer has cited a lack of uniformity as a business deterrent - in fact, Wal-Mart, one of the state's largest employers, released a statement opposing the new law. The measure won praise from the anti-gay hate group Family Research Council, whose president Tony Perkins lauded it as a "victory" and a "roadmap for other states."

This isn't the first time Fox and CNN have completely ignored passage of a major piece of anti-gay legislation - last year, just two months after the spotlighted debate over Arizona's bill, Fox and CNN overlooked a similar anti-LGBT license-to-discriminate law in Mississippi. The Arkansas law is only the first of several "commerce improvement" bills cropping up across the nation - West Virginia and Texas have both introduced identical legislation seeking to ban local LGBT protections. Fox and CNN can either watch these upcoming battles in silence, or educate their viewers about the dangerous consequences of pro-discrimination statutes..


Equality Matters searched TV Eyes for Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC between February 1 and February 24, using the terms "Arkansas AND LGBT" "Arkansas AND gay," "Arkansas AND Discrimination," "Arkansas AND Senate Bill 202," "Arkansas AND Hutchinson," "Arkansas AND sexual orientation," "Arkansas AND "gender identity," and "Arkansas AND SB 202." Reruns and teases for upcoming segments were excluded.


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Fox News Goes Right Back To Advocating For Anti-Gay Business Discrimination

CNN And MSNBC Expose The Anti-Gay Group Behind Arizona's SB 1062

Fox News Rallies Behind Florist Who Refused To Serve Gay Couple

February 24, 2015 1:25 pm ET by Carlos Maza

Fox News rallied behind a Washington state florist who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding, continuing the network’s defense of the right to discriminate against gay customers.  

On February 18, a Benton County Superior Court judge ruled that florist Barronelle Stutzman had illegally violated the state’s Consumer Protection Act when she refused to provide flowers for a same-sex couple’s wedding ceremony. Though Stutzman claimed her actions were religiously motivated, the judge made clear that religious belief did not create a blank check to violate the state’s non-discrimination law, writing:

For over 135 years, the Supreme Court of the United States has held that laws may prohibit religiously motivated action, as opposed to belief. In trade and commerce, and more particularly when seeking to prevent discrimination in public accommodations, the Courts have confirmed the power of the Legislative Branch to prohibit conduct it deems discriminatory, even where the motivation for that conduct is grounded in religious belief.

Following the ruling, Washington’s attorney general offered Stutzman a settlement – stop discriminating, pay the law’s $2000 penalty, and pay $1 to cover the cost of the case – but Stuztman refused the deal.

On the February 23 edition of The Kelly File, guest host Shannon Bream conducted the first ever television interview with Stutzman, along with an attorney from the extreme anti-gay group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which is representing her. Bream has a history of championing the right to discriminate against gay customers, coming to the defense of business owners who violate non-discrimination laws and suggesting that gay customers should “just go down the street” and find someone who is willing to serve them.

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Why Ronan Farrow Daily Was The Gold Standard For Covering Transgender Issues

February 20, 2015 2:37 pm ET by Carlos Maza

With the cancellation of Ronan Farrow Daily, MSNBC is losing a show that for months represented the gold standard in cable news coverage of transgender issues.

On February 19, MSNBC announced that it was cancelling Ronan Farrow Daily, which has occupied the network’s 1 pm slot since premiering in February 2014. The show, along with The Reid Report, will be replacedby a two-hour block of news programming hosted by Thomas Roberts, while host Ronan Farrow will go on to launch “a new series of primetime specials.”

For nearly a year, Ronan Farrow Daily stood out for its remarkable coverage of transgender stories and issues. Farrow worked to bring national attention to the fight for transgender equality, which he called a “nascent enough rights movement that you can see change on almost a daily basis.” And he did it by inviting actual transgender people to discuss issues facing their community -- a practice that even many progressive news commentators have been hesitant to adopt.

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Doctor Refuses To Care For Gay Couple’s Baby - Is This Conservative Media’s “Religious Freedom”?

February 19, 2015 7:34 pm ET by Carlos Maza

A Michigan pediatrician refused to work with the baby of a same-sex couple, citing her anti-gay religious beliefs. It's another case that highlights the potential dangers of conservative media's campaign to champion "religious freedom" in the face of anti-gay discrimination.

