Alliance Defending Freedom: the Right-Wing Lawyers Fueling Transphobia in Schools

Co-authored by Gabriel Joffe

In the past year—a year in which Caitlyn Jenner graced the cover of Vanity Fair and Raffi Freedman-Gurspan became the first openly transgender White House staffer—at least 23 transgender people have been killed in the United States. This is a significant uptick from the 12 reported murders in 2014 and these somber totals only include individuals whose deaths were recorded and whose identities were accurately reported. These are not individual, random acts of hate. A majority of those killed were transgender women of color under the age of 25, a reality that makes evident who experiences disproportionate and extreme acts of violence…who is considered most disposable by a society that was built, sustained, and continues to grow on the structures of heteropatriarchy, misogyny, and white supremacy.

With 2015 coming to an end, we reaffirm our commitment to continue investigating the roots of right-wing, anti-trans violence as we remember:

Papi Edwards, Lamia Beard, Ty Underwood, Yazmin Vash Payne, Taja Gabrielle DeJesus, Penny Proud, Bri Golec, Kristina Gomez Reinwald, Keyshia Blige, Mya Hall, London Chanel, Mercedes Williamson, Shade Schuler, India Clarke, Ashton O’Hara, Amber Monroe, Kandis Capri, Elisha Walker, Tamara Dominguez, Kiesha Jenkins, Zella Ziona, K.C. Haggard, Jasmine Collins, and those whose names we do not know.

All across the country, resistance to and backlash against incremental advancements in transgender equality is cropping up in courtrooms, legislatures, churches, and school boards. Anti-discrimination protections for transgender citizens have been blocked at the city, state, and federal level and the New York Times recently reported that since 2014, more than two dozen religiously affiliated colleges and universities in the U.S. have obtained exemptions from Title IX (the 1972 federal law that was intended to eliminate discrimination in schools on the basis of sex). The previously rare applications for such exemptions, “have increased sharply in the years since the federal government began to interpret the law as prohibiting discrimination against transgender people.”

Mixed with the systemic ingredients of anti-trans violence, which put trans women of color especially at the life-threatening nexus of white supremacy, heterosexism, and misogyny, is a cadre of Christian Right actors who are effectively fueling the fire through policies and legal campaigns. These campaigns directly result in discrimination and exclusion, and cultivate a culture that permits oppression, violence, and even death for transgender and gender-nonconforming people. One of the driving forces behind this national (and increasingly international) trend is the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

Alliance Defending Freedom is a right-wing Christian legal group based in Scottsdale, Arizona,

Alliance Defending Freedom is a right-wing Christian legal group based in Scottsdale, Arizona

ADF, a right-wing Christian legal group based in Scottsdale, Arizona, counts more than 3000 “allied attorneys” on its roster, all of whom are working to “preserve and defend” their definition of religious freedom, which they consider “our most cherished birthright.” ADF self-reports that its army of Christian Right lawyers has racked up 47 victories at the U.S. Supreme Court since it was launched in 1994, and has played a role in “hundreds of international legal matters affecting religious freedom.” It is also a rapidly growing organization, with annual contributions and grants received increasing from 14.7 million in 2001 to 38.9 million in 2013.

As part of ADF’s multi-faceted effort to advance its anti-LGBTQ agenda through legal means, the organization began a new initiative in 2014 with longtime partner Focus on the Family (FOTF) to promote a “Student Physical Privacy Policy” for schools. The policy provides model guidelines for schools to supposedly protect students in areas such as bathrooms and locker rooms. In reality, “physical privacy rights”as outlined in these policies clearly do not apply to all students; instead, they encode trans-exclusionary guidelines and subject transgender students to being further scrutinized, put on display, and interrogated when it comes to their privacy. (The bathroom can already be a  site of major anxiety for transgender youth as it is a location where they may experience ridicule or assault, and where issues can occur that “out” their identity to the school community.)

In reality, “physical privacy rights”as outlined in these policies clearly do not apply to all students; instead, they encode trans-exclusionary guidelines and subject transgender students to being further scrutinized, put on display, and interrogated when it comes to their privacy.

ADF’s anti-LGBTQ meddling in schools dates back to at least 2005, when it launched the “Day of Truth” campaign “to counter the promotion of the homosexual agenda and express an opposing viewpoint from a Christian perspective.” The program (now run by FOTF with ongoing legal support from ADF) aims to counter the annual “Day of Silence,” in which students use intentional silence to protest and spread awareness about the effects of anti-LGBTQ bullying and harassment.

More recently, ADF has begun been making targeted attacks on school districts that introduce trans-inclusive gender identity guidelines. In March 2014, the Tucson Unified School District passed a bathroom policy allowing students to access the bathroom of their affirmed gender. ADF responded to the new TUSD policy with their own anti-trans proposal, assuring that it didn’t violate Title IX and offering free defense against any potential legal repercussions. In October 2014, ADF submitted a similar letter to the Sparta Area School District in Wisconsin after the district’s school superintendent introduced trans-affirming gender identity guidelines.

ADF shifted this district-by-district reactionary approach to an all-out offensive in December 2014, with the release of a statement subtitled “model policy provides solution for public schools.” In this statement ADF announced that it had emailed public school superintendents nationwide to preemptively “advise them of a recommended policy and letter that protects the physical safety and privacy of students in restrooms and locker rooms while providing a solution for school officials concerned about students struggling with their sexual identity.” The email also included a warning that any school district supporting trans-inclusive policies “would clearly expose itself—and its teachers—to tort liability.”

The response was almost immediate. Within weeks, the Gloucester County School Board in Virginia adopted ADF’s model policy. The policy was subsequently used to deny Gavin Grimm, a transgender male student at Gloucester High School, access to the boys’ restroom. The ACLU is now representing Grimm in an ongoing legal dispute that has the potential to set a dangerous precedent. The policy has also shown up on other public school websites such as the Wellston Public School in Oklahoma, which adopted the privacy policy in January.

In addition to aggressive email outreach, ADF’s model policy is also being disseminated through “True Tolerance,” an FOTF project. The project website provides a “Tell a School” tool that allows visitors to share ADF’s Student Physical Privacy Policy with their local school board. The form is pre-populated with a message calling on administrators to protect children’s “innocence” and respect values, “especially regarding sensitive subjects concerning sexuality and family issues.” The message refers administrators to the linked Student Physical Privacy Policy while a sidebar reassures the sender: “Don’t worry if you don’t see the links to the information mentioned in the email. They automatically appear in your school official’s email once the message is sent.” In this way, ADF’s model policy can be sent through FOTF’s website without the sender even reading it.

Thanks to the ADF and FOTF’s joint effort, it’s likely that countless other schools have quietly adopted trans-exclusionary policies.

Thanks to the ADF and FOTF’s joint effort, it’s likely that countless other schools have quietly adopted trans-exclusionary policies, writing oppression into their student handbooks and thus ensuring the right to discriminate against transgender students who seek to access facilities that align with their affirmed gender identity.

In addition to the experience of Gavin Grimm in Virginia, we’re already seeing further examples of anti-trans policies motivating anti-trans actions. This past August, 150 students staged a walkout at a Missouri high school, parroting ADF’s rhetoric in their protest of a transgender classmate, Lila Perry, using the girls’ restroom. A coalition of organizations including the Transgender Law Center and GSA Network responded by holding a #LiftingUpLila rally with local supporters. Ka’Milla, a youth organizer from Missouri GSA Network, addressed the crowd saying, “Young people like Lila and myself are being pushed out of the very schools we have been told we have to attend. The policies and practices that push students out of school and away from their education is real. It holds up the cycle of socialization and stops us from reaching liberation.”

More than 100 people joined in support of Missouri transgender high-schooler Lila Perry Friday at the #LiftingUpLila rally. Photo courtesy of Revolution News.

More than 100 people showed up to support Missouri transgender high-schooler Lila Perry at the #LiftingUpLila rally. Photo courtesy of Revolution News.

Beyond the immediate material implications for trans and gender-nonconforming students, the language contained in these policies fuels social stigma and reflects one of the Right’s oldest and most powerful weapons in opposing LGBTQ civil rights: bathroom scare tactics. Most recently, Houston voters repealed the city’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) in November, after opponents (ADF among them) thoroughly saturated the airwaves with fear-based ads warning that HERO would allow male sexual predators to sneak into women’s bathrooms by claiming to be transgender. This myth-turned-campaign-tactic exploits fear of sexual violence in the complete absence of factual evidence or meaningful conversation about what sexual violence actually looks like in our society. Although this trope is riddled with inaccuracies, it has proven to be a devastating obstacle to LGBTQ justice—most especially for trans and gender-nonconforming people.

Bathroom scare tactics also rely on notions of both gender and biological sex that are unfounded and outdated. In the case of the Student Physical Privacy Policy, ADF bases the policy solely on their definition of “sex”—one that completely erases the existence of intersex people (statistically 1 in 2000 births) and is inconsistent with definitions provided by the medical community. Further, it is more likely that transgender students are being targeted on the basis of their gender expression rather than at the level of their genitalia or chromosomes, but  definitions of gender and gender identity are not provided in the policy. (This is an important distinction because as we learned in a 2011 national transgender discrimination report, K-12 students who expressed a transgender identity or gender non-conformity reported “alarming rates of harassment (78%), physical assault (35%) and sexual violence (12%); harassment was so severe that it led almost one-sixth (15%) to leave a school in K-12 settings or in higher education.”)

With these “privacy” policies, ADF and other right-wing organizations are blocking the critical conversation around human gender diversity from moving forward in our schools and communities. Their intentional erasure of real bodies and authentic identities promotes the idea that this is a world where trans people shouldn’t exist—an idea that ends with extreme violence towards our community.

About the Authors:

Gabriel Joffe is the program coordinator at Political Research Associates. 

