The National Organization for Marriage has collapsed into debt.

The National Organization for Marriage Has Collapsed Into Debt

The National Organization for Marriage Has Collapsed Into Debt

Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
Nov. 19 2014 4:07 PM

The National Organization for Marriage Has Collapsed Into Debt

NOM chairman of the board John Eastman testifies during a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee in June 2013.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

On Wednesday, the viciously anti-gay National Organization for Marriage finally released its 2013 tax filings—two days late, in direct violation of federal law. The results are nothing short of brutal. NOM raised $5.1 million last year—a 50 percent drop-off from its 2012 earnings. Two donors accounted for more than half of that money. And the group’s “Education Fund,” which churns out anti-gay propaganda and homophobic calumny, raised less than $1.7 million, a 70 percent decline from 2012. NOM closed out the year more than $2.5 million in debt.

How did this collapse occur so quickly? I have three theories. The first is that casual donors grew weary of NOM’s execrably hateful campaigns and craven refusal to face public censure. In 2013, the group’s anti-gay rhetoric sounded barbaric and, at a fundamental level, simply impolite. Even if you didn’t like gay people, you probably didn’t want to associate with such a rabid crowd.


My second, related theory is NOM’s donors are increasingly terrified of being unmasked. For years, the group flew under the radar, and donors could give anonymously. But since the Prop 8 debacle, the indefatigable Fred Karger and his merry band of campaign finance lawyers have been fighting in court, successfully, to force NOM to disclose its donor lists. As the Brendan Eich controversy illustrates, having your name linked with an anti-gay cause can irreparably tarnish your public image. For anti-gay Americans without the backbone to weather harsh criticism, a NOM donation simply isn’t worth the risk.

My third theory—and probably the most likely one—is that NOM’s former donor base has simply lost interest. The battle is over. They know it, and they’re moving on. Gay marriage is here to stay; a $100 (or $100,000) check to NOM won’t change anything. Maybe a few former donors have even changed their mind about the whole gay marriage issue. Either way, most people know a lost cause when they see one. And anyone not totally blinded by bigotry can see pretty clearly that NOM is waging a war against the inevitable.

There could, of course, be other factors at play; because the group is so deliberately opaque, we can’t really know if there was a breakdown in leadership. (That purported 2011 putsch against Maggie Gallagher remains shrouded in mystery.) But even if morale is high at NOM today, it won’t stay that way for long. In the near future, NOM’s higher-ups will release that they’re on the brink of officially folding. At that point, they’ll give the piggy bank one last shake, then jump ship for good. The resulting collapse will be pitiable, painful, and pathetic—a finale befitting an organization built on a platform of nothing but hate. 

Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers the law and LGBTQ issues.