Late last month, Equality Matters activist and blogger Carlos Maza, who monitors the paradoxically-named National Organization for Marriage, released a report detailing his experiences undercover at a weekend retreat run by NOM’s Ruth Institute, its nonprofit “education fund.”

Maza attended the “It Takes a Family to Raise a Village” (ITAF) conference — which the Ruth Institute hoped would inspire college students to defend “natural marriage” on campus — because he wanted to hear what the organization said about LGBT people when they thought no outsiders were listening. He posed as a straight Catholic engaged to a woman for the entire four-day event, which he describes as “one of the most disturbing and overtly homophobic experiences of [his] life” in an exclusive report.

Jeremy Hooper, himself a dogged follower of NOM for many years, describes what Maza found:

But what did Carlos see and hear, firsthand and in living color? Well, he heard a speaker claim that the majority of same-sex couples are “dysfunctional” and “erratic.” He listened to speaker Robert Gagnon repeat his claim that “a homosexual relationship is worse than a polygamist one.” He posed for pictures for a photgrapher who joked by saying: “Two gay guys walk into a mosque… they were never heard from again!” He marveled at the ludicrious assertion that lesbian relationships are more prone to instability because women’s menstrual cycles sync up when they cohabit. He listened to the oft-repeated lie that same-gender parents create LGBT kids. He sat, jaw-dropped, as Ruth head Roback Morse encouraged attendees to buy a book that claims (among many other things) that “participation in same-sex intercourse is partly its own payback for turning away from the one true God.” And so on and so forth. Or I should say: so off and sooooo animus-driven!

If the name Robert Gagnon rings a bell, it’s because he’s one of the founders of the newly-created Restore Hope Network, the splinter group of die-hard “pray away the gay” believers who left Exodus International after its president, Alan Chambers, admitted earlier this year that sexual orientation change efforts don’t work.

As one might expect, the widelydiscredited Regnerus “study” (and by “study,” I mean piece of pseudo-scientific bunkum) on LGBT parenting was cited by speaker after speaker in one seminar after another all throughout the weekend. Maza wrote that he was prepared for such willful distortions about LGBT people, but was alarmed by the hateful extremism he encountered at the conference, which contradicts the benign public face that NOM tries to cultivate:

When I decided to attend the conference, I expected to be exposed to a good deal of pseudoscience about gay parents and same-sex relationships. For the most part, NOM has been open about its willingness to misinform people about LGBT families in order to slow the advance of marriage equality.

But what I saw at the conference – selling a book that labels gay people as pedophiles worthy of death, distributing Bible quotes to college students similarly calling for gays to be killed, hosting entire speeches devoted to condemning gays and lesbians as deviant sinners – represented a brand of anti-gay extremism that I assumed even NOM would have shied away from. . .

NOM had spent the entire weekend trying to widen it by teaching her that gays and lesbians – including me – are unstable, dangerous, and unworthy of raising their own families. Despite the promise to focus on “marriage, not gayness,” ITAF had been a veritable crash course in demonizing LGBT people.

Maza should be commended for this selfless act of service for the cause of equality. As someone with firsthand experience going undercover in a toxically hostile anti-gay environment, I’m well aware of the exacting toll these abusive experiences take on the emotional and mental health of even the most well-adjusted LGBT people. His courage is admirable, and I encourage everyone to read his valuable report in full. Click here to do so.