PROVIDENCE —The first same-sex marriage ceremonies in Rhode Island were conducted on Thursday, but if you think that is the end of the long political battle on the issue you have another think coming.
The National Organization for Marriage, a national group opposed to gay marriage, said Thursday that it would sink $100,000 into next year’s elections in Rhode Island to “hold politicians accountable for this travesty.” It pledged an additional $500,000 for the same purpose in Minnesota, where same-sex nuptials also became legal on Thursday.
Christopher Plante of NOM-RI said Thursday it is the lawmakers who switched their stands at the last minute who will be the targets.
“There were certain politicians who made promises to their constituents, some of them even stood up in church and promised not to redefine marriage and, when push came to shove, they voted for it,” Plante told The Times.
“Politicians who historically have stood for redefining marriage are not the issue. The issue is those who at one time supported marriage as one man and one woman and then went back and betrayed their constituencies.”
Plante said “there are at least a handful of them, three or four, maybe five, whose constituents will hold them accountable come November of 2014.” He declined to say who those individual lawmakers might be. “Some of them are obvious, but I don’t want to name names at this point.”
He said NOM’s political activity would likely take the form of independent expenditures – issue-oriented information, as opposed to direct monetary contributions to candidates. “Education constituents on how their representatives voted and what he said or she said in the past. You can look for direct mail, probably automated (phone) calling and maybe newspapers when it comes to election time.”
NOM-RI will also be supporting those they see as “good” candidates, Plante added. “We’ll be working with the local parties, both the GOP and the Democratic Party to identify socially conservative candidates who are going to protect marriage and protect the family.
“This battle is not over,” he vowed. “There is going to be fallout from redefining marriage – issues such as religious liberty and freedom of speech, how things will change in our education system and we are going to need representatives and senators on Smith Hill who are family-friendly, who understand that there is a need for a mom and a dad in a child’s life.”
Plante said he talked to one videographer who is concerned about how he advertises his business. “He is a man of faith and he asked me for guidance. He asked me: ‘What is this going to do to my business? I don’t want to participate in a same-sex marriage ceremony. How do I not do that and still run my business?’”
Plante said he told him: “quite honestly, it is going to be very difficult for you. Rhode Island made it clear that it is not going to allow protections for individuals and men and women who want to run their businesses by their consciences.” He noted that other states have seen lawsuits filed against florists and other businesses who refuse to serve at same-sex ceremonies.
Such businesspeople should be able to opt out and say: “I decline to do this for you because my deeply held religious beliefs tell me that marriage is one man and one woman.” Plante passed on a memo written by the Alliance Defending Freedom noting that, under state law, if a city or town clerk has religious objection to issuing a license for a same-sex marriage, he or she can appoint a deputy to perform the task.
Raymond Sullivan, campaign director for Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, brushed aside NOM’s threats of political reprisal. He dismissed it as “a pretty desperate and pathetic attempt to try to interject themselves into the story of loving and committed couples coming together.
“It’s not like they’ve ever demonstrated a real ability to organize here,” he said Thursday. “I understand they are going to continue to say these kinds of things to keep raising money from the extreme right wing fringe, but they have made these types of threats in other states before, almost down to the number, and they almost always fail to produce results.
“Their bluster is really just a lot of hot air,” Sullivan said.
In 2012, he said, gay marriage supporters managed to elect five pro-equality senators and 10 pro-equality representatives in the General
Assembly. That coalition will come together again in 2014 “to support those who stood on the right side of history. We will stick with those who stick with us.”