The National Organization for Marriage Wants You

HeatherN is dismayed with the National Organization for Marriage’s attempts to sow racial division.

I’ll be completely up front and honest, I was a little giddy when I first came across the story that the National Organization for Marriage had purposefully tried to drive a wedge between African-American and Latino communities and the LGBT community during the fight for marriage equality in Maine in 2009. As an advocate for same-sex marriage, I find a lot of what NOM says to be particularly hateful and harmful, and I was glad they’d finally be getting their comeuppance. At the same time, as someone who is used to the media sensationalizing even the most mundane story, I was prepared to eventually find that the story had been blown a little out of proportion. Turns out I was wrong; the National Organization for Marriage really had created a strategy to try to sow racial division.

These quotes actually spell it out pretty explicitly:

“The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks—two key Democratic constituencies.”

Our ultimate goal is to make opposition to gay marriage an identity marker, a badge of youth rebellion to conformist assimilation to the bad side of “Anglo” culture.”

What I find really insidious about this is that it plays on the idea that only white people are LGBT or fighting for same-sex marriage. African-American and Latino LGBT visibility faces enough difficulties as it is, and NOM’s stated strategy further hinders it.

There are other issues with NOM’s strategy: they’re search for support among “glamorous non-cognitive elites,” their attempt to portray President Obama as a radical, and perhaps most problematic, their attempts to portray themselves as victims. However, it is the racial aspect to their strategy that I think is the most cynical. Here it stops being about what they believe, and it has become about winning at all costs.

What do you think? Is NOM’s strategy going to work?

About HeatherN

Heather N. is a Californian living in the United Kingdom. In order to survive, she has developed a keen appreciation for the color grey, rain, and sausage rolls. She spends far too much time reading, writing, blogging, and gaming. You can also find her saying witty things on Twitter.


  1. Peter Houlihan says:

    Sadly, it might. Their stance reminds me of the claims of some third world leaders that homosexuality is a “Western problem” that doesn’t occur in their countries.

  2. NOM’s strategy is going to continue to work so long as the strategy of their opponents amounts to little more than name calling.

    I understand that people are deeply hurt by NOM’s agenda, but yelling “You are all homophobes!” at the top of your lungs has never actually convinced anyone they were wrong.

    There was a great story about this on Reuters a few weeks back (this is the link: ). Every successful same sex marriage campaign has made personal experience the cornerstone of their campaign. Testimony that includes personal stories has successfully swayed conservative legislators in New Jersey, Washington, and Maryland, and the legislators have stated as much.

    Yet the national movement for same sex marriage has yet to acknowledge this.

    Instead they plow ahead with the same name calling that lost the Prop. 8 campaign four years ago.

    Until they evolve, expect NOM to remain strong.

    • “NOM’s strategy is going to continue to work so long as the strategy of their opponents amounts to little more than name calling.”

      Well first, yeah I’ll admit that name-calling does happen. Of course it does…this is a highly personal and emotional topic for a lot of people. Here’s the thing, though, most of the same-sex marriage campaigns aren’t resorting to name calling. Most of it is just at the state level, at the minute, and yes they’re mostly using personal stories, which have been effective. At the moment, there isn’t really a national movement, or rather the national organizations are still focused on state issues, because at the moment there isn’t any national marriage bill to support or oppose. The Supreme Court will be looking at DOMA this year, but that’s the limit of the national marriage movement.

      As for the loss of Prop 8, well that wasn’t lost due to name-calling. The problem was that no one in California thought it would pass, and so there wasn’t a big enough push against it. It wasn’t until far too late in the game that it became clear it could actually pass.

      Also, really, the NOM strategy of trying to drive a wedge between African American & Latino communities and the lgbt community doesn’t seem to have been effective at all.

  3. wellokaythen says:

    You know, I’m not so sure that the Latino and African American communities ARE actually more conservative about LGBT issues than anglos are. Maybe in some ways, but in some ways they may be much more accepting. NOM could be barking up the wrong tree. For example, watch the Univision network and you’ll see, in some ways, much greater acceptance of trans people than on the anglo networks. (A “Latin Beauty” contest show that features drag queens, for example. Mainstream US networks may not be ready for that yet.)

    (And, of course, these are not monolithic ethnic communities anyway. They have differences of opinion within them.)

