Gay Marriage: Stuff White People Do?

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This week the Human Rights Campaign released a number of previously sealed documents from the National Organization for Marriage, the nation's largest group to oppose marriage equality. Among the documents are several that detail one of NOM's primary strategies: playing the race card.


These documents reveal that NOM engaged in a concerted effort to "drive a wedge between gays and blacks." It further admits to manipulating the Latino community by working to make opposition to marriage equality "a key badge of Latino identity" and "an identity marker, a badge of youth rebellion to conformist assimilation to the bad side of 'Anglo' culture."

NOM's strategy is insidious for many reasons, and several advocates have commented on the reprehensible race-baiting outlined in these documents. It is insulting exploitation that heartlessly barters increased racist sentiment in exchange for an antigay marriage agenda.

But perhaps most disturbing, and thus far unexplored, is the devastating impact of this cynical strategy on lesbian, gay and bisexual people — particularly youths — of color. NOM's willingness to foster racial tension in order to thwart marriage equality attempts to turn black lesbian, gay and bisexual young people into cultural pariahs and divide our families and communities. The black community should view NOM's strategy as exactly what it is: an admission that in its war against equality, the organization views our families and children as expendable.

The disturbing assumption that underlies NOM's scheme is that the gay community it is attacking and the black community it is exploiting are entirely distinct. That assumption — that "gay" is a white identity and "black" is a straight identity — operates at the expense of black lesbian, gay and bisexual youths.

The results of such rejection can be deadly. Groundbreaking research by the Family Acceptance Project has found that acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths by parents and caregivers can be lifesaving. Conversely, according to FAP, LGBT youths who are rejected by their families have a dramatically increased risk of depression, substance abuse and suicide.

Further, chilling cases like those of Robert Champion and Brandon White have shown us how black LGBT youths can be brutalized when black identity is so narrowly understood. Increased physical, mental and psychological damage to black youths and the weakening of black families is not an accidental byproduct of NOM's strategy. It is the inevitable result.  


It shouldn't come as a surprise that NOM's tactics exhibit an utter disdain for the values of equality, respect, safety and dignity for all families; indeed, it is an organization dedicated precisely to the opposition of those values. But the disclosure of these documents is a chilling reminder that organizations dedicated to oppressing one marginalized community do not have a conscience about oppressing others.

NOM is committed to the idea that only some families and communities are worthy of equality. Its mission is not only to destroy same-sex relationships and families; NOM is perfectly content to destroy black communities in the process — or, rather, to create an atmosphere that encourages us to destroy ourselves.


Maya Rupert is the policy director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Follow her on Twitter.