One of the most powerful anti-LGBT hate groups, the Family Research Council (FRC), is getting ready for its annual gathering in the nation’s capital.
Thousands of supporters and partner organizations are gearing up for speeches, networking and political action focused on “pro-family” issues — including spreading false information about, denigrating and working against the rights of LGBT people.
With topics including “Restoring a Generation’s Identity” and “Reclaiming and Preserving Conservatism in a Counter-Christian Culture” on the agenda, the 2018 Values Voter Summit is set to serve up its usual lineup of anti-LGBT and anti-Muslim vitriol.
The FRC and its Values Voter Summit (VVS) have enjoyed a certain level of influence under the Trump administration. In 2017, Donald Trump became the first sitting president to address VVS. Although he isn’t set to speak this year, Trump still features heavily in this year's promotional video. Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway also attended last year’s summit and was interviewed by FRC's president Tony Perkins. Vice President Mike Pence is confirmed to speak this year. He also spoke in 2016.
1. A couple thousand attendees set to come to the D.C. event
An annual event since 2006, VVS bills itself as “a forum to help inform and mobilize citizens across America to preserve the bedrock values of traditional marriage, religious liberty, sanctity of life and limited government.” This year’s gathering is Sept. 21 - 23 in Washington, D.C. VVS typically draws around 2,000 attendees, including students.
2. VVS sponsors and exhibitors include other anti-LGBT, anti-Muslim organizations as well as an antigovernment extremist group
The event is hosted by FRC and gets support from sponsors, including:
- FRC Action : The legislative arm of FRC.
- American Family Association Action (AFA Action): An anti-LGBT hate group focused on “combating the homosexual agenda.”
- American Values: A nonprofit founded by former FRC leader Gary Bauer, who has a history of anti-LGBT and anti-Muslim sentiment.
In addition to sponsors, other organizations can participate by purchasing a booth at the VVS exhibit hall. As of the week prior to the summit, nearly 40 exhibitors were listed on the VVS website, including a number of other hate and extremist groups:
- Liberty Counsel: A legal organization advocating for anti-LGBT discrimination under the guise of religious liberty.
- Religious Freedom Coalition: An anti-Muslim hate group.
- John Birch Society: An antigovernment extremist group that trafficks in conspiracy theories.
3. Multiple VVS sessions focus on issues related to LGBT rights
The FRC, its members and supporters have a long history of demonizing the LGBT community and continue to align their views and work with anti-Muslim groups. VVS is focused on advancing the worldview and associated policy priorities of the FRC and theocratic Christian Right, including working against LGBT equality and rights and pushing the dangerous and debunked practice of “ex-gay therapy.”
A session that promises to “equip attendees with resources to identify and elect Christian conservative candidates to office” is being led by two staffers from anti-LGBT hate group AFA.
The student mixer event “Restoring a Generation’s Identity” will “examine God’s design for sexuality and marriage” in “an age of transgenderism.”
A speaker from the Heritage Foundation will discuss how the “new progressive ideology about sexuality, marriage, and the family” is “threatening to reduce the freedoms of Americans to think, speak, and work according to our deepest beliefs and values.”
And multiple elected officials will take on the topic of “Connecting with the Next Generation,” including state representatives from Michigan (Lee Chatfield), Ohio (Christina Hagan) and West Virginia (Kayla Kessinger).
4. The vice president, secretary of state and ACT founder among big names set to speak
This year’s featured speakers include big names in both the anti-LGBT and anti-Muslim world as well as elected officials. Vice President Mike Pence is a confirmed speaker at the Saturday morning plenary session titled “How Gender Ideology Harms Children.” Dr. Michelle Cretella, the executive director of the anti-LGBT hate group the American College of Pediatricians, is also speaking at that session.
Other VVS speakers include:
- Mike Pompeo: The current secretary of state has a long history of making anti-LGBT statements and associating with hate groups. He has also implied that American Muslim leaders are “potentially complicit” in terrorist attacks.
- Gary Bauer: The former leader of FRC and founder of American Values is a longtime activist in, and promulgator of, the modern Christian Right. Bauer has spent decades pushing anti-LGBT sentiment and, more recently, anti-Muslim sentiment. Bauer has called homosexuality “three times more deadly than smoking” and has advocated for harmful conversion therapy. Despite this hateful rhetoric, Trump appointed Bauer to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
- Brigitte Gabriel: The founder and chairman of the anti-Muslim hate group ACT for America has become a regular at VVS. Gabriel just finished hosting her organization’s annual political gathering where she boasted that she has “a standing meeting at the White House once a week.” She has previously stated that Muslims are a “natural threat to civilized people of the world, particularly Western civilization.”
- Rep. Mark Meadows (R-North Carolina): As chair of the House Freedom Caucus, Meadows played a key role in the administration’s ban on transgender troops by threatening to vote no on the defense budget unless it included a provision to deny medical funding to trans troops. The administration banned trans troops outright. Meadows is also a frequent guest on FRC president Tony Perkins’ radio show, “Washington Watch,” including an appearance in late June.
Many other voices from various corners of the anti-LGBT and anti-Muslim movements will make appearances on panels and at networking events during the conference.
5. Keep an eye on line from VVS to the White House
The Values Voter Summit has always served as an important political networking forum for anti-LGBT, anti-choice and anti-Muslim activists and policymakers. But with the current administration, VVS’ role has grown into that of a direct conduit to the White House for discriminatory sentiment and policy.
Photo credit AP Images/Evan Vucci