The Rise and Fall of the National Organization for Marriage

NOM thinks it’s NOM’s game move; doesn’t realize our progress has changed the rules

November 21, 2013, by Jeremy Hooper

In its latest of a never-ending stream of fundraising begs (they literally issue one or two a day at this point), the National Organization For Marriage is using an "our move" conceit.  Replete with a graphic of a chess board, implying that it's now NOM's turn in what they apparently see as a game, NOM works a cacophony of face-saving ideas in order to convince would-be donors that we are on the cusp on NOM's victory lap.

One is the idea that we marriage equality activists have only won in "liberal states."  For starters, this is a patently absurd idea, here in a world where we have a whopping sixteen states with marriage equality.  The idea that this only happened because of liberals is just wrong on its face.  

But beyond just the demography, the whole "those are just blue states" thing reeks of a cynical "real America versus fake America" conceit.  It's as if NOM is saying that the states that have passed marriage equality don't matter.  It's like they are saying these densely populated marriage equality states are just throw-away states or something.  That is not only offensive to the residents of these states who support marriage equality—it's also offensive to the NOM supporters in these states who NOM spent so much time hitting up for cash and time, only to now reveal that NOM never saw a real path to victory in the first place.

Another flawed talking point is the idea that the NOM team keeps losing only because they keep getting outspent. Sure, there is some truth in that, as money is a very important cog in this process (thus NOM's constant fundraising pitches).  However, what NOM never considers is the fact that the money imbalance is itself a statement about this debate and where it is headed.  

The truth is that those of us on the right side of history are able to raise all of this cash because we are building up a strong, robust, well-rounded coalition that is eager to win this fight.  We are winning the money race because more motivated people see our cause as the winning one and are therefore stepping up to finance the thing.  This isn't a reality that exists in a vacuum separate from the larger conversation; this truth about money and the way the tables have flipped over the past few years is just one more sign that momentum is on our side.

The other major flaw in NOM's thinking is the belief that states that might still bend toward inequality speak to an "advantage" for their side.  NOM puts it like this:

The fight for marriage goes on — but in the coming year, the fight turns to states like Ohio and Indiana — states in which we have a decided advantage!

In these states THE PEOPLE will decide at the ballot box — not activist judges or legislators who betray the majority. We can win these contests — if we have the resources to get our message out.

[NOM email]

A couple of things here.

First off, "the people" did decide all of the outcomes in which state legislatures passed marriage equality (i.e. the majority of states that have marriage equality).  NOM always forgets the inconvenient fact that, here in America, we go to the polls and elect legislators who we think will head to the state capitol and follow our wishes.  In all of the states that have passed a marriage equality bill, (a) local polling showed majority support for marriage equality, and (b) the local population elected all of the people who voted it in and signed it into law.  That's called America.

Second, NOM's ability to point to states where the anti-equality movement might still hold or even gain ground does not speak to any kind of "advantage."  For one, the polls are moving toward equality at a rapid pace, meaning that all states will turn toward the right side of history soon enough.  But also, we live in a world where the U.S. Supreme Court has heard two marriage cases and rejected most of the NOM crowd's arguments (even if stopping short of fully siding with 50 state equality).  NOM's ability to retain or even pick up one more state marriage ban won't change this reality.  The advantage is with those of us who support marriage equality—now, forever; period, full stop. 

And finally, why does NOM think it has any kind of capital to claim any kind of ability to win?  This organization has fumbled so many balls over the past few years that it's hard to keep up!  The people who mind the shop have squandered so much cash (while paying themselves inflated salaries) on election after election, have put together such a a flawed body of court-rejected arguments, and have racked up such a string of embrassing gaffes that they've actually done great harm to whatever momentum the "traditional marriage" movement might've had in its days P.N. (pre-NOM).  

Clearly there is more wrong with NOM than just a lack of cash.  This is an organization with a broken culture.  A broken message.  A broken point of view. 

But just as NOM tends to be delusional, NOM also tends to be indefatigable.  The fundraising pitch ends with this:

We can halt the temporary momentum same-sex 'marriage' activists have built up with their extremely narrow victories in hyper-liberal states... but only if we have the resources to fight! Your donation will help turn the tide and put the momentum back on the side of marriage!

[NOM email]

The truth, of course, is that marriage equality is not a temporal concept.  This not some sort of two-sided debate where the future is either side's to win.  We gay people are not going to stop and be like, "Oh sure, you won a few elections—here, go ahead and take away my marriage."  Because for us, this is not a chess game—it's life.

The only way NOM can accurately apply the phrase "our move" to the future is in reference to their own inevitable move out of American politics.