Days and Slights: This Week in NOM (Feb. 12 - Feb. 18)
Dear NOM Watcher,
We all knew he was going to veto. But still, I can't put into words how much anger rose up within me when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) put his intent into action, nixing his state's passed marriage bill late Friday afternoon.
After so much progress (and don't be fooled, the NJ's legislature passage of a bill is still progress), I thought I was somewhat shielded from this action that I knew to expect. There's been so much momentum in so many states, I thought I'd be fine with this one man -- who, let's establish now, so clearly has an eye on keeping his national GOP street cred -- playing such a cynical political game with his state's same-sex couples. "We can take this setback," I said to myself.
What I didn't expect? That my interest in the "should" would so greatly outweigh the "can." By which I mean, I didn't anticipate my staunch belief in the inevitability of marriage equality in New Jersey being so overshadowed by the wanton and unnecessary burdens that the state's chief executive has so carelessly chosen to place on progress. After so many years of doing this work, I thought my emotional responses were raw enough to allow me to play the political game, even if I recognized this particular game move for the callous politicking that it is.
But I was wrong. Gov. Christie's action lit a white hot fire in my ever-passionate soul. As a nearby neighbor and frequent visitor to the Garden State, I couldn't help, at the moment of learning of the Governor's follow-through, of visualizing all of the amazing people I know who were so gratuitously harmed by Gov. Christie's one pen stroke. I thought of my in-laws, so proud to not only walk my husband down that Connecticut aisle almost three years ago now, but to also come back, get me, and bring me to their son. I thought of the New Jersey nun, a longtime family friend, who danced a blue streak at that same wedding, in full habit and full happiness. I thought of courageous voices in the state like Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, who could've given his Governor half of his own fortitude and still had enough to spare. I thought of my friends at Garden State Equality who've done such intense and focused work on this issue in the face of unique and varied setbacks that would've retired a less-committed staff. I thought of the various young family members scattered around the state who are hearing of their Governor's action on the local news and wondering what makes Andrew and Jeremy so controversial that their relationship must be subjected to such debate and, ultimately, repudiation. But mostly, I thought of a state that I know to be so warm and accepting -- a prevailing sense that Gov. Chris Christie just mocked with one unprincipled action.
And while I am 100% convinced that this action will backfire on the Governor, I take no real comfort in that. Because this isn't about politics for me, not at the end of the day. This is about the right, fair, sound, and productive progress of a state and nation. Here, right before Presidents' Day, Gov. Chris Christie chose to thumb his nose at so much good will, to the benefit of nothing tangible or real. He just hurt so many human beings. Citizens. Tax-payers. Friends. Family members. For what?
Earlier this week, prior to his veto, the Governor described his legislature's successful passage of a bill as nothing more than "theater." In truth, he is the one who has turned this civil rights conversation into a power play. It's called: "I'm Chris Christie and I have my eye on a VP slot or higher." It's just a shame (and a travesty) that his audition has forced countless many into the wings.
But the train keeps rolling in the right direction
As you surely know, Washington's Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) signed her state's marriage bill this week. State number seven, if enacted.
As you most likely also know, the Maryland House passed its own marriage bill late Friday afternoon. The bill is expected to have an easier chance of passage in the Senate, and supportive Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) would sign thereafter. State number eight, if enacted.
Our successes are great and growing. No pen stroke will ever stop them.
In both Washington and Maryland, there is a very real chance that the matter will go before a referendum in November. If they do go that direction, those states will join Minnesota, North Carolina (in May), and Maine as places where our rights will go before a public vote this year (*although in Maine, the effort is proactive, from our side).
So even though we have both the fuel and the keys, we can't forget the daily drive. This equality thing isn't a start and stop sort of thing, where we can pop in on the good, fun days and pop out during the lulls. For NOM, taking away our rights is an everyday chore that they have chosen to take on. It must be the same for us. Or at least as many of us who can dedicate the time to such an annoying but necessary reality.
Keeping on a Washington for a sec…
One NOM funny came to light this week, once again through the vehicle of stock photos. This one happened with the aforementioned Preserve Marriage Washington campaign, the funnel through which NOM and other groups are channeling their attempt to put civil rights to the voters.
When NOM and Co. launched the PMW site, none of us were surprised to see them using stock photos. By now, we all know that fake families are the only families the other side ever uses to represent their causes. Whereas our side's campaigns are always filled with individuals from all walks of life, status, sexual orientation, and connection to the cause, our opposition prefers to purchase their "supporters" from stock photo websites. Which is fine, in terms of their right to do so. It just says so, so much about the myth that underlies their every step.
So anyway, Washington activist Joe Mirabella took the initiative to contact Ameridesign, the company behind the images that NOM is using in his state. Here's what they had to say about the usage and the cause:
“Ameridesign was disappointed to learn our photograph is being used in an effort to take away civil marriage for same-sex couples in Washington by the organization ‘Preserve Marriage Washington.’ The organization purchased our photo from a large database of stock images without any contact with us,” They wrote, “Ameridesign supports the rights of loving and committed same-sex couples to marry.”
MORE: Anti same sex civil marriage group caught using fake family photos [SeattlePI]
Delicious, right? Not only are the paid model families not actual Washingtonians (Ameridesign is based in Austria), but the creators who made these "families" happen in the first place are now on record against the NOM cause. The very thing that Preserve Marriage Washington is using to make its site look pretty and legit is instead making a mockery of the very idea that marriage is something that needs to be "preserved" from the crushing weight of gay.
It has to be a psychological freak out for NOM, if nothing else. And it's of course just more evidence of the world's changing tide -- one where companies are proud to come out against discriminatory causes.
Let's "change" pace a bit
One thing I didn't expect to talk about this week was so-called "ex-gay"ness and its attachment to NOM. While I've frequently mentioned NOM's advocacy on behalf of "change"/ celibacy/ the idea that gay = broken, the people who speak for the organization are usually good about keeping that conversation under the radar. About not tempting the fates.
But this week? This week they chose to accuse those of us who note these sort of things of lying about their record. And no -- I, for one, am not going to take that.
It all started when Maggie Gallagher appeared on Chris Hayes' MSNBC show "Up." When a panelist, The Nation's Richard Kim, mentioned Maggie and NOM's past support for "change," Maggie responded "I've never advocated for gay reparative therapy and the National Organization for Marriage does not," saying Kim had "created someone you can throw darts at." Then, when NOM posted that same clip on its blog, the NOM blogger wrote that Maggie was forced to respond to "made-up facts about NOM."
So okay. Because I truly think it needs to be repeated in as many forums as possible, here, once again, is just a smattering of "change"/celibacy/gay-as-broken advocacy that I've seen from NOM and its stewards:
- NOM co-founder Maggie Gallagher advocating the idea that gays are broken and can/should make alterations: Maggie has called homosexuality an "unfortunate thing," "at a minimum, a sexual dysfunction much as impotence or infertility," and "a sexual disability preventing certain individuals from participating in the normal reproductive patterns of the human species." She has also suggested that gays "can always control their behavior," and even made a direct call for a sitting President to give more funding to scientifically-shunned "ex-gay" research. And that's not even mentioning the time Maggie advised gays to "pick a girl, love her, make a family."
- NOM president Brian Brown: Recently touted a (flawed, deeply faith-based) "ex-gay" study, saying "Even those who disagree with us about gay marriage (or Christian sexual ethics) should feel good about this this scientific verification of the possibility of free will triumphing over desire. We are all more than our instincts, sexual or otherwise" [SOURCE]. This is the same Brian Brown who, when leading the Connecticut Family Institute in 2006, encouraged parents to attend the "ex-gay" Love Won Out conference, which he said was a way to "prevent your child from embracing this destructive way of life."
- NOM's Culture Director, blogger, and "Next Generation Project" head Thomas Peters: Has advocated for Courage, a Catholic "change" organization. Peters has also said that the MSM intentionally denies that "change happens." Oh, and here's one of Thomas pushing a separate "12-step program for people with same-sex attraction."
- Jennifer Roback Morse, head of NOM's affiliate Ruth Institute: Recently 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." Her Ruth Institute has also proudly pushed press releases claiming that "change happens."
- Damian Goddard, the man who is working with Maggie on her recently launched "Marriage Anti-Defamation" project: Also advocated for "Courage," the aforementioned organization geared towards helping LGBT Catholics "change." Goddard has also said that gays are "basically throwing away a gift that’s been given to you by God."
- Oh, and whoever runs the NOM Facebook page (presumably someone at Opus Fidelis, the Catholic firm NOM hired for social media outreach) recently "liked" a comment in which a supporter touted the "formerly gay people that realized the wrong in it and felt the same emptiness and changed."
And there's surely more. There is simply no denying that the majority of top NOMmers have a foundational belief in the idea that we gay folk are in need of some sort of help. I am only judging them BY THEIR OWN WORDS!
If they want to accuse me of making stuff up, then I will keep mentioning this stuff (and digging for more, which I know is out there). Why? Because this, the obviously pointed judgement of homosexuality itself, is the story that NOM wants to hide in order to seem solely focused on marriage. We, the folks who pay attention to this stuff, have to show how much further the NOM view really goes.
The CA cash cow '8' it in court; NOM still milking
NOM was also back in the Prop 8 game this week. And of course by in the game, I mean they were using their recent loss in yet another level of court as a way for them to raise money against those "activist" judges and their "activist" facts.
Off the back of the Ninth Circuit ruling, NOM claims to raised over $100,000 in just a week's time, collected from "almost 1,500 donors." Although as we know with NOM, they would've said they achieved this goal even if they didn't really hit it. Or, they got the bulk of the money upfront from some mystery source and then parlayed that into some week-long grassroots effort. Or they found some Monopoly money which they're telling the public is real. Or…
What I'm saying, essentially, is that NOM is not to be trusted in the area of fundraising. Ever. In that overplayed game, NOM is like the boy who cried wolf's even more illusory cousin. And while we NOM Watchers should absolutely keep digging on NOM financing and its never-ending parade of eyebrow-raisers, we should also accept the fact that, as of now, they are going to achieve whatever fundraising goal they set. Money is not going to be NOM's problem the way it is for a real grassroots organization. Their (largely Catholic) pipeline will continue to pump, so long as NOM keeps up the mirage of growing success.
Speaking up that mirage…
Despite the oh-so-obvious momentum that is on the pro-equality side, president Brian Brown claimed in his weekly newsletter that NOM is simply teeming with "Marriage Victories the Media is Trying to Hide." Not surprising he would say as much, since spinning illusions is one of the NOM Machine's key functions. But it's pretty laughable here, right now, in a world where we pro-peace, pro-progress activists are making such enormous strides -- strides that are being countered by a rapidly dwindling resistance movement.
- "Taking marriage to the people of Washington." It is absurd to call this one anything resembling a victory. For starters, the state legislature's passage of a marriage bill was a huge loss for NOM. It was also the major story here, which is obviously why the media focused on it (despite Brian's self-victimized "media hiding us" motif). But even if that weren't the case, the truth is that Brian's crew hasn't even achieved success with their marriage referendum. They still have to collect enough signatures before the June 6 deadline. So at best, Brian is counting chickens before they've hatched.
- "Gay marriage loses again! In New Jersey?!" Again, a sham. The truth is that the New Jersey legislature's passage of a marriage bill shows the amazing progress that has been achieved since the last time it came up. This time, both houses managed to pass the bill quite handily. And considering the legislature has until 2014 to connect the last remaining dots they need in order to get an override of Gov. Christie's unwarranted veto, I wouldn't even call it a loss. Gov. Christie doesn't get to single-handedly define "loss" here. (*AND REMINDER ABOUT NJ: The state Supreme Court *mandated* equality for same-sex couples. The legislature was tasked with implementing the court's 2006 opinion, and they chose civil unions instead of full marriage. Civil unions have failed to deliver. That means the past legislative action has failed. This also means there is a very real possibility that the court, where a case is currently underway, could agree with us and this time mandate full marriage. So this state is a little different from others.)
- "The black church in Maryland stands up for marriage!" What?! Really? As mentioned earlier, the state Assembly passed a marriage bill this week (with several black, churchgoing members voting for it). And the Senate will hopefully soon do the same. So even though there is a possibility of referendum, it is beyond silly to say that anyone, regardless of race or church attendance, "stood up" against same-sex marriage in Maryland this week. We, the principled practitioners of the pro-equality side, are the ones who took a stand this week. The media noted the reality.
- "Will the New Hampshire legislature repeal gay marriage?" This is a victory, Brian? An open-ended question that hasn't even been put into motion yet and that is filled with enormous hurdles for the NOM side?! Wow, what desperation!
But mining "wins" out of setbacks is nothing new for NOM. And considering the clear and obvious trajectory before us, we should expect this game of pretend to turn into an all-out Tournament of Truth-Twisting over the next few years.
Because as both Gov. Christie and NOM continued to show us this week, the opposition movement is more than okay with turning this whole thing into a game. If that's going to be the case, then I'm more than ready to go toe-to-toe. And win. Are you?
Until next week,
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