EDGE Talks to NOM: Anti-Marriage Group Details Rhode Island Plans

by Joe Siegel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Aug 31, 2009

The National Organization for Marriage burst onto the public eye with a much-parodied video, "The Gathering Storm." The "storm" metaphor fit its leader, Maggie Gallagher, who has become a lightning rod for both sides of the marriage debate.

NOM has been one of the leading opponents of same-sex marriage in the country. Most recently, the organization has devoted its resources to a line-in-the-sand effort to see to it that Rhode Island does not become the latest New England state to allow same-sex couples to wed.

As the very last state in New England that has not legalized same-sex marriage, Rhode Island holds particular significance for both sides. Its GOP governor opposes such a measure, but the issue is very much alive.

EDGE managed to get the Executive Director of NOM's Rhode Island chapter, Christopher Plante, to sit down for a face-to-face interview to provide his perspective on NOM's mission.

Plante, a resident of Warwick, R.I., began by reasserting NOM's mission: to defend and promote marriage. "Gays and lesbians are free to live as they choose," said Plante. "They're not free to redefine marriage for the rest of us."

On August 16, NOM held its first annual "Celebrate Marriage and Family Day," an event which featured heterosexual married couples renewing their vows at the Aldrich Mansion in Warwick. About 30 representatives from GLBT organizations stood outside the mansion's gates to express their anger about NOM's opposition to same-sex marriage.

The protestors were "respectful and dignified", Plante noted, adding the communications between the GLBT community and himself have been civil.

One of NOM's more notable national board members is Orson Scott Card, a science fiction author and columnist for the Mormon Times. Card advocated for the overthrow of the government if California's Proposition 8 had failed to pass last year. Card also wants to criminalize sexual intercourse between consenting adults.

"The dark secret of homosexual society--the one that dares not speak its name--is how many homosexuals first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse, and how many of them yearn to get out of the homosexual community and live normally, " Card wrote in 2004.

For his part, Plante says he was unaware of Card's involvement with NOM and denied that NOM is a hate group. "I don't believe that at all," Plante said. "Do I think that there are extreme people on both sides of the movement that can say hateful things? Absolutely. NOM is here to defend marriage, to protect it, and to encourage it."

Kathy Kushnir, the head of Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI) called NOM "exclusionary", a charge Plante does not deny. "You know what? Absolutely, because we believe marriage is between a man and a woman. If that's enough to make NOM a hate group, that makes every person that stood up [at the Celebrate Marriage and Family Day event] a bigot. Are we willing to go that far and say the 800 people on the lawn of the Aldrich Mansion are bigots?" Plante asked.

Plante and other same-sex marriage opponents have warned of what they see as the potentially destructive impact on society if gay and lesbian couples are allowed to get married. Although there won't be any damage in the immediate future, the effect on future generations will be especially harmful, according to Plante.

"It truly makes fathers or mothers optional," he asserted. "An institution that has been clearly important, proven to be crucial to the upbringing of children, proven to be the ideal place to raise children with a mother and a father makes that optional. Why would we want to legalize and give the force of law to something that we know is less than the ideal? By codifying same-sex marriage we are intentionally creating a class of children that are denied either a mother or a father. There's nothing compassionate about that."

Plante believes same-sex couples can obtain many of the legal benefits which accompany marriage without having to get married. He points to the recent passage of a funeral-planning bill, which would allow gays and lesbians to make funeral arrangements for their same-sex partners.

"What the same-sex marriage movement wants is marriage," Plante complained. "In California [where Proposition 8 passed, which took away same-sex marriage], they already have almost all of those rights. Proposition 8 did not change same-sex couples' rights, it just denied them the title of marriage. There was an uproar, so it's not about the rights. It's not a civil rights issue."

Members of the Rhode Island GLBT community believe otherwise. Ken Fish, who has been active in the fight to win equal marriage rights in the state, said Plante is "parroting his employer's empty rhetoric." Fish called same-sex marriage "the biggest civil rights struggle of our time."

Susan Heroux, a member of Queer Action of Rhode Island, sees NOM's mission as less than noble.

"My wife and I have been legally married for two years and living in Rhode Island," Heroux told EDGE. "The idea that our marriage redefines someone else's marriage is simply ludicrous. Groups like NOM want to keep marriage exclusive to heterosexuals - they want to limit marriage to themselves--and that sounds like the definition of discrimination to me."

Plante does not support the concept of civil unions. Every state which has allowed civil unions eventually upgraded to granting full marriage rights for same-sex couples, he pointed out. (New Jersey is next in line, with full marriage apparently only a question of when, not if.)

NOM has launched a new campaign, known as "Two Million For Marriage," which calls for concerned citizens to lobby their Senators and Congressmen to vote against an attempt to repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

The consequences of repealing DOMA would be grave, according to NOM's latest newsletter: "If they succeed in abolishing DOMA, then activist judges will spread same-sex marriage across America.....young schoolchildren will be required to learn that same-sex marriage is good and that parents and pastors who disagree are bigots...and religious charities will be forced out of business (it is already happening in states where same-sex marriage is legal)."

In Rhode Island, much may hinge on the polls next year, when voters elect a new Governor. Attorney General Patrick Lynch (D) and former United States Senator Lincoln Chafee, both prospective candidates, support same-sex marriage.

Governor Don Carcieri, a Republican, has been a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage and endorsed the efforts of NOM at a press conference last April.

Plante says NOM will play an active role in supporting candidates who oppose gay marriage and making sure legislators who favor gay marriage are defeated.

"We are going to be involved politically," Plante noted. "We are going to work as hard as we can for a small organization here in Rhode Island to influence that election to protect marriage."

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.


  • , 2009-08-28 08:39:12

    Marriage is the legal, social, economic and spiritual union of a man and a woman. One man and one woman are necessary for a valid marriage. If that definition is radically altered then anything is possible. There is no logical reason for not letting several people marry, or for eliminating other requirements, such as minimum age, blood relative status or even the limitation of the relationship to human beings. Those who are trying to radically redefine Rhode Island’s marriage laws for their own purposes are the ones who are trying to impose their values on the rest of the population. Those citizens opposed to any change in Rhode Island’s marriage statutes are merely defending the basic morality that has sustained the culture for everyone against a radical attack. When same-sex couples seek Rhode Island’s approval and all the benefits that the state reserves for married couples, they impose the law on everyone. According non-marital relationships the same status as marriage would mean that millions of people would be disenfranchised by their own governments. The state would be telling them that their beliefs are no longer valid, and would turn the civil rights laws into a battering ram against them. Law is not a suggestion, as George Washington observed, "it is force". An official state sanction of same-sex relationships as "marriage" would bring the full apparatus of the state against those who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. This has already happened in Massachusetts (CatholicCharities and Lexington Public Schools), New Jersey (Methodist Church lost its tax exemption), etc. The Protect Marriage Coalition views this as outlawing traditional morality. Eliminating one entire sex from an institution defined as the union of the two sexes is a quantum leap from eliminating racial discrimination, which did not alter the fundamental character of marriage. Marriage reflects the natural moral and social law evidenced the world over. As the late British social anthropologist Joseph Daniel Unwin noted in his study of world civilizations, any society that devalued the nuclear family soon lost what he called "expansive energy," which might best be summarized as society’s will to make things better for the next generation. In fact, no society that has loosened sexual morality outside of man-woman marriage has survived. Analyzing studies of cultures spanning several thousands of years on several continents, Harvard sociologist Pitirim Sorokin found that virtually all political revolutions that brought about societal collapse were preceded by a sexual revolution in which marriage and family were devalued by the culture’s acceptance of homosexuality. When marriage loses its unique status, women and children most frequently are the direct victims. Giving same-sex relationships or out-of-wedlock heterosexual couples the same special status and benefits as the marital bond would not be the expansion of a right but the destruction of a principle. . If the one-man/one-woman definition of marriage is broken, there is no logical stopping point for continuing the assault on marriage. If feelings are the key requirement, then why not let three people marry, or two adults and a child, or consenting blood relatives of any age? . Marriage-based kinship is essential to stability and continuity in our state. Child abuse is much more prevalent when a living arrangement is not based on kinship. Kinship imparts family names, heritage, and property, secures the identity and commitment of fathers for the sake of the children, and entails mutual obligations to the community. The US Supreme Court declared in 1885 that states’ marriage laws must be based on "the idea of the family, as consisting in and springing from the union for life of one man and one woman in the holy estate of matrimony; the sure foundation of all that is stable and noble in our civilization, the best guaranty of that reverent morality which is the source of all beneficent progress in social and political improvement.’’

  • , 2009-08-31 13:10:12

    It is very typical for a radical person like you to write such comments after reading such a damning article. If you were a little less ignorant, you would realize that first of all marriage seen from a political point of view is NOT typically between just a man and a women. Just because the law in the United States says that it is, doesn’t mean that that is the wyay it should be. That is what a group of politicians decided to write in the law. Second of all, marriage is a religious belief, and has nothing to do with the state. If anything, at the state level, every "marriage" should be recognized as a union between two human beings. If you are catholic, for example, than marriage is a sacred institution for you, but you can’t impose that on people that maybe aren’t religious. In the U.S. there is a separation between church and state, except for the fact that many of our laws are based on religion from decades ago. What you need to realize is that there are people in this world that are gay, and that they are not trying to ruin a society. About 19 other industrialized nations have given pretty much full benefits to gays and lesbians when they marry, including immigration rights, except for the United States. How can you say that this is the right thing for our country? How can you say that these other societies have been ruined? I live in Germany right now, and society here is much better than in the U.S. Should we go back to slavery and make African Americans work for us without pay too just because they are black? You say in your comment that "Marriage is the legal, social, economic and spiritual union of a man and a woman. One man and one woman are necessary for a valid marriage. If that definition is radically altered then anything is possible. " Oh really? Who made that definition for everybody? God? The government? What if i don’t believe in God? Your ignorant! You also say "Those who are trying to radically redefine Rhode Island’s marriage laws for their own purposes are the ones who are trying to impose their values on the rest of the population." I’ve got news for you buddy, this is exactly what you are trying to do. Homosexuals are not trying to "impose" anything on anyone else. We are just trying to get the same benefits that you get for marrying such as health insurance, immigration rights, inheritance, and 1000 more other rights. Is that wrong? It is O.K. though that we pay the same taxes that you do, if not, then more! You’re ignorant! You say "an official state sanction of same-sex relationships as "marriage" would bring the full apparatus of the state against those who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. " Oh thats funny...What about homosexuals that want to get married, but they can’t because the state says Marriage is between a man and a woman? Are you telling me that that is not discriminatory? The law has to work equally for all people! Do you understand? So its OK now for the state to be against same sex couples? And you think that is fair? You’re Ignorant. You’re ignorant.....and just one more thing, you’re i-g-n-o-r-a-n-t!

  • , 2009-09-01 00:40:09

    If we gay people are so powerful that we’ve ruined entire civilizations, how come we can’t be powerful enough to get the right to get married? I pay my taxes, the laws should cover me equally. You can keep your religious marriage however you want but civil marriage - that’s for everyone.

  • , 2009-09-07 09:09:28

    Not so long ago, it was not allowed for a black man and white woman to be married. Society did not learn a thing....they are still trying to garnish one’s Civil Rights.

  • , 2009-09-07 09:15:46

    This whole thing is not about Equality or Gay Marriage! It is about your Civil Rights as a U.S. Citizen. If everyone thought.....what if they took away one of my Civil Rights - would I like that? NO ONE should decide who can have them and who can’t. That was decided many years ago my friends. You may not like it, I may not like it, but the fact is, if we start taking away Civil Rights, what will be decided is the next right we will take away because we don’t personally like it.

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