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What The Media Should Know About Walt Heyer And “Transition Regrets”

June 02, 2015 5:40 pm ET by Carlos Maza

A popular right-wing activist with extreme, discredited views about LGBT people is making the media rounds to talk about Caitlyn Jenner, peddling the myth that many transgender people end up regretting transitioning.

Walt Heyer, contributor for the rabidly anti-LGBT web magazine The Federalist, appeared on the June 2 edition of CNN Newsroom to comment on Vanity Fair’s cover story about Caitlyn Jenner’s decision to publicly identify as a transgender woman.

Heyer’s life story has made him a pseudo-celebrity in anti-LGBT circles; in his forties, he decided to transition to living life as a woman, only to transition back to living as a man less than a decade later. Since then, he’s pushed the debunked claim that transgender people often experience regret after transitioning, arguing that what transgender people actually need is “psychiatric or psychological help.”

On CNN, Heyer warned that Jenner might regret her decision to transition, comparing transitioning to “going down to the bar” and “wak[ing] up with a hangover”:

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Associated Press Violates Its Own Transgender Guidelines In Caitlyn Jenner Story

June 01, 2015 3:30 pm ET by Carlos Maza

The Associated Press violated its own guidelines for how to refer to transgender people in a voyeuristic report about former Olympian and reality television star Caitlyn Jenner’s appearance on next month’s cover of Vanity Fair.

On June 1, Vanity Fair released a preview of its July issue cover story, headlined, “Call Me Caitlyn.” The story is Jenner’s public debut as Caitlyn following a highly-watched television interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer in which Jenner, who still identified then as Bruce, announced that she is transgender and detailed her experiences hiding her gender identity while appearing on the popular reality show, “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.” The Vanity Fair story says Caitlyn Jenner now wishes to be referred to as a woman.

In its report on the Vanity Fair cover, the Associated Press violated its own guidelines on how to report on transgender people, which state that trans people should be identified by their preferred pronouns. Instead, the AP story refers to Jenner as a male and calls her Bruce. The report also objectifies Jenner by describing her as wearing “va-va-voom fashion” and highlighting her “ample cleavage:”

Bruce Jenner made his debut as a transgender woman in a va-va-voom fashion in the July issue of Vanity Fair.

"Call me Caitlyn," declares a headline on the cover, with a photo of a long-haired Jenner in a strapless corset, legs crossed, sitting on a stool. The image was shot by famed celeb photographer Annie Leibovitz. Prior to the unveiling of Caitlyn, Jenner had said he prefers the pronoun "he," but Vanity Fair contributing editor Buzz Bissinger, who wrote the accompanying story, refers to "she."

Jenner debuted a new Twitter account as well with: "I'm so happy after such a long struggle to be living my true self. Welcome to the world Caitlyn. Can't wait for you to get to know her/me." In about 45 minutes, the account had more than 180,000 followers.

According to the magazine, which took to Twitter with the cover Monday, Jenner spoke emotionally about her gender journey: "If I was lying on my deathbed and I had kept this secret and never ever did anything about it, I would be lying there saying, 'You just blew your entire life.'"


In addition to the corset, Vanity Fair released a black-and-white video on the making of the cover. It shows Jenner getting her hair done and posing in a long, off-the-shoulder gown with ample cleavage. [emphasis added]

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Fox News Devoted Less Than Two Minutes To The Duggar Controversy

May 27, 2015 3:33 pm ET by Carlos Maza & Rachel Percelay

Fox News largely ignored the controversy surrounding Josh Duggar following his recent admission that, as a teenager, he molested young girls, including several of his sisters. The revelations are particularly stunning given that, under the guise of protecting children, the Duggar family has played an active role in the fight against LGBT equality.  

On May 21, In Touch magazine revealed that in 2006, Jim Bob Duggar – patriarch of TLC’s hit show 19 Kids and Counting – had waited more than a year before telling police that his son, Josh, had confessed to molesting several female minors, including his sisters, when he was a teenager. TLC has since pulled episodes of 19 Kids from its schedule.

The revelations drew widespread criticism in the media, with many outlets pointing out the Duggar family’s reputation as a torch-bearer for conservative values and strong involvement in Republican politics and anti-LGBT activism. The revelations look to many like hypocrisy from a family that’s become a political powerhouse in socially conservative circles in recent years by wielding its reality show influence to stump for “family values,” Republican politicians, and the repeal of legal protections for LGBT people. 

But while MSNBC and CNN have reportedly heavily on the Duggar scandal, Fox News has largely ignored the story. According to a Media Matters analysis, Fox News spent less than two minutes covering the story between May 21 and May 25, compared to almost an hour of coverage from the other cable news networks:

During the May 24 broadcast of Media Buzz, Fox News’ media critic Howard Kurtz even criticized other media outlets for “piling on” by highlighting the Duggar family’s ties to prominent Republican politicians:

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Fox News Wrongly Claims Churches Could Lose Tax Status Unless They Recognize Same-Sex Marriage

May 08, 2015 10:55 am ET by Carlos Maza

Fox News’ Shannon Bream relied on a hate group’s unsubstantiated talking points to stoke fears that churches could lose their tax exempt status if a Supreme Court ruling finds that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. Bream has repeatedly relied on rhetoric from discredited anti-LGBT groups to peddle bogus and misleading information about issues related to LGBT equality.

On the May 6 edition of America’s Newsroom, Fox News’ Supreme Court correspondent Shannon Bream highlighted an exchange during oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that will determine the constitutionality of state bans on same-sex marriage. During the exchange, Justice Samuel Alito asked U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli whether religious colleges would be able to keep their tax-exempt status if the bans are found unconstitutional and they continue to oppose same-sex marriage. Verrilli said although he didn’t know all the specifics, “It’s certainly going to be an issue”:

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Why Anti-Gay Conservatives Are So Mad At Bob Schieffer

May 06, 2015 3:13 pm ET by Carlos Maza

Anti-gay conservatives are criticizing CBS News’ Bob Schieffer for correctly identifying one of his guests as the president of an anti-gay “hate group,” accusing him of “anti-Christian bias” for doing so. The outrage over Schieffer’s disclosure highlights why it’s so important for the media to hold extremists accountable for their views when they appear. 

