After Failures In U.S., Anti-LGBT Extremist Elected As Leader Of Global Hate Group

Brian Brown, the leader of the mostly defunct National Organization for Marriage, was just elected president of World Congress of Families, an international anti-LGBT hate group. Brown’s election is the latest in a growing trend of U.S.-based activists exporting anti-LGBT extremism abroad, yet a Media Matters analysis found that major print outlets ignored Brown’s election.

On May 31, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), announced that its president, Brian Brown, was elected president of the World Congress of Families. The World Congress of Families is a U.S.-based “pro-family” international alliance that works to impose a narrow, conservative Christian definition of “family” as an international norm. The coalition has been designated an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Brown’s other organization, NOM, rose to prominence with its successful push to pass Proposition 8, an amendment banning same-sex marriage in California, in 2008. NOM has since collapsed into debt, and is no longer as active it was in 2008.

Brown was an obvious choice to take over at WCF, given his close ties to the group and previous work spreading anti-LGBT activism across the world. Brown previously served on WCF’s Moscow 2014 planning committee, and traveled to Russia in 2013 to craft a successful anti-gay adoption ban prohibiting foreign same-sex couples from adopting Russian children.

Brown’s shift toward international extremism is part of a larger trend of U.S.-based anti-LGBT extremists spreading hate internationally. Anti-gay activists like Brown are increasingly expressing more overt homophobia abroad, while cloaking their domestic anti-LGBT animosity under the guise of “religious freedom” or “safety” concerns. Despite this growing trend, a Media Matters analysis found that the major print media outlets Los Angeles TimesThe New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and USA Today all failed to report on Brown’s election.  

Another prominent example of this trend is the growing international presence of extremist anti-LGBT legal powerhouse Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). ADF is responsible for the push for domestic anti-LGBT “religious freedom” (RFRA) laws and legislation banning transgender people, particularly students, from using facilities that correspond with their gender identity. ADF, which has been an official WCF partner in the past, has also worked internationally to spread anti-LGBT extremism, namely by working to promote laws that criminalize gay sex in Belize and Jamaica.

Brown’s election to WCF’s presidency signals a further shift towards the global spread of homophobia and transphobia. When WCF held its annual conference in Salt Lake City last year, journalists and LGBT rights activists spotlighted the organization’s anti-LGBT activism abroad, though WCF attempted to deny its contribution to anti-LGBT laws in Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, and elsewhere.

In the growing battle over LGBT nondiscrimination protections and anti-gay “religious freedom” laws, groups who work internationally to criminalize gay sex and blame LGBT people for the Holocaust are trying to hide their hate with language like “safety” and “freedom of beliefs.” Journalists covering these groups have a duty to highlight the international work that exposes the animus behind their domestic anti-LGBT agenda. 

MethodologyMedia Matters searched Los Angeles TimesThe New York Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today in Nexis for coverage between May 31, 2016, and June 3, 2016, using the terms “Brian Brown” OR “National Organization for Marriage” OR “World Congress of Families.” Media Matters repeated the same search in Factivia for The Wall Street Journal.