What A Gay Blogger Learned Undercover At A NOM Anti-Gay Student Conference

Equality Matters blogger Carlos Maza regularly tracks the anti-gay rhetoric of the National Organization for Marriage, but last month he had a special opportunity to go behind the scenes at the “It Takes A Family To Raise A Village” (ITAF) conference, organized by NOM’s Ruth Institute. Donning a cover story as a practicing Catholic engaged to a woman, Maza attended the entire four-day conference, asking questions of the speakers and taking notes about candid comments they made in a less-than-public space. Here’s Maza’s reflection after the third night:

ITAF’s overt conflation of Christianity with intense homophobia left me dumbfounded. When I decided to attend the conference, I expected to be exposed to a good deal of pseudoscience about gay parents and same-sex relationships. For the most part, NOM has been open about its willingness to misinform people about LGBT families in order to slow the advance of marriage equality.

But what I saw at the conference — selling a book that labels gay people as pedophiles worthy of death, distributing Bible quotes to college students similarly calling for gays to be killed, hosting entire speeches devoted to condemning gays and lesbians as deviant sinners — represented a brand of anti-gay extremism that I assumed even NOM would have shied away from.

And unfortunately, it wasn’t over.

Indeed, one of the featured speakers of the conference was Robert Gagnon, one of the founders of the Restored Hope Network, a splinter ex-gay organization committed to transforming “broken sexual sinners” with ineffective, harmful therapies. Speakers throughout the weekend also cited the deeply flawed Mark Regnerus study, claiming it is a valid resource for understanding same-sex parenting. While Maza’s entire report is worth a read, here are a few examples of what he heard there from Gagnon, Ruth Institute president Jennifer Roback Morse, NOM spokesperson Thomas Peters, Brigham Young University professor Jenet Erickson, economist Douglas Allen, and others:

  • MORSE: The appointment of Salvatore Cordileone, “godfather” of Proposition 8, as archbishop of San Francisco is “a poke in the eye to Castro Street.” (Cordileone, incidentally, was arrested for drunk driving this week.)
  • ERICKSON: Same-sex relationships are “inherently unstable,” “dysfunctional and erratic, and not stable.”
  • PETERS: Endorsing ex-gay therapy, Peters explained, “As a Catholic, the Church doesn’t believe in gay and lesbian people, per se, in the way they do.”
  • GAGNON: “A homosexual relationship is worse than a polygamist one…. a direct attack on the foundation because it says there is no male-female prerequisite.”
  • ALLEN: Lesbian relationships experience instability and dissolution because they “get on the same menstrual cycle.”
  • ALLEN: Citing the Regnerus study, he claimed “If you grew up in a same-sex household, by his definition, you are multiple times more likely to face sexual abuse, for example.”
  • ERIKSON: Children of same-sex couples are “more likely to become same-gender attracted themselves.”
  • GAGNON: Homosexuality is “self-degrading” and inflicts “measurable harm” on its participants. Gay people are not “born that way.”
  • MORSE: Gay people should form “chastity clubs” to preserve their “sexual integrity.”

And of course, there was the joke that NOM’s photographer told: “Two gay guys walk into a mosque… they were never heard from again!”


Since its founding, NOM’s public message has been only about defending “traditional marriage,” but that is simply a façade hiding a true animus against gays and lesbians, and a pointed effort to demonize and condemn them. Maza should be commended for his courage for enduring what was surely a trying weekend to bring forth these details about what NOM promotes behind closed doors. Read his full account to fully appreciate exactly what NOM stands for.