When the Moldovan government submitted a draft antidiscrimination law to parliament last month, conservative Orthodox Christian forces in the country treated it as a call to battle.
And that call was heeded by U.S. pastor and lawyer Scott Lively, who traveled to Chisinau to warn the country against adopting any measure that would bar discrimination against homosexuals.
The bill outlaws discrimination against anyone on the basis of religion, nationality, ethnic origin, language, religion, color, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, political opinion, or social status. It was proposed as part of Moldova's effort to gain an association agreement with the European Union.
The controversial Lively believes homosexuality is a lifestyle choice with dire social consequences and has made a career in recent years campaigning against gay rights around the world. His website claims he has spoken in more than 30 countries.
"I've been dealing with these laws all over the world and I recognize -- as I said there in the lectures I gave and the media interviews that I gave -- an antidiscrimination law based on sexual orientation is the seed that contains the entire tree of the homosexual political agenda with all of its poisonous fruit," Lively tells RFE/RL, "and that, if you allow an antidiscrimination policy to go into effect, it essentially puts the power of the law and the government into the hands of gay activists and makes people who disapprove of homosexuality criminals."
Mainstream science rejects the notion that sexual orientation is a matter of personal choice.
Lively was invited to Moldova in January by two conservative Christian groups -- Pro Familia and Moldova Crestina.
"The antidiscrimination bill is only a seed. Once it is planted in a country, it turns into a whole tree that bears poisoned fruit," Pro Familia Vice President Vitalie Marian tells RFE/RL's Moldovan Service.
The antidiscrimination bill is only a seed. Once it is planted in a country, it turns into a whole tree that bears poisoned fruit.
Marian adds that Lively "explicitly told us that this bill is just the beginning, and later homosexuals will be given rights, starting with the right to hold public demonstrations."
Since Lively's visit, Pro Familia has created an online "black list" of Moldovan public figures who support gay rights. The list includes several parliament members and the head of state television. People who appear on the list can have their names removed by submitting a written statement opposing the antidiscrimination measure.
Lively, who heads the Temecula, California-based Abiding Truth Ministries, co-authored the controversial book "The Pink Swastika," which argued that homosexuality in the Nazi Party contributed to militancy in the Third Reich.
He played a prominent role in generating support for a widely criticized bill in Uganda that would criminalize homosexual activity and, in its original version, called for the death penalty for some homosexuals.Fears Of Genocide, Child Abuse
Boris Dittrich, acting director of the advocacy group Human Rights Watch's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) program, just returned to the United States from a trip to Moldova, where he discussed Lively's visit with rights advocates in Chisinau.
"He came there with a story like what he told in Uganda, that if this antidiscrimination law would be accepted, the society would be homosexualized and the homosexuals would take over and it would be very dangerous," Dittrich says.
In Uganda, Lively met with lawmaker David Bahati, who drafted the antigay bill, and gave speeches in which he tied gays to the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda.
"He stirred up a lot of fear in Uganda," says Warren Throckmorton, an associate professor of psychology at Grove City College, a Christian college in Pennsylvania, who has followed Lively's activity. "He told them that homosexuals had an unusual interest in children and so that to protect your children, you should construct stronger laws against homosexuality and enforce them."
In Moldova, however, Lively did not publicly advocate criminalizing homosexuality, but limited himself to campaigning against the antidiscrimination bill. He said he met with one member of parliament while he was in Chisinau.
Exporting U.S. Culture Wars
Lively is not the first controversial U.S. antihomosexual campaigner to find his way to Moldova. Psychologist Paul Cameron -- a sex researcher who argues that homosexuality is associated with child sex abuse and other social evils and whose work has been repudiated by major professional associations in the United States -- visited the country in October 2008 and again in May 2009.
Cameron campaigns actively for the criminalization of homosexuality on public-health grounds, Throckmorton notes, and so he "promotes laws against homosexuality much in the way some countries criminalize or sanction smoking in public places. He just believes that homosexuality is harmful to health and harmful to the culture."
Julie Dorf is a senior adviser with the Council for Global Equality, a U.S.-based NGO that works to oppose human rights abuses directed at individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. She criticizes Lively and Cameron for exporting a message that has been rejected in the United States.
"And in the last few years we've seen them increasingly going around the world exporting their hatred and spewing these complete lies and misconceptions about LGBT people, preying on the vulnerability and, in some cases, the ignorance of people around the world by getting them very excited with the idea of getting rid of homosexuality," Dorf says.
Angela Frolov, head of GenderDoc-M, Moldova's main LGBT group, tells RFE/RL that Cameron was allowed to address university students during his Moldova visits.Long Battle Ahead
Lively says the effort to adopt antidiscrimination legislation around the world has been spearheaded by gay activists. He argues that they are distorting the historical conception of human rights and points to the United Kingdom as an example of the danger he thinks lies ahead for Moldova.
"By adopting this [antidiscrimination measures] and normalizing homosexuality, it [the United Kingdom] has turned real human rights on its head and the people who are attempting to defend and live out religious freedom and family values as they've always been understood are now the ones being discriminated against," Lively says.
"And people who define themselves by voluntary sodomy -- a voluntary lifestyle based on sodomy -- now have the power to suppress and oppress people who are simply attempting to exercise their religious freedom and long-established traditions as regards family and human sexuality."
Human Rights Watch's Dittrich says the proposed legislation in Moldova is similar to discrimination protections adopted in other parts of the region, such as Albania, Macedonia, and Croatia. He notes that the countries in that part of the world "didn't have antidiscrimination legislation, so it's very good that they include sexual orientation and hopefully also gender identity. So, it's not a wild law, no. This is to protect people against discrimination."
The Moldovan legislation has passed through two parliamentary committees, but is now stalled. Influential lawmakers from the opposition Communist Party have declared in the wake of Lively's visit that they will not consider the bill as long as it includes protections based on sexual orientation.
Dittrich says the measure faces a long political process.RFE/RL's Moldovan Service contributed to this report