AP Quotes Anti-Gay Activist in LGBT Population Story

The Williams Institute released new research this week, estimating that around three and a half percent of Americans identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. (PDF) Williams Institute Distinguished Scholar Gary Gates looked at numbers from nine different studies and the most recent US Census, and estimates that about 0.3% of the population identifies as transgender, 1.7% identifies as gay or lesbian, and 1.8% identifies as bisexual, for a total of about nine million. If you ask anti-gay activist Peter Sprigg, from the Family Research Council, the fact that around half of the LGB population is bi somehow “undermines” the idea that being gay is an inherent characteristic.  But why would you ask anti-gay activist Peter Sprigg to comment on this study? That’s a good question – and one we’re asking AP, because they did just that. There are two significant issues here. First, this is not a story about politics or values. This is a story about a scholarly study of census data and poll numbers. This is not a story that needs the “other side” to be represented, because there is no “other side” to a census. If someone were to count the number of left-handed people in New Jersey, would AP need to ask someone who hates left-handed people what he thinks about it? If the ASPCA did a count of the number of households with cats, would AP seek a quote from someone who thinks cats should be illegal? That’s what Peter Sprigg has said about being gay. Second, even if this story was about an issue impacting the LGBT community that could arguably have two sides, unless LGBT rights supporters were saying that it should be illegal to be straight, Peter Sprigg and FRC would not be appropriate spokespeople for the “other” side. Peter Sprigg and FRC have a long history of anti-gay and anti-transgender statements, and have been accused by the Southern Poverty Law Center of “push(ing) false accusations” about the LGBT community.  FRC has perpetrated mean-spirited and dangerous myths about the LGBT community. Last fall, FRC tried to push the blame for anti-gay bullying onto gay people themselves, using conflicting arguments that were proved to be wrong.  Inviting people like Sprigg to comment on stories where they have no substantive expertise or authority lends credibility to bias and hate, and takes credibility away from AP.  There’s one other problem with this piece that needs to be addressed. In shorter versions of the article, like this one, information pertaining to bisexual or transgender people was missing entirely. The “B” and the “T” only show up ‘below the fold’ so to speak, in longer versions of the article - in paragraphs seven and nine respectively.  It was disheartening to us to see these key communities seemingly treated like afterthoughts. But regardless of how it was reported on, this research should make everyone who supports LGBT rights see how important it is to stick together and support each other.