#March4Marriage: An Event in Search of a Point
June 19, 2014 by Guest contributor
I knew I wanted to write a little something that wraps up what I witnessed this morning. However, after sitting through the three hours or so of what the National Organization For Marriage branded the "March For Marriage" but what most rational people would call a "March to Deny Gay People of that Right," I didn't know where to focus my post-mortem.
Sure, I could talk about the paltry attendance. Despite placing hundreds of notices in Catholic bulletins, despite media sponsorship from The Washington Times, despite a long list of prominent conservative groups (Family Research Council, Concerned Women For America, Heritage Foundation, etc.) on board as sponsors, and despite promoting the event for months now, the crowd outside the US Capitol was quite tiny. Moreover, just about all on hand, even from the other side, admit that a great majority of those who were in attendance came via the buses that Rev. Ruben Diaz, a New York state senator who has sourced several past NOM rallies, commissioned to take people to DC (without fully telling them why they were going). Without Diaz' buses, NOM's numbers would've been in the low hundreds; as it were, I'm willing to give them maybe a thousand or so, tops.
Or I could talk about the religious factor. Literally every single speaker, to a person, spoke much more in terms of religious conviction rather than in language based in constitutional law. Sure, some of the speakers gave lip service to government and civil law (NOM chair John Eastman and Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Austin Nimocks, most notably), but all were operating from a theological perspective. Openly so, too. Which would be fine if were talking about whether or not pastors should be forced to perform religious wedding ceremonies for people (hint: they don't have to, for just about any reason). But when talking about civil marriage equality, which is the only thing that this marriage equality debate is really about, one would think that NOM would at least want to give the impression that it is arguing from a legally-grounded basis. Instead, NOM got a speaker who said God owns the rainbow and one who said Satan controls public schools.
I could also talk about the trite talking points. Whenever the crowd seemed less than enthusiastic, which was almost always, Brian Brown would try to pep them up with a "one man, one woman" chant. How original, right? I also know I heard at least three speakers use the tired "two halves of humanity" line that Maggie Gallagher has always used when making her case against us. And there were other hackneyed memes and phrases that probably poll-tested well at one point in the anti-gay movement's history. Now they just sound dull. And silly. And played out. And ineffective.
I could focus on the animus of the speakers. They were all on their best behavior today, as we expected, but there is plenty of fodder in the quote banks of the featured speakers. From Salvatore Cordileone, who has multiple times admitted that he believes gay people need to stop being gay (he serves on a prominent body with the Catholic version of an "ex-gay" group, called Courage), to Bishop Harry Jackson, who has said marriage equality is a "satanic plot to destroy our seed," to Rev. Willie Owens, who has a penchant for equating homosexuality with bestiality, there is certainly plenty of mileage in the animus angle. I mean, even NOM president Brian Brown has said and done plenty of things to prove that he's about a whole lot more than marriage. That, the larger view that guides this more limited focus, is a point we should continue to drive home.
Or I could talk about the all-over-the-place nature of the speeches themselves. After listening to three hours of chatter, it was unclear what, exactly, the speakers wanted beyond stopping gay people. Some seemed to want congressional action to chip away at LGBT progress. Others wanted a Supreme Court ruling that would be their version of the victory we right-side-of-history advocates experienced last summer. Some wanted to turn this into "the new Roe v. Wade," which I've already told you is a way for these professional activists to preserve their high-paying jobs. Many, of course, insisted that God was in charge of all of this anyway, so nothing we mortals do is really of much importance anyhow. And virtually all of them somehow turned themselves and their movement into the "victims," even though they were the ones out in the middle of the nation's capital for the sole purpose—the one and only purpose, let's be sure—of denying civil rights, freedoms, and protections to certain American taxpayers. The sum of the parts is a chaotic blur where cake bakers who refuse to sell items they purport to sell are somehow civil rights heroes while loving same-sex couples and their families are somehow destroying marriage, righteousness, and, ultimately, civilization.
But instead of focusing on any of these things, I want to focus on the larger point which is: what the heck was the point of this little march?!!
I'm writing this less than an hour after the march's culmination. To be perfectly honest, it's already disappearing from my mind. No one in the mainstream media or even in the conservative media, really, is even mentioning NOM's stunt. Looking at Twitter, the #March4Marriage hashtag, which was 99.9% filled with pro-equality activists tweeting support for fairness and/or mockery of the failed event, is basically now a dead thread. The live stream of the event only cracked 1,000 viewers for a very short time, and clearly a great many of those were LGBT people and our allies. And frankly, even a NOM obsessive like myself, who has covered every single thing this organization has done since its first year of existence, is having a hard time saying anything about the event. It was a total nothing-burger.
Surely NOM spent a pretty penny putting this whole thing together. And for what? If they wanted it to take them look tough, the depressed crowd size alone nips that in the bud. If they wanted to deny that anti-gay people buoy their movement, pics from the march undermine that idea. If they were trying to send a message to congress, the Supreme Court, the president, or any particular political party, their trite and scattered messaging, with its untenable ideas and a fundamental lack of concern for church/state separation, is likely to help validate what the pro-equality movement has been saying much more than it's going to score points for discrimination. If they were trying to recruit new supporters, that absolutely failed, as this was clearly a meeting of the converted (both on site and on social media). Other than some nice commemorative photos that the speakers can frame in remembrance of their time speaking in front of the Capitol, what benefit did NOM derive from whatever it cost them to put this together? Or more importantly: what benefit does it bring to their supporters who are surely pretty tired of watching NOM squander resources on ideas and campaigns that deliver no results (for them, at least)?
My big takeaway, at least for now, before NOM starts spinning the day into something it wasn't, is that this was an event in search of a point. It never found it—and maybe that is the real point. There just isn't one find; the setup itself is too far gone.
**Watch in full, if you must:
July 30, 2014