Louis J. Marinelli: NOM “Exploiting” Non-White Supporters As Part Of “Public Relations Strategy”
May 03, 2011 4:54 pm ET by Carlos Maza
Louis Marinelli, former National Organization for Marriage (NOM) strategist and current marriage equality supporter, has revealed a disturbing but not totally surprising fact about his former employer: NOM intentionally plays the “race card” in order to boost their image and depict pro-equality activists as being at odds with blacks, Hispanics, and other racial minorities. In a May 2 blog post, Marinelli criticized NOM for its history of “exploiting” non-white supporters as a part of the organization’s public relations strategy:
NOM is in the business of promoting non-white Americans that oppose marriage equality. It’s good for their image if they can present an illusion of broad interracial opposition to same-sex marriage. Of course this isn’t something at they do openly but it is certainly a strategy well-known to those within their circle. I was one of them and I have e-mail correspondence from the summer bus tour that demonstrates their fixation on exploiting blacks who showed up at the rallies as part of NOM’s public relations strategy. Look for them to do this with the Hispanics in the Bronx on the 15th.
Specifically, Marinelli reveals a number of e-mail exchanges in which NOM higher-ups, including NOM chairwoman Maggie Gallagher, explicitly look to emphasize their black supporters in interviews and website images:
For example, in an e-mail dated July 29, 2010 NOM CEO Maggie Gallagher wrote me and Eve Tushnet an e-mail referring to Bishop Battle, who was a guest speaker on the summer bus tour with the following subject line: “I need a close-up photo of Bishop Battle for the newsletter tomorrow.”
Her e-mail message itself wrote:
Does anyone have one they can send Eve Tushnet???
He’s black, he’s on our side, he’s COGIC, I need a close-up please advice [sic]. Maggie
NOM’s racial focus was most obvious in a series of e-mails discussing which pictures of the organization’s 2010 summer bus tour to place on the NOM website:
For example, in an e-mail written by Joe Giganti of Opus Fidelis [NOM’s media marketing firm] to just about everyone on the tour team, Mr. Giganti selected a handful of photos that he considered the best and called them “2-TO-1 BLACK/STRONG SHOTS”. He listed the eight photos and gave a short comment for each of them.
Specifically, one of those select eight images was Image 2933. Mr. Giganti singled this photo out, according to his own comments, because it was of a “black woman signing a petition”. Although we had photos of white people signing our petition, NOM didn’t choose any of them because the black woman was of greater political value.
But the image that really caught Mr. Giganti’s eye was Image 2930. His comments wrote:
This is a great contrast shot of our people all happy and smiling (majority black, only one non-black in the picture) versus the angry counter-protesters. (Josh, this would be a good post. Luke / Colton: We may not a spot right now but keep this one close for future use – maybe a dynamic picture that rotates between positive, happy shots of our people versus our angry foes?) [sic]
That accounts for two of the photos he selected. Three more of his recommended photos were those which included the black Reverend Fauntroy and dealt with his positioning in the photos and graphical issues such as cropping. A fourth dealt with a photo of Bishop Harry Jackson, a black bishop who spoke at NOM’s dismal Annapolis rally and in D.C.
However, Mr. Giganti made his intentions clear in another e-mail that same day which was addressed to Maggie Gallagher and Eve Tushnet. In that e-mail he wrote:
I’ve been reviewing these shots this morning. From this first email, there are several good shots that demonstrate a majority Black American crowd. I would recommend the following:
2813: Mixed race shot, but with a prominent sign in the shot. (this shot is majority white though)
2827: Mixed race shot, but majority black.
As reprehensible as this kind of racial exploitation is, it’s really just par for the course for NOM. As Equality Matters documented earlier this year, NOM has consistently worked to frame the debate over marriage equality in racial terms in order to depict gay activists as “targeting” non-whites. This occurred most obviously in Maryland, where Gallagher not-so-subtly accused LGBT activists of going after Del. Sam Arora because Indian-Americans were “an easier target” than black Democrats.
NOM’s baiting appeared to pay off; Many of the delegates who ended up voting against marriage equality were openly hostile to comparisons between the current LGBT struggle for civil equality and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s.
Now, Marinelli argues, NOM is preparing to use a similar tactic in New York, hoping to pit racial minorities (and Hispanics specifically) against LGBT activists hoping to pass a state marriage equality bill this year:
I feel it is necessary to get this message out now that I’ve heard of NOM’s plan to take part in the anti-marriage equality rally/walk in the Bronx later this month. I don’t think the people who show up that day, even though they are opponents of marriage equality, should be used as political pawns by anyone, especially by an organization which I’ve just demonstrated is fixated on doing so.
Marinelli is making a pretty compelling case for NOM’s inclusion in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of anti-gay hate groups. Considering the group’s history of spreading propaganda, misleading Congress members under oath, denying the reality of gay oppression, and now using race as a weapon to rally anti-gay activists, why the group isn’t already listed is a mystery.