Key leaders in the established anti-LGBT and anti-Muslim movements will gather this weekend in Washington, D.C., for the annual Values Voter Summit (VVS), along with President Donald Trump and his former strategist and Breitbart executive Stephen Bannon.
VVS was launched in 2006 by four powerful anti-LGBT groups, namely, the Family Research Council Action, Focus on the Family Action, Americans United to Preserve Marriage (headed by longtime Christian Right activist and former Family Research Council (FRC) president Gary Bauer) and American Family Association Action. VVS has traditionally provided an ongoing platform not only for strident anti-LGBT and anti-choice views, but also anti-immigrant — and in particular — anti-Muslim views, a nod to the growing cross-pollination between the anti-LGBT Christian Right and the anti-Muslim lobby.
A look at the 2017 speaker roster indicates just how closely aligned the anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT groups really are. At least 10 of the speakers are representatives of anti-Muslim organizations or have a well-documented history of espousing anti-Muslim rhetoric. These include figures like Brigitte Gabriel head of ACT for America, the largest anti-Muslim group in the country who has said that practicing Muslims “cannot be loyal citizens of the United States” and conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney, head of the anti-Muslim think tank Center for Security Policy (CSP) who said of Somali refugees in 2015, “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.”
The anti-LGBT individuals participating at the 2017 event also have a history of bashing Muslims, many from the VVS pulpit. At the 2016 summit, Gary Bauer proclaimed “America was not founded on the Quran and thank God for that.” Jerry Boykin, an FRC vice president who acts as a major bridge between the anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT movements, has argued that Islam should not be protected under the First Amendment.
Three Trump advisors will also be speaking at VVS 2017: Sebastian Gorka, Steve Bannon and Walid Phares, a man who “was a high ranking political official in a sectarian religious militia responsible for massacres during Lebanon's brutal, 15-year civil war” as revealed by Mother Jones in 2011. While these men served Trump in an official capacity either during his campaign or since he has taken office, many of the groups represented at VVS have deep connections to Trump, and have even influenced his policy decisions.
Take Trump’s ban on transgender persons serving in the U.S. military, for example. Anti-LGBT groups including FRC forced the President’s hand by threatening to pull support for a defense spending bill. As reported by the Washington Blade, following Trump’s transgender ban announcement on Twitter, Tony Perkins, FRC’s president stated, “Now that we are assured that the Defense Department has its fiscal priorities in order, Family Research Council withdraws our opposition to increasing the budget of the Department of Defense through the ‘Make America Secure Appropriations Act’ and looks forward to seeing that legislation pass.” Frank Gaffney also praised the ban.
Gary Bauer and Michele Bachmann, a close friend of the anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT movements and a VVS regular, have both visited the White House for audiences with Trump since his inauguration. Trump infamously cited Frank Gaffney’s “think tank” when he called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States in December of 2015. His subsequent Muslim bans by executive order have been widely supported by both anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT groups.
In recent years, anti-LGBT groups have not only adopted more hardline anti-Muslim rhetoric, but have worked closely with anti-Muslim groups on organized campaigns. In 2017 these have included pushing for the Muslim Brotherhood to be designated a terrorist organization and also a coordinated campaign to attack the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The 2017 VVS will serve as a culmination and a celebration for both movements. Not only are they working more closely together now than ever, but they have a champion in Donald Trump—a president who not only shares their views but is shaped by them.