Q&A: Brian Brown: gay marriage not inevitable
Some might think Brown is naive, but he notes that supporters of traditional marriage were outspent by a margin of 3-to-1 in liberal-leaning Maine, Maryland and Washington and lost by an average of only 53-47 percent.
"This is not over," Brown told Baptist Press, referencing the nationwide debate over marriage's definition. "... They had a great election from their perspective, but I hope that what this does is wake folks up and energize folks and people realize that [these losses] were not inevitable, same-sex marriage is not inevitable."
National Organization for Marriage has been at the forefront in recent years fighting to defend the traditional definition of marriage. Brown points to the famous 2008 vote in California, where traditional forces raised about as much money as gay activists and surprised the political world by winning in a blue state.
Baptist Press talked to Brown about Election Night, about the future of the debate over the issue, and about arguments that its legalization is inevitable. Following is a transcript:
BAPTIST PRESS: Describe your emotions on Election Night.
BRIAN BROWN: It was tough. We had been screaming from the mountaintops that we could lose these unless we had the money necessary. And while we did get some resources in, we were so greatly outspent. And then to have such a close margin in each of these states -- we could have won. And I think it's a wakeup call about what's necessary to win in deep blue states. We were able to win in North Carolina [in May] even though we were greatly outspent. It's a much different state demographically -- the religiosity there, a lot more church attendance. But these [blue states] were different states. It has to be a wakeup call to folks around this country who have been blessed with wherewithal that we can either win or lose marriage based on whether we have the resources necessary. It's as simple as that. The fight's going to continue on.
BP: What is necessary, then, to win in deep blue states?
BROWN: We need to match them in money. Everyone says, "What does money do?" We have to have a way to get our message out to the voters in the middle, and the way you can do that is through television and radio. That's the way we were able to win in North Carolina and other states -- we got our message out. We were unable to do that [this fall] and the other side already has an advantage because they get all their arguments out for free through most of the mainstream press. When every single editorial board endorses gay marriage in a state, that shows you the power that they have to get their message out without spending a dime.
BP: You think you could have won, then, in these states?
BROWN: Oh yeah. In the deepest of blue states, traditional marriage outperformed Gov. Romney by over six points on average. We had a number of Democrats voting our way. It wasn't enough, but it showed that traditional marriage -- far from being divisive -- even in the deepest of blue states we can get a number of Democrats to vote with their hearts.
BP: What was the margin by which you were outspent?
BROWN: We were outspent by $23 million -- $33 million to $10 million. Three-to-one.
BP: Do you think you also might have gotten on the air too late for it to make enough of difference, because there are so many early voters? [Pro-traditional marriage ads began running in early to mid October.]
BROWN: Yes, but we didn't have the money to go up early. The other thing is, this is a bit of a David and Goliath fight. The Human Rights Campaign [the nation's largest gay activist group] has been around for a long time and has a $40 million budget. National Organization for Marriage has been around since 2007, and we gave more money this year [to the four blue states] than we ever have before -- $5.5 million. That's more than we gave to California Prop 8 [in 2008], Maine [in a 2009 marriage vote] and North Carolina combined. But we were fighting in four states, and the other side was just able to completely overwhelm us on the fundraising front. It's unfortunate. I think there was a little bit of complacency where our supporters thought, "Well, we've won so many times before, we're going to win again and we don't need to make that extra gift." And this is the result.
BP: Was this a turning point for the gay marriage movement?
BROWN: I don't think it's a turning point. Winning on your home turf is not a turning point. They had won once before, in Arizona, and then the people of that state came back and corrected that [by passing a marriage amendment after defeating one]. Christians need to take a deep breath, look at the reality that we have won 31 states and they have won four, and say to ourselves, "What are we willing to do to make sure this doesn't happen again, to make sure marriage is protected in the remaining states?" This is not over. This a new beginning. They had a great election from their perspective, but I hope that what this does is wake folks up and energize folks and people realize that [these losses] were not inevitable, same-sex marriage is not inevitable. We can still win. We won in North Carolina just a few short months before these losses. Does anyone honestly believe that if you put marriage on the ballot in North Carolina again that we would lose? We wouldn't. [Gay marriage supporters are] going to push in more states, and we're going to have more fights, like in Illinois, Delaware, Rhode Island, Oregon, and we have to be prepared, we have to have the resources. You cannot go into a battle as important as this -- the definition of marriage -- and not have the proper resources.
BP: The other side is saying gay marriage is inevitable because younger people are more supportive of gay marriage, they're going to grow up and other people who oppose it are going to age and die. Why do you disagree with that argument?
BROWN: Because the longer this goes on in these nine states [where gay marriage is legal], the more clearly everything that we have said will come true about the consequences of legalizing gay marriage. Young people are not static in their beliefs. When they see their church being punished because it won't place children in a same-sex household, they're going to look up and say, "I didn't think this was going to happen." When innkeepers and businessmen are punished because they don't accept same-sex marriage, and they're fined, they're going to see that people are being targeted because of their beliefs. And most importantly, when kids are taught in the schools that their parents are bigots because of their faith -- when this happens, some of those folks who voted for gay marriage are going to say, "We were sold a false bill of goods."
BP: Is it possible the Supreme Court short-circuits the issue next year and legalizes gay marriage?
BROWN: It's possible, but I think it's highly improbable. I do not think the Supreme Court wants to launch another culture war as happened in the wake of Roe v. Wade. I do not think the court wants to put itself in the position of overturning all 30 of the public votes on the part of the people and by fiat, forcing gay marriage on the country. I do not think that is going to happen.
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).