National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown spoke Tuesday night at an anti-marriage equality rally at the Utah state capitol, where he claimed that the anti-gay movement represents “true civil rights.” There have been several news reports about the event, but YouTube user Drew Stelter posted video of Brown’s speech.
In the speech, Brown pushed the narrative that conservative Christians are being persecuted by the increased acceptance of gay rights. While he acknowledged that there might be people of many faiths in the crowd, he made it clear exactly who his audience was: “I would say that it’s pretty likely that those of us here share some respect for our savior, Jesus Christ.”
Brown went on to compare the movement against marriage equality to Christians who fought against the Roman empire, slavery, and those at the head of the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. “Throughout history, people of faith have stood up against gross injustices, stood up for true civil rights,” he said, adding later: “We stand up for the civil rights for all when we stand up for the truth about marriage.”
Is it possible to talk about human rights abuses in Russia in the context of the Olympics and not once mention Russia’s anti-gay laws, the rising tide of anti-gay violence, or the controversy over the impact that Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” law might have on athletes and visitors? Sure, if you’re Sen. Ted Cruz speaking at an event hosted by the Heritage Foundation.
Cruz, darling of the Religious Right and Tea Party, slammed Russia’s “increasingly autocratic” president at the January 28 Heritage event. He portrayed Vladimir Putin as a tyrant systematically working to crush Ukrainian independence and reassemble the old Soviet Union. And of course he took the opportunity to slam the Obama administration, which he said was not standing up forcefully for human rights.
Following Cruz to the microphone was Katrina Lantos Swett, Vice Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Swett, a “proud Democrat,” detailed a litany of anti-democratic laws adopted in Putin’s Russia, including “religious freedom” and “extremism” laws that give the government wide latitude to discriminate against minority religions, including Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Pentecostal Christians. She said the Russian government is undermining civil society with severe restrictions on protests and the return of Soviet-era tactics like sentencing dissidents to psychiatric treatment. Swett did mention the anti-gay “propaganda” law in her list of Putin’s anti-democratic actions.
There are a couple remarkable things about this panel, other than finding myself in agreement with Cruz about something (Putin is an anti-democratic strongman).
First, in his 26-minute speech and during the Q&A, at an event about human rights and the Olympics, Cruz did not breathe a word about the raging controversy over Russia’s attacks on the rights and lives of LGBT people. The closest Cruz came was mentioning, as an example of Putin’s efforts to crush dissent, his moves against “a punk rock band.” Cruz joked about his unwillingness to say the band’s name (Pussy Riot).
Second, Cruz is clearly at odds with anti-gay and anti-abortion leaders in the U.S. who have been busily praising Putin as the defender of traditional values and savior of Christianity. Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber, for example, has said Putin is being allowed to “out-Christian our once-Christian nation.” The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer has called Putin “the lion of Christianity, the defender of Christian values, the president that’s calling his nation back to embracing its identity as a nation founded on Christian values.”
In fact there is a whole gaggle of Religious Right leaders who have, as Miranda has reported, fallen all over themselves to praise Putin and his anti-free-speech, anti-gay crackdown. And some of them have done more than just praise Putin. Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage traveled to Russia to build support for anti-gay legislation. The Illinois-based Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society is excited about heading to Moscow for its 2014 “World Congress of Families” summit.
Cruz was eager to criticize the Obama administration for not advocating more strongly for human rights in Russia, but what does he have to say about his Religious Right pals who are actively praising and enabling Putin’s anti-democratic moves? And who have attacked the Obama administration’s efforts to promote the human rights of LGBT people abroad? We’re listening.
RWW’s Paranoia-Rama takes a look at five of the week’s most absurd conspiracy theories from the Right.
This week, we learned more details about President Obama’s sinister gay-Sharia plot. And according to one right-wing radio host, if the president fails to implement his nefarious policies before his second term runs out, he will simply set up “a satellite administration in exile.”
5. Pot Wreaking Havoc On Colorado!
Colorado’s legalization of marijuana went into effect at the start of the year, providing plenty of material for satirical websites such as the Daily Currant and the National Report. Unfortunately, it seems that many people fell for the Daily Currant’s post titled “Marijuana Overdoses Kill 37 in Colorado On First Day of Legalization”; many also believed the National Report articles, “Feds Raid Colorado Pot Shop” and “Colorado Pot Shop Accepting Food Stamps – Taxpayer Funded Marijuana for Welfare Recipients.”
Of course, we don’t need satirical stories from the Daily Currant or National Report when we already have terrible reporting on marijuana policy from folks like Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly and Washington Times opinion editor Emily Miller.
4. Priebus Uncovers Democratic Jobless Aid Conspiracy
After Senate Republicans failed to block a vote to extend unemployment benefits for three months, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus alleged that is actually the Democrats who want the jobless aid bill to fail, even though every single Democratic member of the Senate voted to consider the legislation. “They don’t want this to pass,” Priebus said, arguing that Democrats simply want to make Republicans look bad by trying to hold a vote on an extension of unemployment insurance for 1.3 million jobseekers.
“I’m reasonably certain this theory is stark raving mad, but let’s assume for the sake of conversation that Priebus is onto something,” Steve Benen responded. “If this were true, wouldn’t it make sense for Republican leaders to pass the measures and undermine the Democratic plan?”
Instead, all but six Senate Republicans opposed it.
