The National Organization for Marriage should stay out of toilet politics and stick to marriage

David Benkof Contributor
Font Size:

What’s gone wrong with the National Organization for Marriage (NOM)? It’s the main group organized to protect man-woman marriage from the onslaught of marriage equality lawsuits and legislation. Yet these days NOM is working on subjects completely unrelated to marriage, particularly California’s ‘privacy for all students’ law.

The amendment is a ballot initiative that aims to repeal the California law, passed in August, that allows children with a transgender identity to choose which bathrooms to use, which locker rooms to change in, and which athletic teams to join.

Now, I personally feel that there are better ways than the California law to treat transgender children fairly – while still respecting all students’ privacy – but without allowing every child free rein when it comes to private spaces. If I lived in California, I would probably vote for the privacy amendment.

But that’s not the point.

By working on toilet politics, NOM is making several errors:

  • It is betraying its promises to its donors and supporters. NOM’s mission statement claims, simply, that it exists “to protect marriage and the faith communities that sustain it.” Focusing on dismantling a transgender equality law has nothing to do with that goal, and is simply a bait-and-switch pulled on NOM’s base of support.
  • There is a ton of work to be done to limit the expansion of same-sex marriage and protect the religious liberty of Americans who feel deeply that marriage is a union of one man and one woman. By diverting resources to another topic altogether, NOM is neglecting to pay attention to urgent needs related to the issue it was founded to embrace.
  • Under the inspired leadership of NOM’s founder and first president, Maggie Gallagher, the organization repeatedly insisted, correctly, that supporting man-woman marriage is not about being homophobic. (For a dozen years after high school I myself was an active and proud member of the gay community.) Yet it appears that NOM is turning into Antigay Inc., which only reinforces the attitude of the LGBT community that protecting marriage is about discriminating against them.

(Repeated calls and E-mails requesting comment from NOM’s leaders received no response.)

I contacted Gallagher to see what she thinks about this change of focus. She told me that she sees marriage and bathroom policy as indirectly related, but that she could “easily imagine folks who oppose gay marriage but are less certain about transgender policies.”

So what’s going on? One possibility is that this change in direction is being pushed by NOM’s national poiltical director, Frank Schubert, who ran California’s nasty Proposition 8 campaign to overturn gay marriage and has already been hired to manage the Privacy for All Students campaign once it qualifies for the ballot, which it’s expected to do.

Schubert, one of America’s leading hate-for-hire hustlers, is way out of line signing NOM up to help collect petitions and raise money for a cause he’s going to make big bucks working for. Talk about your conflicts of interest!

NOM needs to be taken back, or replaced, by people committed to a single-minded focus on man-woman marriage. Gallagher told me she feels that the most urgent task is winning religious liberty protections that can survive a future Supreme Court decision expanding gay marriage to the entire country.

I would go even further – not only demanding that the law respect and protect people who believe in what they feel is God’s definition of marriage, but also working on cultural issues.

We need to help American society evolve in a direction that understands that opposition to gay marriage is not the latest iteration of America’s history of virulent bias. Why can’t there be room in this diverse country for the huge numbers of Americans like me who are never going to change our minds about what marriage is? Treating us like racists is obnoxious, and offensive.

Gallagher says she’s hopeful, but not optimistic, in her desire to find a way to avoid marginalizing gay people without abandoning the notion that we need institutions “to protect and sustain the sexual desire of men and women that produces children.”

She’s right. One of the institutions that can do what she outlines is marriage itself. Another that could, if only it wanted to, is the National Organization for Marriage.

David Benkof is the author, as David Bianco, of “Gay Essentials: Facts for Your Queer Brain” (Alyson, 1999). He can be reached at DavidBenkof@gmail.com.