L. Cole Parke is PRA’s LGBTQ & Gender Justice Researcher, and has been working at the intersections of faith, gender, and sexuality as an activist, organizer, and scholar for the past ten years. Raised in a military family and a conservative Christian world, Cole studied theology at Texas Lutheran University, earned their Master’s in Conflict Transformation at Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice & Peacebuilding, and traveled throughout the country advocating for LGBTQ justice at conservative religious schools and institutions as a part of the 2008 and 2012 Soulforce Equality Rides.

CitizenLink Prepares to “Muscle Up” for [One-Man-One-Woman] Marriage

The new president of one of the most powerful conservative organizations in the country is well-steeped in the Christian Right’s scheme to redefine the meaning of religious freedom into a weapon designed to roll-back LGBTQ rights and attack reproductive justice. And as the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision looms, he’s readying a massive response.

CitizenLink announced last week that after nearly 30 years at the helm, Tom Minnery will be stepping down as president, transitioning leadership of the right-wing political advocacy group to Paul Weber, who previously served as vice president of communications and development for one of the Right’s most prominent legal advocacy groups, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), from 2000-2013.

Outgoing CitizenLink president Tom Minnery (left) and incoming president Paul Weber (right)

Outgoing CitizenLink president Tom Minnery (left) and incoming president Paul Weber (right)

Founded in 2004, CitizenLink is the public policy arm of Focus on the Family, operating out of the same building and under the same executive leadership team. Its mission is to “equip citizens to make their voices heard on critical social policy issues involving the sanctity of human life, the preservation of religious liberties and the well-being of the family as the building block of society.” Essentially, CitizenLink endeavors to insert—and enforce—a conservative biblical worldview into government and civil society.

Weber, who says he was originally recruited into the conservative movement through New Jersey’s CitizenLink affiliate, the Family Policy Council, is excited to “muscle up” CitizenLink’s work, focusing especially on the development and expansion of the nationwide network of Family Policy Councils.

Similar to the national network of conservative State Policy Network groups, there are currently 38 state-based Family Policy Councils formally associated with CitizenLink. Through these affiliates, CitizenLink works to “advance Christian values in laws, elections and our culture.” In the 2014 midterm elections alone, CitizenLink mobilized a huge nationwide effort targeting 21 state and federal races with an aggressive and well-funded field campaign that included nearly 5 million phone calls, 11,000 door knocks, and 2.3 million mailers.

CitizenLink’s campaign efforts include defunding Planned Parenthood, restricting abortion access, enforcing abstinence-only sex ed, resisting marriage equality efforts, countering attempts to curb global warming, and promoting creationism in schools.

In a recent fundraising appeal, outgoing president Tom Minnery conceded that despite the Right’s valiant efforts to restrict the benefits and privileges of marriage to the one-man-one-woman Christian Right model, the Supreme Court will likely rule in favor of marriage equality when they issue their decision in Obergefell v. Hodges later this month. “We need to be prepared for this devastating setback,” he wrote, going on to say, “Despite the court’s ruling, we must look to the future and get ready for the inevitable battles to come.”

Minnery also recommends looking to the past. In CitizenLink’s Spring 2015 newsletter, he reflected on the success of the anti-choice movement in the 40-plus years since Roe v. Wade. The veteran conservative explains that instead of falling into despair and giving up, anti-choice activists “began chipping away at Roe, by supporting smaller bills that limit abortions in many ways. Today, hundreds of those laws are in place around the country.”

In the last four years alone, over 200 laws restricting abortion access have passed in state legislatures (at least one in every state except Oregon), and more than 300 additional regulations have already been proposed in 45 different states this year.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality later this month, Minnery warns that what he calls the “radical Left” will next seek to “shut down the free religious expression of millions of pro-family Americans.” By this, he means that Christian business owners won’t be allowed to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation. Bakers, florists, and wedding photographers will, indeed, be expected to accommodate the needs of LGBTQ customers in the same way that they serve their heterosexual clientele.

The strategy to use the progressive value of religious freedom to mask discriminatory laws is largely being authored by the Alliance Defending Freedom—the former workplace of new CitizenLink president Paul Weber—and other Christian Right  groups.  While the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) promoted the progressive values of religious pluralism, respect for all beliefs and non-beliefs, and tolerance, the RFRA bills being proposed and promoted by the Christian Right in state legislatures all over the country are designed to legalize religious authoritarianism—in direct contradiction to the original definition of religious freedom.

The strategy to use the progressive value of religious freedom to mask discriminatory laws is largely being authored by the Alliance Defending Freedom—the former workplace of new CitizenLink president Paul Weber—and other Christian Right groups. While the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) promoted the progressive values of religious pluralism, respect for all beliefs and non-beliefs, and tolerance, the RFRA bills being proposed and promoted by the Christian Right in state legislatures all over the country are designed to legalize religious authoritarianism—in direct contradiction to the original definition of religious freedom.

Though many on the Left may scoff, the narrative that “good, God-fearing Christians” are being persecuted by laws that prevent them from discriminating against LGBTQ people is gaining strength and momentum. CitizenLink has played a key role in the effort to redefine religious liberty and oppress LGBTQ people and women across the country by working to advance more repressive, state-level laws essentially granting licenses to discriminate, all under the same name as the more progressive federal Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA). Simultaneously, through their on-the-ground network of Family Policy Councils, CitizenLink is also fighting legislation that would expand civil rights protections to LGBTQ people, including laws that would prevent employment and/or housing discrimination. The organization was an active part of the RFRA fights in Indiana and Arkansas, and claims credit for the defeat of laws in Idaho and North Dakota that would have provided critical protections to LGBTQ people.

Elliot Mincberg, a senior fellow at People for the American Way, explains, “These [state “religious freedom” bills] are, in part, a component of the far right’s efforts to reframe their decades-long war against every advance in societal acceptance and legal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans into a noble effort to protect ‘religious liberty.’”

They are also an echo of the anti-abortion movement’s state-by-state chip away strategy—a nod to the lesson that no defeat is ever final.

Regardless of whether or not the Supreme Court gives same-sex couples the stamp of approval, the Right won’t stop fighting. Paul Weber has already pledged to expand the network of CitizenLink-affiliated Family Policy Councils to all 50 states, and we can anticipate that wherever they are, they’ll be hard at work weakening whatever rights and protections might be gained.

Promoting Anti-LGBTQ Bullying in Schools: Focus on the Family’s “Day of Dialogue”

Though framed as a “free-speech initiative” dedicated to preserving students’ “religious freedom,” Focus on the Family’s annual Day of Dialogue functionally serves as an anti-LGBTQ promotional vehicle, encouraging and equipping young Christians to express condemnation of homosexuality and “transgenderism” to their LGBTQ peers.

Day of Dialogue (DoD) emerged as a response to the National Day of Silence (DoS), an annual event organized by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), which aims to bring attention to anti-LGBTQ bullying and harassment in schools. Participants take a daylong vow of silence, symbolically representing the constant institutional silencing of LGBTQ students and their allies. This year’s DoS will be observed on April 17th. As is true every year, DoD is scheduled to take place the day before.


Day of Silence: This youth-led advocacy campaign—valued by many as an important time of protest, reflection, remembrance, and solidarity—traces its history back to 1996, when a group of students at the University of Virginia organized the first DoS in response to a class assignment on nonviolent protests. Encouraged by the success of their event, UVA students Maria Pulzetti and Jessie Gilliam made it their mission to turn DoS into a nationwide campaign, and the following year, similar actions took place at nearly 100 college and university campuses. By 2008, students at over 8,000 schools across the country were making their silence felt, and the campaign has become increasingly widespread—DoS events are now organized around the world, in places like Russia, Singapore, and New Zealand.

Beginning in 2005, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF, formerly known as Alliance Defense Fund) launched the precursor to DoD—“Day of Truth,” an anti-LGBTQ response designed to “counter the promotion of the homosexual agenda.” Focus on the Family (FOTF) took over and rebranded the project in 2010.

Decrying Day of Silence as anti-Christian intolerance, FOTF argues that “students who dare to share a biblical viewpoint are made to feel like they’re doing something illegal.” In effect, they are trying to flip the script on who’s oppressed and who’s oppressive in order to defend anti-LGBTQ bullying. While DoD materials explicitly denounce bullying, as Zach Ford, editor of ThinkProgress LGBT at the Center for American Progress, points out, “Even if DoD participants do not attack or harass their targets, the stigma they encourage through condemning homosexuality helps maintain an unsafe climate for students with consequences that can last a lifetime.”

Sadly, anti-LGBTQ stigma needs no encouragement. While many LGBTQ advocates have celebrating significant legal gains (such as marriage equality) across the country in the last few years, schools continue to be hostile and dangerous environments for LGBTQ young people—who may face bullying or intimidation by fellow students, teachers, administration officials, or other students’ parents. According to GLSEN’s 2013 National School Climate Survey, 74 percent of LGBT youth nationwide were verbally harassed in the past year because of their sexual orientation, and 55 percent because of their gender expression. As a result of feeling unsafe or uncomfortable, 30 percent missed at least one day of school in the past month alone.

Homo lockerAnd the consequences of an anti-LGBTQ climate are real and devastating: students who have experienced prejudice-motivated bullying and victimization are more likely to attempt suicide, become clinically depressed, or contract a sexually transmitted disease by early adulthood.

In response to overwhelming evidence that LGBTQ young people are disproportionately targeted for bullying and harassment (and the tragic consequences of this persecution), social justice advocates have been rallying support for the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) since 2010.

Modeled after Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which addressed discrimination on the basis of sex, SNDA would expressly prohibit discriminatory treatment towards students on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools. While federal statutory protections currently address discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, and disability, no such federal protections exist for LGBTQ people. As the National Center for Lesbian Rights explains, SNDA seeks to address this discrimination loophole [for public school students] by providing them with “meaningful legal recourse and effective remedial option in a manner that is similar to other civil rights claims made under the 14th Amendment.”

However, the Religious Right—backed by a coalition of right-wing legal institutions, including ADF, the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ), Liberty Council, and The Becket Fund—argues that Christians are the true victims of persecution in need of protection—in bakeries, in flower shops, and in schools across the country (reinforcing their false framework of Christianity vs LGBTQ people, which completely discounts the hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ people who are also Christian). This is the oppositional force behind the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) laws that are cropping up in state after state—laws that functionally aim to redefine religious liberty as a right to discriminate on the basis of an individual’s beliefs or non-beliefs. This corruption of religious freedom protections from something that once served as a shield to protect individual beliefs into something that is increasingly used as a sword of religious authoritarianism is a threat to anyone who falls outside of the Religious Right’s narrowly defined moral vacuum and the very foundation of pluralism the U.S. was built upon.

While bullying, harassment, violence, and isolation continue to prematurely end the lives of LGBTQ young people, the organizers of DoD insist that young Christians are the real martyrs. As part of their ongoing effort to paint Christians as innocent victims of the “homosexual agenda,” ADF has pledged to provide pro-bono legal assistance to any DoD participants who “encounter unconstitutional roadblocks to their free speech rights.”

Sadly, free speech is only a privilege of the living. Had suicide not robbed us of their presence, Taylor Alesana, Tyler Clementi, Blake Brockington, Seth Walsh, Maddie Beard, and countless other young LGBTQ victims of suicide would probably have a lot to say about who is being persecuted and who is not.

Know Your Neighbors Hits the Road

With a sweet woman named Rhonda at the wheel, our bus carefully merged onto the highway and headed south toward Colorado Springs. As the sun set behind the Rocky Mountains, Sweet Honey and the Rock’s rendition of “Ella’s Song” played over the speaker system, reminding us in gentle, insistent harmonies, “We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.”

We’d converged on Denver over the previous few days to attend the annual Creating Change Conference, hosted by the National LGBTQ Task Force. Creating Change is one of the premier national gatherings of LGBTQ organizers and activists, and attracts thousands of people from as far away as Uganda and China. While Colorado Springs is a notorious right-wing hub (a recent study ranked it as the fourth most conservative major city in the U.S.), Creating Change offers a safe haven for folks like us. Gender-neutral bathrooms are the norm, workshops topics range from grassroots fundraising to anti-racist organizing, and glitter is everywhere.

… But we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes—even to Colorado Springs.

As the U.S. Right’s global impact on the lives of women, LGBTQ people, and people of color increases, the pressing question is: “What can we do?” Know Your Neighbors—a collaborative project between PRA and Soulforce—aims to respond.

Know Your Neighbors (KYNship) is dedicated to countering right-wing attacks with reliable analysis, educational programming, cross-issue collaboration, creative engagement of our adversaries, and direct action in order to expose and resist the true agendas of right-wing leaders, institutions, and ideologies, both domestically and internationally. Our goal is to challenge American culture war “exporters” with education and mobilization of social justice activists and organizations based in the same communities.

The Know Your Neighbors (KYNship) bus tour in Colorado Springs, February 2015

The Know Your Neighbors (KYNship) bus tour in Colorado Springs, February 2015

After months of planning and strategizing, the close proximity of this year’s Creating Change venue to Colorado Springs offered an exciting opportunity for KYNship to step into action.

… Because we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.

So 27 of us—a cross-section of activists, progressive faith leaders, researchers, and educators—set out to learn, share, and connect, driven by a shared understanding that marriage equality in the U.S. does not equal freedom for all. Ongoing violence and persecution experienced by people of color and trans and gender-nonconforming people, the continued exploitation of poor and working class LGBTQ folks, and the erasure of disabled, femme, undocumented, indigenous, and young people in this movement demonstrate our shortcomings and the tremendous amount of work yet to be done.

While the onslaught of attacks on human and civil rights may come from any direction, the most robust opposition over the past few decades has emerged from the U.S. Right. Organizations like Focus on the Family—which made Colorado Springs its home in 1991—are at the forefront of this offensive, and their reach extends far beyond the city limits. Focus on the Family’s influence alone can be felt in over 150 countries around the world.

Bringing a bus full of social justice organizers and activists to its doorstep—including one of Uganda’s leading LGBTQ activists—was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

… Because we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.

Over the span of four hours, KYNship took an inspiring group of Creating Change attendees (and Rhonda) on an educational tour of Colorado Springs. We explored the history, structure, mechanisms, and contemporary trends of the U.S. Right, highlighting its global impact on LGBTQ people, women, people of color, young people, and reproductive rights. We examined the intersections of these oppressions, the role of the U.S. Right in their perpetuation, and discussed effective strategies for resistance.

Upon returning to Denver, we exited the bus with new knowledge, deeper understanding, stronger analysis, and a new sense of community in our collective commitment to resisting the Right as part of our ongoing pursuit of justice and liberation for all people.

Indeed, we even forged kinship and community with our fearless driver, Rhonda.  Upon our return to the conference hotel, Rhonda approached the KYNship leadership team with a big smile. “I learned so much tonight! You know, my daughter… she’s gay too, and the folks you all were talking about—they make her life awfully hard sometimes. Thank you all so much for what you’re doing!”

This tour was both the beginning of a much bigger project to challenge U.S.-based culture warriors and the continuation of a long history of bold and brilliant resistance to right-wing oppression.

… Because we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.

Creating Change is over now, and the group of us that came together for KYNship’s first project have all returned home. Each of our home communities contain their own networks of committed social justice organizers and activists—and their own elements of right-wing opposition. In some cases (like with Focus on the Family), the targets of our resistance are more obvious. But in many situations, key players in the global export of U.S. culture wars maintain a low profile here in the U.S., or present themselves as far more moderate than their international campaigns reveal them to be. Groups like the World Congress of Families in Rockford, Illinois and people like Sharon Slater in Gilbert, Arizona often fly under the radar of even the most well informed activists.

KYNship is eager to step into that gap, supporting local social justice activists in identifying key opposition leaders in their communities, understanding the local and global impact of their work, and strategizing principled and effective modes of confrontation and resistance. Please visit to learn more and get involved!

 Share on Twitter Button  Share on Facebook Button


TDOR 2014 and the Right-Wing Roots of Anti-Trans Violence

Since 1999, Nov. 20th has been set aside as Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). TDOR provides space to remember and honor those who have been killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The annual event originated when trans activists and allies came together to mourn the loss of Rita Hester, a Black trans woman who was brutally murdered in Allston, Massachusetts on Nov. 28, 1998. Beyond a few transphobic mentions in the local media (the Boston Globe referred to Hester as “a man who sported long braids and preferred women’s clothes,” while the Boston Herald called her a “transvestite” and “a large man who lived as a woman”), her death garnered little attention, let alone outrage.

transgender day of remembrance PRA

While significant legal advances have been made for the LGBTQ community in the 15 years since Hester’s murder, trans people continue to experience horrific and disproportionate rates of violence. As the official TDOR website states:

“We live in times more sensitive than ever to hatred based violence, especially since the events of September 11th. Yet even now, the deaths of those based on anti-transgender hatred or prejudice are largely ignored. Over the last decade, more than one person per month has died due to transgender-based hate or prejudice, regardless of any other factors in their lives. This trend shows no sign of abating.”

Yet most media outlets, policymakers, and even the mainstream LG(BTQ) movement, have a long history—that continues to this day—of marginalizing the experiences, contributions, and needs of transgender people and people of color. The 1969 Stonewall Riots—often considered a pivotal moment in LGBTQ history—are frequently claimed by White, gay men as a triumph of their own doing, even though it was primarily trans women of color and homeless youth who led the charge. And whereas Rita Hester’s murder in 1998 was largely ignored, the murder of Matthew Shepard—a young, White, gay man—just two weeks later prompted nationwide vigils and helped lead to the eventual passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009. The legislation expanded the 1969 U.S. federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

Indeed, disregard for the role of trans people and people of color has plagued the LGBTQ justice movement since its earliest days. Meanwhile, these are the members of our community who bear the brunt of the violence and oppression directed toward LGBTQ people.  In its annual report on hate-violence experienced by LGBTQ and HIV-affected persons in the United States, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) documented more than 2,000 incidents of anti-LGBTQ violence in 2013, and 18 hate-violence homicides. NCAVP’s findings also reflect the disproportionate impact of this violence: almost three-quarters (72%) of the documented homicide victims were trans women, and more than two-thirds (67%) were trans women of color.

TDOR interrupts this pattern of neglect, insisting that the LGBTQ movement—as well as our broader communities—acknowledge and mourn these lives.

Who Are The Architects of Anti-Trans Violence?

To a certain extent, talking about violence against trans people as a “hate crime” abstracts it from any social or political context, and suggests that these attacks are isolated incidents caused by rogue individuals. As Kay Whitlock has argued in a PRA discussion paper:

“While the hate frame may be powerful in terms of increasing awareness and mobilizing opposition to the threatening, violent actions of individuals and small groups directed against targeted communities, it also, paradoxically, obscures the relationship of such violence to its systemic underpinnings […] It’s so much easier to place the blame for violence directed against entire groups on criminal misfits, loners, and crackpots than to challenge the unspoken public consensus that permits broader cultures and structures of violence to exist.”

And so we must acknowledge—and then challenge—the architects responsible for manufacturing and perpetuating a cultural climate that justifies violence against trans and gender nonconforming people. 

Christian Right Church Leaders

Earlier this year, delegates at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in June signed a “Declaration on Transgender Identity.” With 16-plus million members, SBC is the world’s largest Baptist denomination and the largest Protestant body in the United States (in terms of Christian organizations, only the Catholic Church manages to outnumber them). Consequently, SBC’s policy decisions carry tremendous influence.

Unfortunately, the declaration was far from affirming. It states that trans and intersex people are manifestations of “human fallenness” and “contrary to God’s design.” The resolution notes that SBC condemns “acts of abuse or bullying” (unlike many of the document’s other proclamations, the authors couldn’t seem to find any scriptural backing for this piece), but they are quick to note that SBC also opposes hormone therapy and gender affirmation surgery, as well as any legislative or cultural efforts to validate trans people as “morally praiseworthy.”

SBC’s policy arm, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), hosted a conference last month on “The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage.” At the event, ERLC president Russell Moore—who was recently invited by the Vatican to speak at a conference on the “Complementarity of Man and Woman”—took the opportunity to offer advice to pastors ministering to trans people during a live “Questions & Ethics” session, saying “The people who are coming to you—that biologically male person who says ‘I think I’m a woman,’ or vice versa—that person really experiences that and believes that. … You don’t have to agree with that at all, and I would say we can’t. The Bible teaches us that God created us male and female.”

Right-Wing Parachurch Organizations

Focus on the Family explicitly opposes “the celebration of ‘transgenderism’ as one of God’s gifts.”

On its website, FOTF explains its position: “Because ‘transgenderism’ violates God’s intentional design for sex and sexuality, we believe that this is a cultural and theological battle that we must engage and win. The modern ‘transgender’ movement is systematically working to dismantle the concept of gender as the Bible and the world have always known it to be. If the transgender lobby succeeds, there will be striking consequences for marriage, family and society at large.” Those who fail to follow FOTF’s guidance are told, “[T]he problems associated with transgenderism, like confusion and pain, stem from a lack of parental involvement and guidance.”

Right-Wing Think Tanks & Legal Lobbyists

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF, formerly known as the Alliance Defense Fund), a right-wing legal ministry committed to “religious freedom,” has recently taken up the cause of isolating and shaming transgender students. Arguing against a Massachusetts school’s 2013 decision to allow transgender students to access facilities and recreation activities that aligned with their gender identity, ADF’s Jeremy Tedesco warned the policy created “an atmosphere that could result in sexual assaults committed by minors.”

In letters delivered last month to similarly progressive schools in Wisconsin and Rhode Island, ADF suggested that creating inclusive policies for transgender students would “seriously endanger students’ privacy and safety, undermine parental authority, violate religious students’ right of conscience, and severely impair an environment conducive to learning.”

The Family Research Council, a right-wing lobby group based in Washington, DC, similarly argues that gender identity protections would “purposefully threaten the public safety of women and children by creating the legitimized access that sexual predators tend to seek.”

Concerned Women for America has warned its members that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)—legislation that would prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity—could force “Christian businessmen” to allow transgender employees to wear male and female clothing alternately, and could “open bathroom doors for predators throughout the nation.”

As Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality, put it, “These bills or policies are gifts to predators![emphasis his].

What’s Next?

Denny Burk, professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College and co-author of the SBC’s anti-trans declaration, has warned that the trans justice movement is “the next phase of the LGBT revolution.” In actuality, the mainstream gay rights movement is already demonstrating a preference for other, international priorities in the post-marriage equality era.

Rita Hester

Rita Hester

Nonetheless, with leaders on the Right conceding defeat on the marriage front, we can expect to see them turning their sights toward other battlefronts, particularly ones they perceive to be winnable.

While it may seem that the trans community is that vulnerable, “winnable” target, what the Right doesn’t recognize is that the power of the gay rights movement—a movement that most would say has beaten the Right—was fueled first by trans women of color. These women—who find themselves at the nexus of White supremacy and heteropatriarchy—were fighting long before Stonewall, and they’ll continue fighting long after Gay Inc. closes its doors. They are fierce and formidable, and, as the Right will soon learn, they are undefeatable.

 Share on Twitte Button  Share on Facebook Button


From Singapore to Arizona: Right-Wing Groups Invade Classrooms and Curriculum

Agatha Tan, a 17-year-old high school student in Singapore, recently attended a mandatory sex-ed class at her school. She was appalled by what was being taught, and took the opportunity to address her concerns in a Facebook post addressed to her school’s principal. “From merely glancing through this booklet,” she explained to him, “I learned a simple yet important lesson: that bigotry is very much alive and it was naïve of me to think I could be safe from it even in school.”

Tan’s post, which quickly went viral, critiqued the program’s promotion of rape culture, sexist gender stereotypes, and anti-LGBTQ perspectives. It also brought to attention the source of these messages—Focus on the Family.

Focus on the Family

Focus on the Family (FOTF) is a global right-wing Christian ministry based in Colorado Springs, CO. Founded by the conservative Christian psychologist James Dobson in 1977, it has grown significantly in size and influence since then. In 2012, FOTF had nearly 750 employees, revenue of nearly $91 million, and net assets of nearly $53 million. CitizenLink—the political advocacy arm of FOTF—had about 50 employees, revenue of more than $13 million, and net assets of $3.5 million.

In addition to its sprawling Colorado Springs “campus” (FOTF even has its own zip code), FOTF maintains a massive web presence and produces several programs that air on Christian radio stations globally. Some 4,000 radio and TV stations in more than 40 countries carry their broadcasts. To support these international efforts, FOTF has affiliate offices in Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Egypt, Ireland, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, and Taiwan.

FOTF has campaigned against LGBTQ people since its founding. The organization’s director of family formation studies, Glenn Stanton, has described homosexuality as “a particularly evil lie of Satan because he knows that it overthrows the very image of the Trinitarian God in creation, revealed in the union of male and female.” One FOTF analyst, Jeff Johnston, has described homosexuality as “Satan roam[ing] the earth like a lion, using sexual and relational brokenness to destroy individuals, families, churches, groups, [and] businesses.”

As for abortion, James Dobson says it’s “the greatest moral evil of our time.”

As Tan put it, “FotF has used sexuality education as an opportunity to further spread their own conservative, ‘God-ordained’ beliefs rather than to educate students on arguably more important things such as safe sex, sexual identity and shared and equal responsibility.”

ripped book

Meanwhile, here in the U.S., a school board in Gilbert, Arizona recently voted to “edit” a high school honors biology textbook after determining that it does not align with a 2-year-old state law. Under Senate Bill 1009, which went into effect in April 2012, “no Arizona school district ‘may allow any presentation during instructional time or furnish any materials to pupils as part of any instruction that does not give preference, encouragement and support to childbirth and adoption as preferred options to elective abortion.'”

The textbook in question, Campbell Biology: Concepts & Connections (Seventh Edition), includes a chapter that discusses abstinence, birth-control methods, tubal ligations and vasectomies, and drugs that can induce abortion. (Note: all of the information included is strictly based on medical facts and doesn’t advocate any positions on these topics.)


UPDATE 1/5/2014, via AZcentral:

Superintendent Christina Kishimoto had asked the board to reverse its October request that the district edit “Campbell Biology: Concepts & Connections (Seventh Edition),” an honors textbook that has a chapter that discusses abstinence, birth-control methods, tubal ligations and vasectomies, and drugs that can induce abortion.

Kishimoto said because the textbooks are copyrighted, editing the books could create legal issues. In addition, a redaction effort would involve thousands of books and a special process that could involve hiring teachers to work over the summer.

A better solution, Kishimoto said, would be to have teachers provide supplemental information to students about childbirth and adoption and not change the books. [Gilbert Public Schools] staff could insert additional material into books if the board desires.

Kishimoto also maintained that she does not think the books violate the law.

In this case, it was the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) that stepped in to ensure that this public school’s curriculum be restricted to only the most conservative understandings of gender, sexuality, and reproduction.

According to school board member Jill Humpherys, ADF complained about the textbook to Gilbert Public Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto this past summer, and eventually argued their way to censorship victory—the board made its 3-2 decision after listening to a presentation from Natalie Decker, an ADF lawyer. Though Decker didn’t offer any recommendations for how exactly the book should be altered in order to be in compliance with the law, board member Daryl Colvin has an idea. “The cheapest, least disruptive way to solve the problem is to remove the page,” he said.

ADF is based in Scottsdale, Arizona, but much like FOTF, it has a global reach (made possible by its network of over 2,200 lawyers). Formerly known as the Alliance Defense Fund, this legal ministry committed to “religious freedom” was created in 1994 by a team of conservative Christian leaders, including FOTF’s James Dobson. Tom Minnery, FOTF’s senior vice president of government and public policy, currently sits on ADF’s board of directors.

ADF serves as a key opponent to reproductive justice efforts in the U.S., working to end what they refer to as the “premeditated murder of the helpless.” Their efforts have included lawsuits aimed at discontinuing funding for Planned Parenthood clinics, forcing young adults to obtain parental consent for abortions, and eliminating critical reproductive healthcare elements of the Affordable Care Act.

Under the leadership of president, CEO, and general counsel, Alan Sears, ADF claims to have “successfully defended marriage as the union between one man and one woman in over 40 cases nationwide.” According to their website, “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.”

FOTF, ADF, and their crew of right-wing allies are working in courtrooms and classrooms around the world to influence the policies that define the strength and extent of our freedoms. May our resistance be as bold and brilliant as Agatha Tan’s.

 Share on Twitte Button  Share on Facebook Button


Profiles on the Right: Jim Daly

Jim Daly

Jim Daly

Jim Daly is President/CEO of the evangelical, socially conservative public policy nonprofit Focus on the Family (FOF), which was founded by one of America’s most influential and hard-line Right Wing Christian conservatives, James Dobson. In 2004 Dobson was described as “America’s most influential evangelical leader.” FOF was one of the largest and most prolific religious right organizations in the United States until its downsizing in 2008. They donated  $35,310 to reelect Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and spent about $500,000 to support Proposition 8 in California.  According to their 2010 990 IRS form, they spent about $25 million on communications.  Their annual operating budget has slipped from $146 million in 2007 to $130 million in 2010, an 11% cut.

