RALEIGH, N.C. — The annual Conservative Leadership Conference of the Civitas Institute will take place from June 16-17 at the Marriott Crabtree Valley in Raleigh. The event features a number of controversial speakers, including Michael Harris, CEO and president of Alliance Defending Freedom, a group classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBTQ hate group.
According to organizers, the purpose of the conference is to “highlight innovative ideas for reform and strategies to eliminate government roadblocks keeping us from pursuing our dreams.” Considering the speaker and attendance list, these “roadblocks” and “dreams” are likely to be decidedly anti-LGBTQ.
In past years, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has solicited religious-based colleges and universities to request Title IX exemption, allowing the schools to discriminate against LGBTQ students. The organization’s lawyers have defended anti-LGBTQ bills like Senate Bill 2, which allowed magistrates to recuse themselves from issuing same-sex marriage licenses based on religious belief.
On the day that the N.C. General Assembly repealed the notorious HB 2, replacing it with HB 142, ADF released a statement asserting that “North Carolina has failed families by giving in to hypocritical bullies.” The organization was a key backer of HB 2, which blatantly discriminated against transgender residents and prevented nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ citizens.
Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, the staunch defender of HB 2, will also speak at the conference. The honor of keynote speaker has been bestowed upon Nigel Farage, a British politician who led the nationalist, anti-immigrant Brexit movement. The Guardian recently reported that Farage is deemed a “person of interest” in the FBI investigation into ties between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Another speaker is Paul Valone, president of Grass Roots North Carolina, an organization which raffled off an AR-15 rifle, ammunition and a photo of Hillary Clinton. CBS reported that proceeds from the raffle would help fund campaigns against North Carolina Democrats; including now-Gov. Roy Cooper, now-Attorney General Josh Stein and Deborah Ross, then competing against Republican incumbent Richard Burr.
The Conservative Leadership Conference is sponsored by several large corporations including Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina and Charlotte-based Duke Energy. Spectrum (formerly Time Warner Cable) and the Charlotte Coca-Cola Bottling Co. also fund ADF according to recent tax documents.