Donald Trump is scheduled to speak today at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., a yearly conference hosted by the homophobic, transphobic Family Research Council.
Trump, who hopes to assuage fears about his conservatism among religious right-wing voters, will be the first presidential candidate to appear at the influential event. Mitt Romney and John McCain both declined to appear, although Romney addressed the audience through a pretaped segment.
Mike Pence, Trump’s vice-presidential nominee and the antigay governor of Indiana, will address the crowd later this weekend.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, praised the Republican nominee for attending the event, which he believes is crucial in “[making] his case directly to conservative activists from across the country.”
“The fact that he is the first Republican nominee to attend since the summit’s inception in 2006,” Perkins stated in a press release, “demonstrates his understanding of the importance of values voters in the general election and his desire to work with them in addressing the critical issues facing our nation.”
“The future of our freedoms and our identity as Americans hang in the balance,” he added.
The summit is an annual who’s who of conservative extremists. The Family Research Council has been designated as an antigay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“We oppose the vigorous efforts of homosexual activists to demand that homosexuality be accepted as equivalent to heterosexuality in law, in the media, and in schools,” states the Family Research Council website. “Attempts to join two men or two women in ‘marriage’ constitute a radical redefinition and falsification of the institution, and FRC supports state and federal constitutional amendments to prevent such redefinition by courts or legislatures.”
Perkins further supported the Anti-Homosexuality Act in Uganda, a 2014 bill that originally mandated the death penalty for homosexuality. Known as the “kill the gays” bill, it was later amended to stipulate life in prison for LGBT people. (It was passed in the latter form by Uganda's Parliament, but then struck down by the nation's highest court because of how it was enacted — not its content.)
The FRC president championed the legislation, referring to the bill as a “laudable” move to “uphold moral conduct.”
The Family Research Council will be joined by antigay groups such as Family Watch International, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays, Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, and Liberty Counsel. The latter was behind the legal defense of Rowan County, Ky., clerk Kim Davis, who was briefly jailed after refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Onstage, Trump will be joined by a litany of conservative figures who have repeatedly opposed LGBT equality.
Tom Cotton, a U.S. senator from Arkansas, told LGBT people who face discrimination to be thankful they aren’t living in Iran. Michele Bachmann, who ran for president in 2012, fought against equal marriage as a Minnesota congresswoman. Rick Santorum, a former Pennsylvania U.S..senator, once compared homosexuality to incest and adultery. Phil Robertson, who stars on A&E’s Duck Dynasty, was suspended from the show in 2013 over vehemently antigay remarks that he stands by.
Although Donald Trump has previously advertised himself as a “friend” to the LGBT community, the Human Rights Campaign’s Chad Griffin said the businessman’s appearance at the Value Voters Summit suggests the exact opposite.
“This weekend couldn’t present a more powerful contrast about what’s at stake for the LGBTQ community in this election,” Griffin said in a statement. “While Tim Kaine is standing alongside the Human Rights Campaign in support of full equality for LGBTQ people here and across the globe, Donald Trump and Mike Pence will be across town courting support from the most notorious anti-LGBTQ extremists in the nation.”
Trump’s speech will be livestreamed on YouTube at 3:30 p.m. Eastern. Watch it below.