Anti-LGBTQ+ hate is on the rise in the United States, with a 43% increase in the number of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic groups, compared to previous years.
American civil rights organisation, Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has issued its annual report analysing the different hate groups operating in the US. The report refers to 2019 and sheds light on a significant increase in the number of organisations opposing LGBTQ rights. There were 70 anti-LGBTQ groups active in 2019, as opposed to the 49 active in 2017 and 2018.
Particularly, Christian legal group, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is among the most staunch opposers to LGBTQ+ equality and is now working on a lawsuit that jeopardises trans rights.
What does Alliance Defending Freedom do?
According to its website, the Arizona-based organisation advocates ‘for religious liberty, the sanctity of human life, freedom of speech, and marriage and family’.
ADF operates on a national and international level and has brought ten cases before the US supreme court.
Among the most prominent cases won by ADF is that of Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in 2012, violating Colorado’s anti-discrimination law.
In 2018, however, ADF managed to bring the case before the supreme court and successfully argued that baking was Philips’s form of artistic expression. The court ruled 7-2 in favour of Phillips, but avoided a wider ruling about whether it is fair for all businesses to refuse service on religious grounds.
A ‘hate group’
ADF was founded in 1994 by about 30 Christian leaders and counts former Trump-appointed US Attorney General Jeff Sessions among its allies.
Ever since 2016, it was included among the hate groups by SPLC, a label that ADF rejects.
‘It is appalling that the Southern Poverty Law Center would choose this moment of crisis to launch their divisive and false “hate report”. Instead, we call on SPLC to apologise, retract it immediately, and join the rest of America in uniting against a common foe: the COVID-19 coronavirus,’ ADF Vice President Jeremy Tedesco said in a statement on 18 March.
‘They should use their influence to assist American communities in productive ways rather than sow discord and division among them,’ he continued. The SPLC stood by its decision.
‘The SPLC has designated ADF as an anti-LGBTQ hate group since 2016, and we stand by it,’ said Scott McCoy, Interim Deputy Legal Director with SPLC.
‘We list ADF as a hate group because it supports the idea that being LGBTQ+ should be a crime in the U.S. and abroad, and believes that it is okay to put LGBTQ+ people in prison for engaging in consensual sex. ADF has supported the forced sterilisation of transgender Europeans. ADF also spreads harmful lies about the LGBTQ+ community, including linking being gay to pedophilia and claiming that a “homosexual agenda” will destroy society.’
An attack to trans youth
In February, ADF made headlines for representing three Connecticut cisgender high school runners demanding trans athletes be barred from participating in girls’ sports.
The three cis girls filed a federal lawsuit against the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, claiming it’s biologically impossible for cis athletes to defeat their trans peers.
‘Girls shouldn’t be reduced to spectators in their own sports. Allowing males to compete in the female category isn’t fair and destroys girls’ athletic opportunities,’ Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb said in a statement.
‘Males will always have inherent physical advantages over comparably talented and trained girls—that’s the reason we have girls’ sports in the first place. And a male’s belief about his gender doesn’t eliminate those advantages.’
The lawsuit is awaiting a hearing.
‘The ADF is attempting to change the law to legally discriminate against transgender youth. Twenty-five states already have policies in place that allow transgender youth athletes and their peers to successfully participate side by side, while at the same time ensuring that boys can’t join a girls’ sports team,’ said McCoy with the SPLC.
‘School-based sports programs encourage teamwork, discipline, self-esteem, and promote healthy lifestyles — attributes all kids need to become successful adults and productive members of society. Transgender student athletes should be allowed equal opportunities to play any sport they choose as their authentic selves, just like any other student,’ he continued.
‘Most importantly, there is no evidence that transgender student athletes — specifically females — enjoy any advantage over cisgender competitors.’
The debate about whether trans women should be allowed to compete alongside cisgender women isn’t exclusive to Connecticut.
Idaho may be poised to become the first US state to formally ban trans and intersex girls from competing as girls in school athletics. State Senate lawmakers approved the measure on 16 March, sending it back to the House of Representatives for a vote. If it passes the House and is then signed into law by Republican Gov. Brad Little, it would become the first state-level anti-trans bill passed in 2020.
Similarly, Arizona has proposed invasive legislation to out trans athletes and force them to undergo unnecessary medical examinations. Amended, the bill is now on its way to the state Senate.
Other anti-trans bills
Trying to prevent trans girls from competing on women’s teams isn’t the only way trans right are under attack in the US these days.
Medical professionals providing healthcare to young trans patients have also been targeted by recent bills. South Dakota and six other states have considered criminalising prescribing puberty blockers to minors.
‘These bills — and dozens of other anti-LGBTQ measures — are pending in states across the country from Alaska to Florida. That’s not a coincidence,’ said Rose Saxe, Deputy Director for LGBT & HIV Project with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
‘These efforts are part of an orchestrated national campaign led by groups like Heritage Foundation, Alliance Defending Freedom, and the Family Policy Alliance, to demonise trans youth and drive a wedge among supporters of LGBTQ equality. We can’t let them succeed.’
Thanks to the pressure put by LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, measures to restrict trans youth to access medical care stalled in Idaho and South Dakota.
‘But even when these bills are defeated, the fact young people and their families have to show up over and over before lawmakers and testify to try to stop these attacks is itself harmful,’ Saxe continued.
‘Let’s fight back with these youth and the entire LGBTQ community, and show our young people who are watching — and the orchestrated movement attacking us — that trans kids have fierce allies and we won’t let these bills pass.’