By James Kirchick
On August 15, 2012, a gay-rights volunteer named Floyd Corkins entered the Washington, DC headquarters of the Family Research Council (FRC), a socially conservative policy group opposing same-sex marriage, brandishing a gun. According to an affidavit filed in the case, Corkins shouted “words to the effect of ‘I don’t like your politics” before opening fire at a security guard, who ultimately disarmed him. When Corkins was arrested, police found in his backpack 15 sandwiches from Chick-fil-A, the fast-food chain whose Southern Baptist owner had, two months prior, famously announced his opposition to same-sex marriage. Corkins told the FBI that he planned to kill as many Council staffers as possible and smash the sandwiches in their faces.
In the aftermath of the shooting, social conservatives blamed liberals for this act of terrorism, citing Corkins’ admission to authorities that the Southern Poverty Law Center’s designation of FRC as a “hate group” had inspired him. “Floyd Corkins was responsible for firing the shot yesterday that wounded one of our colleagues,” FRC president Tony Perkins said at the time. “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 their public policy.”
Gay rights groups and their allies balked at these accusations, and rightly so, as nothing they had ever said or done encouraged violence against their political adversaries. There had never been an act of “pro-gay” terrorism, much less are there any organizations preaching death to critics of same-sex marriage. This was a singular act committed by a deranged individual, and while it’s certainly fair to take issue with the labeling of FRC a “hate group,” in no way could doing so be construed as condoning murder.
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