Liberty Counsel would like the record to reflect that it doesn’t want to lynch gay people.
The evangelical law firm drew controversy last week after President and Founder Mat Staver opposed the inclusion of LGBTQ people in the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act. He claimed language on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in the Congressional bill was a way to “slip” in federal nondiscrimination protections.
“The old saying is once that camel gets the nose in the tent, you can’t stop them from coming the rest of the way in,” Staver told the right-wing website One News Now on Tuesday.
According to Staver, the anti-lynching legislation would represent “the first time that you would have in federal law mentioning gender identity and sexual orientation as part of this anti-lynching bill.” (This is false: LGBTQ people were included in the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act a decade ago.)
While the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act unanimously passed the Senate last month, Staver claimed Liberty Counsel had been meeting with House lawmakers to remove the LGBTQ provisions ahead of a vote.
But just days later, the Orlando-based advocacy group is rolling back its own president’s statements—saying they were mischaracterized by the media.
In a Thursday press release, Liberty Counsel claimed many outlets “have falsely reported that Liberty Counsel is opposed to banning lynching, or, opposes banning lynching of LGBTQ people.” It called those allegations “false, reckless, and offensive” and claimed they were pushed by “those with a political axe to grind.”
“No one can or should oppose a bill that bans lynching.” Staver stated. “We oppose lynching across the board for any person. Period!”
Staver then attempted to clarify his earlier remarks. As he now claims, he does not specifically want LGBTQ people cut out of the law. He merely believes that enumerating a “list of protected categories” would weaken the legislation by limiting the application of the law.
“Lynching should be prohibited no matter the person’s reason for committing this violent crime,” he concluded.
At the risk of editorializing, that assertion makes no sense and is flatly untrue. The legislation merely recognizes that the vast majority of lynching victims are members of marginalized groups. The NAACP notes that between the years of 1882-1968, 73 percent of the 4,743 people who died as a result of lynching were black.
As hate crimes have surged in the U.S. in recent years, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community have been among the groups most targeted for violence. In 2016, LGBTQ people accounted for 17.5 percent of hate crimes.
Nonetheless, Liberty Counsel accused journalists of pushing “unrelated political agendas by hijacking a serious issue.”
“False reporting endangers lives,” it said.
The lobby group further claimed the fake news campaign against it had led to “death threats” against its employees. Liberty Counsel allegedly received an angry message saying, “All LC leaders must die.”
The individual’s “identity is being traced,” the organization claimed.
Liberty Counsel first gained infamy after defending Rowan County, Ky. clerk Kim Davis for denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The law firm—which believes LGBTQ advocacy is satanic, fascist, and pro-pedohilia—has fought against banning conversion therapy and opposed Planet Fitness’ trans-inclusive locker room policy.
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