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Fox Affiliate Sends Transphobic Reporter Emily Miller To Smear Maryland's New Transgender Law

May 29, 2014 4:11 pm ET by Luke Brinker

Washington, D.C.'s Fox affiliate dispatched chief investigative reporter Emily Miller to report on Maryland's new law protecting transgender people from discrimination - allowing Miller to continue the baseless, fear-mongering attacks she waged on the law as a writer for the right-wing Washington Times.

On May 28, Fox 5 aired a segment on the Fairness for All Marylanders Act, which Gov. Martin O'Malley (D-MD) signed into law on May 15. The law, which mirrors measures passed in 16 other states and several Maryland counties, prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in employment, housing, credit, and public accommodations. Opponents havelaunched a petition drive aimed at overturning the law, peddling the myth that sexual predators will exploit the measure to sneak into women's restrooms and assault women and children.

Miller's May 28 report hyped those fears, citing a problematically-worded Rasmussen Reports poll indicating that most people oppose allowing "a man to use a woman's restroom" and suggesting that the law posed a danger to women's safety. The report also falsely claimed that Maryland was only the second state to adopt gender identity protections:

Maryland just became the second state after California to pass a law that prohibits discrimination based on what is called "gender identity." The law will protect transgender people in the workplace, with housing and public accommodations.

During a debate that followed Miller's report, Miller provided State Delegate Neil Parrott (R) - the leader of the petition drive - a platform to claim that the law would make it easier for predators to commit sex crimes:

DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

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Radio Hosts Mimic Fox's Transphobia, Promptly Get Fired

May 22, 2014 4:31 pm ET by Luke Brinker & Carlos Maza

Two radio hosts in Rochester, NY lost their jobs following a grossly transphobic segment mocking the transgender community. But the vicious comments that got them fired are nearly identical to the kind of transphobic hate speech Fox News regularly peddles to its national audience with impunity.

On May 22, Rochester radio station 98.9 The Buzz announced that it had fired Kimberly and Beck - the hosts of the station's morning talk radio show "The Breakfast Buzz' - following outrage over a segment criticizing Rochester's plan to cover transgender healthcare for employees and their families. According to a statement from Entercom Rochester:

This morning Entercom fired Kimberly and Beck effective immediately. Their hateful comments against the transgender community do not represent our station or our company. We deeply apologize to the transgender community, the community of Rochester, and anyone else who was offended by their hateful comments. We are proud of our past work on behalf of the local LGBT community and we remain committed to that partnership.

The May 21 segment in question was an "atrocious" train wreck of transphobic slurs, misinformation, and hate speech. Kimberly and Beck called transgender people "nut jobs," trivialized the need for transgender health care, and played Aerosmith's Dude Looks Like A Lady throughout the segment. They accused a transgender high school athlete of having an unfair advantage over her opponents and joked about her using her genitals to play baseball. And when a caller expressed disappointment in the hosts' transphobic commentary, another host responded "thank you, sir," in an attempt to mock the caller's gender:

98.9 The Buzz was right to act quickly to shut down Kimberly and Beck's hateful transphobic commentary.

But Kimberly and Beck's comments aren't all that extreme when compared to the way conservative media outlets talk about the transgender community. In reality, the segment might have been entirely unremarkable had it been aired on Fox News.

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Is Megyn Kelly Homophobia's Best Ally At Fox?

May 21, 2014 2:24 pm ET by Luke Brinker

Megyn Kelly was supposed to be a harbinger of Fox News’ “gay rights revolution,” but she’s used her primetime spot to enable some of the country’s most extreme anti-LGBT activists.

At the height of the controversy over Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson’s homophobic remarks in a December 2013 interview with GQ magazine, Kelly invited GLAAD consultant Jeremy Hooper to appear on The Kelly File and weigh in on the firestorm.

She also invited Tony Perkins, president of the notorious anti-gay hate group the Family Research Council (FRC), to appear immediately afterward.

During his segment, Hooper urged Kelly to hold Perkins accountable for his extensive history of bigoted rhetoric. “What specifically? Because I’ll ask him,” Kelly promised. Hooper pointed to Perkins’ endorsement of a Ugandan bill that would have imposed the death penalty for homosexuality, his claim that gay people face “eternal damnation,” and his comparisons of gay people with terrorists.

In the segment that followed, however, Kelly didn’t ask Perkins to explain his virulent anti-gay rhetoric. Instead, she introduced him as the leader of “a group whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and culture from a Christian worldview”:

Kelly’s failure to hold Perkins accountable is a case study in her broader habit of mainstreaming anti-gay hate.

In the seven months since The Kelly File launched in October of 2013, Fox’s 9 p.m. hour has been a friendly forum for some of the country’s most odious anti-gay extremists, including Perkins, the far-right legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), and, most recently, the Benham brothers, the home renovators whose rabidly anti-gay activism led HGTV to cancel their planned reality show.

Since Kelly’s promotion to Fox’s prime-time lineup, she has hosted Perkins six times. (Filling in for Kelly on the December 27 edition of the program, Shannon Bream hosted Perkins an additional time.) Perkins has used his appearances to condemn Gov. Jan Brewer’s (R-AZ) veto of her state’s license-to-discriminate bill, champion anti-LGBT discrimination, opine on openly gay NFL draftee Michael Sam, and lambaste HGTV for cancelling the Benham brothers’ planned show.

Kelly’s willingness to grant Perkins a platform isn’t a recent development. As a daytime host on Fox’s America Live, she provided Perkins the opportunity to peddle anti-gay talking points with impunity – and often parroted the same talking points herself, asking Perkins why gay rights activists are so intolerant and defending him and other “openly religious” leaders against charges of bigotry.

Meanwhile, Kelly has invited ADF to defend anti-gay business discrimination on her program. While other cable news anchors have exposed ADF’s anti-gay extremism – including its international work to criminalize homosexuality – Kelly gave the group the same treatment she afforded Perkins, failing to hold ADF to account for its disturbing work.

The Benham brothers could also count on Kelly to downplay their history of strident anti-gay and Islamophobic activism, including condemning homosexuality as “demonic” and “destructive.” On the May 19 edition of her show, she called the backlash to their activism “incredible,” asking them to enlighten viewers on their “more traditional views”:

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How Fox News Is Helping Homophobes Hijack Christianity

May 20, 2014 11:43 am ET by Luke Brinker

Fox News is witnessing the nasty byproducts of its endless campaign to depict extreme, virulent homophobia as a normal part of mainstream Christianity.

It’s long been standard practice at Fox News to conflate anti-gay bigotry with Christianity. Last December, for instance, the network rushed to defend Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson after he compared homosexuality with bestiality and equated gay people with “drunks” and “terrorists,” with Megyn Kelly referring to Robertson as “[t]his Christian guy,” Sean Hannity describing his comments as “old fashioned traditional Christian sentiment and values,” and Fox News commentator Todd Starnes defending Robertson as upholding “the teachings of the Bible.”

Meanwhile, Fox has repeatedly touted business owners who refuse service to gay couples, taking up their mantle in regular “Fight for Faith” segments. The network has championed some of the country’s most extreme anti-gay hate groups as mainstream Christian organizations. When New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declined to attend he city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade over its ban on LGBT groups, Fox News attacked him as a “religious bigot.” And the network regularly describes even basic legal protections for LGBT people as anti-Christian. 

Now, a new anti-gay controversy has once again provided fodder for Fox to depict extreme anti-gay bigotry as grounded in mainstream Christianity. Earlier this month, HGTV cancelled a forthcoming reality show slated to be hosted by brothers Jason and David Benham. The cancellation came after Right Wing Watch unearthed the brothers’ history of extreme anti-gay and Islamophobic activism, including condemning homosexuality as “demonic” and “destructive.”

Anchor Megyn Kelly responded to HGTV’s move by asserting on the May 8 edition of The Kelly File that while “gay rights are more and more protected in this country,” the same didn’t hold for “Christian beliefs and Christian rights.” 

During the May 16 edition of Kelly's show, guest host Martha MacCallum invited right-wing radio commentator Dana Loesch and Democratic strategist Jessica Ehrlich to discuss the controversy engulfing the Benham brothers. Perfectly encapsulating the right’s bogus homophobia-as-Christianity narrative, Loesch dubbed Ehrlich an “anti-Christian bigot” for deigning to criticize the brothers’ extreme anti-gay views:

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Media Outlets Should Cover This Historic HIV/AIDS Development

May 19, 2014 1:52 pm ET by Luke Brinker

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) ringing endorsement last week of Truvada, the "miracle drug" that blocks HIV infection, presents news outlets with a prime opportunity to cover an historic development in the three-decade struggle against HIV/AIDS. So far, however, media organizations have largely ignored the story.

Truvada is a 10-year-old pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) treatment combining two different antiviral drugs. Taken daily, it prevents infection of HIV. Even though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug back in July 2012, it hasn't exactly caught on; a September 2013 report by Gilead Sciences found that only 1,774 people had filled Truvada prescriptions from January 2011 through March 2013. Nearly half of users were women, even though gay men are the demographic group most at risk for HIV/AIDS.

Part of the reason Truvada has been slow to gain steam is, undoubtedly, the stigma attached to those who use it. Gay men who use the drug have been derided as "Truvada Whores," a term many users have sought to reclaim. Some HIV/AIDS advocates, including Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, have cast doubt on Truvada's effectiveness, noting that it won't block infection unless users strictly adhere to taking it daily.

But advocates who hail Truvada as a watershed development in the struggle against HIV/AIDS got a huge boost on May 14, when the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report called on doctors to prescribe the pill for patients deemed at risk of HIV/AIDS - men who have sex with men, heterosexuals with at-risk partners, anyone whose partners they know are infected, and those who use drugs or share needles.

As The New York Times noted, if doctors follow the CDC's advice, Truvada prescriptions would increase to an estimated 500,000 annually.

On May 15, the Times gave the CDC's historic report prime placement on its front page:

But the Times and The Washington Post were the only major newspapers outlets to cover the CDC's report:

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Fox News Leaves No Homophobe Behind

May 16, 2014 2:54 pm ET by Carlos Maza

Fox News rolled out the welcome mat for a Dallas television host who went on a homophobic tirade after openly gay NFL player Michael Sam was shown kissing his boyfriend on ESPN.

Amy Kushnir made national headlines on May 13 after she walked off the set of The Broadcast, a Dallas, Texas morning show, following a heated discussion about the airing of Sam’s kiss on ESPN. Kushnir, who co-hosts The Broadcast, argued that the kiss was being “pushed in faces” and objected to having her sons watch two men kiss. Kushnir also claimed she also opposed seeing heterosexual kissing on television, prompting skepticism from her co-hosts and eventually resulting in Kushnir walking off the set.

That display of homophobia was apparently enough to get Kushnir an exclusive interview on Fox’s The Kelly File on May 16, where she told fill-in host Shannon Bream that the kiss between Sam and his boyfriend was “shocking” and “over-the-top”:

KUSHNIR: It was actually over-the-top. ESPN used it as an opportunity to put out shocking video when ESPN is a sports network that families watch. We’ve got children that play sports. They watch ESPN all the time. So it bothers me that they used this opportunity to promote their left-wing agenda, in my opinion.

Kushnir went on to lament that people with “traditional values” couldn’t express their views without fear of getting “lambasted.” Bream wondered if Kushnir was concerned that she was no longer able to voice her opinion, even thought it was Kushnir who decided to walk off the set of her show.

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Watch MSNBC's Josh Barro Expose The Deadly Consequences Of HIV Stigma

May 15, 2014 12:04 pm ET by Luke Brinker

Weighing in on disgraced Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling's recent shaming of Magic Johnson for having HIV, MSNBC contributor Josh Barro highlighted the dangerous consequences of stigmatizing people living with HIV - a problem that extends far beyond Sterling and all too often results from problematic coverage in mainstream media.

On May 13, Sterling sat down with CNN's Anderson Cooper to discuss his lifetime ban from the NBA after racist remarks he made were leaked last month. At one point, the conversation shifted toward Johnson, the former NBA star who announced his HIV diagnosis over two decades ago.

"What has he done?" Sterling asked. He proceeded to argue that Johnson - a man renowned for his charitable work on HIV/AIDS - made a poor role model for American youth. "What kind of guy goes to every city, has sex with every girl, then he goes and catches HIV?" Sterling said. "Is that someone we want to respect and tell our kids about? I think he should be ashamed of himself."

It would be easy to write off Sterling's comments as merely the latest narrow-minded rant from a man who's widely seen as a national joke. But during the May 14 edition of MSNBC's The Cycle, Barro noted that Sterling is far from the only person to stigmatize HIV patients. Citing data showing persistent ignorance about how people become infected and widespread fears by patients that they'll face medical discrimination, Barro observed that "people with HIV stigma are less likely to go to the doctor and take their medicine." HIV stigma, he noted, is "literally killing people":

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Fox News, Michael Sam, And “Appropriate” Homophobia

May 15, 2014 11:36 am ET by Luke Brinker

When St. Louis Rams draft Michael Sam kissed his boyfriend in celebration of his historic selection as the first openly gay active NFL player, there were predictable protests of homophobic disgust on social media. 

The kiss also raised the ire of Fox News, where commentators condemned the kiss as “in your face” and “over affectionate.” It’s a reaction that highlights the way that modern homophobia can manifest in dishonest calls for “appropriate” behavior.

Commenting on Sam’s selection on the May 12 edition of Fox & Friends, Donald Trump essentially set the tone for the network’s response, noting that many people thought Sam’s kiss was “inappropriate” and stating that he personally thought it was “out there a little bit”:

The show’s hosts didn’t ask Trump to weigh in on this sports-related kiss.

On the May 12 edition of The Five, co-host Andrea Tantaros criticized Sam for being “overly affectionate on camera,” but avowed that she doesn’t like to see public displays of affection by anyone. Bill O’Reilly sounded the same theme on his show that night, saying that “there’s no kissing in football” – nobody tell Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen – and affirming that he opposes public displays of affection between straight people, too.

O’Reilly argued Sam’s “gay thing” was “way overplayed,” “annoying,” and “in your face.” “Do I really need to see that?” O’Reilly asked. Fox contributor Juan Williams agreed, stating that he, too, found Sam’s kiss to be a little too “in your face.”

Perhaps the least self-aware reaction came from Fox News Latino contributor Rick Sanchez, who penned a May 13 column asserting that, while he supports gay rights, Sam’s kiss “set back the cause of the LGBT movement.” Dubbing the kiss a “cake suck,” Sanchez falsely claimed that Sam “lick[ed]” cake off his boyfriend’s face in a flagrant “affront to the NFL’s culture”:

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Fox News Attacks “Special Treatment” For Transgender Prisoners

May 14, 2014 11:59 am ET by Luke Brinker

Fox News continued its transphobic attacks on Private Chelsea Manning, deriding her fight for hormone therapy as a bid for "special treatment" and suggesting that "he" had "already cost us enough" while ignoring expert opinion that hormone therapy is essential for transgender people.

The Pentagon reportedly is drawing up plans to transfer Manning, currently serving a 35-year sentence for leaking documents to WikiLeaks, from a military to a civilian prison. In a civilian facility, Manning - formerly known as Bradley Manning - would be allowed to receive hormone therapy.

During the May 14 edition of Fox & Friends, co-hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade misgendered Manning and trivialized her effort to gain access to hormone treatment. Teasing the show's report on the latest developments in Manning's case, Doocy asserted that Manning was seeking "special treatment" from the Defense Department, while Kilmeade asked, "he's already cost us enough, hasn't he?":

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CNN Invites Anti-Gay Hate Group To Weigh In On Michael Sam's Kiss

May 13, 2014 12:01 pm ET by Luke Brinker

CNN hosted an anti-gay hate group to discuss the nationally televised kiss between gay NFL draftee Michael Sam and his boyfriend, resulting in a segment that included questions about whether homosexuality is a sin and a choice.

On May 11, the St. Louis Rams announced that they had drafted the former University of Missouri defensive end, who made national headlines when he came out in February. The Rams' pick means Sam will be the first openly gay active player in NFL history.

In an emotional moment captured by ESPN, Sam received word of his selection by phone, sharing a kiss with boyfriend Vito Cammisano shortly thereafter. The kiss sparked homophobic outrage from the likes of former Super Bowl champion Derrick Ward, who tweeted that Sam "is no bueno for doing that on national TV."

During the May 12 edition of CNN Tonight, anchor Bill Weir invited local anchor Dale Hansen, whose February speech in support of Sam created an Internet sensation, and the Family Research Council's (FRC) Ken Blackwell to discuss the controversy. The segment - during which Blackwell asserted that Sam kissed his boyfriend to help push an "agenda" and  speculated that the kiss was a "political prophylactic" to protect Sam from getting fired - disintegrated into a back-and-forth over whether homosexuality is a choice and a sin, highlighting precisely why it's never a good idea for national outlets to provide a platform to hate groups like the FRC:

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Mike Huckabee's Dangerous Campaign To Smear Houston's Non-Discrimination Ordinance

May 13, 2014 10:18 am ET by Luke Brinker

Fox News anchor Mike Huckabee urged fans to bombard Houston city officials with opposition to a proposed non-discrimination ordinance, baselessly asserting that the measure would  "be unsafe for woman and children." 

On April 21, Houston Mayor Annise Parker (D) unveiled a  non-discrimination proposal, which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, skin color, religion, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity. The ordinance would apply to city employers, housing, city contractors, and private employers with more than 50 employees. According to the Greater Houston Partnership, fewer than seven percent of private employers in the city employed more than 50 people in 2011. Additionally, the measure exempts religious organizations.

The modest scope of the proposal didn't stop Huckabee from waging an apoplectic attack on it in the form of a May 10 Facebook post. Calling on Houston-area residents to "support your own Biblical beliefs," he instructed them to contact Parker and city council members in opposition to the proposed ordinance and announced a May 13 rally "on the steps of city hall."

The former Arkansas governor and host of Fox's Huckabee wrote that he was opposing the ordinance to uphold "God's definition of human sexuality" and "common moral decency," warning that the measure would make Houston unsafe for women and children:

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God Less America”: An Ugly Look At What Still Motivates The Right’s Culture Warriors

May 12, 2014 2:54 pm ET by Luke Brinker

Todd Starnes, Fox News' resident culture warrior, wants to reclaim God from an America of gay pride paraders, hipsters, twerkers, and vegetarians. That, at least, is what he sets out to do in his latest tome, God Less America: Real Stories from the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values.