3. The Mythical Gay Police State
The National Organization for Marriage is still fuming Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson’s brief suspension from A&E and defending his imaginary constitutional right to appear on television. In a hysterical post about the Duck Dynasty flap — since deleted but grabbed by Jeremy Hooper — NOM president Brian Brown warned that soon the police may arrest and prosecute people for “criminal hate-speech charges.” He asserted that the “homosexual lobby” is creating “a new State regime” that will make religious beliefs “subject to punishment” and “grounds for criminal action.”
“This is what our country is facing if the same-sex ‘marriage’ movement gets its way: a society in which not just Phil and other celebrities who voice Christian values are put in the crosshairs and targeted for persecution, but any ordinary citizen who believes in traditional values — ordinary citizens like you and me — will be liable to sanction,” Brown wrote.
Laura Ingraham delivered a similar message on her radio show this week, cautioning that gay rights laws represent “a victory against religious liberty” that “puts us on a very dangerous path, it’s a path that Karl Marx would be very happy from the grave, or from hell, to see us being on right now.”
2. Limbaugh: Obama Will Keep Power After Second Term
When President Obama announced that his family may stay in the Washington, DC, area after his second term ends so his youngest daughter can graduate from school, Rush Limbaugh’s sixth sense for conspiracies was immediately triggered.
The conservative talk show host alleged that Obama will try to hold on to power by establishing “a satellite administration in exile” with the “media continuing to treat him as though he is still president.” He warned that Obama will have an “unprecedented post-presidency” that will allow him to hold onto the reins of power even outside of elected office.
“He’s gonna be staying there to protect his legacy and to make sure it is never unwound,” Limbaugh said. “Unless he’s run out of town in shame.”
1. Islamists In The White House
Doing his best Joseph McCarthy impression, Fox News pundit Tom McInerney insists that he has a list of names of the members of the Muslim Brotherhood who are working in government…except he doesn’t know their names. “We’ve got Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S. government today,” McInerney told the Washington radio station WMAL. “I haven’t got their names exactly but there’s a list of them, at least 10 or 15 of them in the U.S. government.”
Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association took this theory one step further to contend that the chief Islamist in the Obama administration is Obama himself:
Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute, which was until recently affiliated with the National Organization for Marriage, joined Phyllis Schlafly on Eagle Forum Live this weekend to discuss her new book of marriage advice.
Of course, the two turned immediately to bashing feminism, which Morse praised Schlafly for exposing as a “deadly” and “totalitarian” movement that made “men compete with women instead of competing with each other for the sake of women.”
Later in the program, Schlafly asked Morse about a “kooky” new law in California that requires schools to respect the gender identities of transgender students.
“In the end they want to get rid of male and female,” Morse said. “In the end they want everyone to be androgynous.”
She added that this showed that feminists and the gay rights movement harbor a “deep resentment of the human body.”
Morse also linked the fight against gay rights to the fight against the women’s movement, lamenting the cultural “wounds” from the push for equality: “There are so many people out there who have been wounded by the sexual revolution and no one has ever taken the slightest responsibility for that, none. And the only reason we’re dealing with gay marriage now is because we never faced up to the harms that have already been inflicted by feminism.”
Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that the Ruth Institute is affiliated with the National Organization for Marriage. The two groups formally broke ties in November, 2013.
National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown was one of the Religious Right activists to attack last week’s Rose Parade in Pasadena for including a float featuring a same-sex wedding, lamenting that “once marriage is redefined to make it genderless, this perverse construct of ‘marriage’ is forced on everyone.”
In an interview with Voice of Russia radio on Friday, Brown doubled down, saying that Aubrey Loots and Danny Leclaire’s wedding had been “shoved in the face of families,” including those who had voted against marriage equality in their states.
This was all part of a plan to “target children” and use “a family event to sort of indoctrinate kids,” he added.
All along, we’ve been hearing from activists who support same-sex marriage, ‘Hey, if we redefine marriage, it won’t have any effect on you, this is about loving individuals, what they decide to do, it will have no effect on you.’
Well, lo and behold, it has to be shoved in the face of families -- many of whom voted to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman – on a float at a family event.
We know that when you redefine marriage this is taught in schools, we know that teachers tell kids that folks who believe in this notion of marriage as a union between a man and a woman are discriminating, they’re the functional equivalent of bigots.
And now it hasn’t even stopped in the classroom, now the idea has to be, well, at family events we need to make a point to have a same-sex marriage to sort of put it right in their faces and call them out. Well, that’s just wrong. In America, we can disagree over key issues, but the idea that you would target children and make this about using a family event to sort of indoctrinate kids, that’s just wrong.
In a speech before the Russian parliament promoting anti-gay laws last year, Brown similarly warned that advances in gay rights would lead to “talking to children about homosexuality.”
If you’re already tired of the Duck Dynasty flap, I have some bad news for you: Religious Right leaders aren’t going to drop it. On Christmas Eve, while millions of Americans were finishing Christmas preparations and gathering with loved ones, Janet Porter and Rick Scarborough were holding an emergency conference call to launch Porter’s latest gimmicky scheme: sending rubber ducks to A&E executives to protest the suspension of Phil Robertson.
Porter has been warning about a war on American Christians for years – she even wrote a book called The Criminalization of Christianity. So she clearly sees this as her (current) last chance to save America. Faith2Action has launched a website MailTheDuck.com, at which you can hand over your contact information to Porter so that she can send a postcard on your behalf to Nancy Dubuq, CEO of A&E Networks, declaring “You Can’t Camouflage Anti-Christian Bigotry!” The postcard demands an apology and warns of a boycott until Robertson is reinstated. You can also fork over some cash if you want to send a rubber duck or ten to A&E to be sure they get the message.
The opening image of the website is, unfortunately, a big lie. It’s a picture of Robertson with the word FIRED stamped across it. In fact, Robertson hasn’t been fired for making offensive comments in a magazine interview, just suspended. Americans who have wanted to get their Duck on this week have been able to watch a Duck Dynasty marathon. Even WND, in its story on the project, notes: “According to Entertainment Weekly, sources close to the show report nine of the 10 remaining episodes of season four have already been shot, and the network has no plans to cut out the footage featuring the senior Robertson.”
But on the conference call Porter and Scarborough had with activists, freedom was hanging by a thread. Robertson’s suspension is “an atrocity,” “an attack on religious liberty” and an effort to “shut down Christians.” Faith itself is at risk of “being declared unlawful.” Porter even compared Robertson to the famous Chinese activist who stood in front of a tank (yeah, that’s just the kind of risk Robertson took by spouting off to GQ magazine). Porter says Americans can courageously stand with Robertson by sending millions of ducks (probably made in China, come to think of it) to A&E.
Porter mentioned that she is working on a documentary about anti-Christian persecution. A caller who described herself as a former lesbian urged Porter to include the story of Lisa Miller, the woman who became a far-right folk hero when she kidnapped her child and fled the country rather than obeying court ordered custody arrangements involving Miller’s former partner. Porter said Miller’s story is part of her film project.
Back to the ducks. In addition to Scarborough’s Vision America, Porter’s new project is being cosponsored by the dominionist Oak Initiative (Porter is a board member) and by Liberty Counsel, the Religious Right legal group that used to represent Lisa Miller. Of course, Porter and Scarborough aren’t the only ones trying to cash in on the Duck Dynasty controversy. Among those who have launched petitions are the National Organization for Marriage and Mike Huckabee. Huckabee and Porter are longtime allies; she declared his 2008 presidential candidacy anointed by God.
A couple of weeks ago, the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society -- an Illinois-based group that through its World Congress of Families helped promote Russia’s new anti-gay laws -- was forced to relocate a Capitol Hill symposium on “family policy lessons from foreign lands” when Sen. Mark Kirk learned what it was up to and pulled the plug on its meeting room.
The group got a last-minute helping hand from House Speaker John Boehner , but the symposium’s speakers – World Congress of Families (WCF) founder Allan Carlson, Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute president Austin Ruse, and Concerned Women For America senior fellow/WCF board member Janice Shaw Crouse – still spent much of the event bashing Kirk over the scheduling snafu .
Now, Religious Right groups including the National Organization for Marriage, the Family Research Council, and the American Family Association are coming to WCF’s defense.
The National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown – who WCF arranged to testify before the Russian parliament in favor of its broad ban on adoption by gay people – told the American Family Association’s One News Now that Kirk decided to “discriminate against a group that stands for traditional marriage” and that by doing so he was “undermining the party platform” because “it’s part of the Republican Party platform to stand up for traditional marriage.”
The Family Research Council piled on with a press release accusing the senator of “true discrimination” and “silencing anyone who doesn’t adhere to a politically correct view of sexuality.”
"Holding a different view of marriage and sexuality is not discriminatory - especially when all the social science research demonstrates the benefits of the natural family,” added FRC’s Tony Perkins.
Meanwhile, the Illinois Family Institute, the state affiliate of the American Family Association, published an article accusing Sen. Kirk of wanting to “normalize sexual deviance while trampling the conscience rights of untold numbers of people” and followed it up with an email urging its members to call Kirk’s office and express their displeasure.
Despite what all three groups said, the Howard Center and the World Congress of Families don’t merely hold “a different view of marriage and sexuality.” WCF actively works to push oppressive anti-gay laws throughout the world, including actively working toward Russia’s ban on pro-gay-rights speech. Indeed, the speakers at the Capitol Hill symposium enthusiastically defended Russia's anti-gay laws and denyied that the laws actually harm gay people.
It maybe shouldn’t come as a surprise that three of the largest anti-gay groups in the US have jumped to the defense of WCF: Brown has close ties with WCF and has signed fundraising emails for the group, and FRC and AFA are both official “partners” of the organization.
With Ken Cuccinelli’s conservative backers already crying foul about their failed candidate’s supposed mistreatment, the GOP’s Civil War continues.
Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel is fantasizing about voter fraud despite offering absolutely no proof, and Tea Party Nation head Judson Phillips wants Virginia’s Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling — who refused to endorse Cuccinelli — expelled from the GOP:
The Republican Party of Virginia has bylaws that call for the automatic expulsion of members who support Democrats in contested elections. Bill Bolling’s support of Terry McAuliffe has been well documents [sic].
Had the Republican establishment not worked against Cuccinelli, he would be governor today. Conservatives need to make an example of Bolling. He should be persona non grata at any Republican function in Virginia. His name should be synonymous with being a sell out [sic].
And if the Republican Party of Virginia does not publicly expel Bolling, then conservatives need to find a new political party in Virginia.
John Nolte of Breitbart News attacked Chris Christie for not helping Cuccinelli in Virginia and said that Cuccinelli’s defeat actually helped the Tea Party:
Tuesday night and again Wednesday morning, NBC's Chuck Todd reported that New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie refused to campaign for Ken Cuccinelli, the Virginia Republican who narrowly lost his own governor's race to Democrat Terry McAuliffe. "They begged Christie, and you can make an argument," Todd said on Morning Joe. "That to bring a Chris Christie to Northern Virginia might have helped. But Chris Christie is worried about his own brand."
Part of Christie's brand problem, though, is his behavior during the closing days of last year's presidential campaign. After running one of the most divisive administrations and re-election campaigns in recent memory; in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Barack Obama went to New Jersey seeking bipartisan credibility. And in the eyes of many, Christie went above and beyond to give it to him.
Had Christie taken just a half-day to stump for Cuccinelli, not only would that have helped wash the Sandy stain away, it might have actually made him a hero to the base for both defying the Morning Joe crowd and helping to drag Cuccinelli over the finish line.
If Christie wins the 2016 Republican nomination but loses Virginia, and with it the general election, last night should be remembered as the most short-sighted and spiteful cutting off of the nose to spite the Tea Party in years.
The GOP Establishment and Morning Joe crowd keep lecturing the Tea Party about how it is all about winning elections. In Virginia last night that talking point was laid bare as nothing more than a lie.
Longtime conservative activist Richard Viguerie maintained that Cuccinelli’s loss has nothing to do with his radical views. Viguerie even compared Cuccinelli to Goldwater, who lost the 1964 presidential election in a landslide:
What is clear is that Cuccinelli’s ideas weren’t rejected so much as he was drowned in the sea of money that flowed in to Terry McAuliffe’s campaign to keep Virginia government growing, taxes rising, to roll back the progress social conservatives have made in the state, and most importantly, to keep cronyism as the governing principle at the Virginia state Capitol building.
The betrayal of Ken Cuccinelli by Bolling and other nominal Republicans, such as political consultant Boyd Marcus, mirrors the betrayal of Barry Goldwater by the Republican establishment and their nominal allies in the business community.
George Will once wrote that Barry Goldwater didn't lose in 1964, it just took 16 years, until the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, to count the votes. We expect that the same will be said of Ken Cuccinelli and we believe he will be vindicated in the future.
Ken Cuccinelli did not lose last night because he is a principled limited government constitutional conservative. Cuccinelli lost because he was drowned in a sea of money and undercut by a Republican establishment that would rather see a Democrat in the Governor’s mansion than end the good ole boy politics in Richmond and allow a real conservative anywhere near the levers of power that he might use to make good on Republican promises to govern as limited government constitutional conservatives.
Anti-choice activist Marjorie Dannenfelser said that Cuccinelli was hamstrung by the Star Scientific scandal and “misleading attack ads,” but insisted that the “Republican establishment” is to blame “for abandoning this race.”
Somehow, Dannenfelser thinks that Cuccinelli’s loss shows the need for candidates to emphasize their opposition to abortion rights, even though 61% of Virginia voters [PDF] said they are pro-choice.
In response to Ken Cuccinelli’s close defeat in the Virginia gubernatorial election tonight, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the national pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List), told LifeNews that the race shows the pro-life movement needs to spend more time exposing how extreme candidates like McAuliffe are on abortion.
“Despite being woefully outspent and compromised both by the government shutdown and the ethics scandal faced by Governor Bob McDonnell, Cuccinelli came within inches of victory. The political prognosticators that can often drive election results by their predictions ought not to have given up on him. The results make clear that more support from outside groups in the final weeks could have changed the outcome. Shame on the Republican establishment for abandoning this race and failing to push Ken over the finish line.
“Terry McAuliffe spent well over $5 million on misleading attack ads about Ken Cuccinelli and the fictitious ‘war on women,’ including running more than 5,600 spots on the abortion issue alone. Attacks on Cuccinelli were left unanswered, or answered too late, and the negative message stuck.
“This election shows that it is imperative for pro-lifers to be on offense in 2014 against the distortions and extremism of the Left. The Democrat strategy for 2014 is set: demonize pro-life candidates and spend big on ‘war on women’ advertising. The party, candidates, and movement must aggressively expose the other side’s extremism and penchant for putting women and children at risk through their abortion policies.”
Women Speak Out – Virginia, the state PAC of the SBA List, raised and spent $870,000 in support of Ken Cuccinelli’s candidacy, working to turn out the pro-life base. The organization canvassed the homes of 69,700 voters, engaged in volunteer calls reaching 255,000 identified pro-life inconsistent voters, and had get out the vote calls reaching as many as 1 million homes.
UPDATE: Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage accused the Republican Party of abandoning Cuccinelli over his opposition to same-sex marriage:
"Too many leaders of the Republican Party have drunk the Kool-Aid of the consulting class that they should abandon conservatives like Ken Cuccinelli because they have taken principled stances on social issues such as preserving marriage and protecting life," said Brown. "How many elections do they need to lose before they realize they are implementing a disastrous election strategy and ruining their chances of success?"
Brown noted that when the marriage issue has been on the ballot, it has outpolled the Republican ticket by a significant margin. Support for traditional marriage polled an average of seven points higher than Mitt Romney did in the four states it was on the ballot in 2012.
"The GOP elite wants candidates to be silent about their views on marriage and other social issues, but election results show that is exactly the wrong thing to do," Brown said. "Election after election has shown that voters across America, including in deep blue states, support traditional marriage by a significantly higher margin than they support the GOP. For the second election in a row, Republican leaders and consultants have pursued a flawed strategy of urging silence on social issues that has cost their candidates. If they don’t wake up, they could face disaster next year."
As RWW has been documenting, anti-gay groups have been getting wildly over the top in their denunciations of the federal Employment Non Discrimination Act, which would add to federal anti-discrimination law protections against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. With a procedural vote in the Senate scheduled as early as Monday evening, anti-LGBT groups are getting increasingly shrill.
On Friday night, the Family Research Council blasted out a breathtakingly dishonest alert charging that under ENDA “employers would be forced to reward workers based on their sexual preferences.” FRC’s Tony Perkins called ENDA a “republic-altering piece of legislation that has the power to fundamentally destroy Americans' First Amendment rights.”
Through ENDA (which FRC has blocked for a decade), businesses would be ordered to make hiring, firing, and promotion decisions -- not based on a person's qualifications -- but on their sexual expression. Homosexuals, cross-dressers, and transgendered workers would automatically qualify for special treatment that other workers would not. Can you imagine walking into your child's classroom and meeting a teacher dressed in drag? Neither can most Americans. But unfortunately, that's just one of the many consequences of adopting a law as dangerous as this one. Preschools, daycare centers, summer camps, religious chains like Hobby Lobby or Chick-fil-A -- they'll all be subject to the law, regardless of their personal beliefs and workplace standards.
Also on Friday, the National Organization for Marriage blasted ENDA, calling it “a Trojan horse built to attack the foundational institution of marriage between a man and a woman.”
That’s the same line taken a day earlier by Ryan Anderson, a protégé of Robert George and the Heritage Foundation’s answer to young Americans’ support for LGBT equality. Anderson wrote in National Review online that “ENDA would create special privileges based on sexual orientation and gender identity, backed up by coercive enforcement.” Anderson also says “ENDA would further weaken the marriage culture and the ability of civil society to affirm that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and that maleness and femaleness are not arbitrary constructs but objective ways of being human.”
Anderson and others call ENDA a threat to religious liberty even though the bill in fact includes a broad exemption for religious organizations, an exemption that is broad enough to raise concerns among some backers of the law. But for Anderson, even that religious liberty exemption is “inadequate and vaguely defined.” He says ENDA would interfere with the rights of business owners to run their businesses the way they want.
That was also the theme of a hyperventilating alert send on Sunday by former military chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt warning that the Senate was preparing to vote “to punish Christian Business Owners.” He says ENDA will trample religious freedom and “will force Christians into bankruptcy and lawsuits if they refuse to hire homosexuals that oppose their corporate mission.”
In reality, ENDA has broad support in the business community and is backed by large majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. Not only that, but majorities of all religious groups – including white evangelical Protestants – support laws to protect gay and lesbian people from workplace discrimination. So clearly, ENDA’s opponents do not speak for all Christians, or even all evangelical Christians, most of whom agree that fairness on the job is an American value that is worth upholding in law.
As President Barack Obama notes in an op-ed published in the Huffington Post on Sunday, ENDA is a concrete expression of America’s ideal of equality under the law:
America is at a turning point. We're not only becoming more accepting and loving as a people, we're becoming more just as a nation. But we still have a way to go before our laws are equal to our Founding ideals. As I said in my second inaugural address, our nation's journey toward equality isn't complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.
In America of all places, people should be judged on the merits: on the contributions they make in their workplaces and communities, and on what Martin Luther King Jr. called "the content of their character." That's what ENDA helps us do. When Congress passes it, I will sign it into law, and our nation will be fairer and stronger for generations to come.
Last week, we reported that National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown had just gotten back from a Moscow planning meeting for the 2014 World Congress of Families gathering in Russia. Brown confirmed his participation to Rachel Maddow, telling her “we are proud to work with our allies in Russia and around the world to protect marriage as the union as one man and one woman.”
We now have a clearer idea of who those allies are. In a press release yesterday, the World Congress listed many of the participants in last week’s planning meeting. They included leaders of several major American religious right groups including Brown, Benjamin Bull of the Alliance Defending Freedom, Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family, Justin Murff of the Christian Broadcasting Network, and Austin Ruse of the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM).
Also on the list is Fabrice Sorlin, the far-right French activist who led a delegation joined by Brown to testify before the Russian parliament in May in favor of a broad ban on the adoption of Russian orphans by gay couples and single people living in countries that allow same-sex marriage. Sorlin is the one who told members of the Duma that Russia’s efforts to repel advances in gay rights (or “the suicide of our civilization”) was just like its role protecting Europe from the “the Mongol hordes of Genghis Khan” in the 13th century.
Also attending the meeting was Jack Hanick, the former Fox News employee who has surfaced as an activist and “consultant” in Russia.
According to the World Congress’ press release, these activists not only discussed topics for the upcoming summit (including “declining fertility and the origins of the sexual revolution, the ideological roots of the anti-family lobby, the protection and promotion of marriage [and] countering the radical sexual rights agenda”) but also met with Russian legislator Yelena Mizulina to discuss a “WCF parliamentary forum” for September 2014.
Mizulina is the head of the Duma’s committee for family, women and children and coauthor of Russia’s new ban on speech in favor of gay rights to minors. The World Congress has been one of the most vocal international defenders of that law. The fact that the World Congress and its members are working directly with her to plan an exchange with members of the Russian parliament shows that the summit’s location in Moscow isn’t just an accident of geography.
In fact, as we have reported, WCF has built up a structure of activists in Russia to push anti-gay, anti-choice policies throughout Eastern Europe in the year’s leading up to the 2014 summit, and it was “activists working with the World Congress of Families” who invited Brown to speak to the Duma in favor of the adoption ban.
WCF’s managing director went so far as to say, shortly before Russia’s parliament passed the “gay propaganda” bill, that “the Russians might be the Christian saviors of the world.” As Political Research Associates has noted, the very idea for the World Congress of Families came from a meeting of the group's founder with Russian Orthodox activists, so the upcoming events in Moscow are something of a homecoming for the group.
National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown hasn’t been doing a very good job boasting about his involvement in promoting anti-gay laws in Russia. First, in June, he went to Moscow at the invitation of the Illinois-based World Congress of Families to testify before Russia’s parliament in favor of a ban on adoptions to gay people, but didn’t think to tell anyone about it until we reported his involvement this month.
Now, we find out that he was back in Russia this week, likely helping the World Congress to organize their annual world conference that will be in Moscow next year. Once again, Brown didn’t think to announce this publicly, but on a webcast with Jim Garlow yesterday afternoon mentioned that he “just got back from Russia last night” after Garlow thanked him for changing his flight schedule to be on the program. (The exchange is about 15:45 into this video.)
Brown didn’t say what he was in Russia for, but we can guess that he was at the World Congress of Families’ planning meeting along with anti-gay activist Scott Lively. Brown is an enthusiastic supporter of the group, which pushes anti-gay and anti-choice measures abroad and has been a strong cheerleader for Russia’s recent anti-gay crackdown.
The World Congress’ “hosting committee” includes the group’s “representative in Russia” Alexey Komov and philanthropist Konstantin Malofeev, who hosted a meeting that Brown attended with members of the Duma in June.
Now, Brown has no obligation to announce to the world every time he takes a trip overseas, but we find it curious that he’s been so quiet about his work in Russia. After all, NOM tries to portray itself as a kinder, gentler anti-gay group that’s just about preserving “traditional marriage” in the United States. Hanging out with people like Scott Lively and egging on the Russian parliament as they pass a spate of vicious anti-gay bills doesn’t exactly bolster that image.
UPDATE: Brown confirmed to Rachel Maddow that he was indeed in Russia for the World Congress of Families meeting.
National Organization for Marriage founder Maggie Gallagher has a curious op-ed in the Washington Post today in which she insists that Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli is behind in the polls because he isn’t talking enough about his opposition to reproductive rights.
Cuccinelli sure has what Gallagher calls “conservative credentials” on the issue of choice. For instance, when he was in the state legislature, he sponsored a “personhood” bill that would have banned abortions in all circumstances and even criminalized some common forms of birth control. Cuccinelli has, understandably, been trying to run from this record in his effort to win over more moderate voters. But this, Gallagher argues, is what’s hurting him:
There is still time for Cuccinelli to turn things around, but the fact that someone with his conservative credentials speaks this way underscores that there is a conventional wisdom about how candidates ought to address, or avoid, social issues during campaigns. And Cuccinelli’s standing in the race underscores that this approach is dangerous for the GOP.
The truce strategy demoralizes the GOP base and makes it hard for the grass roots to care about Republican candidates. Conservative candidates are advised to deflect or retreat when social issues are raised, and their refusal to speak clearly and hold the line allows Democratic candidates to adopt more extreme positions, energizing their own base and unleashing a flood of money at no political cost. Democrats are confident that their opponents will not make an issue of their positions. Republican candidates’ apparent discomfort discussing such issues makes it look like they have something to hide, confirming to many voters Democratic suggestions that GOP candidates’ positions are extreme.
On an issue such as abortion, about which Americans are fundamentally ambivalent, victory depends on how “pro-life” and “pro-choice” are defined. Republicans’ self-imposed silence allows Democrats to define pro-life in ways that help them politically. Thus, Democrats do not have to justify their positions on infanticide, late-term abortions or permitting unborn baby girls to be killed just because of their gender.
Gallagher suggests that Cuccinelli instead follow the “winning strategy” of New Jersey Senate candidate Steve Lonegan, who enthusiastically attacked Democrat Cory Booker for his pro-choice record…before Booker beat him handily in the general election.
Democrats campaigned on the truce strategy in 2012 and will continue to use it until GOP candidates come up with a more effective political response. The winning strategy would be to aggressively define social issues on Democrats’ weakest grounds, to make them pay for their unqualified support of abortion on any grounds.
Steve Lonegan, the New Jersey Republican whose long-shot Senate campaign stalled when he supported the government shutdown in a blue state, nonetheless had the right idea on this issue. “What abortion would you make illegal?” he asked Cory Booker in a recent debate.
Memo to GOP candidates: The best defense is a good offense. When you are being relentlessly attacked as an abortion extremist by people who support late-term and/or taxpayer-funded abortions, self-imposed silence about your beliefs and values is not an effective political response. Calling Democrats on their own extremism is the pathway to victory.
The marriage panel at today’s Values Voter Summit—which featured Tony Perkins, Brian Brown, Ryan Anderson and Jennifer Marshall of the Heritage Foundation—spent most of the time equating support for same-sex marriage with a loss of free speech for marriage equality opponents.
They suggested that people in jurisdictions that legalized same-sex marriage are not allowed to express their opposition to marriage equality (of course, this conference where speaker after speaker has denounced gay marriage is taking place in a jurisdiction—Washington D.C.—where gay marriage is legal).
Brown even asserted that marriage equality is “an attempt to deconstruct the very nature of reality, the very nature of what it means to be a human being.”
Heritage president Jim DeMint, who while serving in Congress advocated for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex unions, argued that “no one in government has the right” to legalize same-sex marriage, unless it is “the states, the people and the church.”
Last night, Rachel Maddow aired a segment on the American Religious Right’s involvement in shaping Russia’s anti-gay laws, crediting Right Wing Watch’s research.
She also calls out prominent GOP politicians for their support of the National Organization for Marriage, whose president, Brian Brown, traveled to Russia to push the country’s ban on adoption by gay couples.
Watching the segment:
Last week, we broke the news that National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown traveled to Moscow in June, where he testified before a Duma committee in favor of a ban on the adoption of Russian orphans by gay couples and single people living in countries that allow gay people to marry.
Neither NOM nor Brown mentioned his trip publicly at the time, and NOM didn’t return our request for comment last week. But in an interview with Russia’s Ria Novosti today, Brown confirms that he spoke “extemporaneously” at the Duma meeting, and that he was invited to do so by “Russian activists working with the World Congress of Families.”
Brown said he was invited to speak to the lawmakers by Russian activists working with the World Congress of Families, an Illinois-based conservative group set to hold a global convention in Moscow next year.
“We’ve been very open that we’re going to work with allies around the world that believe marriage is a union between a man and a woman,” Brown said.
As we also reported last week, the Illinois-based World Congress of Families has been working hard to promote Russia’s new anti-gay laws through its official “representative in Russia” Alexei Komov and “ambassador to European institutions” Pavel Parfentiev. The WCF has also helped to gather international support for President Putin’s anti-gay crackdown, including promoting an international statement praising a ban on gay “propaganda.”
Brown is a strong supporter of WCF, which in a fundraising pitch this year he called “THE group standing up for family values around the world.”
This is the final post in a four-part series exploring how American right-wing groups have supported Russia’s recent spate of anti-gay laws and its crackdown on LGBT citizens.
Last week, Serbian authorities abruptly cancelled a planned gay pride parade in Belgrade, citing “serious security concerns” about right-wing groups opposing the event. A few days later, an American group stood up to claim credit: the Rockford, Illinois-based World Congress of Families.
In its press release celebrating the parade’s cancellation, WCF highlighted its role in last week’s Belgrade protest against the planned parade. Speaking at the protest were WCF communications director Don Feder and the group’s top man in Moscow, Alexey Komov. Also present was Fabrice Sorlin, the far-right nationalist French activist who organized a delegation of American and French activists to advocate for anti-gay laws at the Duma in June, the subject of our last post.
It’s no coincidence that the WCF was able to pull such a delegation to Belgrade: For the past several years, the organization has built an organization in Russia to advocate for anti-gay policies there and throughout Eastern Europe. WCF staff in Russia actively advocated for recent anti-gay laws, including a ban on gay “propaganda” – essentially a gag rule on gay rights advocacy – and the curtailing of international adoptions to gay couples and single people in countries that allow marriage equality. Through WCF, American Religious Right groups are able to provide support to anti-gay movements in Russia and throughout the world.
The World Congress of Families was founded in 1997 by Religious Right activist (and former Reagan National Commission on Children appointee) Allan Carlson as a project of the Rockford, Illinois-based Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society. WCF’s purpose is to be a multi-faith, multi-national coalition of social conservative groups working to push its vision in the United Nations and in governments around the world. But it draws its most prominent support from the American Religious Right.
The WCF has friends in high places. The Bush administration’s representative to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women spoke at the WCF’s 2004 world meeting in Mexico City, saying, “As one of the pillars of civilization, families must remain strong and we must defend them during a time of great change.”
Since President Obama took office, the WCF has found itself in a different role, joining with groups like the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (CFAM) to resist the administration’s efforts to include gay rights in international human rights efforts and its repeal of the Mexico City Policy. WCF has strongly opposed international efforts to decriminalize homosexuality, and has even whitewashed the push by some Ugandan officials to make homosexuality a capital crime.
The group continues to draw financial support from nearly every major Religious Right organization in the United States. The WCF’s American “partners” include Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, Alliance Defense Fund and Americans United For Life. Concerned Women For America’s Janice Shaw Crouse is a member of its board. Leaders of many of these groups are also staples at WCF’s annual conferences.
The National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown is also an enthusiastic booster of WCF’s work. In an August fundraising email, WCF quoted Brown:
The World Congress of Families is THE group standing up for the family around the world. They have done amazing work in uniting all of those who stand for the truth about marriage and family. It has been an honor to partner with WCF and to be a part of their most recent Congress in Australia and regional conference in Trinidad and Tobago. I wholeheartedly endorse their work and urge you to financially support their efforts.
Through the World Congress of Families, American Religious Right groups that might shy away from international affairs in their more public work provide very direct support to efforts preventing international recognition of gay rights as human rights, and to the crafting of anti-gay policies abroad. And that is exactly what’s happening in Russia.
This month, the World Congress of Families joined with five other American groups in signing a statement with over 100 groups from around the world supporting Russia’s “gay propaganda” law and condemning the international outcry surrounding it.
In early June, shortly before the Russian Duma passed its ban on “gay propaganda,” World Congress of Families managing director Larry Jacobs told End Times radio host Rick Wiles that the ban was a “great idea,” as it would prevent gay people from “corrupting children.”
“The Russians might be the Christian saviors of the world,” he said. “At the UN, they are really the ones standing up for these traditional values of family and faith.”
