The Southern Poverty Law Center is correct — the Family Research Council is a legitimate hate group. The people who work at this institution get up each morning and essentially ask themselves: How can I distort the lives of LGBT people? How can I portray this minority group as sick, evil, and a threat to this nation?

The awful and evil crime perpetrated against FRC yesterday does nothing to change the fact that this organization has earned its reputation and designation.

Yet, despite the group’s endless screeds, lies, and distortions against LGBT people, the group’s president, Tony Perkins held a press conference today and said the following, according to BuzzFeed:

“Let me be clear that Floyd Corkins was responsible for firing the shots yesterday that wounded one of our colleagues … but Corkins was given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center that have been reckless in labeling organizations ‘hate groups’ because they disagree with them on public policy.”

Perkins added that he “appreciates” those LGBT organizations that issued a statement of condemnation for the shooting but asked those groups “to join us in calling for an end to the reckless rhetoric that I believe led to yesterday’s incident.”

As someone who reads Perkins’ anti-gay fundraising letters — make no mistake about it — this group loathes LGBT people with a special passion. Still, hate groups don’t deserve to be victims of hate crimes. They deserve the right to be safe and secure as anyone else. Thus, the crime against FRC was detestable and we hope Corkins will be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

But, that does not change the fact that the SPLC is 100% correct in labeling FRC a hate group. The organization supported prosecution of LGBT people for same-sex relations, they oppose hate crime laws and bulling legislation, they are opposed to equal rights in the workplace, they distort science for political gain, and flat out lie about gay life. Thus, their getting labeled as a hate group has much more to do with simply a disagreement on public policy, as Perkins cynically and dishonestly suggests.

For example, FRC’s Peter Sprigg once said that he wanted to “export” LGBT people and that he supports criminalizing homosexuality. In March 2008, Sprigg responded to a question on Hardball with Chris Matthews about uniting gay partners during the immigration process by saying: “I would much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them.” He later apologized, but then went on to tell MSNBC host Chris Matthews, “I think there would be a place for criminal sanctions on homosexual behavior.” “So we should outlaw gay behavior?” Matthews asked. “Yes,” Sprigg replied. Around the same time, Sprigg claimed that allowing gay people to serve openly in the military would lead to an increase in gay-on-straight sexual assaults.

This rhetoric sounds pretty dishonest and hateful to me. Here is what SPLC said about FRC at the time they were designated a hate group:

Headed today by former Louisiana State Rep. Tony Perkins, the FRC has been a font of anti-gay propaganda throughout its history. It relies on the work of Robert Knight, who also worked at Concerned Women for America but now is at Coral Ridge Ministries, along with that of FRC senior research fellows Tim Dailey (hired in 1999) and Peter Sprigg (2001). Both Dailey and Sprigg have pushed false accusations linking gay men to pedophilia: Sprigg has written that most men who engage in same-sex child molestation “identify themselves as homosexual or bisexual,” and Dailey and Sprigg devoted an entire chapter of their 2004 book Getting It Straight to similar material. The men claimed that “homosexuals are overrepresented in child sex offenses” and similarly asserted that “homosexuals are attracted in inordinate numbers to boys.”

Perkins has a right to be angry and claim to be a victim — because this time he absolutely is one and we stand in solidarity with him against all violence. But I’m not sure he is the one to be lecturing on the link between rhetoric and violence.

The question the media should have had for Perkins is this: Given that you want to imprison gays and leave them without legal standing, subject them to ridicule and spiritual abuse — what role, if any, do you see LGBT people playing in society?

This should have been followed up with the media reading Perkins his own fundraising letters and to then ask him how he thinks his own language has contributed to the debate in this country.

To reiterate, we stand 100% with FRC in this particular case and reject violence. There is no excuse for it. No justification for it. What happened to FRC is abhorrent on every level imaginable. However, that does not change the group’s reprehensible record. By any measure, SPLC is correct — the Family Research Council is a hate group.

It pains me to have to make this point at this early juncture. But, we are left with no choice because Perkins is trying to exploit the sympathy rightfully generated by this crime to whitewash his group’s ongoing anti-gay activities.

The good news is that there is a simple solution for Perkins’ problem: If you don’t want to be a hate group, stop doing and saying hateful things.