Shooting spurs heated debate on gay rights, 'hate group' label

The shooting of a security guard Wednesday at the Family Research Council (FRC) has spurred a torrent of heated accusations from both sides of the gay-rights debate about claims that the conservative organization is a “hate group.”

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), one of the nation’s leading opponents of same-sex marriage, told The Hill the shooting was a direct result of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s decision in 2010 to place the FRC on its list of hate groups for its rhetoric on gays.

Brian Brown, the president of NOM, pointed to a recent blog post by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), one of the largest gay-rights groups in the country. The post, “Paul Ryan Speaking at Hate Group’s Annual Conference,” called attention to the vice presidential candidate’s scheduled appearance at the FRC’s national summit next month.

“Today’s attack is the clearest sign we’ve seen that labeling pro-marriage groups as ‘hateful’ must end,” Brown said in a statement issued following the shooting.

“For too long national gay-rights groups have intentionally marginalized and ostracized pro-marriage groups and individuals by labeling them as ‘hateful’ and ‘bigoted.’ ”

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Neither the FBI nor the D.C. police has released any information about what motivated the shooter, whom they placed in custody shortly after 11 a.m. near the FRC’s headquarters after he wounded a security guard in the arm.

The HRC’s vice president for communications and marketing, Fred Sainz, called the accusations “irresponsible” and “spurious” and said NOM is trying to capitalize on an atrocious attack to further its agenda of blocking gay rights.

“That’s about as irresponsible as anything I’ve ever heard in Washington,” Sainz said in an interview. “They have zero facts to go on. They have no idea who this individual is, what his motivation is, or where he’s coming from ideologically.

“The National Organization for Marriage will stop at absolutely nothing in order to try and win a war that they are losing. The have beyond zero ethical boundaries,” Sainz said. “They are the lowest of the bottom fishers.”

Sainz pointed to comments the FRC has made about gay people as justification for labeling it a “hate group,” but emphasized that characterizing it in such light did not promote or justify taking violent action against it.

“No one in their right mind processes the fact that the Southern Poverty Law Center has classified the FRC a ‘hate group’ by going and shooting at a security guard,” said Sainz.

The National Organization for Marriage countered that it’s time for the HRC and the SPLC to “withdraw such incendiary rhetoric from a debate that involves millions of good Americans.” 

The Family Research Council and a contingent of conservative lawmakers, including then-Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and then-Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), asked the Southern Poverty Law Center for a debate on the hate group designation, which it declined to hold. 

The SPLC said it looked at specific comments that members of the FRC have made about gay people when it labeled it a “hate group.” 

One such comment was taken from the FRC’s website, in an extensive paper the group wrote attempting to link a homosexual lifestyle with pedophilia — a connection that the group’s leaders have repeatedly made.

“Despite efforts by homosexual activists to distance the gay lifestyle from pedophilia, there remains a disturbing connection between the two,” the FRC wrote. 

“The evidence indicates that homosexual men molest boys at rates grossly disproportionate to the rates at which heterosexual men molest girls.” 

In separate comments, a senior research fellow for FRC, Peter Sprigg, said he was in favor of deporting gay people from the United States, when asked about gay rights and the immigration process.

Sprigg also said that the repeal of the "Don't ask, don't tell" law would result in an uptick of sexual assaults on straight people by gays serving openly in the military.

The SPLC issued remarks in response to the shooting, but declined to respond to NOM’s accusations.

“There are unconfirmed reports that the shooting was ideologically motivated,” said Richard Cohen, the president of the SPLC, in a statement. “We condemn all acts of violence and are following the story closely.”

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