In Romania, Alliance Defending Freedom works with allies tied to far-right Christian nationalism and white supremacy
On Tuesday, June 5, the day after the anti-LGBT hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) celebrated a narrow victory in the U.S. Supreme Court representing a baker who refused service to a gay couple, ADF’s international arm took to Twitter to denounce a landmark decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).
In the case, Coman and others, a gay couple — an American and a Romanian — who married in Belgium attempted to move to Romania but the American partner was refused residency. The CJEU ruled that residency rights of same-sex spouses married in one European Union country must be recognized when they move to another — even if the country doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage. ADF International bemoaned the “problematic judgment in same-sex marriage cases [that] undermines national law.”
This is a particularly paradoxical position for an American group that has systematically inserted itself in Romanian domestic politics by spearheading a campaign for a constitutional amendment to effectively ban same-sex marriage in the country. In so doing, ADF International has collaborated with groups led by extremist Christian nationalists on the ground, some of whom have fascist and white supremacist ties.
Exporting the natural family and American anti-LGBT junk science
Despite professed concerns about the national sovereignty of Romania, the American-tied ADF International has been campaigning for a referendum to rewrite the Romanian constitution to redefine families as the product of marriage between a man and a woman.
ADF International filed an amicus brief at the Romanian Constitutional Court pushing for the referendum in July 2016, organized a conference on the ground to push for the referendum in April 2017 and advocated for the referendum to go through in Romania at the Human Rights Council last January. It has been active in opposing same-sex legislation in the country’s institutions since at least May 2015.
The call for a referendum for an amendment banning same-sex marriage culminated when a petition submitted by an umbrella group of local Christian Right organizations, the Coalition for the Family, gathered three million signatures (in a country of 20 million). It was delivered in May 2017 and was heavily supported by American Christian evangelical anti-LGBT groups.
The language of the Coalition for the Family’s proposed amendment — which is currently stalled in the Romanian Senate due to legal challenges — echoes the exclusionary definition of the “natural family” put forth by U.S.-based anti-LGBT hate group the World Congress of Families (WCF):
The family is founded on the freely consented marriage between a man and a woman, their full equality and the right and duty of parents to ensure the upbringing, education and instruction of children.
ADF International filed a brief with the Constitutional Court of Romania in July 2016 to push for this revision of the Romanian constitution, which would effectively ban same-sex marriage. In the brief, ADF International toys with a myth popular among Christian evangelical anti-LGBT groups: the idea that same-sex marriage contributes to demographic decline. Organizing a referendum on marriage, they write, “would create a public debate to find the best solution to the current demographic decline.”
The myth of demographic decline caused by marriage equality has in part been pushed by WCF, which operates internationally. The group also submitted a petition in favor of the amendment in Romania, apparently upon the demand of the local Romanian Coalition for the Family.
The petition was signed by 100 conservative activists from 22 countries, including a plethora of American anti-LGBT activists such as Austin Ruse, president of anti-LGBT hate group C-Fam, Sharon Slater, president of anti-LGBT hate group Family Watch International and Gary Bauer, president of the right-wing American Values. The petition noted Europe’s “below replacement birthrates” and claimed that “equating same-sex couples with families can only weaken the natural family–which does society’s vital work of procreation and childrearing.”
Other American anti-LGBT groups were thoroughly involved in the campaign. The European Center for Law and Justice, the European branch of the American Center for Law and Justice which takes up anti-LGBT causes and the anti-LGBT hate group Liberty Counsel also submitted briefs at the Constitutional Court of Romania.
In its brief, Liberty Counsel described same-sex marriage as “grounded in fraudulent ‘research’ based on skewed demographics and the sexual abuse of hundreds of infants and children” (emphasis theirs).
Liberty Counsel also toured Romania with Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis to muster support for the amendment. She was presented as a victim of religious persecution for refusing to process same-sex marriage licenses after the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States. Davis spent five days in jail for contempt of court.
Collaborating with white supremacist allies
On the ground, ADF International collaborated closely in the campaign for the Romanian amendment with a coalition of local Christian conservative groups, the Coalition for the Family (Coaliția pentru Familie). In April 2017, ADF International co-hosted a conference with the group to call for the referendum on the amendment. Upon closer inspection, the Coalition for the Family featured some conspicuously dubious figures.
