Several anti-LGBT+ and conservative groups are using Facebook adverts to spread misinformation about the Equality Act, according to reports.
Non-profit organisation and media watchdog Media Matters reported that the Family Policy Alliance, Illinois Family Institute, Live Action and Billy Graham Evangelistic Association ran paid Facebook adverts targeting the Equality Act.
Six of eight ads are currently inactive, according to Media Matters, but are still accessible in the Facebook Ad Library. However, two adverts are still active.
Media Matters said the adverts have a collective estimated potential to reach over four million Facebook users, spreading misinformation about the bill far and wide.
Conservative religious group the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association ran two versions of an advert linking to a post on its website which claims the Equality Act will “legislate that we allow boys in girls’ sports, boys in girls’ locker rooms, men in women’s shelters, and men in women’s prisons”.
One version of the advert was active at the time Media Matters published its research.
Anti-abortion group Live Action posted an advert, which was active at the time the research was published, that calls the Equality Act an “aggressive assault on human rights”. The ad features a video that claims the legislation “tries to erase gender” and “could end female-only spaces” like bathrooms, locker rooms, “treatment centres” and sports.
Family Policy Alliance, a national policy-focused anti-LGBT+ group, ran four versions of an ad encouraging people to ask lawmakers to “oppose this dangerous bill”. The adverts linked to a form to contact senators that claimed the Equality Act would “sanction abortions, introduce explicit content in school curriculum, let boys win in girls’ sports, pressure children toward experimental cross-sex hormones”.
None of these claims are true.
The Illinois Family Institute ran an ad that said the Equality Act is backed by “sex-eradicationists” and “trans cultists”.
This ad linked to a website that claimed the Equality Act would harm children and said adult men would use the bill to molest children. The blog post claimed that, if the Equality Act was enshrined in law, “trans-cultists will be well over halfway to their goal of eradicating all public recognition of biological sex”, adding it would spell “buy-bye” for “religious liberty”.
It also pushed the tired myth that trans women are a threat to women’s privacy and safety in public restrooms, asking: “Should objectively male teachers and coaches who ‘identify’ as female be allowed in girls’ restrooms and locker rooms as well?”
The Equality Act passed the House on a bipartisan vote of 224-206 on 25 February. The bill will prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in both the public and private sectors.
Its passage represents an enormous step forward for LGBT+ rights in America, addressing the “patchwork” state coverage that leaves countless queer Americans vulnerable to discrimination.
The bill’s fate in the Senate is still unclear as Democrats and Republicans are evenly divided.
Even if all 50 Democrats and Democratic-caucusing independents in the Senate voted in favour of the Equality Act, it would still need the backing of at least 10 Republicans to clear the necessary 60-vote threshold for final passage.