The US is experiencing an intense backlash movement against the increased visibility and social acceptance of LGBTQ+ people, and unfortunately MA is not an exception. Most people involved in this deny that they have a problem with LGBTQ+ people. Instead, they say they are against a radical agenda forcing new values on communities and harming children, similar to claims made by homophobes and transphobes for decades.
This movement is primarily focused on books, school curricula, and any programs for teenagers or children that attempt to be inclusive of LGBTQ+ people, as well as healthcare for trans and non-binary young people. Members of this movement believe these phenomena have been forced on schools and families by a conspiracy that seeks to “groom” or “sexualize” children by exposing them to sexually explicit content, defining nearly any discussion of LGBTQ+ people, gender, and even pronouns as “sexual.” Some believe this conspiracy is driven by large numbers of government officials and school employees who are predators and groom children for sexual abuse. Others understand “grooming” as a tactic to emotionally distance children from their families and make them more receptive to leftist propaganda. Some believe children and teenagers cannot know they are queer, so young people who come out have been “groomed” to adopt a certain identity. Others see “grooming” as an effort to reduce reproduction among white people as part of the “Great Replacement“. This belief in a conspiracy of “groomers” driving school curricula and programs for children is common to a broad range of groups from neo-Nazis (NSC-131) to seemingly mainstream conservatives (MA Republican Party).
This movement claims to be motivated by concern for the well-being of children but their tactics prove otherwise. They disrupt the operations of children’s hospitals, threaten events for families, and harass teachers, doctors, and others who work with children.
This movement does not represent the attitudes of the majority of MA residents, and some see it as a fringe movement. However it can have a significant impacting on local events via two tactics:
- Stochastic Terrorism: Certain types of social media attacks on people or institutions reliably result in real-life violence or threats by seemingly random individuals, allowing the media figures to deny responsibility.
- Local focus: These groups encourage members to run for school committee or other local offices or raise objections to policies or programs in their own community. In many cities and towns, there are no professional journalists covering local politics and voter turnout for local elections is very low. People with minority or fringe beliefs can get into positions of power when not enough locals are paying attention.
This movement overlaps with the anti-Critical Race Theory, anti-mandate, and anti-abortion movements. Many members of these movements share a deep distrust of public education and a belief that it indoctrinates students in leftist ideologies.
This movement is primarily focused on trans and non-binary people and anyone who is gender non-conforming. This includes drag performers who they see as sexual deviants promoting transgender ideology (although most drag performers are not trans). Unfortunately some openly gay men and lesbians have similar negative attitudes toward trans and non-binary people and some are active in this movement. However, many of the people and groups involved are the same who fought same-sex marriage and other rights for gays and lesbians in previously decades, and their rhetoric is very similar. This is why we use the term “anti-LGBT” and do not attempt to differentiate between anti-trans and anti-gay groups or people. We believe they are motivated by essentially the same type of bigotry and we don’t owe them nuance.
“One of the main purposes of gender ideology is to drive children more and more insane until they all finally SNAP and tear down society.”– “Gays Against Groomers” Facebook Page
Harassment of Boston Children’s Hospital, 2022-2023
Since 2022, Boston Children’s Hospital has been repeatedly attacked by national far-right media because of the gender-related care they provide for young people. Many of these attacks have claimed that Children’s performs genital surgery on minors which is false. They included strong language about “mutilation” of children and graphic images. This has resulted in harassment of hospital employees and bomb threats. Harvard Law instructor Alejandra Caraballo has documented the network of media behind these attacks which she describes as stochastic terrorism. The primary media figures behind the attacks include:
- Chaya Raichik aka Libs Of TikTok
- Matt Walsh
- Chris Elston aka Billboard Chris
- Chris Rufo
- Jaime Michell aka Gays Against Groomers
- Tucker Carlson
On September 15, 2022 the FBI announced they had arrested the person they believe is responsible for one of the bomb threats, Catherine Leavy of Westfield, MA. According to the FBI Leavy called the hospital from a cell phone in her own name and said “There is a bomb on the way to the hospital, you better evacuate everyone you sickos.” According to public documents she has made over 200 donations to President Trump, the RNC, and Winred.
On September 18, Billboard Chris protested at Children’s. He announced this in advance on Twitter as part of a “tour of stochastic terror” of US cities. Gays for Groomers put out a call for followers to show up to support Chris. However, counter-protestors far out-numbered Chris and his supporters. Local people who came to support Billboard Chris included Rob Burke, the “creative director” for far-right group SHFA, as well as Nashua, NH-based anti-LGBT activist and blogger Beth Scaer. While in Boston, Billboard Chris appeared on a livestream with gossip blogger Aiden Kearney (Turtleboy), who also published posts attacking various people who had confronted Chris. Chris visited Boston again and appeared on Kearney’s livestream again in January, 2023.
In June of 2023, anti trans activist Billy Park of Northampton, MA, aka “Dad Fed Up” organized a protest at Children’s. About 5 protestors showed up and were confronted by about 70 counter-protestors. Park subsequently announced on his social media that he was quitting anti-trans activism.
Fall River / Taunton Drag Story Hours 2022-2023
In late 2022 and early 2023 drag story hour events at public libraries in Fall River, MA and nearby Taunton, MA were targeted by a variety of right-wing groups including neo-Nazis. A monthly drag story hour in Fall River first caught the attention of bigots in October,2022 when the Fall River Republican City Committee FB page reposted a flyer for it. The page is run Michael O’Reagan, Jr., a gun dealer and son of Michael O’Reagan, Sr., a firefighter and conersvative politico in Fall River. (Both worked on Geoff Diehl’s campaign for governor.) In November, several men showed up to protest the event who were later identified as members of the Proud Boys: John Medlar (organizer of the 2017 far-right “Free Speech” rally in Boston), Zachary Pickering, and James Giammarco. In December, neo-Nazi group NSC-131 showed up at the Drag Story Time in Fall River, standing outside with an offensive banner, then entering the library and assaulting someone who tried to block them. Despite the risks organizers of the Fall River Drag Story Hour said the events will continue.
“We’re definitely going forward. They want to scare us away and that’s not gonna happen. Queer adults were queer kids. And we’re really trying hard to be the adults that we needed when we were kids. I am not going to allow this kind of hate and fear to cancel who we are or put us back into the closet.”– Angel DaCosta, Fall River Drag Story Time Performer
In January, Mary Ellen Siegler of MA Family Institute posted about another Drag Queen Story Hour in nearby Taunton, MA in the “MA Informed Parents” Facebook group, attacking the performer pics from their personal social media. A few days later, counter-protestors showed up to protect the Drag Story Time in Fall River. So the Nazis decided to show up at the one in Taunton instead.
In Taunton, neo-Nazis entered the library in ski masks, terrifying kids and parents. Thy did not succeed in shutting down the Draq Queen Story Hour in Taunton– the performer and several brave participants stayed until the end of the story. A mass reporting campaign against the MIP FB group led to Mary Ellen Siegler being suspended from FB and her content temporarily removed.
The January Drag Story Hour in Fall River also attracted protestors from far-right group Citizens Organized to Restore Rights (CORR). In February, the Fall River Drag Story Time moved to a new venue. Mike Johnson, pastor of a Fall River church and the chaplain of CORR, hosted a “Pastor Story Hour” at the public library featuring a book called “Jesus and My Gender”.
Detransitioner Events 2023
Recently right-wing groups have used “detransitioners,” people who identified as trans at some point in their lives but later regretted it, as spokespeople for their belief that educators, gender clinics, and/or social media are are pressuring minors to undergo harmful medical procedures. (About 1% of people who receive gender-affirming medical care regret it, which is lower than the regret rate for many other types of medical procedures.)
In June, 2023 nationally-known detransitioner Chloe Cole spoke at “Teens Against Gender Mutilation” rally in Hyannis, MA. The rally was organized by national reactionary group Turning Point USA and Sam Miele, a Hyannis resident who started a local chapter of Turning Point while a senior in high school. When the event was removed from a registration website for transphobia, Massachusetts Family Institute stepped in to help with registration. At the request of Mike King of MFI, far-right group CORR sent several people to the event to help with security against counter-protestors, according to comments by CORR leader David Steinhoff in their 7/11/2023 meeting.
In September 2023, MFI held an event in Framingham, MA with detransitioner Katie Anderson aka Katie Lennon of Lowell, MA. Anderson has had several speaking engagements since early 2023 when she made a speech at the NH capitol in which she expressed regrets about her medical transition, which included multiple surgeries. Several media outlets referenced her speech in discussions of gender-affirming care for minors, though she is 27 and was not a minor when her transition took place. In an interview with Coles she said she began identifying as trans at age 18 after watching Youtube videos on the subject, began her medical transition when she was 19 and in college, and lived as a trans man for about 7 years before deciding to detransition after one of her surgeries led to life-threatening complications. Anderson and Cole also appeared in a video with reactionary GOP candidate for US president Vivek Ramaswamy.
Newburyport / Danvers Youth Events 2022-2023
In April of 2022, Massachusetts Family Insitute and members of the Massachusetts Informed Parents Facebook Group tried and almost succeeded in canceling a dance for LGBTQ+ teenagers in Newburyport, MA. A member of the group named Christine Rupp posted about a planned dance called “Over the Rainbow” sponsored by NAGLY and Newburyport Youth Services and featured drag queen Miz Diamond Wigfall. According to Newburyport’s Daily News, the venue for the event canceled due to a complaint by Kari MacRae, a politician from Cape Cod who is a member of the MIP FB Group. After US Congressman Seth Moulton drew attention to the issue and the organizers received support from the community, they announced they would hold the dance at a different venue, but MFI continued to work to get it canceled. Mary Ellen Siegler solicited parents from the the MIPFB Group to talk to the press, and Andrew Beckwith sent out an e-mail blast asking MFI members to call elected officials in Newburyport. Far-right gossip blogger Turtleboy (Aiden Kearney) attacked the dance and called Wigfall a “sexual deviant.” Turtleboy, Siegler, and others attempted to shame Wigfall by reposting a partially nude photo from their Instagram. However the dance happened anyway and adults from the community showed up to support youth as they entered. Beckwith later sent another e-mail blast describing Wigfall’s performance and attempting to make it sound sexual.
