Group warns of anti-LGBTQ 'Project 2025'

  • by J.L. Odom
  • Wednesday May 1, 2024
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Heidi Beirich, Ph.D., left, and Wendy Via founded the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism. Photos: Courtesy GPAHE<br>
Heidi Beirich, Ph.D., left, and Wendy Via founded the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism. Photos: Courtesy GPAHE

If former President Donald Trump is again elected president in November, far-right extremist groups led by the Heritage Foundation have a transition plan already outlined that critics say will strip rights from people. The plan could also be put to use by conservative political leaders even if Trump falls short at the ballot box.

The Global Project Against Hate and Extremism held a briefing call with reporters April 30 to discuss what it sees as dangers of the plan and how it could affect people if it's implemented. It has been warning about the anti-LGBTQ federal directives being planned by conservative leaders since last fall.

"We have deep concerns about this plan because of the effects it will have on civil rights and democracy," said GPAHE co-founder Heidi Beirich, Ph.D., during the call.

The plan she was referring to is Project 2025, also known as the "Presidential Transition Project." It promotes a conservative administration and impacts the rights of marginalized groups such as women, people of color, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community.

For example, Project 2025 states, "The next conservative President must make the institutions of American civil society hard targets for woke culture warriors. This starts with deleting the terms sexual orientation and gender identity ("SOGI"), diversity, equity, and inclusion ("DEI"), gender, gender equality, gender equity, gender awareness, gender-sensitive, abortion, reproductive health, reproductive rights, and any other term used to deprive Americans of their First Amendment rights out of every federal rule, agency regulation, contract, grant, regulation, and piece of legislation that exists.

"Pornography, manifested today in the omnipresent propagation of transgender ideology and sexualization of children, for instance, is not a political Gordian knot inextricably binding up disparate claims about free speech, property rights, sexual liberation, and child welfare," Project 2025 continues. "It has no claim to First Amendment protection. Its purveyors are child predators and misogynistic exploiters of women. Their product is as addictive as any illicit drug and as psychologically destructive as any crime. Pornography should be outlawed. The people who produce and distribute it should be imprisoned. Educators and public librarians who purvey it should be classed as registered sex offenders. And telecommunications and technology firms that facilitate its spread should be shuttered."

Beirich is the chief strategy officer of GPAHE, a nonprofit she and co-founder Wendy Via launched in 2020 that confronts transnational hate and far-right extremism movements, such as those directed toward LGBTQ+ individuals.

"Our goal is to push back far-right movements because we view them as a dire threat to civil rights, human rights [and] multiracial democracies, and we see these movements as inherently anti-rights and preferencing authoritarian ideas," Beirich said. "That's why we're so concerned about them. The policy preferences you'll find in Project 2025 are generally of that ilk."

In the press briefing, Beirich and Via, who described themselves as "committed [LGBTQ+] allies," provided an overview of Project 2025 based on their reading of the 900-plus-page plan — offering insight into who's involved, the groups it's directed toward, its funding and its implications.

"Every single section of [Project 2025] somehow conveys the idea that the left is subversive and deviant and threatens the real America. So everything has to be viewed through that lens," said Via, who's also GPAHE's president.

Notably, the project is backed by some 100 advisory organizations and approximately 300 individuals from far-right groups, with the Heritage Foundation overseeing its aims.

Beirich explained, "The Heritage Foundation is a very different organization today than it was in the 1980s in the [Ronald] Reagan era when he was focused on things like taxes and budgets. Now the group is largely about stripping rights from particular communities."

National organizations supporting Project 2025 include America First Legal, Moms for Liberty, Alliance Defending Freedom, the Family Research Council, and others with a history of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and policy-backing, according to the website.

"Many of the organizations involved in this effort are openly hateful toward certain populations, particularly immigrants and LGBTQ+ people," noted Beirich. "In the past, it used to be the case that a lot of these organizations were sidelined by mainstream Republicans for being too extreme, but that's no longer the case. They're embraced by the conservative movement."

The official Project 2025 website describes the plan's purpose as "pav[ing] the way for an effective conservative Administration based on four pillars: a policy agenda, Presidential Personnel Database, Presidential Administration Academy, and playbook for the first 180 days of the next Administration."

The project is against a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that expanded the definition of sex to include sexual orientation and gender identity in employment.

"The Biden Administration, LGBT advocates, and some federal courts have attempted to expand the scope and definition of sex discrimination, based in part on the Supreme Court's decision in Bostock v. Clayton County," Project 2025 states. "Bostock held that 'an employer who fires someone simply for being homosexual or transgender' violates Title VII's prohibition against sex discrimination. The Court explicitly limited its holding to the hiring/firing context in Title VII and did not purport to address other Title VII issues, such as bathrooms, locker rooms, and dress codes, or other laws prohibiting sex discrimination.

"The new Administration should restrict Bostock's application of sex discrimination protections to sexual orientation and transgender status in the context of hiring and firing. The President should direct agencies to withdraw unlawful 'notices' and 'guidances' purporting to apply Bostock's reasoning broadly outside hiring and firing. ... The President should direct agencies to focus their enforcement of sex discrimination laws on the biological binary meaning of 'sex,'" the document reads.

Via and Beirich emphasized that the project has already taken shape and will continue to do so, no matter the outcome of this year's U.S. presidential election.

"[It] lays out a vision for the country that's going to guide this movement, regardless of what happens in November. A lot of aspects of Project 2025 are already being enacted at the state level," Beirich said, citing Alabama and Texas as "proving grounds" for certain measures.

Texas has enacted stringent laws against migrants and one of its immigration laws is being challenged in court, as NPR reported last month. Earlier this year the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos created through IVF should be considered children.

Via noted that Project 2025-related reforms are directed toward the federal level. There's the proposed "Schedule F," for instance, where civil servants involved in policy-making or implementation would have their status changed to Schedule F employees, ultimately lessening their protections and easing the ability to terminate them.

As Via said of those backing Project 2025 and Schedule F, "These folks, these organizations, believe that our government employees are too 'woke' — that they are there or they are employed to actively obstruct a conservative agenda. And the reason that they know that they're too woke is because they were hired under all these programs that promote racial equity, LGBTQ rights, women's rights, and so on."

This month, President Joe Biden and the Office of Personnel Management issued a rule to prevent the enactment of Schedule F. However, Project 2025, and a conservative administration, could reverse that ruling down the road.

"The thing that is extremely important to remember is that this plan is not just about Trump. ... We don't want to make the mistake of thinking that if Trump is not elected in November, that this plan goes away, because it doesn't," said Via.

The Heritage Foundation did not respond to a request for comment.

GPAHE's analysis of Project 2025 is available here.

GPAHE will also be posting Project 2025 updates on its website. The most recent post about Project 2025 is available here.

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