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Daily Caller Op-Ed Blames LGBT Community For Suicide Of Transgender Teen

January 09, 2015 1:54 pm ET by Carlos Maza

An op-ed in The Daily Caller blamed the LGBT community for helping cause the tragic suicide of Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teen who took her own life after being rejected by her religious parents.

On Sunday, December 29, the 17-year-old transgender teenager took her own life by walking into traffic miles from her home in Ohio. In her suicide note, which she posted online, Alcorn described the difficult conditions she faced in her life: unaccepting parents, religious conversion therapy, and isolation from her peers.

Alcorn’s death has become a rallying cry in the fight against transphobic discrimination and conversion therapy. LGBT youth raised in non-accepting religious families are much more likely to attempt suicide, and Alcorn’s story is a heartbreaking example of the kind of anguish and hopelessness many LGBT youth experience when facing unwelcoming home environments.

But according to David Benkof in Daily Caller, it’s the LGBT community that’s to blame for Alcorn’s suicide. In a January 7 op-ed titled “The LGBT Community’s ‘Suicide Strategy’ Killed Leelah Alcorn,” freelance writer David Benkof argues that Leelah killed herself in order to help advance the LGBT agenda:

Because Leelah’s death (she was struck by a semi-trailer after stepping onto a highway) grew directly out of the LGBT community’s longstanding rhetorical “suicide strategy,” which goes something like this:

We need same-sex marriage because gay teens will kill themselves if they don’t feel equal.

[…]

Leelah knew that the gay community habitually points to teen suicide as an impetus for social and political change. Sadly, she found meaning in trying to pitch in, hoping her death would further advance LGBT rights.

[…]

Leelah’s death doesn’t call for a retread of pro-gay advocacy. Instead, it should be a sober opportunity for the LGBT community to re-examine its suicide strategy, lest they continue to encourage more Leelahs.

Benkof goes on to argue that LGBT activists are “almost gleeful” about Alcorn’s suicide because it gives them “one more opportunity to gather sympathy for their social and political goals.”

In August, Benkof blamed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell for the rise of rape in the military. As Media Matters has previously noted:

Benkof (formerly known as David Bianco) once identified as a gay man, but in 2003, he announced that he was actually bisexual and would abstain from sex with men for religious reasons. Since then, Benkof has been a vocal opponent of marriage equality.  He has urged the LGBT community to “let go of their obsessive insistence on being treated equally at all costs,” and opposed even basic non-discrimination protections as “a threat to marriage.” 

Previously:

Daily Caller Defends Racist, Transphobic Writer Against “Politically Correct Hysteria”

Daily Caller Column Blames Gay Service Members For Rise In Military Rape

Daily Caller Uses Transphobic Slur Against Activist Janet Mock

TLC’s “My Husband’s Not Gay” Stars A Prominent “Ex-Gay” Activist

January 08, 2015 4:15 pm ET by Carlos Maza

TLC denies claims that its newest show, “My Husband’s Not Gay,” helps promote the discredited notion that gay men can choose to be heterosexual. But one of the show’s stars has a history of promoting “ex-gay” therapy, even acting as a spokesman for a major “ex-gay” organization.

TLC’s new show, which follows a group of men who admit to being attracted to other men but have chosen to date and marry women, has been widely criticized by members of the LGBT community for promoting the widely discredited practice of “ex-gay” or “reparative” therapy.

GLAAD has condemned the program, calling it “downright irresponsible” and warning that it puts “countless young LGBT people in harm’s way.” Truth Wins Out, a group dedicated to stopping “ex-gay” therapy, has pointed out that many of the shows stars are closely affiliated with North Star, a fringe Mormon “ex-gay” group. So far, a Change.org petition calling for the show’s cancellation has gathered nearly 100,000 signatures.

TLC has thus far shrugged off the criticism.  “TLC has long shared compelling stories about real people and different ways of life, without judgment,” the network said in a statement. “The individuals featured in this one-hour special reveal the decisions they have made, and speak only for themselves.”

But one of the stars of TLC’s show – Preston “Pret” Dahlgren – has a history of speaking on behalf of “ex-gay” ministries, repeatedly using his testimony to promote organizations that promote reparative therapy.

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

January 08, 2015 9:24 am ET by Zachary Pleat

Fox News contributor and radio talk show host Erick Erickson declared that "the terrorists won in Atlanta" after right-wing media falsely claimed that Atlanta's anti-gay fire chief was terminated for his religious beliefs.

