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09/13/2012

What Marylanders should know about equality's cynical opposition

by Jeremy Hooper

Marylanders for Marriage Equality has issued a memo to the media noting some of the tried and (un)true tactics that the National Organization For Marriage—working in tandem with the organization's well-compensated political director, Frank Schubert—has used in the past, as well as detailing some of the new ones that are cropping up in the fight to take away equality in the Old Line State.

The highlights (by which I of course mean lowlights):

Strategy 1: Exploit race

NOM is a national extremist group that funds a significant part of the Maryland Marriage Alliance - this according to MMA’s own web
Screen Shot 2012-09-13 At 10.43.18 Am site (before their early September re-design) and based on financial disclosure reports. NOM’s president, Brian Brown, is a founding director of MMA. Schubert is the visible national operative leading the charge to defeat Maryland’s Question 6.

The link between the national and statewide group is significant because of NOM’s national strategy - used in a number of states - to defeat marriage for gay and lesbian couples. That strategy as outlined in its 2009 internal memos is to "drive a wedge between gays and blacks… fanning the hostility raised in the wake of Prop. 8."
Given Maryland’s racial diversity and the sizable African-American vote, we should expect to see some of those insidious tactics here by NOM/MMA.

Strategy 2: Convince voters gay marriage will be taught in schools if it’s legal

In TV ads, direct mail, and mainstream media, NOM had pushed this message in other states where marriage has been up for debate, including California, Maine, and New York. And it's already happening here. Last month, Rev. McCoy issued a statement warning that “Maryland parents who send their children to public schools are immediately asking how does this [same-sex marriage] affect what is taught in schools.”

The answer is it doesn’t. The independent fact checking site, PolitiFact, has deemed the charge "false." And opponents know it isn’t true. Marc Mutty, who ran the anti-gay 2009 campaign in Maine admitted, "We all use a lot of hyperbole and I think that's always dangerous. You know, we say things like 'Teachers will be forced to (teach same-sex marriage in schools)!' Well, that's not completely accurate and we all know it, you know?"

In Maryland, a school’s specific curriculum is decided by local school districts. Teachers and parents decide what is taught in the classroom, and no state law – including the marriage question on the November ballot – changes that (see MD Edu. Code Ann. § 4-111).

Strategy 3: Make voters think they’re being duped

Following the release of ballot language that calls for civil marriage licenses for gay and lesbian people and protects religious freedom, the Maryland Marriage Alliance called the language a “ploy” and urged voters to be “inherently suspicious.” The Maryland Catholic Conference reacted similarly.

Explicit in both the law signed by Governor O’Malley in March and in the ballot language are important provisions stating that religious institutions are exempt from having to marry anyone they don’t want to. If the marriage of a gay couple violates a minister’s belief, he does not have to perform one.

This is one of those areas where either religious freedom is protected in the language, or it’s not. There’s no gray area. It’s protected.

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