Anti-LGBTQ activist behind Proposition 8's passage brags about work crafting "gay propaganda" law in Russia
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National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown is exporting his bigoted agenda abroad with help from pro-Russian leaders
The 2018 anti-LGBTQ World Congress of Families (WCF) began today in Moldova, led by former National Organization for Marriage (NOM) president Brian Brown and attended by several pro-Russian leaders, including Moldovan President Igor Dodon. Although Brown has lost much of his influence domestically in the time since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his anti-marriage equality effort in California, he has cozied up with pro-Russian foreign leaders and worked to export his anti-LGBTQ agenda abroad.
Brown serves as president of both WCF and NOM, which he also co-founded and which was instrumental in banning marriage equality in California in 2008 through the Proposition 8 ballot initiative. Proposition 8 defined marriage as between a man and a woman in the state’s constitution, but same-sex marriage was reinstated in California in 2013 after a lawsuit over the proposition made it to the Supreme Court. In the years since, NOM has lost much of its domestic influence and funding (though it still works with prominent anti-LGBTQ groups such as Alliance Defending Freedom), but Brown has focused his efforts abroad and particularly worked to increase his profile in Eastern Europe.
Brown was named president of WCF in 2016, although he had worked with the group for years before then. Brown and WCF worked closely with Russian lawmakers, activists, and officials as the country shaped its so-called “gay propaganda” law, including Brown directly meeting with the law’s architect, Yelena Mizulina, a regular attendee of WCF conferences. That law “has been seen as effectively criminalizing any public expression of same-sex relationships,” according to Mother Jones, and it has led to both activist arrests and increased violence against LGBTQ people in Russia.
In 2014, Mother Jones mapped out many of the relationships between WCF and anti-LGBTQ Russians, noting that they “were already deeply connected before they kicked off their planning this fall through ties forged while advancing anti-gay sentiment and legislation in Russia.” In the years since, Brown and WCF have cozied up to even more high-profile leaders in the region. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban spoke at last year’s WCF conference, held in his county, and this year’s event includes Moldovan President Igor Dodon (who spoke at the 2016 conference just months before his election) and several other influential politicians and individuals. Dodon’s wife’s foundation, Din Suflet, is supporting the event.
Brown seems to have cultivated a close working relationship with Dodon over the last few years, posting about several meetings with him on Twitter this year. Dodon is a supporter of anti-LGBTQ Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has tolerated the execution and imprisonment of LGBTQ people in Chechnya. Dodon has called him a “patriot” and campaigned on running “Moldova just the same way Putin runs Russia.”
This year’s WCF schedule features several anti-LGBTQ and anti-choice sessions: “Against the Family - The International Networks Undermining Family and Faith,” “Human Life - The Challenges Facing the Sanctity of Life, and the Strategies to Confront Them,” “New Media - Promoting Life, Marriage and Family in the Age of Hashtag Activism,” “Motherhood - Where the Sanctity of Life, the Meaning of Marriage, and the Ideology of Gender Intersect,” and “Gender Ideology - The Latest Attack on the Family and the Legal Challenges It Poses.” In past conferences, speakers have made extreme and hateful remarks, such as Pastor Rafael Cruz, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz’s father, who said in 2015 that LGBTQ people are working to legalize pedophilia. Additionally, extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom has been listed as a WCF partner as recently as 2017 and has been active in supporting the conference for years.
In addition to Dodon, the conference includes other notable attendees: Mizulina, a Russian politician and the architect of the country’s “gay propaganda” law; Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state; Russian politicians Olga Epifanova and Tamara Pletneva; Moldovan politician Irina Vlah; Slovakian politician and member of the European Parliament Anna Zaborska; and several religious leaders, including Russian Orthodox Church Archpriest Dmitriy Smirnov.
Additional research by Brianna January.
Groups including Family Research Council have largely stayed silent, defended Moore after Washington Post report
Anti-LGBTQ hate groups and their representatives who endorsed anti-LGBTQ extremist and Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore have largely rushed to defend him or remained silent in the day following reports in The Washington Post that he engaged in sexual misconduct in his 30s with a 14-year old.
On November 9, The Washington Post reported on a woman’s story that Moore molested her when she was 14 years old and he was 32. The Post interviewed three other women who also went on the record saying that he pursued them when they were teenagers “and he was in his early 30s.” Moore is a known anti-LGBTQ extremist, who has said that “homosexual conduct should be illegal” and that being queer is “a criminal lifestyle,” and as such has received the endorsements of a number of anti-LGBTQ hate group leaders. These figures include Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, Brian Brown (who endorsed Moore representing his extremist organization National Organization for Marriage (NOM) but also runs hate group World Congress of Families), Tim Wildmon of American Family Association (AFA), Peter Labarbera of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality (AFTAH), and Tony Perkins and Jerry Boykin of Family Research Council (FRC).
Between 12:30 p.m. EST on November 9, shortly before the Post published the piece, and 12:30 p.m. EST on November 10, only AFA and AFTAH commented on the report. AFA repeatedly defended Moore across social platforms. On Facebook, AFA Action refused to withdraw its endorsement, writing: “AFA Action believes Justice Roy Moore to be a truthful man and a solid Christian. Based on his statement of denial we are proud to stand by our endorsement of Justice Roy Moore.” The group also retweeted four of Moore’s tweets defending himself, including one saying, “Our children and grandchildren’s futures are on the line.” AFTAH's Labarbera, however, tweeted a CNN article about a White House statement that Moore should "step aside" if the stories are true.
FRC Action leaders Perkins and Boykin endorsed Moore in September but have not commented on the report. The group’s Twitter account tweeted about Moore’s lead in the race shortly before the Post broke the news but has made no statements about Moore afterward. Liberty Counsel and NOM have failed to release any statement regarding Moore in the wake of the story.
Media Matters reviewed the available Twitter accounts and Facebook pages of Liberty Counsel, NOM, AFA, AFTAH, and FRC, as well as the accounts of individual figures Mat Staver, Brian Brown, Peter Labarbera, Tony Perkins, and Jerry Boykin between 12:30 p.m. EST on November 9, shortly before the Post story was published, and 12:30 p.m. EST on November 10. We also reviewed the groups’ websites and press releases, and Google News searches for each figure and group within the same time frame.
Rebecca Damanate contributed research to this report.
Update: After this post's publication, FRC's Perkins tweeted, "The allegations reported by the media against Roy Moore are beyond disturbing and, if true, would disqualify him or anyone else engaged in such behavior from holding a position of public trust." In addition, Liberty Counsel's Staver was quoted defending Moore as "a man of integrity who respects women."
Major anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has teamed up with a cohort of similar groups to whitewash their images and mainstream hate, and nearly every one of them supports harmful reparative therapy for LGBTQ people. Reparative therapy, which attempts to change sexual orientation or gender identity, has been discredited by every mainstream medical group for decades and has severe mental and medical health consequences for its victims. ADF is the largest anti-LGBTQ hate group in the country and a legal powerhouse; it’s currently preparing oral arguments for a Supreme Court case about LGBTQ discrimination under the guise of “religious” or “artistic” freedom.
ADF has coordinated with more than a dozen hate and right-wing groups to whitewash anti-LGBTQ hate as the group heads to the Supreme Court this fall
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is the largest anti-LGBTQ hate group in the nation and is representing plaintiff Jack Phillips in the upcoming Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission Supreme Court case. The case may determine whether businesses serving the public have the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people under the guise of “religious” or “artistic freedom.” ADF is also currently part of a joint effort, alongside a number of other anti-LGBTQ groups and hate groups, to undermine the “hate group” designation made by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). As such it has co-signed two letters opposing the designation and formally joined an “SPLCexposed” campaign.
The group has supported a number of extreme, anti-LGBTQ positions, including criminalizing homosexuality. ADF (then called the Alliance Defense Fund) formally supported the criminalization of sodomy in the U.S. in 2003 when it filed an amicus brief in Lawrence v. Texas defending state sodomy laws in which it called “same-sex sodomy … a distinct public health problem.” When the court struck down anti-sodomy laws, ADF called the ruling “devastating” and continued its work supporting the criminalization of gay sex abroad, including in Jamaica, Belize, and India.
According to SPLC, ADF representatives regularly slander and demonize LGBTQ people, including by pushing the myth that pedophilia and “homosexual behavior” are “often intrinsically linked.” An affiliated lawyer has also called marriage equality a sign of the “degradation of our human dignity” that has “led to a deification of deviant sexual practices.” The group is also leading the national campaign for “bathroom bills” targeting transgender youth.
The legal powerhouse raked in more than $50 million in revenue in 2015 and has what it refers to as a “powerful global network” of over 3,100 ADF-trained “allied attorneys.” ADF’s influence is widespread. It has played a role in dozens of Supreme Court cases, including regarding abortion, religion, tuition tax credits, and LGBTQ issues; it has special consultative status at the United Nations; it has at least 55 affiliated lawyers serving in influential government positions at the state and federal levels; and it has attempted to sway local school policy across the country, often successfully.
