Voters in Minnesota rejected earlier this month, by a 51 to 48 percent margin, a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. Ballot measures instituting same-sex “marriage” passed that same day in Maine, Maryland, and Washington state by similar margins. Homosexual advocates won these ballot battles by crafting a public relations campaign that presented gay “marriage” not as a matter of equal rights and government benefits but as a defense of love and commitment.
As Nathanial Frank of Slate wrote, opponents of same-sex “marriage” in 2008 in California and in 2009 in Maine relied on the work of political consultant Frank Shubert to gain referenda victories. Shubert, who also acted as a consultant on the four 2012 state referenda, had “created a deadly ad campaign that played on lingering fears that gay equality threatens kids.” Shubert’s advertisements showed a schoolgirl “cheerfully” announcing after returning home that “she learned in school … that a prince can marry a prince, and she can marry a princess!”
Frank wrote that the gay movement countered such messages in 2012 by “using one of the most sophisticated issue campaign operations ever deployed.” Central to this operation was Freedom to Marry, a group founded in 2003 that analyzed the previous poor tactics of gay advocates, who “had framed their arguments in terms of equal rights and government benefits, often using rhetoric that was confrontational … and demanding.” Given “anti-gay stereotypes,” homosexuals appeared to want “marriage for selfish reasons” and not “to express love and commitment.”
The response in 2011 was the Why Marriage Matters campaign with its masthead message of “love, commitment, family,” and, as Frank noted, “no mention of rights or benefits.” Frank judged this campaign as looking “like any garden-variety public education campaign, a little vague, a little sappy,” yet the “message was the result of several years and millions of dollars of research.” (Moreover, such expenditures continued when same-sex “marriage” advocates outspent proponents of traditional marriage by at least 4-to-1 in this year’s four state referenda campaigns.)
Freedom to Marry’s director of public engagement, Thalia Zapatos, confronted another concern revealed in polling data and promoted in Shubert’s ads, namely that “schools could usurp the role of parents in teaching pro-gay values.” In response, Freedom to Marry and others developed ads with a message, in the words of Frank, that parents “teach their kids values at home.” The takeaway from ads such as one showing a schoolteacher mother talking with her husband about values instruction at home was, “No one would force parents into uncomfortable conversations when their own child returned home from school.”
Frank concluded that winning support for same-sex “marriage” is “about having the right message and imparting it with patience and labor.” This includes “granular information” about different electoral demographics. Research data showed groups like Freedom to Marry that the elderly, for example, “might respond better to older messengers; pet owners might respond better to in-person conversations than to mailings.”