This past weekend, the annual Western Conservative Summit in Denver, Colo., brought a number of the 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls to the battleground state, as well as a number of extremists and members of hate groups. Some of the major themes of the gathering included attacking the Supreme Court for its ruling on marriage equality and anti-immigrant sentiment.
Here is a rundown of some extremist highlights from the 2015 Western Conservative Summit:
- A number of the 2016 Presidential nominees decried Friday’s decision by the Supreme Court granting marriage equality for same-sex couples. Mike Huckabee called the decision “disgusting” and an act of “judicial supremacy.” Rick Santorum said the decision was "based on a lie" and that the family unit “has further been assaulted.”
- Tony Perkins, head of the anti-LGBT hate group Family Research Council (FRC) also used his speech to attack the Supreme Court decision, saying that he “rejects the notion that we must get on the right side of these causes.” Perkins and FRC often make false claims about the LGBT community such as claiming that gay men are pedophiles.
- Later in his speech, Santorum referenced white nationalist Charles Murray, one of the most influential social scientists in America, who uses racist pseudoscience and misleading statistics to argue that social inequality is caused by the genetic inferiority of the black and Latino communities, women and the poor.
- Santorum also called for a reduction to the number of immigrants entering the United States legally each year, a common argument voiced by the established anti-immigrant movement in the U.S.
- The most prominent anti-immigrant group in Colorado, the Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform (CAIRCO), had an exhibitor’s booth at the event. Among the materials CAIRCO distributed was a pamphlet produced by the anti-immigrant hate group Federation for American immigration Reform (FAIR), founded by white nationalist John Tanton, the founder of the modern-day anti-immigrant movement.
- Joyce Mucci, FAIR’s Southern Field Representative, manned the CAIRCO booth. Mucci’s presence at the booth further indicates the close relationship between FAIR and state-based groups such as CAIRCO.
- Frank Gaffney, head of the anti-Muslim group Center for Security Policy (CSP) ran a workshop on day two of the conference. Gaffney’s speech was littered with anti-Muslim rhetoric, including an often repeated claim among Islamophobes that all Muslim Student Associations in the United States are a front for the Muslim Brotherhood.
- During the Q&A session, an attendee asked Gaffney to comment on “Somali colonies” working in meatpacking plants in Colorado. Gaffney responded to the question by stating, “I don’t know about you, but it kind of creeps me out that they are getting jobs in the food supply of the United States.”
This conference, similar to the CPAC gathering in Washington, D.C., in February, demonstrates that conservatives are doing little to appeal to minority and LGBT voters. With the 2016 election just around the corner, hardline stances on topics such as same-sex marriage and immigration could turn out to be very damaging for the GOP at the polls.