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NOM Spending $1.5 Million To Reboot Its Propaganda Campaign In New York

May 11, 2011 5:01 pm ET by Carlos Maza

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) announced this week its plan to defeat marriage equality in New York, pledging to spend $500,000 on a “new ad and lobbying campaign” and $1 million to target legislators who vote in favor of same-sex marriage.

The Propaganda Machine Rolls On

As part of its new ad and lobbying campaign, NOM has already released a thirty-second television spot warning New Yorkers about the “consequences” of same-sex marriage:

Think same-sex marriage doesn’t affect your family? Legalizing gay marriage has consequences for kids. Massachusetts’ schools teach second graders that boys can marry other boys. A California public school took first graders to a same-sex wedding, calling it a “teachable moment.” And it’s not just kids who’ll face consequences. The rights of people who believe marriage means a man and a woman will no longer matter. We’ll all have to accept gay marriage whether we like it or not.

The ad, which is actually an almost exact remake of NOM’s 2009 New York spot, is another example of how NOM relies on anti-gay propaganda and misinformation to gin up public fears about same-sex marriages. Let’s break down the ad’s two central claims more closely:

1. Kids will be forced to learn about same-sex marriage. NOM claims that marriage equality will cause kids in public schools to have to learn about same-sex marriage. As evidence, the group points to two examples, one in Massachusetts and one in California, where kids were allegedly forced to learn about gay people getting married.

The Massachusetts example has already been debunked by the non-partisan, Pulitzer prize-winning organization PolitiFact, which found NOM’s claim to be false:

Bottom line: The National Organization for Marriage mailing says that Massachusetts public schools teach kindergartners about gay marriage. The wording, including the present tense verb, gives the impression this is happening now, in many schools.

But the group’s only evidence is two incidents five years ago. It’s possible that somewhere, in one of the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts, other kindergartners have been taught about same-sex marriage. But NOM couldn’t cite any other examples. We find its statement False.

The California example is equally misleading. Public school children were allowed to attend their teacher’s wedding to her same-sex partner, but the field trip was optional. The way NOM’s ad depicts the event makes it appear like public schools were shipping off children to sit through the weddings of anonymous gay and lesbian couples.

2. “We’ll all have to accept gay marriage whether we like it or not.” NOM’s second claim is just vague enough to mislead voters without actually having to tell a lie. To be fair, it is technically true that everyone will have to “accept” the fact that same-sex marriage will be legal in New York if a marriage equality bill passes. However, religious groups are explicitly exempted from having to perform same-sex marriages if they don't approve of them, according to the text of New York’s current marriage equality bill, is patently false:

PROVIDED THAT NO CLERGYMAN, MINISTER OR SOCIETY  FOR  ETHICAL  CULTURE LEADER SHALL BE REQUIRED TO SOLEMNIZE ANY MARRIAGE WHEN ACTING IN HIS OR HER CAPACITY UNDER THIS SUBDIVISION.

This Is What Hypocrisy Looks Like

NOM’s pledge to spend $1 million targeting legislators who vote in favor of marriage equality is ironic, to say the least. As Alvin McEwen at Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters has noted, NOM has a long history of accusing gay rights groups of being “bullies” when they exert political and financial muscle to advance their agendas.

NOM railed against the Human Rights Campaign for getting the King & Spalding law firm to drop its defense of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and criticized gay millionaire Tim Gill for donating money to defeat anti-equality members of the Colorado House.

When it comes to targeting legislators who disagree with NOM, however, everything is apparently fair game:

NOM pledged to vigorously oppose in their primaries any Republicans who support gay marriage. NOM previously played a leading role in defeating former Representative Dede Scozzafava in her Congressional primary bid. NOM has a long history of defeating Republicans who support same-sex marriage. 

[…]

“NOM has defeated every pro-gay marriage Republican we’ve ever targeted, and we’re quite confident we will do so in New York, should that become necessary." 

Maryland Redux?

This isn’t the first time NOM has used these tactics to try to combat marriage equality legislation. Earlier this year, the group launched an almost identical campaign to defeat Maryland’s marriage equality bill; they pushed hate group propaganda to scare constituents into believing same-sex marriage would be taught in schools and pledged (you guessed it) $1 million to target pro-equality Republicans and pressure wavering Democrats. And in Maryland, as we can expect in New York, NOM played the “race card” in order to mobilize minority opposition to marriage equality. 

Unfortunately, those tactics were successful in Maryland. The marriage equality bill failed to pass the Maryland House, widely considered to be the more progressive of the two bodies, despite the fact that a plurality of Marylanders supported marriage equality. Delegates were flooded with calls and e-mails from opponents of the bill, which caused many supporters of marriage equality to waver and buckle under pressure. 

If it happened in Maryland, it can happen in New York. A majority of New Yorkers now support marriage equality, but that alone won’t be enough to combat NOM’s aggressive misinformation and pressure campaign.

It’s impossible to overstate how important it is that supporters of marriage equality contact their representatives and fight back against NOM’s propaganda whenever they see it. Governor Cuomo says he wants a marriage equality bill passed by June 20:

“June 20 is the day that the Legislature ends, and June 20 is D-Day for us. Tell your legislators it's very simple: Pass the bills or don't come home. Period.”

Tough talk, but when you’re up against a group like NOM there’s not much room to play nice.

New Yorkers, contact your senators and representatives and ask them to stand up for marriage equality.

Previously:

Louis J. Marinelli: NOM “Exploiting” Non-White Supporters As Part Of “Public Relations Strategy”

Louis J. Marinelli: NOM Should Be Labeled A Hate Group

NOM Defector Louis J. Marinelli: NOM Is Developing A "Secret Online Propaganda Team"