Buzzfeed’s Lester Feder is out with an extensive report today from Ireland, which later this month may become the first country in the world to approve marriage equality by popular vote.
The “No” campaign has organized under the name “Mothers and Fathers Matter,” a message right out of the National Organization for Marriage’s playbook. And Feder reports that marriage equality opponents from around the world have been paying close attention to the referendum in Ireland, including NOM’s Brian Brown, who says he “talked a lot” to a leader of the Irish “No” campaign and conservative American political operative Frank Schubert, who says he kicked in some polling information and messaging guidance.
Feder reports that a strong network of European anti-gay groups has also been involved in the Irish campaign, including the French group Manif Pour Tous and Italian activist Luca Volante, whose foundation contributed a significant amount of money to the organization that’s been heading the “No” movement in Ireland.
Volante and a representative of Manif Pour Tous haveboth been involved in Brown’s effort to create an International Organization for Marriage meant to unite the effort to push back marriage equality throughout the world.
Brown sent an email to NOM’s supporters earlier this month asking them to back the anti-marriage campaign in Ireland (although non-residents of the country can’t contribute money to the effort). CitizenGo, the international petition platform on whose board both Brown and Volante sit, made a similar appeal.
The No side denies that it is borrowing tactics from California, saying it’s learned more from campaigns in eastern European countries like Slovenia in 2012 or Croatia in 2013, where referendums were passed curtailing partnership rights for same-sex couples.
“We wouldn’t be taking too many more lessons from Prop 8 than from elsewhere,” said David Quinn, head of the Iona Institute and adviser to Mothers and Fathers Matter. Quinn, who also writes a regular column in the Irish Independent newspaper, is widely regarded as the savviest campaigner on the No side.
“Obviously the only way two men or two women can found a family is by violating a child’s right to have a mother and a father.”
But the No camp has gotten some input from veterans of the California campaign and other marriage fights abroad. Frank Schubert, the conservative political consultant credited with the Proposition 8 victory, told BuzzFeed News before an NOM rally in Washington earlier this month that he has sent private polling, focus-group work, and other messaging guidance to activists on the No side. NOM President Brian Brown also said he had “talked a lot” to Quinn periodically over the past few years, though they hadn’t communicated in over a year.
They’ve also sought advice from opponents of same-sex marriage in the U.K., Keith Mills, a spokesperson for Mothers and Fathers Matter, told BuzzFeed News last Tuesday. The next day, he said, the group was due to meet with a representative from La Manif Pour Tous, an organization formed in opposition to France’s 2013 marriage equality law that has established itself as an engine for movements opposed to marriage equality across Europe.
“We would take most succor from what happened in Slovenia,” Quinn said, referring to the 2012 referendum that reversed a law passed by parliament extending legal protections to same-sex couples. Opponents have also consulted the leaders of the 2013 campaign that blocked marriage equality in Croatia.
They hear the same advice from campaigners in every country, Quinn said. “The message that comes back all the time, loud and clear … [is] keep talking about the children.” Marriage is inherently bound up with the right to found a family, Quinn argued: “Obviously the only way two men or two women can found a family is by violating a child’s right to have a mother and a father.”
Mills and Quinn both said the No campaign had not received any funding from international donors, however. Quinn said the Iona Institute’s only substantial international funding has been €24,000 over the past few years from an Italian foundation headed by a former member of the European Parliament, Luca Volonté, who sits on the board of the conservative online campaign platform CitizenGo along with NOM’s Brian Brown. But none of that money has gone to the referendum campaign, Quinn said.