National anti-gay marriage group seeks to divide

A court case in Maine puts the strategies of the leading national group championing NC's Marriage Amendment under the microscope.

Posted Updated

Laura Leslie

The National Organization for Marriage has long insisted that the need for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex unions in NC is "not about politics." 

Confidential internal strategy documents unsealed today in a court case in Maine seem to contradict that. 

The document, available here, is an internal report to NOM's board from 2009, detailing the group's political strategies in a number of states.

Most striking is the report's description of the group's "Not A Civil Right Project," which, according to the report, played a key role in California's passage of Proposition 8 in 2008. 

"The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks – two Key Democratic constituencies,” says the report.

“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 report instructs. “No politician wants to take up and push an issue that splits the base of the party.” 

NOM co-founder Maggie Gallagher defended the memo to WRAL this evening. 

"The people who are driving the wedge in this issue are white liberals who are not paying attention to the wishes of African American voters," Gallagher said.

And what's the explanation for directing activists to "provoke the gay marriage base" to call African Americans "bigots"?  

"By having people say that they do not support gay marriage," Gallagher said. "That’s the only provocation we meant." 

Jeremy Kennedy with anti-amendment group Protect All NC Families wasn't surprised to read it in black and white. "It's right in line with what we've seen" from NOM over the years, Kennedy said.

"But I think it's a shameful strategy," he added. "The only way for them to push this divisive measure is by dividing people, and that's completely opposite of what we've done as a coalition, which is to bring together people."

Kennedy's coalition includes some 120 groups, including the state NAACP. 

Meantime, Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis told WRAL today he expects that if the Marriage Amendment passes, it'll be repealed within 20 years.

Tillis was a chief supporter of the amendment in the House, even voting for it, which is unusual for a Speaker -  they generally refrain from voting unless they believe a vote will be close.

At the time, Tillis said the amendment was needed to "protect marriage from being re-defined" by activist judges. Today, he said he expects the electorate, not judges, will redefine it by 2032 anyway.

"I think it's a generational thing," Tillis explained, addding that he supports the amendment and its presence on the ballot. "But if you take a look at demographic trends," Tillis said, "I would expect that you would see pressure going in the opposite direction 20 years from now."  

Still, he said, he thinks the current amendment is appropriate. "This generation and the majority of people today seem to be interested in having the question asked and then voted by the people."

Tillis also confessed to some philosophical issues with the amendment.

"We're the party of limited government," Tillis told WRAL today. "We're in the majority now. And so there are a number of things that we can do that we haven't been able to do in the past." 

But, he said, "We always have to be mindful of the appropriateness of government expanding to control people's lives - even if it's for something that we personally support." 

Kennedy said Tillis's newly nuanced position is more proof that the measure is overly restrictive and unnecessary. 

"Same sex marriage is already illegal in this state. This amendment does nothing to change that. Whether this passes or fails, that won't change," Kennedy said. "But what will happen is there will be children that lose their health care, domestic violence laws that will be put in jeopardy, and there are real harms that this amendment will cause to people, all in the name of family values."

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