(Editor's note: GLAAD goes behind the scenes to shed more light on Frank Schubert, recently profiled by The New York Times.)
No, he's not someone who has an extreme quote bank, like those on the Commentator Accountability Project. If I were to put together a CAP profile, the worst I'd be able to find in terms of rhetoric would involve the way he deliberately stirs up the "gay vs. black" divide that his employer, the National Organization For Marriage, has admitted is its policy. For the most part, his words are more measured, and his expressed thoughts more pragmatic. But should he still be held accountable? Yes.
In the case of Frank Schubert, what he says matters much less than what he does, and who he recruits. As the man heading up all four state marriage campaigns currently working on the discriminatory side (just as he did with both Prop 8 in California, Question One in Maine, and Amendment One in North Carolina), Schubert has built an extremely profitable career off of inequality as it pertains to same-sex couples and our families. And to accomplish this ignoble task, Frank has recruited a team of voices who are as routinely hostile as he is pragmatic. Frank Schubert is just the puppetmaster—to find the true tone of the campaigns that he helms, one must look to the team he recruits in any given state.
I bring up Schubert because of a New York Times profile that ran this week. In said piece, writer Erik Eckholm ably ran down the key bio lines. Eckholm notes Schubert's prominent role, the whopping amount of cash he takes in from each campaign, the fact that he himself has a lesbian sister who is in a domestic partnership and raising two children, his role with the National Organization For Marriage, and the strategic focus he places on children and the supposed harms LGBT people suppsoedly pose to them (sorry, Frank's lesbian sis. It's just business). The surface-level stuff is all there. However, when it comes to the alliances that Schubert forms in order to accomplish his discriminatory goals, the Times writer sums up that element in one or two lines about the ground game, coupled with some benign comments from Derek McCoy, Schubert's key point man in Maryland.
For those of us who see and hear what Schubert's team is saying about us and our families on a daily basis, we know that this lack of focus on Schubert's "culture war" foot soldiers is a failure to paint the full Frank Schubert picture. So let's now do that.
Let's start with the aforementioned Derek McCoy. A protégé of reliably incendiary pastor Harry Jackson (McCoy is an associate pastor in Jackson's church), the head of the Maryland Marriage Alliance presents to the public the same, largely pragmatic face that Schubert himself adopts. However, if you listen a little more closely, you start to hear some things. Just this week, I unearthed two different sermons that McCoy delivered in two different Maryland churches. In one, McCoy referred to gays as having "lifestyle choices" and talked of God "delivering" people like us from those existences. In another, he, the head of the campaign opposing civil marriage equality in Maryland, said that gay families are "not what God created" and "not God's best," before then saying that he sees the push for marriage as "an assault on the very essence of who God is in our culture." This is not nicey, nicey rhetoric—this is dehumanizing rhetoric.
Or let's turn to another state where Frank is pulling the strings: Maine. There we have Bob Emrich and Carroll Conley heading up the Schubert show. This would be the same Carrol Conley who routinely refers to gay people's unions as "unnatural" and who has said of his motivations: "I want to pull back the curtain and show you, really, how insidious and how evil this is." Oh, and the same Bob Emrich who is a major "gays can change" advocate and who has presented marriage equality as a "direct challenge to the righteousness and wisdom of God." Again, this flies in the face of the nonharmful tone that Schubert tells the New York Times writer is his aim.
Moving to another Schubert-masterminded state: Minnesota. The top guy there—the one who is on all of the conference calls right alongside Frank Schubert—is John Helmberger. Mr. Helmberger has clamed that "[r]edefinition of marriage obscures the picture of Christ and his Bride, robs God of glory due him, and undermines the witness of the Church." He has said that "citizens of heaven and citizens of an earthly kingdom" have an obligation to vote against same-sex marriage in order to "restrain evil." And so on. Helmberger uses charges that are, from his Christian perspective, about as serious and damning as any he couple possibly make. That's what he did to get his role with the Schubert-led campaign.
Or what about Washington? The man leading the charge there is much more in the Frank Schubert mold, working to keep his words in a less condemnatory state. But even so, I've tracked Joseph Backholm saying all this, for a CAP profile that will be posted soon:
-- Postions gay relations as in conflict with "natural and moral laws": "The idea that all sex is good sex, so long as it involves adults, will not survive because it cannot survive. The natural and moral laws of the universe are not subject to court ruling or UN resolution. While many within the tolerance movement will go to the grave convinced of the justness of their cause, history will inevitably see it differently. We judge ourselves through the filter of our intentions, but history judges our actions."
