The United States plays host to 1,020 hate groups, the highest number in two decades, according to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center.
SPLC points to various reasons for the rise in hate groups, which has been growing exponentially since 2014. That year, the number of recorded hate groups was at 784, over 200 less than exist today. But a variety of factors, including a shifting change in the demographic makeup of the United States and the election of several politicians sympathetic to far-right positions, has newly emboldened hate groups, especially white nationalist groups, the report says.
With the rise of hate groups borne out of anti-immigration and anti-Islamic sentiment comes not only a rise in anti-LGBTQ groups, but also a more high-profile platform for many of these groups. SPLC pointed specifically to groups like the Family Research Council and the Alliance Defending Freedom as evidence that anti-LGBTQ+ groups have gained more political influence than in years’ past.
The Family Research Council is headed by Tony Perkins, who has been called the “most recognizable anti-LGBTQ activist in America” by GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell appointed Perkins to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in 2018. According to GLAAD, Perkins has reportedly pushed to have conversion therapy as part of the 2016 Republican party platform. He has also spoken out against gay parents and compared LGBTQ+ legal advocates to terrorists.
The Alliance Defending Freedom has been linked to efforts to criminalize homosexuality, restrict trans people’s access to sex-segregated facilities and allow businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people, NBC News reports. Jeff Sessions has delivered remarks at the ADF’s Summit on Religious Liberty.
Anti-LGBTQ+ groups have enjoyed an audience with the Trump administration, which has unveiled several anti-LGBTQ+ positions since Trump took power in January 2017. Trump has tried to ban trans people from serving in the military and has tried to change the legal definition of gender under Title IX, a “civil rights” law that bans gender discrimination in programs funded by the federal government. About one-third of judges nominated under Trump have anti-LGBTQ+ records, according to Lambda Legal.
“The Trump administration provided safe haven for anti-LGBT groups and individuals throughout the year, with a particular onslaught on transgender people in 2018,” the report says. “Anti-LGBT evangelical groups continue to enjoy unprecedented access to the White House and are intimately involved in forging public policy.”
According to the report, there are currently 49 anti-LGBTQ+ groups operating in the United States, with 6 operating in Texas, 5 in California and 4 in states like Ohio, Indiana, and Florida.