In 2016, The Southern Poverty Law Center added the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF; formerly Alliance Defense Fund until 2012) to its list of anti-LGBT hate groups.
The designation is a result of ADF’s propagation of known falsehoods about LGBT people over the years (including the conspiracy theory that there is a “homosexual agenda” or “homosexual legal agenda” to undermine “the family” and Christianity), its demonization of LGBT people, its support of criminalization of gay sex in the U.S. and abroad and its continued attempts to create state and local policies and legislation (so-called “religious liberty” laws) that allow Christians to deny goods and services to LGBT people in the public sphere and marginalize LGBT students in schools.
The SPLC does not name groups to its anti-LGBT hate list simply for having biblical objections to homosexuality or for opposing same-sex marriage.
In addition to the ADF Extremist File, what follows are some additional highlights to what the ADF has done over the years.
- The ADF helps fund and strategize the filing of key amicus (friend of the court) briefs on behalf of the Boy Scouts of America in Dale v. Boy Scouts of America, in which a gay assistant Scoutmaster sued the BSA for expelling him because of its ban on gay members and leaders. ADF also funds moot court training in which the Boy Scouts’ attorney “practiced making his case under intense questioning by top attorneys.” In the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in this case, the court affirmed that the Scouts could bar gay boys and men from its membership and leadership, a decision ADF applauded on the basis of “free speech.”
2001 - 2010:
- Claims on its website that “attacks on family values include efforts to allow practicing homosexuals to adopt children and foster parents;” and “allow practicing homosexuals to serve openly in the military.” ADF vows to oppose these attacks because “weakening the family and undermining the values that support it will ultimately destroy our society” and impact religious civil liberties. (2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010)
- Claims it is equipping attorneys to “battle the radical homosexual legal agenda” (2001)
- Alan Sears, then-president of ADF (he was president until January, 2017) publishes a book he co-wrote with then-ADF colleague Craig Osten titled The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today, which was heavily advertised for sale on the ADF website and offered in fundraising pitches for years. The book is the authors’ attempt to describe how far the conspiracy of “the homosexual agenda” has infiltrated the country and undermined Christianity through things like media and educational institutions. Sears and Osten described the media campaign conducted by LGBT activists in the 70s and 80s (as summarized in the account After The Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90s) to "a war of propaganda, just as Hitler did so masterfully in Nazi Germany." (p. 27) “An entire book could be written on the subject of the entertainment industry’s promotion of homosexual behavior, but it is our goal to give you a brief overview of each subject so that you understand the number of cultural fronts in which the homosexual agenda is being pushed.” (p. 44) The authors ask, “How far down the road have homosexual activists taken us to their goal of unbridled sexual behavior and the silencing of the church?” (p. 14) “The very future of our nation is at risk if the homosexual agenda continues to advance unchecked,” (p. 27) the authors state.
- Sears and Osten also claim that homosexual activists are attempting to “indoctrinate children” as early as kindergarten. (p. 52) The authors link homosexuality to pedophilia: “Despite ever-present denials by homosexual activists, the link to child sex (adults promoting sex with young boys) and homosexual behavior is alarming.” (p. 66) They include a section in a chapter titled “The Lavender Tower” under the heading “Intellectualizing Disordered Sexual Behavior.” Later, the authors claim, “homosexual behavior on college campuses is taking a dangerous new turn — the promotion of sexual relations between adults and children, known as pedophilia. We mention the new promotion of pedophilia in the context of talking about the influence of homosexual behavior on college campuses.” Sears and Osten go on to say that’s because “despite all objections to the contrary, the two are often intrinsically linked” (p. 83). The section then purports that the promotion of pedophilia by college professors and other academics “is nothing new.” (p. 84). In another chapter, the authors explain that “sexual scandals” in the Catholic Church were “primarily a homosexual behavior problem.” (p. 139)
- In a footnote in a section on "Safe Spaces," Sears and Osten challenge the adoption of the pink triangle by the LGBT community: "According to homosexual activists, the pink triangle was used by Nazi Germany to identify homosexuals who were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. Their history ignores the role of homosexuals in top positions in Hitler's regime." (p. 155)
- Regarding the Boy Scouts of America and its former ban on gay members and leaders, Sears and Osten state that “it is not too difficult to link homosexual behavior and predatory behaviors toward accessible teenage boys by those in positions of authority.” (p. 177)
Lawrence v. Texas amicus briefs
- ADF files two friend-of-the-court briefs in the landmark Lawrence v. Texas case, which struck down anti-LGBT sodomy laws in the United States. Both briefs support retaining criminalization. One, with ADF attorney Glen Lavy, is a litany of graphic descriptions of sex acts and how dangerous same-sex sexual activity is (more so than opposite-sex sodomy, the brief argues), ultimately claiming that the state (Texas) should continue to criminalize same-sex sexual acts in the interest of public health and “morality.” The issue under rational-basis review, this brief states, “is not whether Texas should be concerned about opposite-sex sodomy, but whether it is reasonable to believe that same-sex sodomy is a distinct public health problem. It clearly is.”
- ADF attorneys Jordan Lorence and Joshua Carden are attached to the second brief, filed in conjunction with Michael Farris, who at the time was with the Center for the Original Intent of the Constitution and would become president of ADF in January, 2017. The brief argues that states should have the right to regulate sexual behavior, and that, “There is no fundamental right … to engage in same-sex sodomy,” it purports, affirming that Texas should retain its ban and the decision of a lower court should be affirmed.
- Claims on its website that, “Activists have repeatedly turned tragedies into opportunities to advance the homosexual agenda.”
- “Same-sex relationships in contrast are not equivalent to marriage. Rather, they are inherently futureless.” — Jeffrey Ventrella, vice president, ADF, testimony before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Property Rights
- Litigates a Utah custody case between a lesbian parent and another woman who claimed she “left lesbianism.” The ADF then celebrates the court-mandated refusal to allow visits from the lesbian-identified parent, saying, “THANKS BE TO GOD — Cheryl became a follower of Jesus Christ, quit her lesbian behavior, and ended the relationship with Jones, who was an advocate of lesbian behavior.” The ADF further claims that visits with the lesbian parent were “emotionally traumatic” for the child, who “was exposed to numerous instances of lesbian sexual and other behavior and the deliberate undermining of Christian values and beliefs” that the other parent was “trying to instill.” Thanks to ADF supporters’ prayers and support, the email states, the child “no longer has to go through the psychological trauma of her visits in an environment of lesbian sexual advocacy.”
2006 - 2010:
- A pamphlet titled “The Truth about Homosexual Marriage” — available on the ADF’s website — claims that same-sex marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships are dangerous to children. It also uses a 1995 essay by gay pundit Andrew Sullivan to imply that gay men are promiscuous and even in marriage will need “outlets” which, ADF says, “will make adultery more acceptable for all married couples.” The pamphlet promotes ex-gay ministry Exodus (Exodus International shut down in 2013) for its role in “helping thousands of individuals stop homosexual behavior.”
- States on its website that, “If we are successful, together, in stopping the demands of the homosexual agenda from being forced on our culture, we will preserve countless opportunities for you to express your religious freedom in the future.”
- According to the ADF website, “The homosexual legal agenda is one of the greatest threats to religious freedom in America today.” The strategy of proponents of this agenda “is twofold: dilute moral values so that homosexual behavior is thought to be normal, natural and good, while suppressing the religious and free speech rights of those who disagree.” Clearly, the ADF says, “The homosexual agenda is at odds with religious freedom.”