During the April 26 edition of CBS’ Face the Nation, Schieffer invited Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), to discuss the Supreme Court’s upcoming oral arguments on marriage equality. Schieffer began the interview by noting that FRC has been listed as an anti-gay “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and citing critics who argue that Perkins’ extreme views don’t represent the views of most Christians:

SCHIEFFER: I'm going to start with probably the most vocal opponent of same-sex marriage and that is Tony Perkins. He is the president of the Family Research Council. And, Mister Perkins, I'm going to say this to you upfront. You and your group have been so strong in coming out against this -- and against gay marriage -- that the Southern Poverty Law Center has branded the Family Research Council an anti-gay hate group. We have been inundated by people who say we should not even let you appear because they, in their view, quote, "You don't speak for Christians." Do you think you have taken this too far?

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Meet The Anti-LGBT Legal Scholars Defending "Religious Freedom" Laws

May 06, 2015 1:44 pm ET by Rachel Percelay

Media outlets have relied on numerous legal scholars to downplay fears that controversial "religious freedom" bills in states like Indiana and Arizona could result in anti-LGBT discrimination. But underneath their credentials, many of these supposedly neutral experts harbor their own anti-LGBT agendas.

In March, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) sparked widespread criticism when he signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into law, a measure that could create a legal defense for business owners to refuse service to gay customers by citing their religious beliefs.

A group of legal scholars sent a letter to Gov. Pence endorsing RFRA during the debate over the law, basing their support on "many years of teaching and scholarship on the law of religious freedom." Several of the signees authored a similar letter during the debate over Arizona's proposed license-to-discriminate law in early 2014, which would have similarly permitted anti-LGBT discrimination in business and employment.

Media outlets have frequently cited these letters and their signees to suggest that fears about "religious freedom" laws might be overblown -  but these legal scholars aren't impartial observers. Several have deep ties to the anti-LGBT groups that helped orchestrate the push for these "religious freedom" laws, while others have marked histories of attacking LGBT equality.

Robin Fretwell Wilson

Robin Fretwell Wilson is a law professor at University of Illinois and has been cited by The New York TimesUSA TodayPolitiFactThe Boston Globe, and Chicago Tribune in discussions of religious exemptions.

She also has ties to extremist anti-LGBT organizations - Wilson is a member of the Virginia Marriage Commission, formed by the Family Foundation of Virginia which advocates for the notion that "marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman, an institution of God and a foundation for civil society." She's helped author letters to lawmakers in over a dozen states proposing "strong religious-liberty protections for conscientious objectors" of marriage equality, testified in favor of adding exemptions for religious exemptions to Washington, DC's marriage equality bill, and supported RFRA laws in both Arizona and Indiana

One of Wilson's colleagues at the Family Foundation of Virginia is reportedly Maggie Gallagher, former President of the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM). The Foundation also partners with other extremist anti-LGBT groups, with ties to the hate group the Family Research CouncilFocus on the Family, and the Alliance Defending Freedom - the group leading the fight for RFRAs across the country.

Mary Ann Glendon

Harvard Law professor and former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican Mary Ann Glendon has a long history of extreme anti-gay rhetoric and ties to radical anti-LGBT organizations. She was the first signee listed on the February 2014 letter defending the Arizona's expanded "religious freedom" law. 

In 2011, Glendon helped author a letter warning that voting for marriage equality would be a "grave" and "inadvisable step" for members of the New York legislature. She's called marriage equality a "radical social experiment" and warned that "children will have to be taught about homosexual sex" in "marriage-preparation" classes and fear mongered about the threat posed by "alternative family forms." 

For years Glendon has presented marriage equality as fundamentally incompatible with religion, writing in The Wall Street Journal (emphasis added):

Every person and every religion that disagrees [with same-sex marriage] will be labeled as bigoted and openly discriminated against. The ax will fall most heavily on religious persons and groups that don't go along. Religious institutions will be hit with lawsuits if they refuse to compromise their principles. 

A vocal opponent of LGBT equality, Glendon serves on the advisory board for the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, a project of the Alliance Defending Freedom, the same group that helped craft Arizona's license-to-discriminate law.

Perhaps due to her virulently anti-LGBT alliances and rhetoric, Glendon is less frequently cited a source of legitimacy for anti-gay legislation. But as Douglas NeJaime notes in the California Law Review, her views persist through Robin Fretwell Wilson, mentioned above, who in "a recent volume of essays ... ratchet[ed] down the rhetoric used by Glendon but nonetheless affirm[ed] the unique relationship between same-sex marriage and threats to religious freedom."  

Helen M. Alvaré

Helen Alvaré is a law professor at George Mason University School of Law who actively opposes same-sex marriage and has even edited a book advocating for "ex-gay" conversion therapy.

Alvaré was another signee on the Arizona RFRA letter and testified in support of Kansas's 2013 RFRA at an informational hearing called following the controversy surrounding Arizona's license-to-discriminate law.

In a 2013 radio appearance for the anti-LGBT group Focus on the Family, Alvaré declared that gays need to be told that "marriage is not in the cards for you." She has written multiple essays advocating against same-sex marriage, arguing that marriage equality proponents are "destroying the poor, the uneducated, and the formation of their family lives."

In 2012, Alvaré published a book Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves, which features a chapter by Dr. Michelle Cretella, who is on the board of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, an organization that advocates for dangerous "ex-gay" conversion therapy. The chapter, "Who Am I? Psychology, Faith, and Same-Sex Attraction," discusses the "condition of experiencing same-sex attraction," argues that childhood sexual abuse is a contributing factor "for many individuals with unwanted same-sex attraction," and advocates for "changes to same-sex attraction." 

Alvaré runs the organization Women Speak for Themselves, which has gathered over 41,000 signatures from women in support of RFRA legislation.  

Robert P. George

Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, is a notorious advocate against LGBT rights who has pledged to defy "man-made law" to follow "God's law" in the face of marriage equality.

George signed onto the Indiana RFRA letter as well as a similar letter sent to legislatures in North Dakota.

George co-founded and is Chairman Emeritus for NOM, which coordinates the national movement against same-sex marriage, and also serves on the board of the Family Research Council.

