Meet The Notorious Anti-Gay Leaders Behind Iowa's Influential Conservative Conference

Journalists planning to cover the upcoming Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa should be aware of the extreme anti-gay rhetoric regularly voiced by several of the event's sponsors and speakers, including host Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of The Family Leader and one of the most influential conservative activists in Iowa. Attendees will also hear from Tony Perkins, the head of the anti-gay hate group Family Research Council and Brian Brown, the head of the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage, among others.

Republican Presidential Candidates Are Confirmed As Attending The Family Leadership Summit

Nine Republican Presidential Candidates Will Attend The Family Leadership Summit. According to the event's website, as of June 25, Republican presidential candidates Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, Donald Trump, and Scott Walker plan to attend the 2015 Family Leadership Summit:

Republican Primary Voters Are Influenced By Bob Vander Plaats And His Organization

The Atlantic: Bob Vander Plaats And The Family Leader Significantly Influence The Iowa Caucus. According to a May 2011 article in The Atlantic headlined, “The Iowa Caucus Kingmaker,” Vander Plaats -- “a man who has lost every campaign he's ever run in” -- is one of the most powerful conservative voices in Iowa. The article notes that in 2011, nearly every major GOP 2012 presidential hopeful met with Vander Plaats, and says he has a strong influence with the “state's most ardent social conservatives.” The article continues:

Social conservatives traditionally dominate Iowa's Republican caucus. Last time, 60 percent of participants identified themselves as evangelical Christians, and helped deliver a victory to a former pastor, Mike Huckabee. Vander Plaats was his Iowa campaign chair.

The weak economy ensures that jobs, debt, and the role of government will still be important issues in Iowa, as they are everywhere. And other prominent social conservatives, some of whom regard Vander Plaats as a grandstanding interloper, also expect to be wooed.

Nevertheless, the caucus will be decided by a small and committed group of conservative activists. The winner will be in a commanding position. In the end, Vander Plaats's offer to the national candidates--with all that it implies--may be one they dare not refuse. [The Atlantic, May 2011]

Right Wing Watch: Vander Plaats “Is Widely Seen As The Organizing Powerhouse Behind” 2008 And 2012 GOP Iowa Caucus Victories. According to Right Wing Watch, 2016 GOP candidates have been “courting Vander Plaats” because “he is widely seen as the organizing powerhouse behind Huckabee and Santorum's successful 2008 and 2012 Iowa Caucus campaigns.” The article continues:

Vander Plaats, although he has been unsuccessful in his own three attempts to win the Republican gubernatorial nomination, has put together a political coalition in Iowa that, along with carrying Huckabee and Santorum to caucus victories, helped to oust three state supreme court judges who had ruled in favor of marriage equality in the 2010 election. While a similar attempt two years later was unsuccessful, Vander Plaats has nonetheless become a major force in the state's conservative movement. [Right Wing Watch, 4/9/2015]

The Family Leadership Summit Is Hosted And Sponsored By Numerous Anti-Gay Organizations

The Family Leadership Summit Is Sponsored By Anti-Gay Organizations, Including A Known Hate Group. According to the Family Leadership Summit website, signature sponsors of The Family Leader-hosted event are the Family Research Council (FRC) and the National Organization for Marriage (NOM).

The Family Leader

The Family Leader Asked Candidates In 2012 Election To Sign A Pledge That Contained Anti-Gay Statements. In July of 2011, The Family Leader requested presidential candidates sign a 14-point pledge in order to receive future endorsement from the group. The pledge include a number of anti-gay statements, asking the signer to affirm that “homosexuality is a choice,” “homosexuality is like polygamy, adultery, polyandry,” and “homosexuality is a public health risk.” [Think Progress, 7/7/11]

Vander Plaats Praised Russia's Vladimir Putin For Criminalizing Homosexuality. Family Leader President and CEO Vander Plaats has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for making it a crime to “spread information about homosexuality”. [Right Wing Watch, 9/10/13]

After The Supreme Court's Obergefell Decision, Vander Plaats Claimed Legalized Marriage Would Lead To Polygamy And Legalized Pedophilia. According to Right Wing Watch, Vander Plaats appeared on a Christian radio program to discuss the Supreme Court's ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges and said, “Now polygamy can come back.” The article continued:

Claiming that “the University of Colorado now is saying they want to reclassify that as a sexual orientation and decriminalize it,” Vander Plaats said, “All of the sudden, when you get outside of God's design for human sexuality inside of the bonds of one man, one woman marriage, it will be an absolute trainwreck.”

When the program's cohost, Frank Thomas, asked Vander Plaats about the right-wing myth that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wants to lower the age of consent to 12, Vander Plaats repeated that pedophiles are now “going to follow the same route that homosexulatiy did about it's a sexual orientation.”

He also brought up the specter of transgender people assaulting young girls in restrooms: “Here's the thing about the identity of restrooms, male-female restrooms, you get to use whichever one you want. That's a trainwreck waiting to happen, because there's going to be a 21-year-old guy who says 'I feel like a girl,' he goes into a girls' restroom, there's going to be a 12-year-old girl who says 'I feel like a boy,' and something bad's going to happen.” [Right Wing Watch, 7/6/15]

The Family Research Council

SPLC: The Family Research Council Is An Anti-Gay Hate Group. The Family Research Council has been labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) since 2011 because of “their regular demonization of members of the LGBT community”:

Words have consequences. While the FRC and the AFA would certainly deny it, it seems obvious that their regular demonizing of members of the LGBT community as child molesters and the like creates an atmosphere where violence is all but inevitable. And that violence is dramatic. A study by the Southern Poverty Law Center found, based on an analysis of 14 years of FBI hate crime data, that LGBT people were by far the American minority most victimized by such crimes. They were more than twice as likely to be attacked in a violent hate crime as Jews or black people and more than four times as likely as Muslims. And that doesn't include the anti-gay bullying that has resulted in so many teen suicides.

Based on the foregoing and other evidence, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) last year began listing the FRC and the AFA as hate groups. The listings, as was said at the time, were based on the groups' use of known falsehoods to attack and demonize members of the LGBT community -- not, as some have gratuitously claimed, because the groups are Christian, or because they oppose same-sex marriage, or because they believe the Bible describes homosexuality as a sin. [SPLC, October 2011]

SPLC: FRC's Tony Perkins Has Pushed False Myth Linking Pedophilia And Homosexuality. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, FRC President Tony Perkins has pushed the falsehood that gay men are more likely to be pedophiles:

Under Perkins' leadership, the FRC continues to peddle false claims about homosexuality and has made combating the “homosexual agenda” a seemingly obsessive interest. Part of the FRC's recent strategy is to pound home the false claim that gay men are more likely to sexually abuse children. This is false. The American Psychological Association, among others, has concluded that, “homosexual men are not more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual men are.”

That doesn't matter to the FRC, though. Perkins defended the “gay men as pedophiles” claim yet again in a debate on the Nov. 30, 2010, edition of MSNBC's “Hardball With Chris Matthews” with the Southern Poverty Law Center's Mark Potok. As the show ended, Perkins stated, “If you look at the American College of Pediatricians, they say the research is overwhelming that homosexuality poses a danger to children. So Mark is wrong. He needs to go back and do his own research.”

