Several Democratic presidential candidates have declined invitations to a summit hosted by an anti-LGBTI Christian group.
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg joined Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke in turning down speaking invitations from Christian group, The Family Leader.
Senator Kamala Harris later confirmed she would also be declining the offer.
The head of The Family Leader had sent out the invitations for the group’s summit in July.
The candidates, who have begun their presidential campaigns for the 2020 elections, were invited by an influential religious conservative, Bob Vander Plaats.
The Family Leader is actively opposed to the legalization of same-sex marriage in the US. The group is also loosely affiliated with fellow conservative Christan group, Focus on the Family.
‘An organization that preaches bigotry and sows hate against the LGBTQ community’
Vander Plaats, who heads The Family Leader, said that he invited the Democrats to discuss issues of faith and unity.
He told NBC News this was after hearing the candidates talk about religious faith on their campaign trails.
Vander Plaats made headlines in the past for his anti-marriage equality activism. In 2010 he led a successful effort to oust three Iowa Supreme Court judges following their unanimous ruling to legalize gay marriage in the state the year before.
On Monday, Booker tweeted that while he welcomes opportunities to discuss faith, he would not be attending.
‘I cannot — in good conscience — attend an event put on by an organization that preaches bigotry and sows hate against the LGBTQ community,’ Booker tweeted.
I welcome any opportunity to talk about how faith guides me, but I cannot—in good conscience—attend an event put on by an organization that preaches bigotry and sows hate against the LGBTQ community. That’s why I am declining an invitation to the Family Leader’s July 12 summit.
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) April 29, 2019
‘We will be declining this invitation’
Buttigieg’s campaign had initially said he was considering attending. The openly gay candidate who is a devout Episcopal has said in the past that he believes that same-sex marriage has reaffirmed his Christan faith.
Buttigieg has spoken out against religious conservatives who are opposed to LGBTI rights in the past. He has been hugely critical of heavily religious Vice President Mike Pence for his anti-LGBTI interpretation of Christianity.
‘We keep an open mind to the invitations that we receive,’ Buttigieg’s press secretary Chris Meagher said. ‘We will be declining this invitation,’ he added.
Vander Plaats described the en mass snub as a ‘calculated decision’ by the candidates.
‘The message it sends is they want to run for president for a piece of America, not for all of America,’ said Vander Plaats. ‘We think we’re providing a great opportunity. Obviously, it’s their choice.’
Democratic support for LGBTI rights
The Democratic candidates’ decision not to decline the invitation from the conservative group is far from surprising.
Buttigieg has seen an uptick in response since announcing his run for the presidency in January.
Harris, Booker, and fellow presidential hopeful, Senator Bernie Sanders, have also been highly vocal in their support for LGBTI rights.
While Buttigieg is currently the only openly gay presidential hopeful, the Democratic party has seen an influx of LGBTI representation in recent years.
A record number of Democratic LGBTI candidates took office in last year’s November midterm elections. A number of pundits dubbed election results as a ‘pink wave’.
This stands in stark contrast to the current US government under Republican President Donald Trump.
According to LGBTI rights group GLAAD, the Trump administration has attacked LGBTI rights in the US over 100 times since taking office in January 2017.
The Trump White House has a particularly woeful record on trans rights.
Earlier this month, the Trump administration’s controversial ban on trans troops serving in the US military came into effect.