Equality Matters - Blog http://equalitymatters.org This link is for use by RSS-enabled software to retrieve the latest blog posts from Equality Matters en-US Copyright 2015, Media Matters for America Fox News' Dishonest Defense Of Indiana's Anti-LGBT "Religious Freedom" Law http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201503260001

Fox News host Gretchen Carlson defended Indiana's anti-LGBT "religious freedom" law, inaccurately equating it to existing federal legislation to claim the bill is "harmless" and necessary to protect Christians from discrimination.

On the March 25 edition of The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, Carlson and her guests discussed Indiana's recently passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a law that creates a broad license for individuals and business owners to cite their religious beliefs as a defense against charges of discrimination. Businessesreligious leaders, and even the Republican mayor of Indianapolis have all condemned the state's RFRA law for its potential to encourage discrimination against LGBT people in particular.

During the segment, Carlson and her guests falsely equated Indiana's RFRA with the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act , which was originally passed in 1993 to prevent the government from passing laws that substantially burdening a person's free expression of religion, with a few exceptions. In 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal RFRA did not apply to the states, resulting in many states passing their own local RFRAs:

But Indiana's SB 101, is not, as Carlson and her guests assert, an exact replica of the federal RFRA. A February 27 letter by 30 legal scholars expressing their concern over the proposed Indiana RFRA explains the distinction between the SB 101 and the 1993 federal law:

The state RFRA bills do not, in fact, mirror the language of the federal RFRA.

[...]

The definition of "person" under the proposed RFRA differs substantially from that contained in the federal RFRA, affording standing to assert religious liberty rights to a much broader class of entities than that currently recognized by federal law.

Unlike the federal RFRA, Indiana's RFRA contains an extremely broad definition of "person"that includes organizations, corporations, or companies that are: "compelled or limited by a system of religious belief held by an individual or the individuals; who have control and substantial ownership of the entity, regardless of whether the entity is organized and operated for profit or nonprofit purposes." 

As Buzzfeed also reported: 

The Indiana bill is broader than federal law. While the Indiana bill says that a "governmental entity may not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion," it also applies those rules to businesses and interactions between private parties "regardless of whether the state or any other government entity is party to the proceeding."

Carlson and her guests also downplayed the opposition against RFRA by noting that the federal bill was originally passed with bipartisan support. But the unforeseen consequences of RFRA have caused many democratic legislators who originally voted on RFRA to withdraw their support of the law. As the same legal scholars explain in their letter (emphasis added):

This parallel between support for the federal RFRA and the proposed state RFRA is misplaced. In fact, many members of the bipartisan coalition that supported the passage of the federal RFRA in 1993 now hold the view that the law has been interpreted and applied in ways they did not expect at the time they lent their endorsement to the law. As a result, the legislators who voted on RFRA have distanced themselves from their initial backing of the legislation.

As legal and religious scholar Dr. Jay Michaelson noted, these unintended consequences amount to a broad license to discriminate against LGBT people, because state RFRA laws could allow "individuals and businesses [to] exempt themselves from anti-discrimination laws by proffering religious objections to them."

Portraying Indiana's RFRA as benign legislation identical to the "bipartisan" federal law isn't just inaccurate journalism. It is a part of Fox's larger role in promoting the narrative of Christian persecution to support the passage of a number of state RFRAs now being considered in states across the country. Expect to see Fox continue to misrepresent RFRA as a harmless law protecting "religious liberty" while ignoring the fact that these bills are actually the product of powerful anti-LGBT organizations lobbying to legalize anti-LGBT discrimination. 

Previously:

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

Doctor Refuses To Care For Gay Couple's Baby - Is This Conservative Media's "Religious Freedom"?

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

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Rachel Percelay http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201503260001 Thu, 26 Mar 2015 16:25:46 EDT
Navy Debunks Fox News' Defense Of Anti-Gay Chaplain http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201503190002

A Navy Commanding Officer debunked conservative media's defense of a Navy chaplain, who was disciplined after discriminating against female and LGBT students, stating that the chaplain's ability to express his religious beliefs "has not been restricted or substantially burdened." 

On February 15, chaplain Lt. Cmdr. Wesley Modder was given a "detachment for cause" from his unit after an investigation by the Navy found him guilty of repeated inappropriate and discriminatory behavior against students at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command (NNPTC) in South Carolina, including telling a student that "the penis was meant for the vagina and not for the anus" and shaming a student for having premarital sex.

The anti-gay legal group Liberty Institute is now representing  Modder, alleging in a March 9 complaint to the Navy that Modder has been discriminated against due to his religious beliefs. Fox News correspondent and serial misinformer Todd Starnes also jumped on the story, publishing a report defending the chaplain's discriminatory actions. Conservative media parroted Starnes' narrative, and praised chaplain Modder as a hero for religious liberty.

The claim that Modder was "discriminated" against due to his religious beliefs also gained traction with other anti-LGBT organizations, including the hate group Family Research Council, which collected over 80,000 signatures in a petition demanding Modder's reinstatement and securement of "his religious freedom."

But in a Navy memorandum released on March 16 in response to the Liberty Institute's complaint, Commanding Officer, Capt. J.R. Fahs rejected the conservative narrative that the disciplinary action was a result of Modder's religious beliefs (emphasis added): 

In your case, I find that your ability to express your religious beliefs during pastoral counseling has not been restricted or substantially burdened. Rather, the decision to relieve you from your duties is based on your failure to uphold the core capabilities of chaplains as stated in reference (c), and the professional standards of conduct and the guiding principles of the Chaplain Corps

[...]

