One can certainly make an argument that American politics is built upon cynical arguments and strategies, but the National Organization for Marriage took this practice to a particularly unfortunate new level with the way it sought to stoke opposition to nuptials for gays and lesbians.
Maine court officials on Monday unveiled previously confidential memoranda that NOM filed in 2009 as part of their challenge of the Pine Tree State’s financial disclosure laws. “The strategic goal… is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks,” read one document titled “NOM Deposition Exhibit 25: National Organization for Marriage Board Update 2008-2009” that the Human Rights Campaign and Jeremy Hooper of Good As You circulated. “Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage; develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots.”
A second document highlighted NOM’s efforts to rally Latinos to oppose marriage for gays and lesbians.
“The Latino vote in America is a key swing vote, and will be so even more so in the future, both because of demographic growth and inherent uncertainty: Will the process of assimilation to the dominant Anglo culture lead Hispanics to abandon traditional family values?,” stated the memo. “We must interrupt this process of assimilation by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity – a symbol of resistance to inappropriate assimilation.”
Former NAACP Chair Julian Bond used the phrase “filthy hand” to categorize the documents in an interview with The Hill. Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, director of the African American Ministers Leadership Council at People for the American Way, issued a statement on behalf of the AAMLC’s Equal Justice Task Force.
“African American men and women of faith are not a political football to be tossed around in a cynical game of resentment and division,” she said. “We, like all Americans, struggle thoughtfully with issues of faith, family and politics. Anti-equality activists such as NOM consistently attempt to use a deeply cynical ‘wedge’ strategy to divide African Americans and the gay community, playing up what are now old and tired clichés. In the long run, this strategy will falter as African American and LGBT communities continue to work together for equal justice.”
Maryland Bishop Harry Jackson and New York State Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr., are among the prominent blacks and Latinos who oppose marriage for gays and lesbians. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Tacoma, Wash., Mayor Marilyn Strickland are among Latinos and black officials, however, who back nuptials for same-sex couples.
The release of these NOM memos coincided against the backdrop of growing outrage over the shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin that has once again shined a harsh spotlight onto existing racial inequalities in this country. It is truly appalling, but not surprising, that an organization that seeks to maintain so-called traditional marriage would exploit underrepresented groups to advance an agenda that is increasingly out of touch with mainstream America.
Shame on NOM!