New National Religious Right Group Attacks Pro-Marriage Equality MA State Legislator
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Oct 06, 2007 at 04:36:43 PM EST
A local political drama in Springfield, Massachusetts may signal the launch of a national religious right campaign against promarriage equality legislators in Blue states.

Yesterday, a billboard went up over I-91 near the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield --  comparing Democratic state Rep. Angelo Puppolo to Judas Iscariot and Benedict Arnold.

At issue is Pupplo's vote last June not to allow a state constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage to appear on the ballot in 2008. Titled "BETRAYED," the billboard has a vibrant yellow background and features illustrations - one depicting Jesus being betrayed by Judas, one of Benedict Arnold -- and a photo of Angelo Puppolo.  

"Tactics like this reinforce my belief that I did the right thing," Puppolo told The Springfield Republican. "I voted to keep discrimination off the ballot and out of the Massachusetts constitution."

"It's unfortunate that small-minded groups like this from out of the area come in and spread this kind of hate and inflammatory statements," he said.

The billboard underscores his belief the ballot question would have sparked a divisive, nasty advertising campaign next year, he said.

Puppolo, a Catholic who is married with two small children, said he attends Mass each week.

"To bring Judas into the equation really shows how desperate this group is," he said.

Earlier this year, the religious right and Catholic Bishops of Massachusetts failed in their effort to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot. At issue, was marriage equality for same sex couples which has been legal in Massachusetts since 2004. The long arm of Dobson reached into the state via his Bay State proxy, the Massachusetts Family Institute, which led the effort to get the amendment on the ballot. The effort came up five votes short in the state legislature, in part because a number of legislators changed their minds -- including Puppolo. And now a national organization has been created to attack pro marriage equality state legislators in what they term "difficult states." (By this we may mean, Connecticut, Vermont, Massachussetts, California, New York and New Jersey.)

Puppolo is the first of eleven MA state legislators expected to be targeted by a new New Jersey-based national group called the National Organization for Marriage. It is headed by Brian S. Brown, the former head of the James Dobson's Connecticut political affiliate, the Family Institute of Connecticut.      

In a blog post earlier this year Brown bragged that the Family Institute of Connecticut

...has defeated every attempt to pass a same-sex "marriage" law in Connecticut-and that we have become one of the leading voices for religious liberty in the "Constitution State."

Our successes in Connecticut have been noticed by the nation's most important pro-family leaders. And that is why I can tell you about the exciting things happening this summer.

He then explained:

Effective August 1st I will become the executive director of a new group: the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). I am joining Maggie Gallagher, one of the leading pro-family voices in the country, to fill a gap in our national efforts to protect marriage and defend the family. NOM's focus will be in fighting same-sex marriage in the most difficult states, to help candidates that support marriage, and to defeat those candidates that are working to undermine and redefine it.

Those who wish to redefine marriage are a minority-even in the liberal Northeast. Yet they have a stranglehold on our legislatures because of the effectiveness of their political organizations, their strategic targeting of key districts, and, perhaps most importantly, their massive financial contributions to anti-family candidates.

As the new head of NOM it will be my job to help coordinate national efforts to support pro-family efforts in states-like Connecticut-that are on the front line in the fight to protect marriage.

This organization will help state organizations like the Family Institute of Connecticut by leveraging national resources to fight same-sex marriage in the most difficult states. In this way my new position will help further the work that we have begun at FIC.

The Massachusetts Family Institute and the Family Institute of Connecticut are part of a national network of Focus on the Family affiliated state-level think tanks and political operations that have generally taken the lead in promoting antigay ballot initiatives around the country in recent years.

Rep. Puppolo, as a freshman state representative, would probably have been targeted by the state GOP as a potentially vulnerable seat -- but now it is apparent that the national religious right has him in their crosshairs as well. And while it is not yet clear how much oomph NOM will have, (their web site is "under construction") it is not unreasonable to think that they will be able to raise enough money to at least do things like this, and it is also reasonable to think that the religious right will be doing  everything they can to keep marriage equality as contentious an issue as they can heading into 2008.

Meanwhile, Angelo Puppolo is asking for our help, and has a few initial suggestions.

"The billboard... is very large and placed strategically on I-91 Southbound. Lamar Advertising owns the board and took the order from an out of state group from New Jersey - Lamar's number is 860-246-6546 in case anyone should feel the desire to call and let Lamar know what you think of the distasteful billboard."

I would appreciate any help that anyone is willing to offer - please send me your name and contact information if you want to volunteer on my campaign - also anyone that wants to send my campaign committee a donation - I would appreciate that very much the committee address is:

The Puppolo Committee
P.O. Box 80898
Springfield, MA 01138

Again, please spread the word as I need your help and support now more than ever. Thanks - Angelo

Online contributions can be made here:

I don't believe on line contributions can be made, only pledges. Though it says contributions over 50 dollars can only be made by check, I do not find a provision for credit card contributions. Thanks for the story. dci
by lackawack on Sun Oct 07, 2007 at 08:36:07 AM EST

I hope that the Massachusetts hierarchy hasn't leapt into the fray in an attempt to deny Mr. Puppolo Communion. Sad to say, I have to be leery of any organization that has "family" in its name.

by khughes1963 on Sun Oct 07, 2007 at 01:28:57 PM EST
Anything called "Family Institute" is likely to be a state affiliate of Focus on the Family.

by NancyP on Mon Oct 08, 2007 at 05:11:00 PM EST

that the MA bishops are likely to start denying anyone communion over this, or even abortion. They have no history of doing so; and of course, if they did it to one they would have to deny communion to most of the Catholic pols in the state.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sun Oct 07, 2007 at 03:05:01 PM EST
I remeber when I was a teenager and Kennedy was running for President.  My mother didn't vote for him because she said she did not want to vote for anyone who was controled by a foreign power (the Vatican).  As a nation we outgrew that and it has not been an issue since.  Now I find myself over 50 years later thinking about whether or not I will ever vote for a Catholic again for the same reason.

by hs2938 on Mon Oct 08, 2007 at 12:07:34 AM EST

May I assume that W. MA voters also don't like being messed with? A billboard like that is worth 5 points at least to the smeared opponent in the Midwest, and as I recall, the western half of the state is almost as conservative as the midwest (Catholic flavor, not Assemblies of God flavor).

How are Catholic demands for voting "the right way"  doing in MA? It's about 5 years on since the sex abuse scandal started.

I do think that bishops' excessive meddling with politics is likely to have null to negative effect in many areas. Cultural non-church-going Catholics are going to find One More Occasion to give the Church the finger. I would guess the majority of churchgoers are sick of their bishops but pay attention to their priests. Non-Catholics like me figure that Catholic faith is a minus in a politician, unless they make an explicit statement that gets them excommunicated (if they bother attending in the first place) - or if they are or ought to be excommunicated per rules of the Church (Giuliani and his spectacular divorces).

by NancyP on Mon Oct 08, 2007 at 05:08:30 PM EST

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