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Sessions to Anti-LGBTQ Org: Don't Worry, You're 'Not A Hate Group'!

by Kilian Melloy
Friday Aug 10, 2018

Attorney General Jeff Sessions - whose Justice Department recently announced the creation of a so-called "Religious Liberties Task Force" - addressed an anti-LGBTQ organization, Alliance Defending Freedom, on August 8, CNN reports. The AF is the organization that backed a Colorado baker in a legal case over that baker's refusal to provide services to a non-heterosexual couple. That case went before the Supreme Court and resulted in a minor victory for anti-LGBTQ forces when the court found that the baker had been subjected to hostility by a state anti-discrimination commission not on the basis of his religious beliefs.

The court fell short, however, of declaring that faith-based discrimination should be allowed to supersede anti-discrimination laws.

Sessions' message to the ADF? "You are not a hate group."

The Southern Poverty Law Center - a watchdog organization that specializes in identifying and tracking hate groups - disagrees, having bestowed that very label on ADF. Indeed, a day before Sessions' August 8 address to ADF, the Southern Poverty Law Center's president, Richard Cohen, spoke out against the way Sessions has been cozying up to anti-LGBTQ organizations like ADF.

"In a manner analogous to how the Department of Justice defines hate crimes, we identify hate groups as those that vilify others because of their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability - prejudices that strike at the heart of our democratic values and fracture society along its most fragile fault lines," Cohen noted in a letter that was posted to the SPLC website.

"It's inappropriate for the nation's top law enforcement officer to lend the prestige of his office to this group," Cohen added. "And it's ironic to suggest that the rights of ADF sympathizers are under attack when the ADF is doing everything in its power to deny the equal protection of the laws to the LGBT community."

In his address to ADF, Sessions revisited the narrative that purportedly faith-based groups are being victimized in America, ThinkProgress noted.

"You'll notice that they don't rely on the facts," ThinkProgress reported Sessions telling his audience. "They don't make better arguments. They don't propose higher ideals. No, they just call people names - like 'hate group.' "

In his letter, however, Cohen made a similar point about ADF, noting that the anti-LGBTQ organization perpetuates the long-discredited idea that gays are automatically pedophiles - a chief reason for the SPLC's determination that ADF is indeed a hate group.

"Contrary to Sessions' claims, there are ample facts to substantiate ADF's designation as an anti-LGBTQ hate group," ThinkProgress noted, "so much so that it's pure gaslighting to say otherwise.

"The group has defended wedding vendors challenging nondiscrimination laws, parents and schools that want to reject transgender students, and businesses that want the right to refuse to even employ LGBTQ people. They have even repeatedly advocated for the criminalization of homosexuality," the ThinkProgress article went on to say.

The SPLC is not the only watchdog organization to call out Sessions for aligning himself with anti-LGBTQ groups like the ADF. Americans United for Separation of Church and State also spoke out, reported the Christian Post.

"What Sessions really means is that the Trump administration is committed to an agenda of preserving the power of the Christian fundamentalists who carried Trump into office and who want to use their religious beliefs as justification to discriminate against women, LGBTQ people, religious minorities and anyone else who doesn't conform with their narrow vision of Christianity," said spokesperson Liz Hayes.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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