The Rise and Fall of the National Organization for Marriage

Days and Slights: This Week in NOM (Feb. 19 - Feb. 25)

February 25, 2012, by Jeremy Hooper

Dear NOM Watcher,

"This is a fight we didn't ask for." That's how NOM president Brian Brown concluded a recent e-blast wherein his primary purpose was recruiting support for the idea of putting Maryland's just-passed marriage equality bill before voters on this November's ballot.  The idea being that, even though he and his supporters are forcing the unneeded, unwarranted, and ahistorical step of putting a minority's rights up to a popularity contest, Brian is not the one who provoked a fight here. 

So I have to wonder: If not this fight, for what, exactly, did Brian ask? I mean, when he took the top NOM job, what exactly was he asking from the career gods? What was he asking for his life? For his time? His mind? Because from best I can tell, fighting same-sex couples at a state referendum is exactly in line with NOM's guiding mission!

Without NOM and like minds, there would be no "fight." We all accept the idea that this marriage thing is a fight -- a "culture war," in fact -- because we're so used to fighting it. But there's only a fight because there's an opposition movement: An opposition movement that NOM, more than any other crew, is keeping alive. And of course Brian is leading the charge.

Ideally, marriage equality legislation would have played out like calorie count legislation. You know what I'm talking about? For a few years now, there have been pushes to change fast food operations so that businesses with over a certain number of outposts have to list calorie counts on their menus. Here in New York City, we've had it for a few years now, and I've honestly yet to meet a local who doesn't like it. It was different to all of us at first, and prior to enactment, most of us had never given the idea even a passing thought. But once it came into practice and therefore came to mind, people didn't equate new with scary. New was novel. And cool. And overdue. And useful. And sensible. The 2010 health care law mandates the FDA to initiate nationwide rollout of the program, and I'd expect similar results nationwide, with Americans' fifty state reactions ranging from neutral to welcoming.

In a perfect world, marriage equality for same-sex couples would've gone a lot like that. For the vast majority of us -- including LGBT people, largely -- the idea of equal marriage was at one point new and different. None of us grew up in an America where it seemd in reach.  However, once things started changing and the national conversation started in earnest, we began to realize that these, the deserved rights of same-sex couples with such undeniable value, really are possible in America.  And we got excited. "Finally," we thought, "We are pushing towards the achievable dream of equality for all." LGBT people, who know how forced differentiation can affect the psyche in so many ways, were thrilled by the idea of a United States that stopped placing value in discrimination. Straight allies, who know so many wonderful LGBT people and so many loving same-sex couples, were thrilled to get to share a more level playing field with their friends and loved ones.

New was novel. And cool. And overdue. And useful. And sensible.  To some of us, at least.

New only became a fight because certain people asked for it to be. Pushed for it to be. DEMANDED it be.

As those of us who push for a better future move forward, vaulted by the winds of momentum that are gusting through our movement, we mustn't let people like Brian Brown shake free from their roles in this civil rights fight. Some of us have been pausing our lives for years now in order to run defense against the crude and cruel onslaughts against us. We could be past all this by now, focusing instead on any of the many actual social issues that ill our nation.  Some have refused to let that happen. Some are forcing us to battle in our divided camps rather than helping us come together.

You didn't ask for this fight, Brian Brown? So what, then -- did you make a typo when applying for the National Organization for Carriages, and, upon getting an unsolicited offer from NOM, decided that collecting a political paycheck was more desirable than nurturing your long-held affection for horse-based transportation? Or -- or, or, or, Brian -- could it be that you simply don't want to take responsibility for your actual, calculated, carefully articulated "ask" because you know that the fighter role is less conducive to NOM's self-victimized script?

Barack Santorum?

I couldn't believe it this week when I saw NOM pushing the ridiculous idea that Rick Santorum and President Obama have anything close to the same positions on marriage rights:

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Because okay, sure -- the President has yet to come out fully for marriage equality. However, the president does oppose DOMA, does oppose marriage referenda in the states, does applaud states like NY when they enact marriage equality, doesn't want to invalidate currently legal marriages, does support LGBT rights and include LGBT people generally, does support civil unions (for now), and has promised to keep an open mind in an area where he claims to be evolving.  

This contrasted with Santorum, who, uhm, well -- I think he watched a "Modern Family" episode once. Although I also hear he was asleep and didn't realize what he was doing.

In short: On LGBT rights, it's astoundingly obtuse to put President Obama and Candidate Santorum in even the same ocean. But then again, when has NOM ever let a solid actuality get in the way of its organizational monologue?


Them vs. Dem

NOM gave a bit of focus this week to the possibility of Democrats enhancing their support for marriage equality, and specifically the chance that support for this freedom might find its way into the party platform:

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I find the focus interesting. Here we have NOM demanding that all of the GOP presidential candidates sign a marriage pledge that calls for gays to be shutout in every way possible, viciously condemning the one top-tier candidate (Ron Paul) who refused to sign. And of course NOM would freak their freak if the GOP removed "traditional marriage" language from its own organizational guidelines. But yet here they are trying to also fight the Democrats from firming up support in the other way? Why does NOM think it, as an organization, has even a tinge of capital to expend on this?

I'm not sure if the Democrats will add marriage equality to the platform, but I do know that nobody who speaks for NOM is going to support the Democratic presidential candidate (or very many Democrats at all), regardless. So really, isn't NOM's resistance to the idea a reason why the Democrats should take a strong, principled stand?  I think so. 


Pay no attention to the video on your screen

Something that's been making some us NOM Watchers laugh in days of recent is the way NOM, after a certain video appearance goes wide or all-out viral on popular and progressive blogs, will then post the same clip, several days later, and offer up the most tone deaf assessment of the proceedings imaginable. For instance, there was the clip of Maggie on Chris Hayes' MSNBC show "Up", which, after several people responded to it by fleshing out the considerable "ex-gay" advocacy at play within the House of NOM, NOM proceeded to post onto its own blog with yet another claim that the "ex-gay" stuff was all "made up." NOM seems to think that naming reality is the same as experiencing it.

This week, one glaring misrepresentation involved Maggie's recent appearance on Al-Jazeera English, where she debated HRC's own Michael Cole-Schwartz:

Despite Maggie accusing him, a legally married gay man, of "living a dream world" and at one point lumping him into a monolithic progressive pool that supposedly replaces religion with political prognostication, Michael handled the NOM co-founder quite ably. There was no winner, per se -- but Michael more than positioned our movement on the right side of history, and Maggie once again showed the aggressive and unsympathetic punditry streak that she seems to think she hides better than she actually does.

But how did NOM assess the appearance? Well, Brian Brown said that Michael made "absurd arguments" for equality, but that Maggie handled him with "her usual grace." Oh, and then the NOM president compounded the insult, saying of Michael: "When people start down the path of pushing a fundamental untruth, it's hard for them to figure out when to stop fibbing!"

A fundamental untruth? Fibbing? Again: This is a living, breathing, married gay man they are talking about. Standing up against Maggie's advocacy is not an argument at all for Michael, much less and absurd one.  His life, love, and legal recognition thereof are not some sort of lie that NOM gets to press release away. We are tax-paying citizens of a great nation, and they don't get to tell any of us that we are lesser than.  We are not mere counterpoint pundits -- we are the human targets of this inhumane "culture war."

And when NOM staffers take this, the inherently aggressive fight that they asked for, to mainstream media forums and proceed to unwittingly help our momentum?  They don't get to do a rhetorical do-over days after the fact!


Until next week,


Jeremy Hooper
NOM Exposed/ Good As You