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U.S. Anti-Gay Activists Fan Homophobia In Eastern Europe

A new report reveals that the National Organization for Marriage's Brian Brown visited Russia to spur passage of the gay adoption ban, while the World Congress of Families tried to take credit for the cancelation of Belgrade Pride.

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Though anti-gay movements in Russia and Serbia needed no boost from the West, two reports released Thursday reveal that American anti-gay crusaders and French conservative activists have tried to insert themselves into the fight against LGBT rights in Eastern Europe.

The progressive organization People for The American Way released a report that documents that Brian Brown, head of the National Organization for Marriage, swept into Moscow days after passage of the Russian "homosexual propaganda" ban in June to lobby for legislation, including the prohibition on adoption by same-sex couples abroad and any couples in countries where same-sex marriage is legal.

Brown, who had also worked unsuccessfully with French conservatives to try to defeat a marriage equality bill passed there this summer, was accompanied by five anti-gay French activists including Fabrice Sorlin of the nationalist group Dies Irae.

Among the meetings the group had while in Moscow was a visit with the Duma's committee on family, women and children chaired by the propaganda ban's author, Yelena Mizulina. The adoption ban was signed into law on July 3.

The National Organization for Marriage has been unusually quiet about Brown's visit to Russia, in contrast to its highly publicized campaign to take part in attempts to block France's gay marriage law. Other anti-gay organizations have seemed eager to claim credit for other recent setbacks to gay rights in Eastern Europe.

On Tuesday, the World Congress of Families — a group based in Rockford Illinois that convenes conferences of social conservatives around the world — put out a release claiming that one of its top officials visited Belgrade along with Sorlin to celebrate the police cancellation of a pride march planned for September 28.

According to the release, the World Congress of Families' Communication Director Don Feder addressed a rally "attended by several thousand pro-family activists" on the day the pride march was due to occur. He reportedly declared, "Your fight is our fight. The fight for the family is a fight for civilization. World Congress of Families and its more than 40 Partners in 16 countries is proud to stand with the Serbian people for the natural family."

"The assault on the family is a global phenomenon and must be answered by a global movement," Sorlin said, according to the release. "Long live free Serbia! Long live free France."

They were joined by a Russian affiliate of the World Congress of Families, Alexey Komov, who also linked the fight of Serbian anti-gay activists to the events unfolding in Russia.

J. Lester Feder is a BuzzFeed contributor and 2013 Alicia Patterson journalism fellow.

J. Lester Feder is a world correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. His secure PGP fingerprint is 2353 DB68 8AA6 92BD 67B8 94DF 37D8 0A6F D70B 7211

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