Questions we'd like reporters to ask at the Values Voter Summit


Beginning on Friday, September 26, and running throughout this coming weekend, the Family Research Council will hold its annual Values Voter Summit, an event that brings together some of the most overheated anti-LGBT voices and organizations with some of the mainstream conservative movement's brightest stars in politics and punditry. This year's lineup includes everyone from former Alaska governor Sarah Palin to a pair or brothers who routinely suggest that Satan is behind LGBT rights and LGBT people to Glenn Beck to a lawyer who instructs his movement that they cannot exist with LGBT rights because that is "literally an attack on God himself" to the Duggar family.  To name just a few.

In typical years, the mish-mash of mainstream conservative voices with the fringe anti-LGBT voices ably serves the overlapping agendas of both sides.  The elected politicians and personalities who depend on an audience in order to stay relevant use the event to cater to this far-right crowd, while these anti-LGBT figures use the credence they draw from the event to raise their national profiles.  Everyone plays nice, with the more mainstream figures pretty much overlooking all of the truly hostile things that their fellow participants have done and said about us while the anti-LGBT voices ignore whatever of the more mainstream speakers' more moderate positions might trouble them in order to present a united conservative front.  And typically, media coverage plays in to this dynamic, with the Values Voters Summit usually portrayed as little more than a right-leaning political gathering.

It's time for this to change.  The truth is that the Values Voters Summit has an assembled roster that deserves accountability for their actions.  And if sitting members of Congress, GOP state governors, potential presidential candidates, Fox News personalities, and reality TV stars want to cater to the extremism of the Family Research Council and its chosen speakers and sponsors, then they too deserve tougher questions from reporters who seek fair and accurate coverage.  Or at the very least, questions that call out the sheer lunacy of some of the claims that these speakers present as reasonable points of political commentary.

In this spirit, I have assembled a list of my own questions that I would ask those gathered to speak at the Values Voters Summit, if I could make it this year.  Some are light in tone, which is the best way I know to deal with some of this silliness, but all are designed to actually get a frank conversation going about this, a conference that gets way too many passes.  And since I can't make it, I encourage any reporters on site this week to make use of them or some variant as a guideline.  Let's get started.


For VVS2014 Speaker Sarah Palin:

PalinGovernor Palin, you famously mentioned during the 2008 presidential that one of your best friends is gay.  How do you think your friend feels about you speaking at the annual summit of an organization that whose president calls gays "pawns of the enemy," fundraises with the claim that it's "disgusting" to tell gay kids that they're okay how they are, routinely likens homosexuality to drug abuse?

Governor Palin, during a recent joint promotional appearance, your friend Phil Robertson said that you need to be in the White House.  A few days later, he said in an interview with the president of the Family Research Council that he believes sexual transmitted infections are the "penalty" of "immoral conduct." Is this the sort of policy that you wish to bring into the White House?  



For VVS2014 Speaker and Fox News host Todd Starnes:

Mr. Starnes, in June of 2013, when the Supreme Court found part of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, you said that the Supreme Court had "overrule[d] God." This being your stated belief, I'm curious what signs you have seen in the subsequent fifteen months to confirm your belief that God is angry with eighty-five year old plaintiff Edie Windsor or any of the millions of American taxpayers whose civil marriages are now recognized under federal law?

Mr. Starnes, you have directly compared homosexuality with bestiality and same-sex unions with theoretical man-on-dog unions.  This puts you right in line with the Values Voter Summit organizer, FRC, which once created a pamphlet that began by comparing same-sex marriages to man-horse marriages (complete with horse graphic).  But I'm wondering if you think these views are also in line with the average viewer of the network that employs you, Fox News?


For Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Marco Rubio (R-Florida), and Tim Scott (R-S.C.), all of whom are VVS2014 speakers:

A senior policy fellow at the Family Research Council recently told Hardball host Chris Matthews that he believes there is "a place for criminal sanctions against homosexual behavior.”  Since you are here in support of this organization, I'm wondering if any of you plan to draft such a bill?

One of the FRC's senior VPs claims that gay people are "simply pawns in the hands of their malevolent master...the Devil." Would any of you be willing to classify your LGBT constituents in this way?

There's been a lot of talk as to how the GOP can win over young voters.  Yet all credible polls show that young voters support LGBT rights in sweeping majorities.  So do you think it is to your advantage to speak at a summit that condemns LGBT rights in every way, that supports scientifically discredited "ex-gay" therapy, and that is doubling down in the face of historically shifting trend lines? 

