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 2019, Media Matters for America After Hosting Anti-LGBT Hate Group, NPR Acknowledges "We Have To Do A Better Job" http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201512170001 After NPR's The Diane Rehm Show hosted a spokesman from a notorious anti-gay hate group during a discussion of same-sex adoption, NPR's ombudsman admitted that the show erred in failing to properly identify the group.

On the December 10 edition of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, guest host Melissa Ross interviewed Peter Sprigg, Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council (FRC), to discuss legal battles over parenting and adoption rights for same-sex couples. While the Southern Poverty Law Center has listed FRC as an anti-gay hate group since 2010, NPR didn't identify Sprigg as a hate group spokesman, and Sprigg used the platform to peddle misinformation about LGBT equality. 

In a post responding to criticisms of the segment, NPR's ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen joined Diane Rehm in acknowledging that the show erred by "not us[ing] a clear identifier" for Sprigg. Rehm admitted that she has "to do a better job of being more careful about identification":

I heard from many people after Media Matters for America, which calls itself a "progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media," wrote a blog post objecting to a guest on the Dec. 10 Diane Rehm Show (which had a guest host, Melissa Ross, that day). Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, was one of four guests invited to discuss the day's topic: legal battles over parenting and adoption rights for same-sex couples.

Media Matters wrote that NPR (which distributes the show but does not produce it) gave Sprigg "a national platform to peddle misinformation about same-sex parenting." The organization Faithful America also sent an email blast that said: "Tell NPR: Don't let anti-gay hate group speak for Christians."

In the last 45 seconds of the program, as Ross was focused on wrapping up, Sprigg said that "most orthodox Christians" believe that "engaging in homosexual conduct is contrary to the will of God," a claim that depends on the murky definition of "orthodox Christians." (See this May 2015 Pew Research Center poll looking at Americans' attitudes over whether their religious beliefs are in conflict with homosexuality.) But as I read the transcript, the show's other guests forcefully pushed back against Sprigg's other claims at pretty much every turn.

I asked Rehm about the guest booking. Her view (with which I agree): "I certainly don't see that there's a problem having someone like that on the program." Where the show erred, she said, "was we did not use a clear identifier [for Sprigg] other than the title of his organization." She added, "We have to do a better job of being more careful about identification."

Rachel Percelay & Equality Matters staff http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201512170001 Thu, 17 Dec 2015 16:34:49 EDT
NPR Invites Anti-Gay Hate Group To Debate Same-Sex Parenting http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201512110001

NPR hosted a spokesman from a notorious anti-gay hate group during a discussion of same-sex adoption, giving him a national platform to peddle misinformation about same-sex parenting.

On the December 10 edition of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, guest host Melissa Ross interviewed Peter Sprigg, Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council (FRC) to discuss legal battles over parenting and adoption rights for same-sex couples.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has listed FRC as an anti-gay hate group since 2010 due to the organization's propagation of known falsehoods about LGBT people. The group has a history of making wild and inflammatory attacks on LGBT equality while masquerading as a serious policy organization in the media. Sprigg, who served as an ordained Baptist minister before joining FRC, has called for recriminalizing gay sex in the U.S. and suggested LGBT people should be "export[ed]" from the country.

But NPR didn't identify Sprigg as a hate group spokesman, and Sprigg used the platform to peddle misinformation about LGBT equality. Sprigg cited a widely discredited paper to suggest that children raised by same-sex couples perform poorly, and resurrected the long debunked horror story that Catholic adoption agencies have been shut down for refusing to serve same-sex couples. While guest host Melissa Ross did not push back on Sprigg's talking points, fellow guest Emily Hetch-McGowan, Director of Public Policy the Family Equality Council, called out FRC's use of discredited research:

PETER SPRIGG: And I think that certainly there is abundant reason to believe that children do best when raised by a married mother and father. And within the context of foster care the judge has an obligation to do what's in the best interest of the child. And he exercised that discretion.

MELISSA ROSS: And what research does the Family Research Council cite to buttress the claim that a child is better off with a heterosexual couple?

SPRIGG: Well, there's an abundance of research showing that children do better overall when raised by their own married biological father who are committed to one another in a life-long marriage. There are just reams of research showing that. Now this is a slightly different situation because of the fact that you're dealing with a situation where they are being removed from their biological parents. But we think that there is evidence to suggest that children would do better with a mother and father even if it's not their biological parents.


Asking Hate Groups About Marriage Equality Isn't Balance, It's Bad Journalism

FRC's Sprigg Desperately Tries To Justify Discriminating Against Gay Blood Donors

FRC's Sprigg Spreads Lies About Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)

Rachel Percelay http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201512110001 Fri, 11 Dec 2015 14:38:21 EDT
Breitbart Uses "Trannies" To Mock 15-Year-Old Transgender Activist http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201512030001

Breitbart News headlined a post about HIV rates in the transgender community with the anti-transgender slur "trannies," accompanied by an image of a 15 year-old transgender girl.

Breitbart News contributor and anti-gay hate group leader Austin Ruse headlined a December 2 post with the anti-transgender slur "trannies." The slur was accompanied with an image of Jazz Jennings, a 15-year-old transgender activist who wrote the book I Am Jazz, and stars in the TLC series "I Am Jazz."

