American Foundation for Equal Rights

Chad Griffin: “True Lies”

Originally published in David Mixner’s blog, “Live from Hell’s Kitchen.”

A friend, following the recent debate over New York’s marriage equality bill, sent me an email with a simple question:

“Who are these people,” he asked, “who still fight tooth-and-nail to keep gay people from getting married?”

A few days later, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) announced they would spend $2 million to defeat senators who had voted for the New York bill.

As barriers continue to fall, bringing us closer and closer to a nation that truly realizes its promise of equal protection under the law, our opponents are digging in to hold the line.

Eighteen months ago, opening arguments began in a Federal District Courtroom in the case to overturn California’s Proposition 8. A year ago, Judge Vaughn Walker issued his verdict, declaring that Prop. 8 unconstitutionally denies gay and lesbian Californians their rights to equal protection and due process—rights fundamental to our national character.

In those 18 months since opening arguments, four states have passed laws guaranteeing all residents the freedom to marry. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed and the Defense of Marriage Act was ruled unconstitutional. The dark walls of discrimination are beginning to crumble.

Still, as my friend points out, there are people who want to keep those walls firmly in place. Make no mistake; no matter what the anti-gay forces say their goal is, they are committed to ensuring that gay and lesbian Americans are permanently relegated to second-class status. They believe we are less than our neighbors. They are vocal, they are well-funded and they are dedicated to their unjust cause.

They also know they are on the wrong side of history, which is why they have fought so hard to keep videotapes of the court proceedings under lock and key. Our opponents don’t want you to know who they are. They don’t want you to know that their case is built on nothing more than junk science, prejudice and fear.

So, back to my friend’s question. Who are these people?

NOM isn’t the only organization that thinks marriage needs to be “protected” or “defended,” but the organization, led by Brian Brown, is one of the most virulent in their anti-gay rhetoric.

“Show me who your friends are,” the old proverb states, “and I’ll tell you who you are.”

In the case to overturn Proposition 8, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the defenders of inequality are represented by Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a $34 million organization founded by Focus on the Family’s James Dobson and dedicated to the idea that “the homosexual agenda is the principal threat to American Freedom.”

Ron Prentice, who heads the ADF front-group ProtectMarriage, fired off a letter to companies that supported No on 8, threatening that “The names of any companies and organizations that choose not to donate in like manner to but have given to Equality California will be published.”

Andy Pugno, ProtectMarriage’s top lawyer, served on the staff of California Senator Pete Knight (author of California’s original anti-equality ballot measure, Proposition 22). Just a few months ago, he sought to have Judge Vaughn Walker’s verdict in the Perry case set aside claiming that because Judge Walker was gay and in a relationship with a man during the trial, he was therefore incapable of impartiality. Interesting that Pugno made that claim after having lost in District Court, especially since he said during the trial that he would not make an issue of Judge Walker’s sexual orientation.

Pugno’s despicable tactics were given full-throated support from blogger Ed Whelan. Whelan, who famously compared Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan to a prostitute, argued that gay jurists should have to either recuse themselves from cases or disclose “intimate details of their personal lives.”

These people represent themselves as patriots, but rather than striving to form a more perfect union, they seek to tear our nation apart. They claim to be guided by principles that portend the courage of their convictions, but there is evidence that even those convictions are phony.

And nowhere are their bigoted and merit less arguments more evident than in the case (or lack thereof) they presented at the Prop. 8 trial. No wonder they are fighting tooth-and-nail to keep the tapes of the trial locked away from the public.

They don’t want people to see that their star witness, anti-gay activist David Blankenhorn, had his testimony dismissed by the court as “unreliable and entitled to essentially no weight.” Or that his testimony included a shocking admission.

Under cross-examination, Blankenhorn acknowledged that allowing same-sex couples to marry would further the American dream of equality.

It’s time for the public to see the true lies and real identity of the Prop. 8 anti-marriage forces. Allowing everyone to see the videotapes of the Prop. 8 trial would be a good way to start.

Chad Griffin is one of the founders of the American Foundation for Equal Rights which is the lead organization on the Proposition 8 court case.