On Saturday, August 10, business magnate, reality TV host, and perennial presidential "might-run" Donald J. Trump will headline the second annual Family Leadership Summit, an event hosted by Iowa's leading anti-gay group and a number of national anti-LGBT organizations, including the National Organization For Marriage, Focus on the Family's Citizenlink, the Heritage Foundation, and others that have been fighting against LGBT rights for the past many years.
That's right. Donald Trump is putting himself squarely in the middle of the most prominent anti-LGBT organizations in the country.
And while some, even among conservatives, have been focusing on whether or not the thrice-married Trump should be keynoting an event ostensibly geared toward "protecting marriage," that's actually not what I want to focus on here. Not because it's an invalid conversation, mind you. it's totally worth discussing how groups like NOM and The Family Leader can talk to us about "defending the institution of marriage" on one hand and then, on the other, recruit a top-of-the-ticket speaker who has had multiple divorce dramas play out in the press. You don't even have to personally fault Mr. Trump in order to question this booking. It is undeniably questionable.
The focus of this post is on something else primarily because there is a bigger issue worth discussing. Namely, the extreme rhetoric of the man hosting the whole event, Bob Vander Plaats.
In his promotion of the weekend summit, Trump has been eager to push Vander Plaats' name...
Only thing? Bob Vander Plaats is not some mere politico, at least in the minds of LGBT people. Bob Vander Plaats has said absolutely heinous things about LGBT people, like the time he confirmed for ThinkProgress his belief that homosexuality is a "public health risk," or the time he equated participation in an LGBT Youth Summit with playing dodge ball in the street, to name just two. Here are more:
-- Calls gay people a “public health risk” akin to smoking. (0:20-1:17)
-- Received national and local condemnation over “Marriage Vow” for 2012 presidential candidates, which included language: suggesting that children were better off under slavery than they are today (later removed); likening being gay to polygamy, adultery, and polyandry; attacking gay people as a public health risk; saying being gay is a choice; and banning all pornography.
-- Equated opinion that legalized marriage equality in Iowa to Dred Scott opinion that treated Blacks as property
-- Vander Plaats erupted into laughter at a derogatory anti-gay joke, saying “that’s pretty good.” (0:42)
-- A vocal supporter of the “birther” fringe movement, which claims President Obama was born in Kenya. Praised Donald Trump for his “birther” investigation
-- Attempted to link being gay to the national debt: “When you start going away from core value issues, the ripple effect leads right to economic issues.”
-- Called on the governor of Iowa to not attend an anti-bullying conference: "Our goal at The FAMiLY LEADER is to speak the truth in love. Ironically, the upcoming 7th Annual Iowa Governor's Conference on LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning) Youth is exchanging truth for acceptance and tolerance of harmful behavior. As parents, we love our children so much that we do not accept or tolerate his/her desire to play dodge ball in a busy street. If we did, that tolerance could result in serious injury or worse. In like manner, this is how I view the conference."
-- Claims: “That lifestyle [homosexuality] is outside of God’s design for the family.” (0:23-0:28)
BVP [GLAAD CAP]
This is not the rhetoric of a "family leader." Bob Vander Plaats has made it clear that his advocacy goes far beyond just public policy and cuts right into the realm of personal animus. On that, there is no debate.
Is this demonizing language really what Donald Trump wants to support, much less participate in? Does this help his business? Does this help his reputation with mainstream America? Does this help his television show?
Donald Trump has already created one anti-gay controversy when in 2009, Miss USA candidate Carrie Prejean stated her support for "opposite marriage" and incorrectly stated that people can marry who they choose. This was just months after California passed Proposition 8, which was recently struck down by the US Supreme Court. Trump defended Ms. Prejean.
But by headlining the Family Leadership Summit, Donald Trump has once again shown that he is supporting blatant anti-LGBT animus. And anything that might have counted as "progress" will have been lost: His support of creating a transgender-inclusive Miss Universe Pageant. His dialog with openly gay actor George Takei. All down the tubes.
Now is the time for Donald Trump to show some leadership and to demonstrate that he is not like the other anti-LGBT activists out there. Donald Trump needs to use this speaking opportunity to publicly and unequivocally distance himself from the radical and outlandish claims being made by Vander Plaats and his colleagues at the Family Leadership Summit.
Now is the time for Donald Trump to speak out as a mainstream voice of common sense, when it comes to LGBT people. Don’t call LGBT people a "health risk" but rather the everyday people with whom you have met and worked.