ADF has worked relentlessly to whitewash its image, joining a number of other anti-LGBTQ groups and hate groups to attack the “hate group” designation. Here is a list of ADF’s anti-LGBTQ allies in their coordinated effort to mainstream hate:
FRC is one of ADF’s official “allied organizations” that co-signed both letters attacking the “hate group” designation, and is part of the “SPLCexposed” campaign with ADF.
The Family Research Council (FRC) is another anti-LGBTQ hate group that has partnered with ADF and others to whitewash their extremism and cast doubt on their hate group status. FRC joined ADF in the “SPLCexposed” campaign as an official supporting partner. It also co-signed two letters with ADF, one attacking nonprofit database Guidestar for labeling them as hate groups and another asking the media to drop the “hate group” label. ADF also promotes FRC as an allied organization on its website, and FRC submitted an amicus brief in support of legalizing discrimination against LGBTQ people in the Masterpiece case.
FRC’s official position is that “homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large” and “is by definition unnatural,” and the organization promotes the idea “that people can and should try to change their sexual orientation” or “just not act on it.”
According to SPLC, former FRC Vice President Rob Schwarzwalder accused gay youth of joining the Boy Scouts of America “for predatory purposes,” and various FRC representatives and publications have repeatedly compared homosexuality to pedophilia. Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at FRC, asserted that LGBTQ youth suicide rates would drop if the teenagers were “discourage[d] from self-identifying as gay, lesbian, or bisexual” and urged others “not to create a positive social environment for the affirmation of homosexuality.” In a 2010 appearance on MSNBC, Sprigg also said that “there would be a place for criminal sanctions against homosexual behavior,” a statement not out of step from FRC’s 2003 filing of an amicus brief supporting anti-sodomy laws. In 2011, FRC called for its supporters to pray for countries that had laws criminalizing sodomy and were being pressured by the U.S. to remove them, and it suggested that homosexuality “has had a devastating impact upon Africans,” citing the AIDS crisis as an example.
FRC has a budget of tens of millions of dollars and wields significant influence in the current administration. Its senior fellow, Ken Blackwell, was officially appointed to President Donald Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which critics have described as a voter suppression effort. FRC President Tony Perkins embraced and endorsed Trump as a presidential candidate (and met with him at the White House in June). And at least four people who are affiliated with FRC, including Blackwell, were a part of Trump’s transition team.
Liberty Counsel co-signed both letters with ADF and joined it in the “SPLCexposed” campaign.
Liberty Counsel is an anti-LGBTQ hate group founded by Mat Staver, former dean of Liberty University School of Law, that “shares a close affiliation with Liberty University.” Liberty Counsel partnered with ADF in the “SPLCexposed” campaign and co-signed both letters with the group.
Liberty Counsel filed an amicus brief in support of ADF’s client in the Masterpiece case, and it has expressed support for criminalizing homosexuality, filing a 2003 amicus brief in support of anti-sodomy laws. In 2012, the organization signed on to defend an anti-LGBTQ extremist who “allegedly played an instrumental part in the Ugandan parliament’s adoption of a draconian anti-LGBT bill that originally included the death penalty in some instances.”
Staver has called LGBTQ History Month a "sexual assault on our children," repeatedly warned that the Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage would trigger a revolution and could lead to civil war, and claimed nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people will result in the "death of some individuals." Staver has also compared LGBTQ people to pedophiles, once saying that allowing gay youth and adults in the Boy Scouts will cause “all kinds of sexual molestation” and create a “playground for pedophiles to go and have all these boys as objects of their lust.”
Former Liberty Counsel attorney Matt Barber said LGBTQ people “know intuitively that what they are doing is immoral, unnatural, and self-destructive,” adding that they have “tied their whole identity up in this sexual perversion.” In a column for WorldNetDaily, Barber called “disease, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide … consequences” of being gay.
In 2014, Liberty Counsel brought in more than $5.5 million in revenue. The organization famously represented Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis in litigation after she refused to issue marriage licenses to same and opposite-sex couples in 2015; Talking Points Memo reported that Staver “compared Davis’ plight to that of Jews in Nazi Germany” during a radio interview.
PJI is one of ADF’s official “allied organizations” and co-signed a letter with ADF asking the media to drop the “hate group” designation.
Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) is an anti-LGBTQ hate group that also filed an amicus brief in the Masterpiece case. ADF lists PJI as an allied organization on its website, and PJI co-signed the letter along with ADF asking media outlets to drop the “hate group” designation. Notably, PJI has a history of fabricating stories to advance anti-LGBTQ narratives. The group led a smear campaign against a transgender teenager that led to her getting harassed and receiving death threats after her name was leaked to the public; as a result, the teenager was put on suicide watch. PJI relied on debunked claims to defame the student and accuse her of harassing other students, and a few news outlets retracted their stories about the matter after PJI’s claims were determined false. PJI also pushed a bogus story about a California mom who claimed that an REI sporting goods store kicked her out for complaining about a man frightening her daughter in the women’s restroom. It has also pushed fabricated stories about anti-LGBTQ students being bullied in California
PJI’s president, Brad Dacus, has compared stopping marriage equality with stopping Nazis. In 1993, Dacus represented a baptist minister in court after he was removed from the city’s Human Rights Commission for suggesting that he agreed with the biblical punishment of stoning gay men to death; Dacus defended his client’s statement under the guise of so-called “freedom of religion.” Dacus claimed in 2012 that overturning the Defense of Marriage Act could create an “open heydey” for “polygamy” and “perhaps adult incest.” In 2015, PJI brought in $2 million in revenue, and the group conducts outreach on multiple international fronts, including to Slavic countries, China, and Korea.
NOM is one of ADF’s official “allied organizations” and is an official supporting partner of the “SPLCexposed” campaign.
National Organization for Marriage (NOM) was founded in 2007 to fight same-sex marriage. ADF touts NOM as an allied organization on its website, and NOM is an official supporting partner of the “SPLCexposed” campaign.
NOM ran its first anti-LGBTQ campaign in 2008 as one of the leading groups pushing Proposition 8 in California, a successful ballot initiative that invalidated marriage equality in the state before it was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2013. Early this month, NOM submitted an amicus brief in support of ADF’s client in the Masterpiece case.
Though NOM’s influence and finances have decreased significantly in the years since marriage equality spread throughout the country, the group has significant ties to other prominent anti-LGBTQ groups. The Ruth Institute, a hate group, began as an arm of NOM, and NOM President Brian Brown also runs the World Congress of Families, an anti-LGBTQ hate group that worked closely with Russian lawmakers, activists, and officials as the country shaped its “gay propaganda” law. That law “has been seen as effectively criminalizing any public expression of same-sex relationships,” according to Mother Jones, and it has led to the arrests of activists and increased violence against LGBTQ people in Russia.
In 2012, NOM became the subject of controversy in the U.S. when secret documents by the group were discovered attempting to pit minority groups against LGBTQ people. The documents outlined a strategy to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks” by “fanning the hostility” between the two groups. They also said it aimed to “interrupt this process of assimilation” for Latino people “by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity - a symbol of resistance to inappropriate assimilation.” According to SPLC, the group has repeatedly pushed the work of anti-LGBTQ extremists attempting to connect LGBTQ people to pedophilia, and Brown has said that marriage equality could lead to “normalizing pedophilia.” According to the Human Rights Campaign, Brown has been actively involved in anti-LGBTQ activism in Russia, including by advocating against gay adoption, telling Russians to “defend your values” and “protect our children.” Additionally, NOM was fined more than $50,000 in 2014 for violating campaign finance laws.
The late D. James Kennedy was a key founder of ADF, and he also founded D. James Kennedy Ministries, one of ADF’s official “allied organizations.” The group also co-signed the letter to media asking outlets to drop the “hate group” label.
D. James Kennedy Ministries, formerly known as Truth in Action, is an anti-LGBTQ hate group. The group is an official allied organization of ADF and co-signed the letter to media asking outlets to drop the “hate group” label in their coverage. The late D. James Kennedy, who founded the Ministries, was one of the key founders of ADF in 1993.
The group has produced a series of anti-LGBTQ films, including one opposing allowing gay kids to join the Boy Scouts and saying that they would put “boys at serious risk.” It has a weekly radio program that regularly hosts anti-LGBTQ figures, giving them a platform to spread vitriol.
According to Right Wing Watch, the group has repeatedly suggested that America is becoming Nazi Germany because of advancements in LGBTQ rights, once linking the Day of Silence -- a “student-led national event organized in thousands of schools, bringing awareness to the silencing effects of anti-LGBTQ name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools” -- with “Adolf Hitler’s birthday.” As Truth in Action, D. James Kennedy Ministries also released a film that displayed “images of the September 11 attacks, bombings, drug abuse, Adolf Hitler…and a married lesbian couple and the kiss between characters Kurt and Blaine on Glee” as a narrator discussed “everything that is evil in this world.” One of the group’s representatives asserted that “about 75 percent of those who struggle with homosexual or lesbian feelings were molested as children.” The group also said in 2012 that the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell would “jeopardize the military’s health and blood supply, since homosexual men are far more likely to be promiscuous and to have STDs, including HIV/AIDS.” In 2013, the group pushed a made-up story that a high school athlete was disqualified from competing at state level because he made a religious gesture, eventually scrubbing it from its website.
In 2015, D. James Kennedy Ministries brought in nearly $5 million in revenue.
ACPeds co-signed both letters with ADF attacking the “hate group” designation, and ADF attorneys have filed multiple briefs in court alongside and on behalf of ACPeds.
The American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) is a small anti-LGBTQ hate group of a few hundred members whose name is meant to be confused with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) -- a 60,000-member group comprising “leaders in the professional field.” ACPeds President Dr. Michelle Cretella co-signed both letters along with ADF attacking the hate designation. ADF attorneys have filed multiple briefs in court on behalf of ACPeds. The latter group has also filed an amicus brief in support of ADF’s clients in the Masterpiece case.
According to SPLC, ACPeds hides “under the veneer of its professional-sounding name and claims” in order to “defame and discredit LGBT people, often by distorting legitimate research.” ACPeds began when a “small group of anti-LGBT physicians and other healthcare professionals broke away” from AAP after it began supporting the right of same-sex couples to adopt and foster-parent children. ACPeds has been relentless in its claim that it’s dangerous for children to identify as LGBTQ; its blog has suggested that “P for pedophile” should be a part of the LGBT acronym, and, in 2010, the group’s then-president sent a letter to more than 14,000 school district superintendents advocating for conversion therapy and outlining the so-called “health risks” of “claim[ing] a ‘gay’ identity.” Conversion therapy is a dangerous practice that has been “rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization for decades.”
Former AFA President Donald Wildmon was a key founder of ADF. AFA is one of ADF’s official “allied organizations” and co-signed both letters attacking the “hate group” designation.
American Family Association (AFA) is an anti-LGBTQ hate group that filed an amicus brief in support of ADF’s client in the Masterpiece case. AFA is an official allied organization of ADF and co-signed both letters with ADF attacking the hate group designation. Former AFA President Donald Wildmon was a key founder of ADF, which was formed in 1993 when “a coalition of 35 Christian Right groups” joined together to found it. Wildmon’s son, Tim Wildmon, now runs the organization, which according to SPLC consists of a “200-station radio network, about 100 employees and a monthly AFA Journal sent to 180,000 people — largely on the basis of anti-gay appeals.”
SPLC reported that, in early 2000s, AFA sent a mailer saying that it “must OPPOSE the spread of homosexual activity! Just as we must oppose murder, stealing, and adultery," adding that LGBTQ people “RECRUIT” children. The group ran a multi-year “ex-gay” campaign called “Truth In Love” that advocated for curing LGBTQ people. The campaign included an AFA film that claimed that “80% of homosexual men have a sexually transmitted disease.” The film also featured a man who had been a prominent “ex-gay” activist and who was later found to be “hosting orgies, taking drugs and having unprotected sex with other men without disclosing his HIV status” while he traveled around the country condemning “the homosexual lifestyle.” The film is still listed on AFA’s website, which claims it has been shown in “thousands of churches.”
According to SPLC, AFA’s Bryan Fischer has repeatedly pushed a myth that the Nazi party was formed by LGBTQ people, saying that Nazism was “rooted in the homosexual movement” and “formed in a gay bar.” Fischer has said that Nazi Germany tried “homosexuality in the military” before asking, “How did that experiment work out?” He also claimed that “homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews.” According to SPLC, these discredited assertions came from “the Holocaust revisionist work of Scott Lively,” who claimed that “because of the ‘savage nature’ of gay men, they were able to instigate and carry out the Holocaust.” As recently as September 23, Fischer expressed support for criminalizing homosexuality, tweeting, “If injection drug abuse is contrary to public policy, homosexual conduct should too. And for the same reasons.”
AFA brought in nearly $30 million in revenue in 2014, and the notorious “One Million Moms” campaign is an offshoot of the group. It urges campaigns against and boycotts of what its members call “filth” in the entertainment media.
C-Fam and ADF have worked together on multiple international initiatives. C-Fam has hired some of ADF’s Blackstone Legal Fellows for summer positions, and the group co-signed the letter to the media attacking the “hate group” designation.
The Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam), formerly known as the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, is an anti-LGBTQ hate group run by Austin Ruse. C-Fam and ADF have worked together and supported and promoted each other’s work on a number of causes. Ruse spoke before more than 100 of ADF’s Blackstone Legal Fellows and C-Fam hosted fellows for summer internships. Ruse co-signed the letter to media with ADF that asked media outlets to drop the “hate group” designation in their coverage. According to its website, C-Fam was founded “in order to monitor and affect the social policy debate at the United Nations and other international institutions” and focuses its work internationally.
