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A tent too large: the Republican Party and anti-LGBT bigotry

The head of the GOP surprisingly invoked the names of anti-LGBT extremists as he defended his party’s opposition to same-sex marriage.

RNC Chair Reince Priebus yesterday said something predictable and something startling in response to the Supreme Court’s refusal to overturn court decisions clearing the way for same-sex marriage.

The predictable was his continued defense of the Republican Party’s position that marriage should be limited to a man and a woman.

The startling was his invoking of the names of Tony Perkins and David Lane to support the party’s position.

“People like David Lane and people like Tony Perkins are right to be concerned about what’s happened here in this country over the past couple of years,” Priebus said on MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown.

Now, we wouldn’t condemn those who cling to the traditional view of marriage. We’d say they’re on the wrong side of history, that they’re giving in to old prejudices, but we wouldn’t condemn them. After all, it wasn’t until 2013 that the president evolved to what we’d consider the more enlightened point of view.

But we would condemn anyone who vilifies the LGBT community with demonizing rhetoric and falsehoods. And that’s exactly what Perkins and Lane routinely do. It’s bizarre that Priebus, who has said that LGBT people “deserve dignity and respect,” would invoke their authority.

Perkins, who heads the Family Research Council, has repeatedly portrayed LGBT people as perverted. He’s called the “It Gets Better” campaign – designed to give LGBT students hope for a better tomorrow – “disgusting” and a “concerted effort” to “recruit” children into the gay “lifestyle.”

Lane is head of the American Renewal Project, funded by the virulently anti-LGBT American Family Association (AFA). The AFA’s chief spokesman, Bryan Fischer, has said that “[h]omosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews.”

In a commentary last year for World Net Daily, Lane called on Christians to wage “war” against the “pagan onslaught imposing homosexual marriage.”

In 1999, Priebus’ predecessor, Jim Nicholson, called for party members to shun the Council of Conservative Citizens because of the group’s “racist views.” Then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and other party officials quickly distanced themselves from the white supremacist group.

But rather than follow in Nicholson’s footsteps and exercise leadership, Priebus yesterday embraced extremists of another type – those who incite hate and violence against the LGBT community.

We know that political parties like to have big tents. But some tents are simply too large. It’s time for the GOP to take a stand – not on same-sex marriage but on anti-LGBT bigotry.