NEWS / CONTEXT

Media Matters Calls Anti-Trans Pacific Justice Institute ‘LGBT Misinformer of the Year’
Karen Ocamb
12/31/2013

 

 
On Jan. 1, AB 1266, the California Success and Opportunity Act granting trans students equal access to facilities and activities, will go into effect. However, if a movement by the Privacy for All Students Coalition succeeds in getting enough signatures to qualify for a ballot initiative in Nov. 2014, the law will be suspended. California’s 58 counties have until Jan. 8 to verify the signatures through random spot-checking. The secretary of state’s office will then determine if the referendum has received enough valid signatures to qualify or if it failed or if a review of every signature must be ordered. The conservative coalition has already filed a lawsuit alleging that two counties refused to count at least 5,000 signatures on submitted petitions. 
 
As of Dec. 30, the secretary of state’s office has received 614,317 signatures. Of those, 504,760 signatures must be valid to qualify for a referendum. There must be 479,522 signatures to either qualify or to move to spot-checking to full check of every signature. According to journalist Rex Wockner, who’s been following the numbers, there must be a minimum projected validity rate in the spot- checking of 78.05774 percent of all 614,317 signatures to advance to the full check. As of Dec. 30, there were 249,557 valid or projected to be valid signatures at 79.05 percent. And two of the biggest counties—Fresno and Los Angeles—had not finished their spot-check.
 
Contrary to misinformation distributed by the Privacy campaign, the law will go into effect on Jan. 1, according to trans blogger Autumn Sandeen to whom a representative said: "AB1266 will be in effect until the referendum qualifies for the ballot—if it qualifies for the ballot."
 
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times weighed in on the battle on Dec. 23,  saying the “effort to repeal new state protections is based on unfounded fears and intolerance.” And Equality California Executive Director John O’Connor says an LGBT coalition is gearing up, should there be another expensive battle.
 
And Media Matters has been on the case all along, calling out the lies and misinformation of the coalition behind all the anti-transgender activities. Here is the organization's latest report, cross-posted with permission:
 
LGBT Misinformer Of The Year: The Pacific Justice Institute
December 29, 2013, 9:57 a.m., by Luke Brinker
 
The Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), a California-based right-wing advocacy organization, set a new standard for dishonesty on LGBT issues in 2013, concocting a story about bathroom harassment by a transgender student in an effort to deny transgender students access to facilities that match their gender identities. In a year that witnessed a spike in transphobic commentary by right-wing media, PJI's lie proliferated on outlets like Fox News, highlighting the extent to which outright misinformation undergirds the conservative media's anti-LGBT horror stories. For its willingness to lie in the service of undermining LGBT rights, PJI has earned the dubious distinction of LGBT Misinformer of the Year.

"Nightmare": PJI's Shameless Colorado Lie

Transgender student rights received newfound prominence this year, as Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law  in August guaranteeing that transgender students would be able to use facilities and participate in programs that match their gender identities. Meanwhile, the Colorado Civil Rights Division ruled this summer that transgender six-year-old Coy Mathis should be allowed to use the girls' restroom at her school.

PJI joined a coalition of right-wing extremist groups working to overturn the California law, but its effort to roll back transgender rights in Colorado propelled the organization to notoriety.

As it pondered how to ensure that transgender students lost proper facility access, PJI ran into an inconvenient reality: School districts that allow students to use facilities that correspond to their gender identity have reported "nothing but positive results."  Right-wing fears  about inappropriate bathroom behavior had no empirical basis.

With no actual instances of misconduct to point to, PJI decided to invent one. On October 10, the organization issued a press release proclaiming its discovery of a "nightmare," alleging that a "teen boy" in Colorado had been harassing girls in the restroom:


Fox Nation and other right-wing outlets ran with the story, touting it as proof that their fears weren't so baseless after all. But when a reporter from The TransAdvocate questioned Superintendent Rhonda Vendetti about the story, Vendetti said that the report was based only on the complaints of an angry parent. "There has not been a situation" of harassment or other intimidating behavior, Vendetti said.

PJI found itself forced into a defensive crouch. In its response to Vendetti's remarks, the organization came pretty close  to conceding that its tales of bathroom harassment were made up, although PJI asserted that the mere presence of a transgender student in the restroom "is inherently intimidating and harassing." "The core of this story," PJI went on, "--that the school is elevating the rights of one self-proclaimed transgender student while minimizing the privacy rights of all the biologically female students, has not been seriously controverted."

PJI's Relationship with Fox News

Despite - or because of - PJI's rabidly anti-LGBT stances, including support for "ex-gay" therapy, opposition to anti-bullying efforts, and its claim that teaching students LGBT history is "indoctrination," PJI has maintained a warm relationship with Fox News. PJI President Brad Dacus appeared on the network  as the debate over the California legislation started in addition to other appearances to attack LGBT history education, diversity education,and transgender-friendly workplaces.

Fox's coziness with PJI continued even after the exposure of the group's Colorado lie. Fox host Sean Hannity began a December 18 segment on transgender bathroom access with a video from PJI featuring testimonials from parents at students at the Colorado high school where the fake story originated. Hannity called the video "pretty powerful," but nobody in it ever pointed to an actual instance of misconduct by the transgender female who was allowed to use the girls' restroom. PJI's substance-free video and Hannity's promotion of it even after the organization had been discredited marked a new low of shamelessness.

With California's transgender protections potentially headed for a state referendum in 2014, PJI will continue to play a role in fighting against LGBT equality, undeterred by the exposure of its dishonest tactics. Heading into the new year, media outlets covering LGBT issues confront a choice: they can either pretend that PJI is a serious organization worthy of respectful coverage, or they can ignore it as the willfully misinforming, viciously anti-LGBT organization it has proven to be.


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