Moms for Liberty (M4L) is one of the most prominent anti-LGBTQ extremist groups of its kind, but it isn’t working alone. Similar groups like Citizens Defending Freedom also push for book bans and anti-LGBTQ school policies, all under the guise of asserting their so-called “parental rights” — a movement that doesn’t include LGBTQ and ally parents and children, families of color, or any parent who wants their child to receive an accurate and inclusive education.
M4L leaders and members also regularly collaborate with other anti-LGBTQ groups, local and national, to advance their shared agendas. This sprawling network comes in handy in states where community-led pushback against M4L has created negative name-recognition for the brand, offering opportunity for lesser-known but aligned groups.
Recent allegations of sexual assault lodged against Florida GOP Chairman Christian Ziegler — husband of M4L co-founder Bridget Ziegler — are sowing division within M4L. (Bridget herself was not named in the complaint against her husband.) After the accusations came to light, the Zieglers lost the support of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, their longtime ally. An early and vocal backer of M4L, DeSantis appointed Bridget to his Disney oversight board created to retaliate against Disney for opposing Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay/Trans” law.
Bridget has already resigned from her position at the Leadership Institute, and earlier this week, her fellow board members on the Sarasota County School Board voted in favor of her removal. At the time of writing, Bridget has given no indication that she plans to step down.
As Moms for Liberty garners more attention from mainstream media and critique from local community members, here are other groups with associations to it and how they’re working in tandem to specifically target LGBTQ people and equality.
Citizens Defending Freedom
Citizens Defending Freedom (CDF) is a Christian “parental rights” group that seeks to ban LGBTQ-inclusive books and school curricula. The organization has local chapters in Florida, Georgia, and Texas. Although it operates on a smaller scale than Moms for Liberty, CDF has successfully spearheaded book-banning campaigns in areas like Tarrant County, TX, where there is currently no M4L presence. Like M4L, CDF has also forged partnerships with well-known, longtime anti-LGBTQ national groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
Per PEN America’s research, 81 percent of all U.S. school districts that banned books during the 2022–2023 school year have a local chapter of M4L, CDF, and/or Parents’ Rights in Education — three groups under the “parental rights” umbrella. Both M4L and CDF support BRAVE Books, a far-right children’s book supplier, as an alternative to LGBTQ-inclusive companies.
Maxx Fenning, executive director of the Florida LGBTQ group Prism, has described CDF as “Moms for Liberty in suits.” Although their missions align, the groups’ relationships to each other are somewhat unclear, at least on the national level. However, local chapters of both groups have collaborated.
In Nueces County, TX, members of M4L and CDF joined forces to deliver “In God We Trust” posters to local school districts, a campaign the latter featured on its website. Public schools are meant to be secular, non-partisan spaces for all children, regardless of their religious background, to obtain an accurate education.
Florida Citizens Alliance
Headquartered in the Sunshine State, the Florida Citizens Alliance is a well-connected nonprofit that pushes for bans on scientifically accurate and/or “age-inappropriate” material in schools (read: curriculum about climate change and books about LGBTQ people, identities, and history). Like Moms for Liberty, the group is closely linked to the anti-LGBTQ DeSantis. Its leaders use inaccurate and inflammatory language, like false claims of children being “indoctrinated” in public schools.
The Florida Citizens Alliance previously touted its “strategic partner[ship]” with M4L, which also originated in Florida. In the 2022–2023 school year, over 40% of all school book bans nationwide occurred in Florida — a direct result of M4L and the Florida Citizens Alliance’s fear-mongering.
Launched in 1995 under the name “Parents’ Rights Coalition,” the Massachusetts-based group has spent nearly two decades spreading alarmist misinformation about LGBTQ equality and inclusion (in their own words, “homosexual activism in the schools”). The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit that reports on extremism in America, has categorized it as an anti-LGBTQ hate group.
Mass Resistance claims it has “no connection” to Moms for Liberty. However, both groups have worked in tandem to misrepresent drag performance — a respected, centuries-old art form — as “sexualizing” children. In February, members of Mass Resistance and M4L spoke out in support of a Montana bill that would ban drag performances in front of minors. The bill passed into law but was later blocked by a federal judge.
Alliance Defending Freedom
A longstanding opponent of LGBTQ equality, ADF is a national organization of Christian legal advocates that funds and represents cases targeting LGBTQ rights.
Over the years, ADF has taken cases and litigated all the way to the Supreme Court to fight marriage equality, LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinances, workplace protections, and public accommodation protections. The group leads state fights over essential healthcare for transgender people, fabricating cases to argue for bans on trans inclusion in school sports, defend teachers who refuse to use students’ authentic pronouns, and restrict trans kids’ access to bathrooms. ADF is a leading voice in banning abortion access (including the case that overturned Roe), as well as current battles to block abortion medication and contraceptives.
ADF attorneys have also represented Moms for Liberty in multiple lawsuits. Just last week, ADF filed a complaint on behalf of a M4L chapter in Yolo County, CA, which claims it was “censored” after a local library canceled the group’s anti-transgender “women’s sports forum.”
The Heritage Foundation
In the same vein as ADF, the Heritage Foundation is a stalwart opponent of LGBTQ equality. The self-described “conservative think-tank” provides organizational and financial backing to many prominent anti-LGBTQ groups, including Moms for Liberty.
Aside from literally bankrolling M4L, the Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project is currently representing the group in a lawsuit against the Biden administration. The case claims federal agencies including the FBI coordinated with the Southern Poverty Law Center, which designated M4L as an anti-government extremist group earlier this year.
The Leadership Institute
The Leadership Institute (LI) is a national organization that trains conservative politicians. Associates and alumni include powerful anti-LGBTQ elected officials like former Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.
LI works closely with Moms for Liberty. In 2022, LI was a “proud” top sponsor of M4L’s national summit; it also backed the event 2023. As the Bucks County Beacon reported, the group helped M4L organize “School Board Activism and Campaign Trainings” in February 2022, empowering aligned candidates to run for seats on their local school boards.
M4L co-founder Bridget Ziegler previously served as LI’s national director of school board programs — a position she recently resigned from amid the sexual assault allegations against her husband, Christian Ziegler.
Gays Against Groomers
Gays Against Groomers is a national organization that employs false and harmful “groomer” langauge to demonize transgender people and their allies. Like Moms for Liberty, the group opposes LGBTQ-inclusive books and school policies. It also misrepresents best-practice healthcare for trans kids as “mutilating children.” Gender-affirming medical care is supported by every major U.S. medical association.
M4L regularly reposts Gays Against Groomers’ content on Twitter, disseminating defamatory “groomer” rhetoric to its 151,000 followers. Both groups are close collaborators in the fight against trans equality.
In October, they teamed up with a number of other organizations — including so-called “parental rights” groups like Moms for America — to stage anti-LGBTQ “Protect the Children” rallies across the county. Jamiee Michell, founder of Gays Against Groomers, even spoke at M4L’s 2023 national summit.
The world is watching Moms for Liberty.
In 2023, Moms for Liberty received an outpouring of national press for three significant setbacks: its designation as an extremist group by the SPLC; its major losses in November’s school board elections; and now, the criminal investigation involving Christian Ziegler.
As the American public sees M4L’s true colors, local activists continue to sound the alarm on the group’s influence in their communities.