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Conservatives hope an ampersand will help defeat marriage equality

NOM is not familiar with the transitive property of marriage.

NOM founder Brian Brown speaking at a conference in Russia. CREDIT: Twitter/@BrianSBrown
NOM founder Brian Brown speaking at a conference in Russia. CREDIT: Twitter/@BrianSBrown

It’s been three years since the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) lost its campaign to oppose marriage equality for same-sex couples. But NOM still exists, and it recently launched a new social media campaign in opposition of the Supreme Court’s “illegitimate, anti-constitutional” 2015 decision.

The campaign is simply called “&.”

The new effort to win over opposition to marriage equality is all about punctuation. According to NOM, “The core, immutable, universal nature of marriage” is that marriage is “one man and one woman. Man AND woman. Period.”

This campaign does not appear to have been well thought-out. Marriage equality means that marriage can be man & man, woman & woman, non-binary person & non-binary person, or any other combination of loving, committed humans. The ampersand works for all of them.

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Amusingly, the ampersand does not work for hashtags, because hashtags cannot contain punctuation. So NOM is deploying the hashtag #1ManAnd1Woman, which doesn’t reference the ampersand at all.

It also appears NOM is attempting to emulate the Human Rights Campaign’s iconic equal sign, using the exact same color scheme.

It’s pretty telling that an organization would see an equal sign and decide its message would be best delivered with something else. An ampersand is not quite as obvious a departure as perhaps a >, <, or ≠ would have been, but it still signifies quite clearly that NOM stands for something other than equality for all.

And that’s apparent in what NOM has promoted in its recent efforts to stay relevant. Recent fundraising pitches from the organization have focused as much on opposing transgender equality as they have on reversing Obergefell. Still, it’s not clear that the organization is doing anything other than spouting anti-LGBTQ bigotry as it asks for more money. After several years of paltry turnout, NOM even canceled its annual “March for Marriage” on the National Mall.

NOM seems to be largely a one-man shop, with almost all of the content generated by its founder, Brian Brown. Its 2016 tax documents, the most recent available, show Brown receiving a salary that makes up about half of the organization’s total spent on compensation and benefits. That total was $399,130, a steep decline from just two years prior when NOM spent $1,375,814 on salaries and compensation.

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Brown also serves as the president of the International Organization for the Family, which oversees the World Congress of Families, an anti-LGBTQ hate group. In short, Brown’s focus has been encouraging anti-LGBTQ efforts internationally, and his Twitter feed is full of meetings he’s held with foreign leaders, encouraging them to oppose LGBTQ equality, including recognizing same-sex marriage.