Ruse's post referenced a recent meta-analysis by the World Health Organization detailing high rates of HIV among transgender women. Ruse used the study to attack Jazz Jennings as "a gender confused 15-year-old boy" and suggest that it's "dangerous" to "become 'transgender.'"

From a December 2 post on Breitbart News: 

A new study from the World Health Organization shows how dangerous it is to become "transgender."

The WHO performed a meta-analysis of 15 different countries and found that men who dress as women are 49 times more likely to contact the HIV virus than the general population. Men who dress as women and also prostitute themselves are nine times more likely to contract HIV than those who do not prostitute themselves.

Rachel Percelay http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201512030001 Thu, 03 Dec 2015 11:12:50 EDT
Watch This State Representative Call Out The Extreme Group Behind Laws Targeting Transgender Students http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201511200001 During a hearing on a bill aimed at denying protections for transgender students, a Wisconsin state representative called out the extreme anti-LGBT legal organization working to enact similar laws across the country.  

On November 19, the Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Education held a hearing on AB 469, a bill that would prohibit transgender students from using the bathroom or locker room that corresponds with their gender identity. The bill was based in part on "model" legislation drawn up by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

State Representative Mandela Barnes (D) called out Alliance Defending Freedom for working to criminalize homosexuality abroad during the hearing on the bill:

REP. MANDELA BARNES (D): It was said that the bill came from a group called... the Alliance for Defending Freedom. And I just want to confirm that that's the case, that's where the bill -

REP. JESSE KREMER (R): No, the bill did not originate there. The bill originated somewhere - there was a bill that was being worked on that was more like the Minnesota bill, and that's what we were looking at originally. We were also looking at the Nevada bill, and as I mentioned, I talked to the authors in both of those states, and then we found out about Alliance Defending Freedom bill, policy, that they had kind of come up with also - so we kind of merged the policies together to get something that would hopefully work for Wisconsin for everyone.

BARNES: I don't know how much people really know about Alliance Defending Freedom. They're not really a friendly group.

REP. JEREMY THIESFELDT (R): Representative Barnes, Alliance Defending Freedom is not on trial here today.

BARNES: Oh, I understand that.

THIESFELDT: Keep your comments to the bill, please.

BARNES: But it's sort of the company we keep and where the ideas come from. We should be really aware of that, really conscious of where some of this policy is coming from. Because this is an organization that's tried to criminalize homosexuality in other countries. And I don't think that's the type of place where we should be getting any of our policy here in the state of Wisconsin.

Barnes' description of ADF's extreme anti-LGBT work is accurate. While the group is best known for its "religious liberty" work, ADF has also sought to promote and defend anti-sodomy laws that criminalize gay sex in countries like Belize and Jamaica.

ADF has launched a concerted nationwide effort to push its own "model" policies denying transgender students equal access to school facilities. As State Representative Jesse Kremer, who introduced AB 469, pointed out, Wisconsin's bill mirrors similar legislation in Minnesota and Nevada. As Media Matters has documented, those bills also drew heavily from ADF's model legislation:

ADF's influence in shaping discriminatory state and school policies is a significant story in the ongoing debate over protections for transgender students. Journalists should follow Representative Barnes' lead and tell audiences what they need to know about ADF, its extreme international work, and the group's campaign to sneak their discriminatory model legislation into statehouses across the country.

Rachel Percelay http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201511200001 Fri, 20 Nov 2015 14:58:50 EDT
Christians Are Leaving Homophobia Behind - Will Journalists Keep Up? http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201511120001

The majority of Christians in America now believe that homosexuality should be accepted by society. But major media outlets routinely depict homophobia as just Christian or religious belief, giving a pass to some of the most extreme anti-LGBT activists and organizations in the country.

For years, media coverage of the fight for LGBT equality has followed a "God vs. gays" narrative that pits LGBT equality against religious -- and specifically Christian -- communities.

But according to recent polling data, 54 percent of all Christians now say that "homosexuality should be accepted by society." The data come from Pew's 2014 Religious Landscape Study, which surveyed more than 35,000 U.S. adults as a follow up to Pew's 2007 study. Now, the majority of major Christian groups, including Catholics, mainline Protestants, Orthodox Christians, and historically black Protestants, believe homosexuality should be accepted by society:

Despite the shifting attitudes of Christians in America, major media outlets continue to accept right-wing framing that conflates homophobia with mainstream Christian or religious beliefs.

In fights over LGBT equality, hate groups with track records of disparaging and demonizing gay people are referred to as Christian organizations by mainstream media. This tendency was on full display during the recent controversy surrounding Kim Davis - the Kentucky clerk who refused to provide wedding licenses to same-sex couples. Media outlets described Liberty Counsel, which represented Davis in her legal battle, as a "Christian" organization with no mention of its hate group status or history of anti-LGBT extremism. Hate group leaders like Family Research Council's Tony Perkins are routinely given airtime to act as the voice of Christian voters.

That conflation is even worse in right-wing media, where even blatantly homophobic remarks are spun into testaments of Christian faith. When Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson compared homosexuality to bestiality, Fox News' Sean Hannity defended his "old-fashioned traditional Christian sentiment." When the Benham brothers, a pair of right wing activists, were criticized for their extreme anti-gay rhetoric, conservative radio host Dana Loesch lamented the "anti-Christian bigotry" at play.

The conflation goes beyond whitewashing bad actors -- it also legitimizes discrimination against LGBT people under the guise of "religious liberty." "Religious freedom" laws like the controversial Indiana law this past March are built around the right wing narrative that serving LGBT people violates Christians' religious beliefs. Anti-LGBT groups have used the media to popularize stories about Christian business owners who are fined for refusing service to gay customers, depicting them as Christian martyrs who've been victimized by non-discrimination laws.

There's no reasonable limit to the kind of animus that anti-LGBT conservatives can justify under the guise of Christian or religious belief. In October 2014, a pediatrician in Michigan cited her religious beliefs after she refused to work with the baby of a same-sex couple. A former Ford Motor employee filed a complaint with the EEOC claiming that his "religious liberty" was violated after he violated the company's anti-harassment policy with a hate-filled response to an article detailing Ford's efforts to be more LGBT-inclusive. A teacher who was fired from a private school for refusing to accept a transgender child appeared on Fox News recently, and Fox host Megyn Kelly said that the teacher's "Christian beliefs ... don't support this." 

While it's not the role of the media to question the validity or sincerity of a person's religious beliefs, it is imperative that journalists not blindly follow that self-identification. In the fight against Indiana's "religious freedom" law, religious leaders were some of the most outspoken critics of the anti-LGBT legislation - yet in the media, these religious voices were often drowned out by those of anti-LGBT extremists. Anti-LGBT groups and activists may sincerely identify themselves as Christian, but it's irresponsible and misleading for the media to advertise their views without noting that they increasingly contradict dominant Christian beliefs in America.

Image at top via Flickr user Danny Hammontree using a Creative Commons License.


VIDEO: After Marriage Equality, Fox News Pivots To "Religious Liberty" Horror Stories

How Fox News Is Helping Homophobes Hijack Christianity

At Fox News, Christianity Is A Free Pass For Homophobia

Rachel Percelay http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201511120001 Thu, 12 Nov 2015 16:37:21 EDT
How Lazy Reporting Helped Kill The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201511040001

Yesterday, Houstonians voted to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), marking the end of a year and a half long battle over the city's non-discrimination ordinance. HERO's opponents owe a large part of their success to local media, which helped frame the measure as a "bathroom bill" while uncritically repeating opponents' bogus "bathroom predator" talking points.

For the past 17 months, the city of Houston has been embroiled in a drawn-out battle over HERO, which prohibits discrimination in areas like housing, employment, and city contracts on the basis of 15 characteristics, including race, sex, disability, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

The Houston City Council adopted HERO in May 2014, in the face of fierce opposition from anti-LGBT groups who immediately launched a signature-collection effort to put the ordinance on the ballot for possible repeal. After months of expensive, high profile campaigning, yesterday Houstonians voted to repeal the embattled equal rights ordinance.

HERO's opponents won a stunning victory, turning public opinion dramatically against a relatively popular ordinance. That victory is thanks in part to local media's abysmal coverage of the fight over HERO, which was plagued by the widely-debunked myth that the ordinance would allow sexual predators to sneak into women's restrooms by pretending to be transgender -- a bogus talking point championed by HERO's opponents.

Media Matters study found that, throughout the debate over HERO, local television media uncritically repeated the bathroom predator myth, essentially providing free airtime to HERO opponents:

Local media also depicted HERO as an LGBT non-discrimination law, rarely mentioning that HERO prohibits discrimination on 15 characteristics including race, gender, and familial status -- characteristics that are statistically more likely to need HERO's protections. Houston Fox and CBS affiliates went the extra mile of making it a practice to included B-roll footage (scene setting video shown during a news report) of bathroom signs during their HERO coverage. Fox 26's HERO reporting was particularly egregious, with the network's reporters themselves buying into the myth.

Pairing bathroom b-roll with HERO coverage and excluding mention of the measure's broad non-discrimination protections led many Houston voters to think the measure was solely about access to restrooms. As Rice University Political Science Chair Mark Jones noted in August, Houston voters were "focused in on the bathroom issue," but otherwise people "really don't know" HERO's actual content.

The media's unwillingness to debunk opponents' bathroom talking point likely played a major role in turning public opinion against the ordinance. As Rice University political science professor Robert Stein told BuzzFeed News, the bathroom predator myth is "the most effective means to cool support for the law." The talking point has a history of defeating LGBT non-discrimination ordinances, and in Stein's poll, it swung nearly 7% of HERO supporters to change their position and oppose the ordinance.

Instead of giving Houstonians the information they needed to make an informed decision about whether to keep or repeal HERO, media outlets contributed to the gross misinformation campaign surrounding Houston's non-discrimination law. On Tuesday night, Houstonians voted to strip their LGBT neighbors of basic legal protections out of fear of the imaginary bathroom bogeymen they had heard so much about in the news.  


