CHARLOTTE, N.C. — One North Carolina congressman with a history of anti-gay views is participating this weekend in a conservative conference now drawing criticism from a variety of progressive organizations.

Rep. Mark Meadows
Rep. Mark Meadows

U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, a Republican who represents Western North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District, is scheduled to speak at this weekend’s Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. He’ll be joined by a bevy of other conservative and anti-gay elected officials, commentators and activists, including Charlotte twin brothers and anti-gay activists David and Jason Benham.

The conference is presented by the Family Research Council (FRC) and co-sponsored by American Family Association (AFA) and the Liberty Counsel. All three groups have extremist anti-LGBT leanings; FRC and AFA have both been named hate groups by the Montgomery, Ala.-based Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

This week, in an open letter published in The Washington Post and The Hill, the SPLC and a coalition of six other groups, including GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign, called on Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus to distance the party and its members from the conference and its sponsoring organizations.

“Fifteen years ago, your predecessor called for party members to shun the Council of Conservative Citizens because of the group’s ‘racist views,'” the groups’ letter reads (PDF). “Today, Chairman Priebus, we ask that you take a similar stand and call upon Republican officials to disassociate themselves from the groups behind the upcoming Values Voter Summit. The reason is simple: These groups engage in repeated, groundless demonization of LGBT people — portraying them as sick, vile, incestuous, violent, perverted, and a danger to the nation.”

FRC and AFA are known for a variety of extremist positions. FRC, in particular, has advocated for criminalizing homosexual behavior and “exporting” LGBT people from the U.S. FRC staffers also routinely claim — falsely — that LGBT people want to “work to normalize sex with boys,” and that gay ay men are more likely to commit rape and child molestation. Recently, FRC President Tony Perkins claimed LGBT activists are “going to start rolling out the boxcars to start hauling off Christians.”

“Our elected officials should not legitimize hate speech by appearing before extremist groups that vilify entire groups of people simply because of who they are,” SPLC President Richard Cohen said in a release. “We’re asking the leaders of the GOP to take a stand against the politics of division.”

Meadows has conservative, anti-LGBT views. He has said court rulings upholding LGBT marriage equality will spark a “constitutional crisis.” Meadows was a supporter of North Carolina’s anti-LGBT marriage amendment, passed by 61 percent of voters in 2012.

But, it’s not clear if Meadows shares FRC’s extremist views, such as deporting or criminalizing LGBT people.

Requests for comment from Meadows’ communications director, Alyssa Farah, were not returned by press time.

SPLC reports the number of elected officials attending each year’s Values Voter Summit has decreased. The group cites FRC’s increasingly extremist anti-gay and anti-Muslim views as a reason for the decline.

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.