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Minnesota for Marriage ad borrows dubious claims from other states’ campaigns

Minnesota for Marriage’s “Not Live and Let Live” ad.

Last week, Minnesota for Marriage, the group campaigning to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage, began airing a 30-second TV spot titled “Not Live and Let Live.” The third ad to hit the airwaves in recent weeks, it was the first to use a communications strategy that has proven powerful indeed in other states.

The voice narrating the ad belongs to former KSTP-TV anchor Kalley Yanta, who serves as the group’s on-screen presence. But the