How Local TV News In Houston Is Helping Critics Of The City's Equal Rights Ordinance

How Houston Media Can Fix Its Coverage Of The City's Non-Discrimination Fight

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

Rachel Percelay http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201511040001 Wed, 04 Nov 2015 11:32:14 EDT
Fox's Erick Erickson Parrots Transphobic "Bathroom Predator" Attack On Houston's Equal Rights Law http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201511030001

In a post directing readers to vote against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson repeated the widely debunked talking point that non-discrimination protections for transgender people are somehow dangerous to women and children.

Enacted in early 2014, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) prohibits discrimination in areas like housing, employment, and city contracts on the basis of 15 characteristics, including race, sex, disability, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity. On November 3, Houstonians will decide whether to keep the ordinance.

The fight over HERO has been plagued by the widely-debunked myth that HERO would allow sexual predators to sneak into women's restrooms by pretending to be transgender -- a bogus talking point championed by HERO's opponents. Experts across the country and officials from Texas cities with similar non-discrimination ordinances have thoroughly rejected the "bathroom predator" myth, calling it "beyond specious."

Erickson parroted the "bathroom" talking point in a post on his radio show's website, claiming that HERO will "legitimately threaten your children." In addition to describing transgender people as "the mentally ill, and the confused," Erickson repeated the myth that LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinances threaten "religious freedom."

From a November 3 post on The Erick Erickson Show website:

Houston, TX voters will today go to the polls to decide a simple question: should men be able to use the women's bathroom?

The BLT&G community would have you believe the issue is more complicated than that, but that is it in a nutshell. Proposition 1 is being pushed by an aggressive lobby that is perfectly happy for deviants, criminals, liars, the mentally ill, and the confused to use a bathroom of the opposite sex if they can say, with a straight face, that they are the opposite sex.

This issue stems from an aggressive push by Houston's gay activist mayor who went so far as to threaten pastors with litigation if they dared mention the issue in the pulpit.

The Texas Values Coalition notes five things you need to know about Proposition 1:

  • The ordinance will allow men access to women's bathrooms, shower rooms, and locker rooms (any "place of public accommodation").
  • The ordinance would force employers and private business owners to violate their religious and moral convictions.
  • The ordinance promotes government-backed discrimination by seeking to criminalize opposition to homosexual and transgender behavior.
  • The ordinance equates race with sexual conduct.
  • The ordinance increases government interference in the private sector by mandating employment of homosexual and transgendered persons. 

Proposition 1 is, essentially, legalized persecution of people of faith and their businesses. It will also legitimately threaten your children.

You need to vote no.


Fox's Erick Erickson Says Society's Acceptance of Transgender People Blinds It To "Evil" Of Charleston Killings

Texas Experts Debunk The Transgender "Bathroom Predator" Myth Ahead Of HERO Referendum

An Expert Explains Why The Right-Wing "Bathroom Predator" Myth Is Wrong And Dangerous

Rachel Percelay http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201511030001 Tue, 03 Nov 2015 13:36:35 EDT
Kim Davis’ Attorneys Attack Associated Press For Identifying Them As A “Hate Group” http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201510210001

The extreme anti-gay legal organization representing Rowan County, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis is criticizing the Associated Press after a report accurately noted that the group has been listed as an anti-gay “hate group.”

In an October 4 article, Associated Press correspondent Claire Galofaro accurately reported that Liberty Counsel -- the group representing Kim Davis -- has been labeled an anti-gay “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) due to its peddling of damaging falsehoods about the LGBT community. Other media outlets have failed to similarly identify Liberty as a “hate group” in their reporting on the controversy surrounding Davis.

In response to the report, Liberty Counsel president Mat Staver delivered a letter to AP’s Assistant General Counsel Brian Barrett demanding that the article be permanently deleted, accusing AP of putting Davis and Liberty Counsel at risk for being targeted for “death threats.” From Breitbart:

In a blistering letter, signed by Liberty Counsel president Mathew Staver and delivered on Monday to Brian Barrett, AP’s Assistant General Counsel, the group charges an October 4 story is “defamatory and presents Liberty Counsel and me in a false light. The words and the way the article is written as a whole present a clear and unmistakable message to a reasonable person — Mat Staver and Liberty Counsel are liars and haters, and the organization is a ‘hate group.’ These assertions are very damaging and place lives in danger.”


The AP article relies heavily on the claim by the Southern Poverty Law Center that the positions taken by Liberty Counsel on homosexuality amount to hatred no different from that of the KKK and the Nazi Party. The AP story was headlined “Law firm labeled as hate group leading Kim Davis’ crusade.”


Staver’s letter charges that [AP correspondent Claire] Galofaro knew of the dangers he and Davis were in but published the SPLC charges anyway. He says Galofaro “…knew that Kim Davis had received death threats. She knew that people threatened to kill her and her husband and burn down their house after raping her. She knew that people had threatened to kill her and her staff at the Clerk’s office. She knew that I had received death threats and that our staff hat [sic] Liberty Counsel received death threats.”

Liberty Counsel is not asking AP for a “minor edit here and there…” Staver writes, “At a minimum, AP should permanently remove the link and the cache.”

Staver said today that AP’s General Counsel has acknowledged the letter but not yet responded.


