Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pedro Julio outwits NOM Board Member in Spanish-language TV debate about marriage equality in NY

Have you seen this ad? It was produced by an anti-gay organization called the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) in the wake of the recent marriage equality victories in Iowa and Vermont.

Reaction from the gays since it was released on April 7th has generally gone from shock and fear that the tropes used (the imagery and language about diversity, inclusion and change) might be effective; to a realization that perhaps there was some overreaction to the ad; to outright laughter at its portentiousness; which seems to have culminated with a number of online spoofs (the best one is here) and today's OpEd column by Frank Rich in the New York Times ("The Bigot's Last Hurrah").

Or perhaps you also saw that, on Thursday, New York State Governor David Paterson introduced a marriage equality bill.

Of course, there was some virulenty homophobic reaction to the announcement from the usual suspect: The Pentecostal minister - and State Senator - Ruben Diaz, Sr. He certainly was all over the press and media - happy as a peacock for all the attention he was getting.

So you would probably think that if a NOM Board Member spoke to media about the bill, everyone would be all a-twitter about how NOM's Gathering Storm might have arrived in New York.

And it did (quietly):

The two clips above are from Friday's edition of the weekly Spanish-language political show "Pura Politica" on Time Warner Cable's NY1 Noticias (CLICK on video to open larger YouTube window and read my full translation of the exchange). It features a debate between Pedro Julio Serrano from the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force and Luis Tellez from The Witherspoon Institute, as moderated by political reporter Juan Manuel Benitez.

Mr. Tellez also happens to be one of five members of NOM's Board of Directors.

So, while Rev. Diaz was huffing-and-puffing and grabbing everyone's attention, here was NOM's first media foray after the Paterson announcement: No big flashy display and no attention-whoring; just an attempt to speak directly to Latinos in their language. In other words, a similar under-the-radar strategy that foes of marriage equality in California used with minority communities in their successful defeat of Prop. 8

Luckily, Mr. Tellez met more than his match in Pedro Julio. I might be a bit biased since PJ is among my closest friends, but I thought he destroyed Mr. Tellez arguments.

It's clear, as the debate begins, that Mr. Tellez is trying to avoid a strictly religious argument to make it seem as if there is no religious bias in his claims and that his concern is only about the 'institution' of marriage, regardless or religious belief. In responding to a question about the church's role in defining marriage he actually says the following:
I cannot speak for the church - but it seems to me that the role of the church is to back, or... what is already known... er... the institution that has already existed which precedes... which precedes!... all societies that we have known.
And, yet, by debate's end, after his arguments have been destroyed, he reacts in frustration and plays the victim card as he addresses Pedro Julio, claiming that it is his religious beliefs that make him a victim:'s so good that you gave me your business card because, upon leaving this place, I can assure you that I will receive 'hate mail' and you won't, won't... won't receive any 'hate mail'. Why? Because those who think as we do, as you said, due to religious education or for facts that we have from common sense, which is still a majority of people in this country, we will... we are attacked. They say we are 'bigots'. NO, we aren't 'bigots'! I have tremendous respect for all the homosexuals.
The best part, though, is that he briefly falls on his own sword. Mr. Benitez. who does a good job of being even-handed by grilling Pedro Julio on why the word "marriage" and why now, asks Mr. Tellez the following question:
As Pedro Julio says there are many children who already live with same-sex couples. Don't they have the right to the same benefits and protections held by children who grow up among heterosexual couples who are married?
Mr. Tellez responds:
Of course, it's clear that all children should have the same rights.
So here we have one of the five NOM Board Members saying that he agrees that all children, regardless of whether they are being raised by same-sex couples or heterosexual partners, should have equal rights. He also goes to acknowledge that adoption by gays is better than a kid not being adopted by anyone.

And the key thing about this exchange, if you remember California's unsuccessful "No on Prop. 8" campaign, is that here we have NOM jumping at the gates to talk about the rights of children (since it worked so well to turn voters against marriage equality in California), but, in this instance you have someone who is willing to take on the lies about a kid being worse off if they are being raised by same-sex partners head on and winning the debate.

Yes, I still remember this ad:

...and the fact that all the "No on Prop. 8" folk did mediawise to counter it was to hire the ENGLISH-language Ugly Betty cast (ugh!).

One final thought: As NOM's Mr. Tellez cries victimization, and says that Pedro Julio doesn't know the half of it, my blood boiled. He would probably have avoided bringing the victimization card if he'd known that, as the first openly gay person to have sought political office in Puerto Rico, Pedro Julio received many a death threat. So much for Mr. Tellez certainty that Pedro Julio has never been and will never be the recipient of 'hate mail' or worse.


NOM.nom apparently likes Tellez' abismal performance. They posted the Spanish-language version of the interview on Facebook (see screen capture, right) but not the ones with my English-language translation.


1 comment:

Reginald Harris said...

Very interesting -- and good point Andres. The Right moves on as many levels as they possibly can -- and we should too.