Daly perceives same-sex marriage as a watershed issue for religious liberty.  As he sees it, religious liberty, i.e. the ability of a public official to refuse to marry a gay couple because of religious belief, will be illegal if gay marriage is legalized. From this logic follows the popular accusation among conservative Christian pundits that government is meddling in peoples’ lives.

FOF is one of many family organizations that view political and social issues through a right wing, orthodox Christian lens. As such they oppose abortion and sex education, advocate for prayer in schools and the treatment of homosexuality with “reparative” therapy. Focus on the Family has said anti-bullying efforts in schools and legislation like the Safe Schools Improvement Act are part of a LGBT plot to introduce homosexuality to impressionable children.

FOF publishes biased studies to support their agenda. And like many of these studies, when sources are checked, the analysis is found inaccurate and skewed. In a Senate Judiciary hearing on the Defense of Marriage Act, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) revealed Thomas Minnery’s misrepresentation of a Department of a Health and Human Services study.  Minnery is senior vice president of Government and Public Policy for Focus on the Family.

FOF has affiliate organizations in 32 states, connecting it with a large grassroots political constituency through these Family Policy Councils. It should be noted that some members of Focus on the Family may be unaware of Daly’s or the organization’s right wing agenda. Some of the services and products FOF offers are not on the surface political, but they do reflect conservative ideas about child-rearing and family relationships. Daly’s leadership of FOF seems to be returning it to its original goal, the nurturance of the Christian family. In that sense it continues to advocate for the sanctity of marriage, traditional gender roles, and heterosexism, and it continues to lay the infrastructure for Christian Right organizing.

Next ProfileThis profile is part of a series on key anti-LGBTQ opponents adapted from Political Research Associates’ Resisting the Rainbow report.

Constructing Homophobia: Colorado’s Right-Wing Attacks On Homosexuals

**This article appeared in the March, 1993 edition of The Public Eye magazine**

“History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.”

On the Pulse of Morning, Maya Angelou

An eerie unease hangs in the air in Colorado. For lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals, nagging questions pervade everyday life: did the kindly person who just gave me her parking place vote for Amendment 2? Did my landlord vote for the amendment, knowing that I am gay? Will gay rights be pushed back to the days before Stonewall? Who or what is behind this hate?

Amendment 2 is a ballot initiative that seeks to amend the Colorado Constitution. The amendment was passed by a majority of Colorado voters in November 1992, and was to take effect on January 15, 1993. The American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal Defense Fund, the cities of Boulder, Aspen, and Denver, and individual plaintiffs joined forces under the leadership of attorney Jean Dubofsky, a former Colorado Supreme Judicial Court judge, and filed a motion in Denver District Court seeking to enjoin the governor and state of Colorado from enforcing Amendment 2. On January 15, 1993, Judge Jeffrey Bayless granted a preliminary injunction, giving the plaintiffs the first victory in a legal struggle over the constitutionality of Amendment 2. That injunction was later made permanent, but was then appealed to the US Supreme Court.

Amendment 2 reads as follows:

“Neither the State of Colorado, through any of its branches or departments, nor any of its agencies, political subdivisions, municipalities or school districts, shall enact, adopt or enforce any statute, regulation, ordinance or policy whereby homosexual, lesbian, or bisexual orientation, conduct, practices or relationships shall constitute or otherwise be the basis of, or entitle any person or class of persons to have or claim any minority status, quota preferences, protected status or claim of discrimination. This Section of the [Colorado] Constitution shall be self-executing.”

Historical Background to Colorado’s Amendment 2

The gay rights movement in the US is often traced to June 27, 1969, in New York City, when police raided a Greenwich Village bar, the Stonewall Inn, and bar patrons rebelled in protest. Seven years later, in 1976, in Dade County, Florida, Anita Bryant led the first religious campaign against gay rights. Bryant’s campaign (run by Bryant, her husband Bob Green, and a political operative named Ed Rowe, who went on to head the Church League of America briefly and later Christian Mandate) was in opposition to a vote by the Dade County commissioners to prohibit discrimination against gay men and lesbians in housing, public accommodation, and employment. Bryant promoted a successful referendum to repeal the commissioners’ vote, and her campaign gained strength and notoriety.

In 1977, Anita Bryant inspired a similar campaign in California, where State Senator John Briggs, who had worked with Bryant in Miami, sponsored the “California Defend Our Children Initiative,” a binding initiative on the general election ballot in November 1978. The initiative provided for charges against school teachers and others advocating, encouraging, or publicly and “indiscreetly” engaging in homosexuality. It prohibited the hiring and required the firing of homosexuals if the school board deemed them unfit. This was in reaction to a 1975 California law preventing local school boards from firing teachers for homosexuality. California Defend Our Children, the organizing group supporting the initiative, was chaired by State Senator John Briggs. Rev. Louis Sheldon, now head of the Anaheim-based organization Traditional Values, was executive director. The initiative failed, but Rev. Louis Sheldon would remain extremely active in anti-homosexual organizing. That same year, David A. Noebel, later to head Summit Ministries of Colorado, published The Homosexual Revolution, which he dedicated to Anita Bryant.

Bryant’s anti-homosexual campaign ended in 1979 with the collapse of her two organizations, Anita Bryant Ministries and Protect America’s Children, which were hampered by a lack of political sophistication. Contemporary techniques in influencing the political system–direct mail, computer technology, religious television ministries–were not available to Bryant. Although US history is dotted with right-wing movements led by preachers (such as Father Charles Coughlin, who used radio to enormous effect), at that time few religious fundamentalists and evangelicals were interested in the political sphere. Bryant herself was plagued by personal problems, such as divorce, and her organizations were unable to respond effectively to a boycott mounted against Florida’s orange industry, for which Bryant was a major spokesperson. Her organizations collapsed because they were unable to expand their base through direct mail and fundraising, to use the media to build that base, or to use the political system for their own religious ends. With the creation of the New Right at the end of the 1970s, a political movement was born that incorporated conservative fundamentalists and evangelicals as full partners. Now there were tremendous political resources available to the Religious Right, and the success and influence of religious fundamentalists in the spheres of public policy and popular opinion improved dramatically.

Under the benign influence of the Reagan Administration, the New Right and its Religious Right component flourished. Several major leaders emerged, their individual fortunes rising and falling, but their collective political clout reaching into new spheres of influence, especially the political sphere. A focus of attention that emerged with the advent of the New Right was a rollback of gains made by the gay rights movement.

The Second Right-Wing Anti-Homosexual Campaign

The “second” anti-homosexual campaign, born within the New Right in the early 1980s, has been a far more sophisticated one. It has been planned at the national level, carried out by at least 15 large national organizations using the most refined computer technology, showing an understanding of the political system, and therefore exerting influence only dreamed of by the first movement.

The effects of this new sophistication are:

  • to make local anti-homosexual campaigns appear to be exclusively grassroots efforts, when they are guided by major national organizations;
  • to increase the effect of each New Right organization’s efforts by building networks and coalitions among the organizations and by coordinating political campaigns;
  • to camouflage the religious content of the organizing and create the more secular theme of “defense of the family”;
  • to pursue the anti-homosexual campaign under the slogan “no special rights,” despite that slogan’s inaccuracy.

The Anti-Homosexual Campaign of the Early 1980s

The opening of the second anti-homosexual campaign can be traced to three events:

  1. the 1982 publication of Enrique T. Rueda’s massive The Homosexual Network (Old Greenwich, CT: Devin Adair Co.);
  2. the onset of the AIDS epidemic, which in its earliest days in the US, was almost exclusively confined to the gay male community. (For an account of the earliest days of the AIDS epidemic, see Randy Shilts, And The Band Played On (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987.);
  3. the work of anti-gay activist Dr. Paul Cameron, director in the early 1980s of the Institute for the Scientific Investigation of Sexuality in Lincoln, Nebraska, and now chairperson of the Family Research Institute in Washington, DC. Paul Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation would prove an early supporter of Dr. Cameron: FCF distributed copies of Cameron’s “Model Sexuality Statute” in 1983.

Enrique Rueda’s massive book, The Homosexual Network, is a thorough examination of the organizations, activities, and ideology of the gay rights movement. The book does not discuss AIDS, and much of its critique of homosexual organizations is directed at their liberalism. Rueda, a native of Cuba and a Catholic theologian, is also interested in the moral dimension of homosexuality and its offense against the church.

In 1987, the Free Congress Foundation, which had sponsored Rueda’s book, developed a new condensation that updated the critique of homosexuality to include the AIDS crisis. This book, Gays, AIDS and You, by Michael Schwartz and Enrique Rueda, stands as a seminal work in the right’s analysis of homosexuality in the context of the AIDS crisis. A quote from the introduction illustrates the significance of this book to an understanding of Colorado’s Amendment 2:

“For the homosexual movement is nothing less than an attack on our traditional, pro-family values. And now this movement is using the AIDS crisis to pursue its political agenda. This in turn, threatens not only our values but our lives. . . .

“They are loved by God as much as anyone else. This we believe while affirming the disordered nature of their sexual condition and the evil nature of the acts this condition leads to, and while fully committed to the proposition that homosexuals should not be entitled to special treatment under the law. That would be tantamount to rewarding evil.”

It is significant that Rueda wrote his two important critiques of the gay rights movement at the suggestion of, and under the sponsorship of, Paul Weyrich and the Free Congress Foundation, which Weyrich directs. FCF’s early and important work on the issue of homosexuality foreshadowed a national campaign to highlight homosexuality as a threat to the well-being of Americans.