On January 6, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed dismantled conservatives' claims that Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran was fired over a book that he wrote which contains anti-gay remarks, explaining that Cochran's lack of judgment in distributing the book to his employees, and not following instructions regarding his month-long suspension over publishing the book without notice to the city, is what led to his termination.

On January 7, hours after a horrific terrorist attack against staffers of the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris that left 12 people dead, Erickson wrote a blog post that likened the LGBT community to terrorists for objecting to the former Atlanta fire chief's book, and stated that "the terrorists won":

A publisher published something that offended. It mocked, it offended, and it showed the fallacy of a religion. It angered.

So the terrorists decided they needed to publicly destroy and ruin the publisher in a way that would not only make that destruction a public spectacle, but do it so spectacularly that others would think twice before publishing or saying anything similar.

The terrorist wants to sow fear. The destruction of an individual is not just meant to be a tool of vengeance, but a tool of instruction. It shows others what will happen to them if they dare do the same. It is generates self-regulating peer pressure. Others, fearing the fall out, will being to self-police and self-regulate. They will silence others on behalf of the terrorists. Out of fear, they will drive the ideas from the public square and society will make them off limits.

[...]

So they demanded the Mayor of Atlanta fire the Chief of the Fire Department for daring to write that his first duty was to "glory God" and that any sex outside of heterosexual marriage was a sin.

And the terrorists won in Atlanta.

Previously:

Atlanta’s Mayor Dismantles “Religious Freedom” Defense Of Terminated Anti-Gay Fire Chief

Atlanta’s Mayor Dismantles “Religious Freedom” Defense Of Terminated Anti-Gay Fire Chief

January 07, 2015 1:31 pm ET by Carlos Maza

Conservative media are falsely claiming that Atlanta’s anti-gay fire chief was fired from his job because of his Christian faith, ignoring the unprofessional behavior that actually led to his termination.

On January 6, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed terminated Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, following a month-long suspension which began as a response to anti-gay comments Cochran made in a self-published 2013 religious book.

Cochran was suspended after employees complained about inflammatory remarks in his book, “Who Told You That You Were Naked?,” which included calling homosexuality a “perversion” akin to bestiality and pederasty. Cochran had distributed copies of his book to employees at the fire department.  

Cochran’s suspension and eventual firing prompted a predictable reaction from right-wing commentators decrying alleged Christian persecution. Fox News contributor Erick Erickson claimed that Cochran had been fired for “being a Christian,” while Fox News reporter Todd Starnes suggested that Cochran was being persecuted for his religious beliefs.

But in a January 6 press conference, Mayor Reed stressed that the decision to fire Cochran wasn’t based on his religious beliefs:

The mayor said he decided to terminate Cochran not just because the fire chief didn’t consult him before publishing the book, but also spoke out about his suspension despite being told to remain quiet during the investigation into his leadership. What’s more, Reed said he believes Cochran opened up the city to the potential for litigation over future discrimination claims.

Reed stressed that his decision is not because of Cochran’s faith: “His religious (beliefs) are not the basis of the problem. His judgment is the basis of the problem.”

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The Death Of The Transphobic “Bathroom Bill” Myth?

December 28, 2014 5:47 pm ET by Carlos Maza

For years, efforts to pass laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination in employment and public accommodations have been derailed by the right-wing myth that sexual predators will exploit those laws to sneak into women’s restrooms. In 2014, that myth finally began to lose steam.

Anti-LGBT activists have had tremendous success defeating non-discrimination protections for LGBT people by fearmongering about women’s restrooms. The typical talking point goes like this: If it becomes illegal to discriminate against LGBT people, male sexual predators will pretend to be transgender in order to enter women’s restrooms and commit crimes with impunity.

That horror story, as absurd as it is, has been around since the inception of the modern fight for LGBT equality. It’s a wildly popular tactic on the right, largely due to its effectiveness. It’s a talking point that touches on concerns about privacy, child safety, and sexual assault, and it’s been extremely useful in persuading even moderate voters and politicians to vote against legal protections for the LGBT community.

It’s also a talking point that’s been thoroughly debunked by law enforcement experts, advocates for victims of sexual abuse, and government officials in states and cities that have had LGBT non-discrimination laws in place for years.

But given the public’s general lack of familiarity with transgender people and their experiences, it hasn’t been hard to get voters more concerned with the prospect of wig-donning criminals sneaking into public bathrooms.

The myth has been used to attack all kinds of pro-LGBT protections -- city non-discrimination ordinancesfederal employment law, and school diversity policies. It’s not unusual for anti-LGBT conservatives to simply rebrand broad non-discrimination laws as “bathroom bills” – phrasing that was unfortunately often adopted by news outlets.

That trend was strong in 2014, with conservative media outlets like Fox News regularly peddling “bathroom bill” talking points to attack non-discrimination laws like the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. 

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Major Cleveland Outlet Is Dead Wrong About The City's Transgender Non-Discrimination Law

December 22, 2014 10:28 am ET by Carlos Maza

Cleveland.com, the news portal for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Northeast Ohio Media Group (NOMG), is grossly misrepresenting an ordinance that would protect transgender people from discrimination in public accommodations, falsely claiming the measure will open public restrooms to both genders.

The Cleveland City Council is considering an ordinance that would close a loophole in the city’s non-discrimination law that currently allows places of public accommodations to deny transgender people access to restrooms and other facilities.

The ordinance would bring Cleveland’s non-discrimination law in line with those of dozens of other major cities – including nearby Columbus -- by essentially removing an exemption in current public accommodations law which allows businesses to refuse bathroom access to transgender people based on their gender identity. That exemption reads:

(g) Nothing in this section shall be construed to establish unlawful discrimination based on actual or perceived gender identity or expression due to the denial of access to bathrooms, showers, locker rooms or dressing facilities, provided reasonable access to adequate facilities is available;

Removing the loophole is a common sense solution aimed at alleviating the discrimination and violence that transgender people often face when using restrooms that don’t correspond with their gender identity.

But Cleveland.com has repeatedly mischaracterized the ordinance in its reporting, claiming that the measure will open all restrooms up to both sexes.  

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Family Research Council's Craig James Isn’t Sure If Gay People Should Be Executed

December 16, 2014 11:10 am ET by Carlos Maza

A former Fox Sports analyst-turned-hate group spokesman couldn’t bring himself to disagree with a radio show caller who suggested that gay people who file discrimination complaints against business should be killed.

In September of 2013, Craig James was fired from his job as a football analyst on Fox Sports due to anti-gay remarks he made during a failed 2012 Senate run. His termination made him a celebrity among anti-gay groups, and he was eventually hired as an assistant to Tony Perkins, president of the extreme anti-LGBT hate group Family Research Council (FRC).

During the December 12 edition of FRC’s “Washington Watch” radio program, James spoke with a caller who suggested that gay people who filed discrimination complaints against anti-gay business owners should be put to death. “I don’t know,” responded James, before adding that Christians “have to be bold and firm and much stronger” in their opposition to LGBT equality:

JAMES: Thank you Phillip. You know what, that part there, I don’t know about the executing, but I do know that we have to be bold and firm and much stronger. God doesn’t tell us and calls us that we have to be timid and to stand for our straight — our beliefs. I’m doing a course right now in seminary and it’s the history of the early church and it’s fascinating, there’s been lots and lots and lots of men and women who have died for their Christian beliefs since the beginning and now we are in a time in this country and in this world where we must be bold and stand for God and His truths.

James’ ambivalence about whether gay people should be put to death is – shockingly – not totally unprecedented at FRC. The extreme hate group previously praised Uganda’s notorious “kill-the-gays” law for upholding “moral conduct.”

FRC has lost much of its influence on major cable news networks, though the group continues to be a regular fixture on Fox News. 

Previously:

Fired Fox Sports Employee Is Now Working For An Anti-Gay Hate Group

Family Research Council Laments That Homophobia Isn't Welcome At Fox Sports

The Duggars Just Made It Easier To Discriminate Against LGBT People. Will TLC React?

December 11, 2014 4:11 pm ET by Carlos Maza

The Duggar family – made famous by TLC's popular reality television show – just helped repeal an ordinance protecting LGBT people from discrimination. What responsibility does TLC have for the work being carried out by its reality TV superstars?

Since the debut of their TLC reality show 19 Kids and Counting in 2008, the Duggar family has slowly evolved from a television novelty to a prominent icon in Republican politics. Their religious fervor, opposition to abortion, and emphasis on conservative “family values” have helped transform them into champions for social conservatives who now make frequent appearances on the campaign trail for GOP candidates. Many have noted the disturbing and ultra-conservative radicalism that lies beneath the Duggar’s “family values” – namely the family’s extreme views on women’s and LGBT rights.

But the Duggar family has maintained a largely symbolic role in right-wing politics – acting more as champions of a socially conservative ideal than as actual players in the fight against social progress.

Until this week.

On December 9, the city of Fayetteville, Arkansas, voted 52 to 48 percent to repeal its recently-enacted Ordinance 119, a measure that would have prohibited discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and several other categories. 

National news outlets correctly credited the Duggar family for helping repeal the measure. Michelle Duggar, the matriarch of the Duggar family, recorded a robocall earlier this year urging voters to oppose the ordinance, falsely claiming that it would allow male sexual predators to enter women’s restrooms. The family donated $10,000 to the campaigns of three vocal opponents of the ordinance. Josh Duggar, who is Executive Director of FRC Action – the political arm of the anti-gay hate group Family Research Council – used his position to urge voters to repeal of the ordinance.

The margin for repeal was less than 500 votes. Given the amount of even local media coverage the Duggars’ involvement received, it’s not a stretch to suggest that the family played a significant role in helping repeal the ordinance.

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School Athletic Officials Debunk Horror Stories About Transgender Student Athletes

December 10, 2014 10:29 am ET by Carlos Maza

Conservative media are criticizing the Minnesota State High School League for adopting a policy that will allow transgender student athletes to play on the sports teams that correspond with their gender identity, warning that the policy will cause gender confusion, inappropriate behavior in locker rooms, and unfairness for female athletes. But officials from athletic leagues across the country haven’t reported problems since enacting similar trans-inclusive policies.

On December 4, the Minnesota State High School League voted overwhelmingly to adopt a policy that would allow transgender students to participate on the athletic teams that correspond to their gender identity.

The policy was approved despite a right-wing misinformation campaign which tried to derail the measure by stoking fears about female locker rooms and student privacy. That campaign was led by the extreme Minnesota Child Protection League, which produced ads warning that trans-inclusive athletic teams would cause the “END OF GIRLS’ SPORTS” and allow boys to take showers with girls. Those talking points were echoed by conservative media outlets including Fox NewsTownhall, and WorldNetDaily. An unhinged article in The Federalist warned that the policy would be “psychologically destabilizing” and “encourage children to reject their bodies.” The policy’s adoption has only fanned the flames of conservative media outrage.

But Minnesota is hardly the first state to allow transgender student athletes to play on the teams they feel comfortable with. School athletic leagues across the country have had similar policies for transgender students in place for years without experiencing the problems predicted by conservative activists.

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Cleveland.com's Editorial Board Stokes Fears Over Transgender Non-Discrimination Law

December 08, 2014 5:36 pm ET by Carlos Maza

Several of Cleveland.com's editorial board members misrepresented a proposed non-discrimination ordinance that would prohibit discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations - including the use of restrooms and locker rooms - by peddling the myth that sexual predators will be allowed to sneak into women's bathrooms.

Cleveland City Council is considering an ordinance that would prohibit places of public accommodation from denying transgender people access to restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity. The ordinance would remove a loophole in existing civil rights law, which explicitly allowed businesses to deny access to restrooms based on a person's gender identity.

On December 4, Cleveland.com - the news portal for the Northeast Ohio Media Group and Cleveland's Plain Dealer - published an editorial board roundtable several writers criticized the ordinance, claiming it would give "both genders... access to all bathrooms and locker rooms." Many of the editorial comments warned that the measure would allow male sexual predators to sneak into women's restrooms:

Sharon Broussard, editorial writer, Northeast Ohio Media Group:

[...]

I am not comfortable with a broad, gender-neutral bathroom ordinance that would make it easier for heterosexual men with criminal intent or just kinky habits to gain access to bathrooms used by women and children. And they are out there.

[...]

Peter Krouse, editorial writer, Northeast Ohio Media Group:

[...]

I don't think opening up all bathrooms to both sexes is the answer. That would deny people, males and females, the privacy they deserve and possibly put them in uncomfortable or compromising situations. It could also create a fertile environment for predators to strike. 

[...]

Kevin O'Brien, deputy editorial page editor, The Plain Dealer:

[...]