In May and September, 2023, two drag makeup workshops taught by Miz Diamond Wigfall at the Peabody Insitute Library, the public library of Danvers, MA, also received negative attention in the MIP FB group and other right-wing social media, and small numbers of anti-LGBT protestors showed up. According to a Salem News article about 350 supporters showed up to protect the May event, far outnumbering protestors.
Massachusetts Family Institute
Massachusetts Family Institute is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with offices in Wakefield, MA. According to its website, its mission includes “strengthening the family and affirming the Judeo-Christian values upon which it is based” by opposing same-sex marriage, euthanasia, gambling, and drugs and promoting parents’ rights and religious liberty. In practice most of the group’s activity is focused on issues involving gender and/or LGBTQ+ people, and encouraging a mass exit of families from the public education system. The group has been operation since the 1990s, and in the 2000s they led the movement to ban same-sex marriage in MA.
Massachusetts Family Institute has not been designated as a hate group by national groups that track hate groups, be we believe it should be, for several reasons:
- Though MFI claims to address a variety of issues pertaining to family and religious liberty, in practice nearly all of their work is focused on gender and/or LGBT issues.
- Their rhetoric, tactics, and history are very similar to other groups that have been recognized as hate groups, in particular Mass Resistance.
- Their website lists two recognized hate groups as “allies,” and they have collaborated with recognized hate group CORR.
- Their activities include personal attacks online which often lead to real-life harassment and threats against LGBTQ+ individuals or public employees, including in one case neo-Nazis storming the children’s room of a library.
- They promote the belief that LGBT-inclusive education and medical care are forms of child sexual abuse and that LGBT people are abusers, a libel that is likely to inspire violence or threats.
MFI lists four national “religious right” groups on their website as “allies”:
- Family Research Council, which has been designated as a hate group by SPLC.
- Focus on the Family, an international group that has been around since the 1970s and was a major opponent of same-sex marriage. SPLC does not consider it a hate group but once described it as one of “a dozen major groups [which] help drive the religious right’s anti-gay crusade.”
- Alliance Defending Freedom, which has also been designated as a hate group by SPLC, but is very influential in conservative politics at the national level. Described by Mike Flynn of MFI as a $50M organization providing free lawyers to people who believe their religious liberty has been violated.
- First Liberty, also a legal group representing people who believe their religious liberty has been violated.
Massachusetts Informed Parents Facebook Group
“Massachusetts Informed Parents” is a Facebook group run primarily by Mary Ellen Siegler, an employee of MFI. Members of the group post about content they find objectionable in their local schools or libraries, the vast majority of which pertains to LGBTQ+ people. Other content pertains to “Critical Race Theory,” Social Emotional Learning, or abortion. Siegler frequently posts warnings about supposed trends in education as well as events, policies, or programs in specific towns and cities, and offers support to people interested in raising challenges in those communities. Some of her posts have attacked individuals, including a teacher and multiple drag performers, sharing their names and pictures from their social media intended to embarrass them.
In January 2023, Siegler’s Facebook account was suspended. Engagement in the group declined and MFI set up Twitter and Substack accounts as alternatives, but they did not get nearly as many followers as the FB group. Siegler’s account was restored in April, 2023.
Examples of Content
Facebook Group Members
Members of the “Massachusetts Informed Parents” include:
- Jim Lyons, Former chair of the MA Republican Party
- Geoff Diehl, 2022 Republican Nominee for MA Governor
- Rayla Campbell, 2022 Republican Nominee for MA Secretary of the Commonwealth
- Donnie Palmer, 2022 Republican Nominee for US Congress in the MA 7th District
- Kari MacRae, School Committee Member, Bourne, MA, and 2022 candidate for MA State Senate
- Tom Joyce of New Boston Post
- John Hugo and Sam Racioppi of SHFA/CORR
Ian Huyett, President, MFI
Ian Huyett became president of MFI in September, 2023, replacing Andrew Beckwith. He is an attorney who previously worked as head of litigation for Cornerstone, an organization similar to MFI in New Hampshire.
David Stubblebine, Chairman of the Board, MFI
David Stubblebine, who lives in Lincoln, MA is chairman of the board of MFI according to their 2021 tax filing. He is president of the Stubblebine Company, a commercial real estate firm based in Lexington, MA.
