Letter: Summit opposes LGBT rights under guise of family values

On Aug. 9, the Family Leadership Summit will be at Stephens Auditorium. The summit is explained on its website as a means to “educate and mobilize the conservative base regarding worldview application and issues that impact the family,” an explanation that at first glance seems rather innocuous as who would oppose talking about and finding solutions to family issues.

However this is not the case and is, in fact, the complete opposite. Instead of talking about real issues facing families like divorce, child abuse, domestic violence or drug and alcohol use in the home, this summit will inevitably focus more on issues like opposing same-sex marriage and employment protection for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

I wish that I could just sweep this under the rug as a “typical” conservative or Republican conference or gathering, but this is not the case. Half of the twelve sponsors of the Family Leadership Summit either have the sole purpose or are extensively active in opposing same-sex marriage and LGBT rights in employment and adoption in the United States.

Confirmed speakers include current governors Terry Branstad, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry and Mike Huckabee as well as senators Rick Santorum, Tim Scott and Ted Cruz. Many of these speakers have abysmal relationship with the LGBT community and are known to publically — and frequently — talk about the perils and depravity of the “homosexual lifestyle” and their fight against the “homosexual agenda.”

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a group the Southern Poverty Law Center designated as a hate group, will also be a speaker. Perkins is also the president of FRC Action, which is a national partner in sponsoring the Family Leadership Summit.

It makes me question why some of these national political figures chose to always surround themselves with groups that spew hate and lies against the LGBT community, and to what extent they benefit from this.

To highlight some of the vitriol that these groups spread, I think it is only fair to start with the host organization: The Family Leader. The Family Leader is led by Bob Vander Plaats, who is probably most known to Iowans for his three unsuccessful attempts to be the GOP candidate for Iowa governor and the mastermind behind taking down three Iowa Supreme Court justices for their role in Varnum v. Brien during the 2010 retention election.

The Family Leader and Vander Plaats regularly speak on how they “[oppose] distortions of sexuality or special rights to those practicing distorted sexual behavior” and their sponsorship of June’s March for Marriage, led by the National Organization for Marriage, another sponsor of the summit.

The March for Marriage promoted “marriage as the union of one man and one woman is our culture’s best means of linking mothers and fathers to one another and to their children.”

It also should be mentioned that during the 2010 retention of the above mentioned judges, the National Organization for Marriage campaigned on a bus tour for their removal.

The only group that has a worse record with their crusade against the LGBT community would be the National Organization for Marriage. It was the lead funder of both Prop 8 in California and Question 1 in Maine, both stripping their states of marriage equality. Its main goal is to prevent same-sex marriage and to support candidates that will defend marriage between opposite sex couples or repeal laws allowing same-sex marriage.

Some of its main arguments are “marriage is about bringing men and women together so that children can have both mothers and fathers” and that LGBT parents would  only “teach the next generation that one-half of humanity, either mothers or fathers, are dispensable, unimportant,” but this logic implies that any other family structure outside of a married man and women is inferior because only successive and well-adjusted children come from heterosexual couples and never from same sex couples, adoptive parents or single parents.

I oppose The Family Leader and its cohorts convening at the Family Leadership Summit. It is sad that these groups have spent so much money and time to oppose a segment of the American people. Their bigotry and intolerance should not be tolerated and it is sad that they chose Iowa State to host their summit and that the university has a Pay to Preach model for the State Center.

I hope the university will take the initiative to back up its diversity and non-discriminatory stance and use the money from these anti-gay and bigoted groups to promote and host a more inclusive and tolerant university event for members of the LGBT community.