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Opinion Here they are, the ‘enemies of equality’ for LGBT Americans

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis tells a same-sex couple hoping to be married that she is not issuing marriage licenses "under God's authority." (Video: Hillary Thornton/WKYT-TV)

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. A conservative cabal actively working the levers of power to block their rights. Well, now we have the evidence that one actually exists.

Freedom for All Americans (FFAA) is a “bipartisan campaign seeking nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people nationwide” that was created last year in the wake of the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage. FFAA executive director Matt McTighe told me that the immediate backlash against that historic decision, such as Indiana’s so-called religious freedom law, was expected. But he said that it was the emerging coordination of the resistance that pushed his organization to sift through public filings to unearth the ties that bind anti-LGBT efforts around the country.

[What the Hobby Lobby decision means for the LGBT community]

“We started seeing bills that looked 80 to 90 percent identical in language start to pop up around the country,” McTighe said. “The language was so clearly being coordinated.” In a report to be released on Thursday called “Enemies of Equality,” FFAA shows that 17 bills in 14 states that target transgender Americans “used almost identical language and it’s based off of a model policy ADF started pushing four or five months ago.” All told, there are more than 200 anti-LGBT bills pending in 34 states.

The chart below from FFAA shows the organizations doing the coordinating and the people leading or bankrolling those efforts. If you click on this link it will take you to an interactive site that will give you even more information.

According to FFAA’s research, one of the hubs of this coordination is Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a 22-year-old group that “advocates for your right to freely live out your faith.” Another is the National Christian Foundation (NCF), which funds a lot of the groups aggressively working to chip away at the equal rights of LGBT Americans. One of them is Family Research Council (FRC), which is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an “extremist group.”

Another is Liberty Council. Listed as an “extremist group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the group is notable because chairman and founder Mat Staver represented Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who caused a national stir when she refused to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple in defiance of the Supreme Court last year.

But the National Christian Foundation also received funding, notably from the owners of Hobby Lobby. That’s the company at the center of the 2014 Supreme Court case that ruled the sincerely held religious beliefs of corporation owners are protected by the Constitution. And the interconnectedness revealed by FFAA is several layers deep.

For instance, James Dobson is founder of the Family Research Council, the Alliance Defending Freedom and Focus on the Family. 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.

[Don’t expect gay rights to stay under the GOP’s radar for long]

“We’re not just kind of cataloguing this for retroactive historical purposes to look back at this legislative session,” McTighe of FFAA said of his group’s effort to expose the intricate web of anti-LGBT interests. “We expect that this will be even more pronounced in the coming legislative session and that the ADF and the groups that it has sway over will continue to get more engaged and will continue to file more and more anti-LGBT bills that are being coordinated…by…national organization[s] with a clear anti-LGBT agenda.”

Back in January, I warned in an op-ed about anti-LGBT legislation in Florida, “Just because there’s been surprisingly little thunder against the gays of late doesn’t mean no one has been busy conjuring up the lightning that precedes it.” The FFAA report shows that we are in the middle of a raging storm. More importantly, it shows just how big and ominous it is.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj