GOP lawmakers honor hate group on its 25th anniversary

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Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, Gov. Kim Reynolds, and Reps. Randy Feenstra and Mariannette Miller-Meeks attended the FAMiLY Leader gala.

Top Iowa Republicans attended a celebration on Oct. 30 honoring the 25th anniversary of the FAMiLY Leader, an anti-LGBTQ, anti-abortion, anti-contraception organization officially affiliated with the Family Research Council, which is designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, Rep. Randy Feenstra, and Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks then shared pictures of themselves at the gala on social media, congratulating the Iowa organization on the milestone.

Grassley tweeted out a photo of himself at the event with Bob Vander Plaats, the president and CEO of the FAMiLY Leader, noting that "Hundreds of Iowans gathered" for the event.

"Congratulations to @bobvanderplaats and the Family Leader for celebrating 25 years!" wrote Feenstra. "I look forward to continuing our work together defending innocent life and our Family values in Congress!"

Miller-Meeks said, "Great to be in Des Moines tonight for the Family Leader's 25th Anniversary Gala. I look forward to being in Des Moines soon!"

Vander Plaats thanked them and Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds for "making our celebration extra special" and said his organization is "moving forward with great Faith for the next twenty-five years. In Jesus name…we press on!"

During its 25 years in operation, Vander Plaats and his organization have worked for far-right social policies in Iowa and nationally.

In 2011, they circulated a 14-point candidate pledge called "The Marriage Vow," asking politicians "to agree to strengthen and support families and marriages between one woman and one man." The document read, "Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA's first African-American President."

The section was later deleted amid a backlash, and the group said it realized it could have been "misconstrued." Other sections demanding "faithful monogamy" and opposing same-sex marriage, Sharia law, and gay and lesbian people serving in the U.S. military were all kept in.

That same year, Vander Plaats told ThinkProgress that homosexuality was a "public health risk" like smoking. "If we're teaching the kids, 'don't smoke, because that's a risky health style,' the same can be true of the homosexual lifestyle," he argued.

The organization's website currently argues that America needs policies to encourage "biblical marriages" and discourage "fornication, pornography, prostitution, adultery, homosexuality, and transgenderism."

It also endorses the "God-given right" to exercise religion "not only within personal or church life, but also in the public sphere."

The group opposes abortion and contraception, pushing to protect life "from contraception to natural death." When GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney indicated in 2012 that he would allow birth control and permit abortion in cases of rape, incest, or medical necessity, Vander Plaats said that "does give me pause," although he conceded, "We're more uncomfortable in Barack Obama than we are with Mitt Romney, as well as we know that he would have Paul Ryan whispering in his ear on the sanctity of human life."

Feenstra, who defeated incumbent Rep. Steve King in a Republican primary last year, highlighted his endorsement by Vander Plaats during the race, calling him a "conservative leader."

Vander Plaats has also endorsed Reynolds as a possible 2024 presidential or vice presidential candidate.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.