Major newspapers in Louisiana have been largely silent about the burgeoning state political career of Family Research Council (FRC) president Tony Perkins, mostly ignoring the hate group leader’s history of extreme anti-LGBT politics.
Perkins’ Rise In Louisiana Politics
Perkins’ political ascendance in Louisiana began nearly two decades ago, with his election to the state House of Representatives. He served in that body from 1996 to 2004, making an unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2002. During his time in the legislature, Perkins founded the right-wing Louisiana Family Forum out of a reported ”concern about the influence of the homosexual movement.” He cemented his role as a social conservative leader when he assumed the presidency of the FRC in 2003.
While the FRC is based in Washington, Perkins has always kept one foot in Louisiana, commuting to Washington from the state every week, Perkins considered launching a primary challenge to Republican Sen. David Vitter in 2010, ultimately opting to sit that race out. Perkins has cultivated a close relationship with Gov. Bobby Jindal, who appointed Perkins to the Louisiana Commission on Marriage and Family in 2008. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), however, notes that Perkins skipped all of the commission’s meetings.
Perkins’ dismal attendance record notwithstanding, Jindal announced this September that he was naming Perkins to the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement, which is responsible for awarding grants, officer training, and law enforcement regulation. Slate noted that in a state where anti-sodomy laws remain on the books and gay men have recently been arrested for having sex, the virulently anti-gay Perkins now has a role overseeing law enforcement.
Within weeks of his appointment to the law enforcement commission, Perkins expressed interest in seeking the open U.S. House seat from Louisiana’s sixth congressional district in 2014. Perkins would join what’s likely to be a jam-packed field of Republicans vying for the seat, but he says he finds it “an attractive prospect to be closer to home.”
If past is indeed prologue, social issues will be at the forefront of a Perkins congressional campaign. During his decade at the helm of the FRC, Perkins has amassed a record as one of the country’s most rabid opponents of LGBT equality. The FRC’s malicious, baseless smears against LGBT people led the SPLC to designate the organization an anti-gay hate group in 2010, and Perkins’ own history of anti-LGBT commentary helps illuminate why.
To Perkins, gay people are ”intolerant,” “hateful,” “vile,” “spiteful” and “pawns” of “the enemy.” Perkins has spread the myth that there’s a link between homosexuality and pedophilia, calling the sexual abuse of children “a homosexual problem.” He has called the It Gets Better project to affirm LGBT youth a “disgusting” ploy to “recruit” youth into the gay “lifestyle.” The punishment for being part of that “lifestyle”? "Eternal damnation," according to Perkins.
Perkins doesn’t merely oppose marriage equality as a matter of public policy. He says it’s nothing short of a grave "evil." And not only did Perkins vigorously oppose lifting the ban on open service by LGB soldiers; he proclaimed that members of Congress who voted to end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell had the "blood of young Marines" on their hands.
Given his apocalyptic take on what LGBT equality would mean for the country, it came as little surprise when Perkins warned of a "revolution" if the Supreme Court were to legalize same-sex marriage.
In addition to his record of anti-LGBT extremism, Perkins also has ties to white supremacist groups.
While managing Woody Jenkins’ 1996 campaign for the U.S. Senate, Perkins paid $82,500 to use the phone bank used by former KKK leader and 1991 GOP gubernatorial nominee David Duke. The phone bank was maintained by Impact Mail Ltd., in which Duke held a financial stake. Perkins claimed not to know “the complete Duke connection” at the time of the purchase. However, upon discovering the connection, he rerouted the payment through Courtney Communications, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported in 2002. “[P]olitically, we didn’t want to be connected with Duke,” Perkins explained. According to the SPLC, Jenkins’ campaign ultimately paid a $3,000 fine for filing false disclosure forms as part of a failed attempt to cover up its ties to Duke.
Perkins’ links to white supremacists didn’t end with Duke. In 2001, the SPLC notes, Perkins spoke before a meeting of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens. Perkins later feigned ignorance of the group’s white supremacist beliefs, but a photo from the event shows him speaking in front of a Confederate flag.