Specifically, under the core capability of "care," you have the duty to be sensitive to the religious, spiritual, moral, cultural, and personal differences of those you serve. Your inability to comfort and counsel in a manner that was respectful of the counselee while maintaining dignity and professionalism... led you to be relieved of your duties. I note that you dispute some of these allegations, but after considering your denials, I find the multiple allegations in references (e) and (f) to be credible. In making my determination I considered all applicable Navy rules and policies... and consulted with the Navy Chief of Chaplains office.

[...]

While I support your religious freedoms and sincerely held beliefs, my decision to relieve you was based on your failure to comply with references (c) and (d); not the exercise of your religion.

Starnes acknowledged the memorandum in a March 17 opinion article but refused to drop his Christian persecution accusations, titling his piece "Showdown: Navy forces chaplain to choose between faith and job." Starnes conceded that the Navy "rejected Modder's claim that he was being singled out because of his Christian faith," but dismissed the Navy's investigation by alleging that the chaplain "may have been the target of a set-up."

Starnes ended his piece by conflating the Modder's behavior with biblical Christianity - one of his network's more popular defenses of homophobia:  

It is puzzling why a gay officer would continuously seek the counsel of a chaplain who clearly held to the Bible's teachings on both homosexuality and marriage.

It would be like a vegetarian getting upset at a barbecue joint for not serving tofu. 

The Navy's response to Modder's behavior dismantles conservative media's argument that someone's religious beliefs create a blank check to ignore their job responsibilities and engage in discrimination.

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Rachel Percelay http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201503190002 Thu, 19 Mar 2015 16:55:31 EDT
Erick Erickson's Campaign For A Draconian Anti-Gay Law In Georgia http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201503190001

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

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

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

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

[...]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rachel Percelay http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201503190001 Thu, 19 Mar 2015 10:35:47 EDT
CBS Shows How Easy It Is To Properly Cover A Transgender News Story http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201503180001

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

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

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

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

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

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Carlos Maza http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201503180001 Wed, 18 Mar 2015 14:45:04 EDT
Meet Alveda King, The Fox News Contributor Who Blames Natural Disasters On Gay Marriage http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201503110001

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

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

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

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

King's Anti-LGBT Extremism

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

Photo credit: Alveda King's blog

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

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

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

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

[...]

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

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

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

[...]

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

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

Relationship With MLK

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

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

Photo credit: The Advocate

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

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

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

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

[...]

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

[...]

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

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

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Rachel Percelay http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201503110001 Wed, 11 Mar 2015 17:11:50 EDT
Fox News Defends Navy Chaplain Who Allegedly Discriminated Against Gays, Women http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201503100002

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Carlos Maza http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201503100002 Tue, 10 Mar 2015 19:04:04 EDT
Fox News Attacks Planet Fitness’ Trans-Inclusive Locker Room Policy http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201503100001

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

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

Previously:

Gretchen Carlson Lashes Out At School Recommendations For Transgender Students

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

15 Experts Debunk Right-Wing Transgender Bathroom Myth

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Carlos Maza http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201503100001 Tue, 10 Mar 2015 13:10:58 EDT
VIDEO: How Fox 26's Lazy Reporting Threatens Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201503020001

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video created by Coleman Lowndes.

Previously:

Houston Fox Affiliate Peddles Transphobic Attack On Equal Rights Ordinance

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

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

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Carlos Maza http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201503020001 Mon, 02 Mar 2015 13:56:10 EDT
Facebook, Fox Entertainment Executives Spoke At Media Conference Featuring Anti-LGBT, Islamophobic Extremists http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201502260001

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Carlos Maza & Rachel Percelay http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201502260001 Thu, 26 Feb 2015 10:58:15 EDT
Fox News And CNN Ignore Passage Of Major Anti-LGBT Law In Arkansas http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201502250001 hutchinson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Methodology

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

Previously

CNN And Fox News Completely Ignore Mississippi's New Anti-Gay Segregation Law

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

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

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Rachel Percelay http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201502250001 Wed, 25 Feb 2015 09:40:46 EDT
Fox News Rallies Behind Florist Who Refused To Serve Gay Couple http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201502240001

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

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

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

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

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

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Carlos Maza http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201502240001 Tue, 24 Feb 2015 13:25:54 EDT
Why&nbsp;<em>Ronan Farrow Daily</em>&nbsp;Was The Gold Standard For Covering Transgender Issues http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201502200001

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

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

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

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Carlos Maza http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201502200001 Fri, 20 Feb 2015 14:37:25 EDT
Doctor Refuses To Care For Gay Couple&rsquo;s Baby - Is This Conservative Media&rsquo;s &ldquo;Religious Freedom&rdquo;? http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201502190003

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

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

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

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

[...]

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

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

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

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Carlos Maza http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201502190003 Thu, 19 Feb 2015 19:34:01 EDT
Fox's Erick Erickson: The Only Line Between&nbsp;"Gay Rights Extremists" And "Islamic Extremists" Is "Death" http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201502190002

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

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

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

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

[...]

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

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

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

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

Previously:

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

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

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

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Rachel Percelay http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201502190002 Thu, 19 Feb 2015 17:08:26 EDT
Fox News Gets Duped By&nbsp;<em>Another&nbsp;</em>Bogus Anti-Gay Horror Story http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201502190001 Fox News uncritically reported a bogus story about the alleged bullying of anti-gay students in a California high school, according to the school's superintendent. It's the second time the network has been duped by the lies of one of California's most notorious anti-LGBT hate groups.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previously:

LGBT Misinformer Of The Year: The Pacific Justice Institute

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

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

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Rachel Percelay http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201502190001 Thu, 19 Feb 2015 14:18:09 EDT