Associated Press Properly Identifies The Hate Group Representing Kim Davis

Don’t Be Surprised That Kim Davis’ Pope Visit Was Overblown

Major News Outlets Fail To Identify The Hate Group Representing Kim Davis

Equality Matters staff http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201510210001 Wed, 21 Oct 2015 11:41:45 EDT
An Expert Explains Why The Right-Wing "Bathroom Predator" Myth Is Wrong And Dangerous http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201510150003

One of Houston's leading sexual assault experts has dismantled the right-wing "bathroom predator" myth about LGBT non-discrimination protections, calling out local media outlets for helping misrepresent the reality of sexual assault.

For the past year and a half, Houston has been mired in a tense debate over the city’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), a measure that prohibits discrimination in areas like housing, employment, and public accommodations on the basis of fifteen characteristics -- including race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

Opponents of HERO have falsely claimed that the ordinance would open the door to sexual predators who might pretend to be transgender in order to sneak into women’s public restrooms and commit sexual assault. The “bathroom predator” myth has been thoroughly debunked by experts from cities and states across the country with similar laws on the books, including several cities in Texas with similar ordinances.

The talking point continues to be one of the most popular right-wing attacks on LGBT non-discrimination laws, and HERO’s opponents have used it relentlessly to weaken support for the measure among women and parents.

But in May 2014, during a public hearing before the Houston city council, HERO supporters gained a powerful voice in their fight against the “bathroom predator” talking point: Cassandra Thomas.

Thomas has spent thirty-one years at the Houston Area’s Women Center (HAWC), an organization dedicated to helping individuals affected by domestic and sexual violence. Aside from serving as HAWC’s Chief Compliance Officer, Thomas is also a member of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center Board and sits on the editorial board of the Sexual Assault Report of the Civic Research Center. She’s won numerous awards for her work on domestic and sexual violence, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.

Testifying before the city council, Thomas drew on her decades of experience to dismiss opponents’ fearmongering. “If you really want to stop sexual assault,” Thomas said, “then let’s cut out the scare tactics, and let’s speak the truth.”

Carlos Maza http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201510150003 Thu, 15 Oct 2015 13:19:34 EDT
Propaganda And Indoctrination: How Fox News Talks About LGBT History http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201510150002 October is LGBT History Month in the United States, an annual observance of the contributions and history of the LGBT community. But Fox News has repeatedly attacked efforts to discuss LGBT history -- and the LGBT community in general -- in schools, warning that children might be indoctrinated into supporting the gay agenda.

Since 1994, the U.S. has celebrated LGBT History Month in October. October includes a number of days aimed at celebrating the LGBT community, including National Coming Out Day on October 11 and Spirit Day -- a day when people wear purple to stand up against anti-LGBT bullying -- on October 15.

In past years, some Fox News personalities have a made a tradition of wearing purple on Spirit Day. But the network's track record of attacking efforts to discuss LGBT people in public schools has been dismal. The network relentlessly attacked a California law requiring public schools to teach students about the historical contributions of the LGBT community, calling it an attempt to indoctrinate kids with pro-gay propaganda. And Fox has criticized even basic efforts to teach students about LGBT people in order to reduce anti-LGBT bullying.

LGBT History Month has done a lot over the past several years to help teach students about the important contributions of the LGBT community to America's political, social, and cultural development. But on Fox News, the idea of even mentioning LGBT people in school classrooms is somehow still controversial.  

Video by John Kerr. 


Fox News Goes Purple For Spirit Day After Months Of Anti-LGBT Harassment, Bullying

Fox Ironically Supports "Spirit Day" After Months Of Attacking Anti-Bullying Efforts

Fox News Downplays LGBT Teen Suicide, Bullying

Rachel Percelay http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201510150002 Thu, 15 Oct 2015 11:44:23 EDT
Associated Press Properly Identifies The Hate Group Representing Kim Davis http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201510050001

The Associated Press properly identified Liberty Counsel -- the legal group defending Kentucky's Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis -- as an anti-LGBT hate group, in an all-too-rare example of a major news outlet accurately informing its audience about Liberty's extreme views.

Liberty Counsel's defense of Davis has put it at the center of a months-long media firestorm over the clerk's refusal to follow the law and issue same-sex marriage licenses. Yet major news outlets have repeatedly failed to note that Liberty Counsel has been labeled an anti-LGBT "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center, often only referring to the group as a "Christian" or "conservative" legal organization.

In an October 4 article, the Associated Press identified Liberty Counsel as a hate group, and reported on several recent PR controversies that have further undermined the group's credibility.

From the Associated Press (emphasis added):  

Kim Davis' lawyer stood onstage in a Washington D.C. hotel and pointed to a photo on the screen. It showed 100,000 people packed into a Peruvian soccer stadium, Mat Staver told the crowd, all there to pray for the Kentucky clerk battling against gay marriage.

The crowd erupted.

It wasn't true.

Staver's firm, the Liberty Counsel, which revealed Davis' secret meeting with Pope Francis, has been accused by advocacy groups of peddling misrepresentations in the past. Yet it has become the main source of details about the controversial pope meeting.

