President Donald Trump will be the first sitting president to address the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit, which the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) described as a “rogues’ gallery of the radical right.”
Trump will be the keynote speaker at Friday’s event, which will also be attended by his former strategist, Steve Bannon. Other speakers include the founder of anti-Islam group ACT for America and former Trump strategist, Sebastian Gorka.
The anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council, labeled as a hate group by the SPLC, has hosted its annual summit since its inception in 2006.
“Values voters have waited eight years for a leader who puts America’s mission first and respects the values that made America into a great nation,” the council’s president Tony Perkins said in a statement reported by The Hill.
“Values voters are coming to our nation’s capital thankful to hear from a president who is fulfilling the promises that he campaigned on. Since the early days of the campaign, President Trump allied himself with values voters, promising to put an end to the eight years of relentless assault on the First Amendment,” he added.
No other sitting president has ever taken the decision to address the summit, although Trump has spoken before the conference on three previous occasions—even during his presidential election campaign.
Speaking of the president’s decision to attend this year’s 12th annual event, SPLC President Richard Cohen told The Independent: “By appearing at the Values Voter Summit, President Trump is lending the legitimacy of his office to a hate group that relentlessly demonizes LGBTQ people and works to deny them of their equal rights.”
“His appearance puts the lie to his campaign promise to be a friend to the LGBTQ community. Bigotry is not an American value, and our president should speak out against it,” he added.
Trump’s attacks on the LGBTQ community have not gone unnoticed, with the president rescinding Obama-era protection for transgender students that allow them to use the bathroom that matches the gender they identify with. Trump also suggested a ban on transgender troops in the military, and failed to recognize Pride Month or National Coming Out Day, unlike his predecessor.
The group organizing the summit has previously commented on homosexuality. “Family Research Council believes that homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large, and can never be affirmed. It is by definition unnatural, and as such is associated with negative physical and psychological health effects.”
It is not clear what topic Trump will address during his speech, but the group’s overwhelmingly negative attitude towards the LGBTQ community has prompted questions about whether a president should be attending a day of glorified hate speech.