April 3, 2012
By Matt Baume
Leaked memos show the National Organization for Marriage tried to manipulate minority groups. Meanwhile, marriage organizers press ahead for equality in Ohio, but not everyone is on board. And we’re just days away from a showdown over DOMA — it’s going to happen this Wednesday, April 4th.
We got an incredible peek inside the National Organization for Marriage this week, when a federal judge ordered them to release a series of secret 2009 memos about fundraising and strategy. It’s our best glimpse yet into the most powerful anti-equality organization in the country. One of the most intriguing insights is their strategy to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks,” an incredibly offensive tactic, not to mention impossible in the case of people who are both gay and black.
But one of the overlooked revelations is the amount of money that they budgeted back in 2009 for projects that failed or simply faded away. Remember the ludicrously-named “Two Million for Marriage?” They set aside three million dollars for that. Then there was the one million dollar fund to roll back marriage equality in Iowa — that was a bust. And they budgeted two million for ending marriage in New Hampshire, a project that culminated just last week in their colossal defeat.
The real story that these 2009 memos tell is that as the years go by, NOM’s clout is getting weaker and weaker and weaker.
But they’re not out of the game yet, and we still have a lot of work to do. A new survey this week shows a tough challenge ahead in North Carolina, and that many voters don’t understand what Amendment One would actually do. Some think it would just ban marriage, some people think it only apples to gay people, and some people think it legalizes marriage. For the record, Amendment One prohibits all protections for all unmarried couples, gay or straight, and their children. There’s just a few weeks to go before the May election.
This week Richard Vinroot, the former mayor of Charlotte and former Republican candidate for governor, came out in opposition to the anti-gay North Carolina measure. And even House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Republican who sponsored the bill, admitted this week that even if it passes, it’ll probably be reversed within 20 years. And if those leaked NOM memos are any indication, it might be reversed even sooner.
Meanwhile, polling in Maryland right now is too close to call. Forty-three precent of voters oppose marriage equality, and forty percent support it. A referendum on marriage equality legislation is likely to appear on the Maryland ballot this November.
Two weeks ago we reported that Ohio’s attempt to overturn an anti-gay Constitutional amendment ran into a roadblock when the state Attorney General rejected it. But now Freedom to Marry Ohio has bounced back, re-filing the petition with revised language. Once it’s approved, they’ll need to collect nearly a half million signatures to qualify for the ballot. But as it happens, the measure’s main backer is Ian James, the CEO of a signature-gathering firm. The state’s leading equality organization, Equality Ohio, has not yet taken a position for or against the effort, pointing to unresolved questions about its process and timing.
And finally this week, watch for big news on Wednesday, April Fourth. That’s when two of the many lawsuits over the federal Defense of Marriage Act goes before a panel of judges in Boston. Meanwhile, the Department of Justice recently asked a California court to move with greater than usual speed to hear arguments in a third DOMA lawsuit.
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