Paul Weyrich is a founder and central leader of the New Right. He was more astute than many in the New Right in his early appreciation of the potential of anti-gay themes in building the success of the New Right. But he was not alone in understanding the appeal of this issue in right-wing organizing. As early as 1978, Tim LaHaye, “family counselor,” husband of Beverly LaHaye (head of Concerned Women for America), and prominent leader in both the pro-family and Religious Right components of the New Right, wrote The Unhappy Gays (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1978).

In 1983, Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority sent out at least three mailings that highlighted the threats of homosexuality and AIDS.

In a similar vein, Robert G. Grant’s organization, Christian Voice, used the threat of homosexuality as a major theme in a fundraising letter that began, “I am rushing you this urgent letter because the children in your neighborhood are in danger.”

Phyllis Schlafly, head of Eagle Forum and grande dame of the pro-family movement, made heavy use of the accusation of lesbianism in her early 1980s attacks on Equal Rights Amendment organizers. She argued that the ERA would promote gay rights, leading, for example, to the legitimization of same-sex marriages, the protection of gay and lesbian rights in the military, the protection of the rights of persons with AIDS, and the voiding of sodomy laws.

Dr. Paul Cameron is a tireless anti-gay activist who has played an important roll in encouraging punitive measures against people with AIDS. In 1983, the American Psychological Association dropped Cameron from its membership rolls “for a violation of the Preamble to the Ethical Principles of Psychologists.” Despite being discredited by reputable social scientists, Cameron has served as an “expert” on homosexuality at numerous right-wing and Religious Right conferences, and was hired as a consultant on AIDS by California Assemblyman William Dannemeyer.

As the 1980s unfolded and the New Right achieved substantial gains on economic, military, and foreign policy issues, its Religious Right and pro-family sectors devoted their most passionate organizing to the anti-abortion crusade, where there were significant successes. The campaign against homosexuality was not a major focus in the mid-1980s, though it was never repudiated as a goal of right-wing organizing. A shared alarm and loathing over the gains of the gay rights movement was understood within the New Right.

The Current Anti-Homosexual Campaign

In the late 1980s, three issues reinvigorated the New Right’s anti-homosexual activism and focused added attention at the national level. The first issue was the promotion of school curriculum reform to reflect a greater acceptance of gay men and lesbians (e.g., Project 10 in southern California). The second was the religious and political right’s objection to public funding for homoerotic art. The third issue was the passage of gay rights ordinances, bills, and initiatives in the local sphere and in state legislatures. According to People for the American Way, 19 states and more than 100 cities and counties now have laws or executive orders protecting gay and lesbian rights.

It is commonly thought that the local responses to each of these three gay rights issues are grassroots efforts, mounted by outraged citizens stirred to action by local manifestations of “gay power.” In fact, while local anti-homosexual groups did and do exist, their power and effectiveness is enormously enhanced by the technical assistance provided by national New Right organizations.

Colorado provides a case study of the effective involvement of national right-wing groups at the local level. Colorado for Family Values (CFV), the local group that sponsored Amendment 2, was founded by Coloradans Kevin Tebedo and Tony Marco, and is headed by Colorado Springs car dealer Will Perkins. It promotes itself as a grassroots group, but its tactics, success, and power are largely the result of support from a national anti-homosexual campaign mounted by the New Right. Five of the national organizations active in this campaign are represented on the executive and advisory boards of CFV: Focus on the Family, Summit Ministries, Concerned Women for America, Eagle Forum, and Traditional Values. Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition is not officially represented on the board of CFV, but has a strong presence in Colorado and is ubiquitous in anti-homosexual organizing nationally. Many other New Right and “old right” organizations are climbing on the anti-homosexual bandwagon as the issue becomes more prominent.

Colorado for Family Values has maintained adamantly that its strategy was not coordinated by national religious or political groups. However, according to People for the American Way, a Washington, DC, organization that monitors the right wing, “the Religious Right’s anti-gay vendetta is not, as its leaders often claim, a spontaneous outpouring of concern about gay issues. Theirs is a carefully orchestrated political effort, with a unified set of messages and tactics, that is deliberately designed to foster division and intolerance.” A review of the national organizations involved with Colorado’s Amendment 2 will support this analysis.

Key Homophobic Groups Active in Colorado

Rev. Louis Sheldon’s Traditional Values

Traditional Values (often called the Traditional Values Coalition) is headed by Rev. Louis Sheldon and is based in Anaheim, California. Rev. Sheldon and his organization have taken leadership within the Religious Right’s anti-homosexual campaign. In October 1989, Rev. Sheldon led the “West Coast Symposium on Homosexuality and Public Policy Implications” in Orange County, California. Two of the featured speakers were Roger Magnuson, Esq., author of Are Gay Rights Right?, and Congressman William Dannemeyer, author of Shadow in the Land: Homosexuality in America.

Building on the success of the west coast symposium, Rev. Sheldon convened a January 1990 conference in Washington, DC, that was billed as a “national summit meeting on homosexuality.” One of the two dominant themes of the conference was that homosexuals have, since the 1960s, been seeking “special protection over and above the equal rights already given to all Americans.” This theme would later appear in Colorado as the central theme of the Colorado for Family Values’ promotion of Amendment 2.

Rev. Louis Sheldon was an aide to Pat Robertson in 1987, and he shares much of Robertson’s interest in the legal codification of moral issues. In 1988, Sheldon led the opposition to Project 10, a counseling program for gay adolescents in the Los Angeles school system. In 1986 and 1988, his zeal against homosexuals led him to endorse the California anti-homosexual initiatives sponsored by far right extremist Lyndon LaRouche. The initiatives sought, in effect, to require quarantine for people with AIDS. Sheldon himself has advocated establishing “cities of refuge” for people with the HIV infection. In 1991, Sheldon submitted to the California attorney general a constitutional amendment that would bar civil rights laws from protecting homosexuals, unless approved by a two-thirds vote of the California voters. Sheldon has recently announced his intention to pursue in California an initiative modeled on Colorado’s Amendment 2.

Barbara Sheldon, chairwoman of the Traditional Values Coalition of Colorado, is on the executive board of Colorado for Family Values. She is not related to Rev. Sheldon.

Focus on the Family

It is widely agreed that the 1991 arrival in Colorado Springs of Dr. James Dobson and his organization, Focus on the Family, was an important catalyst for Colorado Springs’ local anti-homosexual organization, Colorado for Family Values. CFV had already led a successful campaign against a local gay rights ordinance. Focus on the Family, however, brought to Colorado Springs a tremendous influx of resources and sophisticated political experience: it arrived with 750 employees (and has since added another 300) and an annual budget of nearly $70 million, including a $4 million grant from the El Pomar Foundation to buy 50 acres in Colorado Springs. Focus on the Family is indeed a national organization. While it has no official ties to CFV, it has offered “advice” to CFV, and several Focus on the Family employees, such as public policy representative Randy Hicks, sit on CFV advisory boards. Focus on the Family has given an in-kind donation worth $8,000 to Colorado for Family Values.

Dr. Dobson’s background is in pediatrics and he is best known as an advocate of traditional discipline and corporal punishment for children. However, his organization has also been heavily involved in anti-homosexual organizing. In 1988, Focus on the Family merged with the Washington, DC-based Family Research Council, headed by Gary L. Bauer. The Family Research Council distributed a “homosexual packet,” available through Focus on the Family, which contained the lengthy document, The Homosexual Agenda: Changing Your Community and Nation. This detailed guide includes a section titled “Starting An Initiative.” In October 1992, the Family Research Council separated from Focus on the Family after warnings from the Internal Revenue Service that the Council’s lobbying activities were endangering Focus on the Family’s tax-exempt status.

In keeping with the Family Research Council’s anti-gay organizing, Focus on the Family’s newsletters have shown an increase in anti-gay articles over the last several years. For instance, in the May 1990 Focus on the Family newsletter, Dr. Dobson himself began a column with the statement, “I am familiar with the widespread effort to redefine the family. It is motivated by homosexual activists and others who see the traditional family as a barrier to the social engineering they hope to accomplish.” A March 1991 article in the newsletter uses this argument against treating gays equally: “There are people in our society who find sexual satisfaction from engaging in intercourse with animals. . . .Would anyone suggest that these groups deserve special protection?”

Summit Ministries

Summit Ministries of Manitou Springs, Colorado, is a little-known Religious Right organization whose work is national in scope. It is a 30-year-old Christian organization specializing in educational materials and summer youth retreats. Its president is Rev. David A. Noebel, formerly a prominent preacher in Rev. Billy James Hargis’s Christian Crusade. As early as 1977, Noebel authored The Homosexual Revolution, in which he claims that “homosexuality rapidly is becoming one of America’s most serious social problems.” He has also written several books claiming that rock’n’roll and soul music are communist plots to corrupt US youth. Summit Ministries later published AIDS: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome: A Special Report, co-authored by David Noebel, Wayne C. Lutton, and Paul Cameron. For the last several years, virtually every issue of The Journal, Summit Ministries’ monthly newsletter, has contained several anti-homosexual entries. Summit Ministries has just published Noebel’s new book, Understanding the Times: The Story of the Biblical Christian, Marxist/Leninist and Secular Humanist Worldviews.

Noebel’s background with Rev. Billy James Hargis’s Christian Crusade helps to explain the historical friendly relationship between Summit Ministries and the John Birch Society (JBS). Both the Christian Crusade and the John Birch Society represent a political sector known in political science literature as the “old right.” Born out of the conviction that communism was rampant in the United States, both organizations believed that the civil rights movement was manipulated by communists, that the National Council of Churches promoted communism, and that the United Nations was controlled by communists. In 1962, Rev. Billy James Hargis purchased an old resort hotel in Manitou Springs, which was renamed The Summit. The Summit became a retreat and anti-communism summer college.

Summit’s relationship with the John Birch Society is deeper than mere ideological affinity. In fact, in 1983, a donor responding to a John Birch Society fundraising letter sent a check to Robert Welch of JBS, and received a thank-you letter from Welch. The check, however, was made out to Summit Ministries.

Rev. David Noebel was a member of the John Birch Society until at least 1987, and for many years Summit Ministries took out full-page advertisements for its summer youth retreats in Review of the News andAmerican Opinion, two John Birch Society publications.

Summit Ministries is also politically close to Dr. James Dobson and Focus on the Family. Dr. Dobson, especially since moving to Colorado, leads seminars at Summit Ministries, and his endorsement of Summit’s work was prominent in Summit’s material promoting its 30th anniversary. David Noebel is on the advisory board of Colorado for Family Values.

Beverly LaHaye’s Concerned Women for America

Touting itself as the largest women’s organization in America, Concerned Women for America claims a membership of 500,000, a number disputed by many. CWA was founded in 1979 as “the Christian women’s answer to the National Organization for Women.” It is based in Washington, DC, and organizes its member chapters through prayer circles and LaHaye’s monthly newsletter. CWA distributes a pamphlet titled The Hidden Homosexual Agenda that condemns the homosexual agenda for seeking “to take away the right of those who believe that homosexuality is wrong and immoral to voice that opinion.”

CWA’s most recent anti-homosexual pamphlet is The Homosexual Deception: Making Sin A Civil Right. It is a reprint of a treatise by Tony Marco, co-founder of Colorado for Family Values, that CFV filed with the state of Colorado as evidence supporting the correctness of Amendment 2. Here, to give a local activist his due, we see the local group creating material that is then used by a national group–a reversal of the usual pattern. Concerned Women for America is represented on the CFV advisory board by the president of its Colorado chapter, Bert Nelson.

Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum

Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, based in Alton, Illinois, is another national organization whose local affiliate is represented on the advisory board of Colorado for Family Values. Phyllis Schlafly is perhaps best known for her successful campaign against the Equal Rights Amendment. During that campaign, she used the threat of homosexual and lesbian privileges as a central argument to support her opposition to the ERA. Eagle Forum continues to oppose gay and lesbian rights.

Other National Groups Prominent in the Anti-Homosexual Campaign

Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition

Rev. Pat Robertson, longtime host of the cable television program “The 700 Club,” and prominent leader of the Religious Right, ran unsuccessfully in the Republican presidential primary in 1988. In October 1989, Robertson used the 1.9 million names he had collected from his 1988 campaign to identify 175,000 key activists and donors, and launch the Christian Coalition. The new Coalition’s stated goal was “to build the most powerful political force in American politics.”

The 175,000 activists were contacted and urged to establish chapters of the Christian Coalition in their precincts. Five goals were identified:

  1. build a grassroots network using professional field organizers and training schools;
  2. construct a lobbying organization to work at the national and state levels in every state and in Washington, DC;
  3. create a mass media outreach program;
  4. build a legal arm to defend the gains made in state legislatures from challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union;
  5. build a prayer network to unite all evangelical and pro-family voters.

Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation was an early endorser of the Christian Coalition.

The Christian Coalition’s training tapes teach activists to fight those forces pursuing “an agenda of chaos.” An early videotape distributed by the Christian Coalition used homosexual scenes to illustrate the moral decline of America; opposition to homosexuality has always been a commitment of the Christian Coalition. However, it was the 1990 political battle over a gay rights initiative in Broward County, Florida, that moved the anti-homosexual agenda to prominence within the organization. In its literature, the Christian Coalition took credit for “spearheading” the defeat. It claims to have “led the charge and won a major political victory.” Robertson calls on Christian Coalition members to “duplicate this success in your city and state and throughout the nation.”

By 1992, the organization had grown dramatically. Ralph Reed, its executive director, claimed 250,000 members in 49 states and $13 million in the bank. The Christian Coalition launched an election year get-out-the-vote effort which included “in-pew” registration at churches, the distribution of up to 40 million “voter guides,” and the use of computer-assisted telephone banks to help elect favored candidates in key races.

Reed’s tactics are self-confessedly surreptitious. “I want to be invisible,” he told one reporter. “I do guerrilla warfare. I paint my face and travel at night. You don’t know it’s over until you’re in a body bag. You don’t know until election night.” Despite this statement, Reed later publicly distanced himself from the “stealth” strategy.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Christian Coalition overwhelmingly has targeted local Republican Party precinct and county organizations for takeover. It works closely with Paul Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation, which was founded in 1974 with money from the Coors family and its foundation. County Christian Coalition chapters have been directed to subscribe to Weyrich’s National Empowerment Television (NET) satellite program. Ralph Reed is on the NET board.

Colorado for Family Values is not an affiliate of, nor is it funded by, the Christian Coalition (unlike the group that led the anti-homosexual initiative campaign in Oregon, the Oregon Citizens Alliance); the link between the Christian Coalition and Colorado’s Amendment 2 is an indirect one. The National Legal Foundation of Chesapeake, Virginia (a conservative Christian legal organization founded by Pat Robertson and funded by Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, but no longer affiliated with Robertson), gave advice to Colorado for Family Values as early as 1991, long before Amendment 2 was on the ballot. The consultation was intended to help CFV formulate ballot language that would survive legal and political challenges. By the end of 1992, the National Legal Foundation had taken over much of the legal work of CFV.

The Berean League

The Berean League, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, has published Roger J. Magnuson’s much-cited book Are Gay Rights Right? This discredited work was used by Tony Marco in the treatise he wrote for Colorado for Family Values. In addition to publishing Magnuson’s book, the Berean League developed a successful campaign to oppose a local civil rights ordinance for gay men and lesbians. On the basis of that success, it began to conduct workshops at national conferences on “Strategies for Defeating Homosexual Privilege Proposals.”

A Christian organization, the Berean League states in its promotional literature that “the League’s authority is Scripture.” Recently, it has issued a “Back-grounder” report titled Some Things You May Not Know About Homosexuality. An inflammatory three-page document, it was circulated in Oregon as a tool to organize support for Oregon’s 1992 anti-homosexual Measure 9, the Abnormal Behavior Initiative.

The American Family Association

Headed by Rev. Donald Wildmon and based in Tupelo, Mississippi, the American Family Association has an annual budget of $5 million, and focuses primarily on profanity, adultery, homosexuality, and other forms of anti-Christian behavior and language on television. An earlier Wildmon organization was called CLeaR-TV (Christian Leaders for Responsible Television) and was based in Wheaton, Illinois. Wildmon has specialized in boycotting the corporate sponsors of shows which he dislikes. He called for a boycott of American Express because it sponsored the television program “L. A. Law,” which ran an episode featuring a bisexual woman kissing another woman. Wildmon opposes even the depiction of homosexuality. One of his “top goals” for 1989 was to force off the air three TV shows (“Heartbeat,” “Hooperman,” and “thirtysomething”) that, he said, “promote the homosexual lifestyle and portray practicing homosexuals in a positive light.” Wildmon was accused of anti-Semitism for inflammatory comments he made during his campaign against the film The Last Temptation of Christ.

The Rutherford Institute

The Rutherford Institute, based in Manassas, Virginia, and founded and headed by John W. Whitehead, is a non-profit, legal defense organization associated with the far-right fringe of the Religious Right. Speakers listed in its Speakers Bureau include R. J. Rushdoony, a prominent Christian Reconstructionist. Reconstructionists believe that the text of the Bible provides the only legitimate basis for civil law. The most zealous wing of Reconstructionism has called for the death penalty for homosexuals, adulterers, and recalcitrant children. In 1992, the Rutherford Institute spearheaded a suit in Hawaii to block implementation of that state’s new gay rights law.

The John Birch Society

The John Birch Society is another national organization with a prominent anti-homosexual agenda. JBS is not properly categorized as a New Right organization, but is best seen as “old right.” Historically, the John Birch Society has existed as an isolationist, anti-communist organization. It was founded near the end of the McCarthy era, and expanded on Senator Joseph McCarthy’s conspiracy theory of communist penetration of the United States. Since the death of its founder, Robert Welch, the JBS has moved from Belmont, Massachusetts, to Appleton, Wisconsin. Its recent concerns have been family issues, AIDS, US internationalist foreign policy, opposition to government regulations, and the right to bear arms. High on its list of concerns within family issues is homosexuality. The September and October 1992 issues of its publication, New American (published immediately before the November votes on anti-gay initiatives in Colorado and Oregon), carried anti-homosexual stories. The October story was a two-page article supporting Oregon’s Abnormal Behavior Initiative.

Lyndon LaRouche: A Special Case

Lyndon LaRouche is a far-right political extremist who is now serving a 15-year sentence in federal prison for mail fraud and tax evasion. LaRouche runs a vast empire of organizations with ideological positions that exactly mimic his bizarre conspiracy theories. His followers are seen in airports and on street corners, often campaigning to free LaRouche from jail or attacking the organization’s mortal enemy–Henry Kissinger. LaRouche’s many organizations have always incorporated sexual themes into their analysis, and have been obsessed with AIDS since the pandemic began. LaRouche has conducted a long-running and fanatical campaign against homosexuality. Most recently, LaRouche spearheaded Proposition 64 in California, which would have established restrictive public health policies regarding AIDS. Proposition 64 was opposed by virtually all public health officials and elected officials (one exception was legislator William Dannemeyer). A public health specialist for the California Medical Association described Proposition 64 as “absolute hysteria and calculated deception.” LaRouche organizers continue to peddle hysteria over AIDS and homosexuality. Their embrace of anti-Jewish and other scapegoating conspiracy theories and use of demagoguery add a firm base to the claim that the LaRouchians are a neo-fascist movement. Many New Right groups avoid any official alliance with the LaRouchians.

