By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – The big news this week was the announcement of the filing of a federal lawsuit by Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of Moms for Liberty and others involved in the August 2023 incident in which a talk was shut down by library officials.
Given the state of the laws, they may well win this battle, but ultimately they will lose the war—at least in Davis.
The lawsuit acknowledged that the views by the plaintiffs are at least for now “unpopular in Yolo County”: “Plaintiffs Yolo M4L, Bourne, and Snyder also intend to continue reserving meeting rooms at Yolo County public libraries to disseminate their views on sex, gender, and other controversial topics—views that are (for now) unpopular in Yolo County and which are unlikely to be aligned with Defendants’ political preferences.”
I would argue that the views are not only unpopular in Yolo County and especially in Davis, but the tactics used by Moms for Liberty have further alienated themselves from the political mainstream.
One exhibit of that was the long list of elected officials—many of them relative moderates who are unlikely to put themselves out on a limb, and yet pretty much every elected official Davis and a vast majority of them in Yolo County—who signed onto the letter in support of Yolo being for everyone, a proxy for pushing back against the Moms for Liberty position.
Some will maintain that there is a silent majority, but this is a community where only about 15 percent cast their vote for Trump in the last election, in the secrecy of a voting booth or from the comfort of their living room.
I would submit if a candidate emerged in Davis backed by Moms for Liberty, they would be very soundly defeated.
It is not just viewpoints expressed of course, but also the tactics. The shutting down of the library was linked to six bomb threats disrupting the lives of students and district staff, families and law enforcement.
Social media posts became fodder for a potential restraining order—and while that was always going to be a difficult stretch, the district backed out primarily because the threat receded.
In short, whatever sympathy that might have existed before for some of the positions taken by Moms for Liberty have been drowned out in the tactics employed.
Even more concerning at this point is whom they have linked up with.
A steady barrage of far-right groups have been brought into this very liberal community. The latest is Alliance Defending Freedom, or ADF.
Didn’t know much about this group. But they filed and are bankrolling the litigation.
The group, founded in 1994 in Scottsdale, Arizona, is designated as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Founded by some 30 leaders of the Christian Right, the Alliance Defending Freedom is a legal advocacy and training group that has “supported the recriminalization of sexual acts between consenting LGBTQ adults in the U.S. and criminalization abroad; has defended state-sanctioned sterilization of trans people abroad; has contended that LGBTQ people are more likely to engage in pedophilia; and claims that a ‘homosexual agenda’ will destroy Christianity and society.”
According to SPLC, “Since the election of President Trump, ADF has become one of the most influential groups informing the administration’s attack on LGBTQ rights.”
The group interposed itself into the Lawerence v. Texas, Supreme Court decision in which the Supreme Court ruled that a Texas statute that banned consenting same sex adults from engaging in sexual acts violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause.
In an amicus brief filed in 2003 by ADF attorney Glen Lavy, he argued, “The issue under rational-basis review is not whether Texas should be concerned about opposite-sex sodomy, but whether it is reasonable to believe that same-sex sodomy is a distinct public health problem. It clearly is.”
Lawrence is one of those landmark decisions. It overturned a fairly recent one where anti-sodomy laws were allowed to remain on the books. But finally in 2003, the US Supreme Court ruled that anti-sodomy laws which criminalize consensual sex acts between LGBTQ adults was unconstitutional.
ADF argued otherwise. They were in support of anti-sodomy laws.
And you can argue that 2003 was a long time ago. I don’t tend to think 2003 was that long ago. But more importantly, we know that, a decade later, the group supported the recriminalization of consensual sex between adults of the same sex in India.
“When given the same choice the Supreme Court of the United States had in Lawrence vs. Texas, the Indian Court did the right thing. India chose to protect society at large rather than give in to a vocal minority of homosexual advocates. … America needs to take note that a country of 1.2 billion people has rejected the road towards same-sex marriage, and understood that these kinds of bad decisions in the long run will harm society,” said Benjamin Bull, former executive director of ADF Global.
Moms for Liberty want to tell you that they aren’t anti-LGBTQ, they just have concerns with issues like trans-athletes and parental consent. Beth Bourne still starts off her talks about how she has been a lifetime liberal Democrat.
But then she links up with ADF and that tends throw all of that out the window.
On free speech grounds, I think it is possible that Moms for Liberty could win this lawsuit. However, as I have argued many times, they have lost the overall war, at least in Davis.
The question I think the community is going to have is whether public access means that groups like Moms for Liberty and the Proud Boys and others get access to public facilities.
I asked the city for example, what would happen if the Proud Boys wanted to rent the Vets Memorial and was told they would be able to.
I can only imagine the community reaction.
Will that ultimately mean that the community decides to shut down some of those public facilities in order to prevent spread of what many consider hate and intolerance?
That would be unfortunate, but at least a distinct possibility.