January 30, 2012 5:10 pm ET - by Carlos Maza
With a House vote to repeal New Hampshire's marriage equality law potentially just days away, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has launched yet another radio ad in support of the repeal effort. The ad, which touts a "commonsense compromise on marriage," is riddled with some of NOM's greatest misinformation hits:
ACTOR 1: Remember how this issue was forced on us?
ACTOR 2: Yeah, Democratic legislators took out-of-state campaign and then redefined marriage.
A solid majority of New Hampshire voters supported extending marriage equality to gays and lesbians in 2009, when the state legislature voted to legalize same-sex marriage. That majority hasn't changed in recent years - a recent poll found that 51 percent of New Hampshire voters still support allowing gays and lesbians to marry.
Moreover, an even larger majority of New Hampshire voters opposes efforts to repeal the state's current marriage equality law, a fact that NOM has conveniently chosen to ignore over the past few months. Despite strong public opposition, NOM has pledged to funnel hundreds of thousands of out-of-state dollars into New Hampshire to "reward" anti-equality legislators.
ACTOR 1: We're already seeing consequences. Massachusetts second graders taught about gay marriage in school.
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.
ACTOR 1: Innkeepers in several states have been sued because they don't want gay weddings in their inn.
While it's true that an inn in Vermont was sued for refusing to host a same-sex couple's wedding reception, the inn was not forced to pay monetary damages. In reality, the inn was sued for failing to abide by the state's public accommodation non-discrimination law, which includes exemptions for religious organizations:
Kate Baker and Ming Linsley filed the suit on Tuesday in Vermont Superior Court, accusing the Wildflower Inn of Lyndonville of abruptly turning them away after learning they are lesbians.
They claim the inn violated Vermont's Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act, which prohibits inns, hotels, motels and other establishments with five or more rooms from turning away patrons based on sexual orientation. The law makes an exemption for religious organizations.
Twenty-one other states and the District of Columbia have similar laws. Greg Johnson, a law professor at Vermont Law School, said the suit could set a precedent as more states legalize same-sex marriage. Currently, same-sex marriage is legal in six states and the District of Columbia, all of which protect gay men and lesbians in their public-accommodations laws.
ACTOR 1: A Methodist group lost its tax-exemption because they won't host gay ceremonies.
Anti-gay groups have routinely used this story to claim that churches could lose their tax-exempt status for refusing to host same-sex weddings. In reality, the case NOM references had to do with civil unions, not marriage. The incident involves a New Jersey Methodist group losing its real-estate tax exemption after refusing to allow a gay couple access to its public pavilion for a civil union ceremony. The group wasn't required to pay a fine and continued to receive the tax exemption after it re-applied as a religious organization, which are explicitly exempt from the state's non-discrimination law.
ACTOR 2: No wonder new Hampshire voters threw out most of those who voted for gay marriage and replaced them with more conservative representatives.
NOM has repeatedly claimed that the 2010 midterm election, which saw major victories for the GOP in the New Hampshire legislature, was evidence that New Hamsphire voters were in revolt over the 2009 decision to legalize same-sex marriage. In reality, however, things aren't so simple. As the Concord Monitor recently reported, 2010 was dominated by concerns about the economy, and many of the newly-elected GOP legislators tend to follow a libertarian philosophy when it comes to social issues:
"It is certainly disappointing to me," Sen. Fenton Groen, a Rochester Republican who has been vocal in his support of the repeal, said last week. "I think that, in the House particularly, we have a significant libertarian caucus within the Republican Party. . . . And there are some Republicans who differ on that within that caucus."
The 2010 elections entered a wave of Republicans from varying backgrounds, all generally united in a desire to cut spending and lower taxes. Where this group stands on the 2009 marriage law, an issue that turns on ideology and life experience, has never been as clearly defined. With lobbyists on both sides of the issue gearing up efforts to sway a House vote expected in the coming weeks - creating lists of those for and against and on the fence, urging constituents to pepper their lawmakers with phone calls and emails - legislators are wondering how their colleagues will finally come down on the issue.
ACTOR 1: HB 437 restores traditional marriage in the law but provides for civil unions for gay couples, giving them full legal rights. And gay couples already married would stay married.
An exhaustive 2010 study conducted by the New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission found that civil unions consistently result in unequal treatment and discrimination against gay and lesbian couples. The commission concluded that civil unions grant gays and lesbians "second-class status" and has a negative impact on the health of gay couples and their families:
After eighteen public meetings, 26 hours of oral testimony and hundreds of pages of written submission from more than 150 witnesses, this Commission finds that the separate categorization established by the Civil Union Act invites and encourages unequal treatment of same-sex couples and their children. In a number of cases, the negative effect of the Civil Union Act on the physical and mental health of same-sex couples and their children is striking, largely because a number of employers and hospitals do not recognize the rights and benefits of marriage for civil union couples.
ACTOR 2: That is a compromise, and it sounds like a good one.
ACTOR 3: Ask your legislators to support HB 437, a commonsense compromise.
Although NOM is currently praising civil unions as a "commonsense compromise" in New Hampshire, the group has a long history of fighting against such a compromise in states like Rhode Island, Hawaii, and Illinois. NOM president Brian Brown has even referred to civil unions as "same-sex marriage by another name." The organization only ever "supports" civil unions when it's clear that some form of relationship recognition is inevitable, as was the case in Maine in 2009. NOM is trying to benefit from appearing to be moderate in New Hampshire, but its real goal has long been the elimination of any formal relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples.
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