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Anti-same-sex marriage group's racial wedge strategy revealed

The blogosphere is abuzz with the story that broke last night, when the Human Rights Campaign released internal memos from the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the nation's largest and most visible anti-same sex-marriage group, calling for the use of a racial wedge strategy to fight campaigns for marriage equality.

“The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks -- two key Democratic constituencies,” one of the NOM memos says.

“The documents, marked “confidential,” were unsealed yesterday afternoon in Maine by court order, as part of that state’s ongoing ethics investigation into NOM’s campaign finances.

The memo spells out specific steps to enact, including:

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…”

Here is an excerpt on NOM’s Hispanic strategy:

"The Latino vote in America is a key swing vote, and will be so even more so 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."

NOM also spells out its plans for the 2012 presidential election:

"From a political angle," the NOM document says, "this strategy will require electing a pro-marriage President in 2012." Strategies for defeating, ("sideswiping," as the document calls it) President Obama include "expose Obama as a social radical," and "raise such issues as pornography, protection of children, and the need to oppose all efforts to weaken religious liberty at the federal level."

NOM is a 501(c)3 and cannot endorse presidential candidates, but the former chairwoman of NOM’s board, Maggie Gallagher, endorsed Santorum in January.

Public opinion has moved considerably in the three years since the memos were drafted. The most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll (conducted Feb. 29 through March 3) shows a plurality favors same-sex marriage -- 49 percent say so versus 40 percent who oppose. That's a reversal from 41-49 percent in October 2009.

Among African Americans, a majority (50 percent) said they were in favor (41 were opposed). That's a big change from October 2009, when just a third (32 percent) were in favor and a majority (53 percent) were opposed. Among Hispanics, in the most recent poll, 55 percent said they were in favor, 30 percent said they were against. That's also a change from October 2009, when the margin was tighter (45-40 favor to oppose).

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign -- which supports efforts to legalize same-sex marriage -- criticized NOM. “Nothing beats hearing from the horse’s mouth exactly how callous and extremist this group really is,” Solmonese said in a statement.

NOM posted a statement on its website today, saying it is "proud of [its] strong record on minority partnerships." 

It added: “Gay marriage advocates have attempted to portray same-sex marriage as a civil right, but the voices of these and many other leaders have provided powerful witness that this claim is patently false. Gay marriage is not a civil right, and we will continue to point this out in written materials such as those released in Maine. We proudly bring together people of different races, creeds and colors to fight for our most fundamental institution: marriage.”

NBC's Domenico Montanaro contributed to this report.