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As NOM’s tour sputters to a finish in nation’s capital, a city celebrates the freedom to marry

by Arisha Michelle Hatch

Fifteen minutes after the rally was scheduled to begin in a park between the U.S. Capitol and The Supreme Court, Brian Brown took to the stage to announce that the event will begin in 10 minutes.

“Another bus is on the way,” Brown said to the 44 attendees before him who decided to brave the on and off rain showers here in D.C.

NOM supporters in DC

Today, Brown won’t have the heat to blame, but he’s sure to blame it on the rain.

No sight of Maggie Gallagher or Dr. Alveda King just yet. Several news outlets are present. Courage Campaign Founder and Chair Rick Jacobs is being surrounded by reporters right now as he confronts Bishop Harry Jackson, the local majordomo who fought to defeat the legalization of the freedom to marry for same-sex marriage in DC and lost.

Courage Campaign founder Rick Jacobs confronting Bishop Harry Jackson
Courage Campaign Founder and Chair Rick Jacobs confronting Bishop Harry Jackson

Equality activists are assembled at Freedom Plaza just up Pennsylvania Avenue, across from DC’s City Hall and a few blocks from the White House, where activists are celebrating the earlier win this year of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. There are also several counter-protesters here:

Counter-protesters at the NOM rally in DC

The bus that Brown referenced has finally arrived.

“Bishop Coles brought the calvary,” Brown said as a large African American congregation walked into the rally.

Ten minutes later another stream of about 18 NOM supporters approached with red and white signs reading “Let the People Vote.”

47 counter-protesters are assembled to the side with signs.

Bishop Harry Jackson is now speaking.

UPDATE BY ADAM (11:56 PST): Phyllis has radioed in with a hand-count of 248 equality supporters in Freedom Plaza:

Crowds of equality supporters gathered in Freedom Plaza

Equality supporters in Washington, DC

A long line of speakers are now taking the stage, including Will Phillips, the brave young man from Arkansas who drew national media attention for his refusal to say the Pledge of Allegiance until LGBT individuals had full equality.

Will Phillips
Will Phillips

Organizers chose Freedom Plaza rather than the U.S. Capitol for many reasons, but one principal reason is to celebrate the recently-won freedom to marry for same-sex couples in DC, and there’s no more appropriate a place than Freedom Plaza, which sits across the street from DC’s City Hall.

UPDATE BY ADAM (12:07 PST): “Let the people vote!” is the chant of choice as Bishop Jackson, who unsuccessfully pushed a lawsuit to force a vote on DC’s new same-sex marriage law, tries to rally the crowds. Fortunately, election law prevents DC’s Human Rights Act, enacted in 1977 to protect people based on, among other classifications, sexual orientation, from being violated by a direct vote of the people (would be that it were the case in other states). Jackson and his cohorts recently lost at DC Superior Court on this issue.

UPDATE BY ADAM (12:12 PST): On that theme, DC Councilmember and straight ally Phil Mendelson, who did a great deal of the legwork in sponsoring the marriage legislation, rounding up the other 10 votes in support of it, and pushed back on the Catholic Diocese’s effort to torpedo the bill, is now speaking at the Freedom Plaza rally:

DC Councilmember Phil Mendelson, lead sponsor of the Marriage Equality Act
Photo credit: Erikson Arcaira

UPDATE BY ARISHA (12:16 PST): 53 additional equality supporters just marched to the Capitol to counter-protest. Many are wearing blue shirts with the word “Providence”. They are carrying a large yellow sign reading “Equality Delayed = Equality Denied. We’re Dying”

Equality supporters at the US Capitol

Counter-NOM protesters at the US Capitol

A counter-protester reads the names of murdered LGBT individuals as the police escort the group away from the NOM rally.

UPDATE BY ADAM (12:19 PST): More photos rolling in from Phyllis of equality supporters as the speaking program continues:

Equality supporters with Testimony: Equality on Trial sign

Equality flag in Washington, DC

Standing On The Side Of Love supporters

Michael Crawford from Freedom to Marry
Michael Crawford from Freedom to Marry, a co-sponsor of

UPDATE BY ADAM (12:27 PST): Checking over reports in from friends and colleagues over Twitter. Reports of civil rights activist Walter Fauntroy’s speech are rolling in from the Capitol. Here’s what Courage Campaign Founder and Chair Rick Jacobs tweeted:

Walter Fauntroy: as a political scientist, I don’t believe in using wedge issues. Here he is using one.

