Pride Under Attack” is a series of research investigations carried out by Univision’s elDetector, Lupa, Data Crítica, and DDIA, with support from the Consortium to Support Regional Journalism in Latin America (CAPIR) led by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR). This article was also published in Spanish and in Portuguese, with reporting made by Siboney Flores (Mexico) and Crisleida Porras (Colombia).

Article 3 of 4 - May 16, 2024

"Up with the family! Up with the family!" shouted presenter Karen Ahued at the International Congress of Families, her voice amplified by the microphone reaching every corner of the around 164-ft-long auditorium that brought together nearly 200 people. The event took place in the Mexican city of Guadalajara during the first weekend of March.

First held in 1997, the congress aims to promote the "traditional family." Some of the organizations supporting the event have made statements opposing abortion, same-sex marriage, and what they perceive as “the advancement of trans individuals.”

To kick off the event, Fernando Milanés, president of the convening, and his family took to the stage and waved the event’s flag: a tree comprising the bodies of several human figures painted in yellow, red, brown, purple, and blue against a white backdrop.

In this third installment of "Pride Under Attack," Univision’s elDetector, Animal Politico, Lupa, Data Crítica and the Digital Democracy Institute of the Americas (DDIA) show how hate-filled narratives targeting the LGBTQ+ community not only spread online, but also offline, with the support of various organizations. 

Between 2013 and 2017, anti-LGBTQ+ movements accumulated $3.7 billion in funding, more than three times the amount directed to pro-LGBTQ+ causes, according to a 2020 report by the Global Philanthropy Project, an organization working to strengthen human rights for this community. In recent years, cases of physical violence against these communities have escalated.

Three Days, 47 Speakers, 10 Organizing Entities

The theme of the 2024 congress was "the family, an irreplaceable network," and that phrase resonated in a dozen meeting rooms on March 1, 2, and 3. The event featured 47 speakers (from Mexico and other parts of the world) various panels, talks for youth,, a childcare area,, and even a provisional chapel for participants to engage in religious activities without having to leave the venue.

According to information provided by the congress organizers at a press conference, 8,000 people participated in the event. Originally, each ticket cost participants 1,500 Mexican pesos, or 88 U.S. dollars at the current exchange rate then. Following the start of the event, the organizers offered  late registrants a discounted rate of 900 Mexican pesos, or 53 U.S. dollars.

During those three congress days, the event's website showed at least 10 logos of "organizing entities." The NGOs International Organization for the Family (IOF), based in the United States (Illinois); Red Familia, based in Mexico, and Familia Unida, which operates in the U.S. and Mexico, as well as  in Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Ecuador, supported and funded the event.

The Social Union of Entrepreneurs of Mexico (USEM); the NGO Together for Mexico, which brings together the Catholic movements of the country; the Federation of Associations of Parents and Friends of Educational Centers (Fapace); the National Christian Union; the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Colmenares Group, focused on education, were part of the list of "organizers."

The logo of the Global Center for Human Rights, also appeared on the event website.  The Global Center for Human rights describes itself as "non-governmental organization that, through strategy, training, and promotion, works to build and consolidate a new generation of decision-makers willing to defend life, family, religious freedom, and democracy.”

Three of the 10 organizations that supported or participated in the Guadalajara congress appear on lists of entities that invest time and money to amplify  anti-LGBTQ+ discourse in Latin America and the United States. IOF, Red Familia, and National Front for the Family have been named, for example, by the Global Philanthropy Project.

IOF was created in 2016 under the leadership of Brian Brown, who remains its president and also heads the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), an NGO dedicated to "protecting marriage and the religious communities that sustain it." . Brown has been known for almost two decades for leading initiatives and actions against same-sex marriage. In 2009, he stated that "same-sex unions are not marriages." Two years later, he suggested a link between pedophilia and  same-sex marriages. In 2018, he hinted that LGBTQ+ rights were "invented concepts that are not only not rights but also not correct." Other similar statements are documented by the NGO Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) on its website.

Since 2016, Brown has also been the international leader of the International Congress of Families, considered one of the main projects promoted by IOF within its mission to promote the so-called "traditional family."

