Sen. Kirk Blocks Antigay Panel in Capitol Offices

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com November 15 2013 2:45 PM ET

A gathering of right-wing, antigay activists planning to preach to U.S. lawmakers about the perceived success of national anti-LGBT policies like Russia's so-called gay propaganda ban had to find a new meeting space after Republican senator Mark Kirk revoked the group's access to a Senate meeting room in the U.S. Capitol, reports BuzzFeed.

The meeting was organized by the World Congress of Families, which has sent more than a dozen activists to Russia to support its recently enacted ban on "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships" in venues accessible to minors, according to the Human Rights Campaign. The meeting, originally scheduled to take place in a meeting room inside the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., bears the title "Family Policy Lessons from Other Lands: What Should America Learn?" 

When Kirk, an Illinois Republican who supports marriage equality and cosponsored the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the Senate this year, heard about the scheduled meeting, his office canceled the group's access to the room, reports BuzzFeed. On Thursday night, a spokesman for Kirk's office told BuzzFeed, "Sen. Kirk doesn't affiliate with groups that discriminate." 

HRC notes that the four-member panel leading the discussion includes three activists who recently traveled to Russia to meet with anti-LGBT lawmakers amid the nation's violent crackdown on LGBT identities. Right-wing activists Austin Ruse, Allan Carlson, and Steven Mosher all recently traveled to Russia, while the fourth panelist, Janice Crouse, openly celebrated a proposed law in Uganda that would impose the death penalty for certain instances of consensual same-sex sexual activity. 

The World Congress of Families blasted Kirk's decision, emailing a statement to BuzzFeed saying, "Shame on you, Senator Kirk, for allowing vocal radical sexual minorities to drown out the voices of the natural family and faith that have made our nation free, prosperous, and stable for more than 200 years. ... Obviously Senator Kirk doesn’t care about families and children and freedom and has chosen to side with the policies of decline, death and disease promoted by the Sexual Radicals."

Compiling a list of anti-LGBT statements each panelist has proudly made in the recent past, HRC commended Kirk's move and took aim at Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner for inviting the right-wingers to Capitol Hill in the first place and then securing them a different meeting space after Kirk blocked access to the first room. 

"Speaker Boehner's embrace of these ambassadors of hate is shameful and despicable," said HRC president Chad Griffin in a statement Friday. "These individuals have supported the subhuman treatment of LGBT people around the world, and now they want to do the same here. The fact that the speaker would welcome a panelist who praised Uganda’s proposal to sentence gay people to death should shock the conscience of all Americans."