Analyzing the Anti-Homosexual Campaign’s Coordination & Networking

Since its earliest days in the late 1970s, the New Right has been a political and religious movement that has self-consciously networked among its members. The Religious Roundtable, the Free Congress Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, Christian Voice, the Conservative Caucus, the Moral Majority, Eagle Forum, and Concerned Women for America, among others, have held frequent conferences, published in each other’s journals and newsletters, and promoted legislation within the context of a sympathetic Republican administration.

The anti-homosexual campaign nests within a sector of the New Right known as the pro-family movement. The major national gathering for the pro-family movement is the Family Forum conference, held annually since 1981. The conference has usually been sponsored by Paul Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation and Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority. These conferences are symptomatic of the coordination and networking among the New Right leadership. The issues of concern to the pro-family movement are aptly described in a 1984 promotional letter for Family Forum III. They are “important moral issues such as: the economic survival of the family, parents’ rights in education, the homosexual movement, personal charity, child pornography, and abortion.”

Reflecting the New Right leadership’s shared opposition to homosexuality, the Family Forum conferences nearly always feature an anti-homosexual speaker. With the arrival of the AIDS epidemic, and the publication of Gays, AIDS and You, sponsored by the Free Congress Foundation, the anti-homosexual profile became much higher. We see the fruits of a decade of organizing by the pro-family movement of the New Right in the many challenges to gay rights bills and initiatives, and most recently in the anti-gay initiatives in Colorado and Oregon.

The analysis underlying the pro-family movement’s morality is a fervent distrust and irrational hatred of “secular humanism,” which is used as a shorthand for all that is evil and opposed to God. This distrust of secular humanism can be traced to the US nativist right at the turn of the century, which believed secular humanists were engaged in a conspiracy to undermine the United States. The purported conspiracy was linked, from its beginning, to an extreme fear of communism and its undermining effect on Christianity and the Christian family. Today, a major focus of the New Right, and particularly of the pro-family movement, is unrelenting opposition to the perceived secular humanist conspiracy. As Paul Weyrich describes it, “Well, first of all, from our point of view, this is really the most significant battle of the age-old conflict between good and evil, between the forces of God and the forces against God, that we have seen in our country.”

For a better understanding of how fear of secular humanism serves as the theoretical basis for right-wing organizing, see the Berlet/Quigley chapter on the Culture War: Theocracy and Racism.

Camouflage of the Christian Agenda

In the discussion above, three of the four national New Right organizations playing the highest profile role in organizing support for Colorado’s Amendment 2 are explicitly Christian organizations. However, the association of anti-homosexual organizing with religious (specifically Christian) principles is highlighted only when activists are targeting fellow Christians in order to recruit or educate them. When organizing in the wider political arena, anti-homosexual organizing is cast in the secular terms of “family values” and “defense of the family.”

This is an important aspect of the Religious Right’s organizing style. Since the mid-1980s, when the heavy-handed style of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority lost popularity, the Christian Right has cast its campaigns in terms not so obviously linked to the Bible. Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition refers to the soft-peddling of the religious message in his own organization’s work as conducting a “stealth campaign.”

In the case of the anti-homosexual campaign, the Religious Right has dwelt on calumnious depictions of predatory behavior by homosexuals. Various anti-gay campaigns have accused homosexuals of eating feces, molesting children, and destroying the family. Many of these characterizations are “documented” by the work of Dr. Paul Cameron and Roger J. Magnuson. Oregon’s 1992 anti-gay initiative (which was rejected by the voters) equates homosexuality with “pedophilia, sadism or masochism.” While it is only in explicitly religious attacks on homosexuals that homosexuality is equated with Satan, that connection is uncontroversial among many involved in organizing against homosexuals.

Though the religious basis of this anti-homosexual fervor often is not mentioned, occasionally this bias becomes clear. On February 10, 1992, Bill McCartney, head football coach at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said at a press conference that homosexuality is a “sin” that is “an abomination of almighty God.” McCartney is a member of the advisory board of Colorado for Family Values. Former US Representative William Armstrong, who describes himself as having had a “life-changing experience” when he became born again, is chairman of the advisory board of CFV.

But the clearest revelation of the religious basis for the work of CFV is a talk given by Kevin Tebedo, CFV executive director, at the First Congregational Church in Colorado Springs on August 23, 1992. In this setting, Tebedo states that Amendment 2 “is about authority.”

He goes on to say, “It’s about whose authority takes precedence in the society in which we live. . . [I]s it the authority of God? The authority of the supreme King of Kings and Lord of Lords? You see, we say we should have the separation of church and state, but you see, Jesus Christ is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. That is politics; that is rule; that is authority.”

In spite of the obvious preeminence of Christian principles in the values of its national organizational supporters and some of its advisory board members, the literature of Colorado for Family Values does not refer to Christianity, Biblical admonitions regarding homosexuality, or religious principles. A large CFV packet of information dated January 9, 1992, does not mention a religious basis for CFV’s work. Finally, there is no mention of religion in the CFV Mission Statement.

The History of “No Special Rights”

Another area of deception in the public face of the anti-homosexual campaign is its assertion that lesbians and gay men are seeking “special rights” or “special protections.” This was the guiding premise behind Anita Bryant’s campaign, was raised again by Enrique Rueda in The Homosexual Network and Gays, AIDS and You, and eventually emerged as the slogan of the national anti-homosexual campaign. In the case of Colorado’s Amendment 2, the slogan was the dominant theme of CFV’s advertising and promotion.

The use of “no special rights” is purposefully misleading. Gay rights initiatives do not provide “special rights,” but a guarantee of equal rights for lesbians and gay men. Amendment 2 would deny equal protection against discrimination only to this group. CFV’s decision to use “no special rights” only in its public materials and not in the legal language of the amendment itself was made on the advice of the National Legal Foundation.

A June 1991 letter from Brian McCormick of NLF advises CFV to stay away from the “no special rights” language in its legal formulations, but to use it as the centerpiece of its public campaign. Coloradans were bombarded with advertisements and flyers all drumming home the message that Amendment 2 did nothing but reverse the unfair granting of “special rights” through gay rights initiatives. Future anti-gay initiatives will undoubtedly continue the use of the “no special rights” slogan because the cohesiveness of the right’s anti-homosexual campaign virtually guarantees that local initiatives will follow the lead of national organizations.

Legal Issues Raised by Amendment 2

After the voters in Colorado approved Amendment 2 by majority vote, a preliminary injunction was successfully sought by a group of plaintiffs that included individuals, gay rights organizations, and the three Colorado cities–Denver, Aspen, and Boulder–that had existing gay rights ordinances. The injunction was requested on the grounds that Amendment 2 would deprive gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals of any legal remedy for acts of discrimination against them, and deprive the state and all local governments from enacting any statutes, ordinances, or policies that prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Discrimination may occur in such areas as insurance, employment, housing, and accommodation.

The plaintiffs faced the difficult burden of overcoming the “presumption of constitutionality” granted to any successful amendment. They also needed to prove that there was a reasonable likelihood that they would prevail on the merits of their case. The plaintiffs argued that the amendment denied fundamental constitutional rights and also violated the constitutional guarantee of equal protection because there was no rational relationship between its provisions and the accomplishment of a legitimate public goal. To prevail, the plaintiffs needed to establish that such a denial of rights would create real, immediate, and irreparable harm to lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals.

Colorado District Court Judge Jeffrey Bayless determined that there was a reasonable probability that the amendment denied the plaintiffs a fundamental right–the right to participate in the governmental process–and that the amendment could be upheld only if the defendants could show that it furthered a compelling governmental purpose.

Judge Bayless concluded that lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals are an identifiable group that deserves protection. Acknowledging that the Constitution cannot control private prejudices, he ruled that legislation must not indirectly “give them effect.” Judge Bayless then granted the temporary injunction blocking Amendment 2. A later permanent injunction was then appealed to the US Supreme Court.


Homophobia is a bedrock value in our society, one that crosses lines of class, race, and even gender. Our Calvinist attitudes toward sex, based in religious teaching that sex is only for procreation, and a patriarchal culture that is discomforted by any breaking down of rigid sex roles, combine to create a culture that can deal with homosexuality, if at all, only in the artistic and commercial spheres. The lesbian and gay civil rights movement has pushed homosexuality out of the artistic and commercial world and into the political and social sphere. This is almost guaranteed to create a backlash while society absorbs and adjusts to new values.

While that backlash may be inevitable, it can be tamped down or fanned by political forces. This review of the right wing’s organizing to promote a backlash against the gay rights movement is a study in reaction. Deprived of its old enemies and needing a new issue to promote, the right’s anti-homosexual organizing is rank opportunism. The anti-gay backlash is in large part a creation of the right. It is generating funds, keeping right-wing organizations that were in danger of complete eclipse alive with an infusion of new support, and generating the all-important evidence of political power–media attention.

The threat this backlash represents is very real. Violence is its most blatant manifestation, but the litany of pain and waste caused by homophobia includes subtle attacks on gay men and lesbians as well. Furthermore, confronting the backlash distracts time, energy, and money from the work necessary to bring about equal rights for lesbians and gay men.

In the case of Colorado’s Amendment 2, it would be comforting to think that the people who voted for the amendment were simply misled, and believed they were opposing special rights for homosexuals. While that deception was promoted by Colorado for Family Values, the vote also reflects the deep-seated persistence of homophobia in our society. The skillful manipulation of homophobia by the right wing creates anti-gay sentiment and actions that bolster and promote intolerance.

In the United States, we must decide what role the church and religious tenets are going to play, especially when those tenets are in conflict with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It is not an attack on Christianity or religion to question the propriety of imposing Biblical law on a secular society. If ours is a society in which church and state are separate, then the prohibitions of church dogma cannot overrule the protections provided by the Constitution. And the Constitution, to paraphrase Mr. Justice McKenna in the 1910 case of Weems v. U.S., is progressive–it is not fastened to the obsolete, but may acquire new meaning as public opinion becomes enlightened by a humane justice.