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10/01/2011

Days and Slights: This Week in NOM (Sep. 25 - Oct. 1)

by Jeremy Hooper

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Dear NOM Watchers,

Next week, when conservatives from across the nation gather in D.C. for the Family Research Council's annual Values Voter Summit, attendees will have two opportunities to hear NOM representatives do their thing. The first opp. comes in the form of a panel oh-so-cleverly titled "Straight Talk on Gay 'Marriage'" (second set of quotes their own), where a representative from U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, a president from the so-called Maryland Families Alliance, and a former pro football player (seriously, that's the only credential they give him) will join NOM president Brian Brown for some good ol' fashioned "marriage protecting." The second opp. will be a breakout session titled "Our Turn To Lead: Why Young Conservatives Must Engage To Shape The Debate," at which Catholic blogger turned NOM strategist Thomas Peters will join other less-grey-haired activists for some thought-food on how conservatives might convince today's more tolerant young folks to drop their support for things like marriage equality once they age out of American Apparel's target demographic.

What I find most frustrating about these kinds of conference strategy sessions is not what will or will not be said. We've heard it all, we know their buckets are abounding with holes, and nothing they say has the power to intimidate those of us on the side of truth, love, peace, fairness, and growing poll numbers. So no, it's going to take much more than a preferential pep rally to cause my wedding-ring-adorned hand to quiver. And in fact, I kind of love it when they talk, as foot-in-mouth disease seems to be particularly communicable among social conservatives this fall.

No, no -- What annoys me is how par-for-the-course these panels are. Meaning: I knew without even looking at the Family Research Council's schedule that there would be at least one plenary session dedicated to stifling my life, love, and fair recognition thereof. Because there are always these kinds of panels at these kinds of conferences. We all just accept that. The modern conservative moment has drilled into us the idea one cannot allow a GOP elephant into a banquet hall without also hosting his cousins Banner and Bias. Such unfortunate societal limitations have become as much a part of the modern Republican party as have over-enthusiastic Ron Paul supporters, Fargo-accented female superstars, gay conservatives, and "we're not worthy"-style knee drops incited by the mere mention of the name Ronald Reagan.

It's truly sad that one of our two major political parties has become such a warm and accepting incubator for this kind of thing, to the point where any non-inclusion at a leading party conference is an oddity, not a norm. And I don't mean "sad" in a lefty, "Republicans are sad," pejorative sort of way -- I mean to say that it truly makes me sad that this is the political reality in which we must still live.

And speaking of sad political realities in which we must still live: Let's move on to some of what we saw form NOM this week, shall we?


Buell's hit

This week, NOM unveiled the second would-be martyr in its truly ill-conceived "Marriage Anti-Defamation" campaign. The new selection is Jerry Buell, the Florida teacher whose local public school system investigated his conduct after heScreen Shot 2011-09-26 At 10.16.49 Am chose to go on his Facebook wall and quite callously condemn gay people and their right to marry.

To remind you, Mr. Buell wrote that when he saw New York had legalized same-sex marriage he "almost threw up," before instructing society to not "insult a man and woman's marriage by throwing it in the same cesspool as same-sex whatever!" He added "God will not be mocked," for good religious measure, and then asked, whether rhetorically or because he was in search of a specific date and time: "When did this sin become acceptable???" (three question marks his own)

Now, it's pretty darn easy for most people to see why these comments, once they went out in the major way that Facebook things tend to do in this modern world, raised some concerns with a public school system. This is especially true when one considers that even Mr. Buell's own Liberty Counsel attorney admitted that Mr. Buell has raised other church/state concerns through conduct completely unrelated to his comments on marriage. Free speech is great and valued, but it doesn't afford anyone an entitlement to scrutiny-less employment.

Also, it's pretty darn easy to see the callousness in Mr. Buell's words, regardless of where you stand on marriage. "Cesspool"? "Vomit"? This isn't highbrow politicking here. In fact, to his credit, longtime conservative Chuck Colson -- no stranger to incendiary comments himself -- actually chastised Buell's words for lacking in style and civility. On this, a generalized repudiation of what Buell said and how he said it, large swaths of us should be able to find agreement.

But not NOM. Not our dear NOM. Not only did the organization make a video applauding Buell and his supposed bravery against "defamation," but NOM president Brian Brown actually went so far as to hail the teacher as a -- wait for this one -- "AMERICAN HERO"! I'm not making this up -- In NOM's weekly newsletter (the original "Days and Slights" column), Brown actually ascribed that label to Buell. As if what, future American children will turn to their "Icons of American History" coloring books in curious wonderment, asking their parents what crayon to use for both Betsy Ross' needles and Jerry Buell's cesspools? Does that sound like a likely patriot portrait to you? Nah, me neither.

The Buell video was a bit of surprise to me, actually. I told you earlier in the week that the New York town clerks who refused to marry same-sex couples would be the next video stars, based on Maggie Gallagher's own statement that the clerks' video(s) would be released on October 6. But then again, perhaps I should have known that there would be an interim vid, considering how NOM's first "Anti-Defamation" video led pro-equality voices to haul out the boatload of reasons why Frank Turek is one of the most laughable choices from whence to launch an "Anti-Defamation" effort and led YouTubers to reject the NOM video at an 86%-14% clip. It's no surprise they'd want to move on as quickly as possible!

(*Though as you can see form the above screengrab, the like/dislike breakdown isn't going much better for them this time around)


Highway NOMmery

Another development came via one of NOM's favorite artforms: Threatening billboards. As I've told NOM Watchers several times before: NOM actually launched its entire national profile on such a campaign, likening Screen Shot 2011-09-26 At 10.16.49 Ama Massachusetts state lawmaker to both Benedict Arnold and Judas Iscariot simply because he voted against NOM's wishes. Since then, there have been other campaigns warning this politician or that voter about the supposed perils of supporting equality. If every Michelangelo must have his or her own Sistine Chapel, then NOM's artisans seem to have chosen overhead roadside canvas as their intimidatory medium.

These latest billboards are pretty weird, warning various New York state politicians that they are "next." There's no context provided for why these politicians are marked, there's simply the "you're next" warning and a link to NOM's "Let The People Vote" website. The whole display surely means very little to most locals. And considering New York is not even a direct ballot state nor a region where a marriage amendment has any reasonable chance of growing legs, those New Yorkers who do check out NOM's "Let The People Vote" site are only going to be more confused.

But since when has fleshing out fact ever been in NOM's organizational interest? The obvious goal here is to seem tough and powerful both in New York and elsewhere. Especially elsewhere, in fact, with the hope being that electeds in other states will be scared by the possibility of having their own name targeted in the not-too-distant future.

Like so many NOM projects, this billboard effort is politicking at its worst. The boards may use the word "next," but they are anything but progress.


'Change' agents

One shocking development this week was seeing how fully various NOM employees came out for the scientifically repudiated idea that gays can or should change. Being largely Catholic, most of the NOM wording skewed more towards the Vatican-preferred notion of celibacy than it did towards full-blown reparative therapy. But in four separate instances this week, four of NOM's top staffers threw a bone to the generalized "ex-gay" movement, proving how much beyond marriage NOM's agenda really goes.

First the new guy, Damian Goddard, the man who is working with Maggie on that silly new "Anti-Defamation" project. Damian's "ex-gay" comment was actually made a few months back, but just came to prominent light this week. On his Twitter account this summer, Damian wrote:

Screen Shot 2011-09-26 At 10.16.49 Am

"Courage," for those less versed in LGBT speak, is an organization geared towards helping LGBT Catholics "change." Or again, being Catholic, the goal is more along the lines of stifling "behavior" than it is "praying away the gay." But it's all one big bird of the same orientation-denying feather.

Then there's Maggie Gallagher. In her weekly syndicated column (which was a doozy in and of itself), Maggie closed with a supposed answer to the misplaced question of why gay equality activists supposedly shun Christians, with Maggie positing it's "So that legitimate pity for the gay man, and his suffering as a child, can be turned against the moral authority of chastity, for that system of sexual ethics that begins not with our desires but with our responsibility to discipline and elevate them." If there's any other way of interpreting Maggie's words about "chastity" and responsibility to discipline desires than to see them as a direct call to gays, then it's lost on me. And considering I've already documented Maggie calling homosexuality an "unfortunate thing" and "at a minimum, a sexual dysfunction much as impotence or infertility," as well as suggesting gays "can always control their behavior" and calling on a sitting President to give more research dollars to "ex-gay" research, I really don't think I'm missing anything finer or more nuanced in her latest call.

Next up: Jennifer Roback Morse of NOM's affiliate Ruth Institute. On her Catholic radio program, Morse went into a long explanation about how Catholics like herself don't "accept the category of gayness," basically saying that we are all just men and women who are meant to be heterosexual, regardless of our "attractions." It's a truly startling admission from such a top NOMmer, and I really encourage you to listen and consider her thoughts in full. Consider them an USE THEM!

Then finally and most formally: President Brian Brown. In his weekly newsletter (yes, that again), Brian wrote a very lengthy push for a highly agenda-laden "study" conducted by two Christian college professors. In his push, Brian spoke of "managing sexual desire" and "faith in human freedom and human reason," and called it "heartening" to see "motivated religious individuals in this [study] sample who sought to bring their sexual behavior to conform to their religious ideals succeeded—some by changing their self-reported sexual orientation, even more by exercising the difficult virtue of chastity." His words put faith before science and agendas before nature's truths. And like all of the others in this category, Brian words are proof positive that, if left to its own organizational devices, a NOM-ruled world would not be one where gays' ring fingers are the only targeted body part.


National Organization for [limiting public schools even when detached from] Marriage

And finally, let me close out with yet another development that has all but eliminated my ability to any longer be shocked by NOM. On Wednesday, when writing about incoming NOM Board Chair John Eastman's own personal advocacy against inclusive teaching in California, I said I doubted NOM itself would come onboard such a campaign. As I wrote at the time: "(a) going after such fair public school practices would prove that they want to stop more than marriage, and (b) going after such public school decisions in a state that doesn’t currently have marriage equality would belie their popular campaign logic positioning same-sex marriage as the one pivot point on which such inclusive teaching hinges." Even with an increasingly less pragmatic NOM (see above), I still didn't think they'd go after fair teaching practices that were fairly passed and enacted by a fairly elected legislature and governor.

But then they did, via an "urgent message" to supporters. Directly likening this new effort against LGBT-inclusive schools to NOM's own work in the Prop 8 petitioning process, President Brian Brown spoke about this new "critically important opportunity to decide what is taught to your school-age children." Brian hauled out the usual fear lines about how this "would force schools to teach students (even kindergartners!) about homosexuality, bisexuality and transgenderism," before guiding NOM followers on how they can downloadd, fill out, and properly submit their own petition to bring another divisive ballot initiative to The Golden State. Brian even told NOMmers to "take petitions with you to church on Sunday."

So with this, NOM has completely clobbered its key talking point. Here we are talking about California, a state that doesn't currently have marriage equality, thanks in large part to NOM's own handiwork. So if anything, California's FAIR Education Act shows that marriage equality is not the pivot point for fair teaching -- LGBT existences themselves are! But yet NOM, an organization that makes threats of inclusive education the ace fear card in every campaign's hole, is petitioning against such public school practices even when they are wholly independent of marriage?! That proves right there, yet again, that marriage is not really their big issue. NOM, like so many other socially conservative groups, is working towards a world that continues to position LGBT people as some sort of unsavory secret that's only fit for adult eyes and ears -- and only after said adults have been properly inundated with as much stereotype, exaggeration, and downright untruth that an uninformed society can foist upon them.

But the beauty part for us? When they try to work the "marriage will lead to kids being taught about gays" lines in the next state (and you know they will), we now have lock solid proof that the marriage element is a red herring. NOM is going to oppose us because they are going to oppose us, period. If we learn from what they are now handing us on a silver platter -- and I mean really learn and grow our pushback from it -- then we might just oppose them right out of business!


Happy October, my dears. Until next week,

-Jeremy

Jeremy Hooper

Good As You/ NOM Exposed

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