Online sleuths quickly debunked the Peru story Staver told at the Values Voter Summit, a conference for the conservative Family Research Council. The photo was from a year-old gathering unrelated to Davis, who spent five days in jail for defying a court order and refusing to license gay marriages. Staver could provide no evidence of a massive Davis rally. On Monday, he called it a mistake and blamed miscommunication with the Peruvian authorities who gave him the photo.

The next day, the firm dropped a bombshell. It said Pope Francis, on his celebrated visit to America, secretly met with Davis. The pope hugged her, thanked her for her courage and told her to "stay strong," Liberty Counsel said. The Vatican on Friday said the pope had a brief meeting with Davis that should not be seen as support for her stance.


The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the Liberty Counsel as an anti-gay hate groups for spreading false information.

"A group that regularly portrays gay people as perverse, diseased pedophiles putting Western civilization at risk are way, way over the line," said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the center.

The Liberty Counsel has connected homosexuality to higher rates of promiscuity and incest, Potok said, despite scientific evidence to the contrary. The firm opposes laws banning hate crimes and supports discredited conversion therapies that purport to turn homosexuals into heterosexuals. Staver once declared that the Boy Scouts would become a "playground for pedophiles" once it allowed gay troop leaders.


Major News Outlets Fail To Identify The Hate Group Representing Kim Davis

Don't Be Surprised That Kim Davis' Pope Visit Was Overblown

Liberty Counsel's Staver: "All The Medical And Scientific Studies" Prove People Aren't Born Gay

Equality Matters staff http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201510050001 Mon, 05 Oct 2015 13:35:28 EDT
Don’t Be Surprised That Kim Davis’ Pope Visit Was Overblown http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201510030001

Kim Davis, the Kentucky country clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, is embroiled in yet another media firestorm following revelations that reports about her private meeting with Pope Francis during his recent visit to the U.S. may have been grossly misrepresented by her and the legal group representing her, Liberty Counsel. But the controversy should come as no surprise to those familiar with Liberty Counsel, which has a reputation for lying in order to elevate its profile and further demonize LGBT people.

Florida-based Liberty Counsel was founded in 1989 by its now-chairman, Mat Staver. For years, the organization has distinguished itself as one of the anti-gay right’s most extreme and blundering legal groups, taking on doomed efforts to defend harmful “ex-gay” therapy and slow the inevitable advance of marriage equality.

Before it began representing Davis, Liberty Counsel was perhaps most notorious for representing Lisa Miller. After ending a same-sex relationship with her partner, Miller took their daughter and moved to another state, defying a court order and refusing to allow her former partner to see the child. Liberty Counsel rallied to Miller’s defense, creating a public relations nightmare for itself when Miller subsequently kidnapped the child and fled the country.

In addition to Davis, the group is also defending Scott Lively,  an American evangelist facing charges of “crimes against humanity” for his involvement in promoting Uganda’s extreme anti-LGBT law, which threatens gay Ugandans with life in prison.

Apart from its ham-handed legal work, Liberty Counsel is a run-of-the-mill anti-gay group that regularly makes asinine and hateful proclamations about the LGBT community. Liberty’s Staver has linked homosexuality to pedophilia and disease, and predicted that marriage equality could cause society to “cease to exist.” In 2014, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) added Liberty Counsel to its list of anti-gay “hate groups.”

The Kim Davis marriage-license story offered Liberty Counsel an opportunity to capitalize off of the national media spotlight trained on the law-breaking clerk – a chance for it to raise its visibility and carve out a niche for itself alongside more successful anti-LGBT legal organizations. Staver became a regular fixture in the media’s coverage of Davis, cited in nearly every major mainstream media report about the controversy. 

But that increased media attention also brought with it increased media scrutiny and vetting, especially as it become clear that Davis would face jail time for refusing to do her job. Commentators began openly wondering whether Liberty was cynically taking advantage of Davis to raise its profile. Others noted Liberty’s penchant for pursuing dead-end, extreme anti-gay litigation. Even on Fox, media figures were suspicious of Staver’s arguments and intentions. A panel of Fox commentators mocked Staver’s “ridiculously stupid” suggestion that Kentucky isn’t bound to follow the Supreme Court’s orders. In an interview with Staver, Fox’s Neil Cavuto seemed sincerely perplexed by Staver’s legal reasoning, admitting he was “thoroughly confused” by the end of the segment.

Carlos Maza http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201510030001 Sat, 03 Oct 2015 10:58:10 EDT
How The Media Is Helping A Hate Group Leader Gain Political Power http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201509230001

Tony Perkins is the head of one of the most extreme anti-gay hate groups in the country, yet media outlets continue to give him a platform that enables him to play a major role in mainstream conservative politics.

In 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) labeled Perkins' group, the Family Research Council (FRC), an anti-gay hate group, due in part to Perkins' history of making inflammatory comments about the LGBT community. Perkins has called pedophilia "a homosexual problem," accused gay people of recruiting children, and compared gay advocates to terrorists.

Despite FRC's extremism, mainstream media outlets have treated Perkins as a credible and legitimate conservative commentator, regularly inviting him to speak on behalf of Christians without identifying him as a hate monger.  

