The Rise and Fall of the National Organization for Marriage

Fortnight for Transparency: It’s time to accurately label the inextricably Catholic NOM

June 21, 2012, by Jeremy Hooper, Guest Contributor

Fortnight For Freedom is a project of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, described like so:

The fourteen days from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day, are dedicated to this “fortnight for freedom”—a great hymn of prayer for our country. Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power—St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome.  Culminating on Independence Day, this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action will emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty. Dioceses and parishes around the country have scheduled special events that support a great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty. [SOURCE: USCCB]

In terms of specified religioisty as it applies to Catholicism in America, only moving the Vatican to Philadelphia would trump this effort.  It is wholly faith-based and is exclusively geared towards Catholic interests.  As it has every right to be.

So who is supporting this effort with a major campaign?  Why the inextricably Catholic National Organization For Marriage, of course.  This from NOM Blog:

NOM; National Organization for Marriage; Fortnight for Freedom


NOM goes on to instruct supports to engage in "Special religious services, Focused prayer, Sermons on religious heritage and faithfulness in the face of political persecution, Bulletin inserts on religious liberty, and Ringing of church bells across the nation at noon on July 4th."  All to serve NOM's Catholic interests.

Why does this matter?  Well, because this is the same National Organization For Marriage that is spearheading every single state fight against *CIVIL* marriage equality.  The conversation we equality adovcates are having with the public is one about our shared public policy regarding the way we recognize civil marriages in this country.  Religious ceremony is always an ancillary (even if heavily utlized) component of civil marriage for any couple, same- or opposite-sex.  Faith leaders are always free to deny religious ceremonies to any couple for just about any reason.  Virtually no one in the equality movement is seeking to change that, regardless of how personally involved the individual might be with his or her church.  Our "side" is more than willing to leave those kinds of decisions up to the various denominations that make up this nation's faith fabric.  We who advocate for marriage equality are talking about *CIVIL* rights—period.

But on the flip side of this national debate we have NOM, an organization that is now completely out as Catholic motivated.  Sure, many of us have long known this, since we've heard Maggie Gallagher, Thomas Peters, Brian Brown, and Robert George discuss the root of their marriage advocacy in many Catholic forums.  But while we "culture war" geeks know this stuff, the media still largely portrays NOM as a simple special interest group that is fighting civil marriage equality for any number of reasons. This is completely unfair to the debate!  Plus, with NOM becoming so outward about its Catholic basis, it's also a becoming untenable oversight.

If the guiding voices of the Human Rights Campaign were all working from a shared motivation other than the civil rights conversation that is actually on the table, this would be noted.  Often.  Always, even.  Any reporter convering this civil rights conversation would highlight that outside motivator, whatever it might be.  The reporter would rightly note it, I might add.  When informing the public, we should actually inform the public.  As the public considers this ongoing debate over same-sex couples, their worth, and their constituional rights, Americans deserve to know why this conversation is playing out in the way that it is.

It is simply undeniable that NOM is in this public arena in VERY large part because NOM's key staffers are doing what they see as their faith duties.  THIS. MUST. BE. PART. OF. THE. DEBATE!  It is completely unfair to those of us who understand both church/state separation and respect religious freeom (as it is truly defined) to have this game of pretend play out in the media.  

The National Organization For Marriage should, ideally, be called something like "Catholics for Religious Defintions of Marriage in Public Policy."  But you know what?  That's not gonna happen.  This being the case, we should insist that this, the organization that is steering the entire ship for the far-right on this issue (and that potential Presidents cater to with marriage pledges), be accurately labeled.  People on both sides (and in the middle) deserve to know the motivators at play.  And there should be no complaints from NOM, since all we are doing is noting what they are increasingly giving us.  Disclosure is a good thing.