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09/25/2011

Days and Slights: This Week in NOM (Sep. 18 - Sep. 24)

by Jeremy Hooper

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Dear NOM Watcher,

Life is marked by transitions. Birth. Death. Switching shampoos. Oh, and perhaps biggest for our interest: Marriage.

So too, NOM. This week, we saw all kinds of NOM transitions, from the birth of a new group to the end of a former reign. All of which provide us with new ways to glean insight into the group that wants to put vice grips on marriage and its meaning.

We'll look at it all. But first let's get started with a little thea-tuh.


Maggie takes aisle seat

The most ridiculous NOM story of the week actually happened at the very beginning. On Monday night, NOM's Maggie Gallagher actually showed up at the one night only production of 8, Dustin Lance Black's dramatic structuring of the Prop 8 trial transcripts. Amid an audience that surely rejects her work more than just about any other per capita crowd ever assembled in American history, there she was, the most identifiable member of the organization that spearheaded Prop 8 and continues to push similar measures across the country and federally. She just showed up, as if it were The Lion King or something. That takes some nerve!

Oh, and it also takes some cash, which Maggie had to contribute directly to the American Foundation for Equal Rights in order to claim her seat. So that means Maggie's now an AFER donor, which is pretty darn delicious!

But why was she there, really? Well, a later-in-week NOM development might provide that answer. Stay tuned for some speculation on that.

(*Photo evidence courtesy of Freedom To Marry's Josh Meltzer)


John takes head chair

But while the Maggie-on-Broadway news was certainly the most bizarre moment, the biggest NOM development this week revolved around the announcement of a new Board Chair. We learned mid week that Maggie is moving on to other NOM projects (more on that in a sec), so in her stead, NOM has chosen prominent conservative attorney, professor, and failed California Attorney General candidate John C. Eastman.

My first reaction: Big shocker. NOM has been all kinds of into Eastman and his career for quite some time. In fact, when John was running for CA AG, NOM co-hosted a big ticket D.C. fundraiser for the candidate. This was followed by Eastman actually running, without any qualification or comment, NOM press releases, verbatim, on his campaign website. And during that 2010 cycle, NOM president Brian Brown even described Eastman's ultimately unsuccessful bid (he lost to Democrat Kamala Harris) as "one of the most important races in the country.” So the connections were there, plain as the gay-slighting day. This official role is just a formalization of a long-standing relationship.

So what do we know about Eastman? Well, from my hours of vetting, I found lots of pragmatic legalese, suggesting that we're likely going to get a more measured voice who will strive to up NOM's scholarly credentials. With Eastman, NOM can play the "he's a lawyer" card, which will surely earn points with some. In looking at his past, I see a new NOM chair who will most likely play a button-downed, "just that (false) facts, ma'am" role.

But that being said: I did find a few eye-openers amid the jargon. For instance: Back in 2003, Eastman pushed a very anti-LGBT/pro-"ex-gay" column penned by noted extremist Scott Lively (Google "Scott Lively" and "Uganda" and prepare to be mind-blown). In 2000, Eastman positioned homosexuality as, along with abortion, one of the twentieth centuries' "twin relics of barbarism." In that same year, he referred to gay-straight alliances as "incubators of moral relativism." And perhaps the most insight into the new NOM Chair's views came when he defended the Boy Scouts' gay-exclusionary practices in court, applauding the organization for standing against the "currently fashionable view that homosexual conduct is just another legitimate lifestyle choice."

Obviously, we'll have to wait and see what the Eastman era brings. But from past writings, it's pretty clear that marriage isn't his only LGBT-centric sticking point, even if his new role will demand him to stick only to the "protect marriage" script.


Timothy takes dogmatic pen and stationary

In terms of NOM's now patently obvious Catholic basis: The organization was quick to jump on a new letter that Archbishop Timothy Dolan, President of the US Bishops Conference, sent to the Obama administration. The gist of the letter, as you might expect, revolved around Dolan chastising the "attacks" that the President has supposedly waged against "traditional marriage." It's typical stuff from a church leadership that seems to think personal faith beliefs are perfectly fair planks from which to sink certain *CIVIL* rights.

All you have to do to recognize the overstep is to look at how NOM staffers headlined their take on the Dolan letter, a single line reading: "US Bishops Step Up, Demand Obama Administration Cease Its Attacks on Marriage and Family." It's not the "attack" part with which I have a big problem, since the NOM crowd has "boy who cried wolf" that term into a de-contextualized state that no longer persuades anyone. To me, the more egregious word here is "demand." It says all you need to know about how NOM and figures like Archbishop Dolan view this conversation. They seem to think that religious freedom affords them with the right to make such demands. The goal seems to be for everyone, regardless of chosen faith beliefs, to uncritically submit to their religious dictums. Chilling.

In his letter, Dolan writes of the "growing sense of urgency" he feels towards the modern marriage fight. Well I say, "Right back atcha, Timothy!" Only my urgency pertains to Dolan and NOM's marriage between civil and canonical law, not the growing sense of marriage equality that is slowly but surely bettering this nation.


'Anti-Defamation' takes dictionary, checks if term longer means anything

On Friday came word of what Maggie will be doing with her newfound spare time: She's heading a NOM-branded project called "The Marriage Anti-Defamation Alliance," in which she'll try to "to create a supportive community for those who have been threatened for standing for marriage, to nip the climate of fear being created in the bud, to expose for fair-minded Americans on both sides of the debate the threats being made, to conduct high-quality qualitative and quantitative research documenting the extent of the harm, to develop legislative and community proposal to protect Americans right to engage in the core civil rights: to organize, to vote, to speak, to donate, and to write for marriage." Naturally.

I've already mused, at length, about why NOM is directing resources toward this effort. In short: The organization wants to change not only America's laws but also the American psyche itself, so that the organic script of greater equality building a stronger nation (i.e. the tried and true script we've seen throughout history) will flip in their favor. They are trying to change the psychology so that people won't follow their instinct towards seeing civil rights deprival as a discriminatory act. For a fully fleshed out take on this, see my NOM Exposed post on the subject.

This late-in-week news of this ADA project also takes us back to week's begin: The 8 play and why Maggie might've been there. Just think about it: Maggie is launching a new project all about how marriage equality activists are the big bad meanies who are constantly in search of some other "traditional marriage" proponent to attack. So what would've been a better way for Maggie to launch her new time-waster than with a video of some playgoers acting like she so desperately wants them to act? It's likely that she wanted some sort of story, photo, or video that would give her new ADA project some launch fuel. In terms of the politics (detached from merit), it would be smart strategy.

Word on the street is that Maggie even tried to go backstage. Well of course she did: Because just imagine what kind of story she could've launched with, had she managed to coax one of the actors or, better yet, their real life counterparts into a red-faced tirade against her? Picture someone like Ted Olson scoffing at Maggie Gallagher. You would have heard Maggie "squee!"-ing from coast to coast! The Prop 8 proponents (and NOM in particular) would have had fundraising pitch letters written before Maggie had even hailed her cab home. I'd bet money that Maggie's ADA effort was a big reason why she showed up in that theatre Monday night: To all-but-taunt her opposition into saying or doing something stupid.

But by all accounts (including Maggie's telling lack of personal report), no big run-in took place. Because the truth is that while any equality activist who sees Maggie would be understandably likely to roll a reasoned eye or shake a principled head, few on the side of civil fairness want to "defame" her in any way. What we want is for this contrived fight -- one that has provided Maggie with a huge financial windfall for years now -- to come to an immediate end. We don't want or need to foster a "climate of fear," as NOM claims in the ADA press materials. Our one goal is to silence the fear campaigns that groups like NOM have perpetuated for their own duplicitous gains, so that we might finally achieve the sense of peace and fairness that will allow more people to work more closely on TRUE social issues. Because this world sure has enough of them, none of which involve love, rings, or chicken dances.

Until next week,

-Jeremy

Jeremy Hooper
Good As You/ NOM Exposed

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