After the Summer FOR Marriage, What’s Next for Marriage Equality?
September 28, 2010
This guest post comes from Freedom to Marry – the national organization working to secure marriage equality around the country.
With important lower-court wins in federal challenges to marriage discrimination from California to Massachusetts; compelling, diverse and sometimes surprising voices making the case for marriage; and a crucial threshold crossed when not one, but two, national polls confirmed that a majority of Americans nationwide now support the freedom to marry, 2010 really fulfilled Freedom to Marry’s call to make it a “Summer FOR Marriage.”
That call came in response to the announcement from Freedom to Marry’s counterpart campaign, the oxymoronically named “National Organization for Marriage” (NOM), that it was going to run an anti-gay \"summer tour\" across 17 states and the District of Columbia. NOM’s shameless goal: continue its calumnies against gay families, while raising more money for its primary function as a shell for camouflaged funding of anti-gay and partisan attacks in key battleground states such as Minnesota and California. Following up on its “Gathering Storm” media-stunt, NOM’s tour derided loving adoptive parents and attacked single-parent homes. The anti-gay prejudice stoked by and reflected in NOM’s agenda unsurprisingly led to some moments of unmasking, like when one NOM supporter called for the murder of gay couples while holding an image of two nooses.
At each stop along the tour, Freedom to Marry mobilized partners such as state equality groups, the Courage Campaign Institute, Human Rights Campaign, and our own supporters; together our turnout outnumbered NOM participants by more than 3 to 1. In state after state, we challenged NOM’s falsehoods and put forward the stories of loving and committed same-sex couples, who do the day-to-day work of marriage in life and deserve the equal commitment of marriage under the law.
While funneling millions of dollars into political campaigns aimed at gay people and their families, NOM's relentless P.R. ploy is to conjure up phony claims of harassment and infringement. That “play the victim” modus operandi was documented in a powerful brief filed in the Supreme Court earlier this summer by Lambda Legal, GLAD and others. NOM’s complaint that opponents of the freedom to marry are somehow victims, even as they work to strip away constitutional rights from a vulnerable minority, is as preposterous as it is galling; the real harms in the current struggle are the injuries, indignities, and inequality inflicted on committed same-sex couples denied the freedom to marry and the safety net, responsibilities, and rich meaning marriage brings to families. And all Americans are harmed by the divisiveness, prejudice, and damage to our constitution and values of Golden Rule fairness that are the result of NOM’s political agenda and attacks.
NOM and the other members of the multi-million dollar anti-gay echo chamber are out of ideas. Besides fear – and funneling money – what else do they have? As Freedom to Marry Executive Director Evan Wolfson summed it up earlier this year:
The telltale moment came during the federal trial challenging Proposition 8, which stripped away gay couples' freedom to marry in California. Chief Judge Vaughn Walker asked Charles Cooper, the attorney defending Prop 8, \"What would be the harm of permitting gay men and lesbians to marry?\" Cooper replied, \"Your Honor, my answer is: I don't know ... I don't know.\" That pivotal exchange, and indeed the whole trial, showed that opponents of the freedom to marry are not able to defend their position on its merits. When I was in law school, they taught us: If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the facts are against you, argue the law. If neither's on your side, pound the table. A \"pound the table\" strategy is exactly what our opponents have opted for in court cases, in waves of ballot-measure attacks, and in the dust they throw up through the media. [NOM and the] anti-gay forces now routinely rely now on diversion and fear-mongering to distract from the reality that when more committed couples join in marriage, families are helped and no one hurt.
In this last-ditch diversion strategy, NOM is pulling out every weapon of divisiveness left in its arsenal, including shameless distortions of America’s civil rights history. Anti-gay bomb thrower Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., joined NOM’s tour to proclaim that marriage for same-sex couples is tantamount to genocide. Just last week NOM once again flooded the airwaves, this time in Minnesota, with advertisements that warp and muddle Dr. King's message of inclusion into a call for exclusion. In typical NOM fashion, they have sought to flout and undermine clean-government and election law, failing to register with the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board and, this week, suing to evade New York law as they begin partisan attack ads in yet another key battleground state.
As Human Rights Campaign, Courage Campaign, Freedom to Marry, and others of us continue to monitor and expose NOM’s manipulations, though, we must not take our eyes off the prize. The people we most need to connect with are not the hard-core opponents behind NOM, but, rather the reachable-but-not-yet-reached in our own circles, those who do not share NOM’s political agenda or prejudice, but still have doubts and discomfort they need help rising above. Person to person, group to group, we need to talk to them about our lives, why marriage matters, and the values of fairness and justice we share that ultimately lead to support for the freedom to marry. While NOM does its “tours,” we must help the persuadable on their journey — the same journey that Bill Clinton, Laura Bush, Ken Mehlman, Glenn Beck(!), and, we now know, an emerging majority of Americans have taken. As we follow Freedom to Marry’s three-track Roadmap to Victory, let’s engage that next slice of the reachable and bring them home.