Not Quite the Abraham Lincoln of the Anti-Marriage Equality Movement

The presidential inaugural coincides this year with the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so we will undoubtedly be hearing plenty of lofty rhetoric over the next few days, some of it from politicians seeking to wrap themselves in the mantle of greatness. But it will be hard for them to top the self-glorification on display before the Rhode Island legislature earlier this week.

Jennifer Roback Morse, who runs the Ruth Institute” project of the National Organization for Marriage, fancied herself a modern-day Abraham Lincoln. NOM calls her testimony against marriage equality in Rhode Island “The Gettysburg Address of the Marriage Movement.” That would be a bold assertion for any political speech, but its just laughable when applied to Morse’s bitter diatribe. Morse recounts all the terrible things she fully expects that the legislature, and gay rights supporters generally, are going to do in “the great social civil war of our time.” And she is one sore loser:

I predict that none of it will make you happy. Not redefining marriage. Not the attempts to smother sex differences and biological connections. Not the further suppression of churches, religious organizations, and faith-filled private citizens. If normalizing homosexual activity were going to make you happy, it would have done so long ago. You would not be so desperate today for affirmation from strangers.

Anti-gay activists who believe they are suffering great persecution have taken to comparing themselves to MLK, to Rosa Parks, and even to Dietrich Bonhoeffer. So maybe we shouldn’t fault Morse for implicitly comparing herself to Winston Churchill: “We shall fight in the churches, we shall fight at the ballot box, we shall fight in the schools and in the courts, we shall fight on the web; we shall never surrender.”

To be fair, there is one line in her testimony that evokes the Gettysburg Address, and that has the ring of truth: “You will little note, nor long remember what I say here.” 

Peter Montgomery, an associate editor for Religion Dispatches, is a Senior Fellow at People For the American Way Foundation where he was on staff for 15 years. Before that he was associate director of grassroots lobbying for Common Cause and wrote for Common Cause Magazine, an award-winning journal featuring investigative reporting about the federal government.