Shannon Royce is a marathon runner, but when I ask her how her new job is going, a different sort of track metaphor leaps to mind. "It's like trying to mount Secretariat in the middle of a race," she tells me. "I'm still a little wobbly." Earlier this month, Royce, 55, became the first ever chief of staff and chief operating officer of the Family Research Council, the Christian group that advocates for socially conservative policies. She now works under FRC President Tony Perkins to oversee the routine operations of the organization and its 85-person staff, as it carries out its mission "to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a Christian worldview."
Shannon Royce is the chief of staff and chief operating officer for the Family Research Council. (Chet Susslin)That, it seems, is no small task at the moment.
The Friday I interview her in her still-largely-undecorated office at 8th and G Streets NW, it is just days before the Supreme Court begins hearing arguments about whether same-sex marriage rights should be expanded across the nation—an outcome FRC very much opposes. "I don't think anyone could have seen 25 years ago how bad things have gotten today," says Royce. (When I ask her to explain, she mentions the Oregon bakers who were recently made to pay $135,000 to a lesbian couple to whom they refused services. "Who could have foreseen that?" she asks.) Royce talks about the organization's opposition to gay marriage in terms of "protecting marriage" but also in terms of protecting religious freedom. "If marriage is redefined, we'll see even more of a religious-liberty crisis in this country," she explains. "There's a lot of conversation about living in a tolerant society," she adds. "But unfortunately, for it to work in a civil society, you have to have tolerance both ways."