In October of 2014, Krista and Jami Contreras brought their six-day-old baby Bay Windsor to meet her pediatrician, Dr. Vesna Roi at Eastlake Pediatrics in Roseville, Michigan. The couple, wholegally married in Vermont in 2012, soon discovered that Roi had refused to come into the office and see them, citing her religious beliefs. The couple was instead met by a different pediatrician, who they had not selected.

Four months later, they received a letter from Roi apologizing and explaining her decision:

After much prayer following your prenatal, I felt that I would not be able to develop the personal patient doctor relationship that I normally do with my patients. I felt that was not fair to the two of you or to Bay.


Please know that I believe that God gives us free choice and I would never judge anyone based on what they do with that free choice.

The Contreras incident is yet another example of the dangerous consequences of right-wing media's campaign to justify anti-gay discrimination under the banner of religious liberty. For years, conservative media have used "religious liberty" as a rallying cry while lobbying against basic legal protections for LGBT people. Now, in the face of a potential Supreme Court loss on the issue of same-sex marriage, "religious liberty" has become the central argument for a number of state RFRA bills  promoted by right-wing media that would greatly expand the right of businesses and individuals to refuse service to LGBT people on religious grounds.

Roi's refusal to work with the Contreras family is not illegal - though it does violate the rules of the American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics, which both strongly oppose discriminating against patients on the basis of sexual orientation. Nor is what happened to the Contreras family an isolated incident. Studies have found that LGBT people face high rates of discrimination in health care, especially in states that have adopted "broad religious exemptions" from medical non-discrimination laws:

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Fox's Erick Erickson: The Only Line Between "Gay Rights Extremists" And "Islamic Extremists" Is "Death"

February 19, 2015 5:08 pm ET by Rachel Percelay

Fox News contributor Erick Erickson compared LGBT-activists to terrorists to declare that "the divide between Islamic extremists and gay rights extremists is at death."

In a February 19 blog post on entitled "The Line Between Islamic Extremists and Gay Rights Extremists," Erickson lamented a Washington state judge's recent decision finding that Arlene's Flowers, a florist which refused to service a same-sex wedding, had violated the state's non-discrimination law. According to Erickson, the only difference between the two groups is that LGBT activists don't kill their victims (emphasis added):

Gay rights activists... have not turned physically violent. But they are intent on destroying any who disagree with them. They will take the homes, businesses, and life savings of any who defy them. They will use the tools of the state and mob action through boycotts, fear, and intimidation to make it happen. They will not kill but they will threaten and scare.

The divide between Islamic extremists and gay rights extremists is at death. They meet on the line at destruction.


The gay rights activists who yell "bigot" at those who disagree with them are the Imams of America's cultural ghetto.

This latest anti-LGBT screed is typical of Erickson, who recently called the LGBT community "terrorists" over the firing of the anti-gay Atlanta fire chief and has previously endorsed the claim that the "homosexual movement" is destroying America.

Erickson ended his post by pitting Christians against gay people - a mirror of the conflation of religion and bigotry that's become increasingly common on Fox News:

Christians should, however, take heart. The faith that continued to flourish and spread while its adherents' bodies were being used to light the streets of Rome will survive this present turmoil. At a minimum, Christians have more children than homosexuals. We also have a God who stands with us, loves us, and will see us through to eternity.


Fox's Erickson Calls LGBT Community "Terrorists" Over Firing Of Anti-Gay Atlanta Fire Chief

Fox's Erick Erickson Rallies Supporters Behind Anti-Gay License-To-Discriminate Laws

Fox's Erick Erickson: Countries With Marriage Equality Are "Bent On Suicide"

Fox News Gets Duped By Another Bogus Anti-Gay Horror Story

February 19, 2015 2:18 pm ET by Rachel Percelay

Fox News uncritically reported a bogus story about the alleged bullying of anti-gay students in a California high school, according to the school's superintendent. It's the second time the network has been duped by the lies of one of California's most notorious anti-LGBT hate groups.

In a February 9 opinion piece for, Fox News' serial misinformer and mouthpiece for anti-gay hate groups Todd Starnes reported on allegations that high school students at Acalanes High School in Lafayette, California, were "bullied" by the school's Queer Straight Alliance during a class presentation. His report drew heavily from a press release by the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), an anti-LGBT hate group with a history of fabricating horror stories to combat efforts to make schools welcoming for LGBT students. Starnes concluded his report by asking, "Has it really come to this, America -- forcing students to declare their allegiance to the LGBT agenda?"  

The story spread across right-wing media, being featured on BreitbartWNDMRCTV, and a number of smaller conservative outlets, as well as being shared thousands of times over social media.

But in an email to Equality Matters, Acalanes High School District Superintendent John Nickerson thoroughly debunked the claims made by Starnes and PJI (emphasis added):

An examination of the program and classroom environment would suggest gross inaccuracies in the Pacific Justice Institute press release. It is not clear what other primary source Fox News used for their reporting, but their "opinion" piece on the program does not reflect what actually took place.  Did not happen [quoted directly from PJI's press release]: ridiculed and humiliated / intimidation and interrogation / also had students line up. The peer led classroom activity was a carried out in a respectful environment and under the supervision of the classroom teacher. The activity focused on tolerance and acceptance, with an emphasis on anti-queer harassment and homophobia. It was intended to help students better understand the LGBTQ student experience.

The program is in its 15th year at Acalanes High School and his been a model program and replicated throughout the region.

We will continue to examine the activity/program in our efforts to improve the safety on our campuses for all students.

This is the second time Fox News and other conservative outlets have been duped by the Pacific Justice Institute. In 2013, PJI was caught promoting a fabricated story about a transgender student in Colorado harassing girls in the school bathroom - a claim that was also debunked by that school's superintendent.

Starnes contacted Nickerson for his own piece, and Starnes quoted Nickerson as writing that the school was aware of the "concerns and allegations raised by two parents and the Pacific Justice Institute" and that it was "investigating the situation."

But rather than waiting for the investigation to be completed, Starnes uncritically parroted PJI's allegations. As a result, a 15-year-old school program that fosters tolerance and acceptance of minority students has been baselessly smeared across conservative media.

Fox has a history of giving headlines to PJI, despite the group's well-established history of manufacturing anti-LGBT misinformation. Given that only recently Starnes incorrectly reported facts in a story about anti-gay cake bakers, it might behoove both Starnes and Fox to stop relying on a discredited anti-LGBT organization as a legitimate source.


LGBT Misinformer Of The Year: The Pacific Justice Institute

Fox Reporter Gets Facts Backwards In Story About Anti-Gay Cake Bakers

Why Is Fox's Hannity Promoting A Group That Got Caught Lying About Transgender Kids?

The Dos And Don'ts Of Discussing Transgender Health Care

February 18, 2015 2:55 pm ET by Rachel Percelay

Fox vs. MSNBC Coverage of Transgender HealthcareWhile Fox News continues to disregard journalistic best practices in reporting on transgender people, MSNBC has repeatedly demonstrated how to properly cover stories about transgender medical treatment, inviting actual transgender guests to offer expert testimony about the importance of health care for the transgender community.

When Private Chelsea Manning – the former soldier currently serving a 35-year prison term for leaking thousands of classified documents – came out as transgender in August 2013, major media outlets proved just how ill-prepared they were to cover transgender stories. Both Fox News and CNN repeatedly misgendered Manning, disregarding GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide, which calls on news organizations to refer to transgender people by their preferred gender pronouns.

Manning is back in the news after a February 13 report by USA Today revealed that Manning has been approved to receive hormone therapy as part of her transition. And the story has once again highlighted the need for responsible coverage of transgender stories: 

While MSNBC took steps to include transgender voices and cover Manning’s transition with intention and accuracy, Fox News ignored journalistic guidelines while continuing to mock and degrade transgender people in its coverage. (CNN briefly mentioned the story without editorial comment)

Fox continued to misgender Manning when discussing her healthcare. Misgendering a transgender person violates journalistic guidelines established by the Associated PressNew York TimesGLAAD, and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, which all instruct journalists to refer to transgender people by their preferred pronouns. In addition to misgendering Manning, Fox continued its year old tradition of playing music to mock transgender people.

Fox also neglected to mention that denying transgender prisoners with treatment could have severe health consequences - instead fixating on the cost of Mannings' treatment.

In sharp contrast, MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow and Joy Reid both provided exemplary, accurate coverage of Manning’s story. Both Farrow and Reid held to the GLAAD best practice that “transgender people are the experts to talk about transgender people,” and invited transgender women and activists – Allyson Robinson and Jennifer Boylan – on as expert guests to educate viewers about transgender health care. In doing so, the two gave viewers an opportunity to learn about the necessity of trans health care.

MSNBC proved that it is easy to follow the guidelines in covering transgender stories by using correct pronouns, and ensuring accurate coverage by inviting the experts – transgender people themselves – to educate viewers about transgender issues. 

Video created by Coleman Lowndes.


Fox News Continues To Misgender Chelsea Manning

Watch MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry Cover Transgender Issues The Way They Should Be

Journalism Experts Condemn's Misgendering Of Transgender Shooting Victim

Journalism Experts Condemn’s Misgendering Of Transgender Shooting Victim

February 13, 2015 12:38 pm ET by Carlos Maza

Experts in journalism ethics have criticized’s repeated misgendering of Penny Proud, a transgender woman who was shot and killed in New Orleans this week, calling it “dismissive” and “inflammatory.” has come under scrutiny for its coverage of the murder of Penny Proud, a transgender woman in New Orleans who was shot and killed in New Orleans on February 10. Some of the site's initial reports referred to Proud as a “male” and a “man” while focusing on where Proud was shot, noting that the area has a reputation for prostitution and drug use., along with The Times-Picayune, is owned by the NOLA Media Group Division of Advance Publications. The website also serves as a hub for Times-Picayune’s online content.

Misgendering a transgender person violates journalistic guidelines established by the Associated PressNew York TimesGLAAD, and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, which all instruct journalists to refer to transgender people by their preferred  pronouns.’s coverage has since been updated to accurately identify Proud as a transgender woman, citing “new information from NOPD,” which identified Proud as a male in its initial press statements. But in an interview with BuzzFeed, reporter Prescotte Stokes III defended his decision to misgender Proud:

In a phone call with BuzzFeed News, Stokes explained that he chose how to report his story after speaking to people in the area who may have known Proud.

“They called her a girl but said he was a man,” said Stokes “I assume he parades around as a transgender woman, but he is actually a man.

In comments to Media Matters, experts in journalism ethics criticized’s repeated misgendering of Proud.

Read the full entry ...

Fox's Erick Erickson Rallies Supporters Behind Anti-Gay License-To-Discriminate Laws

February 13, 2015 12:24 pm ET by Rachel Percelay

Erick Erickson

Fox News contributor Erick Erickson asked his supporters to lobby for discriminatory, anti-gay "Religious Freedom Restoration Acts" that a Fox colleague denounced as "homosexual Jim Crow Laws."  

In a February 12 email to "Erick's Conservative Activist List" titled "The Facts" and a February 13 blog post on, Erickson asked his supporters to petition for the expansion of so-called state "Religious Freedom Restoration Acts" (RFRAs) - laws that would give individuals and businesses a broad license to discriminate against LGBT people on religious grounds:

An absolute majority of American support religious exceptions relating to providing goods and services to gay marriage.  But gay rights advocates oppose that.  The Supreme Court will undoubtedly impose gay marriage on the nation by June.  Our state legislature needs to pass RFRA now to protect people of faith.


Call your state legislators and demand religious freedom protections for conscientious objectors to the culture wars.

Erickson supported his call for RFRAs by citing a number of anti-gay horror stories popularized by Fox News - all cases where a business violated state non-discrimination laws by refusing to serve gay customers.

Religious liberty scholars, southern faith leaders, and some conservative lawmakers and business owners have all publicly denounced RFRAs over concerns that they would create a blank check for anti-gay discrimination.

Even Erickson's colleagues at Fox have noted how extreme and discriminatory these kinds of RFRAs would be. Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers strongly condemned a RFRA bill in Kansas last year, taking issue with those who support the "homosexual Jim Crow Laws" that justify anti-LGBT bigotry in the name of Christianity. Even Megyn Kelly, a consistent enabler of homophobia at Fox, labeled Arizona's controversial license-to-discriminate bill as "potentially dangerous"- a position she later abandoned.

Erickson has a history of cozying up with the anti-LGBT organizations pushing for these discriminatory RFRA bills, including the extremist Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a group CNN found to be behind the "genetic code" of the RFRA bills popping up across the country. ADF's previous work on license-to-discriminate legislation so inspired Erickson that he begged readers of his blog to donate money to the group.


Fox's Erickson: Gay Rights Activists Are Intolerant For Seeking Protection From Discrimination

Fox's Erickson: Businesses That Serve Gay Couples Are "Aiding And Abetting" Sin

Extreme Anti-Gay Group Is Hosting "An Evening With Erick Erickson"

The Ugly, Hateful Result Of The Anti-Gay “Religious Liberty” Debate

February 04, 2015 5:47 pm ET by Carlos Maza

Conservative media have been quick to use “religious liberty” as an excuse for forgiving all kinds of homophobic rhetoric in the public square. But an employment discrimination complaint against Ford Motor Co. reveals the ugly logical conclusion of the right's conflation of Christianity and anti-gay bigotry.

Conservative media have worked to conflate blatant homophobia and mainstream Christianity, usually in order to defend prominent right-wing homophobes. For instance, Fox News figures rallied to the defense of the Benham brothers, whose HGTV reality show was canceled in May after their history of bigotry was exposed. Fox host Megyn Kelly claimed that while "gay rights are more and more protected in this country," the same didn't hold for "Christian beliefs and Christian rights." Similarly, Sean Hannity deflected criticism of the homophobia expressed by Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson, excusing it as nothing more than “old-fashioned, traditional Christian sentiment and values.”

In keeping with that reasoning, a Michigan man named Thomas Banks filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on January 28 against his former employer, Ford. Banks was fired in August after he allegedly violated Ford’s anti-harassment policy. According to the EEOC complaint, Banks responded negatively to a shared online article outlining Ford’s LGBT-inclusiveness:

For this Ford Motor should be thoroughly ashamed. Endorsing and promoting sodomy is of benefit to no one. This topic is disruptive to the workplace and is an assault on Christians and morality, as well as antithetical to our design and our survival. Immoral sexual conduct should not be a topic for an automotive manufacturer to endorse or promote. And yes – this is historic – but not in a good way. Never in the history of mankind has a culture survived that promotes sodomy. Heterosexual behavior creates life – homosexual behavior leads to death.

Banks is being represented by the anti-LGBT legal group Liberty Institute, which claims that Ford Motor Co. violated Bank’s religious liberty by punishing him for his “sincerely held religious beliefs.” The Liberty Institute actually cites Banks’ “sincerely held religious beliefs”  seven times in the first two paragraphs of its complaint:

Read the full entry ...

Fox Reporter Gets Facts Backwards In Story About Anti-Gay Cake Bakers

February 04, 2015 12:50 pm ET by Carlos Maza

UPDATE: Starnes’ post now includes an “Editor’s Note” correcting the inaccurate $200,000 figure:

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this column stated that the Kleins could face a fine of at least $200,000. However, an attorney for the bakers says the actual amount is at least $150,000.

In fact, $150,000 is the most the Kleins could face in fines – a maximum of $75,000 per person suing.  No ruling on amounts has been made. The incorrect figure remains unchanged in the body of the post.


Fox News’ Todd Starnes falsely reported that the Oregon bakers who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple could face up to $200,000 in fines, badly misinterpreting local reports about the case, according to the state’s Bureau of Labor and Industries.

On January 29, an administrative law judge in Oregon rejected a request from the lawyers representing Sweet Cakes by Melissa to dismiss a discrimination complaint filed against shop owners Aaron and Melissa Klein. The case has been ongoing since early 2013, when the bakers refused to provide a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in violation of the state’s non-discrimination law. A March 10 hearing will determine what damages the couple is owed.

On February 3, Fox News reporter and serial misinformer Todd Starnes published his report on the Kleins’ failed attempt to have the complaint dismissed, stating that the bakers could face $200,000 “in fines and damages”:

An Oregon administrative law judge ruled on Jan. 29 that the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa did, in fact, discriminate in 2013 when they declined to provide a wedding cake for a lesbian couple because it would have violated their Christian beliefs against same-sex marriage.

The judge’s ruling paves the way for a March 10 hearing at which the Christian business owners could be ordered to pay $200,000 in fines and damages.

Starnes’ “$200,000” number is a blatant misreading of the original Oregonian report he cites. In actuality, it was the anti-gay bakers who were asking the judge for $200,000 in damages, court costs, and attorney fees:

An administrative law judge has rejected an attempt by lawyers representing the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa to dismiss the case and award them $200,000 for damages, court costs and attorney fees. 

The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) investigators involved in the case have actually recommended that the bakers pay $75,000 in damages per person.

In a statement to Media Matters, BOLI Communications Director Charlie Burr confirmed that Starnes’ reporting was false:

Todd Starnes is writing that the bakery owners face fines of up to $200,000 in damages. That’s false. In fact, it’s the Kleins who have asked for $200,000 in damages from our agency for our enforcement of the Equality Act. We rejected the request due to jurisdictional issues.

The agency’s prosecution unit is seeking up to $75,000 per person in damages, but no ruling on amounts has been made. [emphasis original]

Starnes’ consistently inaccurate “culture war” reporting has helped make him a mouthpiece for some of the country’s most extreme anti-gay groups. 

Manhattan Declaration’s Eric Teetsel: God May Let LGBT Equality Destroy Society

February 03, 2015 5:52 pm ET by Carlos Maza

Manhattan Declaration director and prominent anti-gay activist Eric Teetsel told an audience of young conservatives that God might be allowing for the advance of LGBT equality in order to allow society destroy itself.

On January 28, the anti-gay hate group Family Research Council (FRC) hosted a panel discussion titled “Standing Firm in a Changing America: How to be a Faithful, Young, (Christian) Conservative.” During the panel discussion, Teetsel was asked about a time he’d felt discouraged in his career. Teetsel lamented the legal advancement of LGBT equality, suggesting that God might be allowing society to destroy itself and usher in the end times:

TEETSEL: Looking out over the horizon and just sensing that all of the work that so many wonderful groups have done to promote protections for religious liberty may fall away in the next few years as the court may bring sexual orientation and gender identity to the level of strict scrutiny, which would make it very hard to live out Christian principles in the public square in just so many different ways. It can be really discouraging and in those instances, again, I just try to remember that my job is not to use American public policy to bring about the kingdom of God. It’s not going to happen, in fact, and we don’t have to talk about eschatology, but I’m pretty convinced that the world is headed in a particular direction and there’s only one thing that’s going to bring it back. And I don’t have any control over that thing. …There have certainly been instances in American history where we were reawakened to the realities of faith. I long for that to happen again. My understanding of some of the great awakenings, particularly the second, is that they were born out of periods of time of great pain and darkness. Sure feels like the kind of time we’re in right now. … Maybe, instead, we’re one of those societies that has turned their backs on God and he’s going to allow them to have everything they want and that’s going to destroy them. [emphasis added]

Eschatology refers to a branch of study within many religious traditions that’s primarily concerned with the end of the world. Christian evangelical eschatology deals with ideas of the second coming of Jesus, God’s judgment on Earth, and an apocalyptic end to the enemies of God. Though Teetsel never elaborates on how he thinks God will allow society to be destroyed by legal protections for LGBT people, his reference to eschatology suggests that he expects a pretty bleak conclusion to the modern LGBT rights movement.

When Fox News Defended Bryan Fischer’s Anti-Gay Extremism

January 29, 2015 5:03 pm ET by Carlos Maza

The anti-gay hate group American Family Association (AFA) announced that Bryan Fischer -- the organization’s most prominent face -- had been fired as the organization’s director of issues analysis due to his years of inflammatory rhetoric. Fox News has a history of whitewashing Fischer’s anti-LGBT extremism.

On January 28, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow reported that AFA had fired Fischer as the group’s long-time director of issues analysis. In 2010, AFA was labeled an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, thanks largely to Fischer’s extreme rhetoric about the LGBT community.

The announcement came in advance of a controversial AFA-sponsored trip to Israel that nearly 100 RNC members are scheduled to take this weekend. Fischer has made a number of disparaging comments about “counterfeit religions” and has repeatedly blamed gay men for the Holocaust:

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