Just go by the external appearance of the plumbing the good Lord gave you and keep your "expressions" to yourself.

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Misleading Anti-Transgender Newspaper Ads Spark Outrage in Minnesota

December 01, 2014 4:03 pm ET by Joe Strupp

A controversial ad that ran in three Minnesota newspapers this weekend opposing a statewide transgender rights school policy is being criticized for misleading readers with false, fear-based claims about student treatment.

The full-page ad, placed by the Minnesota Child Protection League, depicts a female ballplayer with the headline: "THE END OF GIRLS' SPORTS?"

The MCPL, an anti-LGBT organization focused on education, is targeting a new proposed policy that would allow transgender high school student athletes to play on the teams that correspond to their gender identity if they provide sufficient documentation that they either intend to transition or are currently transitioning. 

Their ad warns that under the policy, "your 14-year-old daughter just lost her position on an all-girl team to a male... and now she may have to shower with him."

The ad appeared in The Star-Tribune of Minneapolis, the St. Cloud Times and the Duluth News Tribune.

The policy, which is under consideration by the Minnesota State High School League, is set to be considered at a public meeting on Thursday.

The ad has sparked opposition from several LGBT equality groups, including Outfront Minnesota, which issued a call for protest that criticized the ad for spreading "misinformation and fear" and stated, in part: "Trans students deserve full affirmation and support, including the chance to compete in sports with their peers." 

Other local activists termed the ads "misleading," "hurtful," and based in "ignorance."  

The Star-Tribune and the St. Cloud Times did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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This Right-Wing Legal Powerhouse Wants To Make Gay Sex Illegal

November 19, 2014 10:41 am ET by Carlos Maza

Few anti-LGBT groups get as much media attention as the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the right-wing legal organization best known for defending anti-gay business owners who refuse to comply with nondiscrimination laws. But while ADF’s “religious liberty” work generates plenty of headlines, few media outlets have highlighted the most extreme facet of ADF’s legal agenda: criminalizing homosexuality.

ADF is a multimillion dollar Christian legal organization that’s garnered national attention over the past several months thanks to its work defending anti-gay business owners who refuse to serve same-sex couples. It’s been described as “the 800-pound gorilla of the Christian right,” and media outlets are increasingly reporting on the group’s legal efforts. ADF has become a fixture on Fox News, but its involvement in crafting Arizona’s license-to-discriminate law in early 2014 attracted coverage from other networks as well. In October, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat apologized after he spoke at an ADF fundraiser.

But aside from a handful of examples, media outlets have failed to highlight just how extreme ADF’s anti-gay agenda really is. While the group prefers to talk about its “religious liberty” work when in the media spotlight, ADF is actively working to promote and defend anti-sodomy laws that criminalize gay sex.

United States

ADF’s formal support for anti-sodomy laws 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:

[S]ame-sex sodomy is far more effective in spreading STDs than opposite-sex sodomy. Multiple studies have estimated that 40 percent or more of men who practice anal sex acquire STDs. In fact, same-sex sodomy has resulted in the transformation of diseases previously transmitted only through fecally contaminated food and water into sexually causes diseases -- primarily among those who practice same-sex sodomy.

The issue under rational-basis review is not whether Texas should be concerned about opposite-sex sodomy, but whether it is reasonable to believe that same-sex sodomy is a distinct public health problem. It clearly is. [emphasis added]

In 2003, ADF president Alan Sears co-wrote a book titled The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing The Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today, which warned that eliminating anti-sodomy lawswould lead to the overturning of “laws against pedophilia, sex between close relatives, polygamy, bestiality and all other distortions and violations of God’s plan.”

The Supreme Court disagreed, striking down state bans on gay sex in its Lawrence v. Texas decision. But over a decade later, ADF continues to argue that Lawrence was wrongly decided. In 2011, ADF senior counsel Kevin Theriot criticized then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for making the case that “the freedom to engage in homosexual behavior” is a “basic human right.” Theriot also wrote that “claiming a legal right to engage in homosexual behavior comes at the cost of religious freedom.”

