NOM in New York: All Hat and No Cattle
Almost 60% of New Yorkers wanted it. Governor Cuomo showed a steely resolve to get it. LGBT groups united to win it. Four Republican lawmakers voted for it. And beginning July 24, marriage equality will be a reality in the Empire State. But even before the first vows are exchanged, the nation’s leading antigay group, the National Organization for Marriage, is already trying to undo the newly minted law.
The folks at NOM, you see, are crankier than normal. They lost New York big — and they know it. What’s interesting is that they didn’t even go all in; they didn’t put any real skin in the game. Sure, Brian Brown and Maggie Gallagher flew into Albany for cameo appearances days before the vote. Yes, NOM rolled out a racially tinged cable-only TV ad and hurled threats of electoral defeat at lawmakers who didn’t vote their way. But all of this was largely window dressing. For most of the eight-week campaign, NOM phoned it in, committing only $500,000.
Look at the organization’s full-court press in other states the past few years. In Iowa the group spent an unprecedented $600,000 in a usually sleepy, off-the-radar election to unseat three state Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of marriage equality in that state. (The justices lost their races, but same-sex marriage remains the law of the land; nothing changed.) In California and Maine, NOM spent almost $4 million to defeat marriage equality initiatives. In Rhode Island and Maryland, NOM led an aggressive and expensive lobbying effort to stop marriage equality legislation.
It’s likely NOM’s leaders backed down in New York because, like everyone else, they read the numbers. With a supermajority of voters supporting marriage equality and polls showing that support crossed demographic, political, and religious lines (including 56% of New York Catholics) NOM more likely decided to hold its powder and wait for more favorable conditions in another state.