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Fact-checking NOM spokesman's CNN appearance

by Jeremy Hooper

Two things:

  1. It is completely ridiculous for NOM Communications Director Thomas Peters to deny that his advocacy against marriage equality is based on his own, deeply canonical version of morality. Thomas, the son of a prominent canon lawyer who has promoted "12 step programs for dealing with same-sex attractions" and described homosexuality and its acceptance as "behaviors that hurt the human person," has made it perfectly clear where he stands, not just on marriage but on homosexuality itself. His views comes from his deeply ingrained conservative Catholicism, which is what led him to the deeply Catholic National Organization For Marriage. He needs to own this.

  2. Thomas and NOM need stop the lie that the Republicans who have come out for marriage equality are has-beens and nobodies. The over 100 right-leaning advocates who signed the amicus brief in support of equality are folks who currently serve in Congress or state legislatures, head up organizations, strategize for campaigns (including the ones held just four months ago), work on the Hill, have and will likely again run for office, talk on TV, write columns, advise their party, who have run for high offices like Governor or even President in the most recent elections cycles, and do any other number of jobs that fit the bill of working in politics. These are prominent GOP thinkers who think for the GOP. Prominently.

That out of the way, you can go read the transcript of a CNN debate between the Human Rights Campaign's Brian Moulton and the aforementioned Peters:

CNN ANCHOR BRIANNA KEILAR: But the contentious issue is not just about morality or God and scripture anymore. It's also about money and yes, taxes which is why some of the country's biggest companies, like Apple, Cisco, Nike, to name a few, signed a legal brief Thursday in support of Obama's argument. So joining me now to talk about this, Brian Moulton, the chief legislative council at the Human Rights Campaign and Thomas Peters from the National Organization for Marriage. Screen Shot 2013-03-03 At 10.53.26 AmLet's start, guys, with the president. Are there legal -- or should I say, political or legal ramifications for a sitting president to be writing a friends of the court brief to the Supreme Court on this issue? You first, Brian.
BRIAN MOULTON, THE HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: Absolutely. The court, obviously, is going to take the government's position and it really is now the U.S. government's position, that proposition eight is unconstitutional, into account, when it's looking at this case. And the solicitor general is going to be able to be there and speak to the justices about that position as well. So I think it will have a big impact for the court.

KEILAR: Thomas, what do you think?

THOMAS PETERS, THE NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MARRIAGE: Well, I think, obviously, when the president says something, the Supreme Court listens. But I think what he's managed to do is he's politicized the issue. And I think that will actually allow for the Supreme Court to really make sure that the rights of the people of California, the seven million Californians that voted to protect marriage are respected and ultimately upheld.

KEILAR: But, at least at this point, at least, 100 high-profile Republicans have also expressed their support of same-sex marriage this week. This was a huge development. What does this mean, though, for the future of marriage now that you also have business giants in the mix?
Screen Shot 2013-03-03 At 11.04.51 Am
PETERS: First of all, it wasn't high-profile Republicans. The one thing these people had in common, besides the fact that they are ostensibly Republican, that they were out of office. They don't have to face the voters with their found marriage views. In fact the top Republican they found was Jon Huntsman, whose millions only got him a third place finish in New Hampshire.

KEILAR: These are pretty high-profile -- I don't know if I can agree with you on that.

PETERS: I totally disagree. The Associated Press had a report that the Republicans who have come out for same-sex marriage, while in office, get kicked out of office. So, you know, if this is -- the Republican grassroots do not support redefining marriage. That's very simple (INAUDIBLE).

KEILAR: But, it seems that overwhelmingly, even when you look at polling, I would have to say, that there are an increasing number of Americans, including Republicans, self-identified Republicans, who support it.

So I'm just wondering if you see, and obviously, I think that you would, Brian, that there may be a bit of a shift here that we saw this week.

MOULTON: Brianna, first of all, there are two members of the House of Representatives, Republican members on that brief, currently serving members of the House of Representatives who are very strongly stepping up for marriage equality. So it is not the case that these are, you know,
Screen Shot 2013-03-03 At 11.05.41 Am
nobodies on a brief, 100 plus major Republican leaders, who are respected in the party and have a voice, a conservative voice to bring to the table on this issue. So I think that's really unfair to dismiss something like that. And these are major U.S. companies that you are mentioning that have weighed in both on the prop eight case and on the case challenging the Federal defense of marriage act, because it does hurt them, their ability to do business and their ability to treat their employees fairly.

KEILAR: Thomas, I know your objections, obviously, have to do on the issue of morality. But on this issue --

PETERS: No, that's not true. No, that's not true. That's not why I strongly support the institution of marriage. It's because marriage best serves the needs of children.

KEILAR: But the point that I'm getting at is that when we talk about this as a business imperative, let's take a look at what this filing says. It says, recognizing the rights of same-sex couples to marry is more than a constitutional issue. It is a business imperative. So what do you think about that? Do you agree with that? Do you disagree with that? Is it about more than that? Is that not enough?

PETERS: I strongly disagree with it, because, first of all, the top 10 states for growth right now in this country, nine of them have marriage protection amendments. And so, you know, where this argument comes from is the left wing, UCLA Williams Institute, which has been peddling this argument for years, that gay marriage is an economic stimulus. The very states that are currently trying to, they're trying to legalize gay marriage, like New York and California, are not exactly in an economic picture of well-being. So, look, strong states like Indiana are moving towards marriage protection amendments. North Carolina recently passed its marriage protection amendment by 61 percent. The fact of the matter is that protecting marriage protects children and it helps businesses.

KEILAR: But, Thomas, let me ask you this. Because you have businesses now that are saying, it's costing us money. They say and this obviously gets a little complicated, but they say, same-sex couples are required to pay a Federal income tax on health benefits provided to a spouse through an employer-sponsored health insurance plan.

Some employers reimburse employees for the extra tax paid. That requires extra time and money. They say it's costing them money.

Do you disagree with that?

PETERS: Well, let's look at -- you used the adjective complicated and you're right, it is complicated. But here's one complicating factor that I think is being ignored in this broader debate. You know, the president is arguing in the Supreme Court that gays and lesbians are politically powerless class. And now you've been telling me time and time again that all these corporations support redefining marriage.

So I would actually ask Brian, which is it? Are gays and lesbians actually a politically powerless class or do all these corporations, the vast majority of people support redefining marriage because you can't have it both ways. I believe the majority of Americans believe in protecting marriage and I believe that gays and lesbians are an incredibly powerful political class that are trying to redefine marriage for all of us.

KEILAR: Brian?

MOULTON: I would say, first of all, you know to his earlier point, I think it's really clear that all of these companies supporting marriage and ending DOMA are doing it because they think it is right for their employees and right for the American economy and so I think that speaks volumes and much more than, you know, what particular states' economies look like that have marriage equality.

In terms of political powerlessness, without getting into too much of the weeds of constitutional jurisprudence, it's one of the several factors the court looks at when it decide how to weigh in on laws that discriminate based on a characteristic like sexual orientation.

But it's really ridiculous to suggest that gays and lesbians are politically powerful or we wouldn't be here. We wouldn't be talking about fighting against amendments that are approved by legislatures and the voters that gays and lesbians are unable to stop at the ballot box, that take away their right to simply be in a relationship that's equal and recognized.

You know, you have six members of the House of Representatives who are gay or lesbian in a body of 435 people. It's not as if we are overrunning the halls of power. We have a long way to go.

KEILAR: And this is obviously a conversation that we will be having in the months to come with both of you.

Brian Moulton and Thomas Peters, thank you.
CNN Saturday Morning, 3/2/13 [CNN]

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