Profile of Brian Brown, Executive Director of the National Organization for Marriage
Friday, August 28, 2009
The nightmares of gay marriage supporters are the Pat Robertsons of the world. The James Dobsons, the John Hagees -- the people who specialize in whipping crowds into frothy frenzies, who say things like Katrina was caused by the gays.
The gay marriage supporters have not met Brian Brown. They should. He might be more worth knowing about.
Brown is the executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, the preeminent organization dedicated to preventing the legalization of same-sex marriage. For two years, Brown has been traveling across the country. He moved his wife and six kids to California, where NOM was instrumental in passing Proposition 8, the state constitutional amendment defining marriage as an institution only between a man and a woman. Before that, Connecticut, where his cause was hurt when the state Supreme Court legalized gay marriage.
It was NOM that Miss USA runner-up Carrie Prejean went to shortly after her infamous "opposite marriage" pageant answer. "Gathering Storm," the much-YouTubed announcement in which actors discussed how gay marriage would negatively affect their freedom of religion? That was NOM.
Now NOM is moving its national headquarters to Washington.
The thing about the John Hagees and the Pat Robertsons is that some people consider them "fringe." And when they speechify, the people they're most persuasive with are the ones who already believe them.
But this country is not made up of people in the far wings, right or left. This country is made up of a movable middle, reasonable people looking for reasonable arguments to assure them that their feelings have a rational basis.
Brian Brown speaks to these people. He has a master's degree from Oxford, and completed course work for a doctorate in history from UCLA. He shoulders the accusations of bigotry; it's horrible when people say that your life's mission is actually just prejudice. He tries to help people see that opposing gay marriage does not make them bigots, that the argument should have nothing to do with hate or fear, and everything to do with history and tradition.
The reason Brian Brown is so effective is that he is pleasantly, ruthlessly sane.
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"The Human Rights Campaign is massive," Brown says, referring to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocacy group.
Brown sits at the nearly empty desk in a nearly empty room -- the H Street NW office space NOM has sublet until the organization finds its own building and moves its staff down from Philadelphia. He is 35, red hair, solidly built, wearing a crisp blue shirt with a white collar. Instantly likable. He's a thoughtful talker, especially when discussing his "opposition," such as the HRC. "They were ahead of the curve but . . . I didn't see any reason why we couldn't do the same thing."