By now, most people have heard about the National Organization for Marriage's explosive documents that lay out a disturbing strategy of divisive race baiting and using children as political pawns. NOM's internal memos, made public through an investigation in Maine into the anti-gay organization's attempts to circumvent campaign finance and disclosure laws, show a shocking and cynical plan to drive a wedge between people of color and the LGBT community, as well as use incendiary claims of "protecting children" against gay people. The fallout from NOM's bigoted, $20-million "Strategy for Victory" has come fast and furious, shining a spotlight on the anti-equality movement's plan to divide our country using race, religion, and bias.
As discussion of NOM's divisive strategy spreads further, it appears that the organization may actually have the exact opposite effect on the public discourse around equality: it is bringing communities together in solidarity against bigotry. By having their wedge-based plan exposed for all to see, and in such stark terms, NOM has stirred a sense of commonality among the very minority groups they sought to divide. Being demonized for crass political expediency, it turns out, is something that many groups can relate to.
"This memo only reveals the limits of a cynical agenda," NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous said of the memos. "The truth is that no group, no matter how well-funded, can drive an artificial wedge between our communities. People of color understand what it is like to be the target of discrimination. No public relations strategy will make us forget that."
Sharon Lettman-Hicks, Executive Director and CEO of the National Black Justice Coalition, also blasted NOM, saying, "These documents expose NOM for what it really is -- a hate group determined to use African American faith leaders as pawns to push their damaging agenda and as mouthpieces to amplify that hatred."
NOM's exposed strategy has had the effect of forever linking them and the entire anti-equality movement to blatant bigotry. Eric Rodriguez, Vice President of Policy for the National Council of La Raza, laid out the galvanizing effect of the NOM scandal:
Even by Washington standards, the National Organization for Marriage's (NOM) unmasked strategy to drive a wedge between Blacks and Latinos and the LGBT community is stunningly cynical.
Fortunately, this truly offensive idea has completely backfired. The documents reveal an organization rife with bigotry, willing to do anything to advance intolerance in our society. If anyone wondered if Black, LGBT, and Latino leaders have woken up to realize that we have common enemies that seek to divide us, these revelations and reactions from civil rights leaders this week show that we have and are ready to work together to defeat those enemies.
Yet the ripple effects and the long-term consequences of having documented proof of NOM's race-baiting, bigoted goals still aren't over. In fact, the ever-growing NOM scandal has begun to drag down political figures that support them, as well.
Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner has been facing outrage from all sides after appointing NOM's co-founder and former chairman, Dr. Robert George, to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). While Boehner is still sticking by Dr. George, the increasing pushback from not just the LGBT community but communities of faith, as well, is making things uncomfortable for the Speaker. This comes on the heels of Boehner tripling the taxpayer-funded budget for defending DOMA in court from $500,000 to $1.5 million. These extreme stances, and support of race-baiting organizations like NOM, have given political opponents and equality advocates, like Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, even more of a target, further weakening the embattled top Republican in Congress.
And Speaker Boehner is far from the only top GOP political figure entangled in NOM's ever-widening scandal. Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney is also seeing his connections with the organization examined and criticized. New information released by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) reveals that Romney secretly donated money to NOM -- some $10,000 in 2008. "It's clear now that Romney was a major financial donor to Prop. 8," said Fred Sainz, HRC's vice president for communications. This large donation, as well as Romney's own flip-flopping statements on basic equality for LGBT people, has real ramifications in the general election, where a majority of voters of every stripe find such divisive culture war issues distasteful. While Romney is sure to try to move away from the extreme stances he's taken in the GOP primary, this much older donation to NOM (especially in light of the organization's horrendous tactics) is sure to follow him as he tries to sell himself as "moderate."
The pressure to distance the GOP from NOM is even coming from within the party faithful itself. R. Clarke Cooper, head of the Log Cabin Republicans, blasted the organization in a recent article The Washington Times, saying, "Putting aside NOM's callous disregard for LGBT families, my party, the Republican party, cannot afford to be associated with an organization that arrogantly seeks to manipulate African American and Latino voters ... Crude identity politics has no place in today's conservative movement."
The fallout from NOM's internal memos is far from over. Poll after poll shows that Americans' views on LGBT people and their relationships are rapidly evolving, with the majority now supporting full marriage equality. Having the cynical and divisive plan of a major player in the anti-equality game like NOM spotlighted helps in every fight we have as we push for progress, even beyond marriage equality -- from bullying protection to employment anti-discrimination laws. Having the anti-equality movement crippled by their own words only moves us faster toward full equality, as organizations like NOM delegitimize their own cause and strengthen the resolve of fair-minded Americans disgusted by such divisive and bigoted tactics.