Brian Brown

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

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    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.

  • Meet The Notorious Anti-Gay Leaders Behind Iowa's Influential Conservative Conference


    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.

  • The Slow, Awkward Death Of NOM's IRS Conspiracy Theory

    Blog ››› ››› LUKE BRINKER

    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.

    From Politico:

    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?":

  • Inside NOM's Second Failed "March For Marriage"

    Blog ››› ››› LUKE BRINKER

    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:

  • What The Media Should Know About This Week's Anti-Gay "March For Marriage"

    Blog ››› ››› LUKE BRINKER

    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:

    NOM Grossly Overestimating Attendance

    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.

    Church Groups Bussed In To "Visit The Monuments!"

    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."