$1.5m anti-gay marriage campaign slammed for 'half-truths'
Rachel Oswald
Published: Thursday April 9, 2009

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A new television ad against same-sex marriage is being slammed as deceptive and full of "half-truths" by gay rights groups. According to one report, $1.5 million will be spent to air the ads in four Northeastern states, which are considering gay marriage bills.

The National Organization for Marriage's ad depicts individuals, from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds, standing against a backdrop of stormy clouds. With lines like --- “The clouds are dark and the winds are strong” and “They want to bring the issue into my life,” and “My freedom will be taken away” --- the ad is filled with ominous hints that gay marriage advocates seek to impose their values on others.

Freedom to Marry Director Evan Wolfson told RAW STORY the ads were nothing more than “the same kinds of scare tactics and half-truths that they’ve trotted out before…but obviously, produced in a slick, deceptive wrapping.”

Another prominent gay rights organization, Human Rights Campaign, dissected the assertions made in the ad which include: (1) A California doctor who was forced to choose between her religion and her job, (2) a New Jersey church group that was punished by the state for not supporting gay marriage and (3) a Massachusetts parent upset that her son's school is teaching that same-sex marriage is alright.

"All three examples involve religious people who enter the public sphere, but don’t want to abide by the general non-discriminatory rules everyone else does," HRC fired back in a release. "Both (1) and (2) are really about state laws against sexual orientation discrimination, rather than specifically about marriage. And (3) is about two pairs of religious parents trying to impose their beliefs on all children in public schools."

Freedom to Marry's Wolfson, author of Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality and Gay People's Right to Marry, said, “What they’re really saying is that laws that ensure people have the opportunity to participate in society without discrimination based on sexual orientation…that those laws somehow interfere with their ability to discriminate and shouldn’t be allowed."

After suffering a serious setback in November with California voters’ passage of Proposition 8, gay rights advocates have enjoyed a slew of victories in the last week. The victories include an Iowa Supreme Court verdict in favor of gay marriage, the Vermont legislature’s legalization of gay marriage and a vote by the District of Columbia city council to recognize other states’ same-sex marriages.

Coming so soon after the gay marriage setback in California, the anti-gay marriage movement has been surprised by these gay rights victories. Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, told The New York Times that his organization was caught of guard by the court ruling in Iowa. With legislatures in New York, New Jersey, Maine and New Hampshire set to consider gay marriage bills this year, Brown said his group decided to move up the start date of its multi-million dollar ad campaign.

The New Hampshire House of Representatives has already approved a gay marriage bill that is now awaiting consideration in the state's Senate. Maine’s legislature is set to begin committee hearings on its gay marriage bill this month and the governors of New York and New Jersey have both said they will sign gay marriage bills if their legislatures pass them.

“It’s a bad day for the country," Brown told The Times. "There is a palpable sense that something has changed and people need to get active."

On the other side, Wolfson believes the gay rights community has found new reserves of motivation in the wake of Proposition 8.

“Proposition 8 was very much a wake-up call,” Wolfson said. “I think a lot of people, both gay and not gay, woke up after election day shocked that the freedom to marry had been temporarily stripped away in California and they vowed that they weren’t going to sit on the sidelines the next time.”

Just because the gay marriage movement has enjoyed some victories does not mean that there won’t be more losses down the road, warned Wolfson.

The most important thing that supporters of gay marriage can do now, according to Wolfson, is to actively reach out to their friends and family members and explain to them why gay marriage is important.

“The recipe for social change is information plus time. We have to give fair-minded-reachable-but-not-yet-reached-people, who are wrestling with this question, the information they need to rise to fairness and that information is the truth about how the denial of marriage harms gay [couples],” Wolfson said. “We have to talk about the legal and economic consequences of being excluded from marriage.”

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