Soon after the news that a gunman who had volunteered at an LGBT organization shot and wounded an employee of the pro-family group Family Research Council, a coalition of groups supporting gay rights and that have virtually nothing in common with FRC issued statements condemning the shooting.
- (Photo: The Christian Post)
Meanwhile, the Southern Poverty Law Center is not backing off labeling FRC a "hate" group – a distinction typically reserved for racist and Neo Nazi type groups.
The 44 groups that include Freedom to Marry, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, TN Transgender Political Coalition, National Center for Transgender Equity and the Log Cabin Republicans condemned the violence associated with Wednesday's attack.
"We were saddened to hear news of the shooting this morning at the offices of the Family Research Council. Our hearts go out to the shooting victim, his family, and his co-workers," read the joint statement.
"The motivation and circumstances behind today's tragedy are still unknown, but regardless of what emerges as the reason for this shooting, we utterly reject and condemn such violence. We wish for a swift and complete recovery for the victim of this terrible incident."
Soon after the shooting the FBI labeled it an act of "domestic terrorism" and on Thursday suspect Floyd Lee Corkins, II was charged with assault with intent to kill while armed and interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition. Federal Magistrate Alan Kay also ordered a 24-hour mental evaluation of Corkins.
Yet what remains unclear is how these and other groups that differ with FRC and those who advocate biblical positions that oppose same-sex marriage and other forms of sex outside of traditional marriage will proceed from this point forward.
On Thursday afternoon, FRC's president, Tony Perkins, held a press conference in front of their offices placing the responsibility for the shooting on Corkins, while at the same time suggesting that groups such as the SPLC's "reckless actions" helped contribute to Corkins' actions.
"Let me be clear that Floyd Corkins was responsible for firing the shot yesterday that wounded one of our colleagues and our friend, Leo Johnson," said Perkins.
"But Corkins was given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center that have been reckless in labeling organizations 'hate' groups because they disagree with them on public policy. And I believe the SPLC could be held accountable for their reckless use of terminology that is leading to the intimidation and what the FBI here has categorized as an action of domestic terrorism. There is no room for that in a society such as ours that works through differences we have on public policy through a peaceful means."
Reaction to Perkins' comments were swift and one of the groups that signed on to the joint statement condemning violence on Wednesday maintained that the "hate" label was well-deserved by FRC.
Truth Wins Out, a gay rights group, offered the following statement on Thursday:
"In his statement today, Tony Perkins expressed appreciation for the LGBT community's swift repudiation of violence but asked us to go further and disavow FRC's hate-group designation. Truth Wins Out cannot do that," said Wayne Besen in a statement on the group's website.
"Perkins cannot be allowed to exploit the sympathy rightfully generated by this inexcusable crime to whitewash his group's ongoing anti-gay activities. If the FRC wants to stop being labeled a hate group, it must stop doing and saying hateful things."
"FRC is not a hate group because of its public policy views, as Mr. Perkins has alleged. It is a hate group because it earned that designation," added TWO's director of communications, John Becker.
Dana Milbank of The Washington Post, meanwhile, wrote on Thursday that while he disagrees with FRC on its views on gays and lesbians, "it's absurd to put the group, as the law center does, in the same category as Aryan Nations, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Stormfront and the Westboro Baptist Church."
The liberal columnist went on to say that FRC may have made some offensive comments but he said he agreed with the conservative National Organization for Marriage in saying "that the attack 'is the clearest sign we've seen that labeling pro-marriage groups as 'hateful' must end.'"
"Nobody gave Corkins a license to kill. But at the same time, "hate," a strong word, has been used too loosely," Milbank wrote.
Corkins will be back in court next Friday for a scheduled hearing.