Meet Cathi Herrod, Arizona’s extreme anti-LGBT ‘legislative terrorist’

Meet Cathi Herrod, Arizona’s extreme anti-LGBT ‘legislative terrorist’
Cathi Herrod
Cathi Herrod

An NBC affiliate in Arizona aired a softball interview with Cathi Herrod, the state’s leading anti-LGBT culture warrior. But while the segment depicted Herrod as a victimized Christian activist, it ignored her history of peddling extreme smears about the LGBT community while fighting against basic legal protections for gays and lesbians.

On November 7, NBC’s Phoenix affiliate KPNX-TV Channel 12 aired an interview with Herrod, the president of the right-wing Center for Arizona Policy (CAP). A promo for the segment described Herrod’s critics as being “hypocritical,” depicting her as a “Christian catching hell”  because of her religious beliefs.

The interview itself, conducted by Channel 12 anchor Lin Sue Cooney, similarly painted Herrod as a victim of “hate” from LGBT activists. The segment, which highlighted Herrod’s Christian faith and upbringing, described her work as “protecting traditional values”:

But Channel 12’s description of Herrod’s work glossed over the extremism that motivates her and her organization’s anti-LGBT work.

The Center for Arizona Policy

Herrod has served as the president of the Center for Arizona Policy since 2006, though she joined the organization as its legal counsel years earlier. The group wields significant influence in the Arizona legislature, and has helped enact over a hundred pieces of legislation. And under Herrod’s leadership, the group has adopted a number of extreme anti-LGBT positions.

CAP’s “Policy Pages” website includes a number of pages dedicated to peddling misinformation about LGBT issues. Its “Homosexuality” page is almost entirely dedicated to proving that people aren’t born gay, warning that “advocates of homosexual behavior” are trying to convince society that homosexuality is “normal, healthy, and equal to heterosexuality.” There are pages focused on attacking employment non-discriminations laws (“reverse discrimination”), hate crime laws (“thought crimes laws”), and “transgenderism.” On its page about “sexual materials in public schools,” CAP warns that gay activists are trying to use public school curriculum to turn kids gay:

Among advocates of homosexual behavior, there is a deliberate, concerted effort to use public school curriculum to influence and indoctrinate children into embracing homosexual behavior as a viable “lifestyle” option. [emphasis original]

In 2010, CAP helped pass a “Parents’ Bill of Rights” that allowed parents to opt their children out of sex education classes that mentioned homosexuality. The group also helped enact a law that prohibits public school teachers from portraying “homosexuality as a positive alternative life-style.”

CAP also supported a resolution encouraging the Boy Scouts of America to continue excluding gay members, signing on to a statement that warned that allowing for gay scout members would increase the chance of “sexual abuse.”

And though CAP’s website has been scrubbed of explicit endorsements of discredited “ex-gay” therapy, Good As You’s Jeremy Hooper notes that the group’s “resource” page guided supporters to a number of “ex-gay” organizations until recently.

Anti-Bullying And The Gay “Agenda”

Herrod was widely criticized for her 2012 efforts to defeat legislation that would encourage schools to combat bullying.  SB 1462 would have expanded penalties for school bullying and clarified schools’ responsibilities for handling and stopping bullying.

The legislation didn’t mention sexual orientation or gender identity and did not explicitly aim to protect LGBT students, but Herrod opposed the measure, claiming that “the ‘bullying’ theme is agenda-driven propaganda”:

There is no doubt about it; the “bullying” theme is agenda-driven propaganda. The irony is that groups like Equality Arizona and GLSEN have chosen this issue to bully you and me into allowing them access into our schools and to our children. [emphasis original]

The bill failed to pass, thanks in part to Herrod’s lobbying effort. State Senate Minority Leader David Schapira (D-Tempe), placed the blame for SB 1462’s failure on Herrod, calling her a “legislative terrorist.”

“Cathi Herrod, an unelected lobbyist, killed a bill that would protect all Arizona kids purely because of her intolerance of gay kids,” he said.

In an interview about her role in stopping SB 1462, Herrod doubled down on her opposition to the law, stating “there was simply not the need for the bill that was proposed this year, and so there is an agenda behind some of these bills.”

Giving Businesses A License To Discriminate

Herrod’s work at CAP became a national news story in 2014 during the debate over Arizona’s proposed license-to-discriminate law. SB 1062, which CAP helped craft along with theAlliance Defending Freedom (ADF), would have protected business who use their religious beliefs to justify refusing service to gay customers.

CAP described the legislation as simply an update to Arizona’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, aimed at protecting businesses owners who might be asked to participate in same-sex wedding or commitment ceremonies. In reality, the measure would have enshrined a legal right to anti-gay discrimination.

The measure passed both houses of the Arizona legislature, but not before it sparked widespread national criticism from both sides of the aisle. CAP worked feverishly to calm the growing outrage over the bill, and Herrod became “the public face of SB 1062.” On CNN, Herrod repeatedly dodged questions about the measure’s implications for anti-gay business owners, visibly frustrating the network’s hosts:

Despite her best efforts – including a softball interview on Fox News’ Huckabee – Herrod couldn’t stem the tide of public opinion against SB 1062. Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the measure in February, describing it as a solution in search of a problem. “The bill is broadly worded, and could result in unintended negative consequences.”

Herrod decried Brewer’s veto, calling it a “sad day for Arizonans who cherish and understand religious liberty.”

NBC’s Phoenix affiliate didn’t mention Herrod’s extreme anti-LGBT policy work, or the misinformation CAP proudly peddles on its website, choosing instead to describe her as merely a proponent of traditional marriage. That description is grossly misleading. The reason Herrod is so widely criticized isn’t because of her faith or support for traditional marriage. It’s because she works tirelessly to depict LGBT people as abnormal, sexually deviant, and unhealthy, all while fighting to deny them even basic legal protections.

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