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Anti-LGBTQ+ rallies buoyed by big right-wing money

On Oct. 21, Gays Against Groomers will bring together several groups, including Moms for America, Moms for Liberty, Blexit, and Patrice’s Kids to host the "Worldwide Stop the War on Children" rally in over 20 U.S. cities, Canada and Germany.

Many sponsors claim to be rooted in a local, grassroots movement to save children from grooming and sexualization. However, a deeper look shows that well-known right-wing big money groups like the Heritage Foundation and the Bradley Foundation are financially backing these groups' attacks on the LGBTQ+ community.

The alliance with groups in Canada for this event is not surprising, says Sarah Moore, an anti-LGBTQ+ extremism analyst at the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

“The border between the United States and Canada is much more permeable when it comes to hate and extremism,” says Moore. "Trends of hate and extremism oftentimes start in Canada and show up in the United States or vice versa,” she adds.

In the year since its founding, Gays Against Groomers has established itself as one of the most notable propagators of anti-trans rhetoric, deploying QAnon conspiracy propaganda in its crusade to save children from transgender individuals who they claim are attempting to sexually groom children. The group also attacks those supporting gender-affirming care and the transgender community, labeling them pedophiles.

Anti-student inclusion group Moms for America has taken a firm public stance against LGBTQ+ rights, the acceptance of gender identity and inclusive curriculum—diverse reading materials and accurate history about all Americans. The organization specifically attacks transgender individuals, to the point of encouraging homeschooling to escape the acceptance of gender identity and preferred pronouns in public schools. Earlier this month, the group hosted a press conference and documentary screening for “Moms Expose the Truth About Gender Confusion.” Speakers included anti-trans author Laura Perry Smalts and hard-right politician Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican Congresswoman from Georgia.

Jamie Michelle, Gays Against Groomers, speaks at the Moms for Liberty meeting in Philadelphia, Saturday, July 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

According to tax records, in 2021 Moms for America received over $750,000 from the Bradley Impact Fund, a donor-advised fund aligned with the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, which considers itself a national “cornerstone of conservative philanthropy.” In the past, the Bradley Foundation has contributed to anti-LGBTQ+ initiatives, including a now discredited study on the children of LGBTQ+ parents that was heralded by anti-LGBTQ+ groups like the American College of Pediatricians.

Moms for America did not respond to a request for comment.

Turning Point USA’s Blexit Foundation, a co-sponsor of the upcoming rally, received $10,000 from the Bradley Impact Fund, also detailed in the organization’s tax filing for 2021. Although the organization’s stated purpose is to promote “black exit from victimhood,” its co-founder, Candace Owens, has made no secret about her feelings towards the transgender community, referring to transgender people as mentally ill and gaining attention for her tweets following this year’s mass shooting in Nashville by a transgender individual.

The Bradley Impact Fund did not respond to a request for comment.

According to information on its website, in 2022, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation granted $250,000 to the FreedomWorks Foundation and $200,000 to the Heritage Foundation.

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation did not respond to a request for comment.

FreedomWorks asserts itself as the “nation’s largest grassroots advocacy organization dedicated to the issues of lower taxes, less government, personal liberty and the rule of law.” Recently, its foundation has taken a stance against the expansion of Title IX, which would allow transgender students to participate in programs and activities consistent with their gender identity and expands the definition of harassment. In a statement urging its supporters to act against this expansion, the FreedomWorks Foundation wrote that the proposed changes would, “dramatically expand what conduct is prohibited, capturing under ‘harassment’ innocent comments that happen to offend someone.” Moms for America received $200,000 from the FreedomWorks Foundation in 2021— the only grant awarded that year.

FreedomWorks did not respond to a request for comment.

The conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation claims to be building an “America where freedom, opportunity, prosperity, and civil society flourish.” But this vision does not include LGBTQ+ Americans. The organization has spoken out against marriage equality, bans on conversion therapy, healthcare for transgender youth, and military service by LGBTQ+ individuals. In 2023, Heritage released Project 2025, a guide for a future conservative presidential transition team after the 2024 general election. Project 2025 includes a “playbook” with a series of policy recommendations. In the playbook, Heritage Foundation president Kevin Roberts claims, “children suffer the toxic normalization of transgenderism with drag queens and pornography invading their school libraries.” Roberts equates “transgender ideology” with “pornography” and the “sexualization of children” and recommends registering educators and public librarians who “purvey it” as sex offenders. In 2021, the Heritage Foundation gave $15,000 to Moms for Liberty, one of the most notable names in the anti-student inclusion movement.

The Heritage Foundation did not respond to a request for comment.

In its quest to educate and empower parents of their rights, Moms for Liberty manages to not only exclude LGBTQ+ individuals but works to oppress their rights and acceptance. in the past, it has been kicked off Twitter for transphobic speech. Members of its Miami-Dade chapter made headlines when they said that LGBTQ+ students should be segregated into special classes and spoke out against a proposed LGBTQ+ history month in schools, saying that it was meant to “indoctrinate the children.”

Another concern of Moore with the upcoming rally is the potential presence of violent hate and extremist groups that share an anti-LGBTQ+ agenda and have shown up alongside groups like Gays Against Groomers and Moms for Liberty in the past.

She gives the example of the Miami-Dade chapter of Moms for Liberty that sponsored a “Protect the Children” rally in December 2022, alongside Gays Against Groomers and Florida Partners for Freedom, their partners for the upcoming rally. This event attracted several local Proud Boys, an SPLC-designated hate group. Another case, she says, was a July 2023 Pride event in Watertown, WI that was disrupted by Gays Against Groomers and other groups, including the neo-Nazi group Blood Tribe. “So we know that, even if the organizers are calling for this rally to be peaceful, there is still a strong chance that it's going to attract violent extremists from other organizations,” says Moore.

Patrice’s Kids, a Houston-based group focused on child sexual abuse and trafficking, has also signed on to sponsor the rally. The organization has recently promoted the QAnon-laced movie, Sound of Freedom and stood “in solidarity” with Mom Army, Gays Against Groomers, Dad Army, Trans Against Groomers, and Freedom Forever to protest Balenciaga for claims that the clothing company intended to sexualize children.

Patrice’s Kids website claims big-name sponsors such as the Houston Rockets, Walmart, and Target, which was the subject of boycotts from Moms for America, Moms for Liberty, Blexit, and Gays Against Groomers during Pride Month this past June. The National Basketball Association (NBA), Walmart, and Target did not respond to emailed requests for comment asking for clarification about their organizations' relationships with Patrice's Kids, so Hatewatch could not determine whether or not the corporations' money is contributing to this weekend's rallies.

Proud Boys offer security to the anti-student inclusion group Moms for Liberty. Also present in the coalition of groups were 'Gays Against Groomers' and 'Florida Fathers for Freedom' in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. On Dec. 3, 2022. (Dave Decker/Shutterstock)

Moore says that anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-student inclusion groups usually come across as innocuous, but the true danger is the conspiracy theories that they traffic, like the grooming narrative. “They are creating this ambiguous gender ideology conspiracy theory to allege that LGBTQ+ adults who are interacting with kids are somehow forcing them, or coercing them, into becoming gay or are somehow sexualizing them.”

She illustrates this threat, pointing to GLAAD’s recent report that, of the more than 356 anti-LGBTQ+ incidents recorded between June 2022 and April 2023, the false “groomer” conspiracy theory accounted for 54% of these incidents of harassment, vandalism, and assault.

Other sponsors for the "Worldwide Stop the War on Children" include Mom Army, Dad Army, Our Duty, Freedom Angels, Veterans for Child Rescue, Parents Patrol, Leave Our Kids Alone, Freedom Forever, Partners for Ethical Care, Grandparents Fight Back, Advocates Protecting Children, Hands Off Our Kids, JEXIT, and Leave Our Kids Alone Canada. JEXIT was reached for comment but did not respond.

According to Moore, this coalition is not to protect children, as they claim. “The real issue here is LGBTQ+ rights as a whole,” she says. “They are trying to push back against the ways that we've seen advancement in terms of rights, acceptance, and equality in the lives of the LGBTQ+ community, whether that be having access to gender-affirming care or having representation of families, or storylines and kids’ books and educational curricula.”

This month’s "Worldwide Stop the War on Children" rally elevate the stage on which these anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-student inclusion groups traffic conspiracy propaganda. Contrary to the common narrative, these are not small, local groups of parents and concerned citizens. By funding groups like Gays Against Groomers and Moms for Liberty that portray themselves as innocent defenders of children, national organizations can continue their crusade to derail advancements in LGBTQ+ rights and equality.

Photo illustration by SPLC

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