OPUS Fi-NOM-us: It’s time for NOM to acknowledge its Catholic impetus

***NOTE: This post is meant to be an exploration. This is a public presentation of what we have learned, which might just result in more questions that definitive answers. So please take it in the spirt in which it is intended: Not as an “accusation” or a period on any subject, but rather as fair exploration of a powerful, connected, highly-financed nationwide network. Our prevailing interest is to get the National Organization For Marriage, an organization opposed to CIVIL rights, to its most transparent, largely faith-based center.

Let’s get started.

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Examination Point 1: Legatus, a membership organization for Catholic business leaders, first came on our radar during Prop 8. That’s when the National Organization for Marriage’s general counsel at the time, Charles LiMandri, contributed to a Legatus magazine piece meant to rally Catholics against marriage equality:

NOM president Brian Brown is also a Legatus member (Legates, they are called).

Examination Point 2: Another Legate is a man named David LeJeune. David is the Executive Director of Fidesco USA, a Catholic volunteer organization. David is also the managing partner of something called OPUSFidelis, a new media marketing firm.

Examination Point 3: For the past few months, OPUSFidelis has been controlling the National Organization For Marriage’s Social Media properties. That’s why you might have noticed duplicate content popping up in a number of different places within the NOM realm (e.g. NOM blog, Brian Brown’s Twitter, the “Protect Marriage” Facebook page, etc.). It’s all being controlled by a central hub run by OPUSFidelis:

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[SOURCE]

Examination Point 4: The person doing most of the NOM Social Hub blogging is someone named Casey Fimian:

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[SOURCE]

Examination Point 5: Last fall, this same Casey Fimian hit up all of the prominent Catholic colleges on Facebook…

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…seeking FIDESCO USA volunteers:

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Yes, the same FIDESCO USA of which OPUS Fidelis’ David Jejeune is the E.D.

Examination Point 6: In the past four years, Casey’s father Keith has unsuccessfully ran for Congress from VA’s 11 District. In both elections, much was made about the candidate’s Catholic outreach and the financing directed his way by Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monagan. Much of that conversation, fair or unfair, was due to Mr. Fimian’s prominent role on the national board of directors of – Legatus (which Monagan himself founded).

Exploratory circle=complete.

Okay, so that’s pretty much what we know for now: Lots more Catholic connections from the already canonical NOM. Connections that would be 100% fine, if only NOM would start identifying itself and its cause for what it is. Because they have every right to work from a Vatican-focused place and even every right to use their personal views in their political advocacy, just as long as they do so within the boundaries of law. Obviously. But by not being honest about these deep faith connections, which firm up more and more every day, NOM is doing a disservice to this *CIVIL RIGHTS* conversation and all who engage in it. They owe all of us, both pro- and anti-, a more honest marriage debate.

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**MORE: Another OPUS Fidelis founder is Joe Giganti, a personality whose lengthy conservative resume includes a stint as strategist of Alan Keyes’ presidential campaign. Here’s Mr. Giganti talking to Focus on the Family about how LGBT civil rights supposedly insult “real civil-rights laws and the people that have struggled…” And when Mitt Romney distanced himself from Gen. Peter Pace’s claim that homosexuality is immoral, Giganti said that Romney’s words “clearly display that he has a complete misunderstanding and does not grasp the moral values on which our country has been founded and that the conservative movement is trying to preserve.




Good As You

—  David Taffet

GLFD marking 10th anniversary of giving

Organization that channels LGBT donations to mainstream charities returns to Latino Cultural Center to celebrate milestone year

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Keith Nix and Dick Peeples
PHILANTHROPY OF TIME AND MONEY | Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas President Keith Nix, left, and Board Co-Chair Dick Peeples say their organization earns visibility and respect for the LGBT community by turning charitable donations “pink.” (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

It was 10 years ago that a new group called the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas donated enough money to the fund to build the city’s Latino Cultural City that the group earned naming rights to the center’s outdoor sculpture garden.

Next Wednesday, Nov. 10, 10 years and more than $1 million later, the GLFD returns to the Latino Cultural Center to celebrate its 10th anniversary.

Founded by partners Enrique McGregor and Mark Niermann, GLFD’s purpose is to collect charitable donations from the LGBT community and then give those donations en masse to specific projects and organizations — all to increase the impact and visibility of the LGBT community.

“We are all about visibility and bridge building,” said Dick Peeples, GLFD’s board chair, of the organization’s mission. “The LGBT community is part of the community as a whole. We want the whole body to be healthy, and we believe it will be healthier when all its parts are recognized and given respect.”

Peeples said GLFD has three requirements that an organization or project must meet to be eligible for GLFD funds: It must be a nonprofit in Dallas; it must publicly recognize GLFD as the donor of the funds, and it must have a hiring nondiscrimination policy that includes LGBT people.

It was that last requirement that almost derailed GLFD’s plans to donate to the Parkland Foundation to help fund the Ambulatory Care Clinic at Parkland hospital. And Peeples said he is proud that it was GLFD’s insistence that requirement be met before funding the project that provided impetus for getting the hiring policy at Parkland changed.

“A new policy that would include LGBT people had been sitting on [Parkland CEO Ron Anderson’s] desk for awhile, and they just hadn’t gotten around to putting it in place. Our donation was the impetus for them to go ahead and get it done,” he said.

GLFD President Keith Nix stressed that the fund is about “philanthropy of money and time,” adding that over the course of the past 10 years, “We have been very careful to touch all areas of the nonprofit community — medical, the high arts, art, women, children, education. We really have run the gamut of all areas of need.”

GLFD raises and donates money in different ways. Often the organization mounts a campaign for a specific project — like Parkland’s Ambulatory Care Clinic or the Dallas Women’s Museum or the Latino Cultural Center. And about every other year, the organization holds large-scale special events to raise money for a specific organization or project.

But the fund also has ongoing bundling programs for the Dallas Museum of Art and KERA 90.1 FM, the local public radio station.

Peeples explained that those who participate in the bundling programs would likely have contributed anyway to the museum or the public radio station, “but those dollars wouldn’t have been colored pink. The power of bundling is that the museum or the radio station still get the money, but now they know that money came from LGBT people. And that kind of visibility helps break down stereotypes.”

Nix described it as a win-win-win situation: The institution gets the donations it needs; the individual donor gets the benefit of donating, i.e. membership in the museum or KERA, at the level of their specific donation, and the LGBT community, through GLFD, gets positive visibility.

“Every few months, when the KERA pledge drives roll around, KERA is very upfront about announcing the donations we give and using the name Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas,” Nix said. “And every time we have a meeting with KERA, I ask them if they have gotten any negative comments about our donations. And they always say no. I think the fact that they have never gotten one negative comment speaks volumes about the progress we are making.”

Peeples said he believes that progress is due in part to Dallas’ reputation as a business-oriented city.

“This city is business-focused. People have a business-like attitude, and this [GLFD’s donation model] is very businesslike. We want acknowledgement and respect for what we do for the city, and this helps us get that,” Peeples said.

GLFD’s current campaign is to raise money to fund the Dean’s Reception Room in Southern Methodist University’s new Simmons School of Education and Human Development. David Chard, an openly gay man, is dean of the new school.

Partners Enrique McGregor and Mark Niermann
FOUNDING PARTNERS | Partners Enrique McGregor, right, and Mark Niermann founded Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas 10 years ago.

Although GLFD initially sent out letters to the nonprofits in Dallas that qualified for GLFD donations, Nix said the group no longer has to go out looking for places to give.

“We haven’t had to contact an organization in four or five years now,” Nix said. “Now, they contact us.”

Peeples acknowledged that the economic recession of the past two years has made itself felt, saying that “we’re soliciting people to give, and the economy has made giving more difficult for a lot of people.”

But, Nix said, GLFD has continued to be successful in its efforts.

“We haven’t really seen any decline in our bundled giving programs with the Dallas Museum of Art and KERA. When KERA had shortfalls, they called us. And we came up with some matching funds programs that wound up being incredibly successful.

“And when we held our event at the Wyly Theater, we filled the house,” Nix continued. “We may not have filled the glass as well as we might have before. But we did fill the glass.”

One difficulty the fund has had, both men said, has been in finding the LGBT community and identifying the segments of the community that would be likely to give to specific programs and projects.

“The Dean’s Reception Room at SMU is a good example,” Nix said. “We want to find LGBT people who graduated from SMU or have some real connection to the school because they are the ones more likely to give to that project. But there’s no LGBT alumni group at SMU.”

Peeples added, “It used to be that our community was concentrated in the Crossroads area in Oak Lawn. But now, we are scattered out all over the Metroplex. And there is no database of gay people we can use to find them.”

But the two men hope that GLFD’s new membership initiative might help solve that problem.

“We don’t have a real membership, per se,” Nix said. “But with our anniversary event at the Latino Cultural Center, we will be launching a membership organization within the fund. You don’t have to be a member to give or to participate in our events. But just like with the museum and KERA, you can join, and you get benefits for being a member.”

There will be, he added, different levels of membership offering different levels of benefits.

“Just like with KERA, no matter how much you give, you’re a member. But if you can give more, you get more benefits. Still, whatever level you give at, you benefit. Everyone benefits,” Nix said.

GLFD’s 10th anniversary party begins at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10, at the Latino Cultural Center. State Rep. Rafael Anchia will be the keynote speaker, and the event will include the premier of a short video on the history — and the future — of GLFD.

Tickets are $50, and are available online at GLFD.org.

Organizations and projects that have benefited from donations by GLFD include AT&T Performing Arts Center, Dallas CASA, Dallas Latino Cultural Center, Dallas Public Library, Dallas Women’s Museum, KERA 90.1 Public Radio, Parkland Health and Hospital System, Twelve Hills Nature Center, Bark Park Central, Dallas Children’s Theater, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Theater Center, Friends of the Katy Trail, Oak Lawn Triangle, The Stewpot, The Wilkinson Center and the Simmons School of Education and Human Development at SMU.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 5, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens