Dark Money “Women’s Groups” Are Using Anti-Trans Scaremongering to Oppose ERA

March 22 marks 50-years since Congress voted for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to be sent to the states for ratification.

With bipartisan support, 35 of the 38 required state ratifications for amending the Constitution and bipartisan support, the ERA seemed to be a done deal in 1977. The anti-feminist crusader Phyllis Schlafly mobilized right wing women to oppose ERA and played a major part in stallingThe amendment.

Schlafly passed away in 2016, but her anti-feminist legacy very much lives on through “Eagle Forum” and other women’s groups funded by dark money — funding sources whose donors are kept secret from the public but are used for significant expenditures intended to influence elections, judicial nominations, ballot measures, and legislation. The ability to trade in dark money gives corporations the power to influence politics without much accountability.

Today, Eagle Forum and right-wing women’s groups like Concerned Women for America (CWA) and Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) continue to oppose the ERA as well as the Equality Act, a bill that would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Some of Schlafly’s arguments, such as “the career most women want is marriage, home, husband, and children,” as she saidThese were not popular in 1982 and are unlikely to be popular in 2022. Instead, today’s right-wing women’s groups have adopted a new tactic: using attacks on transgender people — the GOP’s new boogeyman — to try to undermine support for the ERA and the Equality Act.

The Origins of the Anti-Feminist Women’s Groups Fighting the ERA

Beverly LaHaye was the wife of Tim LaHaye (far right evangelical minister). She was one of the most influential antifeminist campaigners in the 20th century. LaHaye claims that she was so disturbed by a 1978 Barbara Walters TV interview on the Equal Rights Amendment with Betty Friedan that she leapt off her living room couch to take action. Walters, however, proved to be a more reliable source of information. did not interview Friedan1978 LaHaye was then calledAn emergency meeting of Christian women in San Diego to address what she called “the feminists’ anti-God, anti-family rhetoric.”

Schlafly, who was an early member extremist John Birch Society and also an author, was also born that year. opposedracial and gay rights, was already fighting the ERA’s final push after a six-year battle. Her STOP ERA group, which was renamed “Eagle Forum” in 1975 (and was briefly called “Eagle Trust Fund” when the group was founded in 1967), framed the ERA as an attack on a Biblical notion of gender roles and contended that the amendment would undermine benefits for housewives. Schlafly used the Vietnam War as a political background to argue that the ERA would allow the U.S. government draft women. Her members took homemade baked goods to state legislators, telling them that a vote for the ERA was a vote against “Mom and apple pie.”

Back in Southern California, LaHaye’s outreach was branded as Concerned Women for America (CWA), which set up “prayer/action chapters” across the country to block the ERA through lawsuitsTV ads, even daily fasting for the amendment’s defeat.

CWA and Eagle Forum have grown into larger interest groups, funded by dark capital in the years since their founding.

Between 2010 and 2013, CWA, along with its sister 501(c),(4) organization Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee, was in operation. receivedAbout $11.3 million was raised by groups associated with Charles Koch, the libertarian billionaire. Freedom Partners, Center to Protect Patient Rights TC4 Trust.

Many of the donors to Eagle Forum its related “Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense Fund” (EFELDF) are unknown, but we do know that they have received tens of thousands over the years from the Bradley Foundation and Ed Uihlein Family FoundationBoth foundations are huge and have deep connections to the far right. (Both foundations are also funded groupsThat underminedThe 2020 presidential election results will be a test of public faith.

Eagle Forum EFELDFTax documents show that they raked in more than $1.5million in combined revenue in 2019 and nearly $3 million during the 2018 midterm elections.

CWA and Eagle Forum have been joined in their anti-ERA efforts by another, newer right-wing women’s group that is similarly blocking policies that would benefit women: the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) and its sister group, Independent Women’s Voice (IWV). IWF was established in the 1990s. “Women for Clarence Thomas” to defend the now-Supreme Court associate justice during his confirmation hearings from Anita Hill’s testimony that he had made gross sexual overtures She acted toward her as her boss (accusations which he denied).

