By Julie Bolcer
Originally published on Advocate.com September 13 2012 10:41 AM ET
As the campaign to pass the Maryland marriage referendum nears its final seven weeks, the coalition working to approve Question 6 wants media to be advised of the “misinformation, race baiting and negativity” that characterize the “playbook” of opponents such as National Organization for Marriage.
Marylanders for Marriage Equality sent a memo Thursday morning to “Maryland reporters, editors, anchors, producers” with the subject line “What to watch out for.” The document is intended as a preemptive strike against opponents, who in past statewide campaigns have shown a tendency to make significant investments at the last minute.
“This memo outlines the playbook that marriage equality opponents have used since 2008,” reads the message, which cites Frank Schubert, political director of NOM, who is now “leading the charge” to defeat Question 6. “The misinformation, race baiting and negativity have worked to great effect in states like California and Maine,” continues the memo. “Marylanders should brace themselves for what is about to hit our state.”
The memo reviews three strategies that media should expect from opponents, who work under the coalition, Maryland Marriage Alliance. Those strategies include exploiting race, promoting the false charge that same-sex marriage will be taught in public schools if the law is upheld, and convincing voters that marriage equality advocates have “duped” them. The latter refers to recent calls by the Maryland Marriage Alliance for voters to be “inherently suspicious” of the religious exemptions language in the ballot measure and the law signed this year by Gov. Martin O’Malley.
NOM funds a significant portion of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, according to the memo, which cites the coalition’s own website and financial disclosure reports. The memo also reveals that NOM president Brian Brown is a founding director of the Maryland Marriage Alliance.
“The link between the national and statewide group is significant because of NOM’s national strategy — used in a number of states — to defeat marriage for gay and lesbian couples,” says the memo. “That strategy as outlined in its 2009 internal memos is to ‘drive a wedge between gays and blacks … fanning the hostility raised in the wake of Prop. 8.’”
Approximately 25% of voters in Maryland are African-American, which has raised concerns that the racially divisive tactics could be used in the state. NAACP chairman emeritus Julian Bond recently wrote that “a victory would deal a serious blow to the National Organization for Marriage” because of the race-baiting strategy the group has admitted.
Maryland is one of four states with ballot initiatives pertaining to marriage this November. Advocates hope to reverse a long losing streak by winning the votes on the measures.
Read the full memo on the next page.
TO: Maryland reporters, editors, anchors, producers
FROM: Marylanders for Marriage Equality
DATE: September 13, 2012
RE: What to watch for
This memo outlines the playbook that marriage equality opponents have used since 2008. Frank Schubert, political director of the National Organization for Marriage, has used these tactics to inundate voters with deceptive ads and sound bytes. The misinformation, race baiting and negativity have worked to great effect in states like California and Maine. Marylanders should brace themselves for what is about to hit our state. The New York Times’ Frank Bruni recently quoted a marriage equality advocate who correctly observed, “‘The other side runs these hard-hitting ads filled with lies about school curriculum changes’ and such, spooking voters who are wavering or undecided.”
Strategy 1: Exploit race
NOM is a national extremist group that funds a significant part of the Maryland Marriage Alliance — this according to MMA’s own web site (before their early September re-design) and based on financial disclosure reports. NOM’s president, Brian Brown, is a founding director of MMA. Schubert is the visible national operative leading the charge to defeat Maryland’s Question 6.
The link between the national and statewide group is significant because of NOM’s national strategy — used in a number of states — to defeat marriage for gay and lesbian couples. That strategy as outlined in its 2009 internal memos is to "drive a wedge between gays and blacks… fanning the hostility raised in the wake of Prop. 8."
Given Maryland’s racial diversity and the sizeable African-American vote, we should expect to see some of those insidious tactics here by NOM/MMA.
Strategy 2: Convince voters gay marriage will be taught in schools if it’s legal
In TV ads, direct mail, and mainstream media, NOM had pushed this message in other states where marriage has been up for debate, including California, Maine, and New York. And it's already happening here. Last month, Rev. McCoy issued a statement warning that “Maryland parents who send their children to public schools are immediately asking how does this [same-sex marriage] affect what is taught in schools.”
The answer is it doesn’t. The independent fact checking site, PolitiFact, has deemed the charge "false." And opponents know it isn’t true. Marc Mutty, who ran the anti-gay 2009 campaign in Maine admitted, "We all use a lot of hyperbole and I think that's always dangerous. You know, we say things like 'Teachers will be forced to (teach same-sex marriage in schools)!' Well, that's not completely accurate and we all know it, you know?"
In Maryland, a school’s specific curriculum is decided by local school districts. Teachers and parents decide what is taught in the classroom, and no state law — including the marriage question on the November ballot — changes that (see MD Edu. Code Ann. § 4-111).
Strategy 3: Make voters think they’re being duped
Following the release of ballot language that calls for civil marriage licenses for gay and lesbian people and protects religious freedom, the Maryland Marriage Alliance called the language a “ploy” and urged voters to be “inherently suspicious.” The Maryland Catholic Conference reacted similarly.
Explicit in both the law signed by Governor O’Malley in March and in the ballot language are important provisions stating that religious institutions are exempt from having to marry anyone they don’t want to. If the marriage of a gay couple violates a minister’s belief, he does not have to perform one.
This is one of those areas where either religious freedom is protected in the language, or it’s not. There’s no gray area. It’s protected.