HRC Sends FOIA Request to Justice Department Regarding Creation of “Religious Liberty Task Force”

Today, HRC sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Department of Justice (DOJ) calling for the release of all records related to the so-called “Religious Liberty Task Force” announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on July 30, 2018. HRC is demanding transparency from the DOJ, which has not provided details publicly on the activities of the task force, including how much it is spending, what it’s mandate and scope is, and who is on it.

Sessions announced the creation of the task force on July 30th at the U.S. Department of Justice standing alongside the anti-LGBTQ Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and their client, a Colorado baker who refused to serve a gay couple in violation of the state’s nondiscrimination law. It will be co-chaired by Acting Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio, who was an attorney in 2010 for supporters of Proposition 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban, and Beth Williams, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy.

The FOIA request was sent ahead of Sessions’ speech tomorrow at the ADF Summit on Religious Liberty.

“The American people deserve transparency about how much taxpayer money the DOJ is spending on this discriminatory so-called “task force,” said David Stacy, HRC Government Affairs Director. “We also deserve to know: who is on this task force? What is the scope of its mandate? Was this proposed by ADF or other anti-LGBTQ groups? It is important that the American people understand the process through which this task force was created and the involvement of anti-LGBTQ organizations like the Alliance Defending Freedom.”

This task force is the latest effort in an 18-month campaign by the Trump-Administration to license discrimination against LGBTQ people for so-called ‘religious’ reasons. Last year, Donald Trump issued an Executive Order directing Jeff Sessions to look across the federal government and assess ways in which the administration could license discrimination at government agencies. In January, the Department of Health and Human Services announced the creation of a so-called “Conscience” Division, empowering health care providers to discriminate against LGBTQ people. The Trump Administration has also proposed an accompanying rule that could permit health care providers–doctors, nurses, and even non medical support staff like receptionists–to deny even potentially life-saving care to LGBTQ people, women, and other vulnerable communities on the basis of the worker’s personal beliefs.

HRC has been chronicling the Trump-Pence Administration’s onslaught of attacks on the LGBTQ community here: hrc.org/trump.

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Koch Brothers Network Continues to Pour Millions Targeting Pro-Equality Champion Tammy Baldwin

HRC responded to the Koch brothers’ latest efforts to influence an election by pouring an additional $1 million of out-of-state money in an attempt to defeat LGBTQ champion Senator Tammy Baldwin in her re-election bid. Senator Baldwin has been the top target of big money special interest groups this election cycle, who have already spent upwards of $10 million to oust her — more than four times what has been spent against her Democratic colleagues.

“Big powerful special interests groups and right-wing out-of-state billionaires have set their eyes on Tammy Baldwin and opened their checkbooks in an effort to defeat her, setting record after record with their barrage of unprecedented spending and attack ads in our state,” said HRC Wisconsin State Director Wendy Strout. “As two anti-LGBTQ extremists, who have pledged to double down on the Trump Pence administration’s discriminatory agenda duke it out for the GOP U.S. Senate nomination, the people of Wisconsin know that Senator Baldwin will continue to stand up to special interests and fight for all Wisconsin families. That’s why HRC is on the ground working hard to ensure that every day Wisconsinites have a voice in this election and turn out for equality, despite these attempts by out-of-state billionaires to decide who will represent us.”

The Koch brothers and their affiliated groups have already unleashed more than $4 million dollars in attacks against Senator Baldwin, labelling her defeat one of their top priorities this cycle. Groups backed by out-of-state anti-equality mega donor Richard Uihlein, who supported disgraced Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore throughout his entire campaign last year despite the appalling allegations against Moore, have also already spent more than $5 million on their efforts to defeat Senator Baldwin. Uihlein has a long history of backing far right political candidates and organizations that have been identified as anti-LGBTQ hate groups.

HRC is proud to support Senator Baldwin for re-election. She is the first openly LGBTQ U.S. senator and the first woman elected to the chamber from Wisconsin. Throughout her public service, she has been a pioneer for equality as a leader in the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a champion for federal hate crimes protections, and a primary sponsor of the Equality Act. In addition to Baldwin’s strong civil rights record, she has been a voice for Wisconsin’s working people, leading the fight for quality, affordable health care access and an economy that works for everyone.

Anti-equality candidates Kevin Nicholson and Wisconsin State Senator Leah Vukmir, who has been endorsed by the state Republican party, are both seeking the GOP nomination to challenge Baldwin. Vukmir has consistently voted against pro-equality legislation and for anti-LGBTQ legislation, derailing efforts to add protections for LGBTQ students in a state anti-bullying bill and supporting a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality. Nicholson backed the Trump-Pence administration’s efforts to ban transgender people from serving in the military and has received significant funding and support from opponents of equality, including Uihlein.

In Wisconsin, HRC has identified more half a million “Equality Voters” — voters who support LGBTQ-inclusive policies including marriage equality, equitable family law, and laws that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. HRC has prioritized investments and organizing in Wisconsin in the 2018 cycle, and has already put staff and resources on the ground in the state. Last July, HRC announced a coast-to-coast campaign called HRC Rising, which represents the largest grassroots expansion in the organization’s 38-year history.
 

Paid for by Human Rights Campaign PAC. Not authorized by any campaign or candidate.

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Call it Out: Fox & Friends Invites Radical Anti-LGBTQ Activist on Show

On July 31, Fox & Friends invited University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson on air to share extremist opinions regarding teaching students tolerance. During his appearance, Peterson asserted that “faculties of education are full of people who are radical.”

Peterson is an anti-LGBTQ extremist, using his platform as a media pundit to spread misinformation that stokes dangerous hatred. On his Twitter account, he has made specious claims that the movement for transgender equality and same-sex parents are a sign of “cultural collapse,” and that “science has not yet proven that trans is even a thing.”

We are calling out Peterson — and Fox & Friends for elevating his extremely dangerous rhetoric.

Last year, HRC debunked myths about transgender people being perpetrated by quacks and bigots like Peterson. Check out our video explainer, part of our McHugh Exposed campaign, here:

A widespread medical consensus and growing body of research have affirmed the reality of transgender people’s identities. Major medical associations, including the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association, have reinforced the validity of transgender people’s gender identities, as well as the medical necessity of transition-related care. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians also publicly support inclusive practices for transgender and gender expansive youth.

And Peterson’s ill-informed comments dismissing the importance of inclusive learning environments, and the teachers who help create them, simply promote putting children in peril.

  • Inclusive schools are key to the success and well-being of LGBTQ students — the exact concept Peterson stands against.
  • To date, only 19 states and the District of Columbia have enacted anti-bullying laws to protect LGBTQ students from being bullied by students, teachers and school staff on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Meanwhile, just 13 states and the District of Columbia have passed school non-discrimination laws and state-wide regulations to protect LGBTQ students from discrimination in schools on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Without such policies in place, LGBTQ youth remain vulnerable to discrimination, harassment and bullying from peers, teachers and administrators. HRC Foundation and the University of Connecticut recently released the largest-of-its-kind survey of more than 12,000 LGBTQ teenagers across the nation, revealing in distressing detail the persistent challenges so many of them face going about their daily lives at home, at school and in their communities.

It found that these teenagers are not only experiencing heartbreaking levels of stress, anxiety and rejection, but also overwhelmingly feel unsafe in their own school classrooms. Only 27 percent of LGBTQ youth can “definitely” be themselves in school as an LGBTQ person and only 26 percent of LGBTQ youth report that they always feel safe in the classroom.

HRC remains committed to protecting LGBTQ youth and training youth-serving professionals through its the Welcoming Schools program, the All Children-All Families program and the Time to THRIVE conference.

HRC’s “Call It Out” calls out inaccurate, misguided or extreme anti-LGBTQ references in the public square. For more information, check out hrc.org.

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DHS Secretary Nielsen Meets with Immigration and Human Rights Groups for First Time, Reiterates Trump Administration’s Misinformation and Sidesteps Family Immigration Crisis

Washington D.C.—Today, leaders of several immigrant and human rights organizations were invited for the first time under the Trump administration to meet with Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.

In the midst of an ongoing crisis, where th…

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