Rob Bradley, Vice Chair & Co-Founder, MFI
Rob Bradley, who lives in Wellesley, MA, is Vice Chair of MFI according to their 2021 tax filing and also a founder according to a 2017 Sponsor Booklet. He is also founder and chairman of New Boston Post. He is chairman and co-founder of Bradley, Foster & Sargeant, a financial services firm based in Hartford, CT with an office in Wellesley, MA. He is also on the board of Boston Trinity Academy.
Michael C. Gilleran, Vice Chair, MFI
Michael C. Gilleran, who lives in Wellesley, MA, is vice chair of MFI according to their 2021 tax filing. He is an attorney and partner at FisherBoyles, a corporate law firm based in Boston. In 1998 he ran unsuccessfully for US Congress. In 2007 he defended an anti-gay marriage protestor accused of pushing a counter-protestor to ground. One of his interests is state laws that prohibit public funding for religious institutions– he co-authored an amicus brief for the 2020 US Supreme Court Case Espinoza vs. Montana Dept. of Revenue which struck down such a law and spoke about it at a Federalist Society event. He is also the vice chair of Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, a conservative Christian college in New Hampshire, and brings students to MFI’s annual fundraiser.
James Kulig, Treasurer, MFI
Len Picard, Secretary, MFI
Len Picard, who lives in Newtonville (Newton), MA, is the secretary of MFI according to their 2021 tax filing. He is an engineering manager at InterSystems, Inc., a data management tech firm based in Burlington, MA. He is married to Rosalind Picard, a well-known professor at the MIT Media Lab and co-founder of tech startups Affectiva (based in Boston) and Empatica (based in Cambridge). Rosalind Picard is also on the board of trustees of Boston Trinity Academy along with MFI chair Rob Bradley.
Ron Brandt, Board Member, MFI
Ron Brandt, who lives in West Newton (Newton), MA, is on the board of MFI according to their 2021 tax filing. He is a former attorney who lost his license in 2017 due to taking money from clients and then failing to perform work for them.
John Dimatteo II, Board Member, MFI
John Dimatteo II, who lives in Wellesley, MA, is a member of the board of MFI according to their 2021 tax filing. He is the president and director of Park Square Realty, a real estate investment firm based in Framingham, MA.
Anita Fritze, Board Member, MFI
Anita Fritze who lives in Chestnut Hill, MA is a member of the board of MFI according to their 2021 tax filing. She is the widow of Gunther Fritze, a banker, and the granddaughter of Grayson M. P. Murphy, a New York financier who was active in far-right politics.
Alan Ringuette, Board Member, MFI
Alan Ringuette, who lives in Maynard, MA, is a member of the board of MFI according to their 2021 tax filing. He is a senior advisor at the Stubblebine Company, the commercial real estate firm in Lexington, MA run by David Stubblebine.
Andrew Beckwith, Former President, MFI
Andrew Beckwith was president of MFI until July, 2023 when he left for a job at Southern Wesleyan University in South Carolina. An e-mail he sent in August of 2022 amplifying the attacks on Boston Children’s Hospital began with the following anecdote which illustrates his attitude toward LGBTQ+ people:
Last week, my sons and I had the privilege of serving on a missions trip to a remote rural town in the mountains of Guatemala. … All the women wore skirts in the sanctuary and the men had collared shirts. It seemed about as far from my ‘day job’ of fighting the culture wars and modern sexual decadence as I could get. That impression evaporated within about 48 hours. … The church elder who was leading us asked, though our interpreter, if any of us had advice on how to “minister with the LGTV,” since God had put it on the church’s leadership recently to do that. For a second, I thought we were being asked to help the church purchase a big screen for the sanctuary, but, alas, the interpreter had meant “LGBT.” Perhaps she was as initially unprepared for that question as I was in that environment. One of the other parents on the trip gave me a knowing look, and I just shook my head. “Even here,” I thought. Even here….
Later in the week I had a lengthy conversation with the elder and the pastor, again through one of our wonderful interpreters, about how to minister to men and women in their community trapped in sexual brokenness. I explained what we have experienced in Massachusetts, how same-sex ‘marriage’ spread to the entire nation from our home state, and what we are facing now with transgenderism, especially amongst the youth. The church was aware of a number of ‘transgéneros’ in the town, mostly adults, and they had a heart to reach out to them, but they were disturbed at what I told them was happening to children in the name of transgenderism.”
Mary Ellen Siegler, Director of Communications, Operations, and Research, MFI
Mary Ellen Siegler is the primary admin of the MIP FB Group and most frequent poster of calls to action in the group, and according to her bio on the MIP website, that is part of her job. She and her husband Bill Siegler are missionaries in Messianic Judaism, an evangelical Christian sect for people who are Jewish by ancestry. She has written two posts about sex ed for New Boston Post. According to one of her posts she is from Fairhaven, MA.
