Archive for April, 2009

New York Times – Frank Rich Op-Ed

Sunday, April 19th, 2009
More on the National Organization for Marriage
(NOM), the Mormon Front Group…..

New York Times

The Bigots’ Last Hurrah


Published: April 18, 2009

WHAT would happen if you crossed that creepy 1960s horror classic “The Village of the Damned” with the Broadway staple “A Chorus Line”? You don’t need to use your imagination. It’s there waiting for you on YouTube under the title “Gathering Storm”: a 60-second ad presenting homosexuality as a national threat second only to terrorism.

The actors are supposedly Not Gay. They stand in choral formation before a backdrop of menacing clouds and cheesy lightning effects. “The winds are strong,” says a white man to the accompaniment of ominous music. “And I am afraid,” a young black woman chimes in. “Those advocates want to change the way I live,” says a white woman. But just when all seems lost, the sun breaks through and a smiling black man announces that “a rainbow coalition” is “coming together in love” to save America from the apocalypse of same-sex marriage. It’s the swiftest rescue of Western civilization since the heyday of the ambiguously gay duo Batman and Robin.

Far from terrifying anyone, “Gathering Storm” has become, unsurprisingly, an Internet camp classic. On YouTube the original video must compete with countless homemade parodies it has inspired since first turning up some 10 days ago. None may top Stephen Colbert’s on Thursday night, in which lightning from “the homo storm” strikes an Arkansas teacher, turning him gay. A “New Jersey pastor” whose church has been “turned into an Abercrombie & Fitch” declares that he likes gay people, “but only as hilarious best friends in TV and movies.”

Yet easy to mock as “Gathering Storm” may be, it nonetheless bookmarks a historic turning point in the demise of America’s anti-gay movement.

What gives the ad its symbolic significance is not just that it’s idiotic but that its release was the only loud protest anywhere in America to the news that same-sex marriage had been legalized in Iowa and Vermont. If it advances any message, it’s mainly that homophobic activism is ever more depopulated and isolated as well as brain-dead.

“Gathering Storm” was produced and broadcast — for a claimed $1.5 million — by an outfit called the National Organization for Marriage. This “national organization,” formed in 2007, is a fund-raising and propaganda-spewing Web site fronted by the right-wing Princeton University professor Robert George and the columnist Maggie Gallagher, who was famously caught receiving taxpayers’ money to promote Bush administration “marriage initiatives.” Until last month, half of the six board members (including George) had some past or present affiliation with Princeton’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. (One of them, the son of one of the 12 apostles in the Mormon church hierarchy, recently stepped down.)
Even the anti-Obama “tea parties” flogged by Fox News last week had wider genuine grass-roots support than this so-called national organization. Beyond Princeton, most straight citizens merely shrugged as gay families
celebrated in Iowa and Vermont. There was no mass backlash. At ABC and CBS, the Vermont headlines didn’t even make the evening news.

On the right, the restrained response was striking. Fox barely mentioned the subject; its rising-star demagogue, Glenn Beck, while still dismissing same-sex marriage, went so far as to “celebrate what happened in Vermont” because “instead of the courts making a decision, the people did.” Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the self-help media star once notorious for portraying homosexuality as “a biological error” and a gateway to pedophilia, told CNN’s Larry King that she now views committed gay relationships as “a beautiful thing and a healthy thing.” In The New York Post, the invariably witty and invariably conservative writer Kyle Smith demolished a Maggie Gallagher screed published in National Review and wondered whether her errant arguments against gay equality were “something else in disguise.”

More startling still was the abrupt about-face of the Rev. Rick Warren, the hugely popular megachurch leader whose endorsement last year of Proposition 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban, had roiled his appearance at the Obama inaugural. Warren also dropped in on Larry King to declare that he had “never” been and “never will be” an “anti-gay-marriage activist.” This was an unmistakable slap at the National Organization for Marriage, which lavished far more money on Proposition 8 than even James Dobson’s Focus on the Family.

The Obamas’ dog had longer legs on cable than the news from Iowa and Vermont. CNN’s weekly press critique, “Reliable Sources,” inquired why. The gay blogger John Aravosis suggested that many Americans are more worried about their mortgages than their neighbors’ private lives. Besides, Aravosis said, there are “only so many news stories you can do showing guys in tuxes.”

As the polls attest, the majority of Americans who support civil unions for gay couples has been steadily growing. Younger voters are fine with marriage. Generational changeover will seal the deal. Crunching all the numbers, the poll maven Nate Silver sees same-sex marriage achieving majority support “at some point in the 2010s.”

Iowa and Vermont were the tipping point because they struck down the right’s two major arguments against marriage equality. The unanimous ruling of the seven-member Iowa Supreme Court proved that the issue is not merely a bicoastal fad. The decision, written by Mark Cady, a Republican appointee, was particularly articulate in explaining that a state’s legalization of same-sex marriage has no effect on marriage as practiced by religions. “The only difference,” the judge wrote, is that “civil marriage will now take on a new meaning that reflects a more complete understanding of equal protection of the law.”

Some opponents grumbled anyway, reviving their perennial complaint, dating back to Brown v. Board of Education, about activist judges. But the judiciary has long played a leading role in sticking up for the civil rights of minorities so they’re not held hostage to a majority vote. Even if the judiciary-overreach argument had merit, it was still moot in Vermont, where the State Legislature, not a court, voted to make same-sex marriage legal and then voted to override the Republican governor’s veto.
As the case against equal rights for gay families gets harder and harder to argue on any nonreligious or legal grounds, no wonder so many conservatives are dropping the cause. And if Fox News and Rick Warren won’t lead the charge on same-sex marriage, who on the national stage will take their place? The only enthusiastic contenders seem to be Republicans contemplating presidential runs in 2012. As Rich Tafel, the former president of the gay Log Cabin Republicans, pointed out to me last week, what Iowa giveth to the Democrats, Iowa taketh away from his own party. As the first stop in the primary process, the Iowa caucuses provided a crucial boost to Barack Obama’s victorious and inclusive Democratic campaign in 2008. But on the G.O.P. side, the caucuses tilt toward the exclusionary hard right.

In 2008, 60 percent of Iowa’s Republican caucus voters were evangelical Christians. Mike Huckabee won. That’s the hurdle facing the party’s contenders in 2012, which is why Romney, Palin and Gingrich are now all more vehement anti-same-sex-marriage activists than Rick Warren. Palin even broke with John McCain on the issue during their campaign, supporting the federal marriage amendment that he rejects. This month, even as the father of Palin’s out-of-wedlock grandson challenged her own family values and veracity, she nominated as Alaskan attorney general a man who has called gay people “degenerates.” Such homophobia didn’t even play in Alaska — the State Legislature voted the nominee down — and will doom Republicans like Palin in national elections.

One G.O.P. politician who understands this is the McCain-Palin 2008 campaign strategist, Steve Schmidt, who on Friday urged his party to join him in endorsing same-sex marriage. Another is Jon Huntsman Jr., the governor of Utah, who in February endorsed civil unions for gay couples, a position seemingly indistinguishable from Obama’s. Huntsman is not some left-coast Hollywood Republican. He’s a Mormon presiding over what Gallup ranks as the reddest state in the country.

“We must embrace all citizens as equals,” Huntsman told me in an interview last week. “I’ve always stood tall on this.” Has he been hurt by his position? Not remotely. “A lot of people gave the issue more scrutiny after it became the topic of the week,” he said, and started to see it “in human terms.” Letters, calls, polls and conversations with voters around the state all confirmed to him that opinion has “shifted quite substantially” toward his point of view. Huntsman’s approval rating now stands at 84 percent.

He believes that social issues should not be a priority for Republicans in any case during an economic crisis. He also is an outspoken foe of the “nativist language” that has marked the G.O.P. of late. Huntsman doesn’t share “the view of some” that “the party was created in 1980.” He yearns for it to reclaim Lincoln’s faith in “individual dignity.”

As marital equality haltingly but inexorably spreads state by state for gay Americans in the years to come, Utah will hardly be in the lead to follow Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa and Vermont. But the fact that it too is taking its first steps down that road is extraordinary. It is justice, not a storm, that is gathering. Only those who have spread the poisons of bigotry and fear have any reason to be afraid.

