Trump-linked groups on a crusade against women, LGBT rights in Europe
A media outlet has reported how Trump-linked groups have been spending millions around the world, especially in Europe, to fight LGBT and women’s reproductive rights.
The UK-based openDemocracy website reported that since 2008, 28 US Christian right organizations now with links to the Trump administration had spent more than US$280 million in “dark money” around the world.
Most of this money was spent in Europe– around US$90 million– followed by Africa, Asia, and Latin America. This money is used in legal and court actions that push right-wing conservative agendas.
Trump-linked groups targeting LGBT groups, women
The personal lawyer of President Donald Trump, Jay Sekulow, is the chief counsel of one of these groups, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).
Likewise, the Trump administration has links to another group, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), through former staffers and frequent meetings.
The European offices of these groups have intervened in European court cases over the past decade by opposing same-sex adoption and backing doctors and businesses that refuse to give services to women and LGBT people.
EU’s lobbying register reported that the international office of the ADF has seven lobbyists in Brussels and spent up to €300,000 a year on EU lobbying.
In particular, the groups submitted “friend of the court” amicus briefs to European courts supporting the conservative government of Poland on the their constitutional court’s anti-abortion ruling.
Influence of US conservative groups in Europe
The European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) had submitted arguments favoring the restrictions in the Polish court. The Council of Europe had condemned these restrictions as a grave “human rights violation.”
Sekulow’s group had supported the Polish government in a separate but related case at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
Neil Datta, head of the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (EPF), warned that these groups “are exporting their outdated views to Europe and are trying to influence European courts.”
Datta told openDemocracy that European institutions should do more to guard against such groups. He said these groups “are trying to undermine democracy, liberalism and human rights.”
He also warned that the efforts of these groups are “crusades against women’s and LGBT rights.”
Other cases of Trump-linked groups in European courts
The ECLJ had likewise defended the “LGBT-free zones” of Polish municipalities against the “pro-LGBT+ social pressure” ideology that they said is being promoted among children.
On the other hand, ADF International declared in their 2019 annual report that they had won 18 cases at the ECHR since 2010 but they didn’t elaborate on them.
In Norway, this group reported that they had defended a doctor who had refused to give women IUDs because of her religious beliefs.
In the UK, ADF said they had prepared legal briefings, one for a 2018 case involving Northern Irish bakers who refused to decorate a cake with a marriage equality message.
In Italy, both groups defended Italy in challenges at the ECHR for excluding same-sex couples from getting married and getting civil unions.
Big spenders: US Christian conservative groups
Like their European counterparts, the ACLJ and the ADF have filed numerous briefs to the US Supreme Court challenging abortion rights.
The ACLJ had reported in its US financial filings that they had spent more than US$14 million in “dark money” in Europe since 2007.
Meanwhile, ADF had spent US$15 million in Europe, almost all of this since 2015. This was the same year that same-sex marriage was declared legal in the US.
These groups opposed same-sex adoption in Austria and trans rights in France. They’ve also been supporting campaigns for the death penalty for gay people in Africa.
“The rising influence of dark money in US politics was not inevitable. It happened because of a long-standing process to erode accountability and transparency,” warned Quinn Mckew, director of the transparency group NGO Article 19.
“It was inevitable that these individuals, powering these organizations, would seek to internationalize their influence,” Mckew said.