Last night, the Human Rights Campaign released a slew of previously-sealed internal documents from the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the nation’s largest, most visible, and most insidious group of marriage discrimination proponents. The documents, marked “confidential,” were unsealed yesterday afternoon in Maine as part of that state’s ongoing ethics investigation into NOM’s campaign finances. NOM, notoriously dogged in its efforts to fight internal disclosures of any kind, had sued in state court to block the investigation, and now we know why: the documents disclosed yesterday reveal the group’s vile and repugnant strategy of setting minority groups against each other through the shameful exploitation of race.

Lest you think I’m exaggerating, check out some of these whoppers below. All emphases, unless otherwise noted, are my own.

Here’s how NOM plans to set the Latino and LGBT communities against each other, from page 17 of a “confidential” 2009 strategic report entitled National Strategy for Winning the Marriage Battle:

. . . by searching for these leaders across national boundaries we will assemble a community of next generation Latino leaders that Hispanics and other next generation elites in this country can aspire to be like. (As “ethnic rebels” such spokespeople will also have an appeal across racial lines, especially to young urbans in America).

. . . we will develop Spanish language radio and TV ads, as well as pamphlets, YouTube videos, and church handouts and popular songs. Our ultimate goal is to make opposition to gay marriage an identity marker, a badge of youth rebellion to conformist association to the bad side of “Anglo” culture.

And from a 2009 report to its board of directors, also marked “confidential:”

The Latino vote in America is a key swing vote, and will be so even more so [sic] in the future, both because of demographic growth and inherent uncertainty: Will the process of assimilation to the dominant Anglo culture lead Hispanics to abandon traditional family values? We must interrupt this process of assimilation by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity – a symbol of resistance to inappropriate assimilation.

In that board update, NOM is just as candid about its attempts to divide LGBTs and African Americans :

The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks — two key Democratic constituencies. Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage; develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots. No politician wants to take up and push an issue that splits the base of his party. Fanning the hostility raised in the wake of Prop 8 is key to raising the costs of pushing gay marriage to its advocates. . . find attractive young black Democrats to challenge white gay marriage advocates electorally.

The name of the “strategic project” to which the above quote refers? NOM’s “Not a Civil Right Project.” Just last week I wrote a column for the Huffington Post in which I said that the movement for LGBT rights and the movement for African American rights are both part of the same civil rights movement, and that it is crucially important for us to continue asserting so. I also wrote that equality-minded people of all races, ethnicities, orientations, and identities needed to push back against any attempt to avoid equating LGBT rights with civil rights — from either the right or the left — because it sets minority groups against each other, reinforces false hierarchies of oppression, and makes unjust accommodations for bigotry. Little did I know when I wrote those words that I was essentially outlining the strategic plan of the National Organization for Marriage. It’s more than a little chilling, if you ask me.

The NOM document dump is a veritable gold mine. For me, one of the most frightening revelations contained therein (at least in the documents I’ve read so far — stay tuned here and elsewhere for further details) is that the organization admits that it plans on exporting its hateful models overseas. In their own words, NOM is engaged in the process of “creating [templates] that can be used abroad” because it recognizes that “marriage needs to be a national (and ultimately international) effort.”

The 2009 strategic report also discusses NOM’s “American Principles Project,” which aims to “expose Obama as a social radical,” “develop side issues to weaken pro-gay marriage political leaders and parties and develop an activist base,” and “raise such issues as pornography, protection of children, and the need to oppose all efforts to weaken religious liberty at the federal level.” If this sounds strikingly similar to the presidential campaign strategy of one Rick Santorum, that’s because he’s been working with NOM since at least 2009. The same memo notes, in a section titled “Two Million for Marriage,” that Rick Santorum “has served as the face of this effort through e-mail and direct mail” and “has recently agreed to use his voice in a nationwide automated call effort to solicit activists and donations.” No wonder Maggie Gallagher endorsed Santorum earlier this year — her group is the one writing the former senator’s playbook.

Finally, a section on NOM’s “Catholic Clergy Project” touts the group’s “close relationships with Catholic bishops” and reveals its plans to use those relationships “to equip, energize and moralize Catholic priests on the marriage issue.” (Interestingly, it also describes Catholic priests as “notoriously difficult to personally reach.”) We’ve seen NOM’s Catholic-centered strategy play out all across the country, from then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan taking the lead in opposing marriage equality in New York to Minneapolis-St. Paul Archbishop John Nienstedt injecting a prayer for marriage discrimination into the Catholic Mass and silencing any dissent among his priests on the marriage equality issue. And it has worked, at least to some degree, on the local level as well — in parishes and Catholic-affiliated institutions — with LGBT people in committed relationships being denied communion, gay Catholic school teachers being fired for daring to marry, prominent theologians being marginalized for openly supporting their loved ones in same-sex marriages, and homeless shelters having their Catholic funding yanked when their leaders hold pro-equality views.

All in all, the NOM documents are a smoking gun. Even though we knew — or at least suspected — that this was going on, reading NOM’s putridly divisive strategy in print is remarkably unsettling. The newly-released memos reveal a remarkably cynical, shrewd, callous organization that is willing to say and do whatever it takes — be it blatant race-baiting, spreading anti-gay lies through propaganda campaigns, or using religious leaders as weapons with which to bludgeon LGBT people from the pulpits and in their parishes — in order to prevent loving, committed same-sex couples from winning the freedom to marry. And they’re not satisfied with bullying LGBT people at home either — they also seek to spread their hateful bigotry across the world. The fallout from these damning revelations could and should be widespread and far-reaching. Stay tuned: we may well be witnessing the beginning of the end of the National Organization for Marriage.