Trans- and queer-led groups are protesting the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown for agreeing to host the Moms for Liberty (M4L) national conference scheduled for June 29 to July 2. Members of ACT UP Philadelphia, Galaei Philly, Stop Moms for Liberty and other activists rallied outside the hotel May 12, calling on the Marriott to refuse to host the racist and transphobic group. Organizers are urging people to call the Marriott and demand that it “stop hosting hate.”
Galaei, a nonprofit organization serving queer and trans Black, Indigenous and other people of color, suggests people tell the Marriott it will lose business if it does not cancel the M4L summit.
ACT UP member Aaron Bodiford, who planned to protest, said it “breaks my heart” that trans students face attacks on their identities by Moms for Liberty and other groups’ rhetoric. Bodiford, who is 20 and trans, added: “The way this ramped up so dramatically, more than ever we should be focusing on what’s happening in schools,” referring to anti-trans actions. (Philadelphia Inquirer, May 13)
Moms for Liberty is a conservative “parental rights” group that has pushed schools’ libraries to remove books they claim have “sexual content,” heavily targeting LGBTQ+-themed books, as well as books pertaining to racism. This includes fiction books with protagonists of color or LGBTQ+ characters or which explore themes of feminism.
The nonprofit organization PEN America cited 1,648 titles that have been banned by schools across the U.S. as a result of pressure from M4L and other reactionary forces between 2021 to 2022. (Truthout, May 18)
Fight bigoted book bans!
The State of America’s Libraries Report 2023, from the American Library Association, found a record 1,269 attempts in 2022 to remove some 2,571 books from U.S. schools and libraries. “Almost all were written by or about members of Black, Indigenous, LGBTQ and other marginalized communities.” ALA found these censorship efforts to be well-organized, typically targeting lists of books at the same time.
Founded in Florida in 2021, M4L debuted on the Rush Limbaugh Show in January 2021 and was featured on several other right-wing programs. M4L’s 2022 national summit in Tampa, Florida, featured speeches by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott and Trump’s former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who advocated for abolishing the department she led.
Donors to the summit included Publix heir Julie Fancelli, The Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action for America, and the Leadership Institute — which donated $50,000, according to Politico. M4L’s “financial supporters include some of the most influential organizations, media operations and wealthy donors in the vast theater of the right-wing propaganda machine.” (LA Progressive, Oct. 8, 2022)
M4L co-founder Bridget Ziegler is married to Christian Ziegler, vice chair of the Florida Republican Party, who told the Washington Post that he expected M4L to “become foot soldiers” for DeSantis’s reelection campaign. “I have been trying for a dozen years to get 20- and 30-year-old females involved with the Republican Party,” he said, “and it was a heavy lift to get that demographic. . . . But now Moms for Liberty has done it for me.” (Oct. 15, 2021)
In 2022, Moms for Liberty was suspended from Twitter for calling gender dysphoria a “mental health disorder that is being normalized by predators across the U.S.A.”
The hate group has expanded to other states with its second-largest membership in Pennsylvania. It expects to draw 650 people to the Philadelphia summit, with tickets priced between $249 and $499. At present, there are M4L chapters in nearly half of the state’s counties, although not in Philadelphia County.
Book bans are part of the Republican, right-wing strategy to play to or whip up their base and to target and increase hostility to various communities. The neofascist drive to ban, or ultimately burn, books did not arise in a vacuum. It is clearly an organized response to the spontaneous social movements and unrest following the police murder of George Floyd in 2020, in which many LGBTQ2S+ activists and people of color played leading roles.
The answer to Moms for Liberty must include a unified, broad-based progressive social movement that picks up where the earlier protests left off. The society M4L wants to return to has already proven to be a failure and needs to be swept into the dustbin of history.