BY ANN S. KIM

The Portland Press Herald

The primary organization fighting gay marriage in the United States aimed to drive a wedge between gays and blacks and cast acceptance for same-sex marriage among Latinos as a mark of inappropriate assimilation, according to a confidential memo that was unsealed in U.S. District Court.

Those strategies were among those outlined by the National Organization for Marriage in a 2009 update to its board. The organization donated $1.9 million to Stand for Marriage Maine, a political action committee that worked toward the repeal of the state’s same-sex marriage law in 2009.

The document was filed as part of NOM’s legal fight with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices over rules that require disclosure of donors’ identities. The donors’ identities remain undisclosed, as the case continues to make its way through the courts.

NOM’s plan for 2009-20011 includes a section called “Cultural Strategies” that discusses ways to divide gays and blacks, two important Democratic constituencies, and how the Latino vote is an increasingly key swing vote.

For blacks, the goals included a media campaign around African-American spokespersons’ opposition to gay marriage cast as a civil right.

“Provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots. No politician wants to take up and push an issue that splits the base of the party,” the memo stated.

Other ideas include a marriage amendment in Washington, D.C., and “fanning the hostility” in the aftermath of Proposition 8, the 2008 California ballot question the restricted marriage to heterosexual couples.

Latinos are an increasingly important group because of their demographic growth and because of the possibility that assimilation will lead them to “abandon traditional family values,” according to the document.

“We must interrupt this process of assimilation by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity — a symbol of resistance to inappropriate assimilation,” the memo said.

The approach is Pan-American, with celebrity leaders chosen without regard to national boundaries, ads in various dialects and materials with templates that can be used outside the United States. The Latino Identity Project would also reach out to younger generations and work with leaders on the campuses of Ivy League and similar colleges.

Glamorous young Latinos, such as artists and celebrities, and attractive young black Democrats, should be found to promote the cause, the memo stated.

NOM issued a statement Tuesday saying it was proud of its work with minorities and leaders from different backgrounds.

“Gay marriage advocates have attempted to portray same-sex marriage as a civil right, but the voices of these and many other leaders have provided powerful witness that this claim is patently false,” Brian Brown, NOM president, said in the statement. “Gay marriage is not a civil right, and we will continue to point this out in written materials such as those released in Maine. We proudly bring together people of difference races, creeds and colors to fight for our most fundamental institution: marriage.”

Other aims outlined in the memo include exposing developing side issues to weaken leaders who support same-sex marriage, nurturing scholars and making “traditional sexual morality intellectually respectable again in elite culture.”

In 2009, the Democratic-controlled Legislature passed a same-sex marriage bill that Gov. John Baldacci signed into law. Voters then repealed it, 53 percent to 47 percent.

The information revealed in the memo was not surprising but underscored the difference in approach of the two sides in the issue, said Matt McTighe, campaign director of Mainers United for Marriage, a political action committee formed in support of this year’s state ballot question to legalize same-sex marriage. The PAC was launched Monday, he said, following positive reaction to their position.

“To see it in black and white I hope will call more attention to the types of tactics opponents of marriage for gays and lesbians have to rely on to scare voters,” he said. “We expect they’re going to continue to do it in Maine.”

Michael Heath, one of the founders of the newly formed No Special Rights PAC, said he did not know whether the group would receive support from NOM. He said the civil rights argument of NOM was relevant in Maine despite its small minority populations.

“We believe that sodomy — homosexuality — is an immoral behavior and is not the basis upon which a positive legal right can be granted. That’s why we say ‘No Special Rights,'” said Heath, who formed the group with Paul Madore, another longtime opponent to same-sex marriage.

After NOM lost one part of its case in U.S. District Court, the 1st U.S. Circuit of Appeals upheld the decision and the U.S. Supreme Court turned down the case. It was the completion of that part of the legal battle that resulted in the unsealing of the memo Monday.

NOM still has the option to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court for another part of the case. A related case in Kennebec County Superior Court has been on hold while some issues were in play in the federal courts.

 


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