Extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) regularly touts its network of over 3,300 allied attorneys, who apparently agree with the organization’s anti-LGBTQ statement of faith and provide pro bono legal support, but only a fraction of those allies are easily identifiable online.
ADF has also removed mentions of Solicitor General Noel Francisco as an allied attorney from its website, adding to the program’s opacity. As ADF has no easily accessible record of its allied attorney network, Media Matters has compiled a list of nearly 300 of the attorneys by sifting through dozens of press releases and other posts on the group’s website.
There are several notable allied attorneys on this list, including multiple state attorneys general, lawyers at major firms, and legislators.
ADF is one of the largest and most powerful anti-LGBTQ groups in the nation and has played a role in over 50 Supreme Court decisions, including on cases regarding abortion, religion, tuition tax credits, and LGBTQ issues. The legal powerhouse has taken dozens of extreme anti-LGBTQ positions, such as supporting Russia’s so-called “gay propaganda” law, defending the discredited and dangerous practice of conversion therapy, advocating against adoption and foster care by LGBTQ people, and supporting policies that ban trans people from using facilities that align with their gender identity. To advance its mission, ADF uses its more than $50 million in revenue to provide attorneys with “the resources, training, and support they need to stand boldly for religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family.”
ADF’s influence is widespread; the organization has dozens of alumni and allies in influential government positions across the country. But ADF operates with an extreme lack of transparency, particularly regarding its allied attorneys, who often do not publicly identify themselves as such. It has even previously retracted its affiliation with a high-profile figure who it had reported as an ally.
ADF has built a vast alliance of attorneys and allies through several training programs as well as what it refers to as a “powerful global network” of over 3,300 “allied attorneys.” These allied attorneys receive opportunities for funding, access to ADF’s legal resources, and additional training opportunities in exchange for a commitment to provide pro bono service, such as litigation support, media work, and aid to legislators and policymakers. ADF can activate these attorneys when it learns about LGBTQ-related events and, with their help, quickly involve itself in matters reaching down to the local level. In turn, these attorneys can also alert ADF to LGBTQ-related matters in their localities and bring the force of a national group to their backyards.
A 2017 investigative report by Sarah Posner in The Nation identified Noel Francisco, the Trump-Pence administration’s solicitor general, as an ADF allied attorney, citing two different ADF press releases explicitly stating that Francisco is one of “more than 3,000 private attorneys allied with ADF.” After publication, however, an editor’s note was attached noting that ADF “contacted The Nation, claiming that Francisco has never been an allied attorney” and calling it “our mistake” because its “media dept. got it wrong.” ADF promptly rewrote its press releases but did not issue corrections on either of them.
In the update, The Nation reported that ADF claimed in its email about Francisco that “its allied attorneys are not required to agree to the statement of faith [The Nation] found linked to within ADF’s FAQs about applying to the program.” The update continued:
That statement of faith includes a commitment to believing in the divinity of Jesus Christ, that God designed marriage for one man and one woman, and that homosexual behavior is “sinful and offensive to God.” Later in the day, that FAQ page, too, was changed. It had read, “The application requires affirmation of agreement with our statement of faith,” linking to the statement we quoted in the story [see screenshot here]. ADF’s website now omits that clause, reading only, “You become a part of the ADF Attorney Network by formally applying and being accepted as an Allied Attorney.” But the link on the web page, before it was changed yesterday, took one to the same statement of faith that employees must agree to.
The actual application page, however, still states that you can become an allied attorney by “filling out an application online and agreeing to a statement of faith.”
These discrepancies underscore the opacity surrounding both ADF’s network of allied attorneys and the process involved in becoming one. Testimony from a recent judicial nominee only adds to this confusion. In submitted answers to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, federal judge nominee Jeremy Kernodle stated that he was an allied attorney with ADF on a 2017 case. In response to follow-up questions, Kernodle clarified that he “did not apply or request to be an ‘allied attorney’ with ADF,” “discovered that ADF had listed [him] as an ‘allied attorney’” when he began preparing responses to the questionnaire, and was “not certain when that first occurred.”
ADF’s lack of transparency around its allied attorney program is particularly troubling given the group’s widespread influence. Media Matters has compiled a list of nearly 300 allied attorneys identified in various places on ADF’s website — but this is only a small fraction of the 3,300 allied attorneys whom ADF claims are in its network. It is unclear whether ADF’s allied attorneys remain as such for life or whether the 3,300 number includes former allied attorneys, some of whom could have potentially cut their official ties with the group with no public record. It is imperative that media include this context when reporting about these attorneys or their involvement in LGBTQ or other human rights matters.
Louisiana 4th District
In Congress, allied attorney and former ADF lawyer Mike Johnson currently represents the 4th District of Louisiana in the U.S. House of Representatives. Johnson was previously a state representative and sponsored a religious exemptions bill that would have made it easier to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
Pictured Above: UNITED STATES – MAY 16: Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., leaves the House Republican Conference meeting at the Capitol Hill Club on Wednesday, May 16, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Alaska AG Kevin Clarkson and Montana AG Timothy Fox
ADF allied attorneys also serve as attorneys general — or in their offices — in states across the country including Alaska, Arizona, Montana, Nevada, and Texas. In particular, allied attorneys Kevin Clarkson and Timothy Fox serve as the attorneys general of Alaska and Montana, respectively. ADF has also labeled Nevada Solicitor General Lawrence Van Dyke an allied attorney.
Photo by Mark Thiessen/AP/REX (10014777d) Legislature Alaska. Kevin Clarkson, Alaska’s new attorney general, speaks at a news conference, in Anchorage, Alaska. Clarkson is currently in private practice in Anchorage Legislature Alaska, Anchorage, USA – 05 Dec 2018
UNITED STATES – AUGUST 20: Montana Attorney General Tim Fox attends a meeting of the Board of Land Commissioners in the State Capitol building in Helena on August 20, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Trump-appointed federal Judge Kyle Duncan, the former general counsel for Becket Law, which has represented anti- LGBTQ clients in the past, has also been labeled an allied attorney and has a history of opposing LGBTQ equality. While at Becket, Duncan authored an amicus brief for the Supreme Court opposing marriage equality and was counsel in a case almost heard by the Supreme Court supporting a school’s discriminatory anti-trans bathroom policy.
Director, Office of Public Affairs, Department of Justice
Kerri Kupec, former ADF legal counsel and director of communications, currently serves in the executive branch as director of the Office of Public Affairs at the Department of Justice and has defended the Trump administration’s policy of prohibiting transgender people from serving in the military.
Allied attorney Tim Swickard is a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig. Greenberg Traurig “placed 14th on The American Lawyer’s 2018 Am Law 200 ranking,” according to law.com, and “ranked as the 19th highest grossing law firm in the world” on the 2018 Global 200 Survey, bringing in $1,477,180,000 in gross revenue. According to its website, it also “received the most overall first-tier rankings in the U.S. News – Best Lawyers ‘Best Law Firms’ report” for eight years in a row.
In 2011, Swickard worked with ADF in a case against University of California-Davis, with ADF claiming the university’s religious nondiscrimination policy explicitly discriminated against Christian students because it focused on “institutionalized oppressions toward those who are not Christian” and “to those who do not practice the dominant culture’s religion.”
Allied attorney Jay T. Thompson is a partner at Nelson Mullins, which “placed 87th on The American Lawyer’s 2018 Am Law 200 ranking,” according to law.com, and “ranked as the 110th highest grossing law firm in the world” with $405,426,000 in gross revenue.
According to Nelson Mullins, Thompson “devotes time in his legal practice to the protection of religious liberties” which is consistent with Thompson sending letters on behalf of ADF supporting prayer before public meetings in South Carolina after some organizations complained that the prayers violated the rights of non-religious attendees and others.
Allied attorney Rob McCully is a partner at Shook, Hardy & Bacon, which “placed 99th on The American Lawyer’s 2018 Am Law 200 ranking” and “ranked as the 130th highest grossing law firm in the world” with $350,700,000 in gross revenue.
McCully has experience with litigation involving “government enforcement matters,” and he co-wrote a friend-of-the-court brief for ADF arguing that the Federal Communications Commission should have been able to censure “indecent language broadcast during Fox’s televised Billboard Music Awards” after an appellate court overturned the censure.
The Alliance Defending Freedom is waging a war against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people–advocating for laws that put LGBT people in jail, supporting laws that would require the sterilization of transgender people in order to change documents, and spreading lies and misinformation.
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