One of the coalition’s co-founders, Bogdan Stanciu, heads the anti-abortion group Pro Vita in Romania, which runs the coalition’s donations account. Stanciu was the administrator of the Romanian Altermedia, a consortium of white nationalist newsletters, websites and radio stations affiliated with white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke. The German Altermedia website was banned from Germany for its neo-Nazi content. The Romanian Altermedia also featured neo-Nazi content.
Stanciu also headed Noua Dreaptă (New Right), a far-right ultranationalist Christian group that is both antisemitic and anti-Roma, and wrote for them from 2001 to 2004. The group has attacked both Mormons and LGBT people in the past. In one of his pieces, Stanciu wrote that during World War II he would have “enthusiastically entered the Legionary Movement”, a Christian fascist and antisemitic movement that spread through Romania during the war.
Stanciu claims the writings, published on bogdanstanciu.eu, were not his, but he has links to far-right figures who have written for this website, according to a forensic analysis of the website mentioned by fellow of Global Focus Centre and founder of the Secrets of the Coalition watchdog website, Andrei Tiut.
Stanciu was also mentioned in a list of potential collaborators for a pro-Russia “elite club and / or a group of informational influence” compiled by the influential Russian ultranationalist philosopher Alexander Dugin. As Hatewatch recently revealed, Dugin is close to expansionist Orthodox Russian oligarchs, who have appropriated parts of the World Congress of Families to push for their political interests. There is significant overlap between Dugin’s networks and the WCF’s, both of which call for the unity of Christian Europe against the pro-LGBT European Union.
Stanciu is no exception. He has attended at least four official WCF congresses. According to Tiut, he was one of only three Romanians to travel to a 2014 WCF gathering in Moscow (originally cancelled publicly, then apparently held under a different name) financed by a Russian oligarch close to Dugin.
When he addressed the WCF in 2017 in Budapest, Stanciu parroted one of the main talking points of anti-immigrant Hungarian strongman Viktor Orbán in his reference to a right-wing conspiracy theory regarding Hungarian philanthropist George Soros: “the West that we were shown after the fall of communism was actually an ideological Mc-menu offered by NGOs funded directly by the American billionaire George Soros or interest groups similar to it.” It was also Stanciu who delivered the WCF petition in favor of the constitutional amendment to the Romanian parliament.
The president of the Coalition for the Family, Mihai Gheorghiu, was accused by the U.S. embassy of organizing an anti-LGBT Christian nationalist protest at the Romanian Peasant Museum where people wielded signs reading “Die F------” and “Get out of the country” with some breaking into Nazi salutes. Romanian LGBT rights organization Accept has called him one of the main instigators of the attack.
According to Tiut, “Evangelical Americans supply [the Coalition for the Family] with know how, ideology, and, possibly, some money. Then, in the east, the Moldovan Orthodox metropolitan seat is staunchly conservative, arguably has closer ties to Russia and has supplied most of the legwork needed to raise the signatures to change the Constitution.”
Hate unites as much as it divides, and in Europe, anti-LGBT sentiment weds American anti-LGBT groups to fascists.
Misrepresenting its status before the Court of Justice of the EU
On top of misrepresenting its dedication to national sovereignty, ADF International also misrepresented its involvement in the Coman and Others case at the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU). On April 24, 2017, ADF International, wrote on its website that it had filed written observations with the European Court of Justice as a “third party intervener.” In fact, ADF International was never allowed to participate in the case in front of the CJEU. Despite finding out that they were not actually qualified to submit observations, ADF International did not amend their website, giving the impression they had intervened at the CJEU even when they did not have legal standing.
As Romanita Iordache, a human rights researcher working with Accept (the NGO which provided the legal support for the Coman and Others case and also a co-plaintiff in the case), told Hatewatch:
There is no justification for maintaining the info on the website. Now, with the decision being public and easily accessible on the website of the CJEU, it is unbelievable that ADF still tries to maintain that appearance of being an intervening party.]
To further this misrepresentation, on June 5, 2018, in their update commenting on the Coman decision, ADF International linked to that “legal memo” again, which is addressed to the CJEU, without clarifying that they were not actually intervening in the case. The memo claims (wrongfully) that ADF International has status to intervene at the court.