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Meet the right-wing hate group behind anti-trans bills sweeping the country

Alliance Defending Freedom is spending millions to attack LGBTQ equality.

By Oliver Willis - March 16, 2021
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LGBTQ rights protest

The Human Rights Campaign has tracked at least 22 bills introduced this year in 17 states aimed at limiting or completely banning transgender participation in school sports.

These attacks come at the same time that the Biden administration has shown support for transgender rights, including withdrawing its support from a Connecticut lawsuit aimed at keeping transgender athletes from participating in high school sports on the team of their gender that the Trump administration had backed.

Many of the proposed bills introduced in state legislatures have been connected to the right-wing group Alliance Defending Freedom, which has drafted some or all of the legal language used in them, provided testimony in favor of anti-trans measures from purported experts in state legislatures, and conducted public relations campaigns to promote the bills and attack the federal Equality Act.

The group works under the umbrella of “The Promise to America’s Children” coalition with other right-wing organizations, including the Heritage Foundation and the Family Policy Alliance, to attack transgender rights.

The Alliance Defending Freedom has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which cites its work to recriminalize sexual acts between consenting LGBTQ people, support for sterilization of transgender people, and promotion of myths about pedophilia and LGBTQ sexuality.

According to its 2017 tax returns, the nonprofit group brought in over $55 million in donations. It has over the course of its 27-year history poured millions of dollars into the fight against LGBTQ rights and the right of women to have abortions.

Most recently, the group worked alongside the Trump administration to further an agenda hostile to equal rights, but its record of supporting legal moves against LGBTQ people predates 2017.

In 2003 it filed amicus briefs in the case of Lawrence v. Texas, in which the Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of anti-sodomy laws, describing “same sex sodomy” as a “distinct public health problem.” When the court ruled such laws unconstitutional, the Alliance Defending Freedom called the decision “devastating.”

In 2017, in the Supreme Court case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the group represented a Christian baker from Colorado who refused to make a cake for a gay couple, arguing in favor of the right to refuse service to customers based on their sexual orientation.

In 2018 it argued the Hawaii state appeals court case of a bed and breakfast owner who denied a room to two women because they were a lesbian couple.

In multiple states, the Alliance has represented plaintiffs in cases of businesses accused of discriminating against LGBTQ citizens, always arguing in favor of the right to do so.

In its attacks against transgender people over the years, the Alliance has insisted on misgendering them, referring to transgender women as “males” and “biological males.” It has also demonized gay people in publications, saying that pedophilia and homosexuality are “often intrinsically linked” and that there is a “definite link” between “child molestation and later homosexual behavior.”

Claiming that there’s a plot against Christians, the group’s founder, Alan Sears, compared activists for LGBTQ equality to “Nazis” who were “tightening the screws” against Christian churches and claimed they were manipulating data on LGBTQ suicides in order to “entrap more children in a dangerous behavior.”

In multiple states, the Alliance has represented plaintiffs in cases of businesses discriminating against LGBTQ citizens, always arguing in favor of the right to do so.

Its advocacy of bigotry is not limited to the United States.

It praised a statute in India that would have punished sodomy with a 10-year prison sentence and in Russia backed that nation’s “gay propaganda” law, which legalized discrimination based on sexual orientation. It supported European laws that would have required sterilization of transgender people seeking recognition of their gender identity. It also backed anti-sodomy laws in Jamaica and Belize.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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