BALTIMORE (BP) -- Legalizing gay marriage will negatively impact free speech and religious liberty, leading to threats, lawsuits and even the firing of people who support the traditional definition of marriage, new TV ads warn in the four states where the issue is on the ballot.
Voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington will decide Nov. 6 whether to legalize gay marriage, the same day that voters in Minnesota will consider a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between one man and one woman.
Gay marriage supporters are outspending the other side by wide margins -- estimated at 4-to-1 in Washington state -- but traditional groups say that if they can get their message out, they can win, as they have in all 32 states where the issue has been on the ballot.
In Maryland, the recent controversy over the suspension of Angela McCaskill, longtime chief diversity officer at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., has made it into an ad that also references the Chick-fil-A dust-up. McCaskill was placed on paid administrative leave after it was learned she signed a petition to give voters the opportunity to overturn a gay marriage law. A vote for "Question 6" in Maryland is a vote to legalize gay marriage.
"They promised us Question 6 protects people who oppose gay marriage," a narrator says. "But it doesn't. Dr. Angela McCaskill is an official at Gallaudet University. She signed the petition putting Question 6 on the ballot, then she was suspended from her job. She's not alone. When marriage has been redefined elsewhere as Question 6 does, people who believe in traditional marriage have been punished."
The Maryland ad -- sponsored by the Maryland Marriage Alliance (MarylandMarriageAlliance.org) -- then shows three pictures to support its case: 1) a picture of Chick-fil-A, which after its president supported the biblical definition of marriage was told by several politicians it wasn't welcome in their cities, 2) a picture of Damian Goddard, a Canadian sports anchor who was fired after announcing his opposition to gay marriage and 3) the picture of a husband and wife who own a Vermont bed and breakfast and were sued after a lesbian couple was denied usage of the property for a wedding reception.
"Who will be next? We're all at risk under Question 6," the narrator concludes.
An earlier Maryland Marriage Alliance ad had shown pictures of babies, children and traditional parents, with the narrator saying, "marriage provides children the best chance of being raised by a mother and father. While death and divorce too often prevent it, children do best when raised by their married mom and dad."
Meanwhile, the pro-gay marriage group Marylanders for Marriage Equality released an ad that probably had Southern Baptists and other evangelicals in the state puzzled. It featured pastor Donte Hickman of "Southern Baptist Church" urging voters to endorse gay marriage. But despite the name of the church, it is not affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
In Maine, where Question 1 will determine if gay marriage is legalized, Protect Marriage Maine (ProtectMarriageMaine.com) is running an ad showcasing Donald Mendell Jr., a public school counselor who barely survived an ethics investigation after he appeared in a 2009 television ad supporting the traditional definition of marriage.
"I was a successful school counselor in Maine for over 20 years, once nominated as teacher of the year," Mendell says, looking into the camera. "Yet when I supported traditional marriage, they tried to get me fired. They went after my state license, claiming that supporting marriage as between one man and one woman is discriminatory."
The narrator concludes: "When gay marriage has become law elsewhere, people who disagree with it have been fired, sued, fined and punished. Don't redefine marriage. Vote no on Question 1."
Another Maine ad shows Jim and Mary O'Reilly -- the husband and wife who own the Vermont bed and breakfast that was sued. Jim says, "A lesbian couple sued us for not supporting their gay wedding because of our Christian beliefs. We had to pay $30,000 and can no longer host any weddings at our inn. " A narrator ads, "Vote no on Question 1 to avoid this in Maine."
In Washington state, Preserve Marriage Washington (http://preservemarriagewashington.com) also is warning about the consequences of gay marriage, urging citizens to vote against Referendum 74 and saying in a new ad that "when laws like 74 have occurred elsewhere, people who disagree have faced lawsuits, fines and punishment." The ad is tailor-made for the left-leaning state, noting that in Washington "gays and lesbians already have the same legal rights as married couples" and that "you can oppose same-sex marriage and not be anti-gay."
"Marriage is more than a commitment between adults," the ad says. "It was created for the care and wellbeing of the next generation."
TV ads in Minnesota also are warning about the consequences of legalization gay marriage, with the narrator saying "it has not been live and let live" in the states where the definition has changed. Small businesses have been fined, individuals fired, charities closed down and churches sued, she says. She also warns that gay marriage has been taught "to children in elementary school" and "parents have no legal right to be notified or to take their children out of class that day."
"We can prevent this from happening here by voting yes on the Marriage Protection Amendment," the narrator says.
The traditional group that launched that ad -- Minnesota for Marriage (minnesotaformarriage.com) -- also is warning voters that if the amendment doesn't pass, judges or legislators could decide the issue. The legal threat is very real: A lawsuit pending in state court seeks to legalize gay marriage.
"Who should decide the definition of marriage?" a narrator asks. "We think it should be the people -- not judges or politicians."
Another commercial in Minnesota lays out the purpose of marriage.
"Marriage as the union of a man and a woman has served society well for thousands of years," the narrator says. "Marriage is more than a commitment between two loving people. It was made by God for the creation and care of the next generation. Marriage is an issue that should be decided by the people. Voting yes secures traditional marriage in the constitution and ensures only voters can determine the definition of marriage in the future. Please vote yes on the Marriage Protection Amendment." --30-- Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).