The National Organization for Marriage was created for one reason: to prevent gay and bisexual Americans from marrying the person they love. It failed. But even before NOM’s catastrophic defeat at the Supreme Court, the organization was collapsing into debt; its tax filings for 2013 revealed a 50 percent drop in earnings and a donor exodus. Given that sharp decline, many journalists and LGBTQ groups were eager to see NOM’s 2014 tax filings, which the group was required to release by Nov. 16.
But instead of complying with federal law and releasing its tax information, NOM has decided to—well, just blatantly violate federal law, I guess. The organization refused to release its Form 990s on Nov. 16. On Nov. 17, a Human Rights Campaign employee visited NOM’s office and knocked on the door, but nobody answered. She placed a written request for the forms, then called later in the afternoon—but again, no one answered. NOM ignored another call on Nov. 19 and another office visit on Nov. 20. Unless the organization has quietly disbanded, it would appear NOM is intentionally neglecting to comply with federal law.
This fact will come as no surprise to long-time NOM-watchers. During its heyday, the organization frequently ran afoul of disclosure and ethics laws. Just this August, it lost a yearslong court battle to conceal the names of donors who funded its campaign to outlaw gay marriage in Maine. That donor list revealed that, even in 2009, NOM was largely propped up by a few big donors. The group’s 2013 filings revealed that many of those donors had given up on the anti-gay cause. And this year, rather than try to explain away its (likely snowballing) debt, NOM has chosen to simply hide it—even though doing so is plainly illegal.
What lessons can we derive from this rather piteous unlawfulness? I spot three. First, NOM has always held itself above the law, disregarding and contravening ethics laws until forced to change its ways by a court. In its twilight years, the group will probably evince even more contempt for the law—it just has less to lose. Second, nobody is giving money to NOM. An organization flush with donations does not hide its tax filings. Third, pace its assurances after Obergefell v. Hodges, the group had no post-marriage-equality game plan: It bet everything on one fight, and its leaders were too intoxicated by their own homophobic hubris to realize that their quest to strip millions of Americans of their fundamental rights might not succeed in a country whose founding document values individual liberty over animus and intolerance. That was quite an oversight! And it might just be the nail in this malefic group’s well-earned coffin.