Maine’s investigation of the National Organization for Marriage’s campaign finance practices has resulted in the release of several internal fundraising and planning documents. HRC has posted them online where NOM-watchers are poking through them. For sheer reprehensibility, it’s hard to top hiring (or at least planning to hire) someone to find and exploit children who are willing to publicly betray their gay parents.
But that kind of “ends-justify-the-means” approach to politics has been the hallmark of NOM and its campaigns in California, Maine, and elsewhere. Those who have been on the receiving end of those dishonorable and untruthful campaigns won’t be surprised by much of what’s in the NOM documents. But the brazenness of the language around racial wedge politics long practiced by the religious right should make it easier to expose the group’s Machiavellian heart. And it may be useful in blunting their efforts to make opposition to marriage equality a “marker of identity” for Latinos and African Americans.
The NOM documents from 2009 discuss a number of organizational projects and strategies, including a “Not a Civil Right” project:
The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks — two key Democratic constituencies. Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage; develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots.
And just in case that isn’t clear enough: “Fanning the hostility raised in the wake of Prop 8 is key to raising the costs of pushing gay marriage to its advocates and persuading the movement’s allies that advocates are unacceptably overreaching on this issue.”
NOM’s stated plans to overturn marriage equality in Washington, D.C. include an effort to “find attractive young black Democrats to challenge white gay marriage advocates electorally.”
NOM’s strategists said they needed “to accomplish a sophisticated cultural objective: interrupt the attempt to equate gay with black, and sexual orientation with race. We need to make traditional sexual morality intellectually respectable again in elite culture. And we need to give liberals an alternative way of thinking about gay rights issues, one that does not lead to the misuse of the power of government to crush dissent in the name of fighting discrimination.”
Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, director of People for the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council, released a statement on behalf of the Council’s Equal Justice Task Force calling NOM’s wedge strategies “deeply cynical” and “deeply offensive.”
NOM also planned to target Latinos through a “community of artists, athletes, writers, beauty queens and other glamorous noncognitive elites across national boundaries” who can help “interrupt the process of assimilation by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity.” NOM hopes that “[a]s ‘ethnic rebels’ such spokespeople will also have an appeal across racial lines, especially to young urbans in America.” NOM said, “Our ultimate goal is to make opposition to gay marriage an identity marker, a badge of youth rebellion to conformist assimilation to the bad side of ‘Anglo’ culture.”
NOM has had more success in some areas than others: most recently it failed in a stated priority of overturning marriage in New Hampshire, despite having made gains in the state legislature; and it failed to prevent marriage from advancing in New York. Its efforts in other states, like Iowa, are still underway. And it is pushing constitutional amendments in North Carolina and Minnesota. It also hopes to keep opposition alive “behind enemy lines” in states that have made marriage equality a reality.
But even in 2009, the top priority for 2012 was clear: defeating Barack Obama. In order for the group to achieve victory on marriage, “the next president must be a man or woman who expressly articulates a pro-marriage culture, and appoints sympathetic Supreme Court justices.” In order to help achieve that objective, the group discussed plans to “sideswipe Obama” by portraying him as a “social radical” and by taking steps to “[r]aise such issues as pornography, protection of children, and the need to oppose all efforts to weaken religious liberty and the federal level.” No wonder Maggie Gallagher is such a fan of Rick Santorum — his campaign plan mirrors NOM’s.
In addition, it is utterly clear that the bishops and NOM were ready to make “religious liberty” a campaign issue well before the recent controversy over insurance coverage for contraception: “Gay marriage is the tip of the spear, the weapon that will be and is being used to marginalize and repress Christianity and the Church.” NOM’s documents also affirm the group’s “close relationships” with Catholic bishops, with whom it would work to engage Catholic priests nationally as well as locally.
You can fault NOM for many things, but not for thinking small. NOM’s planning documents discuss strategies for exporting its model and playing a major role internationally. It calls for a global “counterrevolution” against marriage equality, something that is, unfortunately, well underway, with disastrous consequences.