At least some of you have White House aspirations. So I'm curious if you are concerned that your presence and comments here will hurt your reputation with future voters.


For VVS2014 speaker EW Jackson:

Mr. Jackson, you have claimed that there is "a direct connection between [being gay and being a pedophile]."  Will you be including that line in your speech to the Values Voter Summit?  



For VVS2014 speaker Sandy Rios:

Ms. Rios, your speech was one of the most anti-gay of the 2013 Values Voters Summit.  You advocated on behalf of the idea that gay people must "change" who they are, and you denied that the tragic murder of Matthew Shepard was a hate crime.  What can we expect for a followup?  

You recently compared the love that two gay men share for one another to the “love” that kidnapper and rapist Ariel Castro had for the young women he kept captive as slaves.  So will you be using your time here on this stage, alongside governors and senators and members of congress, to press for a law that treats LGBT people like kidnappers?


For VVS2014 speaker Rep. Michele Bachmann:

Congresswoman, in a 2004 email to constituents, you suggested that members of the Minnesota state senate, where you then served, would be the equivalent of those who ignored Pearl Harbor's early warning signs if they did not stand up against same-sex marriage.  Ten years later, your home state now has marriage equality. I'm curious what sort of decimation you have witnessed that comes close to rivaling the loss of over twenty-four hundred American lives?

Falling in right in line with the devil-deferring views of many speaking here at the Values Voter Summit, you have claimed that homosexuality is "part of Satan, I think."  So the only obvious question: on which part of Satan, exactly, does homosexuality reside? Please be specific.


For VVS2014 speaker Glenn Beck:

Mr. Beck, you said earlier this year, that "If you hate gays, you 'have no place calling yourself a fan of mine."  And yet here you are speaking at a conference sponsored by the Family Research Council and co-sponsored by the American Family Association and the Liberty Counsel.  Taking the subjective word "hate" out of the mix, it is simply an objective truth that the sponsors of and speakers at this conference are the leaders of the American anti-LGBT movement, with an agenda that culminates in the so-called "changing" of gay people through scientifically discredited "ex-gay" therapy.  So I'm curious: who here is entitled to call themselves your fan, and who do you consider to be too anti-gay? Will you be speaking out against those who call for punitive actions aganst LGBT people?

You admit that the gay rights movement has won the marriage argument, and you have offered your soft support for same-sex marriage based mostly around the idea that government should be out of marriage altogether.  So why rally with organizations that have made more and harsher laws against same-sex marriage a top agenda item?


For VVS2014 speaker Mat Staver (whose organization, Liberty Counsel, is a chief sponsor of the conference):

During a recent radio appearance, you claimed that your movement cannot coexist with marriage equality because it is "literally an attack on God himself."  So if there is no chance at coexistence, what is the answer once marriage equality is inevitably in every state?

You are a staunch advocate for so-called "ex-gay" therapy, so much so that a coalition of organizations awared you the 2013 Ex-Gay Pride Freedom Award.  I'm curious if this is the only therapy that is rejected by the entire scientific community that you publicly back, or if there are other antiquated and ineffective snake oils that you will be pushing here today.

On multiple occasions, you have invoked Revolutionary and Civil War imagery to suggest how your supporters might respond to marriage equality.  Do you think this kind of talk is dangerous or very dangerous?


For VVS2014 speaker Star Parker:

At last year's Values Voter Summit, you referred to pro-gay liberals as "enemies of God" and commanded gay people to "keep it private."  In the year since, many more states have legalized same-sex marriage and court after court has sided with marriage equality.  Why won't gay people and their allies listen to you? 

Ms. Parker, every year your speeches are defined very provocative words and phrases, designed to intimidate people from the podium. Do you think this sort of "tough talking" is effective, or just turns off the average American, who seems to be increasingly accepting LGBT people?  


For VVS2014 speaker Erick Erickson:

You recently claimed that a society that supports marriage equality is "a society bent on suicide."  Will your speech here at the Values Voter Summit follow up on that theme?

In a blog post you once wrote titled "Gay Rights Proponents Act Like the Third Reich," you claimed that "comparing gay rights activists to the Nazis is fitting."  Would you care to explain to the families of any of the over eleven million people—including gay people, notably—who were killed in the Holocaust how, exactly, a movement that has ushered in sweeping acceptance and increased legal safeguards for a minority population is somehow equivalent to the regime responsible for ending their ancestors' lives?


For VVS2014 speaker Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA):

Governor Jindal, after the 2012 election, you famously demanded that your party has to "stop being the stupid party" and condemned what you called "offensive, bizarre comments" of GOP candidates in that election cycle.  You said the GOP had to build a broader constituent basis.  So I'm curious why you are here speaking at a conference sponsored by the Family Research Council and co-sponsored by the American Family Association, two organizations that have collectively said more bizarre and offensive things about LGBT people than any special interest groups working in conservative politics. 

Governor, you have been a staunch supporter of Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson, aways framing your defense on "free speech" grounds rather than the merit attached to Mr. Robertson's comments.  I'm curious if you can explain how a man with a successful TV show, a new book out with prominent publisher Simon & Shuster, connections to the top voices in conservative politics, and regular media access that has only grown over the past year is supposedly having his free speech stifled.  And I'm curious why you believe his right to say the offensive things he has said about LGBT people, among others—a right that most everyone agrees he has, by the way—always trumps the real world concerns that flow from damaging rhetoric like his. 


For VVS2014 speakers David and Jason Benham:

David, you have claimed that the fight against LGBT rights is a battle against a "parallel kingdom run by Satan" that "seeks to rob kill and destroy," among many other comments in which you have put Satan at the root of growing gay acceptance.  Why do you see seem to see the Devil in every gay detail?

You and your defenders framed your dismissal from the HGTV network as being a strike against free speech, and yet you seem to be speaking more than ever.  In fact, you never really stopped.  Many believe you deliberately misframed that issue. Was it an attempt to raise your anti-LGBT profile? 


For VVS2014 speaker Rick Santorum:

It's no surprise you are speaking here, Mr. Santorum, considering your own anti-LGBT rhetoric matches, or even exceeds, that of the sponsoring organizations.  But considering your own electoral hopes have not gone the way you wanted the last two times at bat, 2006 and 2012, might it be that this kind of divisive, "culture war" stuff is something the American voter is increasingly rejecting?

Recently, while speaking about conservatives who support same-sex marriage, you said, "for the Republican Party to even contemplate going along with this is the destruction of our republic."  Here in a decade where we've experienced terror, economic woes, fears of pandemics, increasingly destructive natural disasters, and more divisive than ever before, I'm wondering if you could rationally explain to me it's a GOP that's okay with gay taxpayers marrying under civil law that will finally put the nail in this experiment that we call America.        

Mr. Santorum, at his 2002 confirmation hearing, you praised Judge John E. Jones III as an "incredible nominee" about whom you were "very excited."  Earlier this year, this very judge brought same-sex marriage to your home state of Pennsylvania.  Has your opinion of Judge Jones changed as a result of that one ruling, or do you still see him as an excellent judge? 


For VVS2014 speakers Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar:

Michelle and Jim Bob, everyone knows you have nineteen children.  Since you are here at the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit, I'm wondering if you agree with its president when he says his children could not be gay because he is "teaching them the right ways that they are to interact as human beings"?

Michelle, you recently robocalled against an ordinance that would simply protect LGBT residents of Fayetteville, Arkansas, from basic discrimination.  Do you not believe that your lesbian sister is entitled to the same protections in housing and public accommodations as you and Jim Bob? 

Your statement in the robocall mischaracterized the nature of the LGBT protections in Fayetteville, instead choosing to misrepresent transgender people and the lack of basic protections they have. Do you regret bearing false witness against the residents of Fayetteville? 


For FRC president Tony Perkins, the ringmaster of VVS2014:

Tony, you have been the president of the Family Research Council since 2003.  In your tenure, FRC has made opposing LGBT rights one of its top ticket items.  In this same span of time, American has gone from zero states with marriage equality to nineteen states and the nation's capitol.  We also saw the repeal of Don't Ask Don't tell, something you and FRC fought very hard against.  We also now have federal hates crimes legislation, despite you and FRC lobbying against that.  And in the time since you've taken helm, all credible polling shows that a growing majority of Americans have become supportive of LGBT rights, including marriage equality.  Can we safely assume that your aggressively anti-LGBT rhetoric at FRC, as well as your allies like that ones you have assembled here at Values Voter Summit 2014, has served as the impetus for advancement to LGBT rights in the United States of America?  After all, we never could've connected these dots of animus without you all so loudly and proudly doing it for us!