A move by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to grant meeting space in the U.S. Capitol to a group that has lavishly praised Russia's law against "homosexual propaganda" has drawn the ire of a gay-rights group.
On Friday, Buzzfeed reported that Boehner had secured meeting space for the World Congress of Families after Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) canceled the group's reserved space because of its anti-gay views.
"Speaker Boehner's embrace of these ambassadors of hate is shameful and despicable. These individuals have supported the subhuman treatment of LGBT people around the world, and now they want to do the same here," said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin in a statement Friday. "The fact that the Speaker would welcome a panelist who praised Uganda’s proposal to sentence gay people to death should shock the conscience of all Americans."
Boehner's office argued that giving the group meeting space did not amount to an endorsement of its views. "One of the duties of the speaker’s office is scheduling rooms throughout the Capitol complex, and we routinely provide a forum for discussion of public policy issues from across the political spectrum, including for liberal causes," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel told Buzzfeed. "This administrative task obviously does not imply endorsement of any particular point of view."
The agenda for the group touted anti-gay actions abroad, while decrying the American effort to "redefine marriage."
"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," read an announcement for the event. "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 announcement continued, "Here in America, what can our pro-family legislators learn—positively and negatively—by studying our colleagues’ actions abroad?"
The group has promoted the gay propaganda law in Russia. Larry Jacobs, the group's managing director, called the law a "great idea" and hailed it as preventing "corrupting children." The group also has recruited Russian anti-gay activists to its side.
Russian President Vladimir Putin passed a law in June banning propaganda of "nontraditional sexual relationships" to minors. It made it illegal to say that those relationships were equal to "traditional" relationships. The law has caused a rise in anti-gay violence in Russia, which is rarely taken seriously by authorities there.