GLAAD has profiled George as a "well-connected scholar and professor with anti-gay ideology" and documented his history of anti-LGBT activism, including (emphasis added) how he:

A 2009 profile of George in The New York Times described him as the "reigning brain of the Christian right," and a respected range of academic journals and national media outlets have given him a platform. As his biography notes:

Professor Robert George's articles and review essays have appeared in the Harvard Law Reviewthe Yale Law Journal, the Columbia Law Review, the University of Chicago Law Review, the Review of Politics, the Review of Metaphysics, and the American Journal of Jurisprudence. He has also written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, First Things, the Boston Review, and the Times Literary Supplement

Michael W. McConnell

Michael McConnell is a professor at Stanford University Law, a former circuit judge and potential Supreme Court nominee under George W. Bush. McConnell signed his support for both the Arizona and Indiana RFRA letters, and has a history of portraying LGBT-rights activists as bullies who silence any "dissenters."

McConnell supports "efforts to limit congressional authority to protect civil rights ... weakening both statutory and constitutional protections against discrimination based on race, gender, and sexual orientation," according to a 2005 report from People for the American Way.

The report documented McConnell's radical re-interpretation of the First Amendment, which would "substantially weaken the separation of church and state, give preferential treatment to religion, and authorize direct government funding of religion." For example:

McConnell criticized [a decision upholding the application of LGBT protections] because it allegedly "forced" on the university the "acceptance of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle." According to McConnell, this was the equivalent of forcing Jim Crow laws on Berea College in 1908. This was despite the fact that McConnell has agreed that public high schools should provide equal access to their facilities to gay rights groups. In other words, a non-government organization's preferences should once again trump anti-discrimination laws.

McConnell's views in this area are eerily reminiscent of much of the opposition in the 1950s and 1960s to civil rights laws. Integration was morally wrong, argued opponents, and those moral objections should prevail over court rulings and anti-bias laws. 

The New York Times recently cited McConnell in an article on marriage equality, in which he argued that lawyers who oppose a constitutional right to same-sex marriage have been "bullied into silence," saying "the level of sheer desire to crush dissent is pretty unprecedented ... You're going to shut up, particularly if you don't care that much ... I usually just keep it to myself."

McConnell has been widely quoted in the RFRA debate, recently featured in The Washington Post The New York Timesthe IndyStar, and USA Today.

Robert P. George was previously identified as a "law professor" at Princeton. He is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton. The post has been updated accordingly. 

Dallas Morning News Editorial Writer: Correctly Identifying Transgender People Is “Confusing”

May 05, 2015 2:51 pm ET by Carlos Maza

An editorial writer for The Dallas Morning News offered an embarrassing defense for not bothering to correctly identify transgender people, arguing that widely accepted journalistic guidelines for talking about the transgender community are "confusing" and  "misinform[s] the public."

In a May 4 column in The Dallas Morning News, editorial writer Tod Robberson criticized The New York Times and Associated Press for recognizing “the gender preference of transgenders in news copy.” According to Robberson, identifying trans people using the pronouns they prefer “distort[s] the truth” in order to embrace “the politically correct transgender language of the day”: 

The New York Times and Associated Press, among other news organizations, have decided that they will recognize the gender preference of transgenders in news copy. Which is to say, when a male who has yet to undergo gender reassignment surgery nevertheless calls himself a female and is the subject of a news story, he will be identified as a female in all references.


See how confusing that gets? What is the actual, at-birth gender of the person we’re talking about? And what gender will the person be identified as, once reassignment surgery is completed? Who knows?

There is a serious ethical discussion in this issue that we in journalism never really had. The orders came down from on high one day, and everyone just sort of jumped on board without questioning the implications. The first ethical issue is whether we journalists distort the truth by embracing the politically correct transgender language of the day.


Like it or not, the use of he/she, her/him, his/hers in print is a grammatical and journalistic necessity. We can’t avoid it. But in doing so, choosing the correct word shouldn’t be an option selected out of a sense of inclusion or demonstration of open mindedness about sexual identity. Our only choice must be to use the correct words to accurately and truthfully report the news.

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The First Rule For Interviewing An Anti-Gay "Hate Group"

April 27, 2015 11:58 am ET by Carlos Maza

On CBS’ Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer accurately identified one of his guests as the president of an anti-gay “hate group,” providing his audience with valuable context often missing from mainstream media interviews with anti-LGBT extremists. 

On the April 26 edition of Face the Nation, Schieffer invited Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), and Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, to discuss this week’s Supreme Court arguments over marriage equality. Scheiffer began the interview by noting that Perkins’ group has been labeled an anti-gay “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC):

SCHIEFFER: I'm going to start with probably the most vocal opponent of same-sex marriage and that is Tony Perkins. He is the president of the Family Research Council. And, Mister Perkins, I'm going to say this to you upfront. You and your group have been so strong in coming out against this-- and against gay marriage that the Southern Poverty Law Center has branded the Family Research Council an anti-gay hate group. We have been inundated by people who say we should not even let you appear because they, in their view, quote, "You don't speak for Christians." Do you think you have taken this too far?

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The Dos And Don’ts Of Talking About Bruce Jenner’s ABC Interview

April 24, 2015 1:56 pm ET by Carlos Maza

On April 24, ABC will air a two-hour interview between Diane Sawyer and Olympic gold medalist and reality television star Bruce Jenner. The interview is expected to address rumors that Jenner is transgender.

Given the tremendous amount of media attention the interview is expected to receive, here are a few reminders for media outlets who want to avoid making some of the most common mistakes found in coverage of major transgender news stories:

DO Highlight The Realities Of Being Transgender. 

Jenner’s story is a powerful opportunity to bring national media attention to the transgender community, but it’s important to remember that Jenner’s experiences are also unique. Most trans people are not famous, wealthy, white reality television stars. The transgender community -- and trans women of color in particular -- faces high levels of discrimination, harassment, and violence, which in turn contributes to higher levels of poverty, homelessness, and economic marginalization. Media outlets should recognize the particularities of Jenner’s experiences and use them to initiate broader conversations about what life is like for transgender people in America.

DON’T Fixate On Jenner’s Appearance. 

Some of the ugliest, most exploitative coverage in the lead-up to the ABC interview has been speculation based on Jenner’s appearance. Given Jenner’s public profile as a reality television star, it’s easy to fixate on the star’s physical and cosmetic characteristics. But focusing on transgender people’s appearances -- especially on how well they “pass” -- is degrading and objectifying. It turns trans people into spectacles and denies their basic humanity. The media has an important role to play in exposing cisgender audiences to transgender people and their stories, but nobody benefits when transgender people’s appearances are made topics for public consumption.