Ruse was the subject of controversy in 2014 when he said that “the hard left, human-hating people that run modern universities” should “all be taken out and shot.” He later had to apologize for the statement. Ruse also mocked a 15-year-old transgender activist, using the word “trannies” and employing her image in a post about HIV rates in the transgender community. He also denies that the 1998 anti-gay hate crime murder of Matthew Shepard was a hate crime, publishing multiple pieces on Breitbart saying that “homosexuality had little or nothing to do with his murder” and that Shepard “was not killed by gay bias, gay hatred.” Ruse has said that all countries should pass laws against homosexual behavior “even if unenforced,” in order to "help society to teach what is good" and “prevent such truly harmful practices as homosexual marriage and adoption.” According to GLAAD, Ruse has also claimed that, rather than bullying and social stigma, LGBTQ people and activism are the real cause of LGBTQ teen suicide and alcoholism. C-Fam brought in more than $1.8 million in revenue in 2015 and was granted special consultative status to the United Nations in 2014.
TVC co-signed both letters with ADF attacking the “hate group” designation.
Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) is an anti-LGBTQ hate group founded by Lou Sheldon and currently run by his daughter Andrea Lafferty. Lafferty co-signed both letters alongside ADF attacking the “hate group” designation.
Sheldon has pushed the myth that LGBTQ people are pedophiles, claiming, “As homosexuals continue to make inroads into public schools, more children will be molested and indoctrinated into the world of homosexuality.” According to SPLC, TVC has also asserted that “homosexuals molest children at a far greater rate than do their heterosexual counterparts.” Lafferty, too, has pushed the myth, telling Breitbart News Daily that trans-inclusive bathroom policies at Target and Hershey Park made them “pedophile magnets and pervert magnets.” Lafferty also called transgender kids “psychologically unhealthy and unstable” and said that it’s the “ultimate act of child abuse” to affirm a transgender child’s identity. Lafferty also believes that transgender people should be banned from teaching.
According to SPLC, Sheldon has also compared homosexuality “to smoking or drug use, not an immutable characteristic like race or ethnicity,” suggested forcibly placing AIDS victims into “cities of refuge,” and said in the 1990s that a newly passed hate crime law would “protect sex with animals and the rape of children as forms of political expression.” Similar to other anti-LGBTQ extremists, Sheldon has compared queer activists to Nazis, saying that attitudes about LGBTQ people “have been deliberately and deceitfully changed by a masterful propaganda/marketing campaign that rivals that of Adolph [sic] Hitler. In fact, many of the strategies used by homosexuals to bring about cultural change in America are taken from Hitler’s writings and propaganda welfare manuals.” In 2014, the group brought in more than $4.1 million in revenue, and it was granted remarkable access to the White House during President George W. Bush’s administration.
The Ruth Institute is one of ADF’s official “allied organizations” and co-signed the letter to media asking outlets to drop the “hate group” designation. Its founder has given a lecture to ADF Blackstone fellows.
The Ruth Institute is an anti-LGBTQ hate group that began as an arm of NOM and split off in 2013. The Ruth Institute is an official allied organization of ADF and co-signed the letter with ADF asking media outlets to drop the “hate group” designation in their coverage. The group's founder and president, Jennifer Morse, has given a lecture to ADF Blackstone fellows in which she compared resisting the “sexual revolution” to standing up against Nazis.
The group used to hold an annual student conference to prepare college students and recent graduates to defend “natural marriage.” According to SPLC, Morse “has mostly steered clear of the kind of vicious anti-LBGT rhetoric employed by some on the religious right,” but the group highlights a “Circle of Experts” on its website. These so-called “experts” spread vicious lies about LGBTQ people, including connecting LGBTQ activism to Nazism, pushing junk science that “children of same-sex couples fare worse,” and connecting them to pedophilia.
Morse has said that LGBTQ people should stay celibate and has said that being gay is a “completely shameless activity,” according to GLAAD. She has repeatedly pushed a debunked connection between Nazis and LGBTQ people, saying that “the parallels are really quite chilling because the Nazis were able to scare people into being silent, and they scared people by threatening their jobs, and they scared people by creating an atmosphere of intimidation. I hate to say it but it is happening to us.” In another speech, Morse said that same-sex marriage is part of a “pagan ideology” that Christians should avoid like Nazism.
NTFTE and Equality and Justice for All’s Christopher Doyle co-signed both letters with ADF lamenting the “hate group” designation and received legal representation from ADF.
“Ex-gay” activist Christopher Doyle runs The National Task Force for Therapy Equality (NTFTE) and is a consultant for Equality and Justice for All. Doyle and his group advocate for harmful reparative therapy under the guise of “therapy equality.” Doyle signed both letters along with ADF lamenting the “hate group” label, and ADF has previously provided legal representation for Doyle. NTFTE filed a report in May to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) attacking human rights organizations for what NTFTE called a “hate campaign” to ban reparative therapy. In the report, NTFTE described its purpose as to “secure therapy equality for clients that experience distress over unwanted same-sex attractions and gender identity conflicts.” According to The Washington Post, the complaint accused human rights groups “of committing ‘mass fraud’ and ‘actively distorting the scientific research by promoting the ‘Born Gay’ hoax.’” Doyle’s group Equality and Justice for All attempts to incorporate the harmful myth that LGBTQ people can change their orientation in the “formation of public policy.”
IFI’s website says it has a “working relationship” with ADF, as well as FRC and AFA, and it co-signed both letters attacking the “hate group” designation.
Illinois Family Institute (IFI) is an anti-LGBTQ hate group active in Illinois. It’s Executive Director David Smith co-signed both letters along with ADF lamenting the “hate group” label. At the bottom of its website, IFI notes that it has a “working relationship” with ADF, FRC, and AFA.
IFI has pressured school boards across Illinois to rescind policies that protect LGBTQ people and urged its supporters to get involved in school board elections. Additionally, according to SPLC, IFI has regularly pushed debunked data about LGBTQ people, including that “the median age of death of the homosexual man is 42. Only 9% live past age 65.”
According to GLAAD, Smith has called homosexuality “depraved” and “unnatural” and equated LGBTQ couples with “incestuous couples” and pedophiles. One of IFI’s most extreme figures is Laurie Higgins, who once wrote a blog post published on the website opposingviews.com called “Church Should Fight Homosexuality Like It Did Nazism.” The piece compared the “failure of the church to oppose the extermination of Jews and the government usurpation of control of the church in Nazi Germany” to the “American church’s failure to respond appropriately to the spread of radical, heretical, destructive views of homosexuality.” Higgins claimed that Opposing Views changed the title of her article, and the article has since been removed for the website. In 2014, she attacked gay media personality Dan Savage as “repugnant” and said that she needed to “expose the dark realities of this pernicious movement” just as we must “view photos from Auschwitz” and “of lynchings.” Higgins called it “illuminating the necessity of occasionally viewing the evil in our midst.” She has also said that “there was something profoundly good for society about the prior stigmatization of homosexual practice … when homosexuals were ‘in the closet.’” Higgins has also repeatedly expressed support for Russia’s “gay propaganda” law, saying it “protects minors from homosexuality-affirming propaganda” and suggesting that “perhaps we need an anti-propagandizing-to-minors law” in the United States.
American Values President Gary Bauer co-signed the letter with ADF asking media outlets to drop the “hate group” label.
American Values President Gary Bauer served as FRC’s second president from 1988 through 1999. Bauer co-signed the letter along with ADF calling on media to drop the “hate group” label. According to SPLC, Bauer’s work “raised the FRC’s profile, increased its effectiveness, and built a national network of ‘concerned citizens’ during the Clinton Administration.” He also “brought in several anti-gay researchers who pumped out defamatory material about the LGBT community” during his time at FRC. In a 1998 appearance at Harvard Kennedy School, Bauer expressed support for anti-sodomy laws, saying that “states have a right to, in their laws and in their codes, to decide which sexual activity they want to discourage in a variety of ways.” During that appearance, he also said that “it would be a terrible mistake to add conduct to civil rights codes” in a question about legal discrimination against LGBTQ people at workplace. Bauer said, “It would be a disaster to take something like conduct, homosexual conduct, and attempt to fold it into the rubric of civil rights laws that we have.” He continued to say that he believes landlords should be able to refuse housing to LGBTQ people.
Bauer served in President Ronald Reagan’s White House, where he fought to prevent Reagan from appointing a “known homosexual” to his commission on AIDS, instead suggesting a “reformed” ex-gay who is “not currently living a gay life style.” In 2012, Bauer similarly called former presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s decision to hire an openly gay staffer a “disappointment” and attacked the staffer for being “an outspoken advocate of redefining normal marriage.” Bauer has also attempted to link the Obama administration’s support for same-sex marriage and crime in Chicago, asking how “the radical idea of men marrying other men” is “going to help the black family?”
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 Times, The 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.
Methodology. Media Matters searched Los Angeles Times, The 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.
Journalists planning to cover the upcoming Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa should be aware of the extreme anti-gay rhetoric regularly voiced by several of the event's sponsors and speakers, including host Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of The Family Leader and one of the most influential conservative activists in Iowa. Attendees will also hear from Tony Perkins, the head of the anti-gay hate group Family Research Council and Brian Brown, the head of the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage, among others.