Californians Against Hate Kicks Off Ad Campaign in 6 Northeast States

Friday, April 17th, 2009

Californians Against Hate Kicks Off
Ad Campaign in 6 Northeast States

The Mormons are Coming, The Mormons are Coming!”

Designed to counter the commercial released last week by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) “A Gathering Storm,” Californians Against Hate will launch its own advertising campaign beginning tomorrow in: New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Delaware, Rhode Island and Maine.

“We believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) established the National Organization for Marriage as its front group in order to qualify Proposition 8 for ballot last year in California,” said Fred Karger, Founder of Californians Against Hate. “After spending several million dollars in California, NOM recently moved into 7 Northeast States considering marriage equality.

They lost in Vermont on April 7th, when the Legislature voted to override Governor Jim Douglas’ veto the very next day. Vermont became the 4th state in the nation to allow same-sex couples the right to marry.

NOM was very active in Vermont, paying for a massive advertising campaign, including radio, direct mail and robo-calling everyone in the state with a recorded message. Political experts think that their heavy–handed tactics backfired, and they lost because of it. Now NOM is charging into 6 more Northeast states.

So tomorrow, April 18th, on the 234th anniversary of Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride from Boston to Lexington, we will begin our online advertising campaign. Our ad harkens back to 1775 when a brave Paul Revere rode his horse to warn of the attack by the British. We wrote our own version of Longfellow’s famous poem “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,” entitled, “The Mormons are Coming, The Mormons are Coming!” It’s easy to find and enjoy.

“Our modern day Paul Revere is warning of TV commercials (using bad actors trying to play real people), radio ads, and robo–calls — all full of deceit and lies,” said Fred Karger. “Their ads are fueled by millions of dollars, which we believe comes primarily from the Mormon Church and its members. They set up NOM as a front group in California in the summer of 2007 to qualify Proposition 8 for the ballot, after 2 previous attempts to put a Constitutional Amendment to ban same-sex marriage before the voters failed in 2006. We are very familiar with the National Organization for Marriage and its president, Maggie Gallagher. We sparred with them a lot in last year in California.”

“The ad that we are running is meant to be strong, but lighthearted, “added Karger. “We want all fair-minded people to know who is behind NOM’s effort to stop equal rights. We will continue to pound away at this front group until everyone knows exactly who is behind the creation of the National Organization for Marriage.”

The Mormon Church has been fighting same-sex marriage this way since 1995, when it set up Hawaii’s Future Today to fight gay marriage in that state. Mormon Church documents that we received recently show just how the Church operates. To see these documents go to our web site:

For the full text of the banner ads and accompanying poem, please visit our web site by

Fred Karger & Maggie Gallagher Square Off

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Prop. 8 rivals take their fight national
Malcolm Maclachlan 04/13/09 12:00 AM PST

Link to story: Capitol Weekly

A pair of rivals in the Proposition 8 fight have taken their battle national.

Each has a conspiracy theory about the other that they’re trying to sell. In one corner is Fred Karger, a long-time successful Los Angeles-based political consultant who is also gay. He founded the group Californians Against Hate last June to fight Prop. 8, the successful initiative to ban gay marriage in California. During and after the election, his group has publicized the names of people who gave to the Prop. 8 campaign.

In his view, both the Prop. 8 campaign and the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) are “Mormon front groups” that have been trying to hide their connections to the LDS Church. He has filed a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission alleging the LDS Church did not properly report all their donations to Prop. 8, and has launched a website seeking to tie NOM to the Church.

In the other corner is Maggie Gallagher, the founder and president of both NOM and Institute for Marriage and Public Policy. She claims Karger is engaged in a “campaign of intimidation” that is designed to force the LDS Church “out of the public square by making the cost of participation too high.”

As the marriage fight moves into states like Vermont and Iowa, she said, the ultimate goal of Karger and other gay marriage activists should become clear to people: giving “Obama a reason to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA).

“Getting rid of DOMA is key to the ultimate goal, which is to create a national constitutional right to gay marriage,” Gallagher said. “I don’t think that’s any secret. We’re gearing up for that battle.”

The war of words between these familiar rivals — Karger refers to Gallager as “Maggie,” while Gallagher often jokingly calls Karger “my friend” — is taking place against a backdrop of a marriage fight that is heating up in other states. The Iowa Supreme Court overturned a state ban on gay marriage on April 3. On April 7, the Vermont Legislature legalized gay marriage, narrowly overriding a veto threat by Republican Governor Jim Douglas. Leading up to the vote, NOM paid for a campaign of robo-calls to Vermont voters urging them to contact their legislators to oppose the bill.

The Northeast region has become a focal point in the marriage fight. Connecticut and Massachusetts already allow gay marriage. Lawmakers in Maine and New Hampshire are considering legalizing it. Meanwhile, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine said in 2007 that he would sign a gay marriage bill if it landed on his desk. A state government-commissioned report added fuel to that fire in December when it found that New Jersey’s current civil union law does not provide equal protection.

On Tuesday in Trenton, N.J., NOM held a press conference to announce “Two Million for Marriage” initiative. The goal over the next two years is to create a network of two million anti-gay marriage activists across the country. NOM also announced a $1.5 million media buy targeting states including Iowa, New Hampshire and New Jersey. An ad from the new campaign, “The Gathering Storm,” can be seen on YouTube.

With so many potential big-money fights brewing, Karger is unapologetic in his effort to shut off some of the flow of money to the other side.

“I really have two goals there-one is to slow them down,” Karger said. The other, he added, is to “make it unacceptable to contribute against equality.”

He’s also unapologetic in his efforts to use the discomfort many people have with the Mormon Church to further this cause. He cited polls showing them having the lowest “acceptability” rating of any major religious group-especially in “libertarian” leaning Vermont, which he said is among the “most secular” states in the nation.

In November, Karger filed a FPPC complaint charging that the Mormon Church hid millions in direct and indirect contributions to the Prop. 8 campaign. He’s also filed federal form 990 request to get at the funding of NOM. He said the group has until April 23 to reply.

He’s also put up a website, Mormongate, detailing the links he sees. Much of the evidence comes from a series of memos that were “dumped in my lap” last year showing leaders in the Mormon Church setting up an anti-gay rights front group in Hawaii in the 1990s.

“My jaw dropped when I started reading them and never came back into line,” Karger said.

It shows a series of communications between Elder Neal Maxwell, lobbyist and other church leaders to create a group called Hawaii’s Future Today. It was designed to have a Catholic public face, according to the memos, and focus on other issues such as gambling in order to seem like it was not just an anti-gay rights group. Karger said that no one has claimed that the memos are not real.

But Gallagher said “There is no evidence at all he offers about NOM.”

As to the idea that NOM is a Mormon front group, she said: “I wish it were true. There is nothing wrong with the Mormon Church or the Catholic Church working to join with other to civic organizations.” She added NOM’s board consists of several Protestants and Catholics, as well as a single Mormon, whom she declined to name.

“If I can find an atheist who wants to get out in front on the marriage issue, I’ll stick them on my board,” Gallagher added.
She tells a very different story about her group’s founding. After spending 15 years as the director of the marriage program at the Institute for American Values, she said, in 2003 she became aware that gay marriage was about to become a major political issue. She founded the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy as a think tank that would focus on the issue, using a $10,000 check from a Protestant group as seed money.

“I felt very strongly that the people who cared about marriage were not sufficiently involved in this debate,” she said.

After an anti-gay marriage initiative went down in 2006 in Arizona, she said, she wanted to create a group that could be more directly involved politically. In the summer of 2007, she worked with Robbie George, a Princeton professor and current board member of NOM, to create the group. This time they started out with $100,000 from a Catholic group and $125,000 from a Protestant one.

In October of that year, she said, she got a call from a woman in San Diego representing a group of about 30 people who were upset that Mayor Jerry Sanders had come out in favor of an effort to overturn Prop. 22, a 2000 non-constitutional anti-gay marriage initiative passed by voters.

Gallagher said that she soon flew out to San Diego to meet with them, and the first state chapter of the Princeton, N.J., based group was formed. They soon collaborated with the California-based group ProtectMarriage, each raising $1 million to get Prop. 8 on last November’s ballot. Not only did they win that fight, she said, but also a 2008 rematch in Arizona.