The Human Rights Campaign this week revealed internal documents it obtained from the anti-gay group National Organization for Marriage that reveal a strategy to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks.”
NOM’s internal communications released by HRC originate from court-led investigations in Maine over ethics violations during the 2009 battle to overturn Maine’s marriage law.
“The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks—two key Democratic constituencies,” the documents read. “Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage, develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots.”
“The Latino vote in America is a key swing vote, and will be so even more so in the future, both because of demographic growth and inherent uncertainty,” another passage reads. “Will the process of assimilation to the dominant Anglo culture lead Hispanics to abandon traditional family values? We must interrupt this process of assimilation by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity — a symbol of resistance to inappropriate assimilation.”
LGBT and black leaders were quick to condemn the language revealed in the documents.
“NOM’s underhanded attempts to divide will not succeed if black Americans remember their own history of discrimination,” said Julian Bond, chairman emeritus of the NAACP. “Pitting bigotry’s victims against other victims is reprehensible; the defenders of justice must stand together.”
“It confirmed a suspicion that some evil hand was behind this,” Bond told The Hill newspaper.
Others echoed Bond’s criticism.
“African-American men and women of faith are not a political football to be tossed around in a cynical game of resentment and division, said minister Leslie Watson Malachi, director of People For the American Way Foundation’s African-American Ministers Leadership Council. “We, like all Americans, struggle thoughtfully with issues of faith, family and politics. Anti-equality activists such as NOM consistently attempt to use a deeply cynical ‘wedge’ strategy to divide African Americans and the gay community, playing up what are now old and tired clichés.”
“NOM’s wedge strategy memos detail its campaign to funnel money to a handful of African-American clergy in order to attack gay couples and, appallingly, discredit the strong and clear voice of those African-American civil rights champions, such as John Lewis, Julian Bond, and Coretta Scott King, who have stood up for the freedom to marry and the equal civil rights of all people, including gay people of color,” said Freedom To Marry President Evan Wolfson in response to the document release.
NOM President Brian Brown addressed the controversy in a Tuesday statement.
“[NOM] has worked extensively with supporters of traditional marriage from every color, creed and background,” Brown’s statement read. “We have worked with prominent African-American and Hispanic leaders, including Dr. Alveda C. King, Bishop George McKinney of the COGIC Church, Bishop Harry Jackson and the New York State Senator Reverend Rubén Díaz Sr., all of whom share our concern about protecting marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Gay marriage is not a civil right, and we will continue to point this out in written materials such as those released in Maine.”
The documents, however, point to an organizational vision that stretched beyond attempting to halt domestic efforts to attain marriage rights for same-sex couples. The memos point to efforts to attack White House programs that, in NOM’s words, “have the effect of sexualizing young children.”
The group also sought to broaden its focus into other social issues, addressing plans for “developing side issues,” through its “American Principles Project” such as pornography, issues surrounding the Guantanamo Prison, opposing administration appointments and divorce.
The group discussed finding “glamorous non-cognitive elites across national boundaries,” when approaching Hollywood — which they accused of having “cultural biases” — by “proactively seeking to gather and connect a community of artists, athletes, writers, beauty queens.”
The only celebrity known to work directly with NOM as a spokesperson is former Miss California, Carrie Prejean, who made national headlines when she responded to a question by Perez Hilton about same-sex marriage by saying she opposed extending rights to gay couples.
Often, the internal NOM communications brag about NOM’s outsized role in funding the media tactics used to turn out California voters in favor of 2008’s Proposition 8.
“The stunning degree of crass exploitation and diabolical political tactics revealed in these documents is unconscionable,” said Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen. “This is a smoking gun that clearly shows a profound disrespect for the very minority groups that NOM is targeting. Clearly, divisiveness and dishonesty are what fuels the anti-marriage equality movement.”
In addition, HRC identified other key revelations from the records, including the creation of a highly paid position to identify dissatisfied children of gay parents willing to go on camera to disparage their families.