Not Just Marriage

March 29, 2012


There has recently been a media firestorm surrounding the publication of startling internal documents from the National Organization for Marriage.

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) describes itself as “a nonprofit organization with a mission to protect marriage and the faith communities that sustain it.” I tend not to listen too closely to what people say they’re doing - I prefer to watch and see what they are doing. Very often there is a big difference between these two things.

In terms of what NOM actually does, this mission statement is misleading. Most of its activities are directed toward thwarting marriage equality legislation and other “gay agenda” issues. Because of the rhetoric they use in these pursuits, the Southern Poverty Law Center calls NOM a hate group. It engages in defamatory, prejudicial, and inflammatory oratory against LGBT people, both as individuals and as a group.

The two biggest faith communities that provide funding to the organization are the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). Both of these churches state publicly that they disapprove of sexual relations between people of the same sex. To them, being gay is wrong. And that is fine, if that’s your private opinion. I believe in everyone’s right to come to their own view and to live according to it. Where I begin to object is when those people seek to make the government impose their views on all. Operating from a pulpit is a powerful position, and when it receives tax-exempt status because it is not a political organization, it should have special rules about what is okay and what is not okay to do.

Naturally, the organization that these churches fund (estimates of up to 75% of NOM funding come from these churches and related organizations - although NOM is very leery of making its list of sponsors public, even to the IRS) will support the position that being gay is wrong. However, there is a difference between thinking something is wrong and doing anything about it. In some measure, these churches fund NOM to promote positions and activities too extreme for the churches themselves to own up to, at least publicly. It would be a political embarrassment for the Catholic Church, for example, to be seen as bigoted and anti-LGBT for the same reasons it would be publicly embarrassing for them to appear anti-Semitic or racist.

Much of the actual work that NOM engages in is through a number of political action committees that influence legislation and elections.  And it is in these activities that recent disclosures are making headlines and embarrassing the NOM leadership. Specifically, these disclosures include cynical efforts to:

This information was disclosed as the result of a legislative investigation by the State of Maine into illegal campaign contributions allegedly made by NOM.

So, in essence, what these disclosures reveal is that the focus of NOM is not, as publicly claimed, to support the family, protect marriage and faith, but to sow the seeds of disharmony and dissension in political opponents, to create hatred where none exists presently, and to actively promote bigotry and intolerance both at home and abroad.

And especially offensive is the search for children of gay parents willing to publicly denounce their parents because they were gay, on camera. This is a heinous and profoundly disreputable thing to do. An organization that purports to support marriage, an institution that is all about families, has no business encouraging children to publicly criticize their parents for any reason.

This is another confirmation that the label of hate group is correctly applied to NOM because by its actions and its policies it actively works to increase hatred of people based on ideology. And why do these people feel so strongly prejudiced against LGBT people? When one looks at this question, the first thing one finds is the mountain of ignorance about LGBT people. The leadership and the rank and file of NOM are surprisingly ignorant about LGBT issues and people. Their views are typically very simplistic and based on viewpoints and opinions abandoned by mainstream Western society as a whole many decades (or even centuries) ago.

These people operate on a basic assumption of the correctness of their prejudices. One of the key identifying characteristics of prejudice is that it does not require evidence or a chain of logical deductions culminating in a proof. A good example of this kind of prejudice in action is the recommendation by NOM (and other similar anti-LGBT groups) that one should not permit one’s son or daughter to be treated for an earache or broken leg by a gay physician. They do not maintain that the medical care received by a gay physician would be in any way inferior, or in fact different in any way, from care provided by a heterosexual physician. The reason they do not want this child to be treated by the  gay physician is because they do not want any child exposed to any positive role models who are coincidentally gay. This is the exact reason racist bigots did not want black physicians treating white patients in hospitals - even if they’re perfectly competent, they would lead their patients to inevitably question the white supremacist viewpoint. The NOM activists do not want anyone questioning their irrational prejudice against gay people.

And some people will ask if some of the statements that NOM and other anti-gay groups level against gay people are sometimes true. This begs the question, are the irrational prejudices of bigots OK if sometimes they might be true? Is it right to condemn an entire people for the actions of a single individual? Shouldn’t  we have grown beyond an elemental tribal mentality of eternal codes of conduct that are unrelated to reason or current circumstance? Just because someone 5,000 miles away and 5,000 years ago thought that something was true and wrote it down and that opinion was later transcribed a few dozen times into an “authoritative” book does not make the opinion valid or true today. We no longer stone people to death for adultery, as we have grown beyond thinking that this is appropriate. It's time to grow up a little more.

People who hate gay people are fond of citing the “gay agenda” as some kind of proof of malicious intent against all that is good and right. What about the heterosexual agenda? For hundreds of years, the heterosexual agenda has been universal oppression, discrimination, intolerance, hatred, disgust, shame, violence, and painful death for gay people. And this is not vague unsubstantiated supposition but historical fact. Surely, the agenda for all good people of conscience should be to end intolerance, hatred, prejudice, oppression, violence, fear and injustice. What I find most intolerable about NOM and its clones is that they fight for justice, fairness, honesty, tolerance, equality and liberty, but not for all, but just for the few who are like-minded, whose views and political aims support their own. To my mind and by my conscience, that is reprehensible and dishonorable.

I recognize that I am not special. I am ordinary. I am just another person, unremarkable and undeserving of any special consideration. So I fight for equality for all people because I want to be everyone’s equal. I fight for justice for all because I want to have justice myself. I demand liberty and freedom for all humankind, because so long as it is denied to anyone, my own freedom and liberty are at risk.

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