The antigay National Organization for Marriage held its annual March for Marriage — heterosexual marriage, that is — in Washington, D.C., Saturday, almost one year to the day after the U.S. Supreme Court declared that same-sex couples have a right to marry under the U.S. Constitution.
And if the once-teeming annual event’s turnout is any indication of the state of current opposition to marriage equality, advocates may finally be able to step back and watch the antigay organization peter out of existence, notes The New Civil Rights Movement. Even diversifying its message with anti-transgender rhetoric didn't bring out the crowds.
ThinkProgress LGBT editor Zack Ford was at the rally and march, live-tweeting the entire unremarkable afternoon. He says a fellow reporter — for a right-wing Christian outlet — told him there were 237 people in attendance (including speakers and reporters).
— Zack Ford (@ZackFord) June 25, 2016
— Zack Ford (@ZackFord) June 25, 2016
At last year's march, held just days before the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on marriage equality, ThinkProgress estimated there were 6,000 participants — and organizers estimated 10,000. The steep drop-off may indicate that opponents of marriage equality have moved on.
But this year, the march also tried to diversify its message, setting its sights on other LGBT-related issues, though that also failed to produce a sizeable turnout. Leading up to the march, NOM president Brian Brown had decried the Obama administration's recommendation that schools recognize transgender students' identity and offer them access to the facilities matching their identity.
"In addition to protesting the illegitimate Supreme Court ruling of last year, and the threats to religious liberty and freedom of conscience which have arisen in its wake, we will also be standing against the unprecedented and deplorable overreach of the Obama administration in trying to force the radical gender ideology of LGBT extremists on our communities," Brown told The Christian Post, a far-right publication, last week.
Obviously not recognizing the reality of transgender identity, Brown claimed that this ideology "would allow men who 'identify' as women to gain access to intimate facilities like changing rooms, locker rooms, and bathrooms, and saying that any women who object that they are uncomfortable with such an arrangement are 'bigoted.'"
Roman Catholic Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for Military Services, who attended and spoke at the NOM's march, told LifeSite News, another right-wing outlet, that such an inclusive policy “goes against common sense” and threatens the privacy of women.
Another speaker told the crowd that the current situation of the United States is much like that of the Roman Empire during the rise of Christianity.
“If America is in moral decline, if respect for human dignity runs cold, if our discourse is coarsening, if basic kindness is withering under rampant individualism, if sexual confusion is the new norm, if secularism increasingly defines our laws and institutions, if traditional marriage and family are falling from public favor, can such cultural decay be seen as a gift?” said Father John Oliver of the Orthodox Church in America, according to LifeSite News. “Yes. And one key to such optimism may be to understand that if America is slipping further toward depravity, it is also slipping toward the very conditions in which the early Christian faith thrived."
These activists, of course, are mischaracterizing transgender concerns just as they mischaracterized the movement for marriage equality. Trans people are not "confused," nor are lesbian, gay, and bisexual people (and trans folks can be gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, or any other orientation). And allowing same-sex couples to marry never posed any threat to opposite-sex marriages.
Meanwhile, the march lacked big-name speakers; two years ago, it drew at least a couple of well-known politicians, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Both are also failed Republican presidential aspirants.
"If NOM represented an actual cause that people believed in, they would be growing in numbers, not shrinking," wrote David Badash at The New Civil Rights Movement. Since the group's founding in 2007, he added, "they have accomplished little to nothing certainly nothing permanent, and their fundraising is embarrassing, as was this failed March for Marriage. Will NOM even exist one year from now?"