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NBC Airs Groundbreaking Series Spotlighting Transgender Youth

April 23, 2015 11:15 am ET by Carlos Maza

NBC aired a series of segments presenting a sensitive, thoughtful, and well-researched look into the lives of families raising transgender children, demonstrating a number of best practices for talking about the transgender community. 

On April 21, NBC Nightly News aired a segment titled “Jacob’s Journey,” an in-depth look at 5-year-old transgender boy, Jacob Lemay. Jacob’s parents affirmed their son’s “consistent, persistent, and insistent” desire to live as a boy, noticing Jacob’s early discomfort with being asked to dress and be addressed as a girl:

NBC News’ national correspondent Kate Snow looked at the details of Jacob’s experience: his initial frustration with being identified as a girl, his parents’ concerns about their child’s future, and the way his parents came to understand and support their transgender son.

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How An Extreme Anti-LGBT Legal Powerhouse Is Working To Enact "Religious Freedom" Laws

April 16, 2015 10:15 am ET by Rachel Percelay

The current push for expanded state "religious freedom" laws is thanks in large part to the work of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an extreme right-wing legal group that's worked to criminalize gay sex across the globe. 

A $39 million non-profit Christian legal group, ADF bills itself as an organization that works for the "right of people to freely live out their faith." The group has laid the groundwork for "religious freedom" laws across the country, using their legal work to peddle the myth that Christians are under attack by the "homosexual agenda." But behind this religious freedom rhetoric, the group promotes an extreme anti-LGBT agenda, namely working internationally to criminalize gay sex.

A Legal Powerhouse Working To Criminalize Gay Sex Abroad

Alliance Defending Freedom is a legal organization that works with 2,400 allied attorneys nationally on a $39 million (as of 2013) annual budget. ADF was founded in 1994 by several of the country's largest national evangelical Christian ministries to "press the case for religious liberty issues in the nation's courts" and "fend-off growing efforts by groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which seek to immobilize Christians." Today, it has become the country's best-funded and most powerful right-wing Christian group working against what the organization calls the "myth of the so-called 'separation of church and state.'" 

As the "800-pound gorilla of the Christian right," the group has become a fixture on Fox News in stories about "Christian persecution," where the group is perhaps best known for defending anti-gay business owners who refuse to serve gay customers. But ADF's agenda is far more extreme than defending discriminatory florists and bakers in court.

While the group prefers to talk about its "religious liberty" work when in the media spotlight, ADF also actively works internationally to promote and defend laws that criminalize gay sex. ADF's formal support for anti-sodomy legislation dates to at least 2003, before the Supreme Court made its landmark decision in Lawrence v. Texas. ADF, which was at the time still known as the Alliance Defense Fund, filed an amicus brief in the case, defending state laws criminalizing gay sex. In its brief, ADF spent nearly 30 pages arguing that gay sex is unhealthy, harmful, and a public health risk.

Since the Lawrence decision declared anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional, ADF has taken its extremist agenda abroad, working in Jamaica, Belize, and India to support laws that imprison gay people for having sex. The organization annually expands its network of international (and domestic) lawyers at its Legal Academy, a week-long lawyer training event that, among other things, teaches attendees how to "battle the radical homosexual legal agenda." In exchange, the trainees are obligated to provide 450 hours of free legal services over a three-year period to ADF or other organizations "that forward the mission of the alliance." According to ADF, nearly 1,800 lawyers have participated in its training program.

The group also has rich history of extremist ant-LGBT positions, including opposing anti-bullying efforts in public schools and labeling the hate crime that led to the murder of Matthew Shepard -- a gay University of Wyoming student who was beaten and tortured to death -- a hoax to advance the "homosexual agenda." The organization's media kit explicitly supports this radical position, and instructs media to call violent attacks against LGBT people "so-called 'hate' crimes," to refer to the LGBT rights movement as the "homosexual agenda," and to call trans people "cross-dressing" and "sexually confused."

ADF partners with more than 300 like-minded institutions, including the rabidly anti-LGBT Pacific Justice Institute, the Thomas More Law Center,  the Family Research Council (a hate group),  the Heritage Foundation, and the now-defunct "ex-gay" organization Exodus International. ADF's relentless legal campaign against LGBT equality led the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to describe the organization as "virulently anti-gay." Unsurprisingly, the group has been at the forefront of the fight against same-sex marriage -- ADF attorneys represented the defendants in the Proposition 8 case before the Supreme Court in 2013, and have defended same-sex marriage bans in over 25 states.

ADF President, CEO, and General Counsel Alan Sears has his own personal history of extreme homophobia. In 2003, Sears co-authored the book The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today, which compares the gay "propaganda" movement to what "Hitler did so masterfully in Nazi Germany, to get the American public on their side." In another chapter, Sears claims that homosexuality and pedophilia are "intrinsically linked." 

Sears' book echoes ADF's larger strategy of painting Christians as victims in a supposed war against Christianity, a position which depicts LGBT rights and religious freedom as mutually exclusive, writing:

The efforts of homosexual activists to convince Americans to tolerate homosexual behavior tramples religious freedom and leaves a trail of broken bodies in the dust. 

His radical anti-LGBT conspiracy theories haven't stopped Sears from enjoying an influential career -- by his own count, Sears has persuaded legislators in 20 states to adopt his legislative recommendations. He's also "helped fashion the language for numerous state and federal laws and has testified before committees of the U.S. House and Senate, state legislatures, and many local governments, and commissions."

Furthering the "Christian Persecution" Narrative

ADF has been peddling the myth of "Christian Persecution" since its inception in 1994, when the newly formed "Alliance Defense Fund" solicited donations on Christian radio by claiming:

Pro-life demonstrations may soon be illegal. ... Religious broadcasting may soon be censored. Hiring homosexuals in Christian schools, churches, and even as Sunday School teachers may soon become the law of the land. ... Don't let Christianity become a crime.

Today, ADF lists "religious liberty" as one of the organization's "key issues." According to ADF's website, "religious liberty [is] under attack in America" and "those who believe in God are increasingly threatened, punished, and silenced."

This narrative is part of the broader misinformation campaign orchestrated by a network of conservative evangelical and Roman Catholic organizations to frame Christians as "victims" of discrimination. As Dr. Jay Michaelson, a religious liberty fellow at Political Research Associates, noted in a recent report, these organizations are (emphasis added):

Waging a vigorous challenge to LGBTQ and reproductive rights by charging that both threaten their right-wing definition of "religious liberty."


Religious conservatives have succeeded in reframing the debate, inverting the victim-oppressor dynamic, and broadening support for their agenda.

In an interview with ThinkProgress, Rob Boston, director of communications at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said of ADF's religious persecution rhetoric, "if you read their emails, their magazines, go to events, you hear a constant message of 'we're under attack, under siege, being persecuted. It works, motivates people to give, makes them afraid, causes them to reach for checkbooks or credit card."

To further their myth of Christian persecution, ADF frequently provides legal representation to Christian business owners who refuse to serve LGBT customers and are then sued for violating local non-discrimination ordinances. ADF frequently seizes these cases -- which it almost always loses -- to rally conservatives around these highly publicized examples of "persecuted" Christians. 

This past fall, ADF attorney's filed a lawsuit against the city of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, on behalf of a chapel owned by a Christian couple, both ordained ministers, who ADF alleged were being forced to perform same-sex marriages after the city passed an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance. This turned out to be a patently false tale and baseless lawsuit -- the "chapel" owned by the couple was a for-profit business, and the city had not taken any legal action against the business, which, if it were registered as a religious nonprofit, would be exempt from the non-discrimination ordinance.

But that didn't matter to ADF. The goal in taking up these types of cases is to create publicity for their cause. And ADF succeeded -- right-wing media seized on the story of the chapel, which quickly spread across Fox and other conservative outlets.

In similar cases, ADF has represented a florist who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding, two sets of couples who refused to host same-sex marriages at their for-profit, secular venues, and a New Mexico photographer who refused to work a same-sex wedding.

ADF's clients, who are allegedly "discriminated" against because of their religious beliefs, act as the horror stories that have become the primary argument behind the national push for expanded "religious freedom" laws, also known as Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRA). As the Indianapolis Star pointed out in the controversy surrounding Indiana's recently passed RFRA, there is a "pervasive perception that many argue is not a misconception: that Indiana's RFRA is -- and always has been -- a way to allow those who oppose same-sex marriage to deny providing wedding-related services on religious grounds."

The Center for Arizona Policy, which co-wrote Arizona's failed RFRA, crystallized the link between religious freedom laws and "protecting" wedding businesses, writing that "the critical need for [SB 1062] came to light" after the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled against the photographer, represented by ADF, who declined to provide services to a same-sex wedding.

In a recent blog defending Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a gay couple, ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco seized the case as an opportunity to encourage states to adopt their own RFRAs:

States should adopt religious freedom laws that protect their citizens' fundamental right to religious liberty so the government has to prove a compelling reason before it can force someone like Jack to violate his faith.

On their page dedicated to RFRA, ADF cites their own client, Barronelle Stutzman,  a Washington state florist who violated the state's non-discrimination law by refusing to serve a same-sex couple, as an example of "what can happen when religious freedom is not protected."

ADF doesn't rely solely on their own mailing list and social media to spread the Christian discrimination narrative -- Fox News frequently provides ADF a national platform to bring these cases to national attention and simultaneously defend RFRA legislation. Recently, Fox hosted an ADF attorney to rally viewers behind Stutzman, depicting her as a victim who risked losing her home and livelihood because of the state's non-discrimination law. ADF's cozy relationship with Fox is mutually beneficial: ADF relies on Fox for publicity, and Fox relies on ADF for a steady stream of stories riling up its audience about Christians being under attack, allowing the network to campaign for anti-LGBT RFRAs under the guise of protecting religious liberty. 

How ADF Helps Enact State RFRAs

While ADF has worked publicly to make the national case for expanded RFRAs, the group is quieter about their coordinated legal and lobbying efforts to pass "religious freedom" laws. ADF first emerged as the driving force behind RFRAs in 2014, when the organization helped write Arizona's SB 1062. The bill, which sparked national controversy and was ultimately vetoed, would have expanded legal protections for businesses refusing service to gay customers. At the time, CNN's Anderson Cooper noted that ADF was behind the "genetic code" of SB 1062 and similar religious freedom laws across the country. MSNBC's Chris Hayes similarly documented ADF's involvement in writing the law, while also noting the group's support for criminalizing gay sex abroad.

ADF has had a hand in helping craft a number of similar RFRAs across the country. Gregg Scott, vice president for ADF, has characterized enacting RFRAs as "a legislator's most important duty." Last year, ADF senior counsel Joel Oster testified in favor of Kansas's RFRA, which was signed into law in April 2013. ADF recently pushed for a RFRA in Colorado, where on March 9 ADF senior counsel Michael J. Norton testified in defense of a "State Freedom of Conscience Protection Act," another license to discriminate "religious freedom" bill that was killed in the Colorado House. ADF also had a hand in writing Georgia's recently tabled RFRA. 

The organization also promoted a RFRA in Arkansas, a law they claimed would be "destructive" if it included explicit LGBT protections.

Most recently, ADF helped "advise" Indiana lawmakers during the debate over the state's controversial RFRA. ADF's litigation counsel, Kellie Fiedorek, even stood behind Indiana Gov. Mike Pence during the private ceremony signing the bill into law:

After they helped pass the law, ADF representatives jumped to defend the controversial measure in columns, on the radio, and on national cable news.

ADF's reach extends all the way to state legislators where ADF alums and even currently allied attorneys introduce and sponsor "religious freedom" legislation. One of the sponsors of a recently introduced RFRA in North Carolina is House Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer (R), who proudly boasts her "continu[ed] involvement in promoting religious freedom" as "an Allied Attorney" with ADF. Similarly, in Louisiana, House Rep. Mike Johnson (R) has introduced the "Marriage and Conscience Act," a virulently anti-LGBT bill that explicitly allows discrimination against same-sex couples. Johnson previously served as a senior attorney and media spokesman for ADF.  

