SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Prominent LGBT rights activist and former GOP presidential candidate Fred Karger alleged Tuesday that National Organization for Marriage (NOM) president Brian Brown may have broken federal law after a secret trip to Russia to lobby for a bill that banned Russian children from being adopted by countries where same-sex marriage is legal.
Karger said that Brown illegally lobbied a foreign government when he met with Russian lawmakers in June prior to the Kremlin’s enactment of the ban, a violation of the Logan Act, which makes it a crime for a private citizen to confer with foreign governments against the interests of the United States.
In a letter released Tuesday, Karger wrote to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, noting:
“Mr. Brown’s 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 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.”
“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.”
The ban was subsequently approved by both houses of the Russian Duma and signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 3.
According to the website of the Russian Duma Committee on Family, Women and Children, Brown addressed lawmakers on June 13 to advocate for proposed legislation that would ban 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 language transcript of his speech posted on the committee’s website.
“Every child must have the right to normal parents: a mother and a father.” [There was no English version available nor posted on the Parliament’s website]
In his letter, Karger asked Holder and Kerry to “use the authority of your offices to immediately investigate this possible very serious violation.”
There is no mention of the speech on the NOM website, but Right Wing Watch uncovered a blog post by a French Catholic group that said Brown accompanied its activists to the Duma.
Right Wing Watch noted that, although Brown refused to respond to their request for comment, he did speak with Russia media outlet Ria Novosti in a telephone interview Wednesday, confirming that he spoke “extemporaneously” at the Duma meeting.
Brown said he was invited to do so by “Russian activists working with the World Congress of Families,” an Illinois-based conservative group set to hold a global convention in Moscow next year.
“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,” Brown said.
Brown also indicated that Karger’s appeal to top U.S. officials would not deter his work abroad, and labeled Karger’s accusation that the speech may have violated U.S. law “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.
A call to the U.S. Department of Justice went unanswered to the ongoing federal shut down, but a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department indicated that Karger’s letter will be reviewed and then responded to “appropriately.”