NOM's Cool Moose Obsession

Hello friends, I'm Matt Baume, and thanks for subscribing to the Defining Marriage podcast, where we trace the decades-long evolution of marriage through the personal stories of those who lived through it. 

If you've been listening so far, every week you've heard me read one chapter of my book, Defining Marriage: Voices from a Forty-Year Labor of Love. If you'd like to hear the book, complete and unabridged, you can jump back and listen to the first 18 episodes of this podcast in order. Or you can pop over to Amazon and get Defining Marriage as a digital download, and now in paperback.

Now that I've released the entire book as a podcast, for the next few episodes I'll be revisiting the marriage work that I did as an reporter and activist over the last decade. I've gathered news clips, interviews, and analysis from the dark days of marriage inequality. I'll play them for you, then talk about what was happening back then, which predictions came true and which were a little off the mark, and what's changed in the intervening years.

Last week, I covered three misleading national ads that the National Organization for Marriage ran after Prop 8 passed. This week, we'll take a look at some ads that the anti-gay industry targeted to specific states -- and we'll talk about why, in every case, they failed to have the impact they were supposed to.

We'll start with an ad from 2010 in Iowa. A few years earlier, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution required marriage equality. In 2010, three of those judges were up for re-election -- it's a weird quirk in some states voters pick their judges, even though voters have no idea what qualifies someone to be a good supreme court justice. NOM saw an opportunity here, and started running commercials that encouraged voters to throw the pro-equality justices out of office. I responded with a video of my own, debunking theirs. Here it is.

Watching it 5 years later, a couple things strike me about this video. Particularly -- why did NOM even bother? Even if these judges were kicked out, it's not like they their replacements were going to be able to reverse the decision. It was decided unanimously, and the judges themselves were pretty conservative. Anyone who replaced them would probably have voted the same way. So what was NOM even hoping to achieve?

Maybe they were trying to intimidate judges in other states. Rule for marriage equality, and we'll take your job away, something like that. Who knows.

Anyway, back in 2010, my little youtube video was no match for NOM, and all three judges lost their seats in the election. But then something funny happened -- two years later, another of the judges was up for retention, and this time he was able to keep his seat. In part because by 2012, NOM had a lot less money to spread around on dumb fights that didn't actually mean anything. We'll talk about that in just a little bit.

First, take a listen to another video from 2010. This one's from Minnesota, where a crazy anti-gay politician named Tom Emmer was running for governor. NOM ran ads supporting him, and I put out a video exposing their lies.

I have good news and bad news about how this election went. The good news is that Tom Emmer lost, by a lot. But then five years later, he ran for the seat in Congress being vacated by Michele Bachmann, and he won. So today, instead of screwing things up in Minnesota, he's screwing things up in the House of Representatives. 

In fact, the Republican party used Emmer as justification for introducing an anti-gay bill this year. They're calling it the First Amendment Defense Act, and it would eliminate nondiscrimination protections for a variety of groups. I'll do my best to explain their logic, even though it's a stretch and it's not going to make sense, but when Republicans introduced this bill, they cited Emmer's previous election losses as evidence that it's necessary. You see, the way they saw it, Tom Emmer spoke out against gay marriage, and then he lost an election, and that means that he was discriminated against by gays, and so businesses should be able to discriminate against gays.

Yeah. It's crazy. Especially in light of that Iowa ad, in which they were telling voters to kick judges out of office. How is that any different from voters rejecting Tom Emmer? I don't know. Like I said. it doesn't make sense.

And speaking of not making sense, let's listen to an ad they ran in Rhode Island in 2011. Back then, lawmakers were considering a marriage bill, so NOM ran some ads trying to intimidate them. Here's my response.

You can't see it on the podcast, but a cartoon moose kept popping up on screen during the ad. Sometimes it's like NOM wants to be made fun of.

Anyway, the Rhode Island fight got awfully bitter in 2011, and eventually the legislature passed a civil unions bill. And two years later, they passed a marriage bill. So, nice try, NOM, but you lose again.

Last I'm going to play for you two videos from 2012. One's from Washington and one's from Maine. Both states were facing votes on marriage, and the polling was very very tight. As usual, NOM put out ads full of lies, and as usual, I rebutted. Here they are:

Well, that was a huge waste of NOM's money, because they lost in both states, as well as in Minnesota and Maryland. 2012 was the last time marriage was on the ballot, and it's also the last time NOM ran election ads like these. I do kind of miss doing the rebuttals, but it's probably for the best that they're in the past.

Next week I'm going to take a look at a fascinating interview I did in 2011 with Alan Shayne and Norman Sunshine. They have an incredible story about growing up closeted, working on Broadway, becoming the head of Warner Brothers Television, being arrested, getting married, and sharing an absolutely amazing life together. You won't want to miss it.

Until then, listeners, please do get in touch and let me know your thoughts and questions on Twitter -- I'm @mattbaume. And leave a review on iTunes, those reviews make a huge difference. 

Don't forget to hop over to Amazon to get Defining Marriage in print or via download. And if you do pick up a copy, it would mean a lot if you could leave an Amazon review with your honest opinion.

Check out my other podcast, The Sewers of Paris, for revealing personal stories about the entertainment that changed the lives of gay men.

Until next time, friends… by the power vested in me by the internet, I now pronounce this podcast over.


In Your Arms Kevin MacLeod ( 
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