Posts Tagged ‘Maggie Gallager’

The National Organization for Marriage Plays the Free Speech Card … Again.

December 8, 2011

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has has found a poster boy for its new project, the Marriage Anti-Defamation Alliance. He is Damian Goddard, the Canadian sportscaster who was fired from his job in May 2011 shortly after tweeting his support for a sports media figure (Todd Reynolds, vice-president of Uptown Sports) who had come under attack for opposing same-sex marriage. Goddard tweeted, “I completely and wholeheartedly support Todd Reynolds and his support for the traditional and TRUE meaning of marriage.” (emphasis his)

Goddard’s Twitter photo, showing him at his anchor desk, clearly identified him with his employer, Sportsnet. And in case this was not clear enough, he referenced Sportsnet in the tweet.

Officials at the broadcast company quickly disavowed any connection between their views and Goddard’s, and the following day they fired him, saying that he was not “the right fit for our organization.” Goddard responded by filing a Human Rights complaint against the company.

Sportsnet denies Goddard was fired over this incident alone and released the following public statement:

Mr. Goddard is aware of the reasons — which are well documented ­— why he is no longer with Sportsnet. Out of respect for our employees we do not discuss personnel issues in the press.

Steve Buffery, writing for the Toronto Sun, calls Goddard’s firing “scary business” and frames it as a free speech issue:

Do we want to live in a society where, if you don’t believe in something like same-sex marriage because of your faith, you have to be silent for fear of being ridiculed en masse, or for fear of losing your job?

Daniel Villarreal, writing for Queerty, takes the broadcaster’s side:

The high-profile TV personality was fired for making a negative political statement against his employer’s wishes, period. They didn’t want their company represented by a man who just told tens of thousands of viewers that he considers their marriages false, dishonest and wrong. Keeping him just would have been bad business, plain and simple.

Villarreal has got it right. To understand why, let’s look at the context:

Same-sex marriage was legalized in Canadian provinces starting in 2003, and legalization at the national level followed in May, 2005. Canada is not due for another census until 2012, but the most recent census (2006) showed 45,300 same-sex couples, of which 16.5% were married. By now, the number of married same-sex couples must be, as Villarreal says, in the “tens of thousands.” Sportsnet’s marketing department could not have been ignorant of this fact.

This alone would explain Sportsnet’s decision to fire Goddard, even excluding other factors. Goddard’s high-profile position made his connection with Sportsnet conspicuous, even when he was tweeting off-site, but all the more so when his tweets made that connection explicit. Goddard’s widely-propagated tweet was bad for Sportsnet’s business, c’est tout.

But should he have had the right to express himself as he did under these circumstances?

That is an entirely different question, and it is for the Canadian Human Rights Commission to decide. However, NOM, which has adopted Damian Goddard, is based in the U.S. and claims to be concerned about First Amendment guarantees for free speech. Does the Goddard case bode ill for Americans who wish to freely express their opposition to same-sex marriage? Are GLBT activists intent on bullying, intimidating, and silencing ordinary Americans who are on “the wrong side” of this issue? NOM, through its “anti-defamation” initiative, would have us believe the answer to both questions is “yes.”

However, a little research into U.S. case law reveals NOM’s  initiative to be more than a little disingenuous. NOM is a lobbying organization with considerable resources (revenues of more than $7 million in 2009)—surely enough to hire a legal expert or two. They must know that, under U.S. law, employers are legally entitled to discharge employees who publicly harm their company, provided that the company is pursuing a lawful and ethical policy.

To paraphrase Oliver Wendell Holmes, sportscaster Goddard (transposed to the U.S.) may have a constitutional right to talk politics, but he has no constitutional right to be a sportscaster.

NOM’s position on this issue is clearly pro-government and anti-corporate. Are they really advocating for more regulation of companies like Sportsnet? Their Republican contributors may want to know.

The Damian Goddard case shows how determined NOM is to frame any criticism of their position as an attack on marriage. To be clear, their position is that the state should prohibit marriage between same-sex couples and that such couples are somehow “anti-marriage” for wanting to marry. (!) This is facially absurd. GLBTs who advocate for same-sex marriage are hardly interested in “defaming” marriage. No one is, so far as I know. NOM is trying to create a bogeyman, to portray marriage itself as under threat, and to cast themselves as its champions and protectors. On the way to this inspired goal, they will claim victimhood if anyone calls their hand.

If I didn’t know better, I would say it’s an elaborate paranoid fantasy. But in reality it’s just tactics—transparent ones, but effective enough in the short term to keep the cash flowing in their direction.

Other Bent Angle articles related to Maggie Gallagher and/or NOM:

For additional information about NOM, visit the NOMExposed website here.