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American Anti-LGBT Activists Go To Russia For September Gathering

Earlier this year, the anti-LGBT hate group World Congress of Families (WCF) suspended its conference slated this month in Moscow in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Or did they?

Mother Jones has reported that on September 10-12, something called “Large Families: The Future of Humanity” (aka International Family Forum) congregated in Moscow, at the Kremlin. The WCF conference that was suspended in March had as its theme “Every Child a Gift: Large Families, the Future of Humanity,” and it was originally scheduled to take place the same week in the same locations.

MoJo also noted that the gathering with the similar name listed some of the same organizers that had been listed for the original conference. WCF managing director Larry Jacobs and communications director Don Feder were on that list, according to MoJo, which asked WCF for comment on Friday, Sept. 6.

By Sunday, the list had been scrubbed from the announcement (see the non-scrubbed page here) at the Istoki Endowment Fund, an organization run by billionaire Vladimir Yakunin, who co-directs several of the conference’s sponsoring organizations and is a close advisor to Russian president Putin. Yakunin funded the WCF’s first major conference in Russia in 2011.

Elena (Yelena) Mizulina, a member of the Duma (the Russian parliament) and chair of the state committee on family, women and children, has also been a staunch ally of the WCF and she, too, was listed as an organizer of the conference that actually took place. She is perhaps best known as the author of several pieces of legislation against LGBT people, and an author of the Russian ban on the “promotion of homosexuality.

Both Yakunin and Mizulina are currently on the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s (OFAC) Specially Designated and Blocked Persons list, part of the sanctions levied against Russia in response to its actions toward Ukraine. Once someone is on that list, it’s generally prohibited for U.S. citizens and businesses to deal with them.

According to the OFAC website, “Prohibited transactions are trade or financial transactions and other dealings in which U.S. persons may not engage unless authorized by OFAC or expressly exempted by statute.”

Attorney Eric Lorber told Mother Jones that it’s not possible to determine whether WCF is in violation of sanctions “without full knowledge of what Jacobs and Feder are doing to assist Mizulina and Yakunin and what benefits, financial or otherwise, WCF or the Russians may be receiving,” but what they were doing, he told MoJo in an email, “is extremely risky.”

The Human Rights Campaign has called on the Treasury Department to investigate whether the WCF violated the sanctions.

Jacobs tried to distance WCF from the Russian gathering, telling Buzzfeed earlier this month that it was not a WCF event and that WCF had provided no funding.

However, in July, the event’s Russian organizer Alexey Komov (who is WCF representative to Russia), claimed that the meeting was still linked to WCF. And indeed, the next big World Congress is numbered IX, not VIII, though VIII was supposedly “suspended.” Nevertheless, WCF also posted this press release on September 8, claiming that though the International Family Forum event was not affiliated with WCF, some WCF personnel would be in attendance.

And they were. Both Jacobs and Feder were on hand, as Right Wing Watch reports, careful to distance themselves from WCF while talking to reporters. Also in attendance was Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, who was apparently a speaker on one of the panels. Brown has been increasing his activity overseas since at least 2013, perhaps in the wake of increased acceptance of LGBT people at home and the growing number of states legalizing same-sex marriage.

Austin Ruse, president of the anti-LGBT hate group C-FAM (Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute) and part of the original WCF organizing committee, said he was going to attend the new Russian conference, and Janice Shaw Crouse, director of the Beverly LaHaye Institute of Concerned Women for America Tweeted in August that she, too, would be attending. Penny Nance, CWA president, pulled the group from the originally slated WCF conference in opposition to Putin’s policy toward Ukraine. Evan Hurst at TWOCARE noted that Crouse, who sits on the board of directors of WCF, hinted in another Tweet on September 5 that she appears to be looking for a job, though she is still listed at the LaHaye Institute (though no longer as an expert on the CWA website).

Out of the “not the WCF conference” came “An Urgent Appeal to the Nations of the World,” (scroll down for the English version) an apocalyptic plea claiming that “certain countries are pursuing tenacious policies and an unprecedented propaganda campaign, all of which is leading to the ultimate destruction of the Natural Family—an institution that in a civilized society is the foundation of order, state’s prosperity and social peace.”

The document calls for, among other things, opposition to surrogate motherhood, especially in the interests of “same-gender couples” and supports further legislative bans on “all types [sic] propaganda concerning homosexual relationships in the environment of children and juveniles.” The final sentence states, “We call upon all people who agree with the given Appeal to sign it and support it for the sake of preserving life and civilization on our Earth.”

The publicity the Russian gathering garnered has added to WCF headaches this past year. The group also faced protests last month in Australia as it attempted to hold a gathering. Several venues cancelled and several politicians pulled out as the group struggled to find a place to meet. In spite of the publicity and setbacks it appears to have endured, we’re sure to see many of these people, as well as hundreds of others, descend upon Salt Lake City in 2015 for the next major World Congress of Families conference.

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