Donald Trump on Friday became the first
presidential nominee of a major party to appear at the Values Voter
The annual three-day conference is
organized by a coalition of Christian conservative groups. It aims
to “preserve the bedrock values of traditional marriage, religious
liberty, sanctity of life and limited government,” according to the
In his roughly 45-minute speech, the
Republican candidate eulogized Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
and conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, both of whom were vocal
opponents of LGBT rights. Trump said he would attend Schlafly's
funeral in St. Louis on Saturday.
“Phyllis fought very hard 'till the
very end for a free and prosperous America,” Trump told supporters.
“She understood that to be truly united as a country we can't
simply turn to government or to politicians. The bedrock of our
unity is the realization that we're all brothers and sisters created
by the same God.”
Trump promised attendees that as
president he would repeal the Johnson Amendment, the 1954 change in
the U.S. tax code introduced by then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson that
prohibits tax-exempt organizations, mostly churches, from endorsing
or opposing candidates for elected office. Trump said that he
learned about the law when a group of pastors told him that they
could not “fully endorse” him. Trump joked that repealing the
law was his only hope of getting into heaven.
“We're gonna get rid of it,” he
said. “I figure it's the only way I'll get into heaven.”
Trump also had positive comments for
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), the
organization behind the Values Voter Summit, and televangelist
Franklin Graham, both of whom strongly oppose LGBT rights.
FRC in 2003 filed an amicus brief
in defense of a Texas law used to criminalized sex between consenting
adults of the same sex in the Supreme Court case Lawrence v.
Texas. In 2004, the high court struck down such bans. While
unenforceable, Texas' law remains on the books.
Graham prepared to have his head “chopped off” for opposing gay
Trump added that as president he would
fight for “American family values,” a phrase used by some
conservative politicians to signal their opposition to LGBT rights,
in particular marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples.