A winning strategy to stop 'gay marriage'?
WASHINGTON (BP)--Brian Brown and other conservative leaders have a message for those on both sides of the debate who believe "gay marriage" in all 50 states is inevitable: Remember California.
Yes, they concede, the other side of the aisle has the momentum. But they also argue that once people consider the consequences of tinkering with the definition of marriage, minds change.
"When any group of people is exposed to the real consequences of same-sex marriage, you see movement in our direction, because this is not an argument they're getting from the mainstream media," Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, told Baptist Press.
In mid-September, a Field Poll showed Proposition 8 -- the constitutional amendment prohibiting "gay marriage" -- trailing 55-38 percent among likely voters. But two weeks later, Prop 8 supporters launched an ad arguing that schoolchildren would be taught about gay marriage, and the message stuck. On Election Night, Prop 8 won.
The National Organization for Marriage is hoping to repeat that strategy nationwide and has launched a $1.5 million ad campaign targeting not only Iowa -- where the state's high court legalized "gay marriage" and where conservatives are pushing for a marriage amendment -- but also in five states where legislatures are considering "gay marriage" bills: New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Maine and Rhode Island. New York Gov. David Paterson introduced a bill Thursday in the legislature that would legalize "gay marriage," and it has passed in the state Assembly in the past although its present-day prospects in the state Senate remain questionable.
The ad campaign was launched April 8, the day after Vermont became the fourth state to redefine marriage to include homosexual couples. It is part of a national strategy whereby the organization hopes to sign up 2 million pro-marriage activists on its website (nationformarriage.org) by November 2010 who will help fight the legalization of "gay marriage" not only in their states but also nationwide. Although the National Organization for Marriage was formed in 2007, it didn't receive as much nationwide attention because it concentrated most of its resources in California. But with "gay marriage" advancing at a rapid pace the organization is now spreading its resources nationally and it hopes to help provide a unified, leading voice for opponents on the issue.
The 60-sec ad, dubbed "Gathering Storm," takes place in front of a backdrop of lightning and dark clouds and shows one identified person after another talking about how laws supported by "gay marriage" activists have impacted parental rights and religious freedom. "There's a storm gathering," one woman says at the beginning. Moments later a man says, "Some who advocate for same-sex marriage have taken the issue far beyond same-sex couples." The ad then launches into the heart of the argument:
"I'm a California doctor who must choose between my faith and my job," a woman says.
"I'm part of a New Jersey church group punished by the government because we can't support same-sex marriage," a man says.
"I am a Massachusetts parent helplessly watching public schools teach my son that gay marriage is OK," another woman says.
The ad uses actors -- something acknowledged in an on-screen statement -- but all three stories nevertheless are based on real-life events that have occurred in the past four years since the homosexual movement began gaining momentum.
The ad, which has received 400,000 YouTube views, generated controversy from the get-go and was featured on CBS' "Early Show," MSNBC's "Hardball" and CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360." The Human Rights Campaign -- the nation's largest homosexual activist organization -- even put up a website to try and combat the ad's claims. But they're all true, and HRC President Joe Solmonese seemed to acknowledge during a Hardball debate with National Organization for Marriage President Maggie Gallagher that religious organizations will face changes as laws continue to pass protecting homosexuality.
"When religious organizations step into the public sphere, it should not be surprising to people that they are bound to adhere to the laws in the states that they are operating in," Solmonese said, referencing an example raised by Gallagher: Boston Catholic Charities shutting down its adoption agency in 2006 instead of being forced to place children in same-sex households. The move came two years after Massachusetts began recognizing "gay marriage."
The religious freedom and parental rights argument, Brown said, is a winning one.
"The lie that is put forth by proponents of same-sex marriage is that if you allow same-sex marriage, nothing really is going to change and there won't be any consequences," Brown said. "And some good-meaning folks on our side of the aisle have bought into that. But it's simply not true. The facts are clear that in jurisdictions that have passed same-sex marriage, there are very serious consequences for those of us that believe marriage is the union of a man and a woman."
The issue of parental rights -- particularly as it pertains to what is taught in schools -- figures to be at the forefront of the National Organization for Marriage's strategy, as it was in California last year. During the final weeks of the Prop 8 campaign a Massachusetts couple, Robb and Robin Wirthlin, taped a pro-Prop 8 ad telling how their second-grade son's class had been read a children's book ("King and King") that tells the story of a prince "marrying" another prince. The Wirthlins complained to school officials, who were less than understanding and informed the couple they would not be given advance note in the future about any such books. The Wirthlins then filed a federal lawsuit but lost. The judge ruled that "diversity is a hallmark of our nation" and that such diversity "includes differences in sexual orientation." An appeals court upheld the ruling.
"That resonated with a lot of people in California. That was the No. 1 issue with voters in California -- those that voted yes for Prop 8," Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, told Baptist Press.
The Wirthins' story is the one referenced in the National Organization for Marriage ad. The other examples include: a New Jersey Methodist camp association that lost part of its tax-exempt status because it refused to rent its beach pavilion to a lesbian couple and a California Christian infertility doctor who was told by the state Supreme Court she could not turn down treatment for same-sex couples based on moral grounds.
The California ads, Brown said, even changed minds of many young voters, although voters ages 18-29 still opposed Prop 8 by a margin of 61-39 percent, according to exit polling. The notion that "gay marriage" is inevitable in all 50 states generally focuses on polling showing younger people more accepting of it.
"We've got a lot of work to do with the under-25 crowd, but the fact is that people believe all sorts of things when they're under 25 that they change when they get older," Brown said. "The idea that this group is not going to change their opinion on same-sex marriage at all is not realistic."
Brown hopes people will join with the National Organization for Marriage and help slow the wave of momentum "gay marriage" supporters are enjoying. Tens of thousands, he says, have signed up since the ad was released.
In the wake of Iowa and Vermont joining Massachusetts and Connecticut in legalizing "gay marriage," some political observers have argued that every state's marriage laws eventually will change. Charles C. Haynes, a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center, told National Public Radio, "It's all over but the shouting" and that "gay marriage is inevitable in the United States." Syndicated columnist Froma Harrop wrote, "The wind is clearly at the advocates' back. Younger Americans are especially accepting of homosexuality. As they replace their elders, and gay marriage comes to seem routine, the bans will fall one by one."
In response Brown points to the fact that 30 of 30 states that have considered constitutional marriage amendments have passed them, including three just last fall. The latest CBS News poll showed that 33 percent of adults backed "gay marriage."
"What same-sex marriage activists want us to believe is that it's inevitable … because they want us to give up. It clearly is not inevitable," he said. "We live in a country where the people have the chance to define the future, to change the future. If the 55 percent or more of Americans who believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman stand up for it in their communities and states and on the national level, I think you're going to see marriage protected."
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.