    It sounds like the NOM is trying to get young latinos to be against gay marriage so the young latinos can show how coolly nonconformist they are. This is hilarious. Straightlaced suburban middle class anglos trying to tell urban latino youth how to be rebellious against the dominant culture? I would love to see that conversation up close. That is a dialogue you just can’t script, you have to see it for yourself.
    I’m trying to imagine a woman from my mom’s church bridge club talking in Peggy Hill Spanish to a young man about gay marriage as the car bounces on hydraulics…. (Sorry for the stereotypes. It’s just a thought exercise.)

    • Yeah, I think the thing to keep in mind is that this was in 2009. This was just after Prop 8 passed in California, and the assumption at the time had been that the reason it had passed was because so many African-American voters had turned out. (This was later shown to be wrong). Part of the reason for that assumption had been bad data from exit polls. But also, part of the reasoning came from some stereotypes made about African-American culture (and Hispanic culture for NOM’s purposes). The element of machismo and the “down low” phenomenon contribute to this perception of those communities.

  4. Anthony Zarat says:

    The NOM strategy is highly effective and you are unwise to dismiss it. Creating a channel for fear and anger is a time tested divide and conquer tactic.

    Fortunately, the NOM appears to miss the mark by focussing on African Americans. I know the Latino culture well enough to understand how effective this could be among Hispanics.

    The Republican party needs to dump its divisive religious baggage and focus on its historical mission: equal protection under the law for all Americans. This is a clear message that most Americans can get behind. It is a clear path to victory over Democratic cherry-picking and class warfare.

  5. I take no less a cynical view of this than the Democrats long-term efforts to drive a wedge between:

    1) Republicans and blacks;
    2) Republicans and women;
    3) Republicans and gays;
    4) Republicans and Hispanics;
    5) Republicans and the poor.

    All NOM is doing is telling blacks and Hispanics that the Democrats reject many of their fundamental values.


    • I’m almost unwilling to reply to this, because I’m not interested in starting an argument. But here it goes:

      First, Democrats aren’t trying to drive a wedge between Republicans and those groups. Republicans have advocated for policies that have created that wedge, all on their own. It’s more accurate to say that the Democrats have supported policies that have aligned themselves with African-Americans, women, etc. It’d be like saying that the Republicans have a strategy to drive a wedge between Christians and the Democrats. That’s not true…it’s just that the Republicans have more closely aligned themselves with socially conservative Christians.

      Also, NOM is not a political party trying to gain votes. We take a rather cynical view of our political parties in general, or at least I do. NOM is an issue-based organization which is something I am generally less cynical about.

      As for this sentence: “All NOM is doing is telling blacks and Hispanics that the Democrats reject many of their fundamental values.”

      Well see, no. NOM wasn’t trying to get African-American and Hispanic communities to distance themselves from Democrats….they were trying to drive a wedge between them and the lgbt community, and between them and ‘white America.’ Also what you’re saying, and what NOM was doing, is treating these communities like they are monolithic and homogeneous. By treating homosexuality as if it’s somehow part of ‘anglo culture,’ it ignores the many African-American and Latino lgbt people out there, and it ignores the communities that are accepting of them.

      • HeatherN,
        Thanks for the reply.
        Okay, trying not to argue too much.

        First, I have to disagree with this: “First, Democrats aren’t trying to drive a wedge between Republicans and those groups.” Right now, we have seen a HUGE attempt by the Democrats to pit Republicans against women. “War on Women”? I bet someone on the left came up with that. Harry Reid says he can’t understand how anyone of Hispanic origin can be a Republican.

        And, you say, “Also what you’re saying, and what NOM was doing, is treating these communities like they are monolithic and homogeneous.”

        Come on. Both sides do it (see my comments above). I would argue that the left does it more. But, I am trying not to argue.

        And, I do not think you get out of it simply by saying NOM is not a political party. NOW is not a political party, but they are very divisive and try to cast women as a monolithic entity.

        So, basically, I stand by my earlier point: this is nothing new. The only difference is that the race baiters in this case are conservatives instead of liberals.


        • I’d say that your examples are of Democrats taking advantage of the ways in which Republicans have supported policies that were alienating women, Hispanics, etc. It’s a very subtle difference, but a difference none the less. (And yes, it works both ways. I’m not here to discuss whether the Democratic or Republican party is more or less problematic).

          So yes, both sides treat various demographics as monolithic entities, but this isn’t a discussion about Republicans vs Democrats. That’s why I pointed out NOM isn’t a political party. We aren’t talking about either Republicans or Democrats…we’re talking about NOM. I’m not saying the Democratic party is somehow better than the Republican party…as I said, I’m not talking about political parties at all.

          You brought up NOW, and yeah there are problems with the way it casts women as a monolithic group. (I’m really not going to get into detail about NOWs positions on various issues, because that is so totally off topic). The point is that it is casting itself as monolithic, and it is doing so as a means to solidify it’s base and create something. (Again, whether that something is good or bad, is not at issue in this particular discussion).

          NOM, on the other hand, is falsely creating a homogeneous view of other communities, and is doing so in order to sew dissension among them. Worse, it’s perpetuating racial stereotypes to do so. Also, it’s perpetuating these stereotypes in order to drive a wedge between two marginalized groups (African-Americans & Latinos and the LGBT community). This isn’t just – let’s try to get them to vote for us and not the other side. This is about NOM perpetuating perceived animosity between two marginalized groups that are completely separate from NOM itself.

    • Nick, mostly says:

      All NOM is doing is telling blacks and Hispanics that the Democrats reject many of their fundamental values.

      Wait, since when is being a bigot a fundamental value of blacks and hispanics but not whites? Did I miss the memo that said what my civil rights views were supposed to be based on my heritage and the color of my skin?

      • “Wait, since when is being a bigot a fundamental value of blacks and hispanics but not whites?”

        Remember the 2008 election? In California, blacks were very largely and lazily blamed for Prop 8 passing. The reasoning was that because Obama was running for president, more black people voted and became interested in politics, and the stereotype being that most blacks are homophobes. Otherwise, such a thing could NEVER pass in such a LIBERAL state… It seems like NOM took this and ran with it.

        The other scapegoat was the Mormons, but that didn’t get quite as much attention.

      • Nick, mostly: “Wait, since when is being a bigot a fundamental value of blacks and hispanics but not whites?”

        I never said it was. But, your prejudice is clear. So, if we are going to be inflammatory, here goes:

        Blacks and Hispanics are probably more religious, on the whole, than whites.

        Catholicism is very strong in Spanish-speaking countries and black churches are strong in the South (and elsewhere).

        The Catholic Church opposes same sex marriage; other Christian denominations oppose same sex marriage.

        You would think that NOM might appeal to blacks and hispanics who have a strong religious belief, as opposed to the views of the irreligious left.

        You would also think that they would be more conservative on issues of abortion for that matter.

        So, no, it is not an issue of bigotry. It is an issue of disagreeing with positions on the left. But, I guess to someone on the left, that is a dsitinction without a difference.


        • Nick, mostly says:

          I never said it was. But, your prejudice is clear. So, if we are going to be inflammatory, here goes:

          Explain to me, please, what my prejudice is.

          You do see the quote I included, right? It’s right up there. The only thing I did was call such beliefs bigoted. I didn’t say you were making the charge, although if it’s not NOM making the claim that those beliefs – which I call bigoted – are “fundamental values” then you failed to identify who claimed they are fundamental for blacks and Hispanics.

          So, you’ve identified a set of “values” that either NOM or you or some unnamed entity are claiming blacks and Hispanics hold as “fundamental,” and that Democrats are rejecting. If NOM is trying to drive a “wedge” between Democrats and these groups, it’s because they have prejudiced blacks and Hispanics as holding particular views. It’s cynical and it’s racist.

          As for calling those beliefs bigoted, to the extent that someone wants to deny someone else equal protection under the law, deny them the same fundamental rights to partner with the person of their choice, to deny them the same legal protections we afford to other romantic relationships, I’m going to call that bigotry. I don’t care if you’re black or white or one of fifty shades of grey, I don’t care if it’s founded in “tradition,” I don’t even care if it’s founded in your deeply held religious beliefs.

          Remember there was a time when we justified miscegenation with deeply held religious beliefs. There was a time when when we justified apartheid with deeply held religious beliefs. There was a time when we justified slavery with deeply held religious beliefs. Religious beliefs may explain bigotry, but it doesn’t excuse it.

  6. Is there a National Organization AGAINST Marriage I can join? Because I think its time has passed.

    Seriously, NOM might as well call themselves Novus Ordum Mundi for all their conspiratorial and dehumanizing agenda. All they need are black sunglasses.

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