U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who represents Georgia's Fifth Congressional District, can fairly be described as a civil rights icon. A veteran of the African-American Civil Rights Movement, Lewis is now an outspoken advocate for the rights of others, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people.
Perhaps that's why Fenn Little, the Republican who hopes to unseat the longterm Democratic congressman on Nov. 2, takes pains on his campaign website to also describe himself as a "civil rights attorney."
Unfortunately, it seems Little and Lewis wouldn't exactly agree on what that means.
Little's campaign tagline is "Faith. Freedoms. Fiscal Responsibility," and he cites his religious beliefs among the issues underlying his campaign.
Ga. congressional candidate touts ties to anti-gay legal fund
“Slowly, little by little, over 250 years of Judeo/Christian tradition is being taken out of our country in the misinterpretation of the separation of church and state,” Little warns in a discussion of “Why I Am Running.”
Lesbian and gay voters in particular may be concerned about what Little is doing to try to stop that, and exactly whose “civil rights” he attempts to defend as an attorney.
“Fenn Little is an Allied Attorney of the Alliance Defense Fund having completed one of ADF’s National Litigation Academies. As an Allied Attorney, he has access to a broad network of like-minded Christian attorneys all seeking to restore the religious freedoms guaranteed to every American by the First Amendment. Fenn is also a member of the Christian Legal Society,” his website states.
The Alliance Defense Fund, as Atlanta attorney Douglas Brooks points out in an email asking recipients to educate their neighbors who have Little’s signs in their yards, “has funded virtually ALL of the anti-gay litigation in the US for many years.”
“My whole issue is we need to make people aware of homophobia and of people who embrace it,” Brooks said in an interview. “If you are mad at John Lewis or the Democrats in Congress, the answer is not to elect Fenn Little. You can do something else.”
The ADF’s recent cases include representing Jennifer Keeton, a counseling student who is suing Augusta State University claiming it violated her religious freedom by requiring her to learn more about gay people to balance the anti-gay views she expressed in class.
The ADF has also been involved in high-profile cases like attempts to defend the Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage in California, and an Arkansas referendum that effectively bans gay couples from adopting or providing foster care to children.
“Mr. Little brags about his association with the virulently anti-gay Alliance Defense Fund, which creates the presumption that Mr. Little is an enemy of LGBT Georgians. I note the irony of Mr. Little’s website claims that his law practice is devoted to protecting civil rights, when in point of fact the ADF’s singular obsession is the destruction of civil rights for gays and lesbians,” notes Jeff Cleghorn, a gay Atlanta attorney.
“Mr. Little’s proud association with the ADF stands in stark contrast to Rep. John Lewis’s lifetime of fighting for the rights of all LGBT Georgians. On the question of civil rights, it is clear that Mr. Little is a fraud.”
Given that the Fifth Congressional District is strongly Democratic, Lewis is likely to cruise to re-election. Still, Brooks believes it is important for residents of the district to know his ties to the ADF.
“It matters because it appears many of our neighbors are embracing a candidate that is an actively participating member of one of the most virulently anti-gay organizations in the country. Most of those neighbors probably have no idea of Little’s affiliation with ADF. This presents one of those “teachable moments” the president has spoken about,” Brooks writes.
“I encourage you to speak with neighbors who have Fenn Little signs in their yards to let them know about Little’s positions on gay families. I think they will appreciate your reaching out to them.”