A year-end fundraising pitch from anti-gay and anti-choice activist Austin Ruse celebrates his group’s opposition to reproductive choice and LGBT equality at the global level. Ruse runs C-Fam (the Center for Family and Human Rights, formerly known as the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute) which helps lead the charge against LGBT human rights at the United Nations.
As advocates for LGBT equality in the United States gear up for a potential assault on hard-won gains from Donald Trump, his anti-LGBT cabinet and advisers, and the Republican-controlled Congress, we should be aware that the consequences for LGBT people overseas could be catastrophic.
Energetic U.S. advocacy for LGBT human rights, in cooperation with pro-equality delegations from Europe and Latin America, has been crucial to progress at the United Nations in recent years, progress under sustained assault from anti-gay countries and their allies in the U.S. Religious Right. Trump’s choice for Ambassador to the UN, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, has what the Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers calls a “mixed” record on LGBT rights; last year she hosted one of Christian nationalist David Lane’s political prayer rallies.
This fall C-Fam worked feverishly but unsuccessfully with Russia and groups of African and Islamist countries to try to overturn the Human Rights Council’s historic decision to hire an independent expert to investigate discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
In an email this week, Ruse calls the investigator a “global UN enforcer” and says his hiring is “the most dangerous development at the UN in recent years.” Ruse blames it all on “the Europeans.”
I would say that the most pernicious influence in the world today are the European countries. Not all of them. But even the good ones, are subsumed into the radical mix of the others. And they are busy exporting deeply harmful ideas all over the world even as their own civilization crumbles around them.
Ruse’s attack on European countries’ human rights advocacy is in keeping with anti-European propaganda from opponents of LGBT equality in Putin’s Russia, which is positioning itself as a champion of Christian civilization in counter to the decadent secularist Europe, and from anti-LGBT governments in Africa, who portray European human rights advocacy as a form of cultural imperialism. Ruse ignores the fact that a number of Latin American countries have emerged as key advocates for LGBT human rights because it doesn’t fit this propaganda frame.
Even more ridiculous is Ruse’s posturing as a lonely voice for righteousness:
I have to tell you friends, during this General Assembly, we have never felt so alone in our fight. The enemies of the good, the true, and the beautiful are so massive and powerful and those who stand for the good are so few and powerless. I sometimes think it is just a few African countries and little C-Fam standing all alone against the powers of the earth.
The reality is quite different. “Little C-Fam” is hardly standing alone. American Religious Right groups are increasingly taking their anti-equality work overseas. The World Congress of Families is an active global network of social conservatives pursuing similar goals. And, as we have reported, Ruse is working at the UN alongside more than two dozen nations C-Fam helped organize into the Group of Friends of the Family. Its members include Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.
There’s a lot of overlap between Ruse’s friends and countries identified by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom as the worst violators of religious freedom in the world. But that doesn’t seem to bother Ruse as long as they’ll sign on to a campaign to protect countries’ ability to punish people who violate traditionalists’ standards of sexuality and gender. For the folks at C-Fam, this is not only a job, it’s a religious calling, one Ruse assures us they pursue “with a prayer on our hearts and a smile on our lips.”