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NOM’s Top Ten Biggest Gaffes Of 2011

December 21, 2011 9:24 am ET by Carlos Maza

2011 has been a tough year for the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). Between losing the battle against marriage equality in New York, wasting thousands of dollars supporting a failed anti-gay candidate in Iowa, and having its efforts to hide the names of anti-gay activists shut down by courts across the country, NOM would probably like nothing more than to forget about the past twelve months and look forward to the year ahead. Before that happens, though, let’s take one last look at the National Organization for Marriage’s top ten biggest blunders of 2011:

10. "A Link Is Not An Endorsement"

9. NOM Gets Caught Lying For Money

8. Brian Brown Can't Do TV

7. The Bus Tour Nobody Cared About

6. NOM Declares Victory... Right Before Losing

5. Brian Brown Gets Caught At Gingrich Fundraiser

4. Maggie Gallagher “Talks Turkey”

3. NOM Learns About Hotlinking

2. NOM’s Photoshopped Supporters

1. NOM Defector Tells All


10. “A Link Is Not An Endorsement”

Earlier this month, NOM’s Ruth Institute decided to promote a book written by Liberty Counsel’s Mathew Staver titled “Same-Sex Marriage: Putting Every Household at Risk.” As Equality Matters noted, that book was filled with a number of smears about the LGBT community, including the claim that gay parents are more likely to molest their children than heterosexual parents.

A few hours later, NOM promoted an essay posted on the “Bad Catholic” blog which repeated the claim that “the children of homosexual parents are much more likely to be sexually abused,” citing the work of anti-gay pseudoscientist Paul Cameron. NOM president Brian Brown even personally tweeted a link promoting the essay:

Perhaps realizing that NOM’s anti-gay colors were showing a little too obviously, NOM co-founder and board member Maggie Gallagher responded to the “gay blogosphere” by clarifying that “a link is not an endorsement.” Needless to say, her response did not go over well.

9. NOM Gets Caught Lying For Money

In November, NOM sent out an “EMERGENCY ALERT” to its supporters warning that Senate Democrats – led by Senator Diane Feinstein (CA) – were preparing to attach a repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to the must-pass 2012 Defense Authorization bill.

There was just one problem with NOM’s horror story: it was false. A complete fabrication.

That story was quickly debunked by both the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Metro Weekly reporter Chris Geidner, who tweeted:

HRC vice president of communications Fred Sainz called NOM’s alert a “’red herring’ and an attempt to trick NOM’s supporters into thinking the organization is working on something after suffering a series of defeats.”

Instead of acknowledging the misstatement and apologizing to his supporters, NOM president Brian Brown doubled down on his claim, launching a “critical 48-hout fundraising drive to SAVE the Defense of Marriage Act.” Whatever it takes to raise a few bucks.

8. Brian Brown Can’t Do TV

Speaking of Brian Brown, if 2011 taught NOM any lesson, it was that Brown does not perform well on national television. NOM’s president went through two truly grueling interviews with MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts this year, struggling to answer basic questions about his anti-equality talking points.

His worst appearance by far, surprisingly, was actually on Fox Business Network’s Stossel. At one point in the segment, the Fox audience openly laughed at Brown’s attempts to explain why the state should be able to define marriage:

Days after the interview was over, Fox’s John Stossel wrote a FoxNews.com column explaining that he still didn’t “get” Brown’s reasons for excluding gay couples from marriage. Even in front of a Fox audience, Brown had a hard time getting people to take him seriously.

7. The Bus Tour Nobody Cared About

In August, NOM announced that it would be teaming up with the Family Research Council and Susan B. Anthony List to launch its 2011 “Values Bus Tour” in Iowa – a 22 city tour meant to energize “value voters” for the Ames Straw Poll. The tour was joined by GOP presidential hopefuls like Rick Santorum and Tim Pawlenty, and NOM’s Brown asked his “tens of thousands of supporters” to show up and be counted. Chris Plante, NOM’s Rhode Island director, even predicted that the tour would create the “critical mass” needed to beat President Obama in 2012.

Despite Brown and Plante’s high hopes, the tour turned out to be an utter and absolute flop. Much like NOM’s 2010 “Summer for Marriage” tour, only a few handful of NOM’s supporters even bothered showing up. At several stops, press and tour staff outnumbered actual voters. Best of all, the local press were able to capture some truly priceless images of NOM’s “tens of thousands” of loyal supporters in action:

6. NOM Declares Victory... Right Before Losing

NOM wasted a big chunk of its 2011 summer fighting against same-sex marriage in New York, spending nearly half a million dollars trying to turn public opinion against the state’s marriage equality bill.

Just days before the state senate was poised to vote on the measure in June, proponents of the bill still hadn’t secured the necessary number of votes to get it passed.

