America owes the international community an apology: we are exporting our anti-LGBT activists, and they are damaging fairness, equality and human rights around the globe.
And, with support for equality on the rise from statehouses to classrooms to church pews to dinner tables – and with the US Supreme Court set to rule on marriage equality this summer – they have turned their attention elsewhere. They understand they’re losing in their own country. Americans are rejecting their vision of two Americas – one where some are equal and others are treated as second class citizens simply because of who they are.
These anti-LGBT extremists have begun exporting their hate to countries around the world, jeopardising the livelihood – and sometimes the lives – of LGBT people in places where they have no protections. Indeed, they’re opening up new battlefields overseas – working to encourage and support anti-LGBT laws in countries like Russia, Poland, Uganda and Jamaica – laws they only wish they could pass here at home.
Some of these American exporters of hate may protest this characterisation, but their true intentions are there for all the world to see. Take the World Congress of Families, for example. Since 1997, this organisation has held conferences and events around the world that foster homophobia and transphobia under the guise of protecting the “natural family.” The organisation has supported laws that marginalise LGBT people in Russia and recently honoured an individual in Nigeria who claimed LGBT advocates were conspiring with the terrorist group Boko Haram.
Every few years, the World Congress of Families hosts an international gathering of those working against the rights of the LGBT community and women. The group’s September 2014 international conference at the Kremlin was canceled due to instability in Ukraine. But later this year, many of the group’s supporters will meet in Salt Lake City, Utah. It will be the first time the World Congress of Families has ever held such a conference in the United States, despite the fact that its board of directors and staff are all Americans.
There are a disturbing cast of characters who work for, partner with, and participate in the World Congress of Families. Days after Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for president of the United States, Don Feder, communications director for the organization, referred to Mrs. Clinton – who as secretary of state declared gays rights to be human rights – as “Hitlery,” writing that she’s too “hideous” to be president.
Partners of the organisation like Sharon Slater of Family Watch International have taken an anti-LGBT agenda to the United Nations, and advocated for marginalising LGBT people in places like Nigeria, where efforts to pass severe anti-LGBT legislation succeeded in 2014. And then there’s Scott Lively, a regular speaker at the group’s summits. Lively has promoted dangerous lies around the globe. Among other things, he’s blamed some of history’s most horrific atrocities, including the Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide, on LGBT people.
Such rhetoric isn’t just blatantly false, it’s dangerous. In countries where homophobia and transphobia are rampant, and LGBT communities have not had the resources to combat such discrimination, the words of Don Feder, Brian Brown, or Scott Lively embolden individuals, including foreign leaders, to embrace laws that endanger LGBT people and their families. In fact, their work infects regions, not just countries where they appear. Russia’s law that prohibits public support of equality (and inspires violence), which was strongly supported by the World Congress of Families, is now bleeding into central Asia, where stronger versions of the law are moving forward in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
That’s why we will not let these exporters of hate go unchallenged. In the words of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, sunlight is the best disinfectant, and over the last year, the Human Rights Campaign – America’s largest LGBT civil rights organization – has focused light on the anti-LGBT efforts of the World Congress of Families and other American exporters of hate. With only six months until thousands descend on Salt Lake City for the World Congress of Families’ first international conference in the US, we are releasing an updated version of Exposed: The World Congress of Families.
Some, such as Lively, are crying foul about our efforts to expose their work and have accused us of endangering them. We condemn all forms of political violence – no one, as a matter of basic human rights, should live in fear of danger. And no one should be able to hide from their own words, and the damage they do. That’s exactly why we are calling out Scott Lively’s travels from the Kremlin to Kampala – journeys taken with the express purpose of advancing laws that promote anti-LGBT sentiments. There was a time when they were proud of their anti-LGBT rhetoric and activities. If they’re ashamed of it now, they should publicly apologise. If they’re not, as public officials they should welcome the scrutiny of a fair-minded public.
Tide beginning to turn
In the United States and Western Europe, LGBT people are beginning to enjoy the civil and human rights they are rightly entitled to. Marriage equality has been law in most of the United Kingdom for more than a year and has recently been passed in Finland, Slovenia and Luxembourg. This month, voters in Ireland will go to the polls to vote for whether same-sex couples have a right to marry, a measure that is expected to pass.
‘Mister Majah P is a pioneering performer who is bravely breaking the homophobic mould of much Jamaican reggae and dancehall music. Long may he continue to assert that “One Love” includes LGBT people.’
Read Peter Tatchell’s article on the man breaking the mould of bigotry in the Caribbean here.
But as equality has spread in some parts of the world, a backwards slide has occurred in other parts. Not only are some countries further criminalising LGBT relationships and identities, but also finding clever new ways to prevent advocacy, association, and expression. Unfortunately, American fingerprints are on almost all of these efforts.
Luckily, pro-equality Americans are beginning to respond by speaking out in support of human rights and inclusion. President Obama has made LGBT rights abroad a key part of his foreign policy, with Secretary of State John Kerry recently appointing the first American diplomat devoted to advocating for protecting the human rights of LGBT people around the globe – an appointment HRC has long called for. In addition, the US has six openly gay ambassadors serving worldwide.
While the equality movement is not as organised and well-funded as our opposition at the global level, that is changing. Just as the efforts of advocates for exclusion are failing in America, their efforts will ultimately fail globally. The story of progress and prosperity is one of inclusion and love.
Hate is neither an American value nor a family value, and no American should be in the business of exporting it around the globe. And we won’t cease to expose, debunk and shine a light on those who are trying to make the case otherwise, until this despicable behavior comes to an end once and for all.
Chad Griffin is President of Human Rights Campaign, one of the world’s largest LGBT activist groups. Find him on Twitter @ChadHGriffin or the group @HRC. You can also visit the HRC websitehere.