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Anti-LGBT roundup of events and activities 6.12.17

The following is a list of activities and events of anti-LGBT organizations. Organizations listed as anti-LGBT hate groups are designated with an asterisk.

American Family Association*:

Sandy Rios of the American Family Association* (AFA) brought anti-immigrant and anti-refugee activist Ann Corcoran of Refugee Resettlement Watch* onto her June 2 radio show, broadcast on American Family Radio.

Corcoran founded Refugee Resettlement Watch in 2007 in response to what she perceived as a “grievous error” — the U.S. government bringing in Muslim refugees. Since then, Corcoran has routinely touted white nationalist articles from sites like American Renaissance* and she has linked to white nationalist group Council of Conservative Citizens*, whose postings were an intrinsic linchpin to the radicalization of racist killer Dylann Roof. She has also been published in the anti-immigrant and white nationalist journal The Social Contract*.

Corcoran has also worked closely with Frank Gaffney, of the Center for Security Policy* (CSP), an anti-Muslim group that relentlessly promotes anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, including claims that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the U.S. government and civil institutions. Gaffney started the false claim that Huma Abedin, former aide to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was part of a Muslim Brotherhood “conspiracy” and that tax protester Grover Norquist was also part of some kind of Muslim conspiracy because Norquist’s wife is Palestinian-American.

Rios herself has promulgated anti-Muslim sentiment and conspiracy theories on her show, “Sandy Rios in the Morning.” She has also hosted CSP’s Clare Lopez in 2016 when the two discussed Khizr Khan, father of U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, who died while serving in Iraq. Rios expressed outrage that Khizr Khan had lied about Islam, since “faithful Muslims can’t embrace our Constitution.” She has touted the benefits of Islamophobia and opposed First Amendment rights of Muslims.

Family Action Council of Tennessee:

Tennessee attorney and former state senator David Fowler of the Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACT) can continue with a lawsuit filed last year on behalf of a Bradley County, Tenn. minister and a county commissioner. A court ruling denied an attempt to dismiss the lawsuit and it can now proceed. The two challenging the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell that legalized same-sex marriage nationally are trying to stop the county from issuing marriage licenses and invalidating the state’s marriage license law, which excludes same-sex couples.

Fowler filed the lawsuit through FACT’s Constitutional Government Defense Fund, an initiative the organization recently launched. Its initial filings are in opposition to marriage equality, which Fowler and FACT have a long history of opposing. 

David Fowler, president of FACT, from a 2016 video commemorating FACT's 10th anniversary

FACT and Fowler are driving forces behind much of the past few years’ anti-LGBT legislation in Tennessee, including state lobbying efforts in 2016 to pass a discriminatory bill that allows any counselor or therapist to deny service to LGBT people on the basis of “sincerely held principles.”

The bill violated the ethics of all major counseling organizations in the country, among them the American Counseling Association, the National Association of Christian Counselors and the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. Tennessee governor Bill Haslam signed the bill into law after reference to religious beliefs was removed and a provision was included that required therapists to treat people who are in imminent danger to themselves and others.

In early May 2017, Haslam signed another bill into law (HB 1111), which restricts the way words can be used under state law. According to NBC News, some of the law’s text reads, "Undefined words shall be given their natural and ordinary meaning without forced or subtle construction that would limit or extend the meaning of the language, except when a contrary intention is clearly manifest."

FACT, along with other conservative and anti-LGBT groups, lobbied for the bill, and said that it would help prevent same-sex spouses and LGBT parents from being treated the same as heterosexual families under the law.

FACT also opposes same-sex parenting, claiming, falsely, that there “are problems” with same-sex parenting, and that evidence doesn’t support the contention that same-sex parents are as good as married, biological parents. Numerous studies, however, support the conclusion that children do just as well in households with same-sex parents as with opposite-sex parents.

Family Research Council*

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council* had FCC chairman Ajit Pai on his Washington Watch radio show June 1 to discuss net neutrality. Pai is trying to undo Obama administration regulations on internet service providers that guaranteed they could not block, throttle, or deprioritize online content. Net neutrality thus requires ISPs to charge equal rates and offer equal speeds for all data usage. In 2014 and 2015, the FCC was met by a torrent of outcry, overwhelmingly in support of the idea that the open internet should have basic protections under the law. It was considered a victory for the public over phone and cable lobbies.

Pai, a former lawyer with Verizon, has a reputation as an ideologue and has opposed, for example, capping rate hikes on prison phones (which can cost up to $14 a minute for inmates), and opposed expanded broadband for low-income families and opposed broadband privacy.

