Mike Pence brags about meeting with a hate group at the White House

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The Alliance Defending Freedom has been designated an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Mike Pence met on Tuesday with members of the group Alliance Defending Freedom at the White House.

Pence tweeted a photo of himself at a table with members of the group, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified as an anti-LGBTQ hate group, and wrote that he was "honored" to meet with them, saying: "This Administration is committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, and the sanctity of human life across this great Nation!" 

People affiliated with the Alliance Defending Freedom have made numerous anti-LGBTQ statements over the years. Last year, the group published on its website: "Men who self-identify as women are still biological men. ... And no amount of wishing or desire will ever change the fact that a feminized man will never truly experience what it is to be a woman."

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Charles LiMandri, an attorney who has worked with the Alliance, has railed against LGBTQ people and called marriage equality the "degradation of our human dignity."

The influential organization has created model legislation for bills that police transgender people's bathroom use. It has defended anti-LGBTQ practices before the Supreme Court in cases such as Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

It also trains conservative lawyers to "defend religious liberty," which often means advocating for people with anti-LGBTQ views.

The Trump administration has many ties to the Alliance Defending Freedom. Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke at the group's Summit on Religious Liberty in 2017 and 2018. During his 2018 speech, Sessions spoke of Jack Phillips, the baker at the center of the Masterpiece Cakeshop, who refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple based, he said, on his religious beliefs.

"And, of course, we've seen the ordeal faced bravely by Jack Phillips. He simply refused to yield his beliefs. And perhaps most tragically, I hear that his ordeal is far from over. But that's why ADF and other groups are right to give serious thought to and to take action on these matters," Sessions said. His announcement a week earlier of the creation of a "religious liberty task force" had also mentioned Phillips.

Last year, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington discovered that Jennie Bradley Lichter, deputy assistant to Trump for domestic policy, went to the Alliance's Summit on Religious Liberty and that the Alliance paid for the trip, spending over $2,000 for Lichter's transportation, meals, and hotel expenses. It also paid almost $4,000 for Department of Justice public affairs director Sarah Flores to attend the summit in 2018.

Some of Donald Trump's possible choices for the Supreme Court, including some added to his short list last week, include people with ties to the ADF. They include Allison Jones Rushing, a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit who interned with the Alliance; Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), who was flown to Phoenix for the group's Blackstone Legal Fellowship; and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who helped lead the effort to prepare a brief backing Jack Phillips' decision not to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple.

Alliance president and CEO Michael Farris has expressed support for Trump's potential Supreme Court nominees.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.