We’re defending who?
Letter to the Editor | Thursday, February 17, 2022
“We’re defending YOU.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) — a “legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, marriage and family, parental rights, and the sanctity of life” based in Scottsdale, Arizona — plasters this tagline on their website. This mission may seem innocuous at first glance, but even a surface-level exploration of the website tells another story.
The ADF provides a clear-cut definition of marriage under the “Marriage & Family” tab on their website. It defines marriage as the union of “two equally important and diverse halves of humanity represented in men and women,” effectively and deliberately excluding same-sex couples. Further in this section, the organization highlights the distinction between societies focused on marriage and societies focused on individual desires. In a society prioritizing individual desires, marriage becomes “the emotional union of two or more consenting adults,” where children and “societal benefit” are afterthoughts. In contrast, a society focused on the ADF’s definition of marriage “places the needs of others, especially children, first.” The ADF makes no effort to hide the agenda behind this distinction. The ADF transparently outlines their intentions on the website’s “Redesigning Society” tab; clicking on the tab reveals their outspoken support for the defendants in various controversial trials. Nearly all can be summarized as such: a business owner refuses to serve LGBTQ+ clients, violates anti-discrimination laws and fights their case on the basis of “First Amendment rights.”
The ADF takes particular interest in cases and stances opposing the LGBTQ+ community. Take, for example, the title of their article reacting to transgender women gaining the right to play in women’s sports: “It’s Hard to Celebrate Women’s Sports When Men Keep Winning Them.” The ADF carries its denial of the validity of LGBTQ+ identity far beyond the scope of its website. For instance, their current senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy, John J. Bursch, was on the opposing side of Obergefell v. Hodges, the case which, as many may remember, gave same-sex couples the right to marry.
While I could fill this page with the ADF’s disturbing initiatives, I would like to introduce another organization: Person & Identity, a project of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Founder Mary Rice Hasson expresses her own dogmatic opinion about the LGBTQ+ community in the “Parent FAQs” section of the organization’s website. Hasson writes that “the belief in ‘gender identity,’ which is central to the notion of a ‘transgender’ identity, repudiates the reality that sex (male or female) is integral to who we are, in favor of a self-determined identity based on subjective feelings.” In response to the use of gender-affirming pronouns, Hasson says she feels pronouns are “at odds with a person’s biological sex” and “‘tell a lie’ about who the person is,” creating a narrative in which pronouns are intentionally harmful or deceitful. The rest of the Person & Identity Project website is much the same.
While the Person & Identity Project is not widely recognized, the ADF is — mostly negatively. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an organization dedicated to promoting racial equality, recognizes the ADF as a “hate group.” To avoid going into some of the more graphic justifications behind that label, I will simply list one I’m certain all can agree is pretty bad: “Defended state-sanctioned sterilization of trans people abroad.”
But why do I write this Letter to the Editor? Why should you care about the ADF, Bursch and Hasson? It’s because they’re scheduled to present at Notre Dame on Feb. 17 at 8 p.m., in the Carey Auditorium, courtesy of a student group that I will not name.
It feels strange to hear the siren song of safety that Notre Dame sings, of “increasing diversity” and “creating safe spaces.” It feels strange to dedicate years of my young adulthood and entrust my education to an institution based solely on deception. Student Activities Office (SAO), an official university institution, approves speakers who seethe in rage at the very thought that I and those like me exist. I came to the University of Notre Dame in part because when accepting my scholarship, admissions pamphlets assured me that I would be going to a place that accepts me as part of a larger community, regardless of how I identify. But being both bisexual and trans, witnessing such events and actions, I realize now that the message of acceptance may have carried some invisible disclaimer.
I am not proposing restrictions or anything of the like. I simply wish that people would care — care to be angry, care to speak out against these groups bringing more hate to campus. I wish that Notre Dame wouldn’t feel so confident, appeasing us with empty promises of acceptance and safety. I take now the only authority I can, writing this letter to bring to light such information, handing you the torch.
Peace be with you.
Class of 2025
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.