But while ADF has largely run out of options for promoting the criminalization of homosexuality in America, the group has taken its anti-sodomy agenda overseas. ADF’s “Foreign Threats” page urges supporters to contribute to ADF’s international efforts to “help stop devastating rulings” against religious freedom like Lawrence, which ADF claims “fabricate[d] legal protection for homosexual sodomy”:

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Meet Cathi Herrod, Arizona’s Extreme Anti-LGBT “Legislative Terrorist”

November 13, 2014 5:02 pm ET by Carlos Maza

An NBC affiliate in Arizona aired a softball interview with Cathi Herrod, the state’s leading anti-LGBT culture warrior. But while the segment depicted Herrod as a victimized Christian activist, it ignored her history of peddling extreme smears about the LGBT community while fighting against basic legal protections for gays and lesbians.

On November 7, NBC’s Phoenix affiliate Channel 12 News aired an interview with Herrod, the president of the right-wing Center for Arizona Policy (CAP). A promo for the segment described Herrod’s critics as being “hypocritical,” depicting her as a “Christian catching hell”  because of her religious beliefs.

The interview itself, conducted by Channel 12 anchor Lin Sue Cooney, similarly painted Herrod as a victim of “hate” from LGBT activists. The segment, which highlighted Herrod’s Christian faith and upbringing, described her work as “protecting traditional values”:

But Channel 12’s description of Herrod’s work glossed over the extremism that motivates her and her organization’s anti-LGBT work.

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Cleveland.com Falsely Claims Non-Discrimination Law Would Open Women’s Restrooms To Men

November 10, 2014 4:53 pm ET by Carlos Maza

An article published on Cleveland.com falsely suggested that the city’s proposed gender identity non-discrimination ordinance would be exploited by men who want to sneak into women’s restrooms and showers.

The Cleveland City Council is considering an ordinance that would expand the city’s non-discrimination law to prohibit business from denying transgender people access to restrooms or facilities that correspond with their gender identity.

In a November 6 article published on Cleveland.com, Northeast Ohio Media Group (NEOMG) reporter Leila Atassi claimed the legislation would “open all public restrooms and showers to both sexes”:

In an effort to help transgendered people feel more comfortable using public restrooms, Cleveland City Council is considering an ordinance that would require businesses to make their restrooms, showers and locker rooms available to both sexes.

And barring one gender from using a facility designated for the other would be a crime punishable by a $1,000 fine.

The measure, which will be discussed at a Workforce and Community Benefits Committee meeting Wednesday, is part of a package of ordinances that update the city's existing anti-discrimination laws to include the transgender community. (Read the legislation in the document viewer below.)

Councilmen Joe Cimperman and Matt Zone, who sponsored the legislation dealing with the "public accommodations" of private businesses, said in interviews Thursday that the measure is designed to give transgender people the power to use whichever restroom aligns with their gender identity.

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Anti-LGBT Conservatives Are Rallying In Defense Of Election Fraud In Houston

November 03, 2014 4:37 pm ET by Carlos Maza

Texas conservatives failed to submit enough valid signatures to put Houston’s city-wide non-discrimination ordinance up for a public vote in November. Now those conservatives, led by Fox News, are pressuring the city to accept signatures determined to be improperly collected or otherwise irregular in order to “let the people vote” to repeal the measure.

In August, opponents of Houston’s recently enacted Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) reportedly submitted more than the seventeen thousand signatures needed to qualify put the measure on the November ballot. However, upon review of the petition under the City Charter, City Attorney David Feldman determined that thousands of the signatures failed to meet the legal requirements set by local and state law for a voter referendum. As explained by the Mayor’s office:

“The Charter requirements are in place to ensure a fair and legal process, absent of fraud,” said City Attorney David Feldman.  “In this instance, there are too many documents with irregularities and problems to overlook.  The petition is simply invalid.  There is no other conclusion.”

[…]

“I fully expect the petitioners will want to fight this decision at the courthouse,” said Mayor Annise Parker.  “I am confident the courts will agree that the rules set out in our Charter and state law to protect the integrity of the process should be followed and that the results of our review will be upheld.  The judicial review will provide additional assurance to the voters that the process has been fair.”

On November 2, thousands of conservatives met in Houston at the “I Stand Sunday” rally to demand that the city government allow for a public vote on the ordinance, despite the failure of the repeal petition. The event, which was hosted by the anti-gay hate group Family Research Council (FRC), was widely promoted by Fox News and featured speeches from Fox’s Todd Starnes and Mike Huckabee.

At the rally, speakers demanded that the city of Houston “let the people vote” on the ordinance, accusing openly gay Mayor Annise Parker of violating the religious liberty of HERO’s opponents by refusing to count their improperly collected signatures:

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

October 30, 2014 2:54 pm ET by Carlos Maza

Fox News helped turn a bogus story about the subpoenaing of a handful of Houston pastors into a national rallying cry for religious liberty. Now the network is helping promote an event that will pit some of the country’s most extreme anti-LGBT voices against the city’s non-discrimination ordinance.

In May, the city of Houston made history by enacting the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), a measure which prohibits discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and several other categories. The ordinance was championed by the city’s first openly gay mayor, Democrat Annise Parker.

Opponents of HERO – led by the Houston Area Pastors Council – responded by launching an effort to put a repeal of the ordinance on the ballot in November. Their campaign peddled the myth that HERO would allow men and sexual predators to enter women’s restrooms – a myth that was widely circulated by local media. Though opponents submitted the required number of signatures to put HERO on the ballot, City Attorney Dave Feldman determined that many of the signatures were collected improperly and the city announced that not enough valid signatures had been collected to put HERO on the ballot.

Opponents quickly filed a lawsuit to have the signatures reviewed, prompting the city to respond by subpoenaing five local pastors for a broad range of documents – including sermons and personal communications – related to their opposition to HERO.

On October 14, Fox News reporter and serial misinformer Todd Starnes broke the news of the subpoenas, misleadingly characterizing them as an “attempt to deconstruct religious liberty” and describing HERO as a “bathroom bill. Starnes’ report relied heavily on spin from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the extreme right-wing legal group representing the pastors in their effort to quash the subpoenas. ADF attorney Christina Holcomb called the subpoenas “an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of [the city’s] actions.”

Before long, Starnes’ report made the jump to Fox News’ airwaves. On October 15, Starnes appeared on The Kelly File to discuss the story, describing HERO as a measure that would let “men who identify as women” to use women’s restrooms:

Following Starnes’ appearance was followed by a barrage of misleading segments about the story, all of which depicted the subpoenas as an attack on religious liberty. Several Fox personalities incorrectly described the subpoenas as part of the enforcement of HERO, suggesting that the ordinance might criminalize anti-gay speech. Many others repeated Starnes’ lie that HERO would allow men to use women’s restrooms. In the four days following Starnes’ initial report, Fox had spent nearly half an hour of airtime peddling falsehoods abut Houston’s subpoenas*.

Fox’s panicked coverage was grossly misleading and left out crucial details about the anti-HERO lawsuit. But it worked perfectly as a right-wing horror story about Christians being victimized by a city’s attempt to protect LGBT people.

Soon, Houston had become – as one Fox anchor put it - “ground zero for religious liberty.” Major conservative media outlets quickly regurgitated Starnes’ and ADF’s victimization spin. Conservative groups – led by the notorious anti-gay hate group the Family Research Council (FRC) – began organizing “I Stand Sunday,” a November 2 rally in Houston to support the pastors who had been “unduly intimidated by the city’s Mayor.”

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Anti-Gay Columnist MacKinnon Out At The Tampa Tribune

October 28, 2014 2:12 pm ET by Joe Strupp

Just days after suggesting that some southern states should secede from the U.S. to form a new country that is based on "traditional values" and less tolerant of the LGBT community, columnist Douglas MacKinnon has left his job at the Tampa Tribune, according to the paper's publisher. 

MacKinnon, a former aide to Ronald Reagan, recently published The Secessionist States of America: The Blueprint for Creating a Traditional Values Country...Now. According to Right Wing Watch, during a recent interview with conservative radio host Janet Mefferd promoting the book, MacKinnon "specifically cited advances in gay rights as a reason for Southern states to leave the U.S. and create a new country." His proposal -- including floating "Reagan" as an "interim name" for the new country -- received widespread ridicule

Citing unnamed sources, Tampa outlet Creative Loafing reported Monday that MacKinnon had been fired, speculating that it was "because of the embarrassment to the paper." Tampa Tribune publisher Brian Burns confirmed to Media Matters today that MacKinnon was indeed leaving the paper, but declined to give a reason. According to Burns, "at this point, no he is not employed." 

Asked by Media Matters to clarify if MacKinnon had been fired or quit, Burns said, "I really can't comment on it, it's a personnel issue so we gotta keep that internal."

MacKinnon could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

MacKinnon's secession proposal follows an incident in August when the columnist sparked controversy for a piece that claimed the Walt Disney Company had a "pro-gay agenda" and was trying to "indoctrinate" children.

The Tribune later pulled that column from its website.

Previously:

Tampa Tribune Pulls "Repugnant" Anti-Gay Column

Tampa Tribune Columnist: Disney Is “Indoctrinating” Children With A “Pro-Gay Agenda”

Watch This ADF Attorney Call Matthew Shepard’s Murder A Hate Crime Hoax

October 28, 2014 10:23 am ET by Carlos Maza

An attorney for anti-LGBT extremist group the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) peddled the myth that the story of Matthew Shepard’s brutal anti-gay murder was fabricated in order to advance the “homosexual agenda.”

On October 27, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission held its annual national conference in Nashville, Tennessee. The conference, “The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage,” featured a presentation led by attorneys from the notoriously anti-LGBT legal group ADF.

During the presentation, ADF attorney Erik Stanley told the audience that “the end game of the homosexual legal agenda is unfettered sexual liberty and the silencing of all dissent.” After lamenting the fact that television shows like Modern Family had “normalized homosexual behavior,” Stanley went on to claim that the “narrative” of Matthew Shepard’s brutal murder had been “debunked”: 

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The Guardian Promotes Discredited, Debunked Book About Matthew Shepard’s Murder

October 27, 2014 3:51 pm ET by Carlos Maza

The Guardian helped peddle a thoroughly discredited book alleging that Matthew Shepard was murdered in a drug-related incident, even though lawyers and investigators involved in the case have denounced the book as “fictional.”

On October 25, The Guardian published an article by columnist Julie Bindel titled “The truth behind America’s most famous gay-hate murder.” The report focuses on the widely discredited 2013 book The Book of Matt, in which author Stephen Jimenez attempts to make the case that Matthew Shepard’s brutal murder in 1998 was drug-related and not, as it is widely believed, motivated by anti-gay hate.

The book has been criticized for relying on shoddy sources and omitting key facts about the case, prompting the Matthew Shepard Foundation to condemn the book for being based on rumors and innuendo.

Jimenez’s book has been described as “fictional” by the lead detective in the case. People familiar with the murder – including one of the killer’s appellate attorneysAlbany County Sheriff Dave O'Malley, and Albany County Undersheriff Robert Debree – have condemned the book as factually challenged.

But Bindel didn’t include those criticisms in her piece. Instead, she portrayed Jimenez as a victim of gay activists’ blind desire to hide the truth about Shepard’s murder:

Jimenez has faced a barrage of criticism since the publication of his book and has had readings to promote the book boycotted. Jimenez claims, however, that many of his critics have not actually read it.

[…]

“People object to the idea of the book, rather than what is in the book,” says Jimenez. “The anger directed at me has been pretty extreme.”

[…]

[T]he mystery remains – not so much why Matthew died, but why the gay community, after almost five decades of campaigning for equal rights, relies so fundamentally on the image of the perfect martyr to represent the cause.

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What You Need To Know About The For-Profit Idaho Chapel Being “Forced” To Perform A Gay Wedding

October 23, 2014 1:49 pm ET by MMFA Staff

Conservative media outlets are promoting the cause of an Idaho wedding chapel suing so it can deny services to gay couples, inaccurately portraying the chapel as a religious institution rather than as a for-profit business.

On October 17, the anti-gay legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a lawsuit against the city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, on behalf of the chapel, which is called the Hitching Post. The lawsuit alleges that the city’s non-discrimination ordinance would force owners Donald and Evelyn Knapp to violate their religious beliefs by performing same-sex weddings, despite the fact they had previously offered to officiate non-religious ceremonies without complaint.

ADF is using the lawsuit to revive the right-wing horror story that churches and clergy members will be forced to perform gay weddings. ADF senior legal counsel Jeremy Tedesco stated in a news release, “Many have denied that pastors would ever be forced to perform ceremonies that are completely at odds with their faith, but that’s what is happening here.”

Right-wing media, led by Fox News reporter Todd Starnes, have echoed ADF’s spin. Starnes was the first to misrepresent the case, writing:

What in heaven’s name is happening to our country, folks? I was under the assumption that churches and pastors would not be impacted by same-sex marriage.

That talking point was echoed by The Daily SignalHuman Events, and Red State, as well as several Fox News segments.

But conservative reports about the Hitching Post lawsuit have omitted important facts about the case:

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