Revelations: On NOM’s racism and sleazy tactics

Revelations: On NOM’s racism and sleazy tactics

Back in 2009, the state legislature of Maine passed a marriage equality bill that then-governor John Baldacci signed into law. The day after the law was signed, opponents of equality began collecting signatures to repeal the bill using a voter referendum.

The referendum was placed on the November 3, 2009 ballot and passed by the slim margin of 53% in favor of repeal to 47% opposed to repeal. The law was repealed, and marriage equality in Maine was overturned.

Part of Maine’s election laws requires organizations that raise and spend money in the state to publicly disclose their finances. Knowing that the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) played a hugely influential role (in fact, the main funder of the initiative) in the repeal of marriage equality, activists sought to have NOM’s financial records made public.

The activists were successful. Back in February, the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear the case, ending NOM’s legal fight to keep its records private. Before the lawsuits, we already knew that NOM spent nearly US$2 million on the repeal effort. What we didn’t know was where they got their money from and what strategies they used to push for repeal.

Now we do.

State officials in Maine are still investigating NOM for its role in the 2009 ballot initiative. I have so far not seen any public disclosures of donor information from Maine, but as of today we have access via the Human Rights Campaign to previously confidential documents from NOM detailing their strategies—and boy is it hateful!

The biggest revelation here is that NOM specifically seeks to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks” by trying to get people from both groups to fight over the discourse of civil rights. They also try to appeal Latino voters (apparently assuming that all Latino voters are recent immigrants) by claiming that being opposed to marriage equality is “a symbol of resistance to inappropriate assimilation.” Many of their tactics involve similar race baiting.

Another avenue they’ve taken is victim blaming in the form of claiming that people in favor of marriage equality are actually the bigots because they are victimizing religious people and trying to strip people of their religious liberties.

And, of course, it wouldn’t be complete without getting the children involved! NOM claims that being opposed to marriage equality protects children and that the Obama administration has threatened “childhood innocence” and has implemented programs that “have the effect of sexualizing young children.” In the process of “protecting children,” NOM also claims that it is important for those who oppose marriage equality to use children in their fight, both by questioning the ways that LGBT parents raise their children, as well as attempting to “find, train, and equip young leaders” to fight equality.

Throughout the documents in this dump, NOM repeatedly states that it intends to get around donor disclosure laws by putting huge sums of money into multiple state campaigns. There is a blatant disregard for the law by NOM that shouldn't surprise anyone–the best way to win is to cheat the system!

Those of us who follow NOM’s activities are not surprised by any of this. These are revelations that confirm what activists have already been saying about NOM for years. It’s just interesting that the confirmation comes straight out of their own confidential documents. I’m not sure what this will do to actually hurt NOM as an organization, but at least the truth’s there in plain black and white text now for all to see.

By Will
Will is the admin of Queereka, part of the Skepchick network. They are a cultural/medical anthropologist who works at the intersections of sex/gender, sexuality, health, and education. Their other interests include politics, science studies, popular culture, and public perceptions and understandings of anthropology. Follow them on Twitter at @anthrowill and Facebook at facebook.com/anthrowill.
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