Mike King, Director of Community Alliances, MFI
Mike King is in charge of outreach to MFI’s partner organizations which are mostly churches but also include far-right groups such as SHFA/CORR. According to his bio on the MFI website, he is a former principal of a Christian school and former family ministries director for a church. Part of his job is promoting “Engage the Bay State,” a training for churches to help them get involved in reactionary politics at the state or local level. Sample materials include a video featuring Kim Davis as well as a video about abortion titled “The Extremists.” In September 2022, King gave a presentation at a CORR meeting in which he emphasized that there are many church-going people and social conservatives in MA despite its reputation as a progressive state, promoted free legal services from partner orgs First Liberty and Alliance Defending Freedom for pastors or parents who believe their religious liberty has been violated, and listed recent MFI victories, many of which pertained to keeping churches open despite COVID restrictions. He took credit on behalf of MFI/First Liberty for forcing Somerville to approve a regressive private school, which he said was initiated by a pastor they had worked with on COVID mandates, and falsely claimed resistance to the school was driven by a school committee member who is trans. He also described MFI putting pressure on Ludlow, MA schools over a policy of not outing trans kids to parents who are likely to respond abusively, leading to the principal “leaving town.” He spoke at length about “pornographic” sex ed content in schools, took credit on behalf of MFI and partners for killing a state sex ed bill, and claimed the law was intended by Planned Parenthood to increase unwanted pregnancies in order to increase their revenue from abortion.
Jess Richardson, Communications and Research Assistant, MFI
Jess Richardson is an employee of MFI who posts in the “MA Informed Parents” Facebook group.
Additional Supporters of MFI
The following companies and individuals donated to MFI’s 2022 fundraising banquet, according to the MFI website:
|Mark Halvorsen||Halvorsen Orthodontics||South Easton, MA|
|Chris Gallo||Flip & Hold Funding||Raynham, MA|
|George Bass||The Country Hen||Hubbardston, MA|
|Mark Wambolt Sr.||Spec Ops Tool Gear||Boston, MA|
|Tony Nader||Mass Freedom Pac||Dedham, MA|
|RR Soares||Nossa Radio||Somerville, MA|
|Blair Johnson||New World Healthcare||Burlington, MA|
|Bob Bradley||Bradley, Foster & Sargeant||Wellesley, MA|
|Brian Bilowz||RestorePro||Woburn, MA|
|Jeff & Jocelyn Shu||River of Life Christian Church||Boston, MA|
|Charbel & Christine Najem||Cedar Wood Realty Group||Worcester, MA|
|Unknown||Willows Christian Montessori School||Belmont, MA|
|Yanling Rebecca Zeng||Quintess Real Estate||Cambridge, MA|
|William & Elise Almeyda||New Life Worship Center||Worcester, MA|
|Stephen Thee||Bethany Assembly of God||Agawam, MA|
|John C. Daniel & Brian T. Nixon||Civic Financial||Boston, MA & Wellesley, MA|
|Michelle Rivera||Unitas||Lowell, MA|
|William A. Payne & Richard A. Renwick||PRW Wealth Management||Quincy, MA|
|Leo & Nancy Martin||The Jenney (Grist Mill) Interpretive Center||Plymouth, MA|
|Emily Forshay Crowley||Emly Forshay Crowley Real Estate||Arlington, MA|
Taunton, MA Drag Queen Hour, 2023
In January, 2023, Mary Ellen Siegler posted in the MIP group attacking a drag queen story hour in Taunton, MA, including the name of the performer and pictures from his personal social media. Two days later, neo-Nazi group NSC-131 showed up at the Taunton event. Siegler was suspended from Facebook due to her post, but was reinstated in April.
Somerville, MA Private School, 2022
In March of 2022, MFI and its partner group First Liberty pressured the Somerville, MA School Committee to accept an application from a church to open a regressive private school. Vida Real Church’s application was rejected in part because school committee members found “The school’s position on homosexuality and creationism make it difficult to see how a thorough science and health curriculum is possible” and “The school’s approach to student services and counseling appears to devalue evidence-based psychology and its emphasis on approaches rooted in the belief that mental illness is caused by sin and demons is unscientific and harmful.” Fox News published an article, closely based on a press release from MFI / FIrst Liberty, accusing the committee of religious discrimination. Shortly after, Mary Ellen Siegler made a post in the MIP FB Group attempting to shame Sarah Dion, a teacher and member of the Somerville School Committee who was critical of the proposed private school, by sharing a TikTok video in which she described teaching her students about the singular “they”. In early May MFI/First Liberty said in an e-mail blast that he school committee voted to approve the school because they believed they would be sued if they did not, noting Dion was the lone “no” vote. In comments at a CORR meeting in September, Mike King listed this among MFI and First Liberty’s victories, and claimed resistance to the school was driven by a committee-member who is trans.
Student Athlete DEI Pledge, 2022
In April of 2022, MFI took credit for pressuring the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association to back off recently-implemented policy requiring to student athletes to take a diversity, equity and inclusion pledge. MFI contacted MIAA asking about the penalty for violating the policy until MIAA released a statement saying there is none. Mary Ellen Siegler has made several posts in the MIP FB Group reminding parents that the pledge is not mandatory. In his comments at the CORR meeting Mike King listed this among MFI’s victories.
