A strong anti-LGBT sentiment pervaded the first night of an annual conference for conservatives in D.C. as Republican commentator Mike Huckabee railed against a pro-transgender student law in California to fire up his audience.
The former Arkansas governor urged attendees to oppose the School Success & Opportunity Act, which enables transgender students in California to participate in programs and athletics consistent with their gender identity, during his speech at the Values Voter Summit.
“So, Jerry Brown, the governor of California, this week signed a bill — by the same legislature that passed a bill that said if six-year-olds, who are biologically boys think that they are really girls, that they should be able to go to the girls restroom,” Huckabee said. “And if they’re 16 and they really — maybe you’re biologically all male but they identify as female, they should be able to go to the locker room with, shower with, and play on the sports teams of the girls. And, to those of us who believe that there is a difference between male and female, we would say ‘We have been told you’re on your own.’”
Huckabee continued to jab at the law by envisioning a scenario in which a transgender student would shower with boys on a sports term.
“And by the way, it is a good thing that that didn’t come up when I was in high school ’cause I’m pretty sure that every boy in my high school would have suddenly felt like that he was just a little more comfortable showering with the girls no matter how uncomfortable the girls might have been with it,” Huckabee said.
Huckabee concluded his tirade against the law by saying, “Is that not the craziest think you’ve ever heard?”
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, criticized Huckabee’s remarks.
“The School Success & Opportunity Act is simply about making all school programs accessible for all students,” Keisling said. “That’s all and Mr. Huckabee should be extremely supportive of that. This is about boys being in boy space and girls being in girl space, and everybody being able to participate.”
Keisling also said Huckabee was adding a sexual element to a law in a way that was inappropriate.
“Though Huckabee claims that he and all the teenage boys he grew up with were perverts, it is still inappropriate that he should be sexualizing six year olds this way in his comments,” Keisling said.
The California transgender student law has been targeted for repeal as anti-trans forces, in particular the groups Privacy for All Students, gather signatures to place the measure on the ballot for a referendum. Last week, the California State Republican Party endorsed an effort to reverse the law at its convention in Anaheim.
But trans people weren’t the only part of the LGBT community that Huckabee targeted during his speech. Huckabee also went after gay people by railing against what he said were the consequences for opponents of same-sex marriage in the growing number of states that have legalized same-sex marriage.
“For those of us who still believe that the biblical standard of marriage is the standard of marriage because it’s the only one that has lasted over the test of time, do you realize that for those of us for whom this is not a governmental issue and it’s not a political issue, it is a moral issue, it is a biblical issue, it’s a cultural issue, it’s a sociological issue, it’s a family issue, we’ve been pretty much told, ‘You’re on your own.’”
Huckabee brought up an incident in which a photographer was sued under a New Mexico anti-discrimination law for refusing to take a photo of a same-sex wedding ceremony and another incident in which he said a baker in Washington State was in trouble for refusing to make a cake for a gay couple’s wedding.
“The government told them, you better make the cake, or go out of business,” Huckabee said. “They said, ‘You’re on your own.”
Also on stage speaking out against marriage equality was former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, now president of the conservative think-tank The Heritage Foundation, who said the nation must resist the legalization of gay nuptials.”
“Marriage is the most foundational, cultural and economic institution in our society,” DeMint said. “Marriages between a man and a woman are by far the best environment to raise children and create responsible citizens.”
Perhaps foreseeing a day when the marriage issue would return to the Supreme Court, DeMint said, “States have regulated marriage to protect it, but there is nothing in our federal Constitution that gives Congress, the president or the Supreme Court the right to redefine or regulate marriage.”
These speakers took the stage after remarks against same-sex marriage by Ben Carson and anti-gay remarks from political commentator Sandy Rios. Also among the earlier speakers was Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who, after being interrupted several times during his speech by protesters, later won the Values Voter Summit’s presidential straw poll by 42 percent.
Friday evening at the Values Voter Summit culminated with a panel on opposition to same-sex marriage, moderated by Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, titled The Future of Marriage. The 1964 song “Chapel of Love” by the Dixie Cups played as the panel began.
Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, invoked the notion that opposition to same-sex marriage is similar to the civil rights movement of the 1960s as he defended those who would seek to defend “the truth that mothers and fathers are different and that children deserve the opportunity to have both.”
“On the other side of the debate is an attempt to deconstruct the very nature of reality, the very nature of what it means to be a human being, to be created male and female,” Brown said.
Brown attributed the lack of success of marriage equality legislation in Illinois that supporters kept from coming to a floor vote this summer, to a coalition of lawmakers that included black lawmakers who oppose same-sex marriage.
Jennifer Marshall, director of domestic studies for The Heritage Foundation, said a wave of “young recruits” has entered the anti-gay marriage movement following the Supreme Court decision against the Defense of Marriage Act.
“We will continue to give the unique status in law to the union between a man and a woman, the only union that can produce children as a monogamous, exclusive permanent relationship,” Marshall said. “We uphold this ideal in the interest of children, in the interest of coming together and in the interest of America’s future.”
Representing the young recruits in opposition to same-sex marriage was Ryan Anderson, a fellow in religion and free society at The Heritage Foundation, who said he’s gone to speak on college campuses on why “marriage matters.”
“Whenever a child is born, a mother will be close by, that’s a fact of biology,” Anderson said. “The question for culture and the question for law is will a father be close by, and if so, for how long?”
The marriage panel was originally scheduled for the Values Voter Summit earlier in the day, but was postponed until the evening. Darin Miller, a Family Research Council spokesperson, told the Blade it was postponed to accommodate lawmakers’ schedules so they could make it on time for votes on Capitol Hill.
Evan Wolfson, president of the LGBT group Freedom to Marry, responded to the remarks against same-sex marriage at the Values Voter Summit by saying they’re acting contrary to basic values.
“If they can’t value basic American values such as liberty and justice for all, and if they can’t value personal values such as the Golden Rule and loving your neighbor, and if they can’t value veracity, you’d think they’d at least value their own self-image enough to stop the rest of us from trying to come up with polite synonyms for ‘out-of-touchiness,’” Wolfson said.