The anti-LGBTQ extremist group Moms for Liberty (M4L) has at least one local chapter in every Pennsylvania congressional district, a sizable presence that suggests it is aiming to influence local, state, and national politics in 2024.
M4L is a national organization with deep pockets and powerful connections misrepresenting itself as a “grassroots organization of moms.” Headquartered in Florida, the group is a driving force behind the surge in bans on LGBTQ- and race-inclusive books and school curricula. Co-founder Bridget Ziegler, the recently disgraced Sarasota County School Board member, even claims to have authored Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay/Trans” law. (In early January, Ziegler’s husband, Christian Ziegler, was ousted from his prominent role in Florida politics amid allegations of sexual assault. Bridget was not named in the complaint against her husband; however, she did admit to having previous consensual threesomes with Christian and the woman who made the accusations.)
Presently, M4L claims to have more than 300 chapters in 48 states nationwide. Most of its local affiliates are in Florida and New York, with Pennsylvania following close behind at 25 chapters and 10,000+ members. There is at least one M4L chapter in each of Pennsylvania’s 17 U.S. House districts, all of which are up for reelection in 2024. Some districts, including those with competitive races, have two or three M4L chapters.
In 2020, President Joe Biden won Pennsylvania by a razor-thin margin (just 50.01% of the vote); this year, it is expected to be critical yet again to the outcome of the presidential election. Pro-equality Democrats currently control the U.S. Senate. Meanwhile, Republicans have a majority in the House. The results of this year’s election could disrupt these delicate balances, placing more power in the hands of politicians who support LGBTQ equality, or those who don’t.
Moms for Liberty’s Pennsylvania stronghold is no accident, and it’s likely the group hopes to sway voters in this key swing state to support aligned candidates in state and federal races. This isn’t part of M4L’s publicly stated mission. However, a June 2023 report from Media Matters shed light on M4L’s internal “Legislative Program,” which extends its purview from local school boards to state legislatures. Per Media Matters, “Moms for Liberty members across the country have used their legislative advocacy network and partnerships with conservative politicians to wage a war against the LGBTQ community.”
On the national level, Moms for Liberty is connected to former president Donald Trump, a long-time opponent of LGBTQ equality. Although M4L has not endorsed Trump’s candidacy, he spoke at Moms for Liberty’s 2023 national summit in Philadelphia and has voiced clear support for the group’s mission. In 2020, Trump launched a baseless lawsuit and misinformation campaign about election integrity in Pennsylvania — a dangerous precedent that has state election officials bracing for national scrutiny in 2024.
Some 4.1% of adult Pennsylvanians are LGBTQ; 27% of them are raising children. Throughout the state, M4L has attempted to infiltrate local school boards. But the world is catching on to M4L’s extremist views and hypocritical leadership. Despite M4L’s early successes in Pennsylvania, last year’s school board elections resulted in significant setbacks for the group.
Bucks County, PA, was the site of two particularly high-profile losses. In November 2023, all M4L-aligned candidates were defeated in the well-funded, hotly contested races for open school boards seats in Central Bucks and Pennridge School Districts. For years, M4L-backed school board members had targeted LGBTQ+ students, families, and educators in these districts.
Per Salon’s reporting on Pennridge Schools, “Once installed, Moms for Liberty members started banning books and Pride flags, as well as protesting that teachers were ‘grooming’ kids with ‘smut,’ which usually meant either a history book or acclaimed, age-appropriate fiction. The idea was to create moral panics around sex and race that could tip national elections towards Republicans.” Their defeat at the polls is a testament to the power of actual grassroots activism, as counter-groups like STOP Moms for Liberty spearheaded effective awareness campaigns.
Major news for trans students in PA! Dems have swept all Central Bucks County school district races!
In 2021, Moms 4 Liberty took over the district and passed brutal anti-trans policies.
Anti-trans politics do not win elections, at least not in Bucks County. pic.twitter.com/GBiFtX3gQF
— Erin Reed (@ErinInTheMorn) November 8, 2023
Bucks County falls within PA’s 1st congressional district, where a competitive House race will play out this year. The district is home to two Moms for Liberty chapters.
In 2024, incumbent District 1 Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick will be challenged by Ashley Ehasz. As The Bucks County Beacon reported, Fitzpatrick joined every other moderate Republican in supporting the LGBTQ Equality Act. However, he failed to back legislation that would ban the widely discredited practice of so-called “conversion therapy.” In March 2023, Fitzpatrick also voted in favor of a M4L-backed Pennsylvania bill that would enable anti-LGBTQ censorship in schools.
The House race in Lehigh Valley’s 7th district — also home to two M4L chapters — has been described as one of the most competitive in the country. One of the challengers, PA state Rep. Ryan Mackenzie, voted against the PA Fairness Act, which established statewide nondiscrimination for all LGBTQ Pennsylvanians. The legislation still passed last spring with bipartisan support, reflecting the pro-equality views of most Pennsylvanians across party lines.
Where M4L goes, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and policy follows. Ahead of the 2024 election cycle, voters should thoroughly research every candidate in the running on the local, state, and federal levels. Take note of any connections to anti-LGBTQ extremist groups like M4L, either through mutual platforming, informal voter guides, and/or explicit endorsements.
Reporters covering elections in 2024 should also research and report on M4L’s influence. Find more information about Moms for Liberty’s anti-LGBTQ record here, and GLAAD’s best practices for fair and accurate election coverage here.