Brian Brown, perhaps most infamous for his tendency to equate the LGBTQ community to pedophiles, is the current president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and a hard-line member of the Christian Right. A Quaker turned Roman Catholic, Brown has been a key player in the anti-equality movement for over two decades—even moving his family to California in 2008 for the sole purpose of defending the now-repealed Proposition 8 ballot initiative. Brown’s anti-LGBTQ crusades have included the exportation of homophobia to Russia and, on a domestic level, supporting the anti-transgender movement in public schools.
Co-founder and original executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, Brown succeeded Maggie Gallagher as president in 2010 when she accepted the title of president at the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, an anti-marriage equality think tank. NOM’s main goal is defending the “traditional family,” meaning that the organization does everything within its power to prevent same-sex couples from gaining civil rights, most particularly the right to marry.
One of the organization’s biggest strengths is its ability to keep the sources of its funding secret. In a previous report that details the anti-LGBT movement, it is recognized that Brown uses the promise of anonymity as a fundraising tool, telling prospective donors that “unlike in California, every dollar you give to NOM’s Northeast Action Plan today is private, with no risk of harassment from same-sex marriage protestors.” NOM has also defended its financials by suing states such as California and Maine when they have asked for the organization to disclose its financials. PRA’s profile on NOM also notes: “In response to a 2010 ethics investigation from the state of Maine, NOM committed millions for litigation to delay disclosure in the courts as long as possible.”
NOM’s desire to shroud its monies in secrecy should come as no surprise, given that the IRS opened an investigation on the organization’s financials in 2013.
Brown also employs results-driven strategies against his opposition, and carefully avoids placing blame on individuals, instead asserting that “good-hearted people can have ideas that are profoundly wrong.” He further deflects blame away from himself by claiming he has friends and family who are gay, and that they “can disagree on all sorts of things and still care about each other.”
If Brown cares about his “gay friends” at all, it’s certainly not apparent in his actions. In June 2013, Brown headed to Moscow on the invitation of Illinois-based World Congress of Families (WCF), an organization that has been hell-bent on forwarding horrific anti-LGBTQ legislation abroad. In Moscow, Brown and other WCF supporters testified before Russian Parliament in support of banning same-sex couples from adopting children. In a transcript posted by the Duma, Brown told Russian lawmakers that “We will unite. We will defend our children and their normal civil rights. Every child must have the right to normal parents: a mother and a father.”
Brown and WCF certainly touted some influence in Moscow, days after Brown left, the Duma not only passed the adoption law, but also began to debate a frightening proposal to remove children from the homes of LGBTQ parents.
Another aspect of Brown’s stratagem is the utilization of fear-driven hyperbole. In a 2011 newsletter that reflects on the Senate hearings on repealing DOMA, Brown declared “President Obama and the hard-left core of the Democratic Party in Washington declared war on marriage, on federalism, on democracy and on religious liberty.”
In another NOM newsletter, Brown described the push to legalize same-sex marriage as analogous to accepting pedophiles. He inquired if the “pedophiles [will] become “minor-attracted persons” in our culture? Will courts which endorse orientation as a protected class decide down the road that therefore laws which discriminate against ‘minor-attracted persons’ must be narrowly tailored to a compelling government interest?” However skewed his rhetoric, Brown is still careful to not demonize the individual.
Brown’s crusades are not limited to the LGBQ community though; his most recent domestic crusade is against transgender students in California public schools. In August 2013, California passed a bill that allowed transgender students to use facilities and participate in after-school activities that correspond with their gender identity. The bill, which took effect in January 2014, gave California transgender students a chance at equality in an already-uphill battle.
Brown characterizes the new bill as “horrible,” a “weapon,” and said that it “doesn’t prevent bullying – it is bullying. It is not about protecting kids; it damages kids.” Brown further urges readers to sign a drawn up by Privacy for All Students (PAS) in an effort to overturn non-discrimination requirements, claiming the legislation “is politically-correct madness that risks the privacy and security of our children and grandchildren.”
NOM and PAS only support gender-conforming youth, refusing to even refer to the students they’re persecuting as transgender, preferring to say they have “so-called gender identities.”
As strategic as he is, Brown’s rhetoric is causing him to fall out of public favor. At the 2013 Values Voters Summit, Brown complained that media outlets such as ABC and CNN seldom give him air-time anymore. But make no mistake, NOM still reaches many, as exemplified by the wide support the 2013 “Marriage March” on Washington, D.C. garnered. And Brown only seems to be motivated by equality victories. After the defeat of both Prop 8 and DOMA, Brown called the DOMA decision “an absolute travesty” and in The Washington Post said “The National Organization for Marriage intends to vigorously urge Congress to safeguard the remaining portion of DOMA, which protects the right of states to refuse to recognize same-sex ‘marriages’ performed elsewhere.”
When the U.S. Supreme Court was hearing the Obergefell v. Hodges case in 2015, which eventually led to the federal legalization of marriage equality, they campaigned constantly for “traditional” marriage and bussed groups of people from the surrounding states to protest at the capital. While NOM continues to campaign for anti-LGBTQ candidates and for those who support “traditional” marriage, their domestic presence is losing breadth. Their annual “March for Marriage” on Washington, D.C. in 2017 drew less than 250 participants throughout the entire day.
Brown continues to fight marriage equality, hoping to one day get it overturned, but his current focus is a “First Freedom Initiative” to defend the Christian Right definition of religious freedom. He is also active abroad, supporting the international anti-“gender ideology” and “pro-family” group CitizenGO as a board member.