During his campaign, President Trump promised to be “a real friend” to the LGBT community. Yet, yesterday, his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, lauded the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a group that vilifies the LGBT community and promotes discrimination against it in the name of religion.
What’s more, Sessions attacked the SPLC for calling the ADF what it is – a hate group that would like to push the LGBT community into the closet if not into jail. Sessions’ words and actions reflect what is painfully obvious: Contrary to Trump’s campaign promise, his administration is no friend of the LGBT community.
The ADF richly deserves the hate group label. It supports the criminalization of sexual relations between consenting adults abroad. It opposes anti-bullying policies that provide protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It says that the American Convention on Human Rights should not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. It promotes the myth that there is a link between homosexuality and pedophilia despite the fact that the weight of scientific authority has debunked the claim.
Linking the LGBT community to pedophilia as the ADF has done is not an expression of a religious belief. It is simply a dangerous and ugly falsehood. FBI hate crime data show that the LGBT community is the minority group most likely to be targeted for violent hate crimes. Demonizing the LGBT community and portraying it as a danger to children is likely to exacerbate the hate crime epidemic it is facing.
Just as religious beliefs would not be a defense to a hate crime prosecution, vilifying others in the name of religion should not immunize a group from being designated as a hate group. It’s ironic – and utterly hypocritical – for the attorney general to suggest that the rights of ADF sympathizers are under attack when the ADF is doing everything in its power to deny the equal protection of the laws to the LGBT community.
Sessions has made much of the fact that, under his watch, the Department of Justice has been committed to prosecuting hate crimes against transgender persons. Yet, at the same time, he seems oblivious to the fact that his other actions send the message that LGBT people are not worthy of the law’s protection. He issued a memo to U.S. attorneys, for example, arguing that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act does not protect transgender workers from employment discrimination, and his Department of Justice has argued that the Act does not protect any workers from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The nation’s top law enforcement officer should not be lending the prestige of his office to a group that wants to enshrine its bigotry into law. And he should not attack the SPLC for pointing out the group’s bigotry. The LGBT community deserves respect, not demonization.