In remarks delivered on Wednesday, Sept. 12, at the National Press Club, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins kicked off one of the most high-profile conservative events of the year by equating gay people to drug users.
Asked if he would disown his child for being gay, the father of five said that he would never disown one of his children, but that as a parent he has a responsibility for the environment in which they are raised.
"We can do our very best job as a parent and still something may happen, whether they end up in drugs or whether they end up in some other lifestyle that they end up in," Perkins told the audience and C-SPAN cameras. "They're our children. We'll always love them, but we don't necessarily condone what they do. And if we really love them, we'll be wiling to tell them the truth that the choices that they have made to continue in what they are doing are both destructive to them personally and to society as a whole.”
Perkins added, "I would never encourage a parent to disown the child because of something like that that occurred to them. Love them compassionately. Pray for them. But don't condone and enable that behavior, whatever it might be."
The controversial remarks came late during the social conservative's hour-long appearance and were met with silence by the audience.
Perkins appeared at the National Press Club as thousands of social conservatives flock to Washington for the annual Values Voter Summit, which is organized by the FRC and will be held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel from Sept. 14 to 16. Since its launch in 2006, the conference has become one of the conservative movement's most high-profile and controversial events of the year.
In 2011, every Republican candidate for president except Jon Huntsman attended the event during the Republican primaries. This year, dozens of conservative leaders will speak at the event, including Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).
Last week, seven LGBT-rights organizations sent a letter to 15 elected officials who are among the nearly 70 confirmed speakers urging them not to attend because of credibility their political stature would lend to some of the more outlandish attendees.
"Public officials should not lend the prestige of their office to groups that spread demeaning and false propaganda about other people," stated Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, in a conference call Sept. 11.
The SPLC has faced criticism from Perkins for labeling his group, which has linked homosexuality to pedophilia, as a "hate group." Perkins has placed blame for a shooting that injured a security guard at FRC headquarters last month – in which the suspected gunman was a volunteer at the The DC Center, the city's LGBT community center – directly with the rhetoric used against his organization by the SPLC and the Human Rights Campaign.
In his remarks delivered yesterday, Perkins reaffirmed that position and called on the SPLC and HRC to "cease their bitter characterization of FRC as a hate group."
"This language is meant to inflame, not inspire," Perkins said, "It is meant to poison, and not to persuade." Perkins adding that such language "fosters an environment of violence."
Nevertheless, the SPLC and HRC have shown no sign of backing down. During the Sept. 11 conference call, HRC vice president Fred Sainz doubled down on the HRC's criticism of the FRC.
"The Family Research Council isn't some policy shop that attempts to find constructive solutions to problems facing our society," Sainz said. "The only thing FRC advocates for is the demonization of those who do not fit into their narrow worldview. They are a hate group that actively spreads blatant lies about LGBT people – with absolutely no regard for the impact of their harmful rhetoric."
The FRC has not indicated that any of the previously confirmed speakers have canceled their appearance because of the letter. In an email to Metro Weekly, a spokesperson for Cantor confirmed he will speak as planned.
WATCH Perkin's full remarks here: