Saturday, May 16, 2015

A Week Out from Irish Marriage Equality Referendum, NOM's Behind-the-Scenes Work to Assure a No Vote Receives Increasing Scrutiny

In his weekly recap this week of global LGBT-and-religion news at Religion Dispatches, Peter Montgomery points to a BuzzFeed article by Lester Feder in which Feder says that marriage equality advocates in Ireland are increasingly nervous about high polling numbers (78%) indicating that the Irish people will vote to alter the Irish constitution to permit same-sex marriage. Feder notes that polls also suggested that proposition 8 in California, which yanked away gay citizens' right to civil marriage, would be defeated, but on election day, the polls were proven wrong.

As he also points out, those opposed to marriage equality including the Catholic bishops of Ireland are now pulling out all the stops, and the concern is that there's a large group of citizens who are still able to be persuaded at the last minute by the bishops' opposition and by the fear-mongering tactics of activist groups working against marriage equality in Ireland. Many of these voters may, in fact, be silent "no" voters who are not being truthful as they reply to polling questions about the referendum.

Feder also notes that the ramped up fear-mongering of the activist groups appears to be taking leaves out of the playbook of the National Organization for Marriage in its anti-equality campaign in California with prop 8. In particular, Irish groups appear to be modeling their closing-week scare message precisely on the message NOM used in California to frighten voters — the message that permitting same sex couples to marry will harm children. 

At The New Civil Rights Movement site this morning, David Badash provides a side-by-side snapshot of the logo being used by the leading opposition group in Ireland, Mothers and Fathers Matter, and NOM's logo. The logo at the top of the posting is Mothers and Fathers Matter's logo. Below is NOM's logo — both taken from Badash's article. As you can see, the logo of the Irish opposition group is the NOM logo tweaked for the Irish referendum campaign; the Irish opposition groups are the American anti-gay group NOM in a slightly altered "Irish" disguise:

So, one week out from the vote in Ireland, you have the leading American Catholic anti-gay group, which continues to fight tooth and nail to avoid disclosing its big donors (federal tax reports show that NOM is funded almost exclusively by several hidden big-name donors) lurking in the Irish anti-equality campaign as a silent but powerful presence. Doing its dirty work behind the scenes, in secret, in the hopes of engineering an outcome next Friday that will shock pollsters and demonstrate the validity of NOM's persistent message — namely, that nowhere in the world does a majority of voters approve of same-sex marriage. Polls be damned.

And you've got a stepped-up last-minute campaign of fear-mongering that has NOM's fingerprints all over it, which is trying to replicate in Ireland the pattern that proved so successful for NOM and its allies in California — trying to confuse and terrify voters at the last minute, so that undecided voters finally make up their minds to go to the polls and vote no. This in a nation that, as Feder notes, has a history of telling pollsters that it intends to vote through constitutional changes, and then changing its mind at the last minute, when citizens cast their votes . . . . 

Next Friday will be well worth watching. As will the tactics employed by NOM and the Irish groups controlled by it and its hidden deep-pocketed funders leading up to the vote itself. It would be very worthwhile for Irish citizens and journalists concerned about the integrity of their nation's democratic process to watch carefully how NOM and its Irish allies are working to organize voters, to assure that they get to the polls, etc. Much of this may well be hidden from prying eyes, but if I were a journalist in Ireland intent on doing my job this coming week, I'd be doing all in my power to monitor the activities of the opposition group and to delve into their attempts to engineer a vote next Friday that turns upside down what pollsters are predicting.

Yesterday, I spoke of what's happening in Ireland right now as a nationwide discussion of important moral issues. This is, of course, what the hard right and its centrist promoters always want to pretend they're promoting in societies in which major cultural shifts are taking place to include LGBT people and assure these citizens rights.

However, what NOM and its clones typically do wherever they seek to block the rights of LGBT citizens has nothing to do with discussion at all, of course. It has to do with coercion designed quite precisely to thwart open exchange of various ideas in the public square. It has to do with the use of ugly fear-mongering tactics and with the dissemination of disinformation to keep hateful old prejudices alive as long as possible. All of this "Christian" work funded lavishly by donors whose faces are kept hidden even when courts rule that these faces must be shown to the world . . . . 

And, shamefully, all given the stamp of approval by the Catholic hierarchy everywhere these groups work to attack LGBT people and LGBT rights — since the hidden donors of NOM (can anyone say, Opus Dei?) may well be, for all we know, those very Catholic officials and the wealthy right-wing donors who collude with them to attack LGBT people and rights.

As the Supreme Catholic men in the U.S., several of them with thick ties to Opus Dei, keep reminding us, money should talk. And the rest of us should listen when money talks, since it has, those same men tell us, a conscience and religious convictions, after all.

(For more on Opus Dei's significant ties to NOM, see here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

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