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Filed under: NOM Tour Tracker

Interview: Same Sex Sunday with Arisha, Rick Jacobs and myself about the NOM Tour Tracker

By Adam Bink

We’ve been remiss about mentioning this here at P8TT, but today’s a good a day as any. Late last month I sat down (virtually speaking) along with Arisha and Rick for an interview on a great new podcast called Same Sex Sunday, which is run by Phil Reese and Joe Mirabella, two independent LGBT activists and colleagues. Phil and Joe wanted to talk about the NOM summer tour, what came out of it, how the Prop 8 Trial Tracker came about and where it’s going, and what the future holds for groups like NOM.

It’s a fun segment and I especially want to note that the first thing that came to my mind with the first question (on what the tour was and some surprises I experienced) was you (yes, you). I said that I came onboard in late July and the first thing that struck me was how vibrant this community is (which I wrote about here on the topic of why I joined the summer tour). I still am amazed, and it’s what excites me about writing here daily. So here’s to you all!

Anyway, I thought you’d all be interested. You can listen by heading to their site’s interview page here and clicking the play button on the widget. The segment starts at about the 4:25 minute mark.

And be sure to check out Same Sex Sunday‘s other interviews- they have great segments with leading LGBT/allied observers and newsmakers.

41 Comments October 6, 2010

John Mellencamp: No “Pink Houses” for NOM

Kathleen is the Trial Tracker who made the Peter, Paul and Mary action possible. -Adam

By Kathleen Perrin

It is obvious to all of us that the so-called National Organization for Marriage doesn’t receive permission for use of the music they play at their public rallies. If they had asked permission, they would know that the artists whose works they’re co-opting want nothing to do with NOM and their bigoted anti-equality campaigns.

I’m sure you remember the cease and desist letter sent to NOM President Brian Brown in response to the organization’s use of the Peter, Paul & Mary recording of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” at their rally in Albany, NY.

Well, John Mellencamp isn’t happy about NOM’s use of his music, either.

I heard NOM playing Mellencamp’s “Pink Houses” during their rally in Madison, WI, as this video shows:

A contact with John Mellencamp’s publicist confirmed my suspicion. Not only had NOM not received permission to use the recording, but John Mellencamp does not want his music associated with NOM. In fact, John Mellencamp stands solidly with us – on the side of equal rights.  Thank you, Mr. Mellencamp, for your support!

On John Mellencamp’s instruction, his publicist Bob Merlis sent the following note to NOM (copied here with permission)

I am getting in touch with you on behalf of my client John Mellencamp who has become aware that his music (“Pink Houses”) has been used at events sponsored by your organization. Please be aware that Mr. Mellencamp’s views on same sex marriage and equal rights for people of all sexual orientations are at odds with NOM’s stated agenda.

Back in 2008, we pointed out to the McCain-Palin campaign that their use of Mr. Mellencamp’s music in campaign events was puzzling in light of Mellencamp’s own political views which were, largely, in opposition to those of these candidates. Immediately after we sent notice to campaign manager Rick Davis, the McCain campaign had the good sense to stop the use of Mellencamp’s music at their events. There’s an article about this from the Washington Post that I’ve pasted below. (editor’s note- you can find that article here, segment related to this at the bottom)

We would encourage you to find music from a source more in harmony with your views than Mr. Mellencamp in the future.

Of course, this is just more of the same from the National Organization for Marriage.  They’ve repeatedly used the music of artists who are not interested in being associated with NOM’s discriminatory message.  They consistently lie about being oppressed, trying to take the role of victim, blaming the very people they’re oppressing.  They’ve even attempted to co-opt the message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., claiming that their perverted idea of civil rights somehow makes them his “natural heirs.”

So Brian Brown, I have a few questions for you: What other music have you used without permission? How many people do we need to contact for public disclaimers before you realize that these artists whose music you exploit want no part of your bigoted message?

And one last question. We’ve heard you claim you’re the leader of a new civil rights movement, following in the steps of Martin Luther King, Jr.  So ask yourself this, and try to answer honestly:  Do you think John Mellencamp and Peter, Paul & Mary would want to distance themselves from the messages of Dr. King? Or perhaps, is it that they realize the truth of the matter, and only want to distance themselves from you?

h/t to John Hobbs, friend, musician and producer extraordinaire, for helping me get in touch with Bob Merlis and to Emily Mills for use of her video.

88 Comments October 4, 2010

HRC, Courage Campaign launch New website reveals NOM’s shady activities

By Adam Bink

This morning, the Human Rights Campaign and Courage Campaign are launching a new website — — that breaks open the cover on NOM’s shady activities and lets the sun shine in where NOM doesn’t want to see it. It’s an important way to expose the worst of NOM to the public.

  • Connects the dots on NOM’s funding streams and budget, from Opus Dei and the Catholic Church to the Mormon Church and Evangelical Christians
  • Is a clearinghouse on all of NOM’s ongoing ethics and campaign finance law violation issues
  • Catalogues NOM’s public faces and their deep ties to religious institutions, from the Wirthlin family that appeared in Yes on 8 and Yes on 1 advertisements claiming their children were taught “gay” marriage in public schools to the infamous “Gathering Storm” ad star and Opus Dei leader Damon Owens as well as Ruth Institute founder Jennifer Roback Morse.
  • Is a one-stop shopping hub for NOM’s TV and radio ads, along with direct mail and fliers and other propaganda

Newsweek just published a piece this morning about NOM Exposed on their website you can find here. Two quotes I want to pull out, the first from Courage founder Rick Jacobs:

“They [NOM] will take a page from their victim playbook and say they are under threat from us while they are accepting millions of dollars to take people’s rights away.”

And HRC spokesperson Michael Cole:

“We want to out NOM for what it is — a secretive player in antigay politics, which is posing as an offshore company for antigay religious money”

Both frames are exactly right. The other thing is that, as it says in the piece, religious money doesn’t always go where it should. Folks who donate to groups like the Knights of Columbus may not be aware that the money they give isn’t necessarily going to low-income families — it may be going to NOM. In Maine, even as the Catholic Diocese closed parishes for want of funds, it spent an inordinate amount of time and money lobbying in favor of Question 1. In DC, the Catholic Church waged its own war against legislation to enshrine the freedom to marry for same-sex couples into law, even threatening to shut down its social services arm for tens of thousands of residents, leaving low-income people, including children without homes, out on the street. This website helps shed a light on where religious money is going. is a useful resource for those of us working to expose NOM for who they are, and to educate the rest of the public that doesn’t know about NOM or thinks they’re just regular Joes and Jills without the right-wing — in some cases, radically fringe — religious views.

Visit And help spread the word by sharing with your networks over e-mail, social media, and word of mouth.

HRC and Courage’s joint press release is below.

HRC & Courage Campaign Reveal the Real National Organization for Marriage

NOM Exposed” Website Launched as Fall Elections Loom

WASHINGTON – As the National Organization for Marriage, or NOM, embarks on a fall election campaign to defeat candidates who support full marriage equality, the Human Rights Campaign, in collaboration with the Courage Campaign, unveiled “NOM Exposed,” a live, interactive website which reveals NOM’s deep anti-gay affiliations, its long connections to the Mormon and Catholic churches and its quest to keep voters in the dark about its financing.  The site is at

At the same time, HRC announced the formation of the NOM Project to follow the ongoing political work and propaganda of NOM as it attempts to influence elections and legislative campaigns across the country.  The project will be led by Kevin Nix, a longtime LGBT advocate and political and media consultant.  A former communications director at both Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the Family Equality Council, Nix also worked at Media Matters in the 2004 presidential cycle.

“NOM and its leaders project a message of tolerance yet NOM Exposed shows that behind the well-trained talking points is an anti-gay animus and moneyed connections that it is loath to reveal,” said HRC president Joe Solmonese.  “This website is not static.  Working with the Courage Campaign, we will be watching the campaign trail and documenting NOM’s political buys and bedfellows. We will connect the dots for voters.”

NOM Exposed builds off the success of Courage Campaign’s NOM Tour Tracker – a blog of first-hand accounts, photos and videos chronicling NOM’s “2010 Summer for Marriage—One Man, One Woman” bus tour of 17 states.  The Courage Campaign deployed three staffers to follow NOM’s tour and file reports from the road, generating more than one-million page views and more than 15,000 comments.  During the course of the tour, federal courts declared two of NOM’s top policy priorities – California’s Proposition 8 and the Federal Defense of Marriage Act – unconstitutional.

The NOM Tour Tracker showed NOM’s summer tour consistently outnumbered three-to-one by pro-equality counter rally participants organized by Freedom to Marry and state LGBT organizations.  It also showed NOM staff attempting to limit public access to their events, and NOM’s sparse supporters doing everything from speaking in tongues, to comparing marriage equality to genocide and advocating the murder of LGBT families.

“The NOM Tour Tracker unmasked the so-called ‘National Organization for Marriage’ as a small and secretive fringe group devoted to attacking families, spreading lies, and sowing fear,” said Courage Campaign Founder and Chairman Rick Jacobs.  “With a majority of Americans and a growing number of conservatives now standing up for equality, NOM Exposed takes this important work a step further by bringing to light the nefarious connections, shadowy finances, and dubious ethics at the heart of NOM’s brand of political extremism.  We are proud to work with the Human Rights Campaign on this important initiative.”

NOM Exposed, the result of several months of research and collaboration, reveals the following:

  • At a time of the country’s greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, NOM’s financial growth has been explosive.  NOM has amassed huge resources – estimated to reach or exceed $10M in 2010 – from modest beginnings in 2007.
  • NOM is a highly secretive organization that tries to not only hide the identity of its political donors from the voting public in state after state, but operates in a way to discourage people from knowing who its key players and associates are.
  • NOM has deep connections to the Catholic Church hierarchy, to the Mormon Church, to evangelical right-wing pastors and churches and to those who have a long history of anti-gay rhetoric and activity.  These are individuals and organizations which not only oppose same-sex marriage, but oppose domestic partnerships, civil unions, hate crimes protections and even fertility treatments for women because some of those women could be lesbians.
  • Since 2008, NOM and its allies have engaged in a radical, nationwide plan to flout long-established campaign finance disclosure laws.  This is nothing short of a strategic, coordinated plan to hide NOM’s political activities from voters.  This effort has prompted several state investigations and resounding legal defeats for NOM.

In addition to the rich archive of information, NOM Exposed features a blog where the latest on NOM’s activities will be tracked.  LGBT leaders will also contribute guest posts to the blog with their own research and experiences with NOM.  Freedom to Marry which organized the Summer For Marriage tour in response to NOM has the inaugural guest post up today.

“NOM Exposed gives voters a comprehensive look at an organization that operates largely in secret, yet plays a super-sized role in campaigns from California to Maine,” added Solmonese. “By releasing this site and dedicating resources to NOM Project, we will confront this web of secrets and lies wherever NOM seeks to spread its political propaganda.”

Please share what you are seeing and learning about NOM — as well as your reaction to the web site — in the comments. It’s important that we expose NOM for the secretive, nefarious fringe group they are, instead of the “rational and reasonable” image they try to present to the public.

Update: We’re getting a lot of reports of problems accessing the site, which may be a possible denial-of-service attack. We’re looking into it and will let you know when we know more.

103 Comments September 28, 2010

“Moral rights”: A discussion of Peter, Paul & Mary’s cease-and-desist letter to NOM

Remember when Peter, Paul & Mary sent NOM a cease-and-desist letter a few weeks ago, after P8TT participant Kathleen Perrin notified them that NOM was playing “This Land Is Your Land” at their rallies? And when 23,154 Courage Campaign community members thanked Peter, Paul & Mary?

Well, the case has been the subject of discussion in other forums as well, including the blog of Brendan Riley, an Associate Professor in the English Department at Columbia College Chicago. Although Prof. Riley’s post is somewhat critical of our approach, we thought we should bring it to the attention of the P8TT community, in the interest of a free and open discussion that is edifying to all involved. I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts in the comments, as I’m sure Prof. Riley is as well. — Eden James

By Brendan Riley

There’s this concept in copyright and intellectual property law that I find pretty interesting: moral rights. While this set of rules relates to attribution (citation, etc), it’s also used to discuss the artist’s right to defend the “integrity” of the work. This could include the use of the work in a context outside its intended meaning. America doesn’t really recognize this right. We defend ownership and copying rights, but moral rights don’t have codified space in our legal system.

Except in campaign music. I presume large scale political events license the music they use, but usually those licenses are not cleared with the artists, so you get the famous moments when musicians protest the use of the music in the wrong context. (Think Bruce Springsteen and the Reagan campaign’s use of “Born in the U.S.A.”) It’s usually liberal artists protesting conservative uses of music. I wonder if it’s ever gone the other way?

So I was interested to learn from the Courage Campaign that the National Organization for Marriage (which seeks to prohibit marriage, oddly) had been sent a Cease-and-Desist letter because they were playing the Peter, Paul, and Mary recording of “This Land is Your Land.”

Peter, Paul, and Mary love the marryin' gays

Peter, Paul, and Mary love the marryin' gays

In the Courage Campaign email, they write:

Kathleen Perrin, a frequent commenter on the Prop 8 Trial Tracker, was stunned and deeply offended that NOM was using this beautiful folk song to drown out the chants of equality counter-protesters. Kathleen knew that Woody Guthrie and Peter, Paul & Mary unequivocally supported justice and equality for all.

This is a really interesting moment because of the usual copyright conditions attached to “This Land is Your Land.” Woody Guthrie famously released it under the first creative commons license:

“This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don’t give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do.”

So we have here someone advocating freedom and sharing, and another group from another era picking up that spirit and using the song again, and another group re-purposing that song in ways the original creators disagree with. Some thoughts:

  • From a legal perspective, it seems like PPM could stop NOM from using the song by refusing to license it for public performance. Since those rates are negotiable (unlike radio-play rates, for instance), there might be some traction there. I wonder if the NOM could get around it by hiring a radio station to play the song on a loop for a while (as a patriot day or something). Then they could just play the radio broadcast over their speakers.
  • But nothing would prevent them from using a different group’s cover of the song, or recording their own to play.
  • Probably the most effective part is the public announcement of this disagreement. On one hand, the people choosing the song wanted some traction from the PPM recording because it’s nostalgic. By publicly disagreeing with the use of the song, PPM calls attention to it and disrupts that pleasant nostalgia.
  • On the other hand, it seems like there’s a whole other angle here about the commodity-fetishism effect, in which PPM’s “This Land is Your Land” does more much to evoke positive memories of the 1960s than to evoke the political ideas that drove those movements. Even a rudimentary reading of the “Free Love” era would suggest that it’s clearly antithetical to Prop 8. Of course, many of the Baby Boomers are now conservatives, but they probably don’t think of themselves as no longer connected to their music. But it goes to the power of music to operate on valences other than the rational — we like the song, we enjoyed the era, therefore it’s nice. It doesn’t matter that the music actually says something opposed to what I want.
  • Like protecting marching Nazis, I tend to side with the NOM in terms of rights. I don’t agree with the idea of moral rights beyond the copyright period. If we really want to be able to have a vibrant, creative culture, we need to allow for the possibility that art will be used in ways the original artist wasn’t intending. I also think it’s amusing that the Courage Campaign email slipped Woody Guthrie in there, as if he’s also one of the signatories. I’m sure Arlo could have gotten on board. More importantly, having published it under the cc-like license above, would Woody step up and complain? Would he try to take legal action to stop it?
  • At the same time, I also appreciate that modern media gives moral rights a new kind of power, as artists like PP&M can make their disgust with groups like NOM clear and public.

I’ll file this away to discuss with my New Media students — we spend a lot of time talking about copyright and its importance or use in culture. The instinct is that artists should be able to control their work is a strong one when students think about their own work, but they also want to rip/mix/burn. Cognitive dissonance, ahoy!

Edit: As I read this, I realize it might be unclear which side of the debate I fall on, perhaps. I firmly believe that gay marriage is a fair and just idea, one we should all work for.

89 Comments September 9, 2010

Will you thank Peter, Paul & Mary for telling NOM to stop using “This Land Is Your Land”?

by Andy Kelley
New Media Organizer, Courage Campaign Institute

If you hear a song being played at an event, it’s understandable to assume that the artist being featured supports the cause. After all, endorsements of musicians are common place within advocacy organizations, and a familiar voice helps lend legitimacy to a cause. To do so without permission would be to co-opt the groups name and to imply their endorsement of the event.

That’s why it was so shocking to Kathleen Perrin and many other participants in the Prop 8 Trial Tracker community when we first heard a Peter, Paul & Mary recording of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” in a video posted to the NOM Tour Tracker from NOM’s rally in Albany, NY. As Kathleen recounted on Friday in her front-page post (which includes video of the song being played at a NOM rally):

When I first heard this recording played in Albany, NY, I was stunned and deeply offended. Woody Guthrie and Peter, Paul & Mary are artists who have always unequivocally supported justice and equality for all.

I felt certain the surviving members of Peter, Paul & Mary would want to know of this grievous misuse of their recording, so I wrote to Peter Yarrow. In my correspondence, I provided a link to a video of the Albany rally and explained that their recording had been used at high volume to drown out the chants of “Equality” from the counter-demonstrators.

Mr. Yarrow responded, saying use of the song by NOM was “heartbreaking” and indicated he would be contacting NOM.

And Peter Yarrow did just that, sending a cease-and-desist letter to NOM. But Peter didn’t stop there, his letter went on to state “We strongly support the rights of all gays and lesbians to enjoy the rights and rituals of marriage that are enjoyed by their straight counterparts, and consider the abridgement of this right contrary to the sense of equal protection and fairness…” He went on to make an impassioned defense of equality for the gay and lesbian community.

His words are truly moving, not merely because of the force of passion with which they are spoken, but because of the powerful credence lent to those words by such a public and well known advocate as Peter, Paul & Mary. (A credence they refused to allow NOM to co-opt.)

We at Courage were so moved by their actions, and so inspired by the Prop 8 Trial Tracker/NOM Tour Tracker community that made this possible, that we decided to send Peter, Paul & Mary a “Thank You” card, which we launched on Facebook and Twitter over the weekend (and will be following up with an email action). The response from our community has been amazing so far and we want to keep the momentum going here on P8TT.

Click here to add your name to our card thanking Peter, Paul & Mary for taking a stand for marriage equality and read their letter to Brian Brown and NOM.

We’ll deliver your signature, along with thousands of other signatures, to Peter, Paul & Mary!

If you have thoughts on Peter, Paul & Mary’s courageous action, please share them in the comments as well.

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110 Comments August 30, 2010

Peter, Paul & Mary’s cease-and-desist to NOM: Stop playing “This Land Is Your Land”

(Kathleen Perrin, who writes as “Kathleen” in the comments on the Prop 8 Trial Tracker, recently took the initiative to hold the National Organization for Marriage accountable. So we asked her to write it up in a NOM Tour Tracker guest post on the front page. I think you’ll enjoy this latest example of the people power exhibited by Prop 8 Trial Tracker community members. Let Kathleen know what you think in the comments! — Eden James)

By Kathleen Perrin

As we all know, the National Organization for Marriage’s ironically named “Summer for Marriage” tour ended recently and Courage Campaign’s NOM Tour Tracker team was there throughout. The team documented both NOM speakers’ messages of exclusion and discrimination and the powerful demonstrations by the people who stood up to NOM and spoke in support of marriage equality.

All along the tour we saw, time and again, how NOM inverted the truth, portraying themselves as the oppressed instead of the oppressor. NOM’s president Brian Brown even made the outrageous claim that he follows in the footsteps of Martin Luther King as the leader of a new civil rights movement.

In keeping with this twisted version of the truth, NOM played a Peter, Paul & Mary recording of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” during their rallies. You can hear the song being played in the background of this YouTube video showing marriage equality supporters walking away from their counter-protest at the end of NOM’s tour stop in Albany:

When I first heard this recording played in Albany, NY, I was stunned and deeply offended. Woody Guthrie and Peter, Paul & Mary are artists who have always unequivocally supported justice and equality for all.

I felt certain the surviving members of Peter, Paul & Mary would want to know of this grievous misuse of their recording, so I wrote to Peter Yarrow. In my correspondence, I provided a link to a video of the Albany rally and explained that their recording had been used at high volume to drown out the chants of “Equality” from the counter-demonstrators.

Mr. Yarrow responded, saying use of the song by NOM was “heartbreaking” and indicated he would be contacting NOM. Here is the letter to Brian Brown from Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey, surviving members of the group who performed as Peter, Paul & Mary (reproduced with permission).

Peter, Paul & Mary Letter to NOM by Kathleen Perrin

Well, Brian Brown, Martin Luther King, Jr. may not be here to counter your offensive claims, but Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey are. And now you know what they think of you associating their voices and their message with your cause.

Brian, we heard NOM use this song again on August 15 during your final rally in Washington, DC. So now all of us in the Prop 8 Trial Tracker community and at the Courage Campaign Institute add our voices to those of Peter and Noel Paul and ask you to confirm that you will cease to use this recording in a way that associates these staunch supporters of marriage equality with your offensive anti-equality message.

Thank you Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey for standing with us in solidarity.

UPDATE BY EDEN: If you would like to thank Peter, Paul & Mary, you can on their Facebook fan page:


This land is your land, this land is my land,
From California, to the New York Island,
From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf Stream Waters,
This land was made for you and me.
I roamed and rambled, and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
And all around me a voice was singing
This land was made for you and me!
This land is your land, this land is my land,
From California, to the New York Island,
From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf Stream Waters,
This land was made for you and me.
As I went walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me those golden valleys
This land was made for you and me!
This land is your land, this land is my land,
From California, to the New York Island,
From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf Stream Waters,
This land was made for you and me.
As the sun was shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving, and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting, a voice was saying
“This land was made for you and me!”
This land is your land, this land is my land,
From California, to the New York Island,
From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf Stream Waters,
This land was made for you and me.

312 Comments August 27, 2010

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