When asked if he recently traveled to Russia to attend a conference that produced a resolution endorsing the spread of draconian antigay laws like Russia's ban on so-called gay propaganda, the president of the National Organization for Marriage had a surprising answer:
"We have gone all around the world, and of course we would go to Russia," said Brian Brown during a tense, hour-long discussion on C-SPAN's Washington Journal this weekend. "Just like groups like Freedom to Marry and HRC are members of- go to Geneva, go to Russia, go all around the world, to advocate their position."
The heated exchange took place amid the C-SPAN show's call-in segment, which hosted Brown opposite Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson to discuss the recent advances in marriage equality after last week's Supreme Court action.
After both panelists pointed out that just 19 nations worldwide offer same-sex couples the freedom to marry, Wolfson noted that global society still has "a long way to go" in accepting, affirming, and protecting same-sex couples and LGBT people.
Prompting the show's most terse exchange, Wolfson explained:
Part of the reason we have a long way to go is organizations like Mr. Brown's are going over to places like Russia to work with Putin and his team to pass viciously antigay- [Brown laughs]. You can laugh, but you did it, Mr. Brown. You went to Russia to foment hate.
Brown: You made an absolutely false claim that I somehow worked with president Putin or anyone like that.
Wolfson: Were you in Russia for that conference?
Brown: We have gone all around the world and of course we would go to Russia, just like groups like Freedom to Marry and HRC are members of- go to Geneva, go to Russia, go all around the world, to advocate their position.
Wolfson: Did you endorse a resolution-
Brown: Of course supporters of marriage as the union of a man and a woman are going to work with our allies worldwide to stand up for this truth. Just in the same way that supporters of redefining marriage have been working worldwide to try to undermine the truth of marriage. So of course, I was proud, I was in France, and marched in one of the marches of La Manif Pour Tous, I've been all over the world standing up for the truth about marriage.
Wolfson: Yeah, well, Mr. Brown was in Russia — people can go and look it up, for something called the World Conference [Congress] of Families, that endorsed a resolution calling on other countries to adopt the same kind of vicious, brutal, sweeping antigay law that Putin's Russia just enacted, that has launched a wave of thuggery, and beatings in the street, and discrimination against gay people, in that country that is now seeking to export that kind of attack. That's not about marriage. That's about beating up and in some cases killing to death and licensing thuggery. Mr. Brown was part of that conference. That is part of the work that he is doing.
Brown: Absolutely wrong, his facts are absolutely wrong. We have condemned violence.
Wolfson: People can look it up.
Brown: We have condemned violence all of the time. All people can look up are Evan Wolfson and the Human Rights Campaign's absolute lies and slurs.
Wolfson was referring to Brown's participation in the World Congress of Families, which held its annual gathering in Moscow in September and was attended by members of the Kremlin's ruling party, including one of the key sponsors of Russia's "homosexual propaganda" ban.
Although Brown was unwilling to confirm that he was at that conference, numerous reports — including photos — indicate that he was not only present, but was a presenting panelist at the antigay conference. Brown and his organization have not publicly endorsed legislative efforts to criminalize homosexuality.
Watch the Russia segment of this weekend's conversation below, followed by the full hour-long C-SPAN program — which featured an abundance of conservative callers dialing into the show with questions why gay people want to adopt children, what children are being taught in schools, and lamenting how no heterosexual person would ever want their child to grow up gay. Throughout the program, Wolfson, himself a gay man, remained impressively even-keeled.
First, watch Brown get defensive in the Russia exchange, clipped via Right Wing Watch:
Then watch the entire program below: