Marriage CoMission Summit: Unlikely to serve KFC, gays’ pro-equality interests

This post will build on our last one, in which we highlighted some level of connection between Chick-Fil-A’s WinShape Foundation and Jennifer Roback Morse’s Ruth Institute (an affiliate of the National Organization For Marriage). So if you haven’t read that earlier post, now if your chance to (a) get caught up or (b) run away now. We won’t be offended ro talk about you while you’re gone. Honestly.

Okay, now that we’ve gotten rid of those lazy slackers and are all on the same “culture war”-obsessed page: We must tell you that we’ve discovered further connections between Chick-Fil-A’s WinShape program and the entire “protect marriage” movement. Not just to the Pennsylvania Family Institute. Not just to the Ruth Institute. But to the organized marriage movement in this country — period.

Oh yea: And this time we have much of it on video, via internal documents, in photos, and through other fun things. Let’s go:

Alright, so it turns out that Chick-Fil-A’s WinShape Foundation, as part of its marriage outreach efforts, has partnered with other “pro-family” groups on something called The Marriage CoMission. Oh, and that’s not a typo — it’s one “m.” As in a mission that they’re all “co”-ing in on. A mission that (spoiler alert) doesn’t want to hear “Here Comes The Bride” either pluralized or masculinized.

On said CoMission, Winshape/Chick-Fil-A are very well represented. There’s Jeff Fray, who, by all accounts, largely steers the CoMission’s ship:

Screen Shot 2011-01-06 At 7.05.55 Pm

But even more than Fray: The CoMission’s most prominent representation comes from Bubba Cathy, the scion of Chick-Fil-A’s pickled bun dynasty:


And there are other WinShape/Chick-a-dees involved. Full leadership list here.

Okay, so every year in December, this CoMission gather group of prominent marriage stalwarts to strategize how they can strengthen their movement. But they don’t just get together anywhere. No, no — they all get together at WinShape’s own Georgia Retreat. Here’s the Summit’s purpose statement, initial signatories (from folks like professional “gay-changer” Alan Chambers), and a link to the full charter:


[Full Charter]

Screen Shot 2011-01-06 At 7.16.32 Pm

735390902 Szxja-M

And like most things in the “protect marriage” movement, this summit seems to grow in conservative prominence by the year. By 2008, the participant list had grown to include folks like David Blankenhorn, Alveda King, and Focus on the Family president Jim Daly:

2008 Bios

Some brief highlights from that year’s banquet: FoTF’s Daly made sure to thank the Cathys (i.e. Chick-Fil-A) for bringing the movement together:

WinShape’s Jeff Fray praised Blankenhorn for his prowess in the same-sex marriage debate:

And there’s much more. We’re making our way through literally hours of ’08 clips; we’ll post more that we deem pertinent to our movement.

Though for our interests of today, it’s really the 2009 and 2010 editions of the Summit that hold our interest. So let’s start, naturally, with 2009. That’s the year that the gay marriage movement players who really have our attention started attending the summit. Players like, for example: Maggie Gallagher and Jennifer Roback Morse:

2009 Bios

Agenda Participant

Morse’s ’09 participation is of course interesting because of our earlier post, where we undeniably connected her Ruth Institute (which again, is a NOM affiliate) directly to the WinShape Foundation’s forthcoming project. Which, incidentally, is the very project that segues us to the 2010 Summit.

For 2010 (which just took place in the first week of December), we don’t yet have handy video or pictures or participant lists or really much of a concrete agenda to follow. However, we do have #something to let us know what went on. Namely: We have tweets. Tweets from Summit participants like Bull Coffin, who tells us that this soon-to-be-launched site was prominently touted at WinShape 2010:

Screen Shot 2011-01-06 At 8.00.34 Pm


Reminder: The same that is hosting the Ruth Institute’s contest videos. The same Ruth Institute that works daily to stop basic civil fairness for same-sex couples. The same WinShape that is a product of the Chick-Fil-A chain and its more than 1,400 locations in 38 states and D.C. The same Chick-Fil-A that began this week with national questions, due to a (now-scrubbed) sponsorship claim from Pennsylvania’s leading anti-marriage equality group. Same, same, same, same, same.

As with all other developments from this week, we’re simply highlighting the known reality. No boycott calls. No petitions. No personal attacks. If all of these groups are proud of these bonds that they’ve made, then they will have zero problem with us bringing these undeniable connections to light. It will be just ho-hum, the way it would be if they highlighted our alliance with just about any group or corporation fighting for basic equality.

But if the reaction is to resort to the same messenger-shooting we’ve already seen this week? Well, then that will be more telling than anything we could ever write, now won’t it?

Good As You

—  admin

FRC questions pro-equality side’s humanity; we no longer question irony’s mortality

Screen Shot 2010-12-15 At 9.07.41 PmFamily Research Council continues to show why they caught the Southern Poverty Law Center’s attention, as well as why their ridiculous “Start Debating, Stop Hating” calls are nothing more than hollow political spin. This time in ways that quite literally blame Democrats for future dead soldiers:

How many brave men and women are liberals willing to sacrifice so that homosexuals can flaunt their lifestyle? The only reason for changing the present policy is if it would help the military accomplish its mission. So far, no one has produced a single reason how it would. Until then, the Senate has to ask itself: Do they want the blood of innocent soldiers on their hands just to appease the political base of Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)? If they can live with that, then they’re unlike any human beings I’ve ever met. [SOURCE]

Peace on Earth. Good will toward men. Accusing partisan adversaries of terminating young lives for the sake of political gain.

Happy birthday, Jesus! How we doing down here?

Good As You

—  admin

Pro-equality Republicans get re-elected in Washington state

Rep. Maureen Walsh
Rep. Norm Johnson

Rep. Maureen Walsh (R-Walla Walla) and Rep. Norm Johnson (R-Yakima) were heavily criticized by some in their own party for their votes last year in support of the Domestic Partnership Expansion Law of 2009 (SB 5866 & HB 1727).  Yet despite the best efforts of anti-gay activists in the GOP and tea party, both pro-equality Republican incumbents were re-elected to the Washington state legislature.

In response to Walsh’s 2009 vote for the domestic partnership bill, the Franklin Co. Republicans censured her, saying “Representative Maureen Walsh does not represent the values of the Franklin County Republican Party.”  But voters sent a strong message that it was the Franklin Co. Republicans who didn’t represent their values, re-electing Rep. Walsh by a landslide, 77.6% to 22.4%.  The censure had been penned by Brenda High, who would become Rep. Walsh’s rival in the election.

Rep. Johnson faced similar criticism for his pro-equality vote.  His Republican challenger Michele Strobel stated as much when she announced her candidacy, saying “It was a slap in the face to Christians.  It was a slap in the face to traditional values.”  Although Strobel kept Rep. Johnson’s pro-equality vote in the news and even targeted him with a nasty anti-gay newspaper ad, Rep. Johnson won handily 52.5% to 47.5%.

Voter turnout for this election was 71.18%, the highest for a mid-term election in Washington since 1970.  Nobody can claim that the people in Rep. Walsh’s and Rep. Johnson’s districts haven’t spoken.

The odds of Walsh and Johnson getting re-elected must have looked long to their challengers.  After all, their legislative districts are both solidly Republican, with Republicans holding all seats in the state legislature and U.S. House of Representatives.  In addition, over 60% of voters in both districts bucked the statewide trend and rejected Referendum 71, the 2009 ballot measure asking voters to approve or reject the domestic partnership law that Walsh and Johnson had voted for.  Indeed, both Walsh’s and Johnson’s challengers used those statistics to imply that they were more in-tune with the local electorate than were Walsh and Johnson.  So what happened?
I asked Josh Friedes, Executive Director of Equal Rights Washington why Rep. Walsh and Rep. Johnson were so successful in getting reelected.

I think these election results demonstrate conclusively that when incumbents take principled positions in support of LGBT civil rights, voters will return these candidates to office.

In the 2010 election cycle attempts by the radical-right to use LGBT rights as a wedge issue backfired time and again.  Senators Rodney Tom and Steve Hobbs are in swing districts and I think their principled supports of LGBT rights has motivated the progressive base in their districts while impressing all voters because they are willing to stand up for their beliefs in civil rights.

Perhaps this election year’s biggest upset was the election of Charlie Wiggins as Supreme Court Justice.  This race shows that taking a strong anti-gay position in statewide races is a detriment.

U.S. Senator Patty Murray received strong support from the LGBT community as well and was returned to office in an anti-incumbent year in part because her challenger opposed LGBT civil rights.  For so many voters in Washington state today that’s simply a deal breaker.

Rep. Walsh and Rep. Johnson certainly did take principled stands.  Responding to criticism of her pro-equality vote Rep. Walsh said:

“I have always felt to do anything different was discrimination,” Walsh said. “It’s not my place to say who loves whom. It seems to me God is the ultimate judge, but it’s not for me to be making those calls about who should have the same rights I have as a citizen of this country.” …

“I have to be true to myself,” she said. “If I did not do that, I would be a hypocrite. I could not continue to represent my district if I had to compromise my beliefs and morals.”

Rep. Johnson, the father of two gay sons, took an equally principled stand on his vote.

I feel I voted the right way, because to me it was pure and simple a vote of equality.”

In contrast, Brenda High and Michele Strobel took the mean-spirited low road.  “She says she’s a Republican and I don’t think she is,” said High of Walsh during the campaign.  The Tri-City Herald said that Brenda High “is best known for advocating for anti-bullying legislation in states across the country after her son committed suicide in 1998 as a result of being bullied.”  Yet she answered equality-related questions on a candidate survey like a virulently anti-gay bully.

7. Domestic Partnerships: Granting same-sex partners the equivalent rights and benefits of marriage.


The law of our Creator defined marriage as the union between a man and a woman.  I oppose any legal recognition of homosexual unions and oppose efforts to legalize adoption of children by homosexual singles or couples.

It’s worth noting that Washington State HB 1727 was co-sponsored by 55 Democrats and 2 Republicans, one of which was Maureen Walsh, of whom I’m running against.  HB 1727 is a bill designed to expand domestic partnerships, and “everything but marriage” law.  Part of the language that this bill specifically mentions, is that the terms, “husband and wife” shall be construed to be gender neutral, (pg 109 HB1727), this makes every married individual, “partners” with their husband or wife, I mean, partner.

8. Marriage: Redefine marriage to include same-sex couples.


The marriage covenant is the foundation of the family, and the family is fundamental in the maintenance of a stable, healthy and prosperous social order.

The Franklin County Republicans who High penned the censure of Rep. Walsh for has links on its main web page to the anti-LGBT organizations Family Policy Institute of Washington, Family Research Council and the John Birch Society.  Family Research Council has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Friedes is right.  For so many voters in Washington state today a strong anti-LGBT position is simply a deal breaker whereas a principled, fair-minded position is a winner.
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Pro-equality wind to lift both East and West Wings

Cool appointment for a pro-equality voice:

This morning, the White House announced the appointment of the American Foundation for Equal Rights co-founder and board member Schake KristinaKristina Schake as Special Assistant to the President and Communications Director to First Lady Michelle Obama.

“Kristina was instrumental in the conception of the American Foundation for Equal Rights and she’s played a key role in every strategic success we’ve had as an organization. She’s one of the most intelligent and valuable resources the equality movement has ever seen. We’re sad to see her go but, are extremely proud of where she’s headed.”

-Chad H. Griffin,

Board President of the American Foundation for Equal Rights

AFER Co-Founder named as Special Assistant to the President and Communications Director to First Lady Michelle Obama [AFER]

Excellent. On marriage equality, the President could certainly use a special assist and the First Lady could certainly have more direct communication.

Good As You

—  admin

Lending a Hand in Pro-Equality Elections in Wisconsin

The following post comes from Deputy Legislative Director David Stacy. David is just one of 30 HRC staff that will be on the ground in 16 states by Election Day, working with HRC-endorsed candidates and engaging our membership about the upcoming elections:

Since landing on the ground in Madison, Wisconsin on Sunday, I’ve been going full speed on volunteer recruitment for Get Out The Vote efforts.  Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), one of only 14 Senators to vote against the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – and with the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, endorsed marriage equality before any other Senator was willing to – is in a dogfight with a first-time candidate who thinks “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is working well.

The University of Wisconsin, Madison campus of more than 40,000 students and the state capital, Madison, will be critical for Feingold to secure the votes he needs to win the race.

Feingiold has been campaigning hard across the state and today he was in Madison.  I joined him for a walk-through of the Madison Area Technical College campus.  He was incredibly well received by the crowd.  One of the cafeteria workers was so excited she covered herself with about 10 Feingold stickers, from head to toe.

Wisconsin has other races that are important to the LGBT community. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), one of only three openly gay Members of Congress, is also on the ballot.  While favored to win, she is campaigning hard and working to turn out the vote to pro-equality candidates throughout the state.

This year, Wisconsin has continued to be the battleground that it was in previous election cycles.  The choices for Wisconisn voters are clear.

Paid for by the Human Rights Campaign PAC and authorized by Feingold Senate Committee and Tammy Baldwin for Congress

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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Pro-Equality Candidates Show Their Support in Ohio

HRC-endorsed candidates Governor Ted Strickland and Congressman Dennis Kucinich stopped by the West Park Democratic Campaign office this week where dedicated HRC volunteers have been hard at work.  We thanked them for their support of our issues and they thanked us for working to get pro-quality candidates elected in Ohio.

We are all working nearly around the clock to make sure every fair-minded voter gets to the polls in Ohio.  The races are close, but together—by knocking on doors and calling voters—we can make the difference between winning and losing.  Please join us by contacting

Paid for in part by Human Rights Campaign PAC and HRC Ohio Families PAC and authorized by Strickland for Governor and Re-Elect Congressman Kucinich Committee

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

Doing Our Part in Colorado for Pro-Equality Candidate Betsy Markey

The following post comes from  HRC’s Email Communications Coordinator David Salisbury. David is just one of 30 HRC staff that will be on the ground in 16 states by Election Day, working with HRC-endorsed candidates and engaging our membership about the upcoming elections:

I just returned from a week in beautiful Colorado helping to elect Betsy Markey for Congress.  As HRC’s Email Communications Coordinator, I get to read about the many fair-minded candidates that HRC supports. Helping a local campaign was great way to step out of my online advocacy role and hit the streets for equality directly. During my time in Colorado, I’ve spoken to hundreds of potential voters. From all the calls I made, one thing is clear across the board; HRC members and supporters are getting out to the polls, voting early and making a real difference in Colorado’s future.

The race for Colorado’s 4th District is tight this year. Recent polls have Markey tied with her opponent Cory Gardner.  However, there’s been an impressive outpouring of early voters and volunteer support thanks to the efforts of folks that have been out making calls and knocking on doors.  Colorado’s values are certainly in line with Markey’s voting record. She supports the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and  voted for the passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Voters know that the best way to pass laws that protect all citizens is to elect officials who support equal rights for all. Betsy Markey is one of those officials.

One of my favorite conversations last week was with an elderly woman in Fort Collins who’s been an HRC member for years.  She told me that though she hasn’t been able to get out much, she’s making arrangements to get to the voting polls because HRC told her how important this year’s elections are. This is how HRC is making a difference for LGBT Americans across the country; one conversation at a time. When I met Betsy Markey and thanked her for her action on issues that matter to the LGBT community, her response was “It’s easy!” And it can be; each one of us can do something to make life better in the workplace, in schools and for our families. Betsy is doing her part to make America better, will you?

Paid for by the Human Rights Campaign PAC and authorized by Markey for Congress

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

Anti-Gay Hate Groups Launch Bus Tour Targeting Pro-Equality Judges in Iowa


Last week I wrote a lengthy post on the new hate-a-palooza bus tour in Iowa, meant to drive up support for the campaign to oust state Supreme Court justices who approved marriage equality, and sponsored by a coalition of anti-gay hate groups like NOM and the AFA.

NOM's Brian Brown tweeted the photo above of the bus at its first stop, revved up and ready to hate.

The WaPo covers the kick-off:

At a Statehouse rally Monday to kick off a bus tour, gay marriage opponents pleaded their case for why voters on Nov. 2 should opt not to retain Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, and justices David Baker and Michael Streit. Iowa voters have never ousted a state Supreme Court justice.

"I can't overstate the significance of what is about to happen in Iowa," said Brian Brown, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based National Organization for Marriage. "The whole country is looking at you. This cannot be overstated."

At a counter rally about 100 yards away, organizers argued that anti-gay rights groups that have been spent more than 0,000 to oust the justices are only focused on the one issue and don't care about the damage they'll do to the state's judicial appointment process.


"We are going to send a message all the way across America. These judges are rogue judges and they're arrogant," Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King told the crowd Monday, standing in front of a bus emblazoned with the justices faces with the word "No," superimposed on them.

The campaign is well-funded: "Thus far, the campaign to remove the justices has spent more than 0,000 and those who want to retain them have spent 7,000, much of it on television ads. The National Organization for Marriage has been the biggest spender, contributing 5,000 to efforts to remove the judges. About 0,000 has come from the AFA Action Inc., the political arm of the Mississippi-based American Family Association. The Campaign for Working Families, a Washington-based group, also spent 0,000, and the Washington-based Family Research Council added ,000. The Iowa-based Iowa Family Policy Center has spent roughly ,000."

Another group, Fair Courts for Us, is holding a series of press conferences and events around the state meant to counter the Judge Bus' hateful message.

Watch its first press conference, held today in Des Moines (tomorrow in Sioux City, Carroll, and Mason City, AFTER THE JUMP

Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

Stepping Out to Get Out the Vote for Pro-Equality Candidates in Minnesota

The following post comes from HRC Staff member Paul Smith. Paul is just one of 30 HRC staff that will be on the ground in 16 states by Election Day, working with HRC-endorsed candidates and engaging our membership about the upcoming elections:

I’ve been on the ground working for a few days now here in Minnesota, and I’m filled with excitement and enthusiasm about electing pro-equality candidates here in my home state.  One of the great things about working at HRC is meeting our members and supporters.  As my “day job” is in the finance department, my fellow accountants and I work behind the scenes and don’t get the chance to engage with our members frequently.  During election years and pride season, when HRC asks us to step out of our normal roles and hit the road, we jump at the chance!

I’m working in St. Paul engaging HRC members and supporters about the upcoming races throughout the state for pro-equality candidates up and down the ticket.  We’re gearing up for Saturday’s huge rally with President Obama and the University of Minnesota.  If you haven’t attended a big political rally before, don’t pass this one up.  How often do you get to see the President?   I’m hoping for a sunny fall day and I know we’ll all be pumped up to Get Out the Vote in Minnesota!

Join President Barack Obama and Mark Dayton on October 23rd for the “Get-Out-the-Vote for a Better Minnesota Rally”

Saturday, October 23, Doors open at 12:30 p.m.
Northrop Mall, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus
Minneapolis, MN
Click here to sign up to attend the event.

I’ve been spending my evenings calling HRC members recruiting volunteers for Get Out the Vote events.  I’ve been amazed how excited HRC folks are for candidates like Mark Dayton and I have had some great conversations with many of you.  HRC is definitely making a difference here in Minnesota, with four HRC staffers and an army of volunteers on the ground.

Speaking of ground, we need folks to hit the streets to door knock and distribute campaign literature the weekend before and up until Election Day.  Why is this work so important?  I had the privilege of working on Senator Al Franken’s campaign in 2008.  Maybe you remember how close that election was? That campaign proved to me the power that we as individuals have in electing our fair-minded candidates.  I know that I convinced a few people that weren’t planning to vote that year to get to the polls.  When the margins are slim, those few personal conversations matter.  This truly is important work, and it is fun and rewarding.  If an introverted accountant like me can do it, so can you!  Please sign up for a shift at

Paid for by the Human Rights Campaign Minnesota PAC and authorized by the Minnesota DFL and Mark Dayton for a Better Minnesota

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

NOM’s desperation mounts as it tries to unseat pro-equality councilmember in DC

Brian and Maggie are really hard up these days after that flop-o-rama of a Summer of Marriage road show. So now they are thinking smaller and inevitably think they are going to be more effective by trying to unseat elected officials that are standing in their way of the master plan to take marriage away from “teh homosexuals” in DC. As expected, in a majority minority area, NOM plays the race card. Again. Peter Montgomery at Right Wing Watch:

As we’ve been reporting, the National Organization for Marriage has been pumping money into Washington D.C.’s Democratic Party primaries in order to make good on its threat to punish elected officials who supported the District’s marriage equality law.

NOM is pouring its resources into attacks on Ward 5 Councilmember Harry ‘Tommy’ Thomas. We recently noted the chutzpah it took for NOM, which has bragged about efforts to get “white suburban Christian Republicans” to fund anti-equality candidates in DC, to send voters a flyer complaining about a fictional flood of “outside” money from San Francisco and New York supposedly attacking Hunter.

NOM’s latest flyer is even worse. It seems calculated for maximum divisiveness, featuring a rich, snooty, white guy looking down his nose at voters with claims that “DC Elites” are disrespecting voters in majority-Black Ward 5 by preventing a referendum on marriage equality. The flyer’s theme fits with comments by Bishop Harry Jackson, who has worked tirelessly to inflame racial divisions over the issue.
I wonder if the man whose image is in this flier knows his visage is pimping bigotry?

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—  John Wright