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08/20/2011

Days and Slights: This week in NOM (Aug. 15-19)

by Jeremy Hooper

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Dear NOM Watcher,

School's starting back and students nationwide are searching for the thinking caps they stowed away for the summer. So seizing on that spirit of brain-re-engagement, the National Organization for Marriage staff this week took to their various classrooms in hopes of schooling the public in the NOM viewpoint. Let us grade:


First period: Language Arts

Affiliate leader Jennifer Roback Morse (of NOM's Ruth Institute) prepped this vocabulary lesson:

"You may have noticed that I do not use the term “same sex marriage” very often. In fact, I am making a Screen Shot 2011-08-19 At 3.24.16 Pm conscious decision not to use the term at all any more. I think the term gives away too much ground to our opponents. Continually using the term makes it possible to believe that such a thing as a marriage between people of the same sex is possible.

I don’t use the term “square circle” because such an entity is not possible. Likewise, I think it is not possible for two people of the same sex to be married to each other. So, I use another term that I believe is more accurate. I use the phrase “redefinition of marriage” or “so-called same sex marriage,” or in a pinch, “genderless marriage,” depending on the context"
-Jennifer Roback Morse, head of National Organization For Marriage affiliate The Ruth Institute

Unfortunately for Professor Morse, I was always that outspoken student who'd raise his hand to challenge any teacher on any topic. So on this, let me just say: "Ms. Morse, you can call same-sex marriages 'bagel with cream cheese' if that is what you wish to do, but personally 'square-circling' a legal right will not actually change its shape."

Though I do agree in one sense: I don't prefer "same-sex marriage" either. Just plain ol' marriage will work just fine, thank you very much.


Second period: Statistics

Over on NOM Blog, the instructive writers once again presented marriage poll results (in this case out of Michigan) in a way that makes it sound as if the data is in support of NOM's agenda. In truth, the poll in question showed only a small 35% of Michigan voters supporting the "no marriage, no civil unions" work that NOM brings to every state, with 62% supporting either marriages or civil unions (both of which NOM opposes). Those little points went unaddressed, both what the stats actually say and what they mean in terms of NOM's true agenda.

This echoes a similar poll that NOM touted earlier this month, when they proudly pushed New Jersey numbers in a way that made the data sound good for their cause, even though in fact those stats showed only a teeny, tiny 17% supporting NOM's "no recognition" position. In that instance, a massive 81% of New Jerseyans supported either marriage or C.U. That's terrible news for NOM, in the very state where the organization was founded.

As they prep for state-by-state examination, it's fine if NOM's instructors want to take this hard line, no compromise stance. But when they calculate the changing trends, they cannot just look at the support/lack thereof for full marriage, so long as they as an organization are standing against civil unions as well. At least not honestly.

At which point I get kicked out of this class for pointing out too many facts that break from the demanded preconceptions. So moving on...


Third period: EcoNOMics

Keeping with the theme of suspect numbers: This week also brought some odd monetary insight courtesy of NOM President Brian Brown's very own ACTRight.com website. According to a figure running on that site, NOM's month-old "Let The People Vote" effort is on its way to earning a whopping five million dollars:

Screen Shot 2011-08-19 At 1.24.21 Pm
SOURCE: ActRight.com

For less advanced students, let me remind you: This is no small chunk of change. And it raises many questions, especially since there are already so many questions surrounding the money pipeline that pumps into NOM HQ.

This figure could be a false claim or it could truly be born out of a hefty donation from some unrevealed source(s). Either way, prospective "culture war" graduates would be wise to keep an eye on these seemingly fishy fiscals. It could be key to acing the big test.


Fourth period: Social Studies

Speaking to Focus on the Family, adjunct professor Chris Plante (of NOM Rhode Island) did manage to not compare gay people's children to teacup dogs or to liken same-sex parents to the "tragic situation" of dead parents. However, he did fault gays for not rushing to sign up for his state's recently-enacted civil unions, saying "it shows that gay marriage advocates simply want to redefine the institution of marriage…when they claim they need rights or benefits, they are being disingenuous at best."

[::Jeremy raises hand::] "Ooh, teacher -- pick me, pick me!"

[::Jeremy receives acknowledgement and continues::] "Well you see, Mr. Plante: In a world where civil marriage and religious ceremony are already separate concepts, civil unions are a new, and I would say contrived way of looking at relational recognition, which is precisely why so many same-sex couples -- especially now, here in a world where marriage equality is a reality that has more than proven its worth and sustainability -- opt to wait for what is inevitably in the cards for the entire nation rather than take part in a separate and less-than-equal system that will *always* contain some sort of inadequacies. When we talk about Rhode Island, specifically, we're talking about a small state where five much larger neighbors to the immediate north and west already offer full state-level marriage equality. There is surely no state in the nation where a full equality bump up is more fully in the cards, at least in such a predictably immediate way. So can you blame those long-waiting couples for sticking it out for what can reasonably be assumed to be just an eensy bit more time? Can you blame them for not utilizing this redefined form of civil bonding when they know that full civil marriage equality is what they deserve?"

If Mr. Plante wants to give me detention for my answer, then okay. More time to explain to him that equal rights will never be detained in a civil unions holding pattern. Not ultimately.


Fifth period: Pscyhology

NOM's principal surely knows that pedophilia is defined as a paraphilia/sexual disorder by the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. That didn't stop Pres. Brian Brown -- someone supposedly focused exclusively on the civil marriage fight -- from teasing the idea that same-sex marriage and the acceptance of LGB people's sexual orientations are going to somehow lead to "normalizing pedophilia." In his weekly take-home paper to NOM pupils, Brown wrote:

"Enquiring people want to know: Will pedophiles become "minor-attracted persons" in our culture? Will courts which endorse orientation as a protected class decide down the road that therefore laws which discriminate against "minor-attracted persons" must be narrowly tailored to a compelling government interest?

Here's the fundamental truth: Ideas have consequences and so do words—because they contain ideas, because they are the vehicle through which and by which human beings describe reality.

The reality that men and women need each other, and that children need a mom and dad, is the truth most at risk in the same-sex marriage debate."

*SOURCE: NOM Weekly Newsletter, credited to Brian Brown

I'd hope Brian knows better than to believe a direct link between anyone's sexual orientation and something like pedophilia. But whether he does or does not is not the point here. The idea of this assignment was to connect some fear dots in people's minds using this crude, completely unrelated material. To foster a meme without getting NOM's hands too dirty.

But I think Brian failed on that last part. Because while the obvious intent was to give Americans a lesson on the supposed "slippery slope" that is same-sex marriage, I would argue that the larger takeaway on this one concerns NOM and its newfound willingness to say uber-harsh things to push a supposedly grounded cause. At least that's what I, the ever-perceptive NOM student, got out of it.


Sixth period: Communications

On Thursday (8/18), Brian Brown appeared on Fox Business' "Stossel" show, where he kinda, sorta sounded like Screen Shot 2011-08-19 At 3.17.31 Pm a talking point machine that had been fed a script in the green room backstage. Don't get me wrong: He showed up, looked the part, and handled the camera ably enough. But punditry relies on convincing the audience that the pundit is speaking from the heart. The tone should be as conversational as the contrived setting will allow, with the speaker (a) convincing the host that he or she is up for whatever way the dialogue may turn, (b) outpacing the opposition with meritorious arguments, and (c ) winning over the viewer with the kind of undeniable logic and fact that either hides or eschews obvious talking points. Brian sounded like NOM's website, just read on camera.

At one point in Brian's appearance, the audience audibly chortled at Brian's rote claim that "the state should support what is true and good and beautiful." It seems people are really starting to see through NOM's usual schtick. Finally. Maybe?

But perhaps the most startling NOM Comm. lesson of the week came on the organization's official Facebook home. In order to drum up "likes," staffers asked potential supporters to join them "to support marriage as God intended it to be." I say startling, because other than when appearing on Christian radio programs, I don't think I've ever seen NOMmers be so honest about their hope to deny civil marriage on the basis of personal theology. It was refreshing, really. Not to mention incredibly useful for civil marriage equality advocates, considering that whole church/state thing we've got going on here in America.

NOM Watchers should use these kinds of media monitoring takeaways to shape their own pushback.


Seventh Period: Foreign Language

Forget Spanish and pardon French: For the umpteenth continual week, NOM's entire faculty continued to teach benign acceptance of certain citizens' marriages and families as a language that is and should remain foreign to all Americans. It's the one perquisite that informs their entire cadre of teaching. The one class whose demanded enrollment keeps so many loving minds closed off to conversation.

The class we all should be proud to fail.


I either hear a bell or my choice to kiss my husband has set off some sort of NOM alarm. Either way: School's dismissed for now.

Have yourself a great weekend of rest and relaxation, actually living your life rather than fighting to equally do so. But we need you back here next week, Nation. To Organize. For Marriage.

Peace,

Jeremy Hooper
Good As You/NOM Exposed

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