Brown was present at the opening of the event in Guadalajara and the reporting team saw when he was introduced as "a tireless promoter of families." He spoke in English, with simultaneous translation on screen, and argued that those attending the congress were there to "promote and protect the natural [traditional] family." Attendees applauded and cheered. "We are convinced that sustainable development is only possible with more and better families," he said.

On social media, IOF has posts reflecting its anti-LGBTQ+ positions. In aFacebook post from January 24, 2024, for example, IOF highlighted that the bishops of the Antilles and Guyana had refused to bless gay couples "and irregular associations." In another message from May 31, 2023, IOF celebrated the removal of article 304 from the National Development Plan during its debate in the Colombian Senate. That part of the text referred to the country's national sexual rights policy. For IOF, its disappearance was a "success against gender indoctrination."

According to the ProPublica database of NGOs operating in the United States, IOF declared $1.06 million in income in 2022, almost double the $561,117 recorded in 2018.

"Science-Based and Biology-Based" Education to Exclude Gender Conversations

Another organizer of the Guadalajara congress that appears among those against the LGBTQ+ community is Red Familia. Founded in the 2000s, Red Familia  frames its purpose as to "strengthen the well-being of Mexican families" and "promote constructive dialogues in favor of the family, the life of all, and fundamental freedoms such as freedom of expression, conscience, and religion," as indicated on its website.

On social media, Red Familia advocates for education "based on science and biology" and staunchly rejects any conversation about gender identity. The organization posts in support of  health professionals that “refuse to perform gender affirmation surgeries,” and amplifies content supporting "conversion therapies" to allegedly return LGBTQ+ individuals to the heterosexual or cisgender world (gender identity corresponding to registered sex).

Conversion therapies "may amount to torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment," according to a report presented to the United Nations (UN) in 2022. Only 13 countries in the world have penalized these practices. In the Americas, only Ecuador, Brazil, Canada, and Mexico have national prohibitions, while in the United States, conversion therapies for minors are prohibited in some states, according to data from the  international network Global Equality Caucus, which brings together parliamentarians opposed to LGBTQ+ discrimination, and to information gathered by the Mexican Congress about their own country.

According to the Pan American Health Organization (PADF), "alleged 'healing' services for people with non-heterosexual sexual orientation lack medical justification and represent a serious threat to the health and well-being of affected individuals."

The American Psychological Association (APA) affirms  that sexual orientation cannot be changed through therapy and affirms that "the reality is that homosexuality is not a disease. It does not require treatment and cannot be changed." Neither the APA nor the WHO consider transgender identity as a mental disorder to be treated.

What was seen in the conference also appears in in-depth analysis of the content published and pushed by the people behind the event's organizers.

In March 2022, on its Facebook page, Red Familia shared a review  of the Mexican Supreme Court of Justice’s decision to declare unconstitutional the limitation  that kept minors under 18 from requesting a change of gender identity. The court decided that adolescents could request a change of gender identity at an earlier age under certain circumstances.

In a video on the subject, Red Familia's national leader, Mario Romo, expresses disagreement with the ruling and claims that the Judiciary is "focusing on solving problems that do not exist or are very sporadic, for ideological reasons."

In November 2023, on its Instagram account, the organization kept attacking the pro LGBTQ+ agenda in the same area. This time, it "warned" about what it considered a threat to the right to conscientious objection of health personnel. Red Familia wanted to protect doctors and health professionals from potentially being "criminalized and sent to jail for refusing to perform gender-affirming surgeries without the intervention of parents."

That position contradicted a reform to the General Health Law that had just been approved by the Mexican Chamber of Deputies that stipulated "the presence of non-objecting medical and nursing personnel in each of the units of the National Health System, to ensure medical care for all people [...] without any form of discrimination." When this report was published, Senate's approval of the reform was still pending. The following month, in December, on Facebook, Red Familia shared audio of a radio interview with Mario Romo in which he reiterated his rejection of the legal amendmentl. The hashtag used in the post was #TerapiasAQuienLasQuiera (TherapiesForThoseWhoWantThem), referring to the controversial (and in some countries illegal) conversion therapies.