“No Bathroom Bill” 2015
In 2015, MFI organized a “No Bathroom Bill” campaign in opposition to an effort to expand the state’s 2011 transgender civil rights law. In a Boston Globe article, Andrew Beckwith claimed the bill could be exploited by sexual predators. The logo for the campaign was “A man — presumably transgender — peeks over a bathroom stall partition to observe a woman.”
Opposition to Same-Sex Marriage 2001-2008
In 2001 MFI hired as its president Ronald A. Crews, a pentecostal minister and former Army chaplain from the Atlanta, GA area who served in the GA legislature from 1991-1998. As legislator he helped pass a “defense of marriage” law preemptively banning same-sex marriage, as well as laws placing new limits on abortion and divorce.
In 2003, when a MA Supreme Judicial Court ruling made MA the first state to recognize same-sex marriage, Crews and MFI drafted an amendment to the MA state constitution which would have banned recognition of same-sex marriage or anything “equivalent”. Crews ran unsuccessfully for US Congress in 2004.
In 2005 MFI, now led by Kris Mineau, announced an effort to get the amendment on the state ballot for 2008. This was partially in response to a more moderate amendment proposed by then-governor Mitt Romney, which also would have banned same-sex marriage but specifically allowed civil unions. MFI hired paid signature gatherers who were accused of using bait-and-switch tactics to get signatures. They collected about 170,000 signatures but failed to get the votes needed in the legislature to trigger a referendum. MFI said that in the 2008 election they would encourage members to vote against legislators who did not support the effort.
In 2010, the New York Times reported that Romney gave a $10,000 gift to MFI as part of an effort to court the “religious right” in preparation for his 2012 presidential run.
Mass Resistance is a national group founded in 1995 with offices in Waltham, MA that has been designated by SPLC as a hate group. When MA began recognizing same sex marriages as a result of a court ruling, this group was part of an unsuccessful effort to amend the state constitution to ban it. It was founded by Brian Camenker of Newton, MA who framed his anti-LGBT activism in terms of “parents’ rights,” focusing on the supposed harm caused to children by social acceptance of gays and lesbians. Around 2005, Camenker became a nationally-known media figure opposing same-sex marriage, but lost credibility due to an embarrassing interview on the Daily Show. According to a video by Human Rights Campaign, he has been involved in efforts to export anti-LGBT rhetoric to other countries. Based on their social media, Mass Resistance now appears to have a national rather than a local focus. However in April 2023 Camenker penned an article in Boston Broadside about the state GOP caucus, suggesting he is still active in MA politics.
“Super Happy Fun America” is the far-right group best known for the “Straight Pride” event in Boston in 2019, based on the idea that straight people are the “oppressed majority.” Although the event was portrayed as a joke in some media, the groups far-right connections led to a counter-protest and a violent response to counter-protestors by police. SHFA has recently merged with another far right group, “Citizens Organized to Restore Rights.” Members subscribe to a wide range of far-right conspiracy theories including those that target LGBT people. In February of 2022 Renee Arena, a school committee candidate in Waltham, MA, and her husband Tom Arena spoke at a CORR meeting about challenging LGBT-themed books “all down the line of rainbow happiness” in the high school library. The SHFA website’s store sells “straight pride” flags as well as merch that says “reclaim the rainbow” with a cross. Rob Burke, SHFA’s “creative director” and a GOP candidate for Congress, showed up to support Billboard Chris’s protest at Children’s Hospital. In September of 2022, Mike King of MA Family Institute was a speaker at a CORR meeting. In January of 2023, CORR members showed up to protest a drag queen story hour in Fall River, MA. In February, Pastor Mike Johnson, the chaplain of CORR, hosted a “pastor story hour” at the same location in Fall River featuring a book called “Jesus and my Gender”. Other members of CORR in black hoodies showed up outside the event.
“This radical, insane, transgender nonsense- they’re pushing it. Disney, Rugrats, Sesame Street, they’ve all gone to the dark side.”SHFA President John Hugo at a 2022 CORR meeting
“We’ve all seen that flag, it’s all over this country. It’s a rainbow flag that says PEACE on it. What that really is, it is no different than the Nazi flag, it is a flag of intimidation, it is a flag of shut up, comply, and never rise up again conservatives, but we are rising up!”SHFA Operations Director Sue Ianni in a 2022 CORR meeting
““By the way, none of you are boys and none of you are girls hear today. None of you are men and women. You are now being told by most of the press that you are ‘it’.”CORR Chaplain Mike Johnson at a 9/11 Memorial
NSC-131 New England
NSC-131 is a neo-Nazi group based in New England. Unlike other groups on this list, their hatred of LGBT people is explicit, and they frequently use homophobic or transphobic slurs to refer to their enemies. In December of 2021, they protested at a theater in Portsmouth, NH presenting a show for kids with one character played by a man in drag, with a banner that read “drag queens are pedophiles.” In July of 2022, they protested a drag queen story hour in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston featuring Patty Bourré. This attracted a flash counter-protest, and the group’s leader Chris Hood was arrested along with two counter-protestors. Charges were later dropped against the counter-protestors but Hood is charged with “affray.” Only about two weeks later, NSC-131 showed up at another drag queen story hour featuring the same performer in Boston’s Seaport District, causing the event to be canceled. In December of 2022, they protested a drag queen story hour in Fall River, MA. In January of 2023, counter-protestors showed up to protect the DQSH in Fall River, but NSC showed up instead at a DQSH in Taunton, MA. In addition to holding a banner outside, they briefly stormed inside. Most members left shortly after but two men in black ski masks remained, terrifying parents and kids and repeatedly interrupting the story. They claimed to have “shut down” the event but in fact the reader and several participants stayed until the end, and at least one of the NSC members was ejected by police.
Massachusetts Republican Party
Although many people think of a Massachusetts republican as a moderate republican, the current MA GOP chair has a long history of opposing LGBTQ+ rights, and several of their nominees for office have embraced “groomer” rhetoric.
Jim Lyons, Former Chair, MA Republican Party
Jim Lyons was the chair of the MA Republican Party for the 2022 election, but was ousted in January, 2023 by Amy Carnevale. He lives in N. Andover and was a member of the MA legislature representing the 18th Essex District from 2010 until 2018 when he was ousted by Democrat Tran Nguyen. He is a strong supporter of President Trump who believes the 2020 election was stolen and represents the MAGA wing of the party which has rejected Gov. Charlie Baker as a “RINO”. In 2013, he sponsored a bill in the legislature authored by Mass Resistance which would have repealed the state’s Transgender Rights and Hate Crimes law. In June of 2021, Lyons refused to discipline or denounce a member of the state GOP Committee who told an openly gay GOP candidate she was “sickened” that he and his husband adopted children. In October of 2021 Gov. Baker called for Lyons to step down because he refused to denounce racist comments about Mayor Wu made by GOP candidate Donnie Palmer. According to reports from February 2022, the party’s treasurer has denied Lyons access to its funds because of conflicts among the party’s leadership resulting in part from Lyons’ claims about election fraud. In early 2022 he aggressively recruited MAGA-aligned candidates for office by doing joint events with many different groups including far-right groups such as United Cape Patrtiots. In a podcast in March of 2022 Lyons claimed schools in Westford, MA were “teaching third graders how to change their gender,” which appears to have been based on article from New Boston Post:
“They’re teaching third graders how to change their gender. I mean, that is being taught in the Westford Public Schools, just think about that, in Westford. It’s crazy, man! … I don’t know what ‘changing gender’ means, and I’m not a third grader guys. I mean, what does that mean? Can you imagine a nine-year-old kid, and they’re up there teaching them how to change their gender. That’s insane!”
Geoff Diehl, 2022 Republican Nominee for MA Governor
Geoff Diehl is nominally supportive of the LGBTQ+ community and has support from groups such as Log Cabin Republicans, and in fact he has been criticized by Mass Resistance for that. However as a member of the legislature in 2013 he co-sponsored a bill authored by Mass Resistance that would have repealed the states Transgender Rights and Hate Crimes law. When asked about Rayla Campbell’s comments at the GOP convention, Diehl said she used inappropriate language, but did not disagree with her claim regarding sexual activity in schools, and seemed to support her overall message. In a Facebook group called “Parents for Diehl,” he has reposted content from Mary Ellen Siegler of MFI.
Rayla Campbell, 2022 Republican Nominee for MA Secretary of State
GOP nominee for MA Secretary of State best known for claiming in a speech at the GOP convention that MA schools are “telling your 5-year-old that he can go and suck another 5-year-old’s dick.” She is also known for harassing families at drag queen story hours and made a Facebook post in support of neo-Nazi group NSC-131 when they showed up at a drag queen story hour. At a “Back the Blue” event she co-hosted in Plymouth, MA, she showed people the book “Gender Queer” claiming it was obscene, leading to her being reported to and questioned by police.
Bob Burke, 2022 Republican Nominee for US Congress
Bob Burke was the GOP nominee for US Congress in the MA 8th district, and the “creative director” of far-right group SHFA. He was one of the few local people who showed up to support Billboard Chris’s protest at Children’s.
Kari MacRae, 2022 Republican Nominee for MA State Senate
Member of the Bourne, MA School Committee and nominee for MA State Senate in the Plymouth/Barnstable district. She was one of the people responsible for bringing the “Over the Rainbow” dance in Newburyport to the attention of queerphobes and getting it initially canceled. In 2021 she was fired from her job as a teacher in Hanover, MA for offensive social media posts including anti-LGBT post.
