On October 27, mainstream political figures, members of right-wing media, and domestic and foreign anti-LGBT extremists will gather in Salt Lake City, Utah, for the World Congress of Families' (WCF) ninth international gathering. While the World Congress of Families bills itself as a global coalition of “pro-family” organizations, it has deep ties to extremist anti-LGBT movements abroad, and its gathering will serve as a meeting point for well-known US anti-gay extremists to interact with mainstream US politicians and conservative media figures, along with international anti-LGBT activists who support efforts to criminalize homosexuality.
What Is The World Congress of Families?
World Congress of Families Is An Extreme International Anti-LGBT Coalition
WCF Describes Itself As A “Pro-Family” International Alliance. From the group's website:
Organized by the Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society, the World Congress of Families was founded by Dr. Allan Carlson in 1995 as a pro-family advocacy group and a way to forge an international alliance of organizations of goodwill which celebrate and affirm the natural family as the fundamental unit of society. We now have 42 organizations in 14 countries, on five continents, affiliated with us as Partners and work with pro-family leaders in more than 80 countries. [World Congress of Families, accessed 10/6/15]
WCF Is Based In The US, And Its Entire Board Is American. [Human Rights Campaign, July 2015]
WCF Has Been Identified As An Anti-Gay “Hate-Group.” In February 2014, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) added WCF to its list of anti-gay hate groups. SPLC designates certain anti-gay organizations as hate groups based on their “propagation of known falsehoods” and “groundless name-calling” about LGBT people. [Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed 10/21/15; Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed 9/10/15]
WCF Also Uses Its Influence To Promote The Banning Of Abortion Abroad. Part of WCF's “pro-family” stance is an extreme opposition to reproductive rights both abroad and in the US, including supporting efforts to ban abortion. [Political Research Associates, 1/21/15]
WCF Is Linked To Extreme International Anti-LGBT Movements
WCF's Anti-LGBT Activism Has Been Linked To Russia's Wave Of Extreme Anti-Gay Legislation. WCF's work in Russia has been attributed to the country's rise in anti-LGBT legislation, most notably the controversial anti-gay “propaganda” law passed in 2013:
Since 2010, WCF has helped host at least five major gatherings in Russia where American evangelicals put their views before Russian audiences. At a 2011 demographic summit in Moscow, the event's loaded two-day schedule of panels and speeches included just one 10-minute slot without an American presenter.
These gatherings have helped WCF's American leaders establish tight relationships with key Russian government officials, like Duma member Elena Mizulina, the country's foremost anti-gay legislator, who has met with Jacobs in Moscow at least three times and is a frequent attendee at WCF events. This June, National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown, who serves on WCF's Moscow 2014 planning committee, flew to Russia two days after the lower chamber of parliament approved her gay propaganda ban to meet with Mizulina about crafting her next piece of landmark legislation, a gay-adoption ban. They were met by another 2014 planning committee member, former Fox News producer Jack Hanick, for a round table on the topic.
WCF has lent its support to anti-gay politics elsewhere in Eastern Europe--Serbia, Lithuania, Romania--but it has had its biggest and most notable successes in Russia. Indeed, the rise of anti-gay laws in Russia has mirrored, almost perfectly, the rise of WCF's work in the country, with 13 new anti-gay laws passed since Jacobs first traveled there. When I ask Jacobs if WCF's work has contributed to this pattern, he laughs and says, “Yes, I think that is accurate.” [Mother Jones, 2/21/14]
WCF Has Also Been Linked To A Rise In Anti-LGBT Sentiments And Legislation In Africa. WCF's Nigerian coordinator, Theresa Okafor, has been influential in advancing anti-LGBT legislation in Nigeria and Uganda:
The World Congress of Families, founded in 1997, has hosted large international “pro-family” conferences - which, among other things, stressed the dangers of same-sex unions to society. The group has also hosted smaller events, including one in Nigeria in 2009. This year, the World Congress presented a lifetime achievement award to its Nigerian coordinator, Theresa Okafor, who has defended the Nigerian and Ugandan governments for wanting to “ban all forms of gravitation toward homosexual unions.” [US News & World Report, 10/16/14]
WCF Events Have Garnered Criticism In The US And Abroad
The Australian Senate Condemned WCF's Regional Australia Conference in 2014. In 2014, protests against a World Congress of Families regional conference in Melbourne, Australia forced WCF to change its venue several times, and earned a formal condemnation from the Australian senate, which declared the “The World Congress of Families is responsible for spreading homophobic and sexist prejudices around the world, including in Russia, the United States, and countries in Eastern Europe and Africa.” [Parliament of Australia, 8/28/14; 8/28/14]
WCF Was Denied, Then Granted Meeting Space At The US Capitol. In November 2013, Illinois Sen. Mark Krik (R) abruptly canceled WCF's access to a Senate meeting room for WCF after LGBT activists protested the event. House Speaker John Boehner's office stepped in to secure WCF a meeting space at the Capitol. [Buzzfeed News, 11/15/13]
What Is The WCF Conference?
WCF Conference Will Be Held In Salt Lake City At The End Of October. On October 27-30, WCF will hold its 9th conference in Salt Lake City. The gathering will be the first that WCF has held in the U.S. [Human Rights Campaign, July 2015]
WCF Conference Will Feature Mainstream Political Figures, Members Of Right Wing Media, And Anti-LGBT Extremists
Mainstream Politicians And US Figures Are Slated To Appear At WCF. Prominent Utah Republicans, including Utah Governor Gary Herbert, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, and Utah House Rep. Kim Colemanare all scheduled to speak at WCF. Other mainstream figures scheduled to attend include activist and ABC News contributor Elizabeth Smart and American Conservative Union Executive Director Dan Schneider. [World Congress of Families, accessed 10/7/15]
Members Of Three Different Anti-Gay Hate Groups Will Speak At WCF. Peter Sprigg and Cathy Ruse of the Family Research Council (FRC), Austin Ruse and Susan Yoshihara of Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-Fam), and Sharon Slater of Family Watch International are scheduled to speak at WCF. [World Congress of Families, accessed 10/21/15]
- FRC, C-Fam, and Family Watch International Have Been Designated Anti-LGBT Hate Groups By The Southern Poverty Law Center. [SPLC, 3/10/15]
WCF Speakers Also Include Well-Known Domestic And Foreign Anti-LGBT Activists. American anti-LGBT activists Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, Eric Teetsel of the Manhattan Declaration, discredited researchers Mark Regnerus and Brad Wilcox, and Jennifer Morse of the Ruth Institute will all speak over the course of WCF's four day conference. [World Congress of Families, accessed 10/21/15]
Anti-LGBT Activist Theresa Okafor Will Be Honored With WCF's “Woman Of The Year Award.” Theresa Okafor is WCF's African regional director, and heads the Foundation for African Cultural Heritage, which backed Nigeria's ban on same-sex relationships and ban on gay people meeting in groups of two or more. While defending harsh anti-LGBT laws in Uganda and Nigeria at a WCF gathering in Madrid in 2012, Okafor speculated that Western countries advocating for gay rights in Africa were in a “conspiracy” to “silence Christians” with terrorist group Boko Haram. At this year's WCF, Okafor will receive WCF's “Woman of The Year Award.” [Right Wing Watch, 5/13/14; World Congress of Families, accessed 10/21/15]
Right-Wing Media Figures Also Will Speak At WCF. Fox News contributor Alveda King, Washington Times contributor Robert Knight, and LifeSiteNews co-founder John-Henry Westen are all featured on WCF's conference schedule. [World Congress of Families, accessed 10/21/15]