When nearly every major Republican presidential candidate shows up at the Values Voter Summit in Washington this weekend, they'll be drawing crowds that will find the place littered with antigay literature and signage.
Gay rights groups are warning public figures to stay away from the event because it's being run by "hate groups." But The Advocate found disturbing imagery everywhere, with one table giving away buttons that proclaim "Ex-Gay Is OK!"
It's highly unlikely any of the candidates will comment on whether they agree with the buttons or pamphlets being distributed just yards away from the podium where they'll speak. But they will certainly make the case that they deserve the mantle of social conservatism that the event espouses.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which identifies what it calls "hate groups," notes that two on its list — the Family Research Council and the American Family Association — are major organizers of the event. The groups "stoke hate and violence," warned Mark Potok, director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project. "LGBT people are now, by far, the group most victimized by violent hate crimes in America. Public figures should not lend their names to groups that vilify them," he said.
Wayne Besen, founder of Truth Wins Out, is also outraged. His group uncovered reparative therapy at work in the Christian counseling clinics run by Michele Bachmann's husband, Marcus. And even if the candidate herself has done her best to dodge questions about the therapy, she will be attending an event this weekend that promotes it.
"The lies peddled by these groups end up hurting real people," said Besen. "Hate speech by the FRC and AFA encourages bullying in schools, which has led to tragic suicides. And their push to 'cure' gay people has exploited and seriously harmed many in the LGBT community. This fear-mongering has to stop."
Candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich all plan to attend and give a speech. House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor will also be there.
On the following pages, check out photos of the antigay paraphernalia that their presence will bring the crowds to see.