The Rise and Fall of the National Organization for Marriage

Jennifer Roback Morse is single-handedly undermining NOM’s messaging

November 26, 2012, by Jeremy Hooper

I was seriously shocked on Thanksgiving day when, during a brief break from the Macy's balloons and mashed potato prep, I took a quick look at a video that came into my inbox.  Being tht it was labeled "A Thanksgiving Message from Dr J," I figured it was just a quick clip of nicety in which NOM affilliate leader Jennifer Roback Morse (the Ruth Institute head who likes to be called "Dr. J") offering warm wishes to her supporters.  What I found instead was a truly mean-spirited attack on college resident assistants who happen to be LGBT, with Roback Morse instructing parents to keep their kids away from such young people and their pesky influence.  

It was just bizarre behavior!  I mean, I guess the intention was to catch parents while their college-aged students were at home, in hopes of provoking some T'day chatter about those silly gays in the dorms and their sillly "drag parties" (something Roback Morse specifically condemned).  But seriously, who does that?  Even the larger NOM body sent out mostly nice images and messages of Thanksgiving cheer, focusing on family and cornucopias rather than the usual political games.  But oh no, not the person who heads the biggest project of NOM's Education Fund.  That person, Roback Morse, used her role and platform as a six figure–compenstated member of the NOM team to tell young people to give their gay RAs the cold turkey treatment.

But when I say I was shocked, I just mean in terms of the timing.  I certainly don't mean that I found it in any way out of character.  Oh no, no, no.  Over the past year, Jennifer Roback Morse has become increasingly hostile in her choices, routinely embracing the full-blown animus that NOM works so hard to anecdotally deny.   Some instances:

And this is just (some of it) from 2012.  While this year might be the nadir, Roback Morse's rhetoric has been pretty bad for quite some time.  Check out her GLAAD CAP profile for more.

According to NOM's 2011 tax filing, the organization pays Jennifer Roback Morse around $125,000 to keep her work financially viable.  That's not an insignificant amount of cash.  Roback Morse is one of the organization's top two or three voices.  In fact, when you consider how prolific she is with her outreach (e.g. radio shows, college appearances, TV interviews, conferences, etc),  Jennifer Roback Morse might actually be the most visible NOM staff member.

I, for one, am okay with this heightened visibility.  It's one thing for an organization deny anti-LGBT animus when that org. has carefully workshopped pragmatism filling and defining its ranks.  It's not nearly as easy when that organization has a highly paid staffer going around telling gay people that they can and should live lives of celibacy.  Kind of hard to say "it's just about marriage" when a six figure employee is working so hard to say that it's not.