Citizens For Responsible Education
Citizens for Responsible Education is a reactionary group based in Newburyport, MA that appears to have formed in response to the controversy about the youth dance there. They have aggressively amplified social media attacks on Children’s Hospital, posting about the hospital in many right-wing Facebook groups.
Parents Defending Education
Parents Defending Education is a national right-wing organization known for suing or drawing negative attention to local school districts over supposed reverse discrimination and other right-wing grievances. It is based in Virginia but has targeted schools in the Boston area several times. According to the Boston Globe, they were behind the April, 2023 protest against the optional student event at Newton North HS that included a drag show. They had previously filed a complaint against the same school for supposedly excluding white students from performing in a theater performance about people of color.
New Boston Post
New Boston Post is a right-wing website that has published many alarmist articles related to gender and LGBT-inclusive education. These include articles that attack LGBTQ+ individuals, such as a May, 2023 article called “Five Standout Males in MA Girls’ Sports in Recent Years” which attacked minors by name.
New Boston Post was founded by Rob Bradley of Wellesley, MA who is also a board-member and founder of MFI. In a 2016 interview he said the website would not rely on ad revenue because they would allow organizations to pay them to cover certain topics.
The editor of New Boston Post is Matthew MacDonald of Mashpee, MA, who is also a 5th grade teacher at Sparhawk Academy, a Catholic boys’ elementary school. Most of the queerphobic and gender-alarmist articles have been written by Tom Joyce, who according to his LinkedIn had about five years of journalism experience focused on sports before he began writing about gender politics for this website. More recently Matthew McDonald’s son Brendan McDonald, who is a student at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, has begun writing similar articles. In late May 2023, Brendan McDonald sent a mass e-mail to performers and organizers of local Pride events asking them for information. Since then New Boston post has published negative articles about Pride events in Plymouth, Cambridge, Arlington, Watertown, and Sudbury.
Aiden Kearney (Turtleboy)
Aiden Kearney is a gossip blogger based in Holden, MA covering central and eastern MA. He has a website and social media accounts under the name “Turtleboy Sports” and hosts a livestream. He is known for accusing local officials and private citizens of various misdeeds, often based on social media rumors or anonymous sources, and shaming them based on material from their social media. These attacks are often followed by extreme online harassment of his targets by his fans, and in some cases real-life harassment or threats. His posts are intensely crude, misogynistic, and queerphobic, often speculating about the sexual habits of the targets based on their political beliefs. His fans do not think of him as political but he often follows trends in far-right media including “groomer” rhetoric and transphobia. Since January of 2022 he has written at least 15 posts referencing trans people, consistently misgendering them. Billboard Chris has been a guest on his livestream twice, and he published posts attacking locals who confronted Chris. In January of 2023, he published a post attacking by name a trans teenager in Brookline, MA, as well as a post about a trans woman in Templeton, MA supposedly charged with child pornography. In April 2023 he attacked educators at Newton North HS in Newton, MA over a planned optional event for students that included a drag performance, and also attacked the performer. Several other groups including the national group “Parents Defending Education” amplified these attacks, leading to a protest and counter-protest. In 2023 Kearney appeared on livestreams with national far-right figures Gavin McInnes (founder of Proud Boys) and Tim Pool.
(The info in this section can be verified by reviewing Kearney’s website and social media, which we have chosen not to link.)
What to Do About it
Show up to defend LGBTQ+ events and programs, and show up to protest anti-LGBT events and groups. Check out the accounts on our “Stay Connected” page.
If you are the target of or witness to anti-LGBT harassment or violence, talk about it or write about it publicly if you feel comfortable and safe doing so. It’s important to document these incidents and start conversations about what they mean for your community.
If you host events for the LGBTQ+ community, or any event that features drag performers, take security very seriously. If needed reach out to community defense groups (see our “stay connected” page) who may be able to provide volunteers.
Donate to or volunteer for an organization that defends LGBTQ+ rights or directly supports queer youth.
Stay informed about LGBT groups and trends locally. Don’t assume this is not an issue in your city or town, even if it has a reputation as liberal or progressive.
Get involved in organizations or events for LGBTQ+ people and allies in your local community. If you don’t have any, consider starting one.
Pay attention to what is going on in your city or town, particularly the school system, libraries, and police, and use social media to keep your neighbors informed. (Many cities and towns do not have any professional news media and that means bigots can get into positions of power unnoticed.)
Ask questions about the supports that exist for LGBTQ+ youth in your local school system. Consider joining the PTA or running for school committee or supporting a local candidate who will defend LGBTQ+ youth.
Online and in person, challenge people who make queerphobic comments, normalize “groomer” rhetoric, or treat the existence of LGBTQ+ people as a subject for debate. You may not change their mind but it is important to show anyone watching/listening that these attitudes are not acceptable in your community.
If you are openly LGBTQ+, be visible to young people in your community if you believe you can do so safely.
If you are openly gay, bi, or lesbian, be in full solidarity with trans and nonbinary people, and challenge your friends who are not.