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View From Washington: Meet NOM

View From Washington: Meet NOM

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Feeling down because you haven't been able to slip away for that summer vacation you've been daydreaming about? This may not be exactly what you were envisioning, but you can take a highly cost-effective tour across the country with first-rate entertainment simply by following the Courage Campaign's tracker of the National Organization for Marriage's Summer for Marriage Tour 2010.

The 23-stop NOM-sponsored media stunt has only eight stops left, but the tracker has revealed what can only be viewed as lagging popular support for these rallies (as Joe My God accurately noted, "Tens Appear At NOM's Indianapolis Stop"), and a base that often hews pretty close to being septua/octogenerian in nature (if I were a single, straight retiree looking for a partner, I'd be sure to don my best slacks and take my chances at a tour stop).

But perhaps more importantly, it shines a light on just how fringe many of the elements are that consistently represent at these rallies. Take Larry Adams -- one of the "tens" who showed up to offer a dose of Hoosier fervor and ingenuity with his sign touting "The Solution to Gay Marriage." That "solution" was homicide. Alongside a neatly drawn sketch of two nooses, Adams quoted Leviticus 20:13: "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: They shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."

The Courage Campaign's Arisha Michelle Hatch managed to conduct an entirely civil interview with Adams, which was incredibly telling on any number of levels. Several of his revelations were, of course, predictable. He thinks gays are "lost" and imagines that he's cornered the market on "what's right and what's wrong" before offering this euphemistic variation on his sign: "What you gotta do with sin is you gotta take it out." Undoubtedly, more of his wisdom flows at Cross Bearer Ministry, listed complete with phone number on his sign. It also might come as no surprise to some that Adams admits to having struggled with gay attractions himself. "I knew it was from the devil, so I avoided it," he says.

But even more striking was the fact that NOM's organizers didn't seem particularly enthusiastic about the idea of an on-camera, Adams "unplugged" style interview being conducted. Note the young woman who futilely attempted to grab his attention before he was pulled aside by Hatch -- you can see the flash of panic cross her face as she envisions what's about to unfold. Then just before the questions start flowing, another NOM adherent warns Adams, "We don't want anything inflammatory, OK?" Hmmm ... guess that sign didn't count.

If those attempts at obstructing the truth from coming to light don't grab you, try the Annapolis tour stop, where a Maryland capitol police officer admits that NOM executive director Brian Brown asked to have the Courage Campaign's videographer, Jethro Rothe-Kushel, removed. The officer dutifully prohibits his recording of the event from ensuing at a distance that's already so far away from the "rally" the videographer is forced to engage his zoom in order to make Brown recognizable.

"Don't make me lock you up," the officer threatens -- a minor violation of the Rothe-Kushel's First Amendment rights since the rally was taking place on Lawyers' Mall, which is public property.

The Maryland capitol chief of police, Phil Palmere, sent a follow-up letter to the Courage Campaign apologizing for the way the situation was handled. Apparently, the force is "instituting corrective training measures" to avoid future violations by its officers. Thank heavens.

The Courage Campaign and founder-chair Rick Jacobs have done LGBT people a great service by having the vision to follow NOM on this odyssey into the heart of its base. Instead of being a tightly controlled exercise in media messaging, it quickly became a lesson in intolerance that has attracted about 2.5 million page views and nearly 43,000 comments to the tracker's site, according to the organization.

Hatch and her vidoegraphers have also interviewed Brown several times during the course of the tour, and he has graciously played along. Certainly, he and his team now wish he had been the only subject of their coverage, as you will note that he comes across as entirely more palatable than a great number of NOM's supporters.

Toward the end of this interview, Hatch gives Brown an opportunity to reject some of the hateful and inflammatory rhetoric that has become a familiar centerpiece at a number of these rallies for "one-man, one-woman" love.

Brown dodges several times while Hatch offers successive questions with the same underlying theme: Are gays and lesbians perverted? Diseased? Pedophiles?

Brown personally rejects the notion of "labeling" people but he comes nowhere close to condemning the venom that has spewed forth from the forum he and his organization created.

"What I believe is pastors and religious leaders have the right to speak up for traditional Christian sexual morality," he says, adding, "The speakers have said many things, and we support their right to stand up and speak for what they believe."

I just have one name and one question for Brian Brown: Larry Adams; Where's the moral outrage about that?

Hatch and her colleagues just posted a fresh interview with Brown that they are dubbing "Brian Brown gets the Full David Blankenhorn Treatment" after the defense's expert witness in the case challenging the constitutionality of California's antigay-marriage Proposition 8.

In an e-mail to The Advocate, Hatch reflected on her NOM encounters.

"My major takeaway after being on this tour for three weeks is that the anti-equality movement is drowning, struggling to keep its head above water, and desperately grasping to seem mainstream. But they're not," she said. "Their audiences are smaller and their messages both convoluted and reliant on many of the same myths debunked during the Prop. 8 trial. They've been upstaged at almost every stop by counter protests put on by a loving LGBT community.

"On a personal level and despite all of my conscious efforts to remain disengaged, it becomes difficult at times to separate the self," she said of tracking the tour. "But as a straight ally and as an African-American, I can't help but feel like if this were 60 years ago, I'd be at a pro-segregation rally."

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