With regard to net neutrality, he has opposed the Obama-era regulations on internet service providers, and claimed that they are part of an Obama “conspiracy” to regulate the internet when actually, the regulations are in place to keep broadband providers from preventing access. He has also made other claims, including that he plans to bring broadband internet to “all Americans” but instead hobbled one of the main programs the FCC designed to do that, which helps low-income Americans especially.

On “Washington Watch,” Perkins and Pai reiterated Pai’s talking points, claiming that the Obama-era regulations are somehow hurting businesses despite evidence to the contrary. They also attempted to paint opposition to Pai’s attempts to remove net neutrality as leftist; in a few instances, Pai staffers have taken to trolling social media in attempts to paint net neutrality supporters as members of the “Black Bloc” anarchist movement, known for masking their identities and vandalizing public property in demonstrations. In fact, there is broad support for net neutrality, across many demographics, and including such giants as Google, Netflix and Facebook.

In April, Pai used research from an industry-backed front group to support his claims that net neutrality is a burden on ISPs. Regardless, Pai’s attempts to rollback net neutrality are seen as a major win for conservative media outlets, which have been peddling it as a “government power grab.”

FRC Radio roundup: FRC president Tony Perkins hosts a daily radio show, “Washington Watch.” Guests May 26-June 7 have included Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC); Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO); Bill Bennett; Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK); FCC Chairman Ajit Pai; director of broadcast operations for Bott Media Eben Fowler; Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-LA); attorney Jeremy Tedesco (Alliance Defending Freedom*); Liberty University’s founding dean of the School of Communication and Digital Content Bruce Kirk; Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC); Robert Spencer (of the anti-Muslim Jihad Watch*); Chris Smith (R-NJ); Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX); Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL).

Faith and Freedom Coalition

The Faith and Freedom Coalition (FFC) held its annual Road to Majority event June 8-10 in Washington, D.C. Confirmed speakers included President Trump, Vice President Pence, and several other lawmakers, including Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA); Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA); Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA); Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN); Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX); Texas attorney general Ken Paxton; president of Americans for Tax Reform Grover Norquist; singer Pat Boone and founder of Focus on the Family James Dobson.

Ralph Reed speaking at the 2016 Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference

The Road to Majority conference is considered one of the premiere events for “people of faith and conservative activists,” serving as a locus for Christian Right networking with fellow activists and government officials. According to the description on, “The purpose of the conference is to energize, train, and equip our top activists and chapter leaders on voter registration, voter education, get-out-the-vote, lobbying their legislature, dealing with the media, building a precinct organization, and utilizing social media to mobilize supporters.”

FFC was founded in 2009 by long-time Christian Right activist and operative Ralph Reed, who is also the chairman. Reed, head of the Christian Coalition in the 1990s, was one of the primary architects of the GOP takeover of Congress in 1994. He was on a meteoric rise on the Christian Right, culminating in a campaign for lieutenant governor of Georgia in 2006. But his campaign imploded after investigators revealed his work with GOP lobbyist and con man Jack Abramoff.

In that scandal, it was revealed that Reed worked for Abramoff to mobilize Christians who were opposed to gambling to help close casinos down, but that Reed was being paid by other casinos who wanted their competition shut down. To protect Reed from discovery, Abramoff laundered the money he was paying Reed through other organizations, including Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform. Reed was never charged with a crime, and he claimed he didn’t know where his money was coming from, though emails, according to The Atlantic, demonstrated this was not the case.

In the years since, Reed has continued his activism and organizing within the Christian Right, including the launch of FFC. He is staunchly opposed to LGBT equality, claiming over the years that same-sex parents are bad for children, that federal workplace protections for LGBT employees would be a “dagger aimed at the heart of religious freedom for millions of Americans.”

He also made an appearance in the notorious 1993 anti-LGBT film Gay Rights/Special Rights: Inside the Homosexual Agenda, which was released by the virulently anti-LGBT Traditional Values Coalition*, featuring a litany of anti-LGBT propaganda and falsehoods about the dangers LGBT people pose to children, families, churches and business owners. In the film, Reed referred to “special rights” — a common refrain then in the anti-LGBT right to convince people that LGBT people already had rights and their push for equality was actually giving them more rights than others. Reed put it succinctly: “no one should have special rights or privileges or minority status because of their sexual behavior.”

National Organization for Marriage

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) announced the 2017 March for Marriage, which will be held Saturday, June 17. The event, started in 2013 involves a march in Washington, D.C. on the National Mall to the Supreme Court to protest marriage equality and, according to an announcement sent around by Brian Brown, NOM president, “to restore marriage in the public eye.” We will not rest, the announcement says, “until this illegal, unjust ruling is reversed,” which references the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell ruling that legalized marriage equality in the United States.

