Tag Archives: john kerry

91-year-old gay veteran wins honorable discharge

A 91-year-old veteran who was dismissed from the U.S. Air Force as “undesirable” in 1948 because he is gay has had that discharge status changed to “honorable.”

The move by the Air Force comes in response to a lawsuit filed in November by H. Edward Spires of Norwalk, Connecticut, who served from 1946 to 1948 as a chaplain’s assistant, earning the rank of sergeant.

Spires was forced out of the military in 1948 after an investigation into his sexual orientation.

Spires’ attorneys said he was originally denied the discharge upgrade after the repeal of the don’t ask, don’t tell policy in 2010 because the Air Force said his records had likely been lost in a 1973 fire.

The Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records informed Spires on Friday that the honorable discharge had been approved by the Air Force Review Boards Agency.

Spires’ attorneys have said he is in poor health and would like a military funeral, which the upgrade makes possible.

“The idea that this man of faith who served dutifully as a chaplain’s assistant in the armed forces, who built a life and a career that has brought joy to those around him, would leave this earth considered undesirable in the eyes of his country, it’s unthinkable,” Spires’ husband, David Rosenberg, said during a briefing on the case at the Yale Law School in November.

Spires’ case also was championed by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who said Monday that the Air Force’s decision “corrects an incredible injustice.”

Also this month, Secretary of State John Kerry issued a public apology for the State Department’s institutional discrimination in the past against gay and lesbian diplomats.

In a statement, Kerry says discrimination suffered by gay State Department workers has gone on since the 1940s. He says denying some people jobs and forcing diplomats out of the foreign service was “wrong then” and “wrong today.”

Speaking on behalf of the department, Kerry apologized to all those who were discriminated against and said the department was committed to “diversity and inclusion for all our employees, including members of the LGBTI community.”

 

 

Secretary Kerry: Obama’s climate change targets won’t be reversed

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made a stirring appeal on Nov. 16 to all countries — including his own — to press ahead with the fight against climate change, saying a failure to do so would be a “betrayal of devastating consequences.”

Without mentioning Donald Trump by name, Kerry’s speech at the U.N. climate talks was partly aimed at the Republican president-elect who has called global warming a “hoax” and has pledged to “cancel” the Paris deal limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

“No one has the right to make decisions that affect billions of people based solely on ideology or without proper input,” Kerry said.

With 2016 on track to be the hottest year on record, Kerry said the impacts of global warming are now evident across the world with record-breaking droughts, rising sea levels, unusual storms and millions of people displaced by weather events.

“At some point even the strongest skeptic has to acknowledge that something disturbing is happening,” he said.

The U.S. election outcome has created deep uncertainty about the U.S. role in international climate talks — and about the Paris Agreement adopted last year by more than 190 countries. But Kerry said the U.S. was already in the midst of a clean energy transition that would continue regardless of policy-making.

“I can tell you with confidence that the United States is right now today on our way to meeting all of the international targets we have set,” Kerry said. “Because of the market decisions that are being made, I do not believe that that can or will be reversed.”

The Obama administration pledged during the Paris negotiations to reduce U.S. emissions by 26-28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.

Bill Hare, director of the Climate Analytics research group, said the U.S. in on the right path toward meeting its target “but a bit more is needed to get there.”

He said if Trump dismantles Obama policies such as the Climate Action Plan and Clean Power Plan, then U.S. emissions would stay at current levels instead of decrease.

Paul Bledsoe, a former Clinton White House climate adviser, said clean energy and efficiency investments by U.S. businesses and consumers are likely to keep American emissions falling overall.

However, he added that “most analysts believe it will take additional government policies that Trump is highly unlikely to pursue to meet the sharper emissions cuts the U.S. has pledged by 2025 under the Paris agreement.”

Kerry said an “overwhelming majority” of Americans know that climate change is happening and support the U.S. commitments under the Paris deal.

Falling short in the fight against climate change would be a “moral failure, a betrayal of devastating consequences,” he said.

Kerry said climate change shouldn’t be a partisan issue and noted that military and intelligence leaders have recognized its potential as a “threat-multiplier.”

He asked leaders in all parts of the world, “including my own,” to inform themselves about climate change by talking to scientists, economists, business leaders and other experts.

“I ask you on behalf of billions of people around the world … do your own diligence before making irrevocable choices,” he said.

Refuting Ted Cruz’s disinformation about climate change

Ted Cruz is decidedly at odds with the scientific consensus that Earth is warming because of human activity.

A look at some of the Republican presidential contender’s claims on the subject in New Hampshire this week and how they compare with the facts:

CRUZ: “The satellites that actually measure the temperature, that we’ve launched into the air to measure the temperature, they have recorded no significant warming whatsoever for the last 18 years.”

THE FACTS: Scientists, including those who work with the very satellite measuring system that Cruz refers to, say he’s misusing the satellite data. They do show warming, albeit relatively little over the period Cruz cites, says Carl Mears, senior scientist for Remote Sensing Systems, which produces the data that Cruz refers to.

But by starting his comparison period in 1997, Cruz has selected a time when temperatures spiked because of an El Niño weather pattern. Starting at an artificially high point minimizes the rate of increase since then, Mears said, adding, “If you start riding your bike at the top of a big hill, you always go downhill, at least for a while.”

More important is what’s measured at the Earth’s surface, where people live, Mears said. Those ground-based systems show a greater degree of warming.

The long-term trend that Mears’ satellites show is about 0.7-degree warming since 1979, when satellites started measuring temperature. Ground-based monitors show a warming of about 1 degree during the same period. And 1979 was not among the top five hottest or coldest years in the 36 years of records.

CRUZ: “John Kerry said in 2009 the polar ice caps will be entirely melted by 2013. … Has anyone noticed the polar ice caps are still there? In fact, there was an expedition that went down to Antarctica to prove that the polar ice caps were melting … (the ship) got stuck in the ice because in fact the polar ice caps have increased. They are larger than they were. So not only was Kerry incorrect, he was spectacularly absolutely opposite the facts.”

THE FACTS: Kerry was talking about the ice cap at the North Pole, and it’s true that it hasn’t melted as he predicted. But in pointing that out, Cruz distorts the facts by referring to a ship that got stuck in Antarctic ice a world away near the South Pole.

Scientists do say it’s only a matter of decades before the sea ice around the North Pole will be melted during the summer months, and some countries’ navies are already exploring the area for quicker sea routes. Scientific measurements in Antarctica — where thick ice sheets sit atop land, not floating on the ocean as in the Arctic — show the ice sheets are diminishing on one side while growing on the other. But the fact that a ship got stuck in ice in the Antarctica doesn’t tell us anything about the phenomenon.

CRUZ: “If you’re a big-government politician, if you want more power, climate change is the perfect pseudo-scientific theory … because it can never, ever, ever be disproven.”

THE FACTS: Far from being pseudo-science, climate change is the consensus view among real scientists.

“The climate is terribly complicated, but it is now remarkably well understood because so many people have made such great efforts at developing sensors and deploying sensors and making sense of what the sensors say,” says Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society, and a former Democratic congressman. “It’s not just a few fanciful models on a computer, there are real data now. This is a highly developed science.”

CRUZ: “Thirty, 40 years ago a whole bunch of liberal politicians, a bunch of scientists, were advocating, they said we were facing global cooling. We’re going to have another ice age. And their solution to this was massive government control of the economy, the energy sector and every aspect of our lives. But then the facts and science stood in the way. It turned out the Earth wasn’t cooling.”

THE FACTS: Actually, global warming was more of a concern than cooling back in that time. From 1965 to 1979, 44 peer-reviewed scientific studies found the world was warming, 20 found no trend and only seven found cooling, according to a review of literature published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society in 2008.

 

Republicans vow to shred historic Paris climate accord

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the international climate change agreement reached in Paris as a major achievement that could help turn the tide on global warming.

But Republicans, who are heavily funded by fossil fuel interests that produce the pollutants causing climate change, tried to deflate the celebration, vowing to overturn the agreement signed by almost 200 nations if the party wins the White House in 2016. 

Obama said the climate agreement “can be a turning point for the world” and credited his administration for playing a key role. He and Kerry predicted the agreement would prompt widespread spending on clean energy and help stem carbon pollution.

“We’ve shown that the world has both the will and the ability to take on this challenge,” Obama said from the White House. He said the climate agreement “offers the best chance we have to save the one planet we have.”

But the immediate reaction of leading Republicans was a reminder of the conflict that lies ahead.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Obama is “making promises he can’t keep” and should remember the agreement “is subject to being shredded in 13 months,” when the next president takes the oath of office.

Clean-power pushback

Even as Obama was working to hammer out a global climate agreement in Paris, Republican climate-change deniers in Congress were working to block his plan to force cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants.

The House passed two resolutions Dec. 8 against the power-plant rules. A measure blocking an Environmental Protection Agency rule for existing power plants was approved 242–180, while a measure blocking a rule on future power plants was approved 235–188.

The votes came after the Senate approved identical motions in November under a little-used law that allows Congress to block executive actions it considers onerous.

The measures, as WiG went to press, were at the White House, where they faced almost-certain vetoes.

Just four Democrats sided with Republicans to support the measures, which fell far short of the numbers needed to override a veto in both the House and Senate.

U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., said GOP lawmakers were forcing a vote on the climate rule “to send a message … there’s serious disagreement with the policies of this president.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the president’s pro-environment policies will kill jobs, increase electricity costs and decrease the reliability of the U.S. energy supply.

Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., said he wished Obama took the threat posed by “radical jihadists” as seriously as he takes the “pseudoscientific threat” posed by climate change.

Republicans at the state level also are challenging the power plan, which requires states to cut carbon emissions by 32 percent by 2030, based on emissions in 2005. Each state has a customized target and is responsible for drawing up an effective plan to meet its goal.

The EPA says it has authority to enact the plan under the Clean Air Act. But 25 mostly Republican states, led by Texas and West Virginia, are contesting the plan in court, calling it an unlawful power grab that will kill jobs and drive up electricity costs. Wisconsin, which has perhaps the nation’s strongest rules discouraging “green” energy, is part of the suit.

Utilities, the National Mining Association and the nation’s largest privately owned coal company also are suing the EPA over the new rules.

Koch Industries, a major polluter that political insiders say pulls the strings of the Wisconsin GOP, is one of the world’s largest funders of climate-change propaganda.

The Associated Press was a source for this analysis.

Obama administration KOs KXL pipeline

President Barack Obama on Nov. 6 rejected an application to build the Keystone XL pipeline. The decision after seven years of federal review.

The president declared the proposed project wouldn’t serve U.S. national interests and would have undercut America’s global leadership on climate change.

The 1,179-mile proposed pipeline wouldn’t have lowered U.S. gas prices, Obama said, nor would it have contributed to U.S. jobs long-term or make the U.S. less dependent on foreign energy.

Flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry, Obama also said the proposed project had taken on an “overinflated role” in U.S. political discourse and had been used as a “campaign cudgel” by supporters and opponents alike.

Killing the pipeline allows Obama to claim aggressive action on the environment.

Yet it also puts the president in a direct confrontation with Republicans and energy advocates that will almost surely spill over into the 2016 presidential election.

“This pipeline would neither be a silver bullet for the economy, as was promised by some, nor the express lane to climate disaster proclaimed by others,” Obama said at the White House.

Obama also noted that he would travel to Paris in a few weeks to meet with world leaders at an international climate summit. The leaders are expected to finalize a major global climate pact that Obama hopes will be a crowning jewel for his environmental legacy.

 After hearing the news, 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben said, “President Obama is the first world leader to reject a project because of its effect on the climate. That gives him new stature as an environmental leader, and it eloquently confirms the five years and millions of hours of work that people of every kind put into this fight. We’re well aware that the next president could undo all this, but this is a day of celebration.”

350.org executive director May Boeve added, “This is a big win. President Obama’s decision to reject Keystone XL because of its impact on the climate is nothing short of historic — and sets an important precedent that should send shockwaves through the fossil fuel industry.”

More reaction: 

Stephen Kretzmann, executive director, Oil Change International said, “Over two years ago, the President spoke at Georgetown University and laid out a simple but powerful criteria for evaluating policies and projects.  If it makes climate change worse, it is not in the national interest. Obama’s Presidential Climate Test is now the new gold standard for evaluating energy policy and we thank him for designing and applying it.

“The rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline on climate grounds is truly a lasting and fitting legacy for President Obama that future generations will rightfully see as a turning point in the struggle against dirty energy, corporate greed and for a safe climate.”

In Nebraska, where TransCanada is working to seize by eminent domain property for the pipeline, Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska said, “We stood our ground and today President Obama stood with us, the pipeline fighters. Tonight landowners can finally go to sleep knowing their family is safe and sound. Our unlikely alliance showed America that hard work and scientific facts can beat Big Oil’s threat to our land and water.”

Randy Thompson, a Nebraska rancher, said, called the president’s decision courageous and historic. He said Obama “did what was right in the face of a totally misguided and unrelenting effort by the Republican party and Big Oil to shove this pipeline down our throats. History will defend President Obama and our descendants will forever be indebted to him.”

Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council said, “Rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is right for our nation, for our children and for our planet. It would have locked in, for a generation or more, massive development of among the dirtiest fuels on the planet – posing a serious threat to our air, land water, and climate. The proposal, pushed largely by the fossil fuel industry, was a recipe for disaster. In no way was the pipeline in America’s national interest.

“Dangerous climate change is the central environmental challenge of our time, and it’s time for everyone to step up now and meet that challenge.”

“The KO for Keystone is a win for birds and the rest of us,” said National Audubon Society president and CEO David Yarnold. “America’s Sandhill Cranes and other wildlife that were threatened by the pipeline can’t vote, so we’re popping some corks for them today.”

Obama administration rejects ploy by TransCanada to delay Keystone XL review

The Obama administration said this week it is continuing a review of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, despite a request by the project’s developer to suspend the review.

If granted, a delay could have put off a decision on the high-profile project until the next U.S. president takes office in 2017. President Barack Obama has yet to say whether he would approve or reject the pipeline, but the Democrats running for president have all said they oppose it while Republican candidates support it.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said the department advised TransCanada on Wednesday of its decision to continue the review. The State Department has jurisdiction over the pipeline because it crosses a U.S. border.

Kirby said there was no legal requirement for officials to suspend the review, adding that “a lot of interagency work” has gone into the evaluation so far. Secretary of State John Kerry “believes that it’s most appropriate to keep the process in place,” Kirby said.

Calgary-based TransCanada asked the U.S. on Monday to delay consideration of the Alberta-to-Texas pipeline, the latest wrinkle in a seven-year quest for the project.

TransCanada said it respects the U.S. decision and will continue its efforts to demonstrate that the long-delayed pipeline – a flashpoint in the global debate over climate change – is in the U.S. national interest.

Five reports and 17,000 pages of State Department review have shown the project’s benefits over the past seven-plus years, said TransCanada spokesman Mark Cooper.

“The fundamental question remains: Do Americans want to continue to import millions of barrels of oil every day from the Middle East and Venezuela or do they want to get their oil from North Dakota and Canada through Keystone XL?” Cooper said. “We believe the answer is clear and the choice is Keystone XL.”

The 1,179-mile pipeline would run from Canada through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines to carry more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day from tar sands in western Canada to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Opponents say the project requires huge amounts of energy and water and increases greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming. They also warn that pipeline leaks could potentially pollute underground aquifers that are a critical source of water for farmers in the Great Plains.

Supporters say the project will create jobs and reduce U.S. reliance on Middle Eastern oil. They argue that pipelines are a safer method of transporting oil than trains, pointing to recent derailments on both sides of the border, including a 2013 disaster in Canada that killed 47 people.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said Wednesday that Obama should reject the Keystone project before heading to Paris next month to finalize a global climate agreement,

The Vermont independent senator said rejecting the pipeline now would show “bold leadership” and signal to the world that the United States was serious about addressing climate change, which Sanders called “a major, major, major planetary crisis.”

Sanders said he had “zero doubt” that if a Republican wins the presidential election, “on Day One the Keystone people will be back pushing for that pipeline. I think their hope is that Republicans win, and when they do the path will be open for that pipeline and other disastrous environmental legislation.”

Environmental groups hailed the decision to continue the review and urged Obama to act swiftly to reject the pipeline.

The American Petroleum Institute, the oil and gas industry’s top lobbying group, said polls consistently show a strong majority of Americans support the project.

Thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in wages and investment “that could be made building Keystone remain out of reach because this president refuses to make the right decision,” said Louis Finkel, the group’s executive vice president.

Kerry speaks out on Florida’s alleged ban on the words ‘climate change’

Secretary of State John Kerry said on March 12 that elected officials who ban the words “climate change” are unwilling to face the facts, a perceived dig at Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s administration.

Kerry, a longtime champion of combatting climate change, said the officials were ignoring the scientific facts.

“Now folks, we literally do not have the time to waste debating whether we can say `climate change,'” Kerry said during a speech at The Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank. “Because no matter how much people want to bury their heads in the sand, it will not alter the fact that 97 percent of peer-reviewed climate studies confirm that climate change is happening and that human activity is largely responsible.”

Kerry did not refer to Scott by name but said that he had read in the last “couple of days” reports about the ban.

Scott, a Republican who is skeptical of climate science and said he was not a scientist when asked about global warming predictions, has denied claims that he banned officials in his administration from using the terms “climate change” and “global warming.”

However, former officials interviewed by The Associated Press and by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting said they were told not to use them, even though the Florida is considered one of the most vulnerable states to changes expected from a warming climate.

Kerry’s remarks continue a trend by Obama administration officials to aggressively address politicians skeptical of climate science as they prepare to issue final regulations to curb carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and to broker an international agreement to address global warming later this year.

But even some Republicans are urging fellow members of their party to accept the facts.

“Call it what you are going to call it, you can’t change what is going on,” said Christine Todd Whitman, Environmental Protection Agency administrator under Republican President George W. Bush, in an interview with The Associated Press Thursday.

Last year, at a speech before the League of Conservation Voters, President Barack Obama shot back at climate deniers in Congress.

“In most communities and workplaces, they may not know how big a problem it is, they may not know exactly how it works, they may doubt they can do something about it. Generally, they don’t just say, `No, I don’t believe anything scientists say,'” Obama said. “Except where? Congress.”

Not much has changed. Earlier this year, the Republican-controlled Senate voted 98-1 that climate change was not a hoax and real, but blocked efforts to attach language to a bill approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline that it was being caused by the burning of fossil fuels. The bill was ultimately vetoed by Obama.

Scientists, economists urge Obama to reject Keystone XL pipeline

More than 100 leading scientists and economists are calling on the Obama Administration to deny the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. They say the pipeline will trigger massive development of the world’s dirtiest oil and escalate climate change.

The coalition includes winners of the Nobel Prize in physics and economics and lead authors of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports.

In a letter to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, the group said, “We urge you to reject the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline as a project that will contribute to climate change at a time when we should be doing all we can to put clean energy alternatives in place. The Keystone XL pipeline will drive expansion of the energy-intensive strip-mining and drilling of tar sands from under Canada’s Boreal forest, increasing global carbon emissions. Keystone XL is a step in the wrong direction.”

In January, the U.S. State Department released a final Environmental Impact Statement on Keystone XL.

Now the administration is formally considering whether the pipeline, which would bring tar sands oil from Canada across the United States to the Gulf of Mexico, is in America’s national interest.

A decision probably will be made in the next couple of months.

In their letter, the scientists and economists commend Obama and Kerry for making strong commitments to fighting climate change. They call on them to turn down the KXL because the incremental emissions alone could boost annual carbon pollution emissions by more than the output of seven coal-fired power plants.

That would worsen climate change, making the project clearly not in the national interest, they write. The total emissions are far greater, and, as they write, are “emissions that can and should be avoided with a transition to clean energy.”

Ultra-conservative cardinal not reconfirmed for Vatican office

Pope Francis announced changes in the influential Vatican office that evaluates and nominates candidates for bishop around the world.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington was appointed on Dec. 16 to the Congregation for Bishops. The pope also reconfirmed Cardinal William Levada, the former archbishop of San Francisco and former head of the Vatican’s orthodoxy watchdog office.

Some members of the congregation were not reconfirmed.

Cardinal Raymond Burke will no longer serve in the office. The former St. Louis archbishop had been a member for several years. Burke retains his position as the head of the Vatican high court, the Apostolic Signatura.

Burke drew attention in the United States in 2004 when he said he would deny Communion to Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, a Roman Catholic who supports abortion rights.

Despite Russia’s corruption and crime, U.S. religious zealots see it as a paradise for its homophobia

As the hub of the Soviet Union, Russia was reviled for rights abuses by many U.S. conservatives during the Cold War. Now some are voicing support and admiration as Russian authorities crack down on gay-rights activism.

The latest step drawing praise from social conservatives is a bill signed into law by President Vladimir Putin that imposes hefty fines for holding gay Pride rallies or providing information about the gay community to minors.

“You admire some of the things they’re doing in Russia against propaganda,” said Austin Ruse, president of the U.S.-based Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. “On the other hand, you know it would be impossible to do that here.”

Russia is one of the most corrupt nations on earth, ranking 133 out of 176 (the worst number) on a survey by Transparency International. The cost of corruption exceeded $240 billion in 2006, and the Russian think tank Indem estimates that bribes accounted for 20 percent of Russia’s GDP as of 2005.

According to a poll conducted in early 2010, 15 percent of Russians reported paying bribes in the past 12 months. The overall amount of bribes in the Russian economy during the last decade skyrocketed from $33 billion to more than $400 billion per year in Putin’s government, suggesting perhaps that stirring up homophobia is being used as a political ploy to deflect from the nation’s real problems under Putin.

The nation has also become a haven for the mafia, with execution-style killings a part of everyday life. The nation has one of the highest rates of child prostitution, including selling both boy and girl children.

Corruption issues are coming to light increasingly as the nation prepares to host the Olympic Games in Sochi next year. Shoddy construction resulting from payoffs to public officials has been seen in collapsing tunnels, exploding gas pipes and buildings damaged by landslides. There have also been mafia contract killings surrounding Olympics-related construction.

Russia also suffers from the world’s worst problem with alcoholism. The World Health Organization estimates that just 40 percent of school age Russians will live to 60 due to the effects of the nation’s alcohol epidemic. Life expectancy in the nation is 69, the lowest in the developed world.

Despite the lawlessness and immorality of Russian society, U.S. religious zealots are turning to the homophobic nation as a ray of hope at a time when LGBT rights are making dramatic advances here at home.

Ruse, whose institute is seeking accreditation at the United Nations, plans to travel to Russia this summer to meet with government officials and civic leaders.

“We want to let them know they do in fact have support among American NGOs (non-governmental organizations) on social issues,” he said.

Among others commending Russia’s anti-gay efforts was Peter LaBarbera of the hate group Americans for Truth About Homosexuality.

“Russians do not want to follow America’s reckless and decadent promotion of gender confusion, sexual perversion, and anti-biblical ideologies to youth,” LaBarbera said on his website.

In a sign of Russia’s evolving stature among some U.S. Christian fundamentalists, the U.S.-based World Congress of Families plans to hold its eighth international conference at the Kremlin’s Palace of Congresses in Moscow next year. Past conferences in Europe, Mexico and Australia have brought together opponents of abortion and same-sex marriage from dozens of countries.

“The Kremlin used to be a no-no for conservatives,” said Larry Jacobs, managing director of the World Congress. “We’re going to redeem that building.”

The website for the September 2014 conference declares that Russia, “with its historic commitment to deep spirituality and morality, can be a hope for the natural family supporters from all over the world.”

Jacobs, in an interview, drew a link between Russia’s disapproval of homosexuality and its worries about a population decline.

“They’ve got a problem with marriage rates and fertility, and it doesn’t help if you’re encouraging non-reproductive behavior,” he said.

Abortion remains legal in Russia through the first 12 weeks of pregnancy – a contrast to the general view of most U.S. social conservatives that abortion should be outlawed. However, the current abortion law – passed in 2011 – is more restrictive than its predecessor.

There’s little doubt that Russians, overall, are far less supportive of gay rights than Americans. According to a Pew Research Center survey released June 4, only 16 percent of Russians said homosexuality should be accepted by society, compared to 60 percent in the U.S., and 80 percent or higher in Canada, Spain and Germany. However, there’s less support for gay rights in some Eastern European countries, and even in Western Europe the issue can fuel conflict, as evidenced by recent clashes in France between far-right protesters and police over a new gay-marriage law.

The Obama administration has said it would make gay rights an important part of its foreign policy, raising the possibility that countries viewed as discriminating against gays could suffer consequences.

Secretary of State John Kerry outlined this approach on June 19 at a gay Pride event at the State Department. He did not mention Russia by name, though he spoke disapprovingly of “anti-propaganda laws in Eastern Europe” that are targeting gay-rights demonstrators.

“We just have to keep standing up for tolerance and for diversity,” Kerry said.

The Russian bill has been assailed by gay-rights and human-rights groups in the U.S.

“The admiration of some American conservatives for the repressive Russian policies regarding gay rights are quite simply the words of snake-oil salesmen,” said Roberta Sklar of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

“They have lost their footing on U.S. soil and are trying to breathe life into a dying ideology abroad,” she said.

Two other groups, the Human Rights Campaign and Human Rights Watch, have called on the International Olympic Committee to speak out against the bill as Russia makes final preparations to host the Winter Olympics in Sochi next year.

“This draft law is clearly incompatible with the Olympic Charter’s promotion of ‘human dignity,’ as well as a blatant violation of Russia’s international legal obligations to guarantee nondiscrimination,” Human Rights Watch said in a letter to the IOC.

Stefano Gennarini, a colleague of Austin Ruse’s at Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, suggested in a blog post that criticisms of the bill in the West were “hyperbole” and defended it as a reasonable effort to protect children.

“Russians have consistently denied homosexual groups parade permits, sparing its children and the public at large the ludicrous and disturbing behavior on show in the squares and streets of Europe and America,” Gennarini wrote

He characterized the bill’s proposed fines as a tax on public displays of affection by homosexuals, adding that “$155 is hardly unmanageable for homosexuals who want to kiss in public,” he wrote.

Gennarini, in an interview, said it would be “imprudent” for U.S. diplomats to criticize Russia’s efforts to curtail gay-rights activism. He said people in other regions – notably Africa and the Islamic world – might look to Russia as a positive example when considering laws of their own.

Scott Lively, a U.S.-based evangelical lawyer and activist, conducted a 50-city speaking tour of Russia in 2007, and says the current bill reflects policies that he advocated at the time.

At the end of his tour, Lively released a “Letter to the Russian People,” and he redistributed it this month after the parliament vote.

“The purpose of my visit was to bring a warning about the homosexual political movement which has done much damage to my country,” he wrote in the letter. “This is a very fast-growing social cancer that will destroy the family foundations of your society if you do not take immediate, effective action to stop it.”

Lively advocated training therapists in the techniques of helping gay people “recover” from same-sex attraction and he urged Russia to criminalize the public advocacy of homosexuality.

“Russia could become a model pro-family society,” he wrote. “If this were to occur, I believe people from the West would begin to emigrate to Russia in the same way that Russians used to emigrate to the United States and Europe.”

Lively has been sued in U.S. federal court by a Uganda-based gay-rights group, accusing him of persecuting gays in that East African country.

The suit, which Lively is seeking to have dismissed, contends that he was a key figure in consultations in Uganda that produced tough anti-gay legislation in 2009. The initial version of the bill called for the death penalty in some cases of gay sex, although the author of the measure, which remains pending, says he has removed the death penalty provision.

Lively said he would like to see efforts in the U.S. to discourage all sexual activity outside of marriage, but doubted efforts to restrict gay activism could make headway here.

“Russians, even after glasnost, are comfortable with an authoritarian style,” he said. “That wouldn’t work in the United States.”