IMPLAUSIBLE DENIABILITY?

Are American Homophobes Playing Close To The Line With U.S. Sanctions Against Russia?

moscowToday is the day of a anti-gay jamboree held, appropriately enough, in Moscow, one of the world capitols of homophobia. The title of the conference tells all: “Large Families: The Future of Humanity.” What’s interesting is that an American religious right group had planned an event in Moscow with pretty much the same title at the same time with many of the same speakers. That event was “canceled” because of U.S. sanctions levied in light of Russia’s invasion of Crimea. 

Hannah Levintova at Mother Jones lays out what looks like an elaborate game of footsie that the World Congress of Families seems to be playing.  WCF ostensibly backed out of the conference because of “possible liability” arising from sanctions against Russia. Yet, lo and behold, among the seven organizers of the coincidental new conference listed on the conference website are WCF managing director Larry Jacobs and WCF communications director Don Feder. (Surprise! Their names have since disappeared.)

Jacobs told Mother Jones that he and Feder will be at the conference “to attend and speak as individuals and not as representatives of the World Congress of Families.” Of course.

The liability issue is a real one. Two of the major Russian supporters of the conference are on a special “blocked persons” list, which means that American citizens should not have any “dealings”–which is not rigorously defined–with them. The pair–Elena Mizulina, a member of Parliament, and Vladimir Yakunin, a Putin advisor with ties to several organizations that have supported WCF in the past–have a long history of promoting homophobia in Russia.

It’s that very homophobia that has made Russia the beloved of the American religious right. It’s come to the point where the Americans are happy to overlook Russia’s flouting of international conventions because the homophobia outweighs anything else that Russia does. 

WCF has held ten meetings in Russia in the past four years. Fortunately, it has met with a lot less success here at home. The group planned to hold a meeting in official U.S. Senate space last year, only to have Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, a Republican, yank their access. Kirk’s action was especially appropriate because WCF is headquartered in his state.

As for the Moscow meeting, Jacobs told Buzzfeed that anyone who says it’s connected to WCF “is wrong, mis-informed or lying.” Not getting that memo was Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, who also told Buzzfeed that ” a lot of us are still going to over there and attend. WCF will vocally support the meeting that is happening in Russia.” Jacobs insists that Ruse doesn’t speak for the WCF. Just like WCF has nothing to do with the Moscow conference, no doubt.