Carlos Maza http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201509230001 Wed, 23 Sep 2015 11:06:50 EDT
How Fox News Turns Transgender People Into Villains http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201509220001 America's transgender community experiences some of the highest rates of discrimination, violence, and poverty in the country. So how has Fox News managed to portray this marginalized and vulnerable community as threatening, greedy, and deserving of mistreatment?

Despite the progress that's been made in the fight for transgender equality and visibility, transgender people continue to face astronomical rates of harassment and discrimination at work, in school, in public places, and even from law enforcement. Trans people are often refused medical care, fired from their jobs, denied housing, and even evicted from their homes because of their gender identity.

Trans people are also often targeted by physical violence. Just last month, Tamara Dominquez became the 17th documented trans woman of color to be murdered in 2015. This year's unprecedented streak of homicides of transgender women has gotten the attention of major national news outlets, including The New York Times and Time magazine. On ABC's Good Morning America, transgender actress Laverne Cox declared a "state of emergency" in the transgender community.

But over the past few years, Fox News has cast the transgender community as one of its favorite villians, peddling bogus horror stories, touting fake medical "experts," and actively mocking trans people to suggest that they deserve to be mistreated. 

Step One: Use Scare Tactics To Distract From Real Discrimination

The primary way Fox News has demonized the trans community is by depicting the fight for trans equality as dangerous, threatening, and unnecessary. Whether it be local non-discrimination ordinances or trans-inclusive school policies, Fox News uses scare tactics to attack even basic protections for trans people while ignoring or downplaying the reality of anti-trans discrimination.

The network's favorite horror story about transgender equality is the myth that sexual predators will exploit non-discrimination protections to sneak into women's bathrooms. The myth has been thoroughly debunked, but Fox repeatedly peddles the talking point when covering gender identity protections -- going as far as promoting entirely fabricated stories about transgender predators.

But Fox's fearmongering goes beyond lying about legal protections for trans people -- the network has attacked transgender television characters (kids will experiment with homosexuality!), school lessons on gender diversity (we're falling behind in math and science!), and even the decision by Macy's department store to welcome transgender customers (a threat to religious freedom!). All the while, Fox personalities insist that these protections aren't necessary because discrimination and bullying against trans people "is not a big problem." 

These scare tactics aren't just silly, they're strategic -- aimed at pulling the public's focus away from the very real discrimination experienced by transgender people. One study found that 70 percent of transgender people had been denied access to, verbally harassed, or physically assaulted in public restrooms. Similarly, another study found that 78 percent of transgender or gender non-conforming kids grades K-12 have experienced harassment at school, with 15 percent experiencing such severe harassment in K-12 or higher education that they dropped out.

The same reason explains why Fox has yet to mention the unprecedented number of murders of trans women of color this year. Acknowledging evidence of actual discrimination and violence against trans people would make the network's bogus horror stories seem ridiculous by comparison. 

Step Two: Ignore Experts, Invent Your Own

Professional medical organizations agree that transgender people are real, normal, and deserve respect. To get around this consensus, Fox enlists its own set of junk scientists who spout fringe, anti-trans "expert" opinions about trans people.

The network's favorite anti-trans pop psychologist is Dr. Keith Ablow, a member of Fox's "Medical A-Team" who frequently commentates on the network's trans focused segments. Ablow has opined that "there's no such thing as being transgender," and declared he'd prescribe a transgender child "anti-psychotic" medication. In 2011, he asserted that Chaz Bono was suffering a "psychotic delusion" and cautioned parents that simply watching Bono perform as a contestant on Dancing With The Stars could turn their children transgender

Ablow's "expert" medical opinion is wildly out of step with mainstream medical organizations, including the American Psychiatric Association and American Psychological Association, both of which recognize the importance of supporting transgender people and providing them with adequate health care. 

When not relying on the wildly inaccurate statements of pseudoscientists like Ablow, Fox personalities dispense their own misguided ideas about transgender people. Bill O'Reilly has used his perch to dispense bigoted and dangerous advice for parents raising transgender children, saying he wouldn't allow or support his own child transitioning, and that parents who do so are "crazy" and might be "guilty of child abuse."  

Step Three: Exclude Transgender People From Coverage

Actually allowing a transgender person to talk about their experiences on-air would undermine Fox's ability to demonize the transgender community as threatening and extreme. That's likely why transgender people almost never appear on Fox's airwaves.

While Fox regularly invites representatives from anti-LGBT hate groups to criticize basic efforts to protect transgender people, a recent Media Matters study found that the network failed to host even a single transgender person as a guest in the 27 segments it did on about transgender-related issues over the course of nine months.

Fox excludes transgender people from their trans coverage so that the network can continue its dehumanizing, inaccurate treatment of them without acknowledging the damage it causes. Dehumanizing an entire group of people using scare tactics and mockery only works if those people are denied a chance to defend themselves and tell their stories.

Step Four: "They Deserve To Be Mistreated"

Blaming transgender people for the discrimination and violence they face is one of the most destructive ways society marginalizes trans people. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey described this tactic as an explanation for the systematic discrimination against transgender people in its 2011 report (emphasis added):

Instead of recognizing that the moral failure lies in society's unwillingness to embrace different gender identities and expressions, society blames transgender and gender nonconforming people for bringing the discrimination and violence on themselves.

Fox routinely tells stories about transgender people through the lens of criminality -- focusing on transgender prisoners and lawbreakers to suggest that trans people don't actually deserve dignity or equal treatment. Fox, for example, incessantly mocked and misgendered Chelsea Manning, who is serving 35 years in prison for leaking classified military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks. Fox personalities scoffed at the idea of providing Manning with transgender health care in prison, describing it as "special treatment." Anchor Gregg Jarret defended his decision to misgender Manning by boasting, "I don't do what Bradley Manning wants me to do."

Fox has also repeatedly used the story of Michelle Kosilek, a transgender inmate in Massachusetts who is serving a life sentence for murdering her wife, to mock the idea of providing medical care for transgender inmates. Bill O'Reilly has defended denying Kosilek gender-affirming health care on the grounds that "you're a murderer in this prison, you get back to your cell and shut up":

Fox also tracks down and highlights stories about transgender immigrants to disparage the transgender community. A Fox & Friends "Entitlement Nation" segment on hormone therapy for detained immigrants called the treatment "outrageous," and proposed that the best way to treat undocumented trans immigrants would be to give them "a pair of Joe Arpaio's pink boxers as we send them back to their country."

Step Five: Normalize Mocking Transgender People

Whether it's playing Aerosmith's "Dude (Looks Like A Lady)," laughing at a transgender prisoner's appearance, joking about "the one part" of Chaz Bono's body "that hasn't been operated on," mocking transgender health insurance coverage, or calling Chelsea Manning "Bradleen," Fox News routinely engages in transphobic name calling and mockery in front of millions of viewers.

Experts have criticized Fox for its treatment of the transgender community, warning that it could contribute to transphobic violence and discrimination. Yet Fox continues to make derogatory and dehumanizing comments about transgender people that add nothing to the news, but go far towards legitimizing anti-trans discrimination. When Fox makes flippant jokes at trans people's expense, it assures audiences that transphobia is acceptable -- both on and off the network.

Fox's dehumanizing treatment of the transgender community is emblematic of the network's broader victimization complex. While Fox works to cast transgender people as a threat to taxpayers and bathroom-goers, the network simultaneously labels ChristiansChristmasreligious freedom, and white men as under attack. That victim complex has long been Fox's MO, but when it makes transgender people the enemy, it becomes a systematic effort by cable news' most influential network to ostracize and dehumanize one of the country's most at-risk populations.

This post originally described Michelle Kosilek as an inmate in Virginia. She is in Massachusetts. 

Rachel Percelay http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201509220001 Tue, 22 Sep 2015 10:08:54 EDT
Why Doesn't Fox News Host Transgender Guests? http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201509150002

Regular Fox News viewers have no doubt heard a lot about transgender people lately: as America's cultural shift toward greater understanding of this community grows, so has opposition to it. But it's also likely Fox viewers have never actually seen or heard a transgender person on television, because Fox News has almost entirely excluded transgender people from its broadcasts, even as it continues to produce inaccurate, dehumanizing coverage of transgender people.

Fox News spends a lot of time discussing transgender people. The network's anchors, reporters, and show hosts have manufactured  reasons to fear nondiscrimination protections for transgender people, mocked transgender inmates and attacked their access to gender-affirming healthcare, panicked over initiatives to make schools more gender inclusive, and compared being transgender to thinking you're a cat or cocker spaniel

But according to a Media Matters study, Fox News failed to host even a single transgender person as a guest in the 27 segments it did on about transgender-related issues over the course of nine months, from September 1, 2014 to June 1, 2015. The network also broadcast some 40 news alerts about transgender-related stories, but only two included a transgender person actually commenting on the story:

It's not hard to imagine why Fox News might be avoiding bringing transgender people on the air; doing so would give them a platform to correct the anti-trans misinformation frequently peddled by the network and humanize transgender people in the eyes of Fox's viewers. Instead, Fox routinely treats the fight for transgender equality and acceptance as little more than a joke or a product of the "PC Police." Free from any transgender guests who might call them out on their behavior, Fox hosts regularly misgender trans subjects, mock their appearances, and peddle junk science about their medical treatment.

Experts have criticized Fox for its destructive coverage of the transgender community, warning that it could contribute to transphobic violence and discrimination. As GLAAD has explained, negative media depictions of transgender people can have a tremendous public impact, especially for audiences that aren't likely to personally know a transgender person:

[A]ccording to a GLAAD/Harris Interactive poll, only 8% of Americans say they personally know someone who is transgender...  [W]hen a stereotypical or defamatory transgender image appears in the media, the viewer may assume that all transgender people are actually like that; they have no real-life experience with which to compare it.

Given the growing epidemic of violence against transgender people, it's more important than ever that Fox News improve its coverage of trans issues. An easy first step would be giving transgender people the opportunity to tell their own stories and to ensure that the network's reporting speaks to, rather than about, the trans community.

Rachel Percelay http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201509150002 Tue, 15 Sep 2015 10:33:48 EDT