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National Organization for Marriage Has a Rough Start to 2013

By Evelyn Schlatter on March 26, 2013 - 8:00 am, Posted in Anti-LGBT

Thousands of conservative culture warriors are gathering in Washington this morning for the “March for Marriage,” timed to coincide with today’s U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments over the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, the 2008 voter referendum that banned same-sex marriage.

The march and rally on the National Mall is sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the most visible and well-funded group working to deny marriage to same-sex couples. It’ll probably be a feel-good moment for the anti-LGBT activists, but given the rapidly changing political landscape and a powerful tide of public opinion turning against them, it wouldn’t be surprising if the NOM organizers felt they were marching straight into oblivion.

In fact, in recent months, the news has been only bad for NOM.

Since November, when virtually every anti-equality measure against LGBT people failed at the ballot box, the group has suffered through a series of missteps as it grapples with a U.S. population growing more favorable toward LGBT people and the idea of same-sex marriage. NOM’s tactics appear to have become more strident, veering into the kind of demonizing rhetoric that the group has typically tried to avoid in the past. It doesn’t seem that this approach, perhaps born of desperation, is working out too well.

In January, NOM-Rhode Island posted two videos that contained numerous anti-LGBT claims, including that gays are “lethal” and are not going to heaven. In the videos, a lawyer from the notoriously anti-LGBT Liberty Counsel says there’s a radical gay agenda out to destroy America, while Matt Barber, also of the Liberty Counsel, calls homosexuality “unnatural.” One of the videos includes clips of Brian Camenker of MassResistance making false claims about what Massachusetts schools are teaching. Kara Young, the creator of the videos, calls homosexuality a “disorder,” while her husband, Chris Young, claims that the push for LGBT rights is actually an attempt to force “atheistic Communism” onto the nation. The video includes quotes from Joseph Stalin. After bloggers noticed the nature of the videos and started circulating them, the videos were removed from the NOM-RI website that same day. But one blogger captured them and you can see them at the link above.

In February, Jennifer Morse, head of NOM’s Ruth Institute and one of the group’s more acerbic and vocal anti-LGBT officials, caused a furor when her remarks at a lecture she gave at Iowa State University became public. Morse brought up Tyler Clementi as an example of why it is not the best thing for LGBT people to be friends with each other (they may be persuaded to have sex, apparently). Clementi was the Rutgers University student who committed suicide in 2010 when he found out his roommate had secretly videotaped him kissing another man. Morse claimed that there was “more to the story,” and that “a much older man was involved.” Her remarks brought immediate condemnation and a demand from the Clementi family for an apology. Morse issued a statement (but no apology) and offered to meet with the family, but claimed her remarks “were taken out of context.”

Earlier this month, NOM Chairman John Eastman was quoted in an AP article that noted that both Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Clarence Thomas have adopted children. Eastman contended that adoption by heterosexual couples is “by far the second-best option” (a family with married biological parents is, in NOM’s view, the best option). Amid an outcry over his statement, Eastman claimed that the AP article “grossly misrepresented” his thoughts on adoption.

Today’s March for Marriage has also run into a few problems. The Lee Boys, one of the musical groups NOM had lined up, canceled its appearance after learning more about NOM. Then, the pro-equality musician Katie Herzig was alerted to the fact that one of her songs was being used in a NOM ad promoting the March for Marriage. She had the ad pulled from YouTube, citing copyright violation. In yet another musical snafu, two members of the Celtic rock group Scythian refused to support NOM’s event, so the remaining three members are performing as Ultramontane. The decision has created a rift within the band. Fiddler and Scythian co-founder Josef Crosby said that he has “spent many hours researching this group and I’m saddened that now Scythian will be associated with an ideology I so strongly oppose.”

In recent signs that public opinion is turning against NOM:

  • U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a staunch GOP conservative from Ohio, announced his support for marriage equality in an op-ed piece published by the Columbus Dispatch, noting that his opposition melted away when he discovered his son is gay. He and his son were excoriated in the conservative blogosphere (see here, here and here).
  • A Washington Post-ABC News poll last week showed that public support for marriage equality has grown to an all-time high of 58 percent.
  • In an indicator of what appears to be a sea change in how even conservatives view LGBT people, the NOM panel at CPAC, the premier conference for conservative activists, was sparsely attended, while the panel about being more inclusive of LGBT people was packed. Ironically, the organizer of the latter panel included Jimmy LaSalvia, co-founder and executive director of GOProud, the conservative gay group that was banned from CPAC. The anti-gay panel included NOM President Brian Brown and attorney Cleta Mitchell, who pushed for the GOProud ban. Brown complained to the largely empty room at CPAC: “We are treated as if we are bigots.”

Nevertheless, don’t count NOM out. The group will have its march on the Supreme Court on Tuesday and no doubt will drum up lots of publicity for its cause. Perhaps NOM is also hoping to burnish its image with the march, although co-sponsors like the Family Research Council, the virulently anti-LGBT group American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (known as TFP), and World Congress of Families (whose communications director recently compared homosexuality to pedophiles, fetishists, and sadomasochists) might not be doing it any favors.

  • wayne

    Thousands???? I was there and would estimate 350 at most!

  • Aron

    Weelwall, you seem to be forgetting that Lot offered his virgin daughters to be raped. And then later committed incest with them. It wasn’t homosexuality.

    And you need serious help. ‘Already the US has the highest incidence of grave natural disasters than any other equal geographical entity.’ You’re a fool!

  • Reynardine

    Weedwall: We do think. That’s why we’re dismissing you as both dumb and nuts.

  • weelwall

    I think U R arguing from two different premises & U will never agree.
    The global majority believe they have to follow God’s orders to the best of their abilities. Homosexuality is a great sin for which its public appearance punishment had been meted out before: Sodom & Gomorrah. Since the US majority(58%?) including the President approve of this can anybody put their hand on their heart & say’ it will not happen here?’
    Already the US has the highest incidence of grave natural disasters than any other equal geographical entity. THINK!

  • Reynardine

    Mike, then marry a person of the opposite sex and go to whatever church you choose as many times a week as you choose. No one’s stopping you.

  • mike

    marriage is a sacramental union between 1 man and 1 woman for the procreation of children and the continuation of the human race.It is the fundamental building block of society.There is something VERY WRONG in a world where unnatural and perverted sex acts are applauded as good and wholesome and right,while the word of God,upon which this nation was founded,is called “hate speech”……

  • Sam Molloy

    That’s right, Tobias. We want the same things Straight people want. Just nicer things.:)

  • Tobias A. Weissman

    I see no difference between heterosexuality and LGBT. Well adjusted persons are all the same. They all love and want to be loved. They all want to aspire in their accepted professions. They all want to be accepted as equal in society. They all want to be viewed as persons equally contributing to society’s needs. SO ON AND SO FORTH. WHAT IS THE PROBLEM IN THE EYES OF GOD?

  • Reynardine

    Sam, common law marriage existed in Florida until 1968 and still existed in Texas in the Seventies, when I lived there (for all I know, it still does). That is why I had to twice divorce a man I had only married once.

  • MM

    “Question: Why is a group that supports traditional marriage addressed here as a HATE GROUP?”

    It’s not their support for heterosexual-only marriage (that is what you mean by traditional, right?) that has them labelled a hate group, but their tactics of demonizing gays, promoting misinformation and the like. Try to learn the definition of hate group before making statements like you just did.

  • legalhound

    While marriage might be state by state, the states still do NOT have the privilege of limiting who can get a license based on orientation. Fundamental rights can never be left to a vote (thank you Justice Black for that little beauty)! That means that Prop 8 dies and so do all of the stupid anti-gay amendments in the other states. DOMA is its own mess. There is a little thing called the Full Faith and Credit clause which means that state must recognize the licenses and papers of the other states. That means driver’s licenses and marriage licenses. The federal government isn’t supposed to have the power to let the states off the hook just because they would rather act like a theocracy. NOM is going to become irrelevant in June when the ruling comes down. It will at least be 5-4, but I am more inclined to believe that it will be a 6-3 declaring both Prop 8 and DOMA unconstitutional. It was 6-3 in both Romer v Evans and Texas v Lawrence so I think we’ll see the same thing with these two based on the same reasoning.

  • RRoberts73

    Correct if I am wrong, but this is the HATEWATCH blog. Is there some other reason that SPLC would post the story?

  • Sam Molloy

    RRoberts73, oh, “supporting traditional marriage” sounds so innocent and uplifting. Have you been taking PC lessons from the Lefties? We also support traditional marriage. We just support our inalienable right to it as well. That should not affect you.

  • Seven

    RRoberrts73 The words “hate group” do not appear anywhere in this article.

  • RRoberts73

    Question: Why is a group that supports traditional marriage addressed here as a HATE GROUP?

  • Sam Molloy

    Rey, and anyone else, just do some research. As for Common Law Marriage, it has not been recognized in Kentucky since 1852. The exception is people who move here from States that recognize their Common Law Marriage are considered legally married here as well. ( “Good faith and Credit”)
    As with racial Civil Rights, a popular vote will usually continue discrimination and Constitutional Rights for minorities often have to be mandated by the Supreme Court.
    I am hoping that the Republican Conservatives drop this plank from their platform, in the interest of Limited Government, before the inevitable swing of public opinion, for economic reasons, puts them back in power.

  • Reynardine

    Sam: marriage licenses, in the modern sense, became common practice on both sides of the Pond in the Nineteenth Century. Mid-Twentieth Century, there were still states where a legally binding marriage could be established by a couple (sui juris and single) moving in together and representing themselves as husband and wife.

