WASHINGTON, October 9 (By Carl Schreck for RIA Novosti) – A prominent US gay rights activist on Wednesday asked top officials to investigate whether a leading opponent of same-sex marriage broke US law by consulting with officials in Moscow on legislation banning same-sex couples from adopting Russian children.
Fred Karger, an activist and longtime US political operative, alleges that Brian Brown, head of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), may have illegally lobbied a foreign government by meeting with Russian lawmakers in June prior to the Kremlin’s enactment of the ban.
“I hope that both of you gentleman will use the authority of your offices to immediately investigate this possible very serious violation,” Karger wrote to US Attorney General Eric Holder and US Secretary of State John Kerry in a letter dated Wednesday.
Karger, a former US presidential hopeful, argues in the letter that by lobbying Russian legislators on the issue, Brown may have violated the US Logan Act, a law forbidding US citizens from conducting private diplomacy with foreign officials against the interests of the United States.
“If Mr. Brown did travel to Moscow with French religious leaders with the express intention of furthering discrimination against LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender] Russians and all LGBT travelers to Russia, this could be in direct conflict with current United States laws,” Karger wrote.
The appeal follows a report last week by the progressive blog Right Wing Watch noting that Brown delivered a speech to members of the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, in June. 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.
According to the website of the Duma’s 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 transcript of his speech posted on the committee’s website. “Every child must have the right to normal parents: a mother and a father.”
No English-language version of the speech was available on the Duma committee’s website.
The ban was subsequently approved by both houses of the Russian parliament and signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 3.
Brown told RIA Novosti in a telephone interview Wednesday that he spoke extemporaneously at the meeting, and he called Karger’s suggestion that the speech may have violated US 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.
Brown said he was invited to speak to the lawmakers 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.
He said Karger’s appeal to top US officials would not deter his work abroad.
“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.
A State Department spokeswoman said Wednesday that she could not confirm whether Karger’s letter had been received but added that “if and when we do receive it, we will review it and respond appropriately.”
Officials at the Justice Department could not be reached for comment Wednesday due to the continuing shutdown of the US government over a federal budget dispute.
In addition to the adoption ban, Russia passed a controversial new law earlier this year introducing steep fines for the “promotion of non-traditional relationships to minors.”
The Kremlin maintains that the law does not prevent adults from making their own sexual choices, but it has been sharply criticized by world leaders – including US President Barack Obama – and opponents who say it amounts to a state-supported crackdown on gay people.
Updated with State Department comment.