The National Organization for Marriage, the nation’s largest lobby against marriage rights for same-sex couples, faced criticism on Tuesday over documents unsealed by a court in Maine outlining a plan to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks” on the issue. LGBT rights groups in Colorado and throughout the nation are calling the strategy hurtful, divisive and cynical.
Four documents posted online by the Human Rights Campaign Monday evening describe an effort to pit the black community and gay community against each other.
The documents describe the controversial plan as the “Not a Civil Right Project.”
“The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks — two key Democratic constituencies,” reads one document. “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. No politician wants to take up and push an issue that splits the base of the party. Fanning the hostility raised in the wake of Prop 8 is key to raising the costs of pushing gay marriage to its advocates and persuading the movement’s allies that advocates are unacceptably overreaching on this issue. Consider pushing a marriage amendment in Washington D.C.; Find attractive young black Democrats to challenge white gay marriage advocates electorally.”
In another section, NOM describes its strategy for the Latino community.
“The Latino vote in America is a key swing vote,” NOM wrote, “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? 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.”
The documents emerged as part of a lawsuit that NOM and the American Principles Project filed in Maine over campaign finance disclosure requirement. NOM spent significant money in Maine to pass a referendum repealing that state’s law legalizing marriage for same-sex couples. NOM sued to prevent the disclosure of its donors under Maine’s campaign finance law.
The Human Rights Campaign called the strategy by NOM to pit minority communities against each other “extremist.”
“Nothing beats hearing from the horse’s mouth exactly how callous and extremist this group really is,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “Such brutal honesty is a game changer, and this time NOM can’t spin and twist its way out of creating an imagined rift between LGBT people and African Americans or Hispanics.”
Criticism by other groups on Tuesday was swift, with many calling the document a “smoking gun” that proved what they had suspected for years.
“I think that is an awfully hurtful tactic,” said Brad Clark, executive director of gay rights organization One Colorado. “It is terribly hurtful and terribly disappointing to pit one group against another like that. It is not a Colorado value and I don’t think that sort of thing works in Colorado. We have put together a coalition in Colorado that includes people of faith and people of color, so I just don’t think it works here.”
In fact, while One Colorado is known primarily as a gay rights group, it’s web site is full of information about racial equality and justice.
“This is a typical effort to try and divide communities and build divisiveness. It’s politics at its most cynical and craven,” said Colorado Democratic Party Chair Rick Palacio. “But as we see momentum for equality building across the country, I’m encouraged that the American people are rejecting these attacks and standing for an America that reflects our values of equality and freedom.”
Joanne Kron, executive director of Progress Now Colorado, said, “It is incredibly unfortunate that not only would NOM work to harm committed couples who want nothing more than to provide for each other, but now it is clear they also want to pit groups of people against each other.”
Freedom to Marry president Evan Wolfson said the idea of turning communities against each other for politics was hurtful.
“Exposure of NOM’s own strategy memos confirms that NOM will stop at nothing to push its agenda, pitting American against American, minority against minority, family members against family members,” he said. “These smoking-gun documents show how NOM has sought, in the most cynical ways imaginable, to bait the gay community in hopes of provoking a hurt response that would further divide, all in furtherance of the ugly and cruel anti-gay agenda.”
Truth Wins Out’s Wayne Besen accused NOM of exploitation.
“The stunning degree of crass exploitation and diabolical political tactics revealed in these documents is unconscionable,” said Besen. “This is a smoking gun that clearly shows a profound disrespect for the very minority groups that NOM is targeting. Clearly, divisiveness and dishonesty are what fuels the anti-marriage equality movement.
TWO’s communications director added, “Today’s revelations prove what we’ve known all along: that NOM is willing to say and do whatever it takes — blatant race-baiting, spreading malicious anti-gay propaganda, or using religious leaders as weapons with which to bludgeon LGBT people from the pulpits and in their parishes — in order to prevent loving, committed same-sex couples from winning the freedom to marry.”
Jennifer Chrisler executive director of the Family Equality Council pointed to a portion of NOM’s document that has gotten less attention.
“The National Organization For Marriage has just shown the depth of it’s contempt for our families,” said Chrisler. “Despite demonstrated efforts to recruit our children and dig up dirt on LGBT families they can’t find any proof for their hateful rhetoric, and it’s appalling that they would even try.”
Chrisler was referring to a strategy outlined by NOM to hire an “outreach coordinator” to “identify children of gay parents willing to speak on camera” about their “concerns.”
Gay Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger called on religious organizations connected with NOM to pull their funding.
“I hope that the Catholic and Mormon Churches who have both actively supported the National Organization for Marriage over the past four years will join me in repudiating their actions and stop any direct funding of NOM as well as asking their members to do the same,” he said.
Despite the criticism from LGBT groups, NOM stood by its strategy. In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, NOM president Brian Brown said the group has “worked extensively with supporters of traditional marriage from every color, creed and background,” including Dr. Alveda C. King, Bishop George McKinney of the COGIC Church, Bishop Harry Jackson, and the New York State Senator Reverend Rubén Díaz Sr..
“Gay marriage advocates have attempted to portray same-sex marriage as a civil right, but the voices of these and many other leaders have provided powerful witness that this claim is patently false,” Brown said. “Gay marriage is not a civil right, and we will continue to point this out in written materials such as those released in Maine. We proudly bring together people of different races, creeds and colors to fight for our most fundamental institution: marriage.”
Scot Kersgaard contributed to this article.