It's expected to get hot as NOM's
Summer for Marriage Tour 2010 rolls into Iowa next week, but the
anti-gay marriage group warmed up first with three stops in
The National Organization for Marriage
(NOM), the nation's most vociferous opponent of gay marriage, has
mounted a 23-city bus tour to promote marriage as between “one man, one
woman.” The tour is expected to end with a Washington D.C. rally
on August 15.
At stops in St. Paul on Wednesday, St.
Cloud on Thursday and Rochester on Friday, NOM speakers stepped up
their claims that preserving marriage as a heterosexual union is a
“We've taken great pains to make
clear what we are all about,” NOM President Brian Brown said in St.
Paul. “We view ourselves as a new civil rights movement. …
Committed to something that in the 1960s was key: the right to vote.”
“If we do not stand up for marriage
we will be treated under the law as bigots,” Brown told a sparse
crowd that had gathered in the parking lot of the New Life Worship
Center on Friday.
While stops in St. Cloud and Rochester
drew little interest, Wednesday's St. Paul stop was easily the tour's
biggest success to date. One head count put NOM supporters at 163.
About 200 counter demonstrators led by the gay rights group OutFront
Minnesota kept their distance, opting to rally inside the Statehouse
NOM announced in May it would battle
against gay marriage in the state with a $200,000 campaign.
“Many Minnesotans are unaware that
special interest groups are working to convince activist judges and
DFL [Democratic-Farmer-Labor] lawmakers to redefine marriage in the
state,” Brown said in a statement.
In its first television ad, the group
took aim at four leading candidates for governor who support gay
“Leading DFL and independent
candidates for governor support homosexual marriage,” a male
announcer says in the ad. “And most DFL lawmakers don't want you
to have a say. When they ask for your support, ask them if they'll
guarantee your right to vote on marriage.”
NOM officials have made plenty of noise
about the civility of counter protesters, but after saying in St.
Paul that his group “will stand up and repudiate hatred on both
sides,” Brown reversed course two days later and backed the
church's right to denounce gay men and lesbians.
When asked by Arisha Michelle Hatch,
who is documenting
the tour on behalf of gay rights groups the Courage Campaign and
Freedom to Marry, if he agrees with religious speakers on the
tour that have described gay people as “perverted,” diseased”
and likely pedophiles, Brown backed their right to freely speak.
“What I believe is that pastors and
religious leaders need to be able to speak up for traditional,
Christian sexual morality,” Brown answered. “And they have the
right to do that. They have the obligation to do that.”
In two Iowa stops starting on Sunday,
the tour is expected to draw large crowds of supporters and counter
Iowa became the first – and remains
the only – Midwestern state to legalize gay marriage when the Iowa
Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of advocates last year. The
issue has driven many of the state's top races, with many Republicans
openly campaigning in favor of a constitutional amendment to define
marriage as a heterosexual union.
Several attempts to begin the amendment
process have been blocked by Democratic leaders in the Legislature,
angering social conservatives opposed to the institution.
Danny Carroll, a former Republican
legislator and chairman of the Iowa Family Policy Center, the state's
leading opponent of gay marriage, is expected to draw large crowds at
NOM rallies in Des Moines on Sunday and Sioux City on Tuesday.
Carroll has previously called the
court's ruling “contrary to God's law.”
Last week, the Human Rights Campaign
(HRC), the nation's largest gay rights advocate, said it
believes the tour is designed to incite loud protests, not promote
HRC claimed that the tour is being used
to gather evidence of ill-behaved protesters in an effort to boost
several ongoing lawsuits that claim opponents of gay marriage face
threats of violence and intimidation, and their identities need to be
The theory is almost certain to be
tested in Iowa, where the
state's largest gay rights group, OneIowa, is rallying counter
protesters with the battle cry “WE REFUSE TO BE SILENT!”