Leave it to the National Organization
for Marriage to try to rain on our parade.
I'm talking about NOM's
"Gathering Storm" ad, in which various characters warn
that recent gay-rights victories are threatening their fundamental
"There's a storm gathering. The
clouds are dark, and the winds are strong. And I am afraid..."
The ad, in turn, prompted a number of
YouTube responses, ranging from hilarious parodies ("There's a
bullshit storm gathering"), to serious fact-checking,
to exposure of the audition tapes.
The latter was embarrassing for NOM,
since it highlighted that these frightened folks were actually actors
reading lines. (Either that, or every single one of them is both a
California doctor AND a Massachusetts parent - and what are the odds
Personally, I don't find it overly
troubling that the characters are all actors. The ad contained a
small-print caption stating as much, and besides, their forced
emotion was about as realistic as the lightning in the background.
No, it's not the use of actors that's
troubling. It's the fact that virtually everything they say is
misleading or false.
The central claim of the ad is that
same-sex marriage threatens heterosexuals' freedoms: "My freedom
will be taken away...I will have no choice."
One would think that Iowa and Vermont
had just declared same-sex marriage mandatory.
But of course, they did no such thing.
They simply acknowledged that gay and lesbian couples are entitled to
the same legal rights and responsibilities as their straight
How does this threaten anyone's
freedom? The ad mentions three cases - presumably the best examples
they have - to illustrate the alleged danger:
1. "I'm a California doctor who
must choose between my faith and my job."
Not exactly. California doctors can
practice whatever faith they like - as long as it doesn't interfere
with patient care. The case in question involves a doctor who
declined to perform artificial insemination for a lesbian couple,
thus violating California anti-discrimination law.
I can appreciate the argument that a
liberal society protects religious freedom, and that we should thus
allow doctors in non-emergency cases to refer patients to their
colleagues for procedures which violate their consciences.
But what are the limits of such
exemptions? What if a doctor opposed divorce, and thus refused to
perform insemination for a heterosexual woman in her second marriage?
What if she opposed interfaith marriage, and refused to perform
insemination for a Christian married to a Jew, or even for a Catholic
married to a Methodist?
Or what if a doctor refused to perform
insemination for anyone except Muslims, on the grounds that children
ought only to be raised in Muslim households? These are questions our
opponents never bother to consider when they play the
2. "I'm part of a New Jersey
church group punished by the government because we can't support
No, you're (an actor playing) part of a
New Jersey church group that operates Ocean Grove Camp. Ocean Grove
Camp received a property tax exemption by promising to make its
grounds open to the public; it also received substantial tax dollars
to support the facility's maintenance. It then chose to exclude some
of those taxpayers - in this case, a lesbian couple wishing to use
the camp's allegedly "public" pavilion for their civil
union ceremony. So naturally, New Jersey revoked the pavilion's
(though not the whole camp's) property tax exemption.
3. "I am a Massachusetts parent
helplessly watching public schools teach my son that gay marriage is
Massachusetts parents - like any other
parents - can teach their children what they wish at home. What they
cannot do is dictate public school curriculum so that it reflects
only the families they like.
What these complaints make abundantly
clear is that by "freedom," our opponents mean the freedom
to live in a world where they never have to confront the fact that
others choose to exercise their freedom differently.
In other words, they intend the very
opposite of a free society.
According to the NOM ad, in seeking
marriage equality, gay-rights advocates "want to change the way
There is a tiny grain of truth in this
latter claim. Marriage is a public institution. If you enter the
public sphere, you may think or feel or say whatever you like about
someone's marriage, but you nevertheless must respect its legal
Even so, I think our opponents have
incredible chutzpah to frame this issue as being about personal
liberty. Freedom means freedom to differ, not to obliterate
Or as Wanda Sykes aptly put it,
capturing the irony of the freedom complaint:
"If you don't believe in same-sex
marriage...then don't marry somebody of the same sex."
[Editor's Note: John Corvino, Ph.D. is
an author, speaker, and philosophy professor at Wayne State
University in Detroit. For more information about John Covino, and
to see clips from his What's Morally Wrong with Homosexuality?
DVD, visit www.johncorvino.com.]
Copyright 2009 John Corvino