The National Organization for Marriage has found time between its campaigns to enshrine anti-gay discrimination in state constitutions to join a Religious Right attack on gay activist and author Dan Savage, who has forthrightly apologized for comments he made when some students walked out of a speech he gave at a high school. Earlier this week, NOM blogger and “culture director” Thomas Peters, speaking about the incident on a Seattle radio show, said NOM wants to debate issues like marriage with civility and respect. When the interviewer told Peters he has heard vitriolic and denigrating language about gay people from religious leaders opposed to marriage equality, Peters said that “when people on our side have said something like that, NOM is always very careful to distance ourselves from those sort of comments, to say, ‘that’s not us, that’s not our movement.’”
Really? Is that why NOM promoted Rev. Patrick Wooden as a spokesman for the anti-gay amendment that voters in North Carolina just passed? As RWW has reported, Wooden has called anti-LGBT violence “normal” and encouraged parents to beat their transgender child, blamed Oprah, Tyler Perry and the cast of Glee for promoting “wicked” and “perverse” causes, said that Chaz Bono is controlled by demons and claimed homosexuality is a “wicked, deviant, immoral, self-destructive, anti-human sexual behavior."
We have also reported that NOM also promoted Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, who Brian notes has said that gay rights is “Satan’s plan” and “Satan’s point of attack on the United States,” claimed “Oprah [Winfrey] will have to answer to her Creator” for “promoting” homosexuality, wondered if gay TSA agents were deliberately groping passengers, attacked the US for trying “to lecture the Ugandans about homosexuality” by opposing their “kill the gays” bill, and agreed with Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern that homosexuality is more dangerous than terrorism and the greatest threat to America.
Faced with this vitriolic and denigrating language, NOM's response has not been to say, “that’s not us, that’s not our movement” -- it has been to promote the vitriol-spewers as spokespersons for their movement. So it’s hard to take too seriously anything NOM says about civil debate.
Today’s announcement marks a proud day for our country and for the President. For those of us who have been working towards marriage equality for many years, the impact of having the support of the President of the United States is incredibly powerful. As President Obama made clear in his comments today, marriage equality for all people is an idea whose time has come. Despite setbacks like the results from North Carolina last night, it’s more obvious than ever that the momentum is on our side.
In recent years, more and more Americans have come to understand that preventing loving same-sex couples from getting married causes real harm to the people they care about. In families and communities across the country, Americans are coming to the same conclusion as the President: when two people make a public commitment to love and care for each other, that’s a marriage no matter what the gender of the people involved.
Today the President did the right thing. For thousands of supporters who donated, canvassed and phone banked to help elect Barack Obama in 2008, this is a powerful reminder of why we felt so passionately about this President in the first place.
Now, we must redouble our efforts to knock down one of the biggest barriers to full legal equality nationwide: the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
With your continued dedication to core American values like Equality, and your support of our work expand the promise of our country and our Constitution to all families, together, we’ll Dump DOMA and achieve basic fairness for all: the American Way.
Today, President Obama at last acknowledged that he personally supports the right to marry for gay and lesbian Americans. Although the president maintains his position that marriage laws should be decided on a state-by-state basis, his personal statement provides a huge boost to the marriage equality movement. At a time when over half of Americans want full marriage rights for gays and lesbians, the endorsement of a sitting president is a meaningful signal of progress.
Sixteen years ago, in May 1996, People For the American Way became one of the first national groups to endorse marriage equality and vow to work toward it. In a note to members of the organization’s board, which was to vote on the issue, PFAW’s staff wrote that the Right had started to use the “marriage issue” to “polarize Americans” – a strategy that had its first major victory in the passage of DOMA later that year.
Despite all the progress that has been made for LGBT equality in the past sixteen years, the 1996 memo could have been written yesterday:
In recent years, People For the American Way has come to be a very important voice in the ongoing effort to rid America of discrimination and prejudice against gay men and lesbians.
We have done that over the years for the simple reason that it’s the right thing to do. Opposing discrimination and fostering respect and appreciation for diversity are core values for People For the American Way. These are precisely the values under attack in this latest campaign.
Of course, the marriage issue has very real implications for the everyday lives of millions of Americans. In the area of health care for example, existing marriage laws allow a spouse to make critical decisions for an incapacitated spouse; not so for unmarried couples wou haven’t gone through the necessary legal steps. In many hospitals, the right to visit patients in an intensive care unit is limited to immediate family; gay and lesbian partners – lacking the legal status of family – are often excluded, to the great detriment of both partners. In addition, enormous economic consequences flow from the inability of gay men and lesbians to marry, including significant tax and inheritance benefits.
The lack of legal recognition of gay and lesbian families is of particular concern when children are involved, since the children are deprived of the protection of a legal relationship with the non-biological parent and the ability of that parent to make important decisions for them in any number of settings, including schools and hospitals. And if the biological parent dies, the children may well be taken away from their other parent, who has no legal relationship with them.
Sixteen years later, marriage discrimination continues to hurt gay and lesbian American and their families. That a sitting president has publicly acknowledged the impact of that discrimination is very powerful. We hope that soon the injustice we outlined in 1996 will be hopelessly out of date.
In response to President Obama’s public comments in support of marriage equality, People For the American Way President Michael Keegan issued the following statement.
“Today’s announcement marks a proud day for our country and for the President. For those of us who have been working towards marriage equality for many years, the impact of having the support of the President of the United States is incredibly powerful. As President Obama made clear in his comments today, marriage equality for all people is an idea whose time has come. Despite setbacks like the results from North Carolina last night, it’s more obvious than ever that the momentum is on our side.
“In recent years, more and more Americans have come to understand that preventing loving same-sex couples from getting married causes real harm to the people they care about. In families and communities across the country, Americans are coming to the same conclusion as the President: when two people make a public commitment to love and care for each other, that’s a marriage no matter what the gender of the people involved.
“Today the President did the right thing. For thousands of supporters who donated, canvassed and phone banked to help elect Barack Obama in 2008, this is a powerful reminder of why we felt so passionately about this President in the first place.”
As North Carolinians go to the polls today to cast their ballot on an anti-gay constitutional amendment which would write discrimination into the state’s constitution and potentially harm all unmarried couples regardless of orientation, The Guardian put together an interactive feature summarizing the state of LGBT equality across America.
The infographic examines each state’s laws pertaining to LGBT persons’ right to marry, visit loved ones in the hospital or adopt a child, as well as protections from hate crimes and from discrimination in employment, housing and schools. While progress has been made, there is much work to be done.
Regardless of today’s vote, North Carolina will not be adding a dark red section to the outer ring, since state law already prohibits same-sex marriage. The proposed amendment simply inscribes discrimination into the state constitution.
Unfortunately, not all Americans have access to the all the protections and responsibilities that only marriage can provide, and this map demonstrates striking differences from state to state and region to region. That’s why we need the federal Respect for Marriage Act more than ever – to ensure that all Americans, straight and gay, are treated equally under the law.
North Carolina voters today are casting their ballots on Amendment One, an extreme measure that would write discrimination into the state’s consitution and potentially take away important protections for all unmarried couples, gay and straight.
The amendment states that “marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic union that shall be valid or recognized” in North Carolina. It would not only deal another blow to gay and lesbian couples in the state, who are already prohibited by law from marrying, but endangers protections for all unmarried couples, including domestic violence protections and health insurance coverage.
The Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families is running a handful of powerful ads showing Amendment One’s potential devastating impact. Here are a couple:
President Bill Clinton also recorded a robocall on behalf of the anti-Amendment One campaign. You can listen to it here.
North Carolina voters can find your polling place here.
By Dolores Huerta
I am a proud Latina and a proud supporter of LGBT rights.
The National Organization for Marriage seems to think I can’t be both.
In a 2009 strategy document that was made public last month, NOM outlines a “wedge” strategy to drive black and Latino Americans away from supporting gay rights. About Latinos, NOM writes, “Will the process of assimilation to the dominant Anglo culture lead Hispanics to abandon traditional family values? We can interrupt this process of assimilation by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity.”
