By Tim Peacock
When news broke this week that the National Organization for Marriage (via Brian Brown, their most visible spokesperson) assisted in drafting Russia's egregiously anti-gay adoption law banning LGBT people from adopting, progressive circles responded as you'd expect and conservative/religious organizations mostly shrugged and wondered what the big deal was. Somewhere along the outrage spectrum lies the fact that Brown confirmed what many in the LGBT community here already knew: feeling the sting of LGBT victories around the United States, many religious conservatives who use anti-gay propaganda as their bread and butter have taken to traveling abroad to peddle their ideology to less-liberal, more authoritarian (and more conservative) regimes (like Russia) in order to maintain the lifestyle to which they're accustomed.
In their report on his support of the Russian anti-gay law, Right Wing Watch reported that:
"On June 13, 2013, just days after the Russian Duma passed laws banning on gay “propaganda” and actions that “offend religious feelings,” a delegation of five French Catholic anti-gay activists --at least one with ties to the far-right Front National party -- traveled to Moscow at the invitation of the Duma committee on family, women and children to discuss, among other issues, Russia’s plans to tighten its ban on adoption by same-sex couples abroad. Joining them was one of the most well-known figures in the American anti-gay movement, National Organization For Marriage president Brian Brown . Brown had worked closely with the French anti-gay movement in its protests of the country’s marriage equality law, traveling to Paris to demonstrate against the law and signing onto an email to members of the Collectif Famille Mariage, one of the most prominent groups working to oppose marriage equality in France."
Later on, the report went on to say:
"According to Russian news reports, the French activists and Brown attended two events in Moscow. One was a joint meeting on changes in international adoption laws with the Duma’s committee on foreign affairs and its committee on family, women and children – whose chair, Yelena Mizulina, authored the ban on gay “propaganda” and the adoption bill. The other event was a roundtable discussion on "Traditional Values: The Future of the European Peoples," hosted by the St. Basil the Great Foundation – a Catholic group run by Konstantin Malofeev, the head of a private equity group and spirited anti-gay activist – and also sponsored by the Duma’s family committee, the right-wing Center for Social-Conservative Policy, and a new multi-party group of Russian MPs formed, with approval of the Russian Orthodox Church, to “protect traditional Christian values” and fight “aggressive liberalism” in reaction to Pussy Riot’s protests. Among the measures pushed by the group was the new law imposing jail time for 'insulting religious feelings.'"
But what of Brown's actual influence? What did he say to the Russian audience - the same audience that conspired to outlaw "homosexual propaganda" in addition to banning LGBT people from adopting? In his speech, Brown said (in part):
"We are talking about violations of rights, we are talking about the rights and problems of children in their education. We should not shy away from this and should not forget about it and create an illusion for ourselves. A reconsideration of the definition and understanding of marriage is in fact a real threat to rights. Very soon after a law was passed that legalized same-sex marriage in the state of Massachusetts, we saw that religious organizations were closing down, religious organizations that dealt with adoptions and that did not support adoption by same-sex families. They were closing one after another. We have actually seen that in some schools, they are talking to children about homosexuality, but in fact they don’t have the right to learn about a lot of things like that until a certain age. … I think that this visit, the invitation to visit Russia, will enable the development of this movement around the world. We will band together, we will defend our children and their normal civil rights. Every child should have the right to have normal parents: a father and a mother."
While awful, none of this should come as a surprise to anyone who has seen or heard of NOM or Brian Brown previously. Why is this moment in time (and this particular place) important in the grander scheme of things? One word explains it all: Kazakhstan. After seeing the success rate in which Russia implemented their brand of anti-LGBT hate, Kazakhstan just initiated similar measures to crack down on their own LGBT citizenry.
Taking a page from Russia's law books, they've already attempted to outlaw "homosexual propaganda" and new legislation (coming after the large conservative Russian conference Brown and others attended) appears to be even more dangerous for anyone who is (or appears to be) LGBT. Tengri News in Kazakhstan reported:
"Kazakhstan’s Parliament deputy Bakhytbek Smagul has suggested drafting a law to ban same-sex relationships in Kazakhstan, Tengrinews reports from the plenary meeting of the Majilis (lower chamber of the Parliament). 'I believe it necessary not only to enhance the article 11 of the Family Code (persons not allowed to marry), but also to develop a draft law eradicating same-sex relations, and close the nightclubs everywhere,' Smagul read out his address to Kazakhstan Prime-Minister Serik Akhmetov. According to the MP, several countries that 'set traditional family relations a priority in their state policies' have already adopted laws banning same-sex relations because the latter are not part of their national mentalities. 'These are Afghanistan, Malaysia and Indonesia. Russia also intends to adopt such law,' he said."
Based on the success of anti-gay laws in large countries like Russia, smaller countries like Kazakhstan appear to be following the dangerously anti-gay lead and enacting laws that go so far as to criminalize even being LGBT (let along adopting, living openly, etc.).
Kazakhstan follows similar attempts other countries have made after American religious anti-gay influences have intervened. It wasn't so long ago that American religious conservative Scott Lively made similar strides in convincing foreign countries that LGBT people pose a grave international risk. He was a large supported of the Ugandan "kill the gays" bill, in fact, in addition to supporting Russia's anti-gay propaganda law (right along side NOM's Brian Brown). Lively is currently on trial for crimes against humanity for his part in those actions, too.
Is NOM - an organization that claims merely to want to "protect" traditional marriage in the United States - now entering into a new phase that has zero to do with marriage and everything to do with attempting to ensure the physical harm of LGBT people internationally? For the moment that's how it appears, at least - and should Kazakhstan criminalize being gay, we can all thank Brian Brown for his support. I'm sure the thousands of homeless kids in Russian orphanages who could've had actual homes are already "grateful" for his intervention.