AMERICABlog’s Joe Sudbay notes the presence of many Catholic priests at the NOM rally. Here in DC, the Catholic Diocese was a major opponent of the Marriage Equality Act under the guise that it would force them to offer equal benefits to spouses of their employees, when in reality DC law already did that. He also noted, accurately:

Stopped over at the NOM rally. What a difference. This event is based on hate and anger.

UPDATE BY ADAM (12:48 PST): It’s the’s Phyllis Lozano, putting down the camera and picking up the microphone to speak at today’s Freedom Plaza rally! Woo Phyllis!

Phyllis Lozano speaking at the Freedom Plaza rally

Photo credit: Freedom to Marry

Phyllis is speaking about her experiences on this summer tour. If you missed her moving reflection piece last night- “Reflections on the NOM tour: The Front lines of loss, then equality”- you can read it here.

UPDATE BY ARISHA (12:53 PST): We’ve heard from a slew of energetic African American pastors.

Dr. Alveda King was on the speaking list, but she didn’t make it to D.C.  Instead, NOM played a 2 minute pre-recorded message from her.

NOM is now having energetic gospel singers perform.

UPDATE BY ADAM (1:06 PST): Here’s Ronnie who you may know from the comments at the Freedom Plaza rally, with one of the most creative signs I’ve seen yet on tour!

American Idol sign

And speaking of creative, I too bet NOM doesn’t have rainbow snow cones at their rally 🙂

Rainbow snow cones!

Photo credit: Freedom to Marry

UPDATE BY ADAM (1:20 PST): For those of you in DC, don’t forget, we’ll be holding an official NOM Tour Tracker party after the rally on Sunday afternoon in DC, in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. If you’re at Freedom Plaza, you could either cab/carpool; hop on the Red Line at the nearby Metro Center to Dupont Circle and walk a few blocks; or take a nice long walk north, probably 30 minutes or so. Details below. I’ll be checking out and heading over in awhile. Hope to meet many of you there!

Sunday, August 15th, 5-7 PM

NOM Tour Tracker End of Tour Celebration

Annie’s Paramount Steak House


1609 17th Street Northwest (between Q and R)

Metro: Dupont Circle, Q street exit

(202) 232-0395

211 Comments August 15, 2010

Reflections on the NOM tour: The front lines of loss, then equality

(Phyllis threw herself into the tour right in the middle of it and under trying circumstances, yet has done amazing job bringing us photography truly worth a thousand words. Her’s her reflection on the NOM tour. -Adam)

by Phyllis Lozano

When I was approached to come on the tour I had a lot of reservations.  My partner of six years was dying of cancer.  The last two months were really difficult for more than just the obvious reasons.  I had just started a new quarter of school and took an incomplete because I could not concentrate on anything other than Maureen and the inevitability of what was to come.  I knew that some of my co-workers were on the tour and when I spoke to Maureen about it she said she thought I should go.  She said what better way to fight for marriage equality than to be on the front line of the battle.  When Arisha approached me about leaving I said I would consider it because I thought it would be a good idea to get away and clear my mind.

I boarded a plane July 23 not knowing what to expect or what my contribution was going to be. My first rally was in Indianapolis, Indiana.  We got to the State Capitol building and I thought to myself “wow, this is sort of eventful” as about 15 minutes later pro-equality supporters started to show up.  It was super-hot and humid. I was running around photographing the speakers on the NOM side.  The NOM side outnumbered us by about 10 or 20 people.  As I was photographing the scene, I heard a bullhorn with chanting and when I looked up I saw nearly 200 people standing on the sidewalk yelling out things like “equality not hate”.

Equality counter-protestors in Indianapolis

I photographed a woman standing toe-to-toe with a NOM supporter, sign to sign, for what they believed in.

Rally supporters confronting each other in Indianapolis

It was a very powerful sight for me because I realized I was a part of something big.  I realized that this was the front line of battle that Maureen was talking about.

From city to city and in every state I met people like me, wanting to fight for something that I want one day.  I kept hearing in my ear “this is exactly where you need to be:, not just for me, but also for Maureen.  In spite of missing my family and friends I knew this was the place I was going to make the biggest difference, at least for now.

I thought being in close proximity with two people that I work with was not going to work for me, and that served to be true at times.  We have gotten into some disagreements but nothing we couldn’t say sorry for and move on with.  We have solidified the already strong bond we have and will continue, moving forward, to “have each other’s back”.  There were many times I wished I could hopped on a plane and come home like when my daughter broke up with her boyfriend and called me and said “I wish you were here” or when the Prop 8 decision was read.

I have a good and bad memory from all of the rallies we have been to.  My best memory so far was in Madison, Wisconsin.  When I saw the pro-equality supporters marching up the street to the State Capitol and chanting, it was very emotional.  At that moment I was proud to be apart of that community, seeing the camaraderie and people gay and straight standing side by side fighting for equality, it was awesome, all I could do was cry.  My worst memory was when I interviewed a man particularly obsessed with same-sex sodomy in who would not shake the hand of a black woman because she is black or even of Anthony because he is gay.  To talk to him and hear the fear and hate in the words he delivered made me sad.

Following the tour around and documenting what we see and talking to the different people for and against the National Organization for Marriage and their message of hate and fear gave me a sense of peace in myself.  I come from a church background myself and believed the lies for a long time.  I finally feel like I have made a contribution to equality by exposing the lies told by this organization.

I don’t know what it’s going to be like when I go home.  I will know where I am when I wake up and what I’m doing for the day, but the one thing that will change in me is I will know I had a part of something that was bigger than me.  I will continue to fight for equality probably for the rest of my life, but this is so far my proudest moment.

45 Comments August 14, 2010

Meet the Trackers, Part 5: Jethro Rothe-Kushel

By Adam Bink

The last installment of Meet the Trackers as the Tour closes out this week is with Jethro Rothe-Kushel, an acclaimed director, producer and videographer who shoots for the Courage Campaign.

Jethro Rothe-Kushel,

Jethro was on the ground for the first leg, helping get the video operation up and running, and helped bring you the first video footage from the tour (which resulted in his being threatened with arrest by the Annapolis police). He’s now back in CA and shared his reflections on what it was like to be on the ground and why working through cinematography is so important to advancing equality.

Where do you hail from?

Silverlake (a neighborhood a few miles north of downtown Los Angeles).

What brings you to Courage Campaign and the pro-equality movement?

Have been shooting for Courage Campaign since 2007. Volunteered for the ‘No On 8’ Campaign and when Prop 8 passed I was outraged.

How long have you been with Courage, and what’s your role?

Three years.

Any predictions for what Ahnold will do upon leaving the governor’s mansion?

Go to the gym while dreaming of more action movies.

Tell us what a day in the life on the road with NOM looks like, from eye-open to eye-shut.

1) Turn off alarm. Wake up in a new hotel. 2) Try to remember what city this is. 3) Prepare camera equipment. 4) Travel to the NOM event. 5) Follow Brian Brown. 6) Ask Brian Brown a hard question. 7) Respond to police that have been sent to you. 8) Be told you must leave the rally. 9) Try to find Arisha and Anthony. 10) Find a wi-fi hotspot like a Starbucks. 11) While on the way, import and edit footage as quickly as possible like your life depends on it. 12) Upload footage. 13) Get notes from Eden and the Courage team. 14) Implement notes and re-upload. 15) Repeat #13 & #14. 16) Travel to next city while repeating #13 & 14. 17) Remember that you haven’t eaten anything. 18) Realize it’s midnight and nothing is open. 19) Order room service or find a 24 hr McDonald’s. 20) Charge battery and prepare equipment for tomorrow. 21) Sleep while dreaming of new questions for Brian Brown.

When you’re not working on winning marriage equality for same-sex couples and exposing NOM’s failures and falsehoods, what issues most interest you?

Creating the engine of emotional cinematic experiences that raise consciousness and uplift the human spirit by boldly advancing the entertainment industry — either through motion pictures, televisions, music videos, documentaries, or commercials.

The NOM tour stopped in Lima, Ohio, where the hit TV show Glee is fictionally set. If you could quote Sue Sylvester to Brian Brown, what would you say?

“Even your breath stinks of mediocrity.”

Finish this sentence: If Brian Brown were a kitchen utensil, he would be…a tool.

Finish this sentence: If Maggie Gallagher had any other occupation, she would… be a Broadway singer.

If you could have any three dinner guests, who would they be and what would you serve?

I’m taking four. Steven Spielberg, Martin Luther King Jr., Rick Jacobs & Shaun Kadlec. I’d serve them sushi.

Got any closing message for our readers here at

In the wake of the recent reversal of Prop 8 in California and the subsequent appeal process by the opposition, it is an exciting time for both social media and equal rights. We have an incredible opportunity here for national justice. Thank you for your commitment to rationality, righteousness, civility and making a difference.

16 Comments August 14, 2010

A life-changing event: My time documenting the NOM tour

(Anthony is our lead videographer on the ground, as profiled here. As the tour is coming to a close tomorrow, here’s his reflection piece. -Adam)

By Anthony Ash

The last official tour stop is tomorrow. Soon I will be returning back to California and back to my “normal” life. When I originally left California I was only supposed to be gone for a week, but once I got out on the road I realized that being out on the tour was where I needed to be. When I was told I would be on the road traveling to a couple of states and following the National Organization for Marriage around, I didn’t totally understand the scope of what I was about to undertake.

It only took a few stops on the tour to realize that what I was part of something that was much larger than just “touring a few states”.  I began to see the faces of the families of the pro-equality counter rallies; I began to hear their stories and learn of their struggles. I began to meet amazing people from all over the U.S. I realized that we were connecting hundreds and thousands of people together; it wasn’t just about filming Brian Brown lying about something again or not being allowed into a NOM rally, it was about building OUR community and linking us all in this battle for equality.

Trust me, there were plenty of times that I wish I was home (when we heard the Prop. 8 verdict, for example, as well as not being there for my mother as she goes through a divorce). And there were times that I missed my friends and family. But, every time we had someone come to us and tell us a simple “thank you” it made it worth the time away from home and after awhile I began to feel like I was at home when I was meeting the amazing same-sex families and felt the love from all the people who came out to counter-protest NOM.

There were many times during the tour when I felt emotional, whether it was anger, sadness or joy. And there were two moments that I found myself not being able to hold back tears. The first moment was when we stopped in Madison, Wisconsin, I heard a noise off in the distance and that noise began to grow louder. I was busy filming so I didn’t get to turn around to see what the noise actually was, but when I finally turned around I saw a sea of pro-equality protesters engulfing the street as they made their way toward the Capitol. As I stood there filming all I could do is cry.

Here’s the video I shot of that moment:


During Patti’s speech the hair stood up on my arms as she spoke about the unconditional love that parents should have toward their children and the difficult time that her family experienced when her son Adam came out.

She told me that “when Adam come out of the closet, we went right in,” and when I asked her if she had any words of advice for mothers struggling with a child being gay she told me: “They need you now more than ever. Remember that moment when you dropped your son off at kindergarten, he didn’t question if you were going to be there to love him when he got home, now he questions that because society has him questioning that now.”

“Go to your son and hug him,” she continued. “He’s still the same. Let him tell you his story…” I held it together during the interview, but when walked away I just lost it.

This trip has proved to be one of those life-changing events that one rarely experiences. I have been able to grow as as an activist, as a videographer, and most importantly as a human. I was able to see this beautiful country we live in and do it with two people that have become my sheroes: Arisha Hatch and Phyllis Lozano. We watched out for each other at the rallies, we paid for meals when one was low on funds and we forgave each other when there were disagreements along the way.

As this trip comes to an end, I can only look to the future and hope that what has transpired over the last month will be one more stepping stone to full equality across America.

Signing off (for now)…

84 Comments August 14, 2010

#NOMtourFAIL: Post-Prop 8 decision rally? Shockingly dull.

by Arisha Michelle Hatch

For a rally following Judge Walker’s ruling yesterday that same-sex couples in California could again begin to marry on August 18th (if you missed it, we covered it here and analyzed here), we came to Harrisburg expecting all kinds of Sturm und Drang from NOM. Instead, we got #NOMtourFAIL: a shockingly dull rally accompanied by rain.

Nonetheless,  NOM’s attendance actually managed to outnumber grassroots equality counterprotesters 75 to 53.

NOM supporters in front of the state capitol in Harrisburg

Equality supporters in Harrisburg

Although keep in mind that Equality Pennsylvania chose to hold its counter-event last night, which was well-attended but no doubt detracted from pro-equality attendance that might have otherwise been here today. More on that later.

Those driving down Third Street in front of the Capitol steps had a choice who to honk for – NOM supporters waving handmade “honk for traditional marriage” signs or signs made by equality supporters.

HONK for "Traditional Marriage" signs among NOM supporters

But other than that, this was a dull rally- maybe the dullest yet- that failed to excite supporters. Brian Brown went into religious mode, though.

“There was really no reason to have a trial,” said Brian Brown, speaking about the Prop 8 trial. “I’m confident that God works in mysterious ways . . . But this is going to be a long haul for us. God forbid the Supreme Court [agrees with the decision because] our only recourse will be to go to the people for a Constitutional amendment.”

We have some intense videos coming from NOM rank and file supporters, too. Stay tuned.

UPDATE BY ADAM (11:19 PST): More details on the pro-equality event last night. Equality Pennsylvania chose to hold an event last night rather than today, which consisted of a screening of the new documentary Stonewall Uprising and a youth LGBT panel from four local universities. About 60 people were in attendance, according to Zack Ford, who does his own LGBT-related blogging in the area. He has more:

The event consisted of a screening of the new documentary Stonewall Uprising, which I found particularly compelling. Even when you know a lot of the history and precedent for your community, there is something incredibly powerful about hearing the story told by the people who were actually there. It’s also a stark reminder that what we know as “Pride” today started there, yet most people don’t understand the important historical roots of such events. If you have a chance to see this film, do.

Following the film was a youth panel, featuring student leaders from local universities (UPenn, Millersville, Lincoln, and Gettysburg). They spoke about the work they have been doing to increase visibility for our community, humanize LGBT people, and educate their peers on our issues. They were passionate and really related to the film, saying “anger can be a firestarter” and “you cant wait for others to achieve equality for you.”

It was great to hear about some of the successes at Millersville, but disappointing to hear about some of the frustrations at Lincoln, our nation’s oldest HBCU. There, they only started their LGBT student organization last year for the first time. We often think of our universities as these sanctuaries for LGBT students, but many have long ways to go.

It’s hard to make an objective judgment about how many of those 60 would have attended today instead of last night, but if you take just a third, both sides would end up having about the same number of people at the Capitol.

UPDATE BY ADAM (11:25 PST): More photos of equality supporters in from Phyllis:

Taryn Janati and Sarah Goldberg in Harrisburg
Taryn Janati and Sarah Goldberg

Jennifer Tidd along with Quentin and Elias
Jennifer Tidd along with Quentin and Elias

Angela Dicks and Kelly McEntee
Angela Dicks and Kelly McEntee

UPDATE BY ADAM (1:49 PST): Zack Ford also attended the rally. You can read the full take over there, but a quick excerpt of notable stuff:

Our numbers were hovering just around 50 at any given time. We were mostly engaged in a honking war. People driving down the street from our side would honk for us and we’d cheer. Folks coming the other direction would honk for NOM (and the Catholics standing by the street, though that’s almost redundant), then see us and hide their faces in shame. It was pretty interesting to watch, and it was great to see so many passers-by offer us their support, including company truck drivers, city bus drivers, and even pizza delivery folks!

I think our counterprotest was extremely effective. We did very few cheers while NOM’s speakers were yakking away, but it might not have mattered because the street and bus were a great buffer. I say great, because we had a whole lot more visibility to traffic and the media spent a lot of time filming us and interviewing us. You can also see from the photos that we had a lot of positive messages and a great spirit of family, and we did chant, it was messages of love and equality. We also sang “This Land Is Your Land” and “Gentle Loving People.”

185 Comments August 13, 2010

What drives many of NOM’s rank-and-file supporters

by Adam Bink

We get a lot of footage of NOM supporters here at, and I’m always interested to see what motivates them, and the difference in language used between NOM’s leadership and the speakers they invite versus their rank-and-file supporters. Recently we’ve seen NOM speakers citing “evidence” that physical abuse of children is much higher with same-sex couples, or citing how children growing up without a mother and father are 20 times more likely to commit violent crime, or saying that gays and lesbians have a far shorter lifespan. And generally, I would say NOM’s leadership have been tending towards that kind of Ruth Institute work- “studies” and the like.

But there is still the religious fervor that drives many people among the NOM supporter rank-and-file. Here’s Arisha and Anthony interviewing Steve Davis, a NOM supporter and anti-equality activist on Wednesday in Charleston, WV. Watch what he says about the history of the homosexual movement being violent, how people would want to marry their cats or dogs, the choice to be gay, and more.]


Every time I see statements from individuals like Steve contrasted with footage of couples like Carrie, Alicia and their family (the two little ones are their grandchildren), it just takes my breath away. Carrie and Alicia aren’t a violent couple. They aren’t “choosing” to “sin”. They aren’t like cats or dogs. In fact, if Steve met them without knowing they were a couple, he’d probably say two nice folks like them are going to the Kingdom of Heaven. They might even be his neighbors.

It makes me wonder if folks like Steve will ever be reached in a place where he can see in his heart that these two people are just two regular folks who want to be married like anyone else. And it makes me wonder if the rest of NOM’s supporters are like Steve- allowing their interpretation of the Bible to solely drive their view of gay and lesbian couples, blind to how they actually lead their lives in love, responsibility, and caring for one another like any other married couple. For all the studies NOM and their speakers cite, they can’t get away from the fact that much of their rank-and-file are driven by religious intolerance. That’s not what they want the face of NOM to be, but it remains clear to the rest of us.

141 Comments August 13, 2010

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