For two years, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has been peddling the theory that the IRS intentionally leaked its donor list to a gay rights organization as part of an Obama administration conspiracy. Two separate investigations and a ruling by a Reagan-appointed judge have debunked that theory. But right-wing media, which have widely touted NOM's initial accusations, have largely ignored or denied the conspiracy theory's demise.
In the spring of 2012, an IRS employee inadvertently leaked an unredacted list of NOM's donors in response to a public records request. The pro-equality group Human Rights Campaign (HRC) got its hands on the list, highlighting past contributions to NOM by prominent conservatives like then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Noting that key HRC officials were prominent supporters of President Obama's re-election campaign, NOM alleged a conspiracy between the organization and the Obama administration aimed at embarrassing NOM and its supporters.
In April 2012, NOM filed a formal letter of complaint to the IRS. Conservative outlets like The Daily Caller and The Weekly Standard touted the complaint, focusing particularly on the revelation that Romney was one of the group's donors. For most of the next year, however, media interest in the story was scant.
That changed in the spring of 2013. In May, U.S. Attorney General Eric holder ordered the FBI to begin a criminal probe into allegations that the agency had targeted tax-exempt conservative political groups. While the IRS actually scrutinized progressive groups more extensively than conservative ones, the IRS "scandal" became a rallying cry for right-wing media. The controversy also meant newfound interest in NOM's allegations against the agency.
Mainstream and conservative media outlets were quick to pick up on NOM's call for an investigation into the IRS's activities.
The Wall Street Journal 's James Taranto spotlighted NOM's claims in a column on the IRS controversy, asking "How pervasive is the Obama IRS scandal?":
On June 19, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) held its second March for Marriage - an event that proved to be largely a repeat of last year's march, with dismal attendance, bussed-in supporters, and examples of anti-gay animus on display.
An estimated 2,000 attendees convened at the U.S. Capitol for a rally culminating in a march to the U.S. Supreme Court. As he did for last year's event, anti-equality State Sen. Ruben Diaz (D-NY) bussed in a large group of mostly Spanish-speaking evangelicals from the New York area, after promising rally-goers an expense-free trip to Washington to "visit the monuments." Equality Matters approached several attendees to ask about their reasons for attending the rally and their means of getting there, only to be told that they spoke little English.
Throughout the rally, speakers like Fox News host and former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco stressed that the rally was pro-marriage, not anti-anybody. But as others monitoring the event documented, anti-gay animus was clearly on display.
One rally-goer held a sign declaring that people who "embrace homosexuality" do so because they "hate God and love to be sinful," instructing gay people to "repent":
"Repent or perish," another sign ominously warned:
Another attendee's sign denounced "sodomy & abortion" as "wrong":
In an interview with Equality Matters, one attendee predicted "violence" if marriage equality came to pass nationwide. Pressed on whom he thought would perpetrate violence, the man noted that many people are "angry" about same-sex marriage and stated that he didn't want "what homosexuals do" recognized as equal to his marriage:
On June 19, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) will hold its second March for Marriage in Washington, DC. Though the march has nabbed some high-profile speakers, journalists covering the event should know that it's likely to be a largely astroturfed affair.
Earlier this year, NOM announced its plan to organize a second March for Marriage to demonstrate that there's still "deep and wide support" for opposing same-sex marriage, despite polls showing a growing majority of Americans in favor of marriage equality.
The march is slated to feature high-profile speakers like Fox News host Mike Huckabee and 2012 GOP presidential runner-up Rick Santorum. In local press appearances, NOM employees have touted the event as a show of grassroots support for traditional marriage. In reality, the media should know that NOM's marriage march will feature some of the country's most extreme anti-gay voice. Here's what reporters can expect from this year's March for Marriage:
Look no further than last year's march. Even as the Supreme Court took up challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California's Proposition 8, NOM struggled to muster enthusiasm for the event. While NOM's Thomas Peters declared that 15,000 people had turned out for the march and NOM president Brian Brown estimated there were "more than 10,000" attendees, the Washington Blade estimated a turnout of only 2,000.
Many of the attendees at the 2013 march were bussed in from New York City - free of charge - by anti-equality State Sen. Ruben Diaz (D-NY). Diaz claimed to have sent 32 busloads of primarily Latino New Yorkers to the rally; other attendees included Chinese Christians from Chicago and French activists flying their country's flag at a rally purportedly focused on the anti-equality fight in the United States.
This year's march is unlikely to be much different. Diaz has promised to dispatch 100 buses from the Bronx, posting a Spanish-language YouTube video promising rally-goers an all-expenses-paid trip. In the video, Diaz urges New York Latinos to "[a]sk for your bus! Fill the bus! And let's go to Washington! Let's go on a trip! Visit the monuments in Washington and testify that Jesus heals and saves and is the king we await."