The Rise and Fall of the National Organization for Marriage

NOM co-founder’s reliable sleight of hand

September 16, 2013, by Jeremy Hooper

Listen to this clip from NOM co-founder and chairman emeritus Robert George and then I'll meet you on the other side:

SOURCE: Mars Hill Audio Journal via American Principles Project

First let me say that I'm not at all surprised to hear George denying the "ban" language.  After all, his National Organization For Marriage has been quite upfront about not using that terminology, as they know it's politically disadvantageous to do so.  NOM issued a directive to its support base:

[NOM Marriage Talking Points]

The NOM crowd knows that Americans ultimately reject discrimination, which is why they issued the above command.

But now go back to NOM co-founder George's audio and listen to the glaring holes in his argument.  His claim is that same-sex couples don't need civil marriage equality—which, I remind you, is the sole component of marriage that marriage equality advocates are seeking—because same-sex couples can already have a religious ceremony (or "so-called ceremony," as George says) in whatever church will have them.  He is conflating the non-legally-binding religious ceremonial component, which every marriage equality activist is quite willing to leave to the determination of churches, with the shared civil policy aspect.  The NOM co-founder is suggesting that same-sex couples don't need the civil license, which is required of any marriage couple seeking government recognition, since same-sex couples can sometimes obtain a faith ceremony—which is always optional to the civil marriage.

It's kind of like saying people don't deserve access to medical circumcisions since a ceremony known as a bris is out there in existence.  Or like saying we don't need federal emergency management services since many believe prayer is an even more effective way to stave off disasters.  Or suggesting that swimming pools that ban gay families so long as some churches agress to Baptize the children of same-sex couples.  NOM's co-founder is taking the existence of a custom that some people choose to seek out on the basis of faith and using it as reason to deny us of a state/federal contract that all married couples must obtain whether or not they couple the contract with a religious event.  It's an astoundingly obtuse point for a public thinker to make.

At least it would be astoundingly obtuse if it were a case of a less informed man speaking out of ignorance.  But don't be fooled—Mr. George knows exactly what he is doing here.  As one of America's most prominent Catholic conservatives, Mr. George is very much guided by a drive to inflate the Catholic view on any political matter and to claim "victim" status for any civil rights position that goes against this own faithfully held views.  He doesn't want faith to seem ancillary to the civil marriage system because he personally wishes it wasn't; he doesn't want citizens to understand that same-sex couples' civil marriages come at no expense to any one's religious teachings because he wants to convince conservative churchgoers that those darn pesky gay people are taking something that doesn't belong to them.   

And, of course, like the NOM that he helped create and fund, Mr. George knows that admitting his organization is, in fact, built around banning certain kinds of citizens would be the death knell for the spin machine that has long turned this obvious form of discrimination into an act of "marriage protection."  This is the other big reason why you hear this man who surely does know better offering up such airheaded rationale for denying civil rights and protections: he is in political self preservation mode.  Robby George has staked a large part of his public legacy on the issue of denying gay citizens of their civil marriage rights (to remind you,  George was also a co-author of the Federal Marriage Amendment).  To admit that he has been trying to ban his fellow Americans would be to admit that his past decade of work has been an act of malevolence against his neighbor.  Even someone with advanced degrees, entrenched political connections, and an adept mastery of scholarly prose has a tough time defending his or her name against such a hostile game plan.

Psst, Robby George—you're trying to ban us, buddy!