Arkansas GOP invites hate group leader to testify in favor of anti-trans law

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Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Matt Sharp intentionally misgendered transgender athletes in testimony to the Arkansas Senate.

The majority-Republican Arkansas state Senate approved legislation on Wednesday banning transgender women and girls from playing sports in line with their gender identity. The legislation was aided in its passage by the testimony of an anti-LGBTQ hate group leader, invited by Republicans to testify in favor of the legislation.

The bill to limit transgender rights was introduced in the legislature by Republican state Sen. Missy Irvin. On Monday, Irvin presented the legislation to the state's Senate Education Committee. As she spoke, Irvin prominently displayed a soccer ball on the desk in front of her to emphasize the purported harm to women's sports by the participation of transgender athletes.

Testifying alongside Irvin was Matt Sharp, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Sharp demonstrated his organization's anti-LGBTQ stance during his testimony when he misgendered transgender athletes.

State Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D) questioned Sharp about another anti-trans case being pursued by the Alliance in Connecticut, and noted, "the young women were competing are transgender females, is that correct?"

"They were biological males that identify as female," Sharp replied.

"So we don't call them transgender in Connecticut?" Chesterfield asked.

"I think in terms of talking about sports, we need to be accurate and talk about biology," said Sharp, refusing to acknowledge the gender identity of transgender women.

Misgendering has been shown to have adverse psychological effects on transgender men and women.

Alliance Defending Freedom has promoted similarly bigoted rhetoric while pursuing its agenda over the last 27 years.

The organization has refused to acknowledge the identities of transgender people, referring to transgender women as "male" in official press releases and saying, "men who self-identify as women are still biological men."

One affiliated attorney referred to transgender identity as a "degradation of our human dignity."

Alliance Defending Freedom's senior counsel, Erik Stanley, referred to the legal fight for LGBTQ equality as a push for " unfettered sexual liberty and the silencing of all dissent" at a 2014 conference.

The group is one of several conservative organizations engaged in an ongoing, multi-state effort to attack LGBTQ rights. In the first months of 2021, working with Republicans, the movement has pushed 109 anti-LGBTQ bills, more than in all of 2020 and 2019.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.