On Aug. 26, 2009, political consultant Fred Karger, then founder of the right-wing watchdog of Californians Against Hate, filed a formal complaint the Maine Ethics Commission alleging money laundering and election donor disclosure law violations by the National Organization for Marriage and other groups in the Maine election that stripped same-sex couples of the right to marry. NOM unsuccessfully sued the state of Maine in response. After he decided to seek the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, Karger turned over his research on NOM to the Human Rights Campaign for its new project NOM Exposed, working with Jeremy Hooper of Good As You. The complaint noted that NOM contributed more than $1.8 million of the $3 million used to pass the anti-gay Question 1—but NOM refused to identify who contributed the campaign funds.
Monday night, March 27, the investigation into Karger’s complaints finally bore fruit when HRC obtained NOM’s confidential strategy documents through a court-ordered disclosure. As HRC reports, NOM’s multi-year strategy was intentionally racially divisive:
In one of the documents titled “NOM Deposition Exhibit 25: National Organization for Marriage Board Update 2008-2009” these passages appear:
* The strategic goal…is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks—two key Democratic constituencies. 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…
*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? 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.
“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.”
The documents detail NOM’s goals, including “2010 Priority: Roll Back Gay Marriage in New Hampshire, Iowa, and D.C.” and “keeping gay marriage controversial in Massachusetts, Vermont, and Connecticut.” Marriage equality has in fact not been rolled back in either of these states or D.C.
In NOM Deposition Exhibit 12, the group notes that it plans to spend $100,000 on a “study of what schools are teaching in gay marriage/civil union regimes.”
HRC identified some of the key themes that emerge from the documents are:
1. Racial Politics
NOM’s admitted key goal is to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks.”
NOM aims to manipulate Hispanic communities by “making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity” and “to make opposition to gay marriage an identity marker, a badge of youth rebellion to conformist assimilation to the bad side of ‘Anglo’ culture.”
2. Facing a Losing Battle
They were 0 for 3 in their 2010 priority: “Roll back gay marriage in New Hampshire, Iowa, and D.C.” Marriage equality remains on the books in all three with the New Hampshire Republican legislature just last week rejecting a move to repeal their law.
3. Huge Coffers Fund Phony “Research”
NOM outlined a plan to spend $100,000 on a “study of what schools are teaching in gay marriage/civil union regimes.”
$150,000 is earmarked for videotaping stories of those supposedly harmed by marriage equality called “The Face of the Victims” project.
$60,000 in salary earmarked for an “outreach coordinator to identify children of gay parents willing to speak on camera.”
$50,000 earmarked for “Expert Witness Project” that couldn’t cultivate a single credible witness to stand up in the Prop. 8 trial for example.
4. Painting Themselves as Victims
NOM pushes the false notion that Americans are under attack: “Gay marriage is the tip of the spear, the weapon that will be and is being used to marginalize and repress Christianity and the Church.”
Embracing marriage equality supposedly “affects economic performance, expands the regulatory and taxing powers of government, and threatens the family businesses that generate economic growth and prosperity.”
Despite every court to hear the issue finding no evidence of any harassment or intimidation, NOM continues to claim “gay marriage advocates have focused relentlessly on harassing and intimidating local donors.”
5. Ignoring Campaign Finance Rules
NOM brags that “one key advantage we now have is the capacity to protect the identity of our donors.”
Worried about disclosure laws, NOM encourages donors to give to a slush fund for use around the country saying, “It is critical that we have a reserve fund to give to these efforts to ensure victory and protect donor identity.”
6. Small Movement with a Big Voice
Recognizing that they are a fringe movement, they brag about having wide media exposure writing: “there is an opportunity for a small countercultural community to have a disproportionate cultural impact.”
7. It’s Not Just About Marriage
NOM can no longer claim that they’re only focused on marriage. Their “American Principles Project” seeks to “Expose Obama as a social radical” by “develop[ing] side issues” like “pornography” and veering off into issues around the Guantanamo Prison and opposing administration appointments.
As part of their “cultural strategies” they suggest “raising the negatives on homosexuality.”
Their state affiliate in Rhode Island “hopes to introduce divorce reform legislation in an effort to strengthen Rhode Island’s marriage and families.”
8. Taking their Movement Internationally
“The movement for gay marriage is global. The counterrevolution protecting marriage needs to have a similar international reach.”
The original documents are available here.
Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson responded:
“In its anti-gay crusade to block the freedom to marry, NOM has spent years working to drive wedges within communities across the nation, all the while claiming it does not ’hate’ anyone, gay or non-gay. Now 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.
“NOM’s wedge-strategy memos detail its campaign to funnel money to a handful of African-American clergy in order to attack gay couples and, appallingly, discredit the strong and clear voice of those African-American civil rights champions, such as John Lewis, Julian Bond and Coretta Scott King, who have stood up for the freedom to marry and the equal civil rights of all people, including gay people of color. 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.
“NOM’s secret memos describe its intention to ‘interrupt [Latinos’] process of assimilation’ by ‘making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity’ and ‘seek to identify glamorous young Latino and Latina leaders’ to reject equal protection for their own family members who are gay. And all of this to be done, fueled by NOM’s shadowy secret funders, in the name of religion—in flagrant contempt of the Golden Rule of treating others as you would want to be treated. Despicable.
“Happily, even as NOM works to sow division and falsehood, we’ve seen the majority for marriage grow, as more Americans hear from their friends, family members, neighbors and co-workers about why marriage matters to gay people, their kids and their kin. And while NOM has worked to generate and showcase anti-gay animosity in communities of color, all of America’s communities have moved in support of the freedom to marry, thanks to the gay and non-gay people of color and others who have talked from the heart about why marriage matters.”
The NOM wedge-strategy documents, laid out as part of its $20 million Strategy for Victory, were made public through an investigation in Maine into NOM’s attempts to circumvent and undermine campaign finance and disclosure laws, and publicized by the Human Rights Campaign. The documents include the following strategy for use in the African-American community:
The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks—two key Democratic constituencies. 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.
The memo also outlines NOM’s strategies for targeting Latino communities. Notwithstanding NOM’s efforts, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, conducted Feb. 29 through March 3, confirmed growth in support for the freedom to marry since October 2009 across nearly every slice of the electorate, with strong growth in support among African-Americans by 56% (from 32% to 50%) and Hispanic voters now supporting the freedom to marry by nearly 2 to 1 (55% to 30%).
NOM’s Brian Brown responded:
“The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) was formed in 2007 and has worked extensively with supporters of traditional marriage from every color, creed and background. We have worked with prominent African-American and Hispanic leaders, 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., all of whom share our concern about protecting marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
“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. 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.”