Working under the guise of a "religious freedom" organization, ADF's efforts to curtail LGBT rights have been largely successful. Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, said in an interview with The Daily Beast:

In the last two years, there have been 35 bills introduced around the country to establish or expand a RFRA. And there have been over 80 bills filed that specifically allow for discrimination against gay and trans communities. 

These RFRAs are more than just a legal shield for anti-gay business owners -- they're a product of ADF's mission to eliminate legal protections for gays and lesbians. Their intent is to make it easier to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. When Indiana considered adding an LGBT non-discrimination amendment to its RFRA, ADF senior counsel Kristen Waggoner told media outlets:

The new proposal unjustly deprives citizens their day in court, denies freedom a fair hearing, and rigs the system in advance. It gives the government a new weapon against individual citizens who are merely exercising freedoms that Americans were guaranteed from the founding of this country.

As constitutional law scholar Marci Hamilton explained in her book God vs. the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty, the anti-gay groups behind state RFRAs reveal the laws' "true colors." Media stories about RFRA are not complete until they acknowledge the extreme anti-LGBT group that has worked to lay the groundwork, both legally and in the media, for expanded "religious freedom" legislation.

Anti-Gay Hate Group Will Bring Fox News, GOP Hopefuls On A Trip To Israel

April 15, 2015 3:51 pm ET by Carlos Maza

For the second time this year, an anti-LGBT hate group is hosting a trip to Israel that will feature prominent figures from the Republican Party. The event will also feature Fox radio host Todd Starnes.

On October 27, the Family Research Council (FRC) will host its first ever eleven-day "Holy Land Tour" -- a "unique, one-of-a kind tour" where guests will "explore the land of the Bible and the roots of our Christian faith" and meet with "some of Israel's political and religious leaders."

Read the full entry ...

LGBT, Trans Organizations Call On News Networks To Improve Transgender Coverage

April 08, 2015 2:27 pm ET by Carlos Maza

LGBT organizations, transgender advocacy groups, and prominent transgender activists are calling on national news networks to improve their coverage of important transgender issues, including the disproportionate amount of violence targeted at trans women of color.

A recent Media Matters report found that national cable, broadcast, and Spanish-language news networks ignored the murders of seven transgender women of color in the United States in the first two months of 2015. Transgender news coverage often focused on sensationalized stories while excluding trans voices and ignoring the more substantive issues of violence and discrimination against transgender people.

In the wake of the report, LGBT organizations and transgender advocacy groups are calling on national news networks to improve their coverage.

National Center For Transgender Equality

Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, Policy Advisor for the Racial and Economic Justice Initiative at the National Center for Transgender Equality:

Violence against transgender women is an undeniable crisis in this country. In the first few months of this year alone, eight transgender women have been killed while state legislative attacks gain traction nationwide. Major news networks have largely ignored these attacks including the deaths of transgender women. NCTE calls on these news networks to accurately, fairly, and respectfully report on these murders and to allow transgender women, especially those of color, to speak about the discrimination and violence in their communities. To get the story right on news in America, that news must include the stories of transgender people.

TransLatin@ Coalition

Bamby Salcedo, President of the TransLatin@ Coalition:

As the epidemic of violence and murders targeting transgender women and gender non-conforming people continue to take place  throughout the nation, national news organizations remain silent on the issue. We need the media to elevate the voices of transgender women of color, to challenge the violence and discrimination directed at transgender people, and to commit to fairly and accurately reporting information about our community. In order to create a world without any violence, harassment, and discrimination, we need everyone to join us in raising awareness.

Trans Women Of Color Collective 

Lourdes Ashley Hunter, National Director of the Trans Women of Color Collective:

There is an epidemic of brutal violence against trans women of color that is inextricably linked to the structural oppression we face every day. In this country, it is completely legal to deny a trans women of color access to housing, employment, educational opportunities and healthcare. This legalized discrimination contributes to the socio-economic disenfranchisement of our community, which also puts us at risk for homelessness, poverty, heightened criminalization, and physical and state-sanctioned violence. In 2013, there were 14 reported murders of trans women of color. In 2014, the same year that our nation celebrated the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, 12 trans women of color were brutally murdered in a 6-month time span. And in the first two months of this year, 7 (reported) trans women of color have been brutally murdered. When media outlets do report on violence against trans women, they often carelessly and callously engage in violence by using “given names,” mug shots or recklessly including alleged criminal history when reporting on victims. The lack of national outrage reinforces a narrative that our lives are disposable.

Transgender Law Center

Kris Hayashi, Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center:

There is a crisis of violence against transgender women of color, and it is irresponsible for outlets to ignore that reality. By failing to recognize these epidemic levels of violence or listen to the voices of those impacted by it, our news contributes to the very climate that makes this violence possible. It sends the message that transgender women of color do not matter.

National LGBTQ Task Force

Kylar Broadus, Transgender Civil Rights Project Director at the National LGBTQ Task Force:

Eight transgender women and gender non-conforming people have been murdered across the US this year alone and not a single national news media outlet has reported on these homicides. This epidemic of violence must end and we need everyone’s help—from the classroom, to the newsroom, to the corridors of power. Everyone has a key role to play in creating a safe, just, and equitable society free from discrimination and persecution.


Nick Adams, Director of Communications and Special Projects at GLAAD:

The violence against transgender people, especially transgender women of color, must not be ignored. The stories of transgender people who face staggering levels of violence, poverty, and employment discrimination need to be told, as well as the stories of resilience and advocacy work coming from within the trans community. By telling these stories, the media will educate lawmakers, social service providers, and everyday Americans about the urgent need for trans-inclusive legal protections, competent social services, and widespread acceptance.

National Coalition Of Anti-Violence Programs

Osman Ahmed, Research and Education Coordinator at the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs:

The homicides of transgender women, and specifically transgender women of color, is an ongoing epidemic that has reached unprecedented levels with the seven homicides of transgender women of color in the first two months of 2015 alone. In just these two months NCAVP has documented more than half of the 12 homicides that were reported in all of 2014. While coverage of individual homicides has somewhat increased recently, it is time for the media to start connecting the dots and talking about the breadth and complexity of this violence. 

To read the full report, click here.

National News Networks Are Failing The Transgender Community

April 08, 2015 10:30 am ET by Carlos Maza & Rachel Percelay

Major broadcast and cable news networks are failing in their coverage of the transgender community, prioritizing sensational depictions of transgender people while ignoring important transgender stories, including the recent murders of seven transgender women of color, according to a new Media Matters report.

Broadcast, cable, and national Spanish-language news networks struggled to appropriately report on stories related to the transgender community -- when they choose to discuss those stories at all. A Media Matters report tracking transgender coverage on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, Telemundo and Univision in the first two months of 2015 raises concerns over the types of transgender stories being told in news media and the extent to which transgender people are allowed to speak for themselves on national television.

Which Transgender Stories Are Newsworthy?

Coverage of transgender stories on national news networks varies greatly. MSNBC and CNN, for example, devoted significant coverage to stories involving the trans community, while Fox News, ABC, and NBC largely avoided substantive discussions of transgender issues:

Of the cable and broadcast Sunday news shows, only MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry featured a discussion of trans issues:

When networks did discuss transgender stories, coverage was largely focused on the unusual circumstances of high-profile transgender individuals, rather than the shared experiences of the transgender community. Though CNN spent forty-six minutes discussing transgender issues, for example, over 80% coverage was centered on TV personality Bruce Jenner’s transition.

MSNBC’s transgender coverage, on the other hand, spotlighted more substantive issues, including the military’s ban on transgender service members, Smith College’s rejection of a transgender applicant, and shifting representations of trans people in the media:

While a few news hosts, including MSNBC’s Melissa Harris Perry and CNN’s Don Lemon, used these stories as opportunities to talk about broader issues affecting the transgender community, the norm was overwhelmingly in favor of focusing on the particularities of already sensationalized news events.

This kind of sensationalized focus on trans issues is both misleading and disempowering. In a March 2015 study of transgender representation in the media for the World Professional Association of Transgender Health, Jamie Colette Capuzza wrote

[T]ransgender people are largely “symbolically annihilated” by the mainstream news industry. Such invisibility makes this population more vulnerable to the power of other types of media images. Consumers may encounter transgender people more often than in the past, but these images lay primarily within entertainment media; even within the news genre, transgender people are featured more often in entertainment, arts, sports, and lifestyle sections. Audiences learn that transgender people are sources of entertainment more than they learn that transgender people face consequential and newsworthy obstacles as a community. [emphasis added]

Read the full entry ...

FLASHBACK: When Megyn Kelly Thought A “Religious Freedom” Law Was “Potentially Dangerous”

April 03, 2015 2:01 pm ET by Carlos Maza

Megyn Kelly has become one of the most vocal defenders of Indiana’s controversial “religious freedom” law on Fox News, dismissing concerns that the law might be used to discriminate against LGBT people. But in 2014, she decried an almost identical “religious freedom” law in Arizona, calling it “potentially dangerous.”

In February of 2014, one state was embroiled in a debate over a “religious freedom” law that had earned national attention. LGBT groups, the business community, and even sports organizations had spoken out against the law, warning that it could be used to discriminate against LGBT customers.

That state was Arizona, which had passed SB 1062, a measure that gave individuals and business owners a legal defense for refusing to serve LGBT customers if doing so violated their religious beliefs.

At the time, even Fox’s Megyn Kelly seemed uncomfortable with the measure, which was passed with the explicit purpose of allowing business to refuse to serve same-sex weddings. During the February 25 edition of The Kelly File, Kelly invited Fox senior political analyst Brit Hume on to her show to discuss the “controversial” law, which she called “an overreaction” and “potentially dangerous,” warning that it could be used to deny medical service to LGBT people:

HUME: This bill, according to its critics, would go much farther than that. It would basically allow businesses generally to refuse to sell or to provide services to a gay couple, anyone who is gay, if they could -

KELLY: Even medical services.

HUME: Even medical services, perhaps, to someone on the basis of the fact that they are homosexual and their religion forbids homosexuality and therefore they’re sincere about it… It seems to me that’s an order of magnitude greater than the legal right to deny services to a gay wedding.


KELLY: I look at this bill and I wonder whether this is a reaction, an overreaction, to people who feel under attack on this score. And in the end, they may have struck back in a way that’s deeply offensive to many and potentially dangerous to folks who are gay and lesbians and need medical services and other services being denied potentially.

Read the full entry ...

The Fox News Campaign To Defend Indiana's Anti-Gay "Religious Freedom" Law

April 02, 2015 3:14 pm ET by Carlos Maza

Fox News has been at the forefront of defending Indiana's controversial "religious freedom" law, falsely portraying the measure as harmless and whitewashing the anti-LGBT extremism that motivated the legislation.

On March 26, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed his state's "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (RFRA) into law. The law -- which has been criticized by religious leaders, the business communitylegal scholars, and even the Republican mayor of Indianapolis -- provides a legal defense for individuals and business owners who cite their religious beliefs while discriminating against LGBT people.

The law triggered a furious national backlash, with major companies, celebrities, and government leaders condemning the measure for potentially encouraging discrimination against LGBT Hoosiers. Pence and top Indiana Republicans eventually pledged to "clarify" the law by adding language that explicitly prohibits RFRA from being used as a defense for discrimination in court.

Throughout the controversy, a number of Fox News personalities whitewashed the law's discriminatory purpose and misleadingly compared Indiana's RFRA to other "religious freedom" laws -- a comparison that even a Fox News anchor acknowledged was inaccurate.

Read the full entry ...

Does MSNBC Know It’s Giving A Platform To An Anti-Gay Hate Group?

April 01, 2015 10:27 pm ET by Carlos Maza

MSNBC hosted a spokeswoman from a notorious anti-gay hate group twice in one day to discuss controversial “religious freedom” legislation, failing to identify her as an extremist who has opposed the decriminalization of gay sex.

On April 1, American Family Association (AFA) spokeswoman Sandy Rios appeared twice on MSNBC during segments discussing a number of controversial “religious freedom” laws being debated in state legislatures. The AFA has been labeled an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of its history of anti-gay extremism, including blaming gay men for the Holocaust and supporting the criminalization of homosexuality.

Rios herself is an anti-gay extremist who has denied that homophobia motivated Matthew Shepard’s murder, opposed a Supreme Court decision decriminalizing gay sex, believes people can choose to “stop being gay,” and has stated that being gay is “broken hearts, it’s disease.”

Rios appeared on NewsNation with Tamron Hall to defend Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), where she falsely claimed that RFRAs weren’t intended to allow for anti-LGBT discrimination:

Read the full entry ...

Jake Tapper Asks The Simple "Religious Freedom" Question His Conservative Guest Can't Answer

April 01, 2015 5:59 pm ET by Carlos Maza

CNN’s Jake Tapper grilled a lawmaker who sponsored Arkansas’ “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA), demonstrating the hypocrisy of conservatives who deny that “religious freedom” laws are intended to protect anti-gay discrimination.

Conservative media outlets have been scrambling to defend “religious freedom” laws in places like Indiana and Arkansas, which provide a legal defense for businesses and individuals who cite their religious beliefs in order to refuse service to LGBT customers. Proponents of these two states’ RFRAs have repeatedly denied that the “religious freedom” laws would allow for anti-LGBT discrimination, despite evidence to the contrary.

During the April 1 edition of The Lead with Jake Tapper, Tapper interviewed Arkansas state Senator Bart Hester (R), a sponsor of the state’s proposed RFRA. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson declined to sign the measure into law today, suggesting that it be reworked to more closely mirror federal law. Tapper began the interview by asking whether RFRA would allow Christian business owners to discriminate against same-sex couples if they felt serving them would violate their religious beliefs. Hester responded that RFRA doesn’t allow discrimination but would allow Christian businesses to refuse gay customers.

The result was an awkward four minute exchange during which Tapper repeatedly tried to get Hester to acknowledge that refusing service to a gay couple is, in fact, discrimination:

TAPPER: This is what I don’t understand with supporters of this type of legislation. Would it allow the florist to not give flowers to the same-sex couple or not? You’re saying almost two things. You’re saying that there’s no discrimination, but the Christian conservative doesn’t have to participate in a ceremony they find objectionable. It’s just one or the other. I’m just trying to figure out what it does, I’m not judging the legislation.


TAPPER: How are they going to stay true to their conservative Christian beliefs and also not discriminate? This is what I don’t get here. Are you saying that they can hold true and not participate in an event that they don’t find holy, that they think is objectionable or sinful? Or are you saying that they have to? I’m confused.


TAPPER: I feel like people who are supporting this law are kind of fudging whether or not standing up for the Christian conservatives allows them to discriminate against same-sex couples in a ceremony or an event that they don’t sanction. It would permit discrimination, is what you’re saying, in the name of their religious rights.

Read the full entry ...

Another Megyn Kelly Fib About Indiana’s “Religious Freedom” Law And LGBT Civil Rights

April 01, 2015 11:14 am ET by Carlos Maza

Megyn Kelly continued her misinformation campaign in defense of Indiana’s “religious freedom” law, claiming that the measure won’t further discrimination against LGBT people because discrimination is already allowed in Indiana, due to a lack of statewide protections against anti-gay discrimination. In fact, the “religious freedom” law threatens to trump municipal non-discrimination policies that cover sexual orientation, such as the one in Indianapolis.

On the March 31 edition of Fox News’ The Kelly File, Kelly hosted yet another misleading segment on Indiana’s widely-criticized “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” a law that provides a legal defense for individuals and businesses who cite their religious beliefs against private plaintiffs or the government when refusing to serve LGBT people.

Kelly invited Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay hate group the Family Research Council (FRC), to defend the law for the second night in a row. During the segment, Kelly argued that RFRA couldn’t lead to discrimination because LGBT persons in Indiana are not guaranteed equal treatment under the law:

KELLY: Even though Governor Pence, for some reason, will not get specific about whether this law would specifically, in any case, allow a florist, for example, objecting to a gay wedding to decline to participate in the gay wedding – let’s just assume for the purposes of this hypothetical that discrimination against gays was illegal in Indiana – which it’s not, by the way –


KELLY: But if it were, do you believe that this law would then protect the religious objector?


KELLY: I want the viewers to understand this, that this law does not allow discrimination against gays.


KELLY: That is already legal in the state of Indiana!


KELLY: Until the state of Indiana – it is, Tony!

PERKINS: But how often does it happen?

KELLY: Until the state recognizes gays and lesbians as a protected class and passes an anti-discrimination law against them, they can be fired for any reason, they can not be served for any reason.

Read the full entry ...

David Brooks Ignores NYT’s Reporting To Defend Indiana’s “Religious Freedom” Law

March 31, 2015 12:02 pm ET by Carlos Maza

New York Times columnist David Brooks ignored his paper’s reporting to defend Indiana’s controversial new “religious freedom” law, misleadingly equating it with its federal version and misrepresenting the reason it has sparked such widespread opposition.

Indiana has been embroiled in controversy since it passed its version of a “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA), a law that has been used to provide a legal defense for individuals and businesses who cite their religious beliefs as a justification for discriminating against gay people, even in lawsuits that don’t involve the government.

In his March 31 column, Brooks joined a number of conservative defenders of the law in falsely suggesting that Indiana’s measure is no different than the federal RFRA signed into law in 1993. Brooks also erroneously stated that opponents of Indiana’s dangerous expansion of the federal RFRA (and previous state versions) are not respecting the “valid tension” between religious belief and permissible discrimination, when in fact the main objection to the law is that Indiana has upset the previous balance to further undercut antidiscrimination protections:

The 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was supported by Senator Ted Kennedy and a wide posse of progressives, sidestepped the abstract and polarizing theological argument. It focused on the concrete facts of specific cases. The act basically holds that government sometimes has to infringe on religious freedom in order to pursue equality and other goods, but, when it does, it should have a compelling reason and should infringe in the least intrusive way possible.

This moderate, grounded, incremental strategy has produced amazing results. Fewer people have to face the horror of bigotry, isolation, marginalization and prejudice.

Yet I wonder if this phenomenal achievement is going off the rails. Indiana has passed a state law like the 1993 federal act, and sparked an incredible firestorm.

If the opponents of that law were arguing that the Indiana statute tightens the federal standards a notch too far, that would be compelling. But that’s not the argument the opponents are making.

Instead, the argument seems to be that the federal act’s concrete case-by-case approach is wrong. The opponents seem to be saying there is no valid tension between religious pluralism and equality. Claims of religious liberty are covers for anti-gay bigotry. [emphasis added]

Read the full entry ...

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