IWF has used its “independent” label to conceal its right-wing mission. IWF President Heather Higgins told donors that “being branded as neutral, but having people who Know know that you’re actually conservative puts us in a unique position.”

“Independent” branding aside, IWF and IWV are palpably far to the right and continue to back anti-women policies and politicians. In fact, IWV ran robocalls aiding candidates like Todd Akin, AfterRichard Mourdock claimed that rape did not lead to pregnancy. After he said that rape victims who became pregnant “carried a gift from God.” They also championed Betsy DeVos’s changesTitle IX provisions at universities “gave perpetrators of sexual assault a blueprint to block damning evidence against them.”

IWF has also been linked to right-wing dark funds for a long time, including links to the Koch family fortuneBradley Foundation. In 2014, The Bradley Foundation fundedIWF will develop messaging kits for a specific audience countering popular, pro-women policies. According to the most recent IRS filings by IWF/IWV, they received More than $4.75 MillionFrom their funders. IWF’s funding has only increased in recent years, and so have their secret funders, which include donors whose identities are hidden by DonorsTrust as well as funding that has passed through Leonard Leo’s dark money network.

The Equal Rights Amendment is Back, but so are its Dark Money Detractors

Recent efforts by feminist activists and politicians to reenergize the fight for the rights of women have been rewarded with a renewed focus on the issue. widely popular ERA These efforts have been met with a lot of resistance. In 2020, nine days before Virginia became the 38th and final state needed to ratify the ERA, the Trump administration’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) preemptively blocked the amendment, declaring that the certification deadline had expired, although the time frame was not included in the actual amendment’s text.

Eagle Forum, CWA, and IWF signed jointly on to a letterInstructing House representatives to vote no on a ratification prolongation. They argued that the ERA would invalidate laws and benefits for women, as Schlafly did in 1970s.

But the groups also incorporated a new, anti-trans discourse into their attack on the amendment, arguing that it would “bar laws from taking into account the biological differences between men and women.” They assert that this could “place women and girls in harm’s way” by supposedly doing away with separate locker rooms, bathrooms and women’s prisons.

But, most campaigns for bathroom access for transgender people — and all current state laws on the subject — do not focus on eliminating gender-separated bathrooms. They advocate single-stall bathrooms for all genders and ensuring that trans people can use facilities that correspond to their gender.

This misrepresents the actual goals and results of campaigns for all-gender access to bathroom access. It also relies on unfounded racism to portray transgender people in a dangerous light. there has been no increaseIn public safety incidents in 21 states and more that 300 cities with LGBTQ+ protections. Inflaming such fears led to the widely condemned “bathroom bill” legislation in North Carolina.

Following the OLC opinion Illinois, Nevada, and Virginia were all granted the right to vote filed suitThe U.S. archivist, head of the National Archives and Records Administration, was reprimanded for failing to publish and certify that the ERA was a constitutional amendment. Eagle Forum filed an amicus briefOpposition to the three states. When this case was dismissed, a similar suit followed and IWF’s Independent Women’s Law Center (IWLC) submitted an amicus briefIn opposition

Shortly after Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office, Virginia’s new Attorney General Jason Miyares pulled the state outIWF and CWA applauded the move, even though the Youngkin administration was not pleased with the lawsuit acted against the will of the majority of Virginians.

The fight for the ERA continues. IWLC filed another. amicus briefIn the still-pending case, against the ratifying countries Ferriero vs. Illinois and NevadaThis is a result of attacks on transgender people.

Transphobia: Mapping This New Tactic

In some ways, anti-ERA campaigning has included attacks against the LGBTQ+ community. Phyllis Schlafly, her associates, and others began their campaign in the 1970s. warned that the courts could interpret the ERA’s “sex” discrimination language to include “sexual orientation” and usher in same-sex marriage.

Anti-ERA groups are now riding the current wave of transphobia, having largely lost the cultural and legal battle against gay rights over the past decades. Last year was a record-breaking year. record highsIt was the anti-trans violence, rhetoric. It was the worst year for legislative attacks on LGBTQ+ peopleIn recent history.

Contemporary anti-ERA groups have again seized upon “sex” discrimination, but this time they lament that the transgender community could be protected under the amendment. A 2019 newsletter CWA used explicitly anti-trans language to articulate this shift: “Unlike in the 1970s … the ERA would be used to impose the most radical consequences of the new ‘gender revolution’, which allows men to declare themselves women and vice versa.”

Eagle Forum’s 2021 action campaign, “ERA ERAses Women,” urged members to call their representatives and oppose the elimination of the ERA’s ratification deadline because they were “concerned” the amendment would “expand [rights] on the basis of sex to gender-nonconforming and transgender women and girls, and nonbinary people.”

The new anti-trans strategy extends beyond these groups’ own echo chambers and into court documents and congressional committees. For example, IWF’s most recent ERA amicus brief argues that legal protections for transgender people should invalidate states’ ratifications of the amendment, seemingly contending that states that voted for equality in the past might find that the ERA today offers You can alsoMuch equality in 2022

IWF’s Senior Policy Analyst Inez Stepman paraded this argument before Congress last October when, as a minority witness for the House Committee’s ERA hearing, she claimed that the ERA would jeopardize women’s physical safety, pointing to the alleged violence cisgender women experience at the hands of transgender women in prisons.

However, most transgender prisoners are kept in facilities. based on the sex assigned to them at birth, transgender women who are incarcerated with menExtreme violence is a common problem. Research also suggests that transgender people are at higher risk of experiencing extreme violence. four times more likely to be victims of violent crimeThey are more than cisgender individuals.

Right-wing women’s groups like IWF have used anti-trans attacks to oppose the Equality Act as well. At a virtual “rally” against the legislation hosted by Family Policy Alliance (a right-wing Christian group with an established anti-LGBTQ+ recordThe history and development of sponsoring anti-transgender state legislation), IWF’s Stepman called the Equality Act “the most dangerous piece of legislation we’ve seen come out of Congress” because it would allow transgender women to compete in women’s sports and access women’s shelters.

Until we are all equal, none of us is equal

The fear-mongering about expanded transgender rights — grounded in the baseless claim that transgender women somehow represent a threat to cisgender women — is simply the latest in a history of attacks on the ERA based on the sexist notion that women are in need of protection and not equality.

For these anti-feminist groups, this “protection” is worth any cost, even if it means blocking legislation that would benefit all women, like the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which these same groupsAlso, opposedIt would be considered illegal include trans women. (IWF. opposed VAWA since its creationEven though the group recently made an important political pivot to support, a right-wing version.)

Similarly, right-wing women’s groups have gone after other benefits that the ERA could extend to people across the gender spectrum, such as access to safe and legal abortionand even efforts to close it gender pay gap.

Attacks on transgender people also invite increased policing of all people’s bodies, everywhere from the Olympic GamesTo public bathrooms.

Transgender activists have long warned of this: that undermining transgender people’s rights would also harm cisgender women, or, in other words, that cis and trans women’s liberation struggles are intertwined.

Trans-inclusive legislation on gender equality like the ERA, and the Equality Act is a major step towards that shared freedom.

Virginia was the 38th state that ratified the Equal Rights Amendment. It made history because it met the ERA ratification threshold and Delegate Danica Roem was the first openly transgender state legislator.

Roem and Kate Kelly, attorney wrote, “The ERA isn’t about who we’re against; it’s an affirmative statement about who we’re for — everybody. This is about making our United States of America a more inclusive country, one where you’re protected because of who you are, not despite it.”