Needless to say, NOM was eager to declare victory in the Empire State. As it turns out, a little too eager.

On June 22 – days before a vote on the bill was even scheduled – NOM’s Cultural Director Thomas Peters accidentally published a column celebrating the alleged “defeat” of marriage equality in New York:

Within hours, the column was taken down and reposted after some heavy editing.

Days later, of course, the New York state senate voted 33-29 to approve the marriage equality, making New York the largest state to allow same-sex couples to marry.

5. Brian Brown Gets Caught At Gingrich Fundraiser

Although the NOM claims its mission is to “protect marriage,” the organization has been criticized for its relative silence on issues like divorce and infidelity – problems that can’t be used as excuses to demonize gays and lesbians.

That hypocrisy was on full display in November, when a Mother Jones reporter caught footage of NOM’s Brian Brown literally shoving protesters out of a private fundraiser for GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich:

Apparently, Brown’s commitment to protecting marriage wasn’t enough to stop him from attending a fundraiser for a presidential candidate with a well-known history of marital infidelity and divorce. Brown’s attendance is just further evidence that, for NOM, being “pro-marriage” really just means being anti-gay.  

4. Maggie Gallagher “Talks Turkey”

In November, NOM's Gallagher released a video explaining “how to talk turkey about gay marriage.”  The video was intended to teach opponents of marriage equality how to defend their position in debates during Thanksgiving dinner, including the greatest hits on NOM’s anti-gay talking points:

Gallagher’s advice wasn’t well received, to put it lightly. The video was widely mocked by bloggers and was even parodied on YouTube.

Speaking of YouTube – despite having been viewed 32 thousand times since being posted, the video has only received 14 “likes” from viewers. That kind of support puts the video at a zero percent “like” rating.

3. NOM Learns About Hotlinking

In February, cartoonist Zach Weiner discovered that NOM had embedded a comic of his in one of its blog posts. Weiner was unhappy to see his work appear on NOM’s website, seeing as the comic “was in no way conceived of or related to gay rights issues.”

Once Weiner realized that NOM had hotlinked his comic, he decided to take action:

In case you’re not aware, “hotlinking” means the image they display is accessed directly from my database. That is, whatever image their computer requests from my computer, their computer gets.

This presented an opportunity.

Within hours, Weiner had replaced his comic with an image that didn’t exactly resonate with NOM’s talking points:

NOM quickly took the post but not before it generated enough traffic to crash NOM’s website.

2. NOM’s Photoshopped Supporters

NOM has been fighting to repeal New Hampshire’s marriage equality law since it was passed in 2009. Although polls have shown that a majority of New Hampshire voters support the current law, NOM has insisted that it represents the will of the people. NOM’s “New Hampshire for Marriage” website even featured images of what appeared to massive crowds of people rallying in support of repealing marriage equality.

As Good As You’s Jeremy Hooper discovered, however, the crowds in the pictures weren’t NOM supporters – they were supporters of then-candidate Barack Obama in 2008. On two separate occasions, NOM photoshopped images from Obama rallies – neither of which took place in New Hampshire – in order to create the illusion that its repeal effort had public support.

Even MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow couldn’t help but mock NOM’s dishonest photo manipulation:

NOM eventually offered a half-hearted explanation for its photoshopping, though the organization continues to use pictures from out of state on its New Hampshire website.

1. NOM Defector Tells All

Without a doubt, NOM’s biggest public relations disaster of 2011 came in April, when Louis J. Marinelli – former NOM Facebook page operator and tour bus driver – defected from the organization and declared that he had become a supporter of marriage equality.

In an interview with Good As You, Marinelli confessed that, after a long history of making disparaging comments about the LGBT community, he had become convinced that there existed “not one valid reason” to prohibit same-sex couples from getting married:

We have to stop seeing things in black and white all the time and that is, I’m afraid, what NOM does in terms of marriage. The world isn’t black and white, it’s yellow, it’s green, it’s purple, it’s red, orange, it’s blue. It is, in fact, all of the colors of the rainbow and that’s what makes up our world and that’s why the rainbow flag represents not only the gay rights movement but the diversity the gay community brings to this world. 

In the weeks following his announcement, Marinelli posted a number of scathing criticisms of NOM:

Marinelli even created a new organization, the National Organization for Marriage Equality, and planned to launch a nationwide summer bus tour in order to talk to conservatives about support marriage equality.

In response, NOM attempted to downplay its relationship with Marinelli and announced that it had set up a new Facebook page.

It was too late, though. Less than a week after Marinelli declared his support for marriage equality, his story had made it on MSNBC’s Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, drawing national attention to the former NOM supporter’s change of heart: