At a mid-day press conference called to discuss the Employment Non Discrimination Act about to come before the House, FRC’s Tony Perkins joined Bishop Harry Jackson, Rick Scarborough, and others to denounce the bill as a threat to religious liberty and as bad law generally. The strangest moment of the press conference was when an “ex-gay” spokesman gave his testimonial about having experienced workplace discrimination back when he was out and proud – and how he had gone to his boss’s boss and it was resolved (Confusion in the room – is that a good thing? should we applaud or not?) His point seemed to be that we shouldn’t make a law when people can take care of any workplace problems on their own – and oh, by the way, I am SO not homosexual any more.
The reporters didn’t really care – after all, it’s not exactly a news flash that people like Perkins and Jackson are opposed to legal protections for gay people. The press corps wanted to talk presidential politics.
Regarding the much-discussed threat by Religious Right leaders to form a third party if Giuliani is nominated, Perkins said that was a statement of principle, not a declaration of intent – BUT he insisted that the social conservative movement had drawn a line. Asked later what “lines” were uncrossable in the movement’s minds, Perkins said “life and marriage.”
Perkins returned to a theme Jackson had started working at breakfast – that the Republican Party had been using white evangelicals while pushing them to the back of the bus, the way he said the Democratic Party had done with blacks – and maybe black and white evangelicals should get their own bus. Jackson wanted to make sure people understood that “our vote will at least be a spoiler vote,” and could keep someone out of the White House. But he said he was open to any candidate having a “road to Des Moines” moment on the movement’s issues.
Perkins clearly isn’t expecting many attendees to support Giuliani, though he gave Giuliani points for agreeing to attend. Asked specifically about Giuliani’s pledge to appoint “strict constructionists” to the Supreme Court, Perkins cited disappointments with Reagan and Bush I, and said of the current president, “We wouldn’t have Alito if we hadn’t opposed Harriet Miers.”
Perkins refused to predict the winner of FRC’s straw poll, but said he thought two or three candidates would come out of the weekend with credible support from social conservatives, enough to give them a boost in the early primaries.
Several reporters seemed skeptical that FRC’s straw poll will be immune to ballot-stuffing my candidates. Perkins defended the process but did say a couple of thousand people had become eligible by becoming FRC Action members in the past few weeks (you could become a member by registering for the conference.)