A new pro-LGBT group has released a report on the "Enemies of Equality" -- and at least one of those enemies is crying foul.
Out Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart published an article on the report last Thursday, the day of its release. The group, Freedom for All Americans, offers an interactive online chart that shows the interlocking relations of organizations fighting LGBT equality and crafting homophobic and transphobic state legislation.
"We started seeing bills that looked 80 to 90 percent identical in language start to pop up around the country," Freedom for All Americans executive director Matt McTighe told Capehart. "The language was so clearly being coordinated."
Among the top enemies named in the report are familiar names: organizations including Alliance Defending Freedom, Liberty Counsel, Family Research Council, and Focus on the Family. But it also goes into their funders: the National Christian Foundation, Hobby Lobby, and foundations controlled by billionaire businessmen Phil Anschutz and Richard DeVos. The chart details the millions these funders have given to the anti-LGBT groups listed.
Mat Staver, founder and president of Liberty Counsel, today responded to Capehart's article and Freedom for All Americans' report with an angry press release. Much of his vitriol was directed at Paul Singer, the hedge fund billionaire and major Republican donor who is also a supporter of LGBT causes. Staver described Singer as a funder of Freedom for All Americans, founded last year to fight for comprehensive antidiscrimination protections for LGBT people at the state, local, and national levels. McTighe told The Advocate via email that Singer is not personally a funder of the group, but the American Unity Fund, which he cofounded, is.
Staver obviously did not care about that distinction. "Singer wants to advance the LGBT agenda and to capture the youth for his army of activists," Staver said in the press release. "What Singer funds, he controls. He does not just give money and walk away. Singer uses his funds to accomplish his goal, and one of his goals is clearly to raise up a new generation of LGBT advocates to change the future of America."
That undoubtedly sounds like a good idea to Advocate readers. However, Staver also said Singer and the Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, both donated to a program called Passages Israel. Sponsored by the Museum of the Bible and a Christian group called the Philos Project, the program sends college students to Israel to help them learn about the nation and to expand their knowledge of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim history. (Other media sources likewise say Singer is a funder of the program, which actually appears to pose no conflict with support for LGBT rights.) McTighe, in a follow-up phone call with The Advocate, said he was not aware of Singer's funding of the project until now, but he sees no conflict.
Staver denounced Singer for listing Hobby Lobby "as an 'enemy' while at the same time entering into a partnership with the family in order to reach Christian leaders with his propaganda." He also claimed Singer once offered funds to Covenant Journey, a similar program Staver created, but Staver turned him down because Singer wanted too much control. McTighe said he had no information that would enable him to confirm or deny that Singer made the offer to Covenant Journey.
Staver also took issue with the chart for showing a money trail from Alliance Defending Freedom to Liberty Counsel. "Liberty Counsel is not connected to ADF and receives no funds from ADF. The chart then makes false allegations about Liberty Counsel and the other groups," he said.
However, McTighe said in his email that ADF provided $10,000 to Liberty University School of Law in 2013, while Staver was both dean of the law school and heading Liberty Counsel. "Staver will say he's no longer dean of the law school, which is correct, he resigned in October 2014," McTighe said. "But that was well after the ADF donation happened."
McTighe added, "The purpose of the Enemies of Equality site is to diagram groups and individuals that directly fund anti-LGBT efforts, which all of the groups mentioned in the Liberty Counsel's press release undeniably do in ways the site documents."
Freedom for All Americans indeed provides ample evidence of the interlocking relationships of anti-LGBT groups, according to Capehart. "For instance, James Dobson is founder of the Family Research Council, the Alliance Defending Freedom and Focus on the Family," he noted. "Tom Minnery is a board member at ADF and senior vice president of policy at Focus on the Family, which gets money from NCF and the family of Forbes 400 billionaire Richard DeVos, founder of Amway. He and his family have given money to all of the organizations founded by Dobson."
"Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans know in their bones there is a 'vast right-wing conspiracy' out to deny them their humanity and dignity," added Capehart. "A conservative cabal actively working the levers of power to block their rights. Well, now we have the evidence that one actually exists."