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COMMENTARY: Bravo to Southern Poverty Law Center for calling out hate groups like NOM, Family Research Council

For almost 40 years, the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., has watched out for minorities who are targeted by hate groups, militias, white supremacists and other extremists.

The nonprofit civil rights organization provides free legal service to victims of discrimination and hate crimes, and publishes an Intelligence Report each quarter that investigates extremism and hate crimes in the U.S.

The SPLC has scored major court victories against hate groups and extremists that have produced sizable money awards to the victims.

But this week, the law center is under attack by conservative Republicans and right-wing groups that oppose equality for all Americans, especially LGBT people.

Why? Last month, the SPLC published its list of the 18 anti-gay groups that are demonizing the LGBT community with lies, distortions and discredited claims.

The notorious 18 were listed as hate groups and included the well-funded National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the Family Research Council (FRC) and the American Family Association.

FRC quickly organized a public response to being included on the SPLC list of haters by promoting an online petition -- ironically titled “Start Debating, Stop Hating” -- that accuses the SPLC for “attacking several groups that uphold Judeo-Christian moral views, including marriage as the union of a man and a woman.”

You know FRC and its leader Tony Perkins. They spew the biggest lies of all under the guise of “protecting the family.” They produced the booklet, “Homosexual Activists Work to Normalize Sex With Boys.” They produce junk science about homosexuality that has been totally discredited by professional researchers and scientists, especially the inaccurate claims by the so-called American College of Pediatricians, a sham group created by the hater groups to spread lies to support their outrageous claims about the LGBT community.

We find it worthwhile to read the list of groups and people who are supporting the online petition. They include a stellar list of haters led by Maggie Gallagher of NOM and Gary Bauer of American Values.

Twenty-two GOP members of Congress also signed a public statement that was published in a full-page ad placed in two newspapers in Washington, D.C. The signers also included conservative Republican politicians such as Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, former Arkansas governor and Fox commentator Mike Huckabee, and House Speaker-designate John Boehner of Ohio.

For advocates of equal rights for all Americans, it is almost astonishing to find so many politicians coming out of the closet to support hate and discrimination.

For fair-minded Americans, it is shocking to see a trusted and respected organization like SPLC to be bashed in full-page ads and online.

The SPLC didn't take the bashing lightly, responding to the unwarranted criticism.

We salute the Southern Poverty Law Center for looking out for America’s minorities, including LGBT people, who are often the brunt of hate speech, bullying and violence. Keep up the good work!