Anti-Gay Group to Devote At Least $2 Million to Unseat Pro-Marriage NY Lawmakers
The anti-gay right has adopted the language of victimhood in recent years, claiming that changes in the law to grant sexual minorities the status of equality before the law deprives people of faith of their religious liberties and accusing the GLBT community of "bullying" those who oppose their civil rights efforts.
But when opponents to family parity and other civil rights initiatives are not complaining that they are subject to "intimidation" by gays, they direct plenty of aggression at same-sex families and their supporters. The most recent example: Anti-gay group the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) vowed even before the historic June 24 vote in Albany that brought marriage equality to New York that they would target lawmakers who voted for the marriage equality bill.
Now NOM seems to be launching itself into making good on that threat, announcing that it intends to spend at least $2 million to unseat GOP state legislators who stood up for the state’s gay and lesbian families, according to a June 26 article at Gay Marriage Watch.
The marriage equality bill garnered support from almost all of the state’s Democratic senators, as well as two Republicans. A similar bill in 2009 had no support from Republicans at all, and a number of Democrats who had voiced support for marriage equality prior to the vote then cast their votes against it, killing the bill.
But public attitudes have continued to shift over the last two years, with support and acceptance for GLBT Americans and their families increasing dramatically. A recent Quinnipac poll shows that New Yorkers back marriage equality 58% - 36%, and a national poll recently found that a slim majority of Americans as a whole have, for the first time, come to embrace marriage rights for same-couples. In some ways, the June 24 vote was simply a reflection of the times.
NOM, however, sees the issue differently, and has stated that it intends to work toward "overturning same-sex marriage in New York" -- that is, stripping away the rights of New York families.
NOM has also issued the ultimatum that it means to "hold politicians accountable for their vote" in New York in next year’s elections.
The group’s president, Brian Brown, made an attempt to cloak the group’s targeting of pro-marriage legislators in the language of political integrity.
"Gay marriage has consequences for the next generation, for parents, and for religious people, institutions and small business owners," Brown said, according to a June 25 Advocate.com article. "Politicians who campaign one way on marriage, and then vote the other, need to understand: betraying and misleading voters has consequences, too."
NOM and other anti-gay groups have insisted that not only do equal rights for GLBTs inevitably place religious liberties at risk, but also that children in school will be "forced" to learn about gay relationships as a direct consequence of allowing same-sex couples access to the rights and protections of marriage.
That claim was a major reason Proposition 8 succeeded in California, even though education officials in that state decried it as untrue. Proposition 8 rescinded then then-existing right of gay and lesbian California families to wed. NOM was at the forefront of the deeply divisive campaign that led to the ballot initiative’s narrow approval in 2008. NOM was also a leader in the successful repeal of a Maine law by voters in 2009; that law would have granted same-sex families there marriage rights, had voters not repealed it at the ballot box before it could take effect.
NOM had attempted to depict New York children as being at risk, prior to the marriage equality bill there being approved and then signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on June 24.
"We are not giving up," Brown added, going on to say, "we will continue to fight to protect marriage in New York, as we are actively doing in New Hampshire and Iowa," two of the six states nationwide that grant gay and lesbian couples marriage equality, and where NOM hopes to yank marriage rights away from those families in a replay of Proposition 8.
But the constitutionality of ballot initiatives that curtail existing rights for minorities, even as the majority continues to enjoy the same rights, is in question. A federal court found Proposition 8 in violation of Constitutional guarantees last year. Though marriage rights in California have not been restored since the case in now under appeal, an affirmation by higher courts could spell the end of anti-gay plebiscites. The case is widely expected to proceed to the Supreme Court, which, in 1996, struck down an anti-gay amendment to the Colorado constitution, finding that the amendment targeted gays in a manner not allowed by the U.S. Constitution.
NOM’s chair, Maggie Gallagher, was quoted in the Advocate article as saying, "The Republican Party in New York is responsible for passing gay marriage, and sadly it’s the families of New York who will pay the worst price of the new government-backed redefinition of marriage."
Recent polls in New York indicate that the state’s families are not panicking at the idea of same-sex neighbors and relatives being able to marry.
"NOM-sponsored campaigns to unseat legislators or jurists who have supported marriage equality are nothing new," noted the Advocate. "Last year the group helped fund a $1 million push in Iowa to oust three state supreme court judges who took part in a unanimous decision striking down the state’s anti-gay marriage laws."
The Advocate article noted that New York’s new marriage equality law is not vulnerable to a Proposition 8-style repeal via ballot initiative.
Moreover, Republican support for GLBT equality appears to be growing, albeit slowly. In part, this is a result of gay conservatives emerging from the politician closet to assert their identity as both gay and politically rightward.
Anti-gay politician Michele Bachmann reiterated what appeared to be a self-contradictory message in saying, after the New York vote, that if she is elected president in next year’s election she will push for an amendment to the United States Constitution that would ban marriage for any but heterosexual couples.
Bachmann also stated, however, that the issue be left to the states to decide for themselves -- a stance calculated to appeal to her Tea Party backers.
Bachmann had previously expressed herself on the issue during a New Hampshire debate among seven GOP hopefuls, saying that she would back an anti-marriage amendment to the United States Constitution, but also saying that states should decide marriage questions for themselves.
Given that federal law supersedes state law, and state laws must also conform to the legal framework laid out by the Constitution, such an amendment, if ratified by 2/3 of the 50 states, would take the ability to decide away from states that wish to decide in favor of gay and lesbian families.
Currently, marriage equality is legal in six states.