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Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF)
- Updated: June 27, 2023
The Alliance Defending Freedom is a so-called “legal alliance of Christian attorneys” with a history of funding and representing cases targeting LGBTQ people, youth and protections.
It is listed as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which also notes ADF’s efforts against abortion access and that its CEO, Michael Farris (pictured above), fought equal rights for women. Farris also coordinated efforts to discredit the 2020 presidential election, in which LGBTQ voters were a deciding faction.
ADF’s anti-LGBTQ record includes:
—Representing Lori Smith, a graphic artist who objects to designing wedding websites for same-sex couples, at the United States Supreme Court. Smith seeks to discriminate against same-sex couples despite not actually having been asked to do any work on behalf of any LGBTQ clients. Smith’s ADF attorney is Kristen Waggoner who also represented Colorado baker Jack Phillips who objected to designing a wedding cake for a gay couple.
—For nearly a decade colluded with the American College of Pediatricians (ACP) to shore up anti-transgender policy efforts and legal arguments with junk science. The ACP uses anti-LGBTQ junk science to back up many of its discriminatory talking points and to provide medical justification for interpreting Title IX to exclude gender-identity protections. Because the ADF lacked scientific evidence to back up its claims that nondiscrimination protections put children at risk, the organization ordered custom white papers from ACP. The coordination also extended to ADF drafting legislation for many states to ban transgender healthcare; ACP members were recruited to testify in support of those bans in GA, AL, KY and OH. Despite testifying before state legislatures in support of the bills, ACP’s “experts” have been discredited as not qualified to be experts in court, including Dr. Quentin van Meter and Dr. Paul Hruz.
—Filing failed lawsuit to prevent transgender students from participating in sports.
—Made false claims in filings against transgender students looking to participate in sports. A softball player testified in front of Arizona lawmakers in support of a ban on transgender athletes, but did not disclose she was the daughter of ADF’s general counsel, and her testimony included the false claim that her team lost a tournament to team with a transgender player. The player was not transgender; she had short hair.
—Flew in to testify in the Ohio legislature to spread misinformation about gender affirming care for youth, which is supported by every major medical association.
—Represented a college professor who refused to use students’ accurate pronouns, against policies supporting student rights to a discrimination-free learning environment.
—Represented a baker in Colorado at the U.S. Supreme Court fighting the state’s ordinance protecting LGBTQ people from being discriminated against, losing its effort to legalize discrimination in 2018.
—As early as 2010 began sending letters threatening libraries to ban books with LGBTQ inclusive content and characters.
—Represented “conversion therapy” practitioners in lawsuits, a practice discredited by mental health and medical professionals as harmful and ineffective.
—Helped draft bills in Montana and other states targeting trans youth participation in school sports, using similar and interchangeable language in legislation, school board proposals and in opinion essays.
—Drafted the model “Student Privacy Act” legislation that led to a wave of “bathroom bills” in 2017.
—Defended state-enforced sterilization for transgender Europeans, arguing in an intervention (similar to an amicus brief) in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that anti-discrimination protections and rights to privacy outlined in the ECHR do not extend to LGBTQ people and, specifically to transgender Europeans.
—For years has promoted the idea of “homosexual agenda,” a purportedly evil plan to abolish Christianity and, eventually, civilization through LGBTQ people’s efforts to secure legal equality.
—As a response to the nationwide “Day of Silence,” a nationwide, student-led demonstration in support of LGBTQ people in schools, launched a so-called “Day of Truth,” to mobilize anti-LGBTQ students.
—Falsely declared that LGBTQ people are more likely to engage in pedophilia. ADF promoted a book by Alan Sears (former ADF president) and Craig Osten, titled The Homosexual Agenda, which claimed that LGBTQ activists are attempting to “indoctrinate children” as early as kindergarten. The book falsely and baselessly claims “homosexual behavior on college campuses is taking a dangerous new turn—the promotion of sexual relations between adults and children, known as pedophilia.”
—Filed an amicus brief in the landmark Lawrence v. Texas case, in which the Supreme Court ruled outlawing private sexual acts between LGBTQ adults is unconstitutional. ADF argued that same-sex sexual activity must remain illegal.”The issue under rational-basis review is not whether Texas should be concerned about opposite-sex sodomy, but whether it is reasonable to believe that same-sex sodomy is a distinct public health problem. It clearly is.”
—Supported the criminalization of sexual acts between consenting LGBTQ adults in the U.S. and internationally. Opposed LGBTQ equality efforts, opposed pro-LGBTQ legislation, or supported anti-LGBTQ legislation in Belize, Italy, Austria, Northern Ireland, France, Mexico, Chile, Hungary, Romania, Jamaica, Australia, Colombia, Russia, and Slovakia.
—Recipients of huge sums of “dark money” in an effort to kill the Equality Act, which would make it illegal to discriminate against LGBTQ people in most settings. According to leaked tax filings the National Christian Charitable Foundation (NCF), the largest Christian charity in the United States, granted nearly $6.6 million to ADF in 2018.
—Represented three high school cisgender track athletes in a case arguing against trans inclusion in Connecticut. ADF’s client, a cisgender athlete, won 11 state titles and received a college scholarship, which her trans competitors did not. After a judge dismissed the case, the cis plaintiff misgendered her trans competitor and falsely claimed she was a victim of censorship as her ghostwritten-by-ADF essay was corrected to remove inaccurate misgendering.
—Has ties to Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. Five times since 2011, ADF paid Barrett to deliver speeches to the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, a summer program run by ADF, established to inspire a “distinctly Christian worldview in every area of law.”
See: Kate Anderson
The GLAAD Accountability Project catalogs anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and discriminatory actions of politicians, commentators, organization heads, religious leaders, and legal figures, who have used their platforms, influence and power to spread misinformation and harm LGBTQ people.
Choose from the complete list of GLAAD Accountability Profiles:
For GLAAD Media Institute Alum Kevin Anderson, interviews with journalists have become increasingly prevalent in…