WASHINGTON — Late Thursday, Illinois Senator Mark Kirk's office abruptly canceled access to a Senate meeting room for a Friday event scheduled by a social conservative organization that is supportive of Russia's "homosexual propaganda" ban, event organizers told BuzzFeed.
LGBT activists were outraged to learn that the World Congress of Families, which is currently planning a global summit of supporters of the "traditional family" to be held in Moscow in 2014, would be holding an event in a meeting room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. The WCF is a project of the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society, based in Rockford, Illinois.
"Shame on you, Senator Kirk, for allowing vocal radical sexual minorities to drown out the voices of the natural family and faith that have made our nation free, prosperous, and stable for more than 200 years," said Larry Jacobs, managing director of the World Congress of Families in an email to BuzzFeed. "Obviously Senator Kirk doesn't care about families and children and freedom and has chosen to side with the policies of decline, death and disease promoted by the Sexual Radicals."
A spokesman for Kirk, Lance Trover, told BuzzFeed on Thursday night, "Sen. Kirk doesn't affiliate with groups that discriminate."
WCF convened a planning meeting in Moscow last month that brought together leading American LGBT-rights opponents — including Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage and Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family — with top Russian supporters of the anti-propaganda law and social conservatives from several other countries. The event scheduled to be held Friday in the Dirksen building was billed in a WCF press release as a discussion of "what can our pro-family legislators learn -- positively and negatively -- by studying our colleagues' actions abroad."
"While the current U.S. administration persists in its efforts to redefine marriage and family, other nations are seeking a reaffirmation of the natural family," the WCF press release said. "Australia has just elected a conservative government and given the largest budget area to Kevin Andrews, long-time defender of the family and World Congress of Families supporter; Russia recently banned the propaganda of 'nontraditional sexual relations' to minors; and across Europe and Africa, nations are concerned with life issues, shrinking populations, and the disintegration of the natural family."
The panelists include Austin Ruse of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, Senior Fellow at the Concerned Women for America's The Beverly LaHaye Institute, and Steven Mosher, President of the Population Research Institute. It was scheduled to be hosted by Howard Center President Allan Carlson.
"It is unfortunate that some groups would rather silence their critics than engage in open debate," said C-FAM's Ruse. "It is rather shameful that Senator Kirk has been such a coward. This type of thing is happening all over the country and portends bad things for our democracy."
The Human Rights Campaign issued a press release Thursday blasting the event, accompanied by a background document intended to show the participants' support of anti-LGBT laws in Russia and Uganda.
"These shameful individuals represent the worst of America, and it's an outrage that they will now bring their vitriol to the United States Capitol," said HRC President Chad Griffin in the statement. "After spending years exporting their hate to other regions of the world and contributing to a culture of anti-LGBT violence in Russia, these zealots should be condemned by all Americans and especially by our elected leaders."
J. Lester Feder is a foreign correspondent for BuzzFeed and 2013 Alicia Patterson journalism fellow.
Legal editor Chris Geidner contributed reporting.
[This article was updated at 11:50 p.m. with comment from Sen. Mark Kirk's office.]