The 2015 march garnered perhaps 6,000 people, while the 2016 march seems to have attracted around 250 participants.

NOM has a long history of battling marriage equality since its founding in 2007 to push for the anti-LGBT Proposition 8 in California. Though Prop 8 passed, it was later found to be unconstitutional but NOM soon became a clearinghouse for anti-LGBT marriage initiatives throughout the country.

It also has repeatedly run afoul of election laws, even gaining a reputation for running political campaigns without disclosing donors to election officials. In 2014, the Maine Ethics Commission fined NOM more than $50,000 for violating state campaign laws in 2009 during a campaign against marriage equality. The commission report suggested that NOM had violated campaign disclosure laws in New Hampshire and Iowa and lied about its malfeasance to a government agency.

World Congress of Families*

The World of Congress of Families* is allegedly holding one of its regional conferences in Athens, Greece, June 14-15. The gathering does not appear to be advertised, but the contact listed is Alexey Komov, who is WCF’s representative in Russia. Komov also established his own anti-LGBT and anti-choice organization,

Komov, as Mother Jones documented, spent years studying yoga with a renowned guru. He traveled the world and claims he was liberal. But when the guru was diagnosed with cancer, it shattered the guru’s belief that yoga would fend off disease, so he declared the practice “satanic,” was baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church and became a monk.

Alexey Komov, World Congress of Families (Facebook photo).

Komov claimed that he began to study theology when he was at the former guru’s funeral and a year later, ended up part of the inner circles of the Russian Orthodoxy. A year after his conversion, Komov was dispatched to the 2010 WCF planning meeting at the Colorado Springs offices of Focus on the Family, where he put in a bid for Moscow but the WCF for the next year went to Madrid. Instead, WCF officials asked Komov to organize a different event, the Moscow Demographic Summit, which was held nine months later and hosted over a thousand attendees.

The summit was touted as one of the first to address the right wing’s myth about an “international crisis of rapidly declining birthrates,” which WCF and its adherents promote as “demographic winter,” and use as a means to attempt to curtail access to abortion and other reproductive healthcare.

The day after that summit, Russian lawmaker Elena Mizulina introduced the first set of anti-abortion laws in Russia since the USSR’s collapse. Mizulina is perhaps best known as the lawmaker who pushed to get Russia’s draconian anti-LGBT laws passed, which criminalize “homosexual propaganda.”

Legislation and Lawsuits

Scott Lively

A lawsuit filed in 2012 against anti-LGBT activist Scott Lively, head of Abiding Truth Ministries*, was dismissed June 5 on a narrow jurisdictional ground. The lawsuit had been filed by Sexual Minorities Uganda and the Center for Constitutional Rights, suing Lively for human rights violations under the Alien Tort Statute. The lawsuit alleged that Lively’s actions and rhetoric in Uganda fueled anti-LGBT violence and legislation.

Federal judge Richard Ponsor cited a 2013 ruling that was issued by the Supreme Court after the initial lawsuit against Lively had been filed. Though the court dismissed the lawsuit, Ponsor’s 25-page ruling excoriated Lively and his anti-LGBT activities, stating that the “Defendant’s position on LGBTI people range from the ludicrous to the abhorrent,” and that, “he has tried to make gay people scapegoats for practically all of humanity’s ills.”

The ruling further stated that the record demonstrates that Lively worked with elements in Uganda who share some of his views to repress freedom of expression of LGBTI people in that country, “deprive them of the protection of the law, and render their very existence illegal,” noting that Lively proposed 20-year prison sentences for gay couples in Uganda “who simply lead open, law-abiding lives” and that Lively actions were in violation of international law.

Liberty Counsel*, which served as legal counsel for Lively, at first celebrated the ruling, then announced June 8 that they were filing an appeal to strike Ponsor’s language in the ruling that was “not necessary to the disposition of the case.”

Texas Legislature

Texas governor Roy Abbott called a special legislative session that could include the anti-trans “bathroom bill” that was announced in January by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who has worked closely with the Family Research Council*. The bill restricted use of bathrooms in government buildings and public schools to “biological sex.”

Abbott told a news conference that the session would begin in July (HuffPo reports July 18) and the first item of business would be approving a bill that would keep some state agencies open. If that bill is approved by the state Senate, then he would allow for consideration of nearly twenty other items, and those could include a bathroom bill.

The “bathroom bill” had stalled, but was revived and the new bill, H.B. 2899, bans local regulation of discrimination and prohibits cities, counties, and school districts from passing any anti-discrimination measures to protect people already protected under state law. The bill would also nullify extant policies in San Antonio, Dallas, and other Texas cities that allow transgender people to use public restrooms in accordance with their gender identities.

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