Mainstream media is catching on to NOM's broader agenda

Those of us who geek out on this LGBT politics stuff have certainly noticed the National Organization For Marriage's shift over the past few years.  While once almost obsessively concerned about its image in order to be seen as an organization that's focused on public policy rather than as your run-of-the mill anti-LGBT organization, in recent years NOM has dropped that mask and shown itself to be just as animus-driven as the American Family Association, the Family Research Council, or any of the others.  

One major shift came with the March, 2012, release of previously confidential strategy documents.  That's when we all learned that NOM had been operating with a chosen tactic to "drive a wedge between gays and blacks."  That now-infamous revelation was so shocking, cynical, and divisive, that people had to pay attention.  That revelation had few (if any) defenders and some pretty loud critics.  It put a new magnifying glass on NOM and its low-bar willingness for dirty politics, and it set the tone for things to come.

Around this same time, NOM's clear support for scientifically discredited "ex-gay" nonsense became quite clear.  For NOM, being a very Catholic organization, this support typically came in the form of demanded celibacy, which is the preferred instruction for gay (or what they call "same-sex attracted") people among the conservative wing of that faith.  Though whether it was founding chair Maggie Gallagher joining the board (and writing commentary on behalf) of an organization that supports so-called "reparative therapy" in court, Jennifer Roback Morse giving speech after speech in which she demanded that gay people simply cannot be actively gay, communications guy Thomas Peters promoting a "twelve step program for people with same-sex attraction," or unearthed comments in which president Brian Brown instructed parents to attend an "ex-gay" conference in order to "prevent your child from embracing this destructive way of life," it became harder and harder for NOM to deny that its deeper game plan, if allowed to reach its full potential, would involve more than just gay people's ring fingers.  Media people started confronting NOM about this.

NOM also began getting into areas they never would've before touched.  NOM began attacking laws like the proposed Employment Nondiscrimination Act, even though it doesn't have one thing to do with marriage.  That proposal, which recently passed the US Senate with bipartisan support, would simply shore up federal protections so that LGBT workers are judged on their qualifications rather than their sexual orientations or gender identities.  NOM is not okay with this, a basic protection that already applies in any number of categories.  When these workplace protections apply to LGBT people, NOM claims these basic protections to be a "trojan horse."

NOM also went full-out against a California law that was designed to do nothing more than safeguard transgender schoolchildren so that they could learn in greater peace.  NOM's political director, Frank Schubert, signed on as the campaign manager for the failed effort to repeal that law, and NOM tried to rally its support base for the cause.  Fortunately NOM's efforts failed and that law is now Golden State reality, but the lasting effects are permanent.  It's really tough for an organization to claim it is only about "protecting marriage" when it so proudly and fully delves into such unrelated advocacy—advocacy that applies to schoolchildren, no less.

But the biggest shift came with NOM's global outreach.  Particularly, it's president Brian Brown's multiple trips to Russia, where he has worked with the very crew that has managed to pass truly draconian laws that limit LGBT people's lives in very real and very oppressive ways (e.g. adoption bans, ban on so-called "propaganda," etc.).  Even with resounding criticism here at home for the anti-LGBT push in that nation, Brown has kept returning to Russia, with his most recent appearance coming just last week.  Brian shows up for meetings with his buddies at the World Congress of Families.  The NOM president shows up for panels.  He gives interviews in which he talks about "normal civil rights."  Despite having no discernible ties to the country, Brian has seen some sort of reason to make himself at home in one of the world's focal point of anti-LGBT controversy.

It's this Russian involvement that I think might finally be the tipping point when it comes to NOM and whatever buy-in the mainstream media might have once given to its spin about being a simple "protect marriage" group.  Anecdotally, I can tell you that I have spoken to four different mainstream media reporters in the past month alone, all of whom are working on reports that focus in large part on Brian and his global advocacy.  I also know of at least one documentary film crew that is putting together a film on the subject, and they too have many questions about NOM's international expansion (which I first scooped for the Human Rights Campaign back in 2013).  People who are not usually as focused on LGBT matters or on NOM are starting to raise an eyebrow and ask a few questions.  

A big development came this week with a new, high profile report from Yahoo! News.  Building off new data that the Human Rights Campaign just issued, reporter Liz Goodman really puts the focus on one group in particular.  Here's a snippet and link to the full piece:

Starting in 2012, the leader of the most prominent American anti-gay marriage organization unexpectedly began adding a ton of stamps to his passport.

As federal judges struck down gay marriage bans left and right at home, National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown appeared at meetings and marches for various anti-gay rights causes in France, Trinidad and Tobago, Russia and Australia — a surprising uptick in travel for the stateside activist. The result: In June, Brown’s group began discussing rebranding itself as the International Organization for Marriage, according to materials from a “March for Marriage” meeting in Washington, D.C.

KEEP READING: America's gay rights battle goes global [Yahoo! News]

I suspect there will be many reports like this one in the days and weeks to come. It is my experience that when the mainstream media starts cluing in to things that people like me have been noticing for years, that tends to break these kinds of stories out of the usual boxes.  People who think "nom" is little more than a sound one makes when consuming particularly satisfying crackers get a glimpse tof the very real global threat that LGBT people know all too well.  And once this conversation gets started, it will only chip away further at this, the one national organization to whom the entire "protect marriage" movement has entrusted its fight.  NOM is simply going too far to hold on to anything resembling a moderate image.