The Rise and Fall of the National Organization for Marriage

Brian Brown’s Apparent Goal: Keeping Himself Employed for Decades to Come

June 15, 2014, by Jeremy Hooper, Guest Contributor

In a new Associated Press story about how the anti-equality side just keeps losing and losing and losing, and how even folks like NOM co-founder Maggie Gallagher are starting to admit that their side must accept this new reality, NOM's current president, Brian Brown, continues to push the mistaken belief that future Americans are going to turn around and take away the rights that a minority population fought so hard to deservedly win.  Which doesn't surprise me, really.  After all, Brian is the head of an organization with a goal that's 100% built around discrimination.  If he didn't offer up the flawed and increasingly ridiculous belief that inequality is the future, he wouldn't be doing his job.  So I get why he has to give false hope.

What's more interesting to me is how blatantly Brown tips his hand about the future and his role in it.  Take a look at this snippet and then I'll meet you on the other side:

Brown, in a telephone interview, said his best-case scenario hinged on a future ruling by the Supreme Court upholding the right of states to set their own marriage laws, rather than imposing same-sex marriage nationwide. Such a ruling would strengthen the position of the 31 states that currently ban gay marriage and might encourage grass-roots efforts in some of the other states to reimpose bans, Brown said.

"We'd put this back in the hands of the democratic process," Brown said. "We would have the people deciding for themselves."

If the Supreme Court ruled the other way, legalizing gay marriage nationwide, "We won't go away," Brown said.

He envisioned a resistance campaign comparable to that waged by the anti-abortion movement since the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision established a nationwide right to abortion.

"In the next year or so, we'll either have a massive victory at the Supreme Court, or we'll need to fight for 10, 20 years to undo the damage that the court has done," Brown said.

FULL: Losing streak lengthens for foes of gay marriage [AP via Columbus Dispatch]

In a nation where there currently is a court challenge in literally every single state with a ban on the books, DOMA already dismantled, more courts ruling against discriminatory marriage bans every day, attorneys generals refusing to defend the bans because they know they're unconstitutional, even governors who aren't supportive of marriage equality refusing to appeal decisions that rule in favor of equality because they realize that there is no path to what they'd call victory (but the rest of us know as bias), and every credible poll showing a growing majority of Americans supporting full equality, it is highly unlikely that (a) those "31 states that currently ban gay marriage" are going to remain those 31 states for very long, and that (b) any version of the United State Supreme Court that doesn't magically clone Scalia and Thomas in the next five years is going to issue a decision that pushes this issue back rather than forward.  There is no evidence to suggest that Brian's vision to be a workable reality, and there is every indication that Brian's fantasy talk is exactly that.

But again, I understand why B-Brown has to say this nonsense, especially here in the week when he has a silly little "march for marriage" to promote.  I really do.  Discrimination is his career.  Inequality is his gig.  Unfortunately, hurting and even estranging certain types of families is what he has chosen to do—for a job.  Selling the charade is job requirement number one.

The part that I think tips his hand, however, comes at the end of the above snippet. The part about this being the new Roe v. Wade.  More specifically, the part about either "winning" at SCOTUS, as Brian defines it, or how they will "need to fight for 10, 20 years to undo the damage that the court has done.  Could he be more obvious here?  Both paths mean continued employment for Brian Brown who, let's remember, gets paid six figures to do this relatively simple work.  If he "wins," as he describes it, then there is still a NOM and he gets to keep playing the role of America's big authority on how and why to stop loving people from joining together in love.  But with the other part, about this being the new Roe, Brian also gives himself an out in form of a multi-decade fight in which he can be the scrappy little underdog who just needs more people to listen, and who will stop at nothing to get them to do just that.  Either way, he gets to have a job.  A very high-paying job, let's never forget.     

I started noticing this "new Roe v. Wade" chatter around the time of the last "march for marriage," with commentators like NOM's very own Frank Schubert trying oh so hard to create the illusion that these two fights are one and the same, and that we are going to be debating this matter of civil rights for certain kinds of taxpayers for decades to come.  And then, as in now, I saw it for what it was: an act of self-protection.  Sure, it's an act of misbegotten encouragement, designed to keep hope among the troops.  But more than that, it's an attempt by people like Brian Brown to keep themselves in a game where the walls are so quickly closing in on them.  The thinking is that if they can turn positive marriage equality decisions into "the new Roe," then they can stay at work for the unknowable future scheming up new ways to chip away at progress.

And I suspect that Brian and his crowd will be even more aggressive with this "new Roe" talk in the days, weeks, months, and years to come, since they are going to have to implant this idea in order for it to take hold.  Why?  Because the majority of Americans, in the wake the marriage equality decisions we have already achieved and the ones yet to come, will quickly and easily conjure up comparisons that are more analogous, with the most obvious being the historic Loving decision that struck miscegenation laws at a time when interracial marriage polled lower than same-sex marriage has polled for the past several years.  The only way a crowd of people larger than a handful is going to say, "this is the new Roe" is if Brian, NOM, and everyone else with a vested interest in a forty-year fight launch a PR campaign designed to lead the witnesses.  

Which is exactly what they are trying to do.