Heritage Foundation: The [intensely anti-LGBTQ] White House pipeline



On January 16, acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker delivered a speech at The Heritage Foundation, which was billed as support for the right to use so-called "religious exemptions" as a way to discriminate against other Americans, including LGBTQ people. In his remarks, Whitaker defended the exceedingly hostile Alliance Defending Freedom by saying that organization should not be designated a hate group for backing anti-LGBTQ causes. 

But this is the sort of “substance” one would expect from a speech to an organization like Heritage. The Acting Attorney General was a symbolic benchmark for just how decidedly against anti-LGBTQ this administration truly has become. That’s because Matthew Whitaker is not the first or even the tenth Cabinet member to reach out to Heritage. In fact, he is the twelfth—the twelfth!—Cabinet or Senior level Trump Administration official to address this anti-LGBTQ organization in the only two years that this anti-LGBTQ administration has been in the White House. The list is as follows:

December 2016: Vice President Mike Pence

September 2017: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke

October 2017: President Donald Trump 

October 2017: Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Jan 2018: Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs A. Wess Mitchell

September 2018: Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein

October 2018: Sessions again

April 2018: Army Secretary Mark Esper

May 2018: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

July 2018: UN Ambassador Nikki Haley

July 2018: HHS Secretary Alex Azar

December 2018: National Security Advisor John Bolton

Jan 2019: Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker

That’s a lot of outreach in under two years. Heck, it’s two of two Attorneys General!

But the Heritage connections don’t end with these speeches. The Trump Administration has been filled with senior staffers who once held positions at Heritage. Some of these include:

  • US Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao is a former Distinguished fellow at Heritage,
  • Army Secretary Mark Esper used to be Heritage’s Chief Of Staff,
  • Director of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Roger Severino was Director of Heritage’s Center for Religion and Civil Society,
  • The general counsel at Homeland Security, John Mitnick, was Heritage’s former senior Vice President, and 
  • Heritage’s Hans von Spakovsky was named to President Trump’s election commission. 

Heritage itself touts a whopping fifty-six former staff members who now hold positions in the Trump Administration. Axios even branded Heritage as the “White House pipeline.”

Ed Feulner, the organization’s founder and president admitted that “[s]ince Trump’s inauguration, Heritage’s influence has only grown,” adding “[t]he administration appears to be with us on a great many priorities. And even on areas we differ, we still have an open door to the White House and to Congress. For all intents and purposes, we are in a position to get our ideas out like never before.” At the end of 2017, Heritage assessed its work and said, “[o]ne year after taking office, President Donald Trump and his administration have adopted nearly two-thirds of the policy recommendations from The Heritage Foundation’s ‘Mandate for Leadership.’”

The Heritage/White House connection has been well documented. But what's been missing in coverage is the intense opposition anti-LGBTQ activism by the Heritage Foundation. The truth is that there is very little daylight between Heritage and any of the other anti-LGBTQ organizations that fight against our rights.

You can go back to the early ‘90s, when Heritage was one of the most aggressive against gay people serving in the military. Heritage wasn’t happy with even the discriminatory "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" compromise because they wanted a full ban:

“Congress should resolve this issue by passing a law affirming that homosexuality is incompatible with military service, and giving military commanders authority to screen and discharge homosexuals under any circumstances.” [SOURCE]

“Professional military judgment and experience indicate that mixing known homosexuals with heterosexuals degrades cohesion and combat effectiveness. It is not the individual qualities of the homosexual, but rather homosexuality itself, which is in- compatible with military service” [SOURCE]

In the early 2000’s, Heritage defended the Boy Scouts of America organization for discriminating against the “whining” and “complaining” LGBTQ community:

“In the opinion of the Boy Scouts, homosexuality is wrong. Those who disagree are free to whine and complain all they want - and even form their own alternative organization - but it doesn't give them the right to try and use the government to force a private organization to alter its code of ethics.” [SOURCE]

A few years later, in 2003, Heritage insisted that Americans “have had enough” with things like the overturning of sodomy, high schools inclusive to gay (which they put in smear quotes) students, and ordination of gay Bishops:

“Americans are, once again, drawing the line in the sand. Between the recent legalization of same-sex marriages in Vermont and Canada, the Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas that struck down the state's sodomy law, the opening of a high school for "gay" students in New York City and the decisions by the Episcopal Church to approve a "gay" bishop and allow "gay" marriages, Americans are saying they have had enough.” [SOURCE]

In 2008, Heritage was making the case that Americans shouldn’t “appease” LGBTQ activists with compromises like civil unions because that just opens the door to full equality:

“It's time to hold accountable those lawmakers who have opened the door for this court ruling by trying to appease homosexual rights activists with laws that allow civil unions. You cannot have peace at any price with those who seek to conquer and vanquish our values.” [SOURCE]

In 2013, as the US Supreme Court was hearing a crucial case of marriage equality, Heritage argued that marriage equality is actually a lie:

“Same-sex marriage never will be widely accepted in America for a simple reason: It’s based on a lie.” [SOURCE]

That same year, Heritage went on to claim that marriage equality would make people less monogamous:

“Redefining marriage would abandon the norm of male-female sexual complementarity as an essential characteristic of marriage. Making that optional would also make other essential characteristics—like monogamy, exclusivity and permanency—optional...” [SOURCE]

Heritage also claimed that group marriage would logically follow marriage equality:


And then there was that time Heritage claimed court decisions favoring marriage equality were as much of a slight against the American people’s authority as was the Supreme Court case upholding slavery:

“Accordingly, any decision requiring states to redefine marriage is as much a usurpation of the people’s authority as Dred Scott was.” [SOURCE]

The Heritage Foundation also claimed that advocates of marriage equality are like those who opposed interracial marriage:

“In the same way when there were some racists who tried to say that you can’t have interracial marriage, that was propaganda, it was a lie, and it failed. In the same way, trying to eliminate that marriage is about uniting the two halves of humanity, not black and white, because that’s not the two halves of humanity, the two halves of humanity, male and female, husband and wife, mom and dad, you can’t erase that, and in the long run the truth will win out.” [SOURCE]

Heritage has also spent considerable time insisting that marriage equality will harm children, even relying on the widely discredited, extremely anti-LGBTQ fringe group American College of Pediatricians to make this argument:


But of course they go way beyond marriage. In 2015, Heritage’s most dedicated anti-LGBTQ staff member, Ryan Anderson, expressed outraged over New Jersey’s ban on so-called "conversion therapy" practices:

“New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill banning therapy for state residents under 18 who struggle with unwanted same-sex attraction. With a flick of his pen, Christie usurped authority from parents in deciding the care their children should receive. Shockingly, one therapy specifically permitted is assistance for minors in “transitioning” from male to female or from female to male.” [SOURCE]

That same year, a Heritage panelist defended “ex-gay” therapy as sound science:

Heritage Foundation Event Defends Ex-Gay Therapy As Sound Science

And just last fall, Heritage condemned Hollywood for:

“presenting only one side of the debate over counseling for those who experience unwanted same-sex attraction, and it is seeking to silence those who can offer help to the struggling.” [SOURCE]

The Heritage Foundation's New War: Harming Transgender Americans

Since losing their war on marriage equality, Heritage has more recently turned attention to attacking transgender people, generating some of the most obsessive and cruelest commentary around. Here's just a sample:

“People who identify as transgender suffer a host of mental health and social problems—including anxiety, depression, and substance abuse—at higher rates than the general population. Biology isn’t bigotry, and we need a sober and honest assessment of the human costs of getting human nature wrong.” [SOURCE]

“Many psychologists and psychiatrists think of gender dysphoria as similar to other dysphorias, or forms of discomfort with one’s body, such as anorexia. The feelings of discomfort can lead to mistaken beliefs about oneself or about reality, and then to actions in accordance with those false beliefs. The most helpful therapies focus not on achieving the impossible—changing bodies to conform to thoughts and feelings—but on helping people accept and even embrace the truth about their bodies and reality….Despite activists’ best efforts to put up a unified front, Harry cannot become Sally. Activists’ desperate insistence to the contrary suggests that the transgender moment is fleeting.” [SOURCE]

“Normally, a child is not encouraged to persist in a belief that is discordant with reality. A traditional form of treatment for gender dysphoria would “work with and not against the facts of science and the predictable rhythms of children’s psycho-sexual development.” A prudent and natural course of treatment would enable children to “reconcile their subjective gender identity with their objective biological sex,” avoiding harmful or irreversible interventions. The most helpful therapies do not try to remake the body to conform with thoughts and feelings—which is impossible—but rather to help people find healthy ways to manage this tension and move toward accepting the reality of their bodily selves. This therapeutic approach rests on a sound understanding of physical and mental health, and of medicine as a practice aimed at restoring healthy functioning, not simply satisfying the desires of patients.” [SOURCE]

“It would be both reckless and immoral to allow transgender individuals to enlist in the armed forces before we have fact-based assurance that they have the mental resilience needed to survive the crucible of combat and deployments” [SOURCE]

In 2017, Heritage hosts a “gender dysphoria in children” panel, which once again featured a panelist from the fringe, discredited, extremely anti-LGBTQ American College of Pediatricians: http://www.heritage.org/gender/event/gender-dysphoria-children-understan...

And on the recent policy front, Heritage has made it a focused mission to stop all laws protecting on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, which Heritage insists are really about:

“The Heritage Foundation has long opposed the expansion of antidiscrimination laws to elevate “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected classes.”
“coercing everyone else to support, facilitate, and endorse such actions” [SOURCE]

Heritage doesn’t even want corporate America to support the LGBTQ community. Last June, Heritage “honored” Pride Month by attacking major American companies for backing simple fairnness:

“In the name of promoting “tolerance” for some customers, these corporations erode the freedoms of others.” [SOURCE]

The above is just a sample of Heritage’s anti-LGBTQ engagement, and in no way should be considered a complete set. Heritage has fought against laws like The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Act and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). They criticized the Obama Administration for just about anything it did to advance LGBTQ acceptance. They’ve also spent considerable time over the past five years making the case that religious employers and businessowners should have a right to use so-called "religious exemptions" as a way to discriminate against LGBTQ workers and customers, which was the focus on acting AG Whitaker’s speech. If Heritage succeeded at every one of its goals, it’s fair to say that LGBTQ acceptance as we know them would be wiped away in full.

There is no debate about where this organization stands. You could swap out American Family Association (AFA), Family Research Council (FRC), Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), or any of the other anti-LGBTQ group, and the agenda would be exactly the same. Yet there is only one organization that has this level of access and persuasion within the Trump White House. That’s the Heritage Foundation. If this organization is to be a shadow officeholder within this White House, then it’s time for the media to accurately portray how extreme this organization really is.