The World Congress of Families, an anti-LGBTQ and anti-choice organization with ties to prominent Religious Right groups, will be hosting its 2014 conference this Saturday in Melbourne, Australia. That is, if it can find a venue.
According to the Guardian, four venues -- St. Patrick's parish hall in Mentone, St. Cecilia's Church in Glen Iris, Aurora Receptions in East Brunswick, and an unnamed venue -- have backed out of hosting the conference. The Guardian reports that conference organizers had not made arrangements for liability insurance or security, and that at least one venue was advised by police to back out due to security and logistical concerns.
If and when WCF finds a venue, it will have to cope with protesters who
oppose its stance on LGBTQ equality and reproductive rights. Gay News Network reports that several groups plan to protest at the conference. Equal Love, an Australian LGBTQ rights organization, describes the conference as a "gathering of bigots" in its outreach to protesters.
The Melbourne fiasco is only the latest logistical headache that the WCF has dealt with this year. Its plans for a conference in Russia, where homophobic legislation burdens the Russian LGBTQ community, fell through. The World Congress of Families VIII Moscow Conference, schedule for this September, was canceled this spring due to unrest between Russia and Ukraine. In a March press release, Don Feder stressed that the WCF was not expressing disapproval of "the Russian people, churches or individuals who have taken a leadership role in the fight to preserve life, marriage, and the natural family". Right Wing Watch and Mother Jones have documented WCG alliances and events surrounding the Moscow conference.
The World Conference of Family's reputation is well established. Prior conferences have provided Religious Right figures with opportunities to network with their counterparts around the world while pontificating on the "natural human family", "demographic winter", and the supposed evils of feminism, divorce, and the LGBTQ community. Human Rights Campaign has just released a hard-hitting report on the organization's troubling messages and activism. Exposed: The World Congress of Families -- An American Organization Exporting Hate discusses WCF's ties to anti-LGBTQ activists, and its support of homophobic legislation around the world and its international outreach in Australia, Nigeria, Russia, and eastern Europe.
The WCF is well-aware of critics' ire and has released an open letter "in response to unremitting and grossly misleading attacks" on its upcoming Melbourne conference. Global Religious Right figures signed their names to the letter, including American figures such as Matt Barber, Mike Huckabee, Mat Staver, and Sharon Slater.
"Sexual radicals have launched a smear campaign to discredit the Melbourne conference," the letter complains, calling disapproval from their critics "an attempt at intimidation." The letter lobbed the usual anti-gay myths at critics, insisting that children do best when raised by heterosexual couples (despite evidence that children raised by same-sex couples do just fine) and that the definitions of marriage and family have remained static across the world until recently (despite evidence to the contrary). The letter accuses "sexual radicals" of seeking to "deconstruct marriage and marginalize the family, and thus to transform society into something unrecognizable to generations past."
The WCF needs to realize that all of this international attention is but a taste of what is to come. As enlightened people around the world learn about the WCF and its right-wing agenda, they will speak out, raise awareness, protest, and deny succor to the organization and its ilk.
Unfortunately, the group has many allies among global opponents of LGBTQ equality and reproductive rights, and it will perform international outreach as long as it has an audience. Activists must continue to monitor the WCF and call out its agenda.
To read additional commentary, visit the following links.
Buzzfeed: Boycott Of World Congress Of Families Heads For Senate Vote
TWO Care: World Congress Of Families Facing Backlash, Cancellations Ahead Of Melbourne Conference
Human Rights Campaign: Anti-LGBT Group to Meet in Melbourne this Week
Right Wing Watch: Why Are 'Sexual Radicals' Accusing Poor Matt Barber, Rick Scarborough And Daniel Lapin of Being Anti-Gay?