  • concernedcitizen

    Brown complained to the largely empty room at CPAC: “We are treated as if we are bigots.”

    Could it be that you are?

  • concernedcitizen

    CONTINUED: this is the argument that they should make for bigotry “unnatural.”

    ” Morse brought up Tyler Clementi as an example of why it is not the best thing for LGBT people to be friends with each other (they may be persuaded to have sex, apparently).”

    “They should use this argument for bigots; is not the best thing for BIGOTED people to be friends with each other (they may be persuaded to have sex,”

    Every single one of their arguments would be better spent trying to stop hate groups, instead of loving couples trying to get married.

  • concernedcitizen

    @Reynardine: March 26th post: thank you for sharing that information.

    It’s a complete waste of time for these people to fight against same sex marriage. We have bigger problems in this country. A loving adult couple trying to get married should not be a national concern. They are entitled to pursue their dreams here in this free country. And no one has a right to cause them harm or to deny them their civil liberties.

    It’s very simple. You don’t have to agree with their lifestyle and partner choices but it’s their life and their choice to make freely.

    “anti-LGBT Liberty Counsel says there’s a radical gay agenda out to destroy America, while Matt Barber, also of the Liberty Counsel, calls homosexuality “unnatural.”


  • concernedcitizen

    Sam: where did you get the historical information to support the reason marriage licenses were introduced?

    I would like a reputable reference to support what you stated.

  • concernedcitizen

    @Steve: you stated

    “There is no federal marriage license, hence there is no federal organ in which to exercise any regulation on marriage.”

    People are getting married at state level. The federal government is regulating benefits by denying them to married gay and lesbian couples.

    Federal law does not recognize same sex unions and that is why they are being denied benefits. Look at the cases involving military veterans and active duty members.

  • Sam Molloy

    Rey, my research indicates that the Church controlled marriages in England in 1215, with the Crown issuing waivers, called licenses, in the 1300’s. At first only Massachusetts, that bastion of liberty, required them here, with other states doing the racist thing in the 1800’s. VD tests were added later as a further excuse. Are they going to mandate only HIV+ people can legally marry HIV+ people? As you know, roughly half the states forbade interracial marriage until they could see the handwriting on the wall. About six states held out until Federal intervention. Did they use a color chart like at a paint store, I wonder? The fine in Kentucky was I believe some $3000 in 1932. ( a 1932 Ford cost about $500).

  • Reynardine

    Yet, since marriage is recognized as a civil status by most states, with attendant benefits which are not available to unmarried couples, then, under the equal protection clause, as per Loving v. Virginia, the state cannot deny it to any couple consisting of previously single, sui juris, consenting adults.

    Sam, marriage licenses were instituted in Great Britain at the same time as here, and race was not an important issue there. Rather, the applicants were required to swear under oath that they were unmarried and, to the best of their knowledge, free of syphilis, which latter assertion had, in time, to be backed with a negative Wassermann test.

  • Sam Molloy

    Steve, I agree mostly, as things now exist, except that it should not even be within a State Government’s power to control who lives with who. The idea of Marriage Licenses was dreamed up in the 1840’s to keep Blacks from marrying Whites. If they insist on keeping records and documenting relationships, then, because of the separation of Church and State, Civil Unions, both Gay and Straight, should be the only thing they should even mention. Marriage should be done by Churches if the parties so choose

  • Steve

    First, the issue before the SCOTUS is that of authority. What authority does Congress have to regulate that which has historically been a matter of the states, that of marriage.
    There is no federal marriage license, hence there is no federal organ in which to exercise any regulation on marriage.
    Marriage does not impact national defense. Marriage does not impact interstate commerce.
    Indeed, when the federal government exceeds its authority via legislation on marriage, it interferes with states rights and confuses interstate commerce, as each state must then find regulation that is consistent with the overreach of a pandering Congress.

    Meanwhile, we hear the same tired arguments trotted out. Calling homosexuality a disorder, complete with using obsolete ICD codes from the early 1960’s and conveniently ignoring an INTERNATIONAL CODE in a specious claim that some national agenda altered something that is international in source.
    We get the religious objection, conveniently forgetting that the very first amendment is a sword that cuts both ways, indeed, rejecting separation of church and state.
    Then, we get the really tired denouncement. Something that died with McCarthy’s career, denouncing someone as a communist and linking atheism with communism.
    After all, a communist is, by definition an atheist (ignoring the reality of the untruth of that factoid), hence an atheist must be a communist.
    By a similar illogic, most rapists are men, therefor, all men are rapists, to use that illogic. Something patently untrue, but to the extremist, an untruth that supports their agenda is truth.

    But then, I’ve repeatedly heard how we’re a Christian nation, not a secular one and that the first amendment doesn’t say what it does say. It says something else, if one only could learn Orwellian.