New Virtual Resource ‘Enemies of Equality’ Untangles the Web of Money and Influence Behind State Efforts to Discriminate Against LGBT People

By Megan Clayton • July 7, 2016 • 7:56 am

This year, more than 200 anti-LGBT bills were introduced in state legislatures across the country. These bills commonly masquerade as laws designed to protect religious or other personal freedoms—a “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” or “First Amendment Defense Act”—but are just underhanded ways to codify discrimination.

It might seem as if this flurry of anti-LGBT legislative activity is spontaneous—driven by election-year concerns, or a random amplification of the kinds of bills that have been kicking around state legislatures for years. In reality, the proliferation of these types of bills is a deliberate, coordinated effort from opponents of LGBT equality who are switching gears in the wake of the Supreme Court’s historic marriage equality ruling. People and organizations who were leading the opposition to marriage equality are now shifting nearly all their efforts to discriminate from the national stage to the states.

In an attempt to illuminate some of the major players behind these legislative efforts, today Freedom for All Americans is launching “Enemies of Equality,” a virtual resource and infographic illustrating the interwoven relationships between anti-LGBT activists and organizations working to pass laws that harm LGBT people.

Enemies Twitter (1)

FFFA introduced the new tool this morning in an exclusive story published by the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart, which details the intricate connections between anti-LGBT forces across the country:

Freedom for All Americans (FFAA) is a “bipartisan campaign seeking nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people nationwide” that was created last year in the wake of the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage. FFAA executive director Matt McTighe told me that the immediate backlash against that historic decision, such as Indiana’s so-called religious freedom law, was expected. But he said that it was the emerging coordination of the resistance that pushed his organization to sift through public filings to unearth the ties that bind anti-LGBT efforts around the country.

“We started seeing bills that looked 80 to 90 percent identical in language start to pop up around the country,” McTighe said. “The language was so clearly being coordinated.” In a report to be released on Thursday called “Enemies of Equality,” FFAA shows that 17 bills in 14 states that target transgender Americans “used almost identical language and it’s based off of a model policy ADF started pushing four or five months ago.” All told, there are more than 200 anti-LGBT bills pending in 34 states.

The infographic shows that much of the “grassroots” opposition to LGBT non-discrimination protections is actually produced by a well-funded funded network of organizations that have been working for years to thwart any movement toward LGBT equality, according Matt McTighe, executive director of Freedom for All Americans.

“The incredible number of anti-LGBT bills we’ve seen pop up in dozens of states this past year isn’t some spontaneous, intuitive response to advances in equality by well-intentioned lawmakers. These anti-LGBT bills stem from a coordinated effort directed by a handful of well-funded national organizations leading a vast and deep-pocketed mission to demonize and harm gay and transgender Americans. These aren’t new actors—they’re an expansive network that previously worked to discriminate by denying LGBT people the freedom to marry. Legislators should not be fooled—these organizations are old hands at this work and they know exactly what they’re doing.”

In fact, most of the opposition’s money and influence flows either from four large national organizations: the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, the National Christian Foundation, and the opposition’s backbone, the Alliance Defending Freedom. The top three organizations—ADF, Family Research Council and Focus on the Family—had a combined budget of more than $150 million in 2014.

Though resources pool at the top, ADF’s network is particularly well-coordinated across states. It utilizes state-based organizations (often called a “Family Institute” or “Policy Counsel”) to push out its messaging at the local level and organize grassroots action. This includes blasting out model policies to lawmakers. Over the past year, 17 bills in 14 different states aiming to discriminate against transgender people have language that is nearly identical to model policy language provided by the ADF.

Liberty Counsel Connections

The ADF network also includes more than 3,000 lawyers who work to defend individuals and organizations seeking to discriminate against LGBT people and their families. Case in point: Mat Staver of the anti-LGBT firm Liberty Counsel defended Kim Davis, the county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples following the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Does this sound like a grassroots network driven by well-meaning (if misguided) citizens and legislators? Clearly it isn’t, but many people have no idea how complex the effort against LGBT equality is.

Check out the infographic and our other online resources to learn more about the complex network of actors behind this year’s assault on LGBT rights.

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