- Alan Sears speaks in a plenary session (PDF) at the anti-LGBT World Congress of Families gathering in Madrid, Spain. The session is titled “The Homosexual Agenda” and Sears states that, “the homosexual legal agenda” reveals “an extremism that seeks out and persecutes any soul, in any corner of our society, who refuses to publicly embrace and aggressively promote homosexual behavior.” He goes on to say that in the course of the “hundreds of cases” ADF has fought involving “this homosexual agenda, one thing is certain: there is no room for compromise with those who would call evil ‘good.’” According to Sears, the “agenda” has co-opted government leaders and legislatures and “assaulted courts in countries around the world with their unrelenting demands based on their sexual appetites and desires.” We can’t stand by, he exhorts listeners, and endorse “sex-partner subsidies in the workplace” or same-sex adoptions.
- ADF attorney Piero Tozzi addresses (PDF) an anti-LGBT conference in Jamaica, where he voices his support for the continued imposition of the Jamaican anti-sodomy law which, he says, is a “the bulwark” against a “larger agenda” and falsely links childhood trauma to homosexuality.
- The ADF website states that, “Redefining marriage is ultimately part of a larger effort to redesign society in order to give social approval of homosexual behavior, and to empower social acceptance of a forgery of gender and sexual practice at odds with natural law and the faith of millions.” The site also raises fears that anti-Christian forces are at work to use “foreign and transnational law to validate radical “new rights” that will advance the homosexual agenda, destroy marriage, eliminate Christian religious liberty, and impose an aggressive anti-life agenda on us all.”
- ADF International president Benjamin Bull declares support for the re-criminalization of homosexual sex in India. He is quoted in anti-LGBT hate group American Family Association’s OneNewsNow: "When given the same choice the Supreme Court of the United States had in Lawrence vs. Texas, the Indian Court did the right thing," says Bull, which was choose to "protect society at large rather than give in to a vocal minority of homosexual advocates."
- ADF attorneys consult with anti-LGBT groups in Belize in an attempt to keep homosexual sex criminalized following a lawsuit brought against the Belize government by an LGBT advocacy group.
- ADF attorney Erik Stanley speaks in Tennessee at a conference titled “The Gospel, Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage” where he pushes the myth that Matthew Shepard’s brutal murder was “fabricated” and had nothing to do with his homosexuality. Rather, the story about his murder being a hate crime was to advance the “homosexual legal agenda.”
- ADF sends a letter to school districts around the country stating that no school is legally beholden to implement trans-inclusive policies and allow trans students to access bathrooms and locker rooms of the gender with which they identify. The letter denies the gender identity of such students and claims that such inclusive policies are allowing opposite sex students to access the facilities, which is “dangerous.” “It is simply unfathomable that a school district would cave to activist demands that students have access to restroom and locker room facilities dedicated to the opposite sex.” In its model policy for schools, ADF proposes that students uncomfortable using facilities designated for specific sexes use facilities not designated as either male or female (e.g. unisex or even employee). “In no event,” the policy says, “shall the accommodation be access to a facility described in subsection A that is designated for use by members of the opposite sex while students of the opposite sex are present or could be present.” The policy would prohibit trans students from using facilities in accordance with their gender identities.
- ADF attorney Matt Sharp posts a piece on the ADF website in which he denies trans students’ gender identities and instead claims that trans-inclusive policies in public schools are allowing students to use facilities of the opposite sex.
- ADF attorney Caleb Dalton testifies at a Prince William County (Virginia) public hearing against a proposed LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policy for the district. It is reported that Dalton claims the school could face legal liability if it approved the policy, presumably because trans students would be using facilities of the gender with which they identify.
- ADF attorney Ken Fletcher testifies at a contentious board of education meeting in Fannin County, Georgia, where attendees cheer those who referred to LGBT students as “perverts” and “pedophiles.” Fletcher tells the crowd that transgender students face a higher risk of suicide and that schools should lead them back to their birth gender, citing anti-LGBTQ hate group the American College of Pediatricians.
- ADF legal counsel Douglas Wardlow testifies in an Anoka-Hennepin school board meeting in Minnesota against allowing trans students to access facilities in accordance with their gender identities. Prior to his testimony, he sent a letter to the board in which he used the discredited research of Mark Regnerus and Paul McHugh to falsely claim that protecting trans students from discrimination is not supported by medical science (it is).