Our friend Ned Flaherty has written a 7-part investigative series on what’s going on with marriage equality in Florida, and has graciously allowed us to repost it here. Below is part 4. You can find all 7 parts of the series at the New Civil Rights Movement.
Part 4 of 7: Party Plans
Republican political operatives are about to give anti-LGBT hate groups just what they crave: a lopsided defeat for gay rights in the deepest South. NCRM’s 7-part investigative series reveals how progress toward marriage equality in other states is threatened by current events in Florida.
If EMFL’s campaign fails, that will advance two Republican Party goals: (1) blocking the spread of marriage equality; and (2) attempting to repeal it wherever it exists.
When the first same-gender couples married in 2004, the GOP launched efforts to ban and repeal same-gender civil marriage, everywhere, forever, via the U.S. Constitution, as written on page 10 of the latest Republican Party Platform. The prior platform said — with no proof whatsoever — that being raised by two lesbian mothers makes children more likely to become criminals, drop-outs, violent, pregnant, and/or poor.
When the Republican Party wants to run a stealth campaign, it often calls GOP strategist Tim Mooney.
When Utah banned same-gender civil marriage in 2004, it was Tim Mooney who ran that campaign. After ten years of discrimination, Mooney’s ban was found unconstitutional by a U.S. district court in late 2013, and for 18 days, Utah’s same-gender couples were marrying, until the ruling was stayed pending an appeal. Also in 2004, Mooney put Ralph Nader on the presidential ballot in several states, which helped put Republican George Bush in the White House because some of Democrat John Kerry’s voters then switched to Nader. In 2010, Mooney helped elect Republican Rick Perry as governor of Texas by secretly launching a separate, stealth campaign to split liberal votes between a Democratic candidate and a Green Party candidate, which then left Perry with more votes than either of his other two opponents.
On 9 May 2013, around the time that Mooney helped launch EMFL, he spoke at a “Latinos & Conservatism” conference in Las Vegas, where he represented the Faith & Freedom Coalition, an anti-LGBT group where the mission includes repealing and banning marriage nationwide.
In June 2013, Mooney helped launch twin marriage campaigns: EMFL (Equal Marriage Florida) in the east, and EMAZ (Equal Marriage Arizona) in the west. Both met with similar suspicion and resistance from the LGBT community. Two months after he launched EMAZ, its leaders closed the doors. Seven months after he launched EMFL, its leaders refused to itemize their progress or plans for this article.
In August 2013, Mooney admitted that he was working as a political consultant to marriage equality campaigns — but that he was doing so in order to benefit the Republican Party. Mooney excused his marriage equality consulting work to fellow conservatives by calling it “the most effective strategy for the future of the GOP” — the party that’s still working to ban and repeal same-gender marriages nationwide. Like Brito, Gray, and other EMFL leaders, Mooney did not respond to multiple e-mail and phone requests to be interviewed for this article.
On 17 December, Vanessa Brito wrote and recommended contacting Ron Nielson at Our America Initiative, the conservative Libertarian political organization that backs EMFL, and that is named on every EMFL Web page as “Sponsor.” But it appears that she didn’t want anyone to reach him at all, because she misspelled his name as “Nielsen” and gave a fake, non-existent e-mail address of RTNielsen@NSOinfo.com. Tracking down the real Ron Nielson was revealing: he did not want to be quoted anywhere, and would not speak on the record.
Brito’s refusal to answer interview questions, Gray’s refusal to correct the previously published numbers, Mooney’s failure to return inquiries, and Nielson’s refusal to be quoted are all very odd for a statewide campaign in which every signature and every vote matters, and for which any publicity is helpful. But refusing to talk is not surprising, according to Professor Andrew Koppelman, instructor in law and political science at Northwestern University, who says that not returning reporters’ inquiries is “one of the basic rules of any stealth organization.”
Tim Mooney isn’t the only person associated with EMFL who worked to defeat marriage equality. EMFL Chairperson/Treasurer Vanessa Brito did, too. She was the Project Manager & Media Expert for the Hispanic Leadership Fund, a conservative group, where she worked trying to get Mitt Romney elected President of the United States. During that campaign, Romney publicly signed a written vow to outlaw, repeal, and ban same-gender marriages via the U.S. Constitution. He was defeated in November 2012. Seven months later, Brito appointed herself as Chairperson and Treasurer of Equal Marriage Florida.
The only EMFL representative willing to speak on the record is Communications Specialist Joe Hunter from Our America Initiative, which backs EMFL, and is named on every EMFL Web page as “Sponsor.” Hunter believes that EMFL has made some progress, yet when asked for current figures on staffing, signatures, or fund-raising, he replied, “I really couldn’t answer; I simply don’t know.”
Tomorrow in this investigative series: Part 5 of 7: Haters Wait with Bated Breath
Ned Flaherty is an LGBT activist currently focused on civil marriage equality, and previously on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal. He writes from Boston, Massachusetts, where America’s first same-gender civil marriages began in 2004. He suffered a childhood exposure to Roman Catholic pomp and circumstance, but the spell never took, and he recovered.
Here’s the list of the 7-part series:
Part 1 – LGBT Groups Oppose Equal Marriage Campaign
Part 2 – Leaders Retreat
Part 3 – Counts for Workers, Signatures, and Dollars
Part 4 – Party Plans
Part 5 – Haters Wait With Bated Breath
Part 6 – Promising the Impossible
Part 7 – Prognosis