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Days and Slights: This Week in NOM (Apr. 22 - Apr. 28)

by Jeremy Hooper

Dear NOM Watcher,

Want to see how NOM president Brian Brown is now trying to spin the disturbing scandal that is now firmly embedded in the National Organization For Marriage's organizational DNA? Well here, look at what Brian, with an assist from an attorney at the most anti-LGBT law firm in America, writes in this week's NOM newsletter:

"Not surprisingly, those who seek to redefine marriage immediately seized upon the opportunity to attack NOM based on these documents Nom Email 2012-04-26 Primary-Imagewith salacious accusations and vilifications," writes [Alliance Defense Fund Attorney Brian Raum].

He goes on to ask this important question, "So why are HRC, The New York Times, and others attempting demonize NOM simply because they have sought to marshal the black and Hispanic communities to speak out for marriage…?

"The reason why NOM's opponents are so enraged is because NOM is effective."

I think he's right about that. It's not because we speak hatefully or intemperately. You and I have always bent over backwards to remind our opponents that we believe gay people are human beings like us with legitimate rights that need to be respected. But none of us have the right to redefine marriage.

Let me pause to say thank you for all the good together you’ve allowed us to accomplish. We are drawing fire because we are effective, thank God!


Okay, let's break this down.

(1) The "salacious accusations and vilifications" thing: As we all know, social conservatives tend to hate their own words more than anything. When anyone puts a mirror to those words, freak outs are typical. But in this case, the idea is even more ludicrous. People like the NAACP's Julian Bond have accused NOM of wanting to "drive a wedge between blacks and gays" and then proceed to "provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots" because that. is. what. NOM. staff. wrote. into. the. organization's. strategy. plan (among many other nasty things). That's one of the most unique (and damning) things about this now-definitive NOM scandal: It really requires little commentary from us, since they themselves said every indefensible we needed them to say. Had I been hired into the organization as a rogue intern, I still don't think I would have come up with such self-indicting language!


(2) The idea that NOM's "wedge-driving" plan amounted to nothing more than "simply…marshal[ing] the black and Hispanic communities"? Really? REALLY?! Last time I checked, a wedge is a little more than a marshaling! Plus, when you couple the partisan nature of the NOM plan (e.g., gays and blacks were described as "two key Democratic constituencies," they said they wanted to "sideswipe Obama," etc.), the full flavor really comes out. This was a political attempt to bolster Republicans and make NOM look broad-based, while always making gays seem in the wrong. One need not be a deep-in-the-trenches political wonk to connect these dots!


(3) The organization's efficacy is the "reason why NOM's opponents are so enraged…"? Well of course it's just like NOM and NOM allies to puff up chests, shirk both responsibility and humanity, and turn towards the organization's ability to achieve a bare majority in certain elections as a supposed reason why people find this thing so enraging. That's indicative of how the NOMmers seem to view the world, sadly. They don't realize (or at least admit) that a great many of us are deeply saddened by the fact that groups like NOM feel the need to exist as they do—a sadness that goes well beyond whether or not we win on any certain election day. Many of us see this all through the lens of human worth, not through the parameters of this election or that legislative vote. For those of us who hold such a view, NOM will never be "effective" regardless of how many times they "win." We think that we Americans are at a loss—by which I mean all of us, regardless of view—so long as an organization like NOM is operating in our culture with these grand, admitted designs on dividing us a people in ways that prevent us from knowing our unified strength.


(4) As for the idea that NOM is hateful, intemperate, of out to deny other rights: Well, they certainly love to press release that idea. Only problem, for those of us who watch NOM every day, is that these claims have a way of falling short in the real world. Personally, I've seen several key NOMmers push all kinds of "ex-gay" therapy; align their orgs with people who make wild claims about gays being worse than incest or war; attempt to link homosexuality to pedophilia; oppose things like adoption rights; knock gay parents for things that have nothing to do with marriage; etc. And of course NOM aligns its organization with any number of outreach arms that, if fleshed out on a chart, connect the organization to every last facet of the "pro-family" movement, from pragmatic to anything-but.

NOM fancies itself as a sort of PR firm for the marriage-banning movement. NOM's in-house thinkers and strategists can believe their own press all they want; I will stick with the way-too-many hours of firsthand insight I've gleaned since the org launched (**launched with an extremely mean-spirited billboard campaign, btw).


And finally, (5) A return to the idea that NOM is "drawing fire because [they] are effective": That idea is just so weak under any read. Yes, NOM gets attention because they are out there with a seemingly endless well of suspect cash and a faith-motivated drive to hurt same-sex couples in every state and federally. But NOM is not under fire simply because the organization has a heightened profile. Lots of groups are known entities, yet few are as deeply disliked as the National Organization For Marriage. There are many reasons for that. The personal nature of the fight is one, for sure. But the reason why NOM is more intensely frowned upon than even similarly-toned groups is because of the way the organization operates. I've seriously never seen a single group of individuals who are so unwilling to take responsibility for ANYTHING that they do. NOM, despite so obviously being on the offensive in this far-right-declared "culture war," is so hellbent on positioning its cause as being the "victimized" one that the voices who speak for the organization go into any and every situation with an astounding degree of arrogance that is simply impossible to overlook. There is not an ounce of humility attached to NOM's outward presentations. If the NOMers get their way in a certain situation, they typically gloat in the most spotlight-seizing of fashions before then somehow finding a way to still turn gays into the bad guys (see: the days immediately after Prop 8). If they lose, then they immediately start looking to whatever person or entity they can "punish," no matter how unreasonable, unobtainable, or Pyrrhic their sought-after plan may be (see: the current war against NY Senators). If they are caught doing something shady (see: hiding donors; using Obama rally photos as their own; "driving a wedge between blacks and gays"), then there is never even a slightly contrite tone to anything they say in the aftermath. The NOM voices either spin, bully, misdirect focus, or implement some combination of the three. They are never wrong; they leave no room to be wrong.

I truly believe that NOM has been effective in one major way: effective in turning fence-sitters and even previous NOM supporters over to our side. Maggie Gallagher and Robert George had a vision to take control of the anti-same-sex-marriage movement and come out swinging in one coordinated and resounding national voice. That plan has certainly packed a personal good for those who coordinate all of the aforementioned behaviors, as these NOM gigs have proven quite profitable for the key figures and have certainly afforded these same D.C. players a certain level of access within a conservative movement that still largely (and sadly) values LGBT discrimination. However, when it comes to the actual conversation on marriage, I think NOM has most likely done more damage to that national movement than would've been the case had NOM left the effort to a more loosely assembled grouping of state and national orgs that band together in more organic configurations based on the particular need. Nowadays, when something bad happens to NOM—and despite their aggressive spin, this has really been a truly abysmal year for NOM with a number of NOM failures that shocked even us—that bad thing is immediately connected to the marriage fight, wherever it lays. Even people who aren't so up on these things are starting to see and hear some pretty damaging things that are now nationalized because NOM has made it so.

I know that for me, personally, NOM's entrance on the scene has been immeasurably helpful, effectively short-handing the other side's strategy in ways that were never available before. When NOM decided to tell America that a "Gathering Storm" was a'coming, those of us who do this kind of work could almost feel a shift in the air. We knew we would lose more fights, sure, since all students of history know that civil rights fights still have setbacks even after a tipping point is reached. But NOM's elbowing in, with a message that took the worst Bush era fear claims and clumsily married them with the truly bizarre idea that the anti-equality movement is the actual civil rights fight of our generation, just felt like something new, different, and drastically overplayed in a very out-of-tune way. I have no way of proving it, but I will forever believe that every single day of NOM engagement in the couple of years that have followed has ticked the needle of public support in our direction just a bit more. If I'm right, then NOM's body of work surely has drawn fire: drawn fire to the never-reversing jet engine that is the equality movement!


That's all I care to say this week. More in May!


Jeremy Hooper
Good As You/NOM Exposed

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