NOM Marriage Pledge: A Discriminatory, Tone-Deaf Pitfall

The anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has been asking presidential hopefuls to sign a pledge stating, among other things, that they would:

support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution barring recognition of marriages involving same-sex couples;

•    defend the discriminatory and unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) against federal court challenges;
•    support efforts to overturn the District of Columbia's existing marriage law;
•    appoint a presidential commission to "investigate harassment of traditional marriage supporters."

The NOM pledge is striking both for its discriminatory intent, as well as for being tone-deaf to rapidly evolving public opinion in this area. Amending the Constitution to bar recognition of the marriages of gay and lesbian couples would be only the second time in our nation's history — and the first outside of the Prohibition Amendment — that the founding document would be amended to limit individual rights. In this case, the amendment would relegate an entire class of people to second-class citizen status.

As for tone-deafness, a May 2011 Gallup poll found that a majority of Americans (53 percent) favored legalizing marriage for gay and lesbian couples. This poll is consistent with other recent national polls, including a March poll by the Washington Post and ABC News, which found majority support for gay and lesbian couples gaining the freedom to marry. The trends on this issue are striking, unmistakable and entirely inconsistent with the NOM marriage pledge.

My favorite aspect of the NOM pledge, however, is the commitment to appoint a presidential commission to "investigate harassment of traditional marriage supporters." I mean, it's not like the country is facing anything more serious, right?

What NOM seeks is a free hand to attack the legitimacy of gay and lesbian couples and their relationships through the spread of fear and disinformation while remaining free from public scrutiny, accountability, or even active, organized opposition. While organizations like NOM would like to have people believe that their supporters face systematic harassment and intimidation because of their anti-gay views, the reality is quite different. Any incidents of actual harassment or political violence employed as part of a political campaign is entirely unacceptable, but (as a coalition of LGBT legal and advocacy organizations wrote in a Supreme Court amicus brief last year) this is not the same thing as constitutionally protected (if heated) disagreement, criticism, and advocacy.

At a time when LGBT people are achieving important progress at the national, state and local level, this pledge is a throwback to an intolerant, discriminatory past wholly out of step with the majority of the American people.

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