Anti-Gay Advocates Take Their Mission Overseas

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Gay rights activists march in Russia's second city of St. Petersburg May 1, 2013, during their rally against a controversial law in the city that activists see as violating the rights of gays. (OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty)

It’s been a huge year for gay rights in America.

Same-sex marriage is now legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia, NBA player Jason Collins became the first male U.S. athlete in a major professional sport to come out as gay, and President Barack Obama has provided strong support for openly gay Olympic athletes in the face of Russian discrimination.

We’re a long way off from total equality, but to what extent can the success of the U.S. gay rights movement be attributed to anti-gay activists shifting their attention elsewhere?

Facing a losing battle in the states, evangelical advocates are seizing the opportunity to spread their mission abroad. In countries like Belize, Nigeria and Russia, the argument that gays are a sign of social decay is finding sympathy from economically vulnerable people looking for someone to blame for their troubles.

Caleb Orozco, director of the United Belize Advocacy Movement, has been a victim of the anti-gay movement that is on the rise in Belize.

And political correspondent Alex Seitz-Wald reported on the efforts to undo gay rights overseas in a new piece out in the National Journal. He joins The Takeaway to discuss the strategy for appealing to anti-LGBT audiences abroad.

"As social conservatives and evangelicals have lost battle after battle in the United States, they've seen much more fruitful endeavors abroad," says Seitz-Wald. "They've seen countries that are innately homophobic in Africa, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, Latin America, welcome them with open arms. They've brought an agenda with them and a plan to kind of criminalize homosexual advocacy and LGBT advocacy that has had a tremendous influence—it's really incredible for such a small group of people who would kind of marginalized here."

Seitz-Wald says that these groups are approaching their anti-LGBT mission on a much larger scale—groups are looking to form a global alliance of anti-gay parties in hopes that a unified international front can roll back the progress of the gay rights movement domestically in the United States.

How can international anti-LGBT initiatives influence the debate here at home? It seems that some already have—Seitz-Wald says that Russia's anti-gay propaganda laws, which criminalizes discussions of homosexuality in the presence of children, was used as a template in the American South.

"There was a law introduced in Tennessee that mirrors [Russia's Law] very closely—it was often called the 'Don't Say Gay in School' bill—and that seems to be influenced by some of this work abroad," he says. "There could be more laws like that, or there could be just a kind of geopolitical realignment where you're creating a non-realigned movement in the U.N. that is proudly homophobic."

While laws banning or criminalizing homosexuality seem antiquated in the United States, Seitz-Wald says they resonate with large portions of the developing world. In Nigeria or Kenya, for example, about 99 percent of the population think homosexuality is wrong, making American evangelical missions appealing to local populations.

According to Seitz-Wald, these anti-LGBT advocates believe their work is a response to a unified homosexual recruiting movement.

"They absolutely believe that there is a conspiracy here—an international gay agenda," he says of American anti-LGBT advocates. "They talk about it in terms of the way you might have talked about Communism during the Red Scare, as this creeping, nefarious force."

These American anti-LGBT activists, according to Seitz-Wald, tell communities overseas they must defend themselves from homosexual activists that could come to recruit their children and secretly destroy everything that these countries hold dear.

"They say that they've seen it at home and that this is why their message is so powerful," he says. "They can say, 'I come from the United States and I've seen all my precious institutions get co-opted—the government, the courts—don't let it happen here. You must defend yourself now before it's too late.'"


Caleb Orozoco and Alex Seitz-Wald

Produced by:

Ellen Frankman


T.J. Raphael

Comments [7]


Homophobia is ignorance and there is NO excuse for ignorance. Those so-called "christian" evangelicals who are trying to encourage and fuel homophobia so blatantly in some countries are making a complete mockery of christianity. At Matthew 19:12 Jesus acknowledged that not all men are meant for heterosexual marriage. He referred to three types of men who typically won't be inclined to marry a woman and Jesus broadly labelled these men as "eunuchs". The second type were men physically castrated in their youth. The third type were men who choose to stay celibate for spiritual reasons (i.e. priests). The first type were men who by their nature are not inclined to marry or have sexual relations with women and Jesus says these men "are born that way". Jesus states all this as a natural fact of life. He issues no condemnation or judgement about these men and Jesus certainly doesn't say they can't have loving relationships of their own. So when the so-called "christian" evangelicals try to promote their homophobic agenda and vile hatred in the name of religion, it is not Christ that they are following.

Jul. 13 2014 04:01 AM

What does your guest mean by "innately homophobic"?

Jan. 29 2014 03:25 PM
REM from Portland, OR

I heard the show and what's not included in the transcript above is how the US State Dept. is a huge champion of the LGBT cause by, for example, hosting the first gay pride parade in one African nation, can't remember which one. So on the one hand, Seitz-Wald scoffs at the idea of a LGBT "agenda," yet then he asserts that the US State Department has made promoting LGBT causes a main priority overseas. Isn't that an agenda?

Jan. 29 2014 12:49 PM

It would be so refreshing to hear reporting that did not lump all Evangelicals into the 'right-wing nut-job' category. Believe it or not, there are plenty of moderate and even socially progressing Christians that identify as Evangelical. It would just be nice to hear that acknowledged every once in a while.

I, for one, find this report of what some misguided groups are apparently teaching and scheming overseas abhorrent and not reflective of my beliefs in any way. Nor would I consider them a reflection of Jesus and His teachings, either. I assure that I'm not alone in this sentiment, either.

Jan. 29 2014 12:47 PM
Jerrold Richards from Lyle, Washington

The developing backlash discussed in this segment is in my opinion troubling and perhaps dangerous.

I think putting sufficient response to this backlash upon a sound footing requires addressing directly what might be considered an ancient and ongoing smear campaign, not really managed by anyone, but just there over the centuries and continuing. And that is the associating of homosexuality with weakness of character.

Sexual hardwiring requires civil rights protection. But various attitudes and behaviors that tend stereotypically to be associated with homosexuality, such as attention vampirism or insufficient courage development, most definitely do not. Any person needs to develop some courage and some fear management skills. Any person must manage a natural tendency toward wanting more attention than needed, and must develop the skills necessary to receive adequate attention in ways that are healthy and positive for all parties.

This ancient and assumed connection between homosexuality and weakness of character must be addressed openly and directly, I think, or the present fashion-of-the-month aspect of gay rights will fade inevitably, perhaps to be followed by repression even worse than in the past.

Jan. 29 2014 12:45 PM

"They've seen countries that are innately homophobic in Africa, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, Latin America, welcome them with open arms."

What a white privilege-y thing to say. Homophobia is no more "innate" than racism or sexism. You lose big progressive-thinker points with this statement.

Jan. 29 2014 12:31 PM
Ed from Larchmont

They're taking the argument for traditional marriage overseas because the U.S., etc., have are already pushing abortion and same-sex marriage, in the name of rights, on cultures that do not want them.

Jan. 29 2014 09:08 AM

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