Family Research Council Shooter Charged with Assault with a Weapon

In an era when non-Islamic terrorism in America comes predominantly from the extreme right, it was a remarkable and unusual event: A man who was apparently sympathetic to LGBT people walked into the lobby of the anti-gay Family Research Council (FRC) in Washington, D.C., and shot a staff member who was standing guard.

Prosecutors say that when Floyd Lee Corkins II encountered building manager Leo Johnson at the FRC’s headquarters on Aug. 15, he said something like “I don’t like your politics” and opened fire. Johnson was hit in the arm, but managed to tackle Corkins and, with help, wrestle his gun away. Corkins was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and could face up to 55 years in prison.

A native of Herndon, Va., Corkins has a master’s degree in education and human development from George Mason University and was working as a volunteer at The DC Center, a community center for Washington’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. At the time of the attack, he was carrying a bag of sandwiches from Chick-fil-A, which made headlines this summer when its president announced his opposition to same-sex marriage.

Before the day was out, the National Organization for Marriage, the leading opponent of same-sex marriage in America, was blaming the Southern Poverty Law Center for the attack because the SPLC had two years earlier named the FRC as a hate group. The next day, FRC President Tony Perkins made a similar accusation at a crowded press conference, saying Corkins had been “given a license to shoot an unarmed man” by the SPLC’s “reckless use of terminology.”

The SPLC responded with a statement emphasizing that it had always opposed political violence, from the left or the right, in a democracy. It also disputed Perkins’ televised claim that FRC was listed as a hate group because it opposed same-sex marriage, pointing out that at the time of the initial listing, the SPLC said the listing was based on FRC’s propagation of known falsehoods about gay people — in particular, the claim that large numbers of gay men are child molesters.

“Perkins and his allies, seeing an opportunity to score points, are using the attack on their offices to pose a false equivalency between the SPLC’s criticisms of the FRC and the FRC’s criticisms of LGBT people,” SPLC Senior Fellow Mark Potok wrote. “The FRC routinely pushes out demonizing claims that gay people are child molesters and worse — claims that are provably false. It should stop the demonization and affirm the dignity of all people.”