“No on 1” Ad Pre-empts Attacks from the Right

by Paul Hogarth on September 9, 2009

It is imperative that the “No on 1” campaign in Maine learn from the mistakes of the “No on 8” campaign in California. Never again can we simply react to the opposition’s attacks, constantly putting us on the defensive. With Frank Schubert (who ran “Yes on 8” in California) now running “Yes on 1” in Maine, our side must pre-empt the kind of attacks we know are coming. This weekend, “No on 1” released its first two TV ads. And one, which features a teenage son with his lesbian moms, directly challenges the notion that gays don’t have families too. Opponents of marriage equality will try to scare straight parents into thinking that gay marriage “threatens” the ability to raise their kids. But if we’re talking about “the children,” let’s mention the families who will be treated like second-class citizens if voters pass Question 1. The “Yes on 1” campaign has not yet aired ads, but has retained a San Francisco-based consulting firm that plans to recruit “real Mainers” – and fly them to California to shoot a commercial.

For Labor Day weekend, “No on 1” released two ads – one with a father who has a gay daughter, and one with a son who has two lesbian moms. The former is a more of the traditional kind of ad we’ve seen in other marriage equality campaigns, with a straight parent talking about their gay child. In fact, the first “No on 8” campaign ad featured a married couple talking about their lesbian daughter. But the “No on 1” ad with father Bill Whitten is far more emotional, and native Mainers have told me that a lot of voters in Maine will identify with him. It’s a good ad, but it does not really pre-empt the attacks we can expect.

Everyone knows that gay people have parents, but many people don’t expect gay couples to have children. The second ad that features a teenage son and his lesbian moms is more edgy, but in the heat of the campaign is likely to have a more positive impact. “Yes on 1” has not run ads yet, but we know what to expect based on what we saw last year in California. They will use scare tactics about “the children,” and get straight parents anxious about what their kids will be taught in school. This ad confronts the flip side to that argument – that normal kids with same-sex parents are told their family is “less than equal.” It may not be the ad that a “safe” political consultant may advise, but it effectively deals with what will come.

Meanwhile, the “Yes on 1” campaign is shooting ads for next week – but some details have emerged that could prove embarrassing. First, while “No on 1” has used Maine residents from the legislative campaign to be their poster children, the opposition has hired a professional casting company that sent an ask on Twitter to recruit “real Maine families.” Second, the campaign has retained a conservative consulting firm in San Francisco (which did ads for Tom McClintock) to actually film the “Yes on 1” commercials. And sources say the “real Maine families” they recruit will be flown out to California for the filming.

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