7/27/2010 – The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, today challenged the National Organization for Marriage’s so-called “Summer for Marriage” bus tour, saying it’s nothing more than legal and rhetorical posturing in its campaign to keep its donor base secret.
“The bus tour is a total sham, plain and simple,” said Fred Sainz, HRC’s vice president of communications. “NOM’s highly-touted bus tour is less about so-called ‘traditional marriage’ and more about creating an elaborate and cynical stunt. NOM rolled out a summer of nationwide events in order to draw lawful protesters, all so that NOM and its allies can pepper ongoing lawsuits challenging public disclosure laws with made-up stories of harassment. This unprecedented victimization crusade is the lowest denominator of political activism, and it won’t fly.”
In events in seven states, NOM has routinely played to crowds reportedly as small as two dozen people including NOM staff members. The organization’s public statements on the bus tour have barely mentioned the content of the programs or the substance of its anti-LGBT message, instead focusing attention on much larger counter-protests that NOM has attacked as intimidation and harassment. NOM issued a press release last Friday saying that LGBT supporters have “approached and threatened children,” engaged in “bullying tactics” and committed acts of harassment. However, NOM’s uncorroborated claims belie legitimate local media reports demonstrating that pro-equality supporters, which have vastly outnumbered NOM’s faithful, have been civil. NOM has yet to document any illegal activity or actual harassment, despite the presence of law enforcement at all the events.
NOM’s efforts to trump up false claims of harassment are part of a radical nationwide plan to evade long-established public disclosure laws and to hide their political activities from legitimate scrutiny and accountability. In doing so, NOM has falsely alleged that their donors have been harassed and intimidated across the country to justify why it shouldn’t have to play by the same rules as everyone else. These tactics have prompted a state ethics investigation in Maine and recent court defeats across the country.
In Washington state, NOM’s lawyers fought the state’s public records law all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court – and lost last month. While rejecting their request to shield petition signatures to an anti-LGBT equality measure on the state ballot, the Supreme Court did allow for re-evaluation in cases of clear intimidation or harassment. A federal district court will soon decide if NOM’s unproven allegations of harassment justify hiding the petition signatures that qualified Referendum 71, the unsuccessful effort to overturn Washington’s domestic partnerships law. A federal court in California similarly rejected NOM’s efforts to hide its donors and debunked its claims of harassment and intimidation in the wake of Proposition 8.
Sainz concludes: “The bread crumbs of their deceit are clear. Let’s add it all up: NOM and its allies are making a last-ditch legal stand in Washington and Maine that they should be specially entitled to hide their political activities, and they’re saying that harassment and intimidation should provide them this cover. At the same time, Brian Brown schedules a series of virtually unattended weekday afternoon events hoping for counter-protests that they can then use as evidence of harassment and intimidation. Why else would NOM execute such half-hearted non-events and then completely subjugate its so-called ‘pro-marriage’ message in favor of devoting its energies almost exclusively to condemning lawful protesters?”
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