Gay marriage opponents reveal political strategy in secret memo

The nation’s leading anti-gay-marriage group has a surprising strategy for opposing same-sex marriage: pit African Americans and gays against each other.

With an improving economy undercutting the GOP's fiscal arguments against Democrats, Republicans have already indicated that they intend to return this year to social issues — including same-sex marriage. At least five states are expected to have ballot measures this year relating to the issue: Maine, Minnesota, Maryland, North Carolina and Washington state.

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Meanwhile, many Democrats are pushing to include gay marriage in the party's official platform for 2012, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.). Same-sex marriage advocates have been urging President Obama to revise his position, which he has described as "evolving."

An internal memo from the National Organization for Marriage was part of a cluster of documents unsealed Monday by a federal court as part of a probe into the group’s disclosure practices for donors. The strategy memo — marked “confidential” — included a detailed passage entitled “Not a Civil Rights Project.”

“The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks — two key Democratic constituencies,” read the memo, which outlined a plan to recruit African-American spokesmen to speak out against gay marriage, then organize a media campaign around their objections.

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

The reaction to the memo by both gay rights groups and civil rights leaders was swift and unflattering.

“It confirmed a suspicion that some evil hand was behind this,” former NAACP Chairman Julian Bond told The Hill.

The civil rights leader said the strategy appeared to have been implemented already, pointing to a gay-marriage push in Maryland that failed in 2011, which he said was largely due to opposition from black politicians. (Gay marriage was reintroduced in 2012 in Maryland and passed, although opponents are trying to reverse it through a referendum).

“I would not be surprised to find this group and its filthy hand in crafting this situation,” Bond said.

African-Americans weren’t the only targets of the strategy memo, which also detailed plans to recruit Hispanic artists, actors, musicians, athletes and writers to serve as a face for the anti-gay marriage movement.

“Will the process of assimilation to the dominant Anglo culture lead Hispanics to abandon traditional family values? 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,” said the memo.

The memo was part of the organization’s 2008-2009 report to its board of directors, but addressed what appeared to be a long-term strategic plan.

The memo also included a plan to spend $100,000 to study “what schools are teaching in gay marriage/civil union regimes,” and another $60,000 to pay an employee to identify children of gay parents who would speak out on-camera against gay marriage.

A federal judge on Monday unsealed documents that comprised an investigation by the Maine Ethics Commission into the group’s disclosure practices, gay rights activists said. The Human Rights Campaign sent a representative to the court to obtain copies of the documents, which included the controversial memo.

“With the veil lifted, Americans everywhere can now see the ugly politics that the National Organization for Marriage traffics in every day,” HRC President Joe Solmonese said in a statement. “While loving gay and lesbian couples seek to make lifelong commitments, NOM plays racial politics, tries to hide donors and makes up lies about people of faith. The contrast could not be any starker.”

The National Organization for Marriage said the group works extensively with supporters from all backgrounds, including prominent black and Hispanic leaders such as Alveda Celeste King, the niece of Martin Luther King Jr.

"This was an organization memo with many authors. Perhaps it was inarticulate in the way it laid it out," NOM President Brian Brown said in an telephone interview. "Great for them that they're highlighting a 2009 memo that actually depicts the reality that Democrats are trying to hijack the civil rights movement."

- This post was updated at 5:39 p.m.