Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, speaks at a news… (Mark Wilson / Getty Images )
The shooter who injured a security guard at the Family Research Council headquarters in Washington was given “license to shoot an unarmed man” by those who criticized the conservative organization’s policies and beliefs, the council president said Thursday.
The comments by Tony Perkins came after suspect Floyd Lee Corkins was charged in federal court with transporting firearms and ammunition across state lines and assault with the intent to kill while armed.
Corkins, 28, walked into the lobby of the council's downtown building on Wednesday and told a security guard, “I don’t agree with your policies,” police said. He then pulled a 9-millimeter gun out of his backpack and shot the guard, an FBI affidavit said.
Perkins said at a news conference that the gunman was "given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center.”
In 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center – a nonprofit organization in Montgomery, Ala., that studies hate crimes – called the Family Research Council a hate group for making “false claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science.”
The Alabama organization said the council intended to degrade the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community by fighting against same-sex marriage, anti-bullying programs and the repeal of the military’s policy that had barred openly gay servicemembers.
Perkins said the use of “reckless rhetoric” by the law center and other organizations that disagreed with the council on matters of public policy gave rise to Wednesday’s attack.
“Perkins’ accusation is outrageous,” Southern Poverty Law Center senior fellow Mark Potok said in a statement.
“The FRC and its allies on the religious right are saying, in effect, that offering legitimate and fact-based criticism in a democratic society is tantamount to suggesting that the objects of criticism should be the targets of criminal violence,” the statement said. "The FRC routinely pushes out demonizing claims that gay people are child molesters and worse — claims that are provably false.
"It should stop the demonization and affirm the dignity of all people."
Corkins' parents in Herndon, Va., told investigators that their son had "strong opinions" about those whose viewpoints on gay rights differed from his own. Corkins had been a volunteer at the DC Center for the LGBT Community, its director said.
"I was shocked to hear that someone who has volunteered with the DC Center could be the cause of such a tragic act of violence,” director David Mariner said in a statement. “No matter the circumstances, we condemn such violence in the strongest terms possible.”
In Corkins’ backpack, federal investigators said they found extra bullets and 15 sandwiches from Chick-fil-A. The fast-food chain became a symbol of the national gay rights debate after the company president said he opposed gay marriage.
The Family Research Council verbally supported Chick-fil-A after Dan Cathy said in an interview that he did not condone marriage between gays or lesbians.
"Chick-fil-A is a Bible-based, Christian-based business who treats their employees well,” Perkins said at the time. "They have been attacked in the past about their stand. But they refuse to budge on this matter, and I commend them for what they are doing."
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