-- Likens marriage equality to "walking on our hands and eating with our feet"
-- Says same-sex marriage is wrong "in the eternal sense" and equates it with bloodletting: "Redefining marriage in this way, saying that there is no difference between men and women, that it’s not important for children to have both a mother and a father, that’s not just bad policy, it’s wrong in the eternal sense. So because it’s untrue, it will ultimately be proven as untrue and we will come around to recognize the error of our ways. We used to believe in bloodletting as good medical practice, culture has embraced a lot of things temporarily until they realized it’s based on things that are not true. This is one of those, it has to be temporary, not just because I want it to be temporary, but because it’s untrue in the eternal sense. "
-- Compares marriage equality with the redefinition of gravity: "Imagine a scenario in which we decided that gravity needed to be done away with because it discriminates against wingless creatures. Having convinced all of our friends that we needed to get rid of it, we created a legislative body that passed a “flight equality” bill and declared that gravity no long applies to us. In celebration of our legislative victory, with a sincere belief that we had freed ourselves from the law of gravity, we walked onto the roof of the Space Needle, in a cape, to celebrate our independence from gravity. Just like we would if we saw you standing on the edge of the Space Needle in the cape, those of us on this side of the debate are simply trying to avoid the inevitable pain associated by proving the existence of a law by trying to break it. True, the consequences of breaking these laws will not be as immediate as pretending there is no gravity, but they are no less certain."
-- Says gays dont really want equal marriage but are instead "are at war with a worldview"
-- Says of pro-equality people of faith: "For the Christian, the inability to get this question right brings into serious question your ability to get anything right, biblically speaking. You can’t do calculus if you don’t know how to add or subtract."
-- Describes same-sex marriages as "fruit from the same tree as the divorce problem"
-- Says of the marriage conversation: "If logic ultimately mattered in this debate, we wouldn't be having it."
-- Claims gay couples are acting out of "insecurity": Whether they can accept it or not, a relationship involving two people of the same-sex is materially different than a relationship involving people of the opposite sex. Their effort to change the language so that it can no longer account for this difference is simply insecurity.
-- Equates gay people's marriages with two siblings redefining their bond
-- Instructs supporters: "Tolerance is not something to be pursued"
It's rhetoric that goes beyond just the subject of civil marriage recognition, even with Backholm's strides to keep it on subject.
And this same pattern can be found in just about any state where Schubert has worked on marriage. The North Carolina campaign seemed to almost revel in its faith-based condemantions. Heck, Tami Fitzgerald routinely admited that she was against gays living as who they are, and even instructed local pastors to "to give the Biblical admonitions against homosexuality." Yet what did Frank Schubert call Ms. Fitzgerald when he worked in North Carolina? "Head of the campaign."
This stuff does not happen in a vaccum detached from Frank Schubert's own work. This stuff *IS* Frank Schubert's work. Again, he's just the man at the top, shifting the chess pieces and collecting the hefty paychecks. For me, it's always about the work, not the person. In the case of Frank Schubert, his body of work is undeniably and deliberately hurtful to many good and decent human beings.
In The New York Times piece, Mr Schubert is quoted as saying: “It’s hurtful to know that many people think I dislike gays and lesbians and wish them harm.” But what does he think, that we LGBT folk and our allies are just sitting around wanting to think up smears about California marketing guys like himself? That we live to position people like him as hurtful people? The truth is we would love to not ever have to think about Frank Schubert if he merely had a career built around convincing people to buy into certain things. But unfortunately, he made a choice to build his career by directly assaulting loving families and good, hardworking Americans who happen to be gay. He did this by building up teams that have more than made their larger intentions clear—larger intentions that deny us of our served peace of mind, in addition to the protections of marriage.
Frank Schubert earned his reputation, and now Frank Schubert must own this reputation and its reasons for being. As this campaign goes on, it is the responsibility of media outlets to ensure that he does.
To read the original blog story or to visit GLAAD, a content partner with SDGLN, click HERE.