There are many great values that can be put forward as “key badges of Latino identity.” Opposition to gay rights should not be one of them. In fact, if NOM wants to keep Latinos from embracing LGBT equality, they’re already falling behind. A poll late last year found that a majority of Latinos – like a majority of all Americans – support legal recognition of same-sex unions. Opposition to LGBT rights is no more a hallmark of Latino culture than it is of American culture as a whole.
This is the deep cynicism of NOM and other groups that devote themselves to stopping equality for gay and lesbian Americans. They will attempt to exploit and inflame existing prejudices and fears in order to reach the ends they desire. They forget that the people they attempt to exploit have our own thoughts, opinions and experiences. We have our own relationships with God. We have gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender friends and family members. And we know when we’re being used. Nom should learn what Latinos live by, the words of the great Mexican President Benito Juarez, “Respecting the rights of others is Peace.”
NOM’s attempt to stir up mutual resentment between African Americans, Latinos and the gay community echoes some of the most destructive politics of our past. That they are resorting to this kind of dangerous and divisive tactic shows just how desperate the anti-gay movement has become.
NOM’s mistake is to think that our cultural identity is a definition of who we are not and whom we are against. But of course, our identities are definitions of who we are and what we love. Latinos across America are embracing equal rights for our gay and lesbian friends and family. Those of us who support LGBT equality haven’t abandoned our Latino identity. We’re embracing the values that define who we are as individuals, as Latinos and as Americans.
Dolores Huerta is a member of the board of People For the American Way.
Today, People For the American Way launched a major new campaign – including a website, a web ad and an exclusive report – exposing Mitt Romney’s dangerous agenda for America’s courts.
The campaign highlights Romney’s choice of Robert Bork to lead his constitutional and judicial advisory team. By allying with Bork, a jurist so extreme he was rejected by a bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate 25 years ago, Romney has sent a clear signal that he means to drag America’s courts even farther to the right, endangering many of the civil rights, liberties and economic protections won by the American people over the past five decades.
The ad, Don’t Let Romney Bork America, and the report, Borking America: What Robert Bork Will Mean to the Supreme Court and American Justice, can be viewed at www.RomneyCourt.com.
“The debates over health care and immigration have reinforced the importance of the Supreme Court to all Americans,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. “However, few are aware of the extreme agenda Mitt Romney has for the High Court – an agenda exemplified by his close alliance with Robert Bork.
“In 1987, People For the American Way led the fight to keep Judge Bork off the Supreme Court,” Keegan continued. “25 years later, we are as relieved as ever that we succeeded. When Bork was nominated, Americans across the political spectrum rejected the dangerous political agenda that he would have brought to the bench – his disdain for modern civil rights legislation, his acceptance of poll taxes and literacy tests, his defense of contraception bans and criminal sodomy laws, his continued privileging of corporations over individuals. Since then, he has dug his heels even deeper into a view of the law that puts corporations first and individuals far behind.
“It is frightening that a quarter century after Robert Bork’s jurisprudence was deemed too regressive for the Supreme Court, a leading presidential candidate has picked him to shape his legal policy.”
People For the American Way Senior Fellow Jamie Raskin, the author of the report, added: “The return of Robert Bork and his reactionary jurisprudence to national politics should be a three-alarm wake-up call for all Americans. In his work on the bench as a judge and off the bench as a polemicist, Bork has consistently placed corporations above the government and government above the rights of the people. The idea that Bork could be central to shaping the Supreme Court in the 21st century is shocking because he wants to turn the clock back decades in terms of the civil rights and civil liberties. His constitutional politics are even more extreme today than in 1987, when a bipartisan group of 58 senators rejected his nomination to the Supreme Court.”
The new report and ad review Bork’s record from his days as solicitor general to President Richard Nixon to his turn as co-chair of the Romney campaign’s committee on law, the Constitution and the judiciary. Highlights of Bork’s career include:
Learn more at www.RomneyCourt.com.
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.
Newly exposed documents from the National Organization for Marriage shed light on the organization’s plans to “drive a wedge” between the LGBT movement and African American and Latino communities.
Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, Director of People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council issued the following statement on behalf of the Council’s Equal Justice Task Force:
“If the success of the National Organization of Marriage’s movement depends on stirring up resentment between communities, it might want to rethink its strategies.
“African American men and women of faith are not a political football to be tossed around in a cynical game of resentment and division. We, like all Americans, struggle thoughtfully with issues of faith, family and politics. Anti-equality activists such as NOM consistently attempt to use a deeply cynical ‘wedge’ strategy to divide African Americans and the gay community, playing up what are now old and tired cliches. In the long run, this strategy will falter as African American and LGBT communities continue to work together for equal justice.
“I celebrate as more and more African American clergy engage in AAMLC’s Healing Grace dialogues and work to confront and overcome stigma, prejudice and homophobia in the Black Church. We continually seek to help and not harm, love and not hate, reconcile and not separate, unite and not divide -- and it's working.
“NOM’s explicit attempt to drive a wedge between the LGBT community and African Americans is deeply offensive, and it exposes the depravity of their politics.”
HRC got its hands last night on a December 2009 National Organization for Marriage strategy document, which was unsealed in connection to NOM’s court challenge to Maine’s campaign finance disclosure laws.
The most explosive revelation in the document is NOM’s explicit plan to drive a wedge between the gay community and blacks and Latinos. But another part of their effort to recruit “hearts and minds” to the anti-marriage cause is also startling. Not only did NOM propose to document anti-gay “victims” of gay rights with emotional videos– a plan they implemented with a set of glossy films in upstate New York, for instance – they proposed to hire a staff member at $50,000 a year “to identify children of gay parents willing to speak on camera”:
Did NOM end up hiring someone to find children of gay parents who they could portray as “victims”? If so, it seems that a year’s worth of full-time work didn’t turn up a single child of gay parents who was willing to be portrayed as a “victim” of marriage equality.
National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown joined Iowa anti-gay luminary Bob Vander Plaats at a Des Moines rally today to call for a ballot referendum to overturn the state’s marriage equality law. Following Vander Plaats, who compared same-sex marriage to polygamy and incest, Brown argued that making the civil rights of a minority subject to a popular vote is in fact right in line with the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.
It’s marriage equality proponents, Brown argued, who are trying to “deprive” their opponents of civil rights– specifically “the right to vote":
Opposition to gay marriage is not rooted in fear and hate as supporters suggest, Vander Plaats said, but rather love and religious truth. He also lashed out at the notion of “marriage equality” as a slippery slope toward no restrictions on relationships whatsoever.
“If we want marriage equality, let’s just stop for a second. Why stop at same-sex marriage? Why not have polygamy? Why not have a dad marry his son or marry his daughter? If we’re going to have marriage equality, let’s open this puppy up and let’s have marriage equality,” he said. “Otherwise, let’s stick to the way God designed it – one man and one woman, period.”
Referring to Senate Democrats’ refusal to advance the amendment and clear the way for a statewide vote, National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown invoked Martin Luther King, Jr., to suggest that it was the opponents of same-sex marriage whose civil rights were threatened.
“We hear that this is about civil rights, and that those of us who oppose the redefinition of marriage are somehow bigots,” Brown said. “And yet, what Dr. Martin Luther King called the most important civil right – the right to vote – these very same folks are trying to deprive us of this right.”
On a hunch that voters are more influenced by their own experience rather than a birrage of big-budget advertising on the issue of marriage equality, Minnesota Public Radio put together an excellent miniseries asking Minnesotans to share their stories about how they came to their decision – or are still struggling to decide – how they will vote on marriage equality in November.
The stories are striking for their sincerity and level of introspection. While each story was unique, there were common themes among those who stand on the side of equality for all: Love. Commitment. Family. Freedom. Equality for All.
Enjoy these videos below, and you can view the full set here.
“True love is not about self, it’s about the other person. It’s about mankind, it’s about the world around you. It’s about loving and loving and loving. And I think marriage is the perfect embodiment of expressing that love.”
“As long as they’re not harming me…who has a right to challenge their right to their choices?”
“[My father’s second marriage, to a man] has been infinitely more fulfilling, more harmonious, more authentic, more of a model to all of us kids of what marriage should really be.”
“Now that I am legally married, all the benefits and wonderful things that have happened in my life around marriage, not just the ceremony but all the legal things that I get to participate in. I want that to happen for everybody.”
After failing in his campaign to overturn marriage equality in Washington D.C., Bishop Harry Jackson is now leading an effort to repeal a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in Maryland that will be signed into law tomorrow. We last saw Jackson raising money for the Maryland Marriage Alliance at “A Gathering of Eagles,” where he led the congregation in spiritual warfare against the demonic Queen of Heaven, who he said was responsible for gay rights and “perversion.”
In an interview with the Christian Post yesterday, Jackson baselessly claimed that Washington D.C. public schools are teaching “children – young children – to explore and examine the differences in heterosexuality, homosexuality and transgender lifestyles,” lamenting, “To say that it's okay for Heather to have two mommies is not biblical.” He also said that activists trying to repeal marriage equality are “not trying to impose our views on others” but said gay rights advocates “are trying to impose their agenda on us.”
“It is an oxy-moron,” Jackson said about same-sex marriage, “Two people of the same sex who marry and try to indoctrinate children into that lifestyle does nothing to strengthen marriage or families.” He also predicted victory in a potential referendum on marriage equality, maintaining that marriage equality supporters “are overplaying their hands and only harming our culture.”
CP: I want to start out by asking in light of Maryland's recent debate and upcoming legalization of same-sex marriage, tell me why you are willing to take such a pronounced and visible stand to defend marriage?
Jackson: First, we as people of faith are not trying to impose our views on others. We are simply using God's Word, given to us by the scriptures, to stand up for what is right. Instead, those who are advocating for what they call "marriage" that does not involve a man and a woman, are trying to impose their agenda on us.
The reality is, if you change the definition of marriage, you change the definition of the family, then you change what is taught in schools – that it's okay for Heather to have two mommies – and exploring your "sexual awareness" as a young child is acceptable; and it's not.
CP: Can you expand on how families will be impacted when same-sex marriages are legalized?
Jackson: Yes, let's use Washington, D.C. as an example. It's encouraged in public schools to teach children – young children – to explore and examine the differences in heterosexuality, homosexuality and transgender lifestyles. Now you and I both know that children should not be encouraged to examine these types of issues, especially in public schools. To say that it's okay for Heather to have two mommies is not biblical.
CP: Supporters of same-sex marriage say one of their primary goals is to educate the public that gay marriage does in fact strengthen families. How do you respond to that comment?
Jackson: It is an oxy-moron. Two people of the same sex who marry and try to indoctrinate children into that lifestyle does nothing to strengthen marriage or families. Again, it only attempts to redefine what marriage is and what a family should be. A mother and a father best raise children. There are factors in our society that interrupt that process and that is unfortunate, but gay marriage will not strengthen marriage.
CP: Do you believe the efforts to repeal same-sex marriage in Maryland will be successful?
Jackson: Yes, I do. To use a phrase from Muhammad Ali, "We float like a butterfly, but sting like a bee." But I must say that the opposing side has waged a brilliant public relations campaign. They want the public to believe the debate about gay marriage is only a religious battle, but it's not.
We are 31 for 31 on gay marriage when it's been put before the voters of different states. They are trying to press the issue in different states hoping to advance their cause with the Supreme Court. Still, when people examine what marriage is and should be, they tend to vote overwhelming against gay marriage.
But let me say this to conclude. I feel our opponents have become so aggressive on this issue, that they are overplaying their hands and only harming our culture. Yes, they may win a battle or two here and there but our side will prevail in the long run.