Romo also participated in the congress in Guadalajara. He holds a degree in business administration and a master's degree in education. 

"The definition today of a family is a group of people who share a vision, a temporary life project often and that it does not matter if they have blood relations among them. This new definition of family would imply that any person who cohabits under a roof is already family. What is the problem with this? That intergenerational relationships are lost, grandparents, uncles, cousins, that lineage that makes us who we are. With their specific surnames," he said.

"It is important to recognize that the family has a series of ideological and relational characteristics that is what makes us family. It is not enough to share a single roof or have a common life project and much less if it is temporary. The family is something forever and has blood ties," he emphasized.

Since Red Familia does not have a base in the United States, there is no public data on its income on the ProPublica database used in this article.

Conversion Therapies

The third "organizer" of the congress that also disseminates anti-LGBTQ+ narratives in the Americas is the National Front for the Family (FNxF, in Spanish). Created in 2016, the entity says it defends "the right of parents to educate children and not to see confusing ideologies such as gender being imposed on them in schools," says the organization’s  website.

FNxFis led by Rodrigo Iván Cortés. Cortés has a degree in philosophy and was a deputy in the Mexican Congress between 2003 and 2006 for the conservative PAN party. Cortés is also the vice president of the Board of Directors and a member of the Advisory Council of the international platform Political Network for Values, which brings together political representatives who defend "the values of life, marriage, family, and freedom"  – always within the traditional concepts that marriage can only be between a man and a woman who are cisgender and heterosexual.

Cortés regularly attends interviews in the media, forums, and conferences, both in person and on social networks, to present his arguments against what he calls "gender ideology." This content is often disseminated on his social media accounts and through FNxF's networks.

Through FNxF, Cortés has led the opposition to marriage equality and legal adoption by same-sex couples, and, since 2020, the opposition to the criminalization of conversion therapies. In December 2023, like Red Familia, FNxF shared several publications, both on Facebook and X (formerly Twitter), with the hashtag ##TerapiasAQuienLasQuiera (TherapiesForThoseWhoWantThem).

FNxF, like the other organizers of the Guadalajara event, has a large offline reach. In August 2023, it managed to collect 45,000 signatures to stop the distribution of new textbooks issued by the Mexican Ministry of Public Education (SEP) for all “basic grades” in Mexico (elementary level).

From FNxF’s  point of view, the books had "inappropriate or inadequate content" for students. And this is what they said on the website: "These textbooks not only seek to implant LGBT ideology, they are indoctrination with a biased narrative with destruction and regression of the national public education system".

In February 2023, Cortés was convicted of political gender violence by the Specialized Chamber of the Electoral Tribunal of Mexico. Several of his posts on social media were deemed to be promoting "hate speech" against deputy Salma Luévano.

Cortés participated in the Guadalajara conference. He spoke on the  panel "Family Citizenship," where he intertwined gender issues with low levels of participation in politics by arguing that being politically correct is "anti-human [sic] and anti-Christian."

Cortés also affirmed that the  world is experiencing the deconstruction of women and that, as a consequence,  "now it turns out that men are bad." In his opinion, "while carrying the flag of defending women, women are actually being erased, and even being replaced by men, who use the magical resource of self-perceiving themselves as women," whom he then claims "are taking over the most intimate spaces: bathrooms, showers, and sports."

For the FNxF leader, sexual education for children and adolescents isextremely dangerous.  To defend his point of view, he equates gender-affirming hormonal therapy with chemical castration. 

"There are bills that seek to introduce, from the tenderest age, the confusing question of (...) 'hey, don't you think you were born in the wrong body?'. And, after that, there are bills aiming to use public resources to deconstruct children with chemical substances like growth blockers, ingredients used in the United States to chemically castrate rapists."

Cortés connects sexual education to "genital amputation."

IOF, Red Familia, and FNxF were offered the chance to comment on this article. None had answered the questions sent by email at the time this report was published.

This is a research investigation carried out by Univision’s elDetector, Lupa, Animal Político, Data Crítica, and DDIA, with the support of the Consortium to Support Regional Journalism in Latin America (CAPIR) led by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR).