The Rise and Fall of the National Organization for Marriage

Frank Rich takes on the anti-gay marriage crusaders

April 20, 2009

New York Times columnist Frank Rich wrote a doozy of an article on Saturday that lampoons (or, harpoons, perhaps…) the anti-gay right wing for their desperate, grasping attacks against marriage equality.  I love that he points to that crazy National Organization for Marriage “Gathering Storm” ad that we helped turn into what Rich calls an “Internet camp classic” as plain evidence of their absurdity:
Yet easy to mock as “Gathering Storm” may be, it nonetheless bookmarks a historic turning point in the demise of America’s anti-gay movement. What gives the ad its symbolic significance is not just that it’s idiotic but that its release was the only loud protest anywhere in America to the news that same-sex marriage had been legalized in Iowa and Vermont. If it advances any message, it’s mainly that homophobic activism is ever more depopulated and isolated as well as brain-dead.
As Rich points out, it’s true that America largely yawned as Iowa and Vermont moved to embrace marriage equality – and the response was relatively muted on both sides of the issue. That can’t make Maggie Gallagher and her people feel good. After all, they get their jollies out of scaring people into believing that the gays have some nefarious plot to bring down Western civilization. But their arguments are losing steam and a shifting political landscape is working against them:
As the case against equal rights for gay families gets harder and harder to argue on any nonreligious or legal grounds, no wonder so many conservatives are dropping the cause. And if Fox News and Rick Warren won’t lead the charge on same-sex marriage, who on the national stage will take their place? The only enthusiastic contenders seem to be Republicans contemplating presidential runs in 2012. As Rich Tafel, the former president of the gay Log Cabin Republicans, pointed out to me last week, what Iowa giveth to the Democrats, Iowa taketh away from his own party. As the first stop in the primary process, the Iowa caucuses provided a crucial boost to Barack Obama’s victorious and inclusive Democratic campaign in 2008. But on the G.O.P. side, the caucuses tilt toward the exclusionary hard right. In 2008, 60 percent of Iowa’s Republican caucus voters were evangelical Christians. Mike Huckabee won. That’s the hurdle facing the party’s contenders in 2012, which is why Romney, Palin and Gingrich are now all more vehement anti-same-sex-marriage activists than Rick Warren. Palin even broke with John McCain on the issue during their campaign, supporting the federal marriage amendment that he rejects. This month, even as the father of Palin’s out-of-wedlock grandson challenged her own family values and veracity, she nominated as Alaskan attorney general a man who has called gay people “degenerates.” Such homophobia didn’t even play in Alaska — the State Legislature voted the nominee down — and will doom Republicans like Palin in national elections.
Pam Spaulding has an interesting debate going on at her blog on the extent to which Rich’s confidence in the “inexorable” spread of marriage equality can be applied to states inside the Deep South and in other areas that are still “fertile” to anti-gay sentiments.  Read her post here.