Vice President Mike Pence’s speech at this weekend’s Values Voter Summit has already drawn widespread criticism due to the annual conference’s virulently anti-LGBTQ leanings. But a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center is likely to intensify backlash to his appearance.
The three-day gathering held from Sept. 21 to 23 featured a cavalcade of statements attacking queer and trans people. That’s perhaps unsurprising, as it was organized by the anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council.
A day before Trump’s second-in-command addressed the Beltway crowd in a morning plenary, conservative students met on Friday for a mixer entitled “Restoring a Generation’s Identity.” The program guide promised attendees would engage in a discussion about “God’s design for sexuality and marriage and how a biblical worldview operates in today’s culture.”
“This topic comes in an age of transgenderism, LGBTQ discrimination laws, and national outcry over who gets to use which restroom — a time when gender is given to self-determination and may change daily,” reads a description of the mixer.
Values Voter Summit certainly delivered on that promise.
John Reid, director of social media at the FRC, spoke with an estimated dozen or so students gathered on the topic of “gender dysphoria.” In response to a question from an audience member on the subject, he recalled that his college roommate often struggled with “same-sex attraction” after being molested by his uncle as a child.
Reid concluded the two phenomena are undoubtedly linked, as the SPLC noted in a report released Tuesday.
“When you’re that young and that impressionable, that kind of trauma, even if you’re very young, has long-term effects,” he said, ignoring the fact that gender identity and sexual orientation are entirely different.
Reid’s statements weren’t the only ones that concerned the SPLC.
Chelsea Vicari, evangelical program director of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, dismissed the notion that one’s LGBTQ status is innate and unchangeable.
“None of us, whatever our issues with sin are, are the sum total of those sins,” Vicari told mixer participants. “And no matter what someone is dealing with, if you are struggling with same-sex attraction or gender issues, that is not your identity.”
Meanwhile, FRC’s Life, Culture, and Women’s Advocacy Director Patrina Mosley claimed transgender people “erase God’s design.”
Although Pence likely was not present at the student mixer, he would have been in attendance for the “How Gender Ideology Harms Children” panel. The talk featured a litany of noted anti-trans opponents, including former chief of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Paul McHugh, American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) President Michelle Cretella, and “Activist Mommy” Elizabeth Johnston.
After shutting down the gender identity clinic at Johns Hopkins in 1979, McHugh has spent decades opposing gender confirmation surgeries for trans people. Cretella fronts a fake medical organization which claims transgender acceptance amounts to “institutionalized child abuse.”
In addition to protesting the teaching of LGBTQ-inclusive sex education in schools, Johnston has previously called the trans rights movement “gender insanity.”
“‘Gender insanity’ is a term I coined which I believe is very fitting to describe a revolutionary and subversive movement to normalize gender confusion, sexual deviancy, erase gender distinctions and really bully any Christian or freethinker who is not willing to conform to this new gender paradigm,” she told CBN News in an interview earlier this year.
The figures reiterated many of the same claims during the Saturday talk.
Cretella again alleged the United States “is engaged in large-scale child abuse” by affirming the right of trans people to self-determine their gender identity. She claimed her “field of pediatrics,” as well as “psychiatry, our education system, mass media, and social media” are all “complicit” in this alleged epidemic.
A slide during her presentation summed up her argument: “Transgenderism: a Vehicle for Tyranny.”
Citing attempts by right-wing activists to shut down Drag Queen Story Hour events at libraries across the country, Johnston added in her address to the audience that conservatives “have been playing much too nice with these degenerates.”
“It is past time for us, guys, to get aggressive about protecting our children’s innocence,” she said. “[…] This is war. This is war on our children.”
The discussion was one of several events scheduled for Saturday’s plenary session. The three-hour long event featured speeches by former Trump strategist Sebastian Gorka, Fox News host Todd Starnes, and anti-LGBTQ Congressman Mark Meadows, before capping off with an address from the vice president.
As INTO previously reported, Pence used the appearance to reiterate the Trump administration’s support for so-called “religious freedom” laws allowing people of faith to discriminate against the LGBTQ community.
“Our administration has… taken action to protect and promote our first freedom, the freedom of religion and religious liberty for every American,” he said, citing the president’s May 2018 executive order announcing the formation of the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative.
The conservative, who signed the swiftly repealed Religious Freedom Restoration Act as governor of Indiana, also reaffirmed the administration’s hardline immigration policy.
“This administration will never abolish ICE,” Pence said, in comments first reported by the SPLC. “We will support those heroes as they uphold our laws. With our renewed commitment to law enforcement we’ve been securing our borders, enforcing our laws, taking dangerous gang criminals off of our streets at a record pace.”
“And with the support of this Congress we’ve also kept a promise: we’ve already started to build that wall on our Southern border,” he added.
Other speakers at this year’s Values Voter Summit included anti-LGBTQ foes like Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Ben Carson, Baptist preacher Mark Harris, one-time presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, Army Secretary nominee Mark Green, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, columnist Star Parker, and former HGTV hosts the Benham Brothers.
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