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Popular Topics in Social Sciences
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Topics In the News
National Organization for Marriage Documents Expose Plans to Exploit Racial Divisions
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 03/27/12
Last updated on: 03/28/12
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Maggie Gallagher, co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage.

Key documents obtained on March 26 by the Human Rights Campaign outline the strategy by the National Organization for Marriage to sow racial divisions, paint opponents of same-sex marriage as victims, and cast President Obama as a radical socialist. The documents, which were unsealed after having been discovered in an investigation by the state of Maine into NOM's alleged violations of Maine's election finance laws in 2009, reveal a far-reaching plan to use gutter tactics to prevent the achievement of equal rights for glbtq people.

As Andy Towle at Towleroad observes, "The documents reveal that what pro-equality activists suspected about NOM's state-by-state and national strategies were correct all along--that the group works to sow racial division, paint liberals (and the President) as radicals, and collect evidence for memes that can construct a storyline that anti-gay activists and Christians are victims."

Although the documents confirm what we have long suspected, it is nevertheless shocking to see them calmly outline so racist and homophobic a strategy. As Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, states, "Nothing beats hearing from the horse's mouth exactly how callous and extremist this group really is. Such brutal honesty is a game changer, and this time NOM can't spin and twist its way out of creating an imagined rift between LGBT people and African-Americans or Hispanics."

The 2009 documents outline a strategy to spin the equality movement as a threat to "religious freedom" and to exploit the supposed divisions between glbtq people and the Latino and African-American communities.

The strategists forthrightly declare their intent "to drive a wedge between gays and blacks--two key Democratic constituencies. We aim to find, equip, energize and connect African-American spokespeople for marriage; to develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; and to provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots."

The group also announces its intention to portray themselves as victims of gay bullies as it plans to "highlight threats and promise support to any citizens attacked for their pro-marriage views; commission polling and other studies to document consequences of gay marriage; and gather a rapid-response team of videographers and reporters to collect and record stories of those who have been harassed, threatened, or intimidated as a result of their support for traditional views on marriage and sexuality across the country and also in Europe and abroad.

At another point, the strategists discuss a plan to "Expose Obama as a social radical. Develop side issues to weaken pro-gay marriage political leaders and parties and develop an activist base of socially conservative voters. Raise such issues as pornography, protection of children, and the need to oppose all efforts to weaken religious liberty at the federal level."

They also outline a "Catholic Clergy Project," which aims "to use NOM's close relationships with Catholic bishops to equip, energize and moralize Catholic priests on the marriage issue."

The Catholic Clergy Project is, for me, the only real surprise in the document. We have already seen the attempt to use marriage equality as a wedge issue to divide the gay and African-American constituencies of the Democratic Party; we have seen the attempt to portray Christians as victims and to declare that there is a war on religion in the United States, as well as the characterizations of President Obama as a dangerous radical.

But the need for a Catholic Clergy Project reveals a division within the organization's own ranks. It appears that despite NOM's claims that it has millions of grassroots supporters, in fact most of its support comes from a handful of very large donors, most of them likely Roman Catholic organizations and bishops. NOM's need to develop a plan to energize Catholic priests points to a division between the Catholic hierarchy and clergy, to say nothing of the laity, who in poll after poll vow greater support for gay rights than most other religious groups.

Inasmuch as the audience for these documents are the supporters and potential supporters of NOM, one can only conclude that high-ranking members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy read these documents and apparently had no objection to NOM's plans to sow racial discord and to smear the President of the United States.

The investigation that led to the discovery of the documents was initiated by a complaint by activist and erstwhile Republican Presidential candidate Fred Karger to the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices. Karger pointed out that NOM contributed $1.6 million dollars to the effort to defeat same-sex marriage in Maine without filing a single financial disclosure report, as required by Maine law.

Upon learning of the release of the NOM documents, Karger issued the following statement: "Thanks to the courageous and tenacious investigation by the state of Maine Ethics Commission and Attorney General, we have our first glimpse into the dirty and possibly illegal campaign activities of the National Organization for Marriage all over the country. Now we know why NOM tried so hard to stop this two-and-a-half-year investigation only to be finally rebuffed by the U.S. Supreme Court," which last month declined to hear the case.

Julian Bond, Chairman Emeritus of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, a long-time supporter of equal rights, issued this statement: "NOM's underhanded attempts to divide will not succeed if Black Americans remember their own history of discrimination. Pitting bigotry's victims against other victims is reprehensible; the defenders of justice must stand together."

The documents may be found on the Human Rights Campaign website, here.

Below is NOM's infamous (and risible) "Gathering Storm" ad in which they use lies and scare tactics to warn people of the consequences of marriage equality.

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