It's a book that's been generously promoted on the Fox News commentator's network. Starnes' publicity tour has taken him to such programs as Fox & Friends, HannityThe Kelly File, Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight, and the radio show of Fox contributor Laura Ingraham.

During his publicity tour for God Less America, Starnes has homed in on a consistent message: religious, specifically Christian, values are under attack, largely thanks to an all-out assault allegedly led by the Obama administration, aided and abetted by LGBT activists and advocates for secularists and adherents to minority faiths. Obama, Starnes asserts, is at the forefront of a conspiracy "to eradicate the Christian faith" from the public square.

But Starnes' book isn't really about the state of Christianity in the age of Obama. It's primarily about Starnes himself, and the cultural resentments that define his worldview. Portraying himself as a down-home Southerner who loves sweet tea (a fact he reminds readers of no fewer than nine times), Duck Dynasty, guns, and his hardline Southern Baptist faith, beneath Starnes' folksy veneer is a far more venomous culture warrior.

What Starnes repeatedly - if unwittingly - reveals is that he isn't so much afraid of the impending loss of religious liberty as he is fearful that his exclusionary vision of America no longer holds the sway it once did.

Cultural Chauvinism and Muslim-Baiting

What particularly rouses Starnes' ire about the state of contemporary America is that it's led by, as he pointedly notes, "Barack Hussein Obama." Starnes laments throughout the book that Obama's America is no longer the one in which in grew up - a country he depicts as more wholesome and unapologetically Christian, when women knew their place and gay people weren't being as obnoxious with all that equal rights stuff:

I grew up in a much simpler time - when blackberry was a pie and dirty dancing meant somebody forgot to clean out the barn for the square dance. It was a time when father still knew best - when the girls were girls and the men were men. I grew up in a time when a rainbow was a sign of God's promise, not gay rights.

To Starnes, Obama perfectly symbolizes the fading of that America. For one thing, Starnes not-so-subtly hints that the president has an affinity for Islam - referring to Obama as someone who "professes" to be a Christian, twice assailing him for calling the Muslim call to prayer "one of the prettiest sounds on earth at sunset," and suggesting that Obama hasn't secured the release on American pastor detained in Iran because the pastor had left the Islamic faith.

Starnes also lambastes the president for stating that we're "not just a Christian nation," but also a nation of Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and secularists. A less paranoid observer might view Obama's remark as an affirmation of the country's religious diversity, but Starnes can't help seeing anti-Christian bias. (Starnes writes that it's "puzzling" that any "follower of Christ" would make such a statement.") Likewise, restrictions on proselytization in the military aren't, say, a sensible response to the harassment of non-Christian believers, but part of a "Christian cleansing" executed by the Obama administration. And just as he did in an appearance on Fox's Hannity to promote the book, Starnes compares officials enforcing the First Amendment's establishment clause to Adolf Hitler. "Hitler was not a big fan of the Baby Jesus," Starnes writes in a chapter titled "Nazis, Communists, and the USA." "Neither were the Communists. And apparently some American employees and schoolteachers share an equal disdain for the little Lord Jesus." Starnes is just saying.

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National Review Online Wants To Talk About Gay "Cradle-Robbers"

May 09, 2014 11:02 am ET by Luke Brinker

National Review Online pushed the baseless myth that gay men prey on youth, arguing that unlike relationships between much older men and younger women, "May-December creepiness" between gays gets a free pass.

In a May 8 post for NRO (subtitled, "In a culture where everybody's outraged about everything, old gay cradle robbers are A-OK."), Christine Sisto took note of the controversy surrounding an affectionate photo of 13-year-old Willow Smith and 20-year-old actor Moises Arias, which got her thinking about the gays:

However, reading about Willow and her eagerness to grow up, I cannot help but think, "Why are we surprised?" In a recent edition of "Civilities," the Washington Post's advice  column "covering LGBT and straight etiquette," a concerned mother asked for advice about her 19-year-old son, who just came out to her about his homosexuality and his boyfriend, a man 20 years his senior.

The desperate mother asks for advice, pointing out that this man began dating her son when he was still in high school. She explicitly says, "I think he's a predator. . . . Please help!"

[...]

[Washington Post advice columnist Steven] Petrow basically advises the mother not to worry so much because these age gaps in homosexual relationships can be common. That may be true, but why is it okay? I'm sure if society didn't frown upon it, straight relationships between fifty-year-old men and 15-year-old girls would be common as well. As it stands now, a relationship between a female high-school senior and a male in his late 30s or early 40s would strike many people as, if not technically illegal, at least pretty creepy. It's certainly hard to imagine such a heterosexual relationship getting the "Who are we to judge?" treatment from a Post advice column.

The mother's letter to the Post stated that her 19-year-old son and his partner met "last year," meaning that her son would have reached the age of consent by the time the two men began a relationship. Nevertheless, Sisto saw fit to compare a consensual relationship between two adult men to what many consider inappropriate displays of affection between an adult male and adolescent female.

Sisto's post relies on the old, discredited trope that gay men are predatory child molesters. While there's no factual basis for the claim that gay men are disproportionately likely to prey on youth, the myth persists in right-wing media and among anti-gay hate groups.

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Fox's Megyn Kelly Adopts An Anti-Gay Hate Group's Talking Points

May 08, 2014 11:01 pm ET by Luke Brinker

Fox News host Megyn Kelly invited anti-gay hate group leader Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council (FRC) to comment on HGTV's decision to cancel a program that would have starred a rabid anti-gay extremist, pushing the FRC's own talking points to baselessly frame HGTV's decision as an attack on Christians.

On May 6, Right Wing Watch reported that David Benham, who along with his brother Jason was slated to star in a fixer-upper reality show called Flip It Forward, had an extensive record of anti-choice, anti-gay, and anti-Muslim activism. David Benham explained to far-right radio host Janet Mefferd in 2012 that he and his brother had participated in a protest of the Democratic National Convention to take a stand against "homosexuality and its agenda that is attacking the nation," abortion, divorce, and "demonic ideologies" circulating in the education system. Benham has also compared the anti-gay marriage fight to the struggle against Nazi Germany and highlighted Leviticus' prescription of death for gay sex.Benham's views on Muslims are no kinder; he has declared that "Islam takes life and enslaves it" and protested in front of mosques while shouting "Jesus Hates Muslims."

Faced with a public outcry, HGTV announced on May 7 that it had "decided not to move forward" with Flip It Forward.

During the May 8 edition of The Kelly File, Kelly asked Perkins to weigh in on the controversy. Kelly suggested that while HGTV would have been condemned for cancelling a show featuring gay stars, the Benhams were being punished because, unlike gay people, Christians' rights aren't as "protected and recognized in this country":

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Fox's Ben Carson To Keynote Anti-Gay Group's Gala Dinner

May 06, 2014 10:49 am ET by Luke Brinker

Fox News contributor Ben Carson is slated to be the keynote speaker at the first Gala dinner of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), becoming the latest Fox figure to appear before an extreme anti-gay group.

In a May 6 email to supporters, NOM President Brian Brown wrote that "it's 1972 for marriage," referring to the year before the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a woman's right to an abortion and the growing expectation that the Court will take up marriage equality once again by 2015. To protest the frightening possibility that same-sex couples nationwide will soon enjoy civil equality, NOM will hold its second annual March for Marriage in Washington on June 19. Brown's email touted Carson's appearance - previously flagged by GLAAD's Jeremy Hooper - at NOM's gala that same evening (emphasis original):

It was a crisp winter day in 1973 when the United States Supreme Court issued their horrific decision in Roe v Wade. How much would you sacrifice to go back in time to a few months before that fateful decision, to the Fall of 1972, and mobilize the American people BEFORE the Supreme Court issued that infamous decree?

Just about anything, right? Well, when it comes to marriage, we have that chance!

You see, it's 1972 for marriage. Within the next 12 months, it is very likely that the United States Supreme Court will take up the marriage issue again. Many people have bought in to the lie that the courts redefining marriage is somehow "inevitable." Well, I refuse to believe that, because it's simply not true!

That's why the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is organizing its second annual March for Marriage this summer on June 19th in Washington, DC — bringing together thousands of marriage activists from all across the country to make sure the elites in our nation's capital hear loud and clear: Marriage matters because every kid deserves a mom and a dad!

[...]

One incredibly courageous leader who is standing up for marriage is Doctor Ben Carson, who will be the keynote speaker at NOM's first ever Gala dinner on the evening of the March for Marriage. He said in a speech earlier this year that the "P.C. police" have "tried to shut him up" because he's willing to state his belief publicly that marriage is between a man and a woman.

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Daily Caller Gives Platform To Another Anti-Gay Hate Group

May 05, 2014 3:56 pm ET by Luke Brinker

The Daily Caller provided a hate group spokesman a platform to smear marriage equality and same-sex families, part of the conservative website's pattern of promoting the commentary of some of the most extreme anti-LGBT figures in the country.

In a May 5 column, Senior Fellow for Policy Studies Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council (FRC), an anti-gay hate group, touted Irreplaceable, a new Focus on the Family film celebrating straights-only marriage. Sprigg lauded the film for its support of "God's design for marriage." If society were to "devalue" marriage, he argued, it would "devalue being a parent," and thereby "devalue children":

If you devalue marriage, you devalue being a parent - or more specifically, being a mother or a father, since the importance of gender roles ("not deterministic, but dynamic") is emphasized.

If you devalue parents, then you devalue children. Jonathan Last, author of What to Expect When No One's Expecting, says that the sexual revolution dismembered the "iron triangle" of marriage, sex, and baby-making, and the resulting indifference in the West to creating the next generation constitutes a form of "civilizational sickness."

His column is relatively tame in the context of his career of fear mongering about gay people, including baselessly peddling the claim that gay men are sexual predators who prey on children.

Meanwhile, Sprigg's stances on other LGBT issues are no less offensive. He sits on the board PFOX, a group promoting discredited "ex-gay" therapy, and has asserted that the proper response to gay teen suicides is to encourage gay youth to change their sexual orientations. In remarks that he later walked back following fierce criticism, Sprigg said he "would much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them into the United States." Sprigg is no friend of the transgender community either, having declared contrary to expert consensus that trans people suffer from "delusions."

Sprigg isn't the first hate group spokesman to be granted column space in the Daily Caller. FRC President Tony Perkins has also written for the website. In July 2013, the site published a column from Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) President Austin Ruse cheering Russia's draconian anti-LGBT crackdown, praising Russian President Vladimir Putin for taking a stand against the sexual "immorality" that Ruse claimed pervades the United States.

The Daily Caller has also published numerous pieces from National Organization for Marriage (NOM) President Brian Brown, who condemns homosexuality as "deceitful, harmful, and degrading to the human soul," and American Values President Gary Bauer, who in addition to campaigning against marriage equality in the U.S. has used his Daily Caller column space to inveigh against critics of Russia's anti-gay laws.

While Sprigg, Perkins, Ruse, Brown, and Bauer have only written for the Daily Caller's opinion section, anti-gay talking points have also found their way into the website's purportedly straight news reporting. 

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Ronan Farrow Calls Out Right-Wing “Scare Tactics” About Trans-Inclusive Bathrooms

May 02, 2014 3:30 pm ET by Carlos Maza

While discussing an effort to roll back a transgender non-discrimination law in Maryland, MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow called out the right-wing “myth” about sexual predators entering trans-inclusive bathrooms.

On April 29, a conservative group in Maryland launched an effort calling for a referendum to repeal the recently enacted Fairness for All Marylanders Act, SB 212.  

The group, MDPetitions.com, has chosen to refer to the measure as a “bathroom bill,” even though the law prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, and a number of other areas not related to the use of restrooms.

It’s a common conservative tactic meant to gin up fears about even basic protections for transgender people.

During the May 2 edition of MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow Daily, Farrow discussed the effort to repeal SB 212, as well as the media’s ongoing struggle to adequately cover the transgender community:

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Finally, A Gay Politician Fox News Can Support

April 30, 2014 2:16 pm ET by Luke Brinker

After enabling vicious attacks on gay candidates and elected officials, Fox News has finally found an openly gay politician it can support - congressional candidate Carl DeMaio (R-CA).

Fox's championing of DeMaio started with an April 28 FoxNews.com column written by The Five co-host Dana Perino, who wrote that DeMaio's story epitomizes "what everyone who fights for equality says they've been fighting for." Perino also noted that during his unsuccessful run for San Diego mayor in 2012, an anonymous group of supporters of Democratic candidate Bob Filner ran gay-baiting ads showing DeMaio hugging another man and a photoshopped photo showing DeMaio with a drag queen. Perino couldn't point to any other examples of Democratic attacks on DeMaio's sexuality, but she nonetheless seized on the episode to depict "the left" as hypocritical.

While Perino's column implied that a few "far right social conservatives" had also gay-baited DeMaio, she didn't note that among those conservatives are groups like the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which has endorsed DeMaio's Republican primary opponent and gone after DeMaio for "holding the hand of his gay lover."

But Fox's pro-DeMaio campaign was just starting up. The candidate appeared on the network's America's Newsroom to decry his progressive critics. On Fox's The Five, co-hosts attacked progressives for putting DeMaio's sex life "front and center."

And during an interview with DeMaio on the April 28 edition of On the Record, host Greta Van Susteren introduced the candidate by falsely claiming that "it's not social conservatives, but the Democrats" waging anti-gay attacks on his campaign, prompting DeMaio to correct her:

VAN SUSTEREN: Carl DeMaio is a Republican and he is also openly gay, and he says he's coming under attack, not from social conservatives, but from Democrats.

[...]

VAN SUSTEREN: You say it's not social conservatives, but the Democrats giving you a hard time. Tell me.

DEMAIO: We do have some social conservatives giving us a hard time, but we're finding a lot more acceptance and tolerance and support from those on the socially conservative side of the spectrum than we are from progressive Democrats. You know, I have an agenda to move our country past social issues. I don't think that we ought to have either political party deciding what happens in the privacy of our bedroom. And, instead, we should demand that Washington refocus its priorities on fixing the national debt, getting our economy going again, and holding government programs accountable for results.

Van Susteren urged DeMaio to describe "how the Democrats have discriminated against you based on your sexual orientation." DeMaio cited the anonymous ads from the 2012 mayoral campaign and proceeded to criticize national gay groups for not supporting his candidacy - echoing Perino's criticism of groups like the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.

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Watch A Transgender Activist Ask A Television Host To Prove Her Womanhood

April 30, 2014 10:20 am ET by Carlos Maza

What happens when a transgender activist gets to turn the tables and ask her interviewer to prove her womanhood?

In an April 29 segment for Fusion TV’s AM Tonight, transgender activist Janet Mock grilled host Alicia Menendez about her identity, genitalia, and womanhood.  Menendez answered a series of invasive questions like “do you have a vagina” and “when was the moment that you felt your breasts budding?”: 

The interview was a parody of typical media interviews with transgender people, with Mock asking Menendez – who is cisgender – many of the same questions she routinely has to deal with as a trasgender woman. The segment highlighted the way that even trans-welcoming media personalities can objectify and dehumanize their transgender guests by focusing on their bodies and medical histories.

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The One Religious Liberty Case Anti-Gay Conservatives Want To Ignore

April 29, 2014 12:20 pm ET by Luke Brinker

For years, conservative media figures have attacked marriage equality by citing "religious liberty" concerns, baselessly warning that churches might be forced to perform same-sex weddings against their will. But a new lawsuit in North Carolina challenges the right-wing media's commitment to religious freedom when it's not being used as an excuse for anti-gay discrimination.  

On April 28, the United Church of Christ (UCC), a progressive Protestant denomination that supports marriage equality, filed suit in Federal District Court challenging North Carolina's ban on clergy blessings of same-sex unions. Under the state's 2012 same-sex marriage ban, it's a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 45 days in jail, to perform a ceremony for any couple lacking a valid marriage license. The UCC argues that the ban infringes on clergy members' First Amendment right to free exercise of religion:

"We didn't bring this lawsuit to make others conform to our beliefs, but to vindicate the right of all faiths to freely exercise their religious practices," said Donald C. Clark Jr., general counsel of the United Church of Christ.

The lawsuit represents the inverse of a long-standing (and entirely baseless) conservative horror story about marriage equality - that churches will be forced to perform same-sex weddings against their will.

This myth has been perpetuated by conservative media personalities like Fox's Todd Starnes, who in 2012 warned that a Kansas non-discrimination ordinance "would force churches to host gay weddings":

When the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Breitbart News' Ben Shapiro claimed that churches would lose their tax exempt status if they failed to perform same-sex weddings. Fox contributor Erick Erickson has gone so far as to claim "gay marriage and religious freedom are incompatible."  And Fox News' longstanding campaign to depict marriage equality and anti-discrimination laws as burdens on religious liberty inspired a rash of so-called "religious freedom" bills across the country earlier this year.

 Given social conservatives' self-appointed role as guardians of religious freedom, the North Carolina case would seem ripe for their attention.

But now that religious liberty is being invoked to oppose a gay marriage ban, will right-wing media rush to tout the cause of a pro-equality church?

Conservatives who rushed to defend "religious liberty" legislation like Arizona SB 1062 have so far been silent on the case. The New York Times' Ross Douthat, who penned a column supporting Arizona's bill on religious liberty grounds, has yet to comment on the UCC case on his blog. A TV Eyes search shows that Fox News - which regularly features segments titled "The Fight for Faith" - hasn't taken up the UCC's mantle. The same goes for anti-gay conservatives like Starnes, Shapiro, and Erickson.

While civil marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples would have no bearing on churches' doctrines and practices, laws like North Carolina's actively restrict religious denominations' right to freely exercise their faith. If serving a cake to a same-sex couple constitutes an unconscionable violation of religious liberty, then surely a law telling churches which unions they can and can't bless does. But the right's crusade against LGBT equality has almost nothing to do with genuine, intellectually consistent support for religious liberty, and everything to do with keeping discrimination enshrined in law.

Too often in conservative media, religious liberty becomes a shield to deflect accusations of bigotry, even while justifying blatant anti-LGBT discrimination. UCC's lawsuit, and conservative media's interest in taking it up as a cause célèbre, will test whether the right's interest in religious liberty is anything more than a shallow excuse for homophobia.

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