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Hate Groups Fight Against Rhode Island’s Same-Sex Marriage Bill

by Joe Siegel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Apr 18, 2013

The state chapter of the National Organization for Marriage has continued to rally opposition to a same-sex marriage bill now before the state senate. Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed (D-Newport) anticipates a vote before the end of the month.

In an April 15 e-mail, NOM's Executive Director Christopher Plante urged opponents of same-sex marriage to contact five members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"Make no mistake about it, if any of the Senators who claim to support marriage as one man and one woman choose to "take a way" during the Committee vote, marriage as we know it is very likely lost in Rhode Island," Plante wrote. "This is because right now it is believed the Committee vote is 5-5. If all those in favor of gay marriage show up to vote as expected and any one of the marriage supporters doesn't, gay marriage would carry the day."

Out-of-state groups have assisted Plante in his efforts to stop marriage equality. One of NOM's main allies has been Brian Camenker, the head of Mass Resistance, a Boston-based "pro-family" organization that has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Camenker testified against marriage equality in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 28 and posted a report on the hearing on Mass Resistance's web site.

"The homosexual lobby trotted out their same old tired routines," Camenker wrote. "There were the teachers, union activists, parents, pagan church people and activists, mostly with emotional diatribes about "loving families," civil rights, "fairness," "equality," etc. After a while it all seemed to run together."

The SPLC has also placed NOM and the Family Research Council (FRC), which objects to LGBT rights, on the same list of hate groups as the Ku Klux Klan, the Nation of Islam and the Aryan Nations. According to the group's website, all the 932 U.S. hate groups on its list "have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics."

"Anti-gay groups are organizations that go beyond mere disagreement with homosexuality by subjecting gays and lesbians to campaigns of personal vilification", the SPLC has said. Even conservative commentator Dean Barnett has stated that the organization "verges on being a hate group."

Plante denies NOM has been labeled as a hate group and disavows any ties with Mass Resistance.

"NOMRI has no relationship with MassResistance," Plante told EDGE. "Mr. Camenker, when he has testified at the State House, has done so at the invitation of others, not NOMRI."

NOM's President, Brian Brown, has called on LGBT activists and media outlets to cease calling organizations that oppose gay marriage as hate groups.

"For far too long, media outlets and reporters have allowed activist groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center to label opponents of same-sex 'marriage' as 'hate groups' and regularly describe organizations that hold traditional Judeo-Christian views of sexual morality as 'anti-gay,'" said Brown. "But words have consequences, and we know that allowing such inflammatory terms to be used in media reports describing those who object to redefining marriage can lead to harassment and even violence against members of those organizations."

Faith Leaders, Mayors Express Support for Marriage Equality

The Faith Alliance to Preserve the Sanctity of Marriage is another coalition of same-sex marriage opponents that counts among its members a number of Evangelical churches, the Providence Catholic Diocese, the Knights of Columbus, NOM-RI and MassResistance.

Rhode Island is currently the only New England state without a gay marriage law. The bill has already passed the House but faces its true test in the Senate, where Paiva Weed has been a long-standing opponent.

The fight for marriage equality has received a boost in recent weeks. Earlier this month, the city councils in East Providence and Warwick passed resolutions in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage.

A coalition of mayors also expressed its support for same-sex marriage. The group includes Mayor Scott Avedisian of Warwick, Mayor James Diossa of Central Falls, Mayor Donald Grebien of Pawtucket, Mayor Charles Lombardi of North Providence, Mayor Daniel McKee of Cumberland, and Mayor Angel Taveras of Providence.

Meanwhile, Rhode Islanders United for Marriage launched a new online ad campaign featuring the stories of LGBT families affected by same-sex marriage legislation, and discussing the appropriate religious exemptions included in Senate Bill 38.

"These ads are coming at a critical time and augment the unprecedented grassroots campaign that is actively engaging Rhode Island voters with their senators all across the state," said Ray Sullivan, Rhode Islanders United for Marriage campaign director. "The ads focus on two important perspectives -- the real impact the freedom to marry has on all loving, committed couples, friends and neighbors, and the appropriate protections Senate Bill 38 includes for faith communities, who will continue to make decisions about who is eligible to marry in their tradition."

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


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