Ostensibly, the National Organization for Marriage has been fighting for years now to preserve the idea that marriage is between one man and one woman, waging campaigns and devoting time and money to promote anti-gay initiatives and defeat ones aimed at strengthening gay relationships and affirming the humanity of gays. The Washington Post once ran a profile of NOM'S Brian Brown, telling its readers that he is someone to watch, because he is a sane, likable, nice guy, and that NOM runs a "reasonable" campaign:
Brown is confident that if people hear his message, they will believe it. "People already believe it," he says, "but the issue is so deep-seated that they've never had to create an argument for it. Now we have to give people the language to do that." Create talking points. Help them see.
NOM was put on a hate-group watch-list when the Southern Poverty Law Center named several anti-gay organizations as hate groups due to their rhetoric and tactics.
Now, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has obtained a lot of documents marked "confidential" that reveal what we have known -- and what the media have refused to call out -- all along. Their strategy for long-term gains in the fight to keep gay relationships from being legally recognized, marked Dec. 15, 2009 and called the "National Strategy for Winning the Marriage Battle", is available to read.
In their quest to deny legal recognition to the long-term, loving relationships of same-sex couples, NOM goes disturbingly far off into the fringe. The most jarring and horrific document shows that they created a project called the "Not a Civil Right" Project, aimed at the heart of coalition building between the LGBT community and racial minorities (all emphases are mine):
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...
I find their mention of a "media campaign" quite interesting; at the very least it seems like it's been effective, even if they didn't directly push all these things into the spotlight. There have always been stories of a divide between the black and LGBT communities, but it is increasingly prevalent. Stories are coming up left and right. In North Carolina there are fears of "black pastors" (but not white ones) coming after gay people. In Maryland it's "black pastors along with black politicians" coming after gay people. And there's the constant stream of media focus on the president's stance on marriage equality and how, supposedly, he "can't" come out in support of marriage for gays and lesbians "because he might lose the black vote."
Fanning the hostility raised in the wake of Prop 8 is key to raising the cost of pushing gay marriage to its advocates and persauding 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.
Perhaps this was all just a setup. The media already gives platforms to these people. They're already allowed to say whatever they want and largely go unquestioned. News networks have these groups on TV to talk "nicely" about how gay people are a serious threat to the country and to the family structure and to people's children; they are often named as Christian or family spokespeople. So since they are already getting positive attention, it's not a surprise that the media might be willing to discuss this. It's not that no black people are ever in opposition to gay rights, but the problem is the specific focus on that racial minority at the expense of nuance and discussions of the role white people, and white Republicans, play in voting "no" and remaining opposed to human rights for LGBT people. The media is content with provoking controversy and getting page views and TV viewers and not thinking about the wider repercussions this might have on communities that are already struggling and hurting.
We are still in a place in this country where someone can get shot for walking down the street carrying Skittles because they are black. We're still in a place where people can go to a popular movie and complain that there are black actors playing black characters in that movie.
We're still in a place where people can be abused, kicked out of their homes, dragged into fields, and beaten to death because they're gay or transgender. We're in a place where they can be fired from their jobs for appearing too "gay" or not conforming to their perceived gender enough for employers to feel comfortable.
Both communities are still dealing with police violence and injustice in the legal system on a daily basis.
We are not privileged, as NOM's messaging would suggest:
Democratic power bosses are increasingly inclined to privilege the concerns of gay rights groups over the values of African Americans. A strategic goal of this project is to amplify the voice and power of the black Americans within the Democratic Party.
We are trying to build friendships because we are all in this together, and we're all fighting for the same human rights.
In this context, you have to wonder why NOM would want to exacerbate the issues that come with these institutional problems. None of us are particularly well-off or free from even government harassment, and life is enough of a struggle. Bonding between communities who can understand each other in some ways, but maybe not in all ways, is really necessary for survival in this climate, when anti-black and anti-Latino racial "fears" and homophobia and transphobia are constantly used in national and state campaigns, and those campaigns turn the populace against our people, our families, our friends.
And not content with ruining relationships and solidarity between two oppressed communities who are often preyed upon and targeted by white heterosexuals with institutional power in government and police forces, NOM also wants to go after Latinos and turn us against each other, as well:
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.
It's the same here. This is no longer just about gay people and NOM trying to destroy us. NOM is showing reckless disregard for minority communities and callousness in pitting us against each other in a battle that will inevitably leave some people hurt and some people dead. They are gleefully celebrating our sad and unnecessary confrontations and completely ignoring that there is any semblance of a bigger picture to which they are contributing lasting, unnecessary pain and suffering.
The effects of this have been, and will be, long-term. The damage has been done, and we're left picking up the pieces and trying to rebuild alliances and gain back trust that has been lost. I can't stress enough how big these documents are: in the context of the blatant racism and fear-mongering campaigns and tactics that are engrained in our politics, their strategy is a direct attack on all minorities alike. This isn't simply "divide and conquer," because there's too much at stake. Racism and homophobia are dangerous and devastating, and actively trying to provoke the worst in people and roll back the progress we have all fought so hard to make is utterly sick.
This piece originally appeared at Prop 8 Trial Tracker.