NEWS / CONTEXT

Karger Alleges NOM’s Brown Violated U.S. Law Against Lobbying Foreign Governments
Karen Ocamb
10/10/2013



Right Wing Watch spells out in precise detail how Brian Brown, President of the National Organization for Marriage, joined anti-LGBT French activists in delivering speeches before the Russian Duma last June 13 endorsing the anti-gay 'propaganda' law and advocating for legislation that would prohibit Russian children from being adopted by same-sex couples.

“We will unite. We will defend our children their normal civil rights,” Brown said according to a Russian transcript of his speech posted on the committee’s website, the Russian news agency RiaNovosti reported. “Every child must have the right to normal parents—a mother and a father.”

That ban was subsequently approved by the Russian parliament, and on July 3, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed it into law. On Wednesday, Agence France-Presse reported that there’s a new 'parenting' bill on the Duma’s website proposing a law to be debated next February (just as the Winter Olympics start in Sochi) to allow the state to “strip parents of custody if they practise ‘nontraditional sexual relations,’ the term used in Russian laws to describe homosexual relations.” The lawmakers say “the proposed amendment to the family code was in line with the 'propaganda' law.”

"Homosexuals should not bring up children," said bill author Alexei Zhuravlyov. "It brings more harm than an orphanage."  

Last month, radio host Michelangelo Signorile, editor-at-large at HuffPost Gay Voices interviewed Masha Gessen, an American citizen and Moscow-based writer who fled Russia (where she was born) for fear the government would take away the three children she is raising with her lesbian partner, a Russian citizen. Signorile wrote:

Yesterday, after months of rumors, a bill was introduced in the Russian Duma that compares LGBT people to alcoholics and drug abusers and would deny LGBT Russians custody of their own biological or adopted children.

Gessen had already sent her oldest son overseas, fearful that he'd be snatched by the government.

"My situation is that my partner and I are raising three kids, one of whom is adopted and two of whom are biological," Gessen explained to me yesterday on my radio program in an interview from Moscow. (Listen to clips of the interview below.) "In June the Russian parliament banned adoption by same-sex couples. It was a fair assumption that the law could be used to annul the adoption of our oldest son, so we made the decision to send our oldest son out of the country immediately."

But now, if the new law passes—the adoption law passed in four days—Gessen's biological children could be taken too.

"I had a horrible conversation with my daughter this morning," Gessen said. "I got the news of this bill while I was sending her off to school. I said, 'They've finally filed the bill.' Obviously we've talked about this at length in the family, and we expected something like this would show up. And she's 11. She sat there thinking. After about 15 minutes she said, 'Can I stay with my other mom if they take me away from you?' She can't grasp this, that they're trying to outlaw our whole family, that there isn't the option of going with one or the other."

Prominent gay activist Fred Karger, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, believes Brown’s heretofore secret participation in the effort before the Russian Duma to strip same-sex couples of their rights to parenthood violates the Logan Act, a law that forbids American citizens from engaging in private schemes or diplomacy with foreign officials that runs contrary to the interests of the United States. By any understanding of U.S. policy about LGBT human rights as described by then-Secrtary of State Hillary Clinton in 2011, even before the Duma debates the anti-gay 'parenthood' bill, it has harmed at least one U.S. citizen—Masha Gessen.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Karger wrote, in part:

The presentations by NOM’s Brian Brown were apparently very effective. Five days later, the Duma passed a ban on the adoption of Russian children by same-sex couples and by single people living in countries that allow marriage equality.

Immediately after Mr. Brown’s meetings and testimony in the Russian capital, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a severe crackdown on LGBT rights, affecting all LGBT visitors to Russia to include Americans.

If Mr. Brown did travel to Moscow with French religious leaders with the express intention of furthering discrimination against LGBT Russians and all LGBT travelers to Russia, this could be in direct conflict with current United States laws. ...

I hope that both of you gentleman will use the authority of your offices to immediately investigate this possible very serious violation of the Logan Act by Mr. Brown and any other American citizens who may have accompanied him to Russia. Americans who correspond, testify or meet with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government certainly would appear to be in violation of this Act.

The Russian news agency RIA Novosti interviewed Brown, who said he spoke extemporaneously before the Duma and claims the charges by Karger were “absurd.”

“It is laughable how little he understands that in America we’re free to stand up and speak for things like traditional marriage around the world,” Brown said. “We’ve been very open that we’re going to work with allies around the world that believe marriage is a union between a man and a woman.”

RIA Novosti also reports:

“[A] State Department spokeswoman said Wednesday that she could not confirm whether Karger’s letter had been received but added that “if and when we do receive it, we will review it and respond appropriately.”

Officials at the Justice Department could not be reached for comment Wednesday due to the continuing shutdown of the U.S. government over a federal budget dispute.

The Right Wing Watch post that exposed Brown’s secret trip to Moscow was part two of a four-part series “exploring how American right-wing groups have supported Russia’s recent spate of anti-gay laws and its crackdown on LGBT citizens.” The third installment will focus on University of Texas professor Mark Regnerus, whose disputed study is the basis for much of the anti-LGBT attitudes behind the anti-LGBT laws. 

Here’s Fred Karger’s letter in full:

October 9, 2013

The Honorable John F. Kerry
Secretary of State of the United States
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

Re: Logan Act Violation

Dear Messrs. Secretary and Attorney General:

It has recently come to my attention that a citizen of the United States, Brian S. Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) may have violated the Logan Act by recently collaborating with Russian Duma (Parliament) officials without prior authorization of the United States government. The Logan Act (18 U.S.C.A. § 953 [1948]) is a single federal statute making it a crime for a citizen to confer with foreign governments against the interests of the United States.

Text of the Logan Act
§ 953. Private correspondence with foreign governments.
Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

This section shall not abridge the right of a citizen to apply himself, or his agent, to any foreign government, or the agents thereof, for redress of any injury which he may have sustained from such government or any of its agents or subjects.
1 Stat. 613, January 30, 1799, codified at 18 U.S.C. § 953 (2004)

Mr. Browns’ heretofore secret trip to Russia in June of this year to speak out and lobby in support of draconian restrictions on gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) adoption rights became known only last week in a report issued by Miranda Blue for Right Wing Watch a project of People for the American Way.

The report stated: “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.”

The presentations by NOM’s Brian Brown were apparently very effective. Five days later, the Duma passed a ban on the adoption of Russian children by same-sex couples and by single people living in countries that allow marriage equality.

Immediately after Mr. Brown’s meetings and testimony in the Russian capital, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a severe crackdown on LGBT rights, affecting all LGBT visitors to Russia to include Americans.

If Mr. Brown did travel to Moscow with French religious leaders with the express intention of furthering discrimination against LGBT Russians and all LGBT travelers to Russia, this could be in direct conflict with current United States laws.

It has been widely reported that Mr. Putin’s crackdown against LGBT rights in Russia was in part responsible for President Obama’s cancelation of his much-anticipated visit to Moscow in August for talks with Russian President Putin.

The White House Statement on the summit cancelation said:

"Given our lack of progress on issues such as missile defense and arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security issues, and human rights and civil society in the last 12 months, we have informed the Russian government that we believe it would be more constructive to postpone the summit until we have more results from our shared agenda."

The new Russian policy on human rights will affect American LGBT athletes who will be participating in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics next February as well as LGBT athletes and visitors from all other participating countries.

I hope that both of you gentleman will use the authority of your offices to immediately investigate this possible very serious violation of the Logan Act by Mr. Brown and any other American citizens who may have accompanied him to Russia. Americans who correspond, testify or meet with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government certainly would appear to be in violation of this Act.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Very truly yours,

Fred Karger
President
Rights Equal Rights

cc: President Barack Obama
The Honorable Harry Reid
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
The Honorable John Boehner
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi


 «  Return to previous page
 »  Send to a friend

Leave a comment:

· Subscribe to comments
Be the first to comment here.