A Sacred Vow, But Not to Journalistic Standards

The National Organization for Marriage, "a national organization that opposes same-sex marriage is targeting New Jersey in a $1.5 million advertising campaign." The group is also running ads in Iowa, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. The television spots warn that supporters of same-sex marriage "want to change the way I live. ... That means wedding photographers and marriage counselors could be labeled bigots and sued if they oppose working with same-sex couples," they claim. "It's obviously going to happen if gay marriage is the law of the land," remarked National Organization for Marriage president Maggie Gallagher. In 2005, Gallagher was exposed as a payola pundit (as was Armstrong Williams), for receiving tens of thousands of dollars from the Bush administration to write favorably about its "marriage promotion" initiatives. Gallagher failed to disclose the payments, even as she praised government marriage promotion programs in her syndicated columns, op/ed pieces and interviews. She later claimed that she "had no special obligation to disclose this information," but would have done so, "if I had remembered."


The Human Rights Campaign [http://www.hrc.org/12470.htm has more about the ad campaign], debunking the cases of supposed discrimination it refers to. Also, the people in the ad are actors. Best quote from HRC:

“What’s next for the National Organization for Marriage? Will they hire legendary infomercial pitchman Ron Popeil to hawk their phony agenda?” said Human Rights Campaign Spokesman Brad Luna.

anyone not recognizing the people in the ad as actors; nonetheless a caption identifies them as such while stating that their stories are based on real incidents, which NOM enumerates here.

What the cases boil down to is this: you do business with the public, you don't discriminate, whether you run a church with a hall to rent out, wedding photography business, or whatever.

From Brian Brown on NOMblog:

"And for those who keep asking about the actors — It’s a professionally produced ad. Of course we used actors. We say so right in the ad. Is that the best talking point HRC could come up with?"

Fair question, and NOM does have its own talking points. Most interesting to me in the PRWatch context is this:


Extensive and repeated polling agrees that the single most effective message is:

"Gays and Lesbians have a right to live as they choose,
they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us."

This allows people to express support for tolerance while opposing gay marriage. Some modify it to “People have a right to live as they choose, they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us.”

Language to avoid at all costs: "Ban same-sex marriage." Our base loves this wording. So do supporters of SSM. They know it causes us to lose about ten percentage points in polls. Don’t use it. Say we’re against “redefining marriage” or in favor or “marriage as the union of husband and wife” NEVER “banning same-sex marriage.”

Doubtless excellent advice for waging a war of ideas. But tell me the truth, folks -- polling points aside, wouldn't you really, really feel better if you could just come right out and say BAN SAME-SEX MARRIAGE!!! :-)

Another new NOM initiative is Two Million for Marriage. According to NOM's website,

"Over the next two years, we will be organizing two million marriage activists from every state in the nation to form an online army of marriage activists willing to stand up for marriage on a moment's notice, sending emails and making phone calls to legislators whenever marriage is threatened.

"The initiative represents the most ambitious effort ever of its kind, using a combination traditional TV and radio advertising and direct mail, coupled with the internet technology and social networking tools that President Obama used so effectively in his presidential campaign. To assist with this ambitious new initiative, we've enlisted the expertise of Schubert Flint Public Affairs -- the same group that managed the Prop 8 Campaign in California last year. " [Emphasis added.]

Messrs. Schubert and Flint recount at length here how they approached the task of passing Proposition 8. This quote sums it up, and you can see how it continues to play out in the "Gathering Storm" commercial:

"We needed to convince voters that gay marriage was not simply 'live and let live'—that there would be consequences if gay marriage were to be permanently legalized. But how to raise consequences when gay marriage was so recently legalized and not yet taken hold? We made one of the key strategic decisions in the campaign, to apply the principles of running a “No” campaign—raising doubts and pointing to potential problems—in seeking a “Yes” vote. As far as we know, this strategic approach has never before been used by a Yes campaign. We reconfirmed in our early focus groups our own views that Californians had a tolerant opinion of gays. But there were limits to the degree of tolerance that Californians would afford the gay community. They would entertain allowing gay marriage, but not if doing so had significant implications for the rest of society."