In fact, the SPLC did. The college, despite its professional-sounding name, is a tiny, explicitly religious-right breakaway group from the similarly named American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the 60,000-member association of the profession. The American College of Pediatrics (ACP) splintered from the AAP because of the AAP's support of gay and lesbian parents. Publications of the ACP, which has only about 200 members, have been roundly attacked by leading scientific authorities who say they are baseless and who also accuse the college of distorting and misrepresenting their work. (Chris Matthews offered a clarification on a follow-up show to describe what the American College of Pediatricians is and separate it from the AAP.) [SPLC, accessed 7/14/15]

FRC's Perkins Called Obama's Support For “It Gets Better” Project “Disgusting.” According to Right Wing Watch, Tony Perkins sent a mailer to his group's supporters attacking the Obama administration's decision to support the “It Gets Better” project, a suicide prevention program aimed at LGBT youth. Perkins called Obama's support for the program “disgusting” and said homosexuality is “both 'immoral' and a 'perversion,' then accused activists of using the project to 'recruit [kids] into that 'lifestyle.''” [Right Wing Watch, 8/18/11]

The National Organization For Marriage

Slate: The National Organization For Marriage “Rewrote The Modern Anti-Gay Playbook.” As Slate reported, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has led many of the country's most successful anti-gay campaigns, “demeaning the LGBTQ community as promiscuous, predatory, diseased and disordered”:

The campaign for Proposition 8--which, as I've written, was by far the most traumatic and degrading anti-gay event in recent American history--was led, in large part, by NOM. After its success in California, the group took its tactics on the road, successfully batting away marriage equality in Maine and North Carolina while exacting revenge on judges who dared to uphold legal equality.

Through these campaigns, NOM rewrote the modern anti-gay playbook, demeaning the LGBTQ community as promiscuous, predatory, diseased, and disordered. From 2007 to 2011--in retrospect, the last successful charge of the anti-gay warriors--NOM released an unremitting stream of noxious nonsense that successfully poisoned Americans' views of gay people. [Slate, 6/6/14]

NOM President Brian Brown Asked If Marriage Equality Will Lead To “Normaliz[ing] Pedophilia.” NOM President Brian Brown has suggested that one of the consequences of legalizing same-sex marriage might be “a serious push to normalize pedophilia.” Brown continued:

Enquiring people want to know: Will pedophiles become “minor-attracted persons” in our culture? Will courts which endorse orientation as a protected class decide down the road that therefore laws which discriminate against “minor-attracted persons” must be narrowly tailored to a compelling government interest?

Here's the fundamental truth: Ideas have consequences and so do words--because they contain ideas, because they are the vehicle through which and by which human beings describe reality.

The reality that men and women need each other, and that children need a mom and dad, is the truth most at risk in the same-sex marriage debate. [Equality Matters,8/18/11]

SPLC: NOM Has A History Of Promoting “Flatly Untrue” Claims. According to a 2012 SPLC report, NOM has made“flatly untrue” claims about the consequences of same-sex marriage in its campaigns. In fliers opposing same-sex marriage sent to thousands of Rhode Island residents early last year, NOM made the claim that “Massachusetts' public schools teach kids as young as kindergartners about gay marriage. Parents have no legal right to object!” Checking that claim out, PolitiFact found that the group's only evidence was two isolated, 5-year-old incidents and rated NOM's assertion “false.”

Similarly, NOM last September sent out mailers to thousands of New Yorkers warning of the “legal consequences” of gay marriage. Although virtually all of NOM's assertions were questionable, one stood out -- the claim that a sex ed teacher in Massachusetts “taught her students to perform lesbian sex.” The claim was based on an NPR story that quoted the teacher saying her state's marriage equality law made her feel more comfortable teaching. She used charts to explain different kinds of sex to students -- but did not, as NOM hints, demonstrate how to “perform” it. [SPLC, Summer 2012]

NOM Documents Revealed Its Goal To “Drive A Wedge Between Gays And Blacks.” In a leaked internal memo from 2009, NOM described its intention to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks” in its work opposing same-sex marriage:

The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks--two key Democratic constituencies. Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage; develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots. No politician wants to take up and push an issue that splits the base of the party. Fanning the hostility raised in the wake of Prop 8 is key to raising the costs of pushing gay marriage to its advocates and persuading the movement's allies that advocates are unacceptably overreaching on this issue. [NOM Board Update, 2009, emphasis added]