Just a few days after the “propaganda” bill was passed, Jacobs took to Voice of Russia radio to defend the law, saying, “Russia is actually doing something that used to be pretty common in the west, which is trying to protect children from harmful materials.” Asked whether the U.S. should consider a similar law, Jacobs dodged: “Interesting question, and one that certainly politically would not fly, and again, mostly because of special rights and lobby interest groups on both sides of the issue.”
The World Congress of Families has done more than cheer on Russia’s anti-gay crackdown from the sidelines. It has also built an advocacy structure within the country.
In 2012, WCF helped found a Russia-based group called FamilyPolicy.ru, a group whose goal was “to build [a] highly efficient network of pan-Russian grassroots socially conservative activists, that would be able to consistently exert real influence on the family policy in Russia, at the U.N. and internationally.”
The top staff members at FamilyPolicy.Ru also hold positions with the WCF. FamilyPolicy.ru’s president, Alexei Komov (the one who spoke at the rally in Belgrade), is WCF’s official “Representative in Russia.” Komov also heads a program for St. Basil’s, the foundation headed by Konstantin Malofeev, the businessman and activist who hosted the June meeting on anti-gay laws attended by Brian Brown and Fabrice Sorlin.
In March 2013, WCF appointed FamilyPolicy.ru staffer Pavel Parfentiev to be its “ambassador to European institutions.”
Shortly after its founding, FamilyPolicy.ru held a “demographic summit” dedicated to providing “solutions to Russia’s well-below replacement fertility rate.” The summit featured Parfentiev, the World Congress of Family’s Don Feder and John Mueller of the Washington, DC based Ethics in Public Policy Center. The “demographic winter” theme is central to the scholarship and advocacy of WCF and the Howard Center, which fault feminism, gay rights, legal divorce, birth control and other progressive advances for falling population in the developed world. (In 2011, Jacobs attended a Moscow conference that influenced Russian activists in adopting American anti-choice tactics) And it is a program that Russian president Vladimir Putin has enthusiastically embraced .
FamilyPolicy.ru quickly became a leader in Russian anti-gay politics. In an interview with Voice of Russia radio in June, Parfentiev claimed credit for being an “initiator” of Russia’s ban on adoptions to gay couples and single people in countries that allow gay couples to marry. “As far as I know, I was one of the first people that publicly spoke about the necessity of such a move,” he said. “Of course, I would support this move because, in fact, I was one of its initiators.”
Parfentiev also advocated for Russia’s gay propaganda ban. In March, he sent a detailed memo to the European Commission for Democracy through Law defending the law (then still in progress) and a similar proposed measure in Ukraine. In May, he sent a similar memo to the Council of Europe.
When the Duma passed the propaganda ban in June, Parfentiev posted gleefully on Facebook that he “got greetings and congratulations from many foreign colleagues representing the movement to protect the family.”
Alexei Komov, meanwhile, has proved to be a prolific spokesperson for the anti-gay cause in Russia. In an interview with Voice of Russia radio in August, Komov announced that Russia remains “the last bastion of moral values” against a UN-sponsored push to recognize gay rights around the globe. In another interview, he Komov praised Republicans and the Tea Party for defending “traditional family values” in the United States.
When the World Congress of Families announced its participation in the statement of support for the gay “propaganda law,” Komov and Parfentiev sent out their own press release. The release quotes Komov as saying:
This announcement shows, despite the attempts of supporters of the interests of the so-called" sexual minorities "to create the opposite impression, that a huge number of people and human rights organizations around the world are supporting Russia in an effort to protect their children and their family values from aggressive immoral propaganda.
Parfentiev added a statement comparing gay rights advocacy to “the use of toxic chemicals in baby food”:
Statement organizations in the world confirms that Russian law meets the generally recognized rules of international law. Protect children from propaganda contrary to the family and moral standards - completely normal, routine step. In fact, it is no different, for example, prohibit the use of toxic chemicals in baby food - against which hardly anyone will object. It's amazing how far-fetched and artificial boom created outrage around this simple measure by those who seem to displease the family and family values are simple. Therefore, Russia today is very important this support of the international civil society."
Perhaps the clearest sign that the World Congress of Families is invested in Russia’s anti-gay renaissance – and sees it as a model for the world -- is that it has scheduled its next world conference for Moscow.
Leading the “the hosting committee” for the event will be Alexei Komov. Also on the committee is Konstantin Malofeev, the private equity head who convened “Traditional Values” roundtable with Brian Brown and the French activists that we reported on yesterday. The leading theme of the roundtable discussion was that Russia would be a leader for the world in stemming the trend toward greater freedoms and equality for gay people – a trend that Malofeev claimed would “lead to the physical extinction of humans.”
As we reported yesterday, Malofeev spoke at last year’s World Congress of Families gathering in Sydney, where, where, according to one attendee, he held out Russia as a model for the world, saying, “Now Christian Russia can help liberate the West from the new liberal anti-Christian totalitarianism of political correctness, gender ideology, mass-media censorship and neo-Marxist dogma."
Anti-gay activists in the United States, finding it increasingly difficult to push their agenda at home, have turned to Russia both as a place receptive to their politics and as a “savior” of the world against increasing social liberalism. In doing so, they have provided international backing for an oppressive, anti-democratic regime that is increasingly using LGBT people as scapegoats for broader political dissatisfaction.
When they support the World Congress of Families and attend its events – including the upcoming conference in Moscow – American groups send the clear message about how far they are willing to go to promote anti-gay ideology.