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GOP candidate donated hundreds of thousands to anti-LGBTQ hate group

Montana Rep. Greg Gianforte has given large sums of money to the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the losing side in this week’s historic Supreme Court LGBTQ workers case.

By Josh Israel - June 17, 2020
Greg Gianforte
Greg Gianforte mingles with friends, family and campaign workers during an election party in Gianforte's back yard Tuesday, June 2, 2020, in Bozeman, Mont. Gianforte won the Republican nomination for governor. (Ryan Berry/Bozeman Daily Chronicle via AP)

The Republican candidate in Montana’s 2020 governor race has donated more than $280,000 to an anti-LGBTQ hate group through his family foundation, according to recent financial disclosures.

The tax-exempt organization that received those funds was on the losing side of this week’s landmark Supreme Court ruling on LGBTQ worker rights.

Montana Rep. Greg Gianforte was one of a small number of Republican lawmakers to denounce Monday’s 6-3 Supreme Court ruling that the sex-discrimination provisions of the Civil Rights Act protect LGBTQ people against employment discrimination.

“Greg believes discrimination is wrong, and he also believes Justice [Samuel] Alito is correct that the court legislated from the bench,” a Gianforte spokesperson told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. “That said, Greg recognizes the court’s decision as the law of the land.”

Alito dissented in the case.

But Gianforte also helped bankroll the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group that unsuccessfully argued for the right of a Michigan funeral home to discriminate in the R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission case.

According to annual financial disclosures, Gianforte is one of three trustees for the tax-exempt Gianforte Family Charitable Trust. His wife and son are the others. Since 2008, the family foundation has donated at least $283,500 to the Alliance Defending Freedom and more than $1 million total to anti-LGBTQ organizations.

Gianforte has a record of opposing LGBTQ equality. In 2014, he opposed a proposed non-discrimination ordinance — local laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment or housing — claiming “homosexual advocates try to argue that businesses are leery of locating in towns that aren’t friendly to homosexuals. I believe the opposite is truer.”

He also reportedly worked with ADF to weaken that proposal with a religious exemption.

As a member of Congress, Gianforte earned a 0 score from the Human Rights Campaign, indicating that he voted against LGBTQ rights at every opportunity.

The Alliance Defending Freedom has a long history of working to oppose LGBTQ rights. The group, which once said it hopes to return America to the “robust Christendomic theology of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries,” has worked to oppose what it calls the “homosexual legal agenda.”

It has fought against same-sex marriage, LGBTQ people serving openly in the military, and gay and lesbian people adopting kids. One of its lawyers told a group of students in 2014 that those who refuse to serve gay clients are modern-day heroes, like Rosa Parks.

Last month, Gianforte boasted of receiving an endorsement from another anti-LGBTQ hate group. “I’m thankful for the support of Family Research Council Action and all the work they do to protect our values of faith, family, and freedom!” he wrote on Facebook, alongside a quote from the group’s president Tony Perkins, calling Gianforte “the leader that Montana needs.”

According the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Family Research Council makes “claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science.”

The group “believes that homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large, and can never be affirmed. It is by definition unnatural, and as such is associated with negative physical and psychological health effects,” its website notes. “We oppose the vigorous efforts of homosexual activists to demand that homosexuality be accepted as equivalent to heterosexuality in law, in the media, and in schools.”

A Gianforte spokesman did not respond to an inquiry for this story.

Matt Fidel, deputy communications director for the Montana Democratic Party said in a statement Tuesday, “Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision is a huge blow to Greg Gianforte and his radical, anti-LGBTQ+ social agenda. In light of the ruling, Gianforte should be honest with Montanans about his role helping to lead and bankroll the fight against LGBTQ+ rights in Montana.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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