The Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council (FRC) grew out of the Christian Right organization Focus on the Family, serving as its public policy arm and incorporating in 1983. While the FRC was closely aligned with Focus on the Family at its onset, issues surrounding its tax-exempt status resulted in a separation between Focus and the FRC. Now both organizations have 501c(4) spinoffs, Focus on the Family Action and Family Research Council Action, to allow them greater permission to lobby. As part of its Christian Right ideology, FRC focuses on what it considers family values: opposition to reproductive rights and homosexuality, as well as support for strictly traditional gender roles. The current President is Tony Perkins, a former Louisiana legislator and one of the most powerful voices in the Christian Right today. The group describes a LGBTQ lifestyle as “unhealthy” and “destructive” to “individuals, families, and societies.”
The FRC, perhaps the most powerful conservative Christian presence in Washington, DC, with strong connections to its grassroots base, was labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). In August 2012, an armed gay man entered the lobby of FRC’s Washington, D.C. offices and wounded a security guard. In the aftermath of the shooting, Perkins accused the SPLC of sparking hatred and instigating violence.
Since the 1980s, FRC has helped launch state-level Christian action groups that take the lead on anti-LGBTQ ballot campaigns. During the 2012 ballot initiative campaigns, FRC actively promoted Maryland Marriage Alliance, Preserve Marriage Washington, Minnesota for Marriage, and Protect Marriage Maine on its website, and financially supported anti-gay groups in Minnesota and Maryland. Through its “action alerts,” the FRC also prompted its members to support the ballot initiatives in both Washington state and Maine.
At the September 2012 Values Voter Summit, the annual Christian Right conference cosponsored by FRC, leaders from the anti-LGBTQ campaigns in these four states expressed a seemingly defeatist attitude. In Maine, Carroll Conley of the Maine Family Policy Council, cited the Roman Catholic Church’s disengagement from the campaign in that state: “This great ally in so many other battles and so many other times has chosen not to engage publicly. The Bishop’s absence is a tremendous obstacle in a predominantly Catholic state.” Conley asked panel attendees if they knew of any “religious liberty conflicts.”
John Helmberger of the Minnesota Family Council pointed to the campaign’s ground game and ethnic and religious group targeting: “We’ve been in the state’s largest mosques and they are solidly behind the marriage amendment,” he said, “But getting out the vote is everything for us.”
This profile has been adapted from PRA’s 2013 The Right’s Marriage Message report.