Arizona state Sen. Juan Mendez (D) is proposing legislation to bar the state’s transportation department from funding an anti-LGBT organization he calls an "extremist hate group" through sales of specialty license plates.
A portion of the proceeds from the state’s “In God We Trust” license plates offered through the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), go to the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), according to the Arizona Republic.
The ADF says its mission is "to keep the doors open for the Gospel by advocating for religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family.”
The group has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) since 2016 due to its anti-LGBT stances.
“The Alliance Defending Freedom is a legal advocacy and training group that has supported the recriminalization of homosexuality in the U.S. and criminalization abroad; has defended state-sanctioned sterilization of trans people abroad; has linked homosexuality to pedophilia and claims that a ‘homosexual agenda’ will destroy Christianity and society,” the SPLC says of the group.
Mendez has introduced two bills, according to the newspaper.
One bill would reportedly get rid of the “In God We Trust” plates, and the other would require the transportation department to be more transparent about what organizations are supported by the specialty plate sales.
“State dollars should not be funding an organization that works to strip residents of our state of their human rights and human dignity,” he said. “It’s appalling that we’ve already sent over a million dollars to this extremist hate group.”
ADOT confirmed to the Arizona Republic that the ADF has received over $900,000 from the specialty license plate sales since 2014.
The 2008 law that allowed the plates to support the ADF says that the funds will go to an Arizona non-profit that gives ADOT $32,000 to implement the plate, but does not specify that it will go to ADF in particular, according to the report. Other specialty license plates that support certain causes are specific in what groups are receiving the money.
The transportation department’s website says that the specialty plates help promote the national motto “In God We Trust,” First Amendment rights, "and the heritage of this state and nation."
The ADF has been involved in a number of court cases challenging state and federal laws protecting the rights of LGBT Americans, including a challenge to the Obama-era policy ordering public schools to let transgender students use the bathroom of their choice.
Jeremy Tedesco, ADF senior counsel, rejected the SPLC’s “hate group” designation, telling the Arizona Republic in a statement that the group “advocates for the freedom of all Americans to peacefully live in accordance with their beliefs, including those with no belief.”
"It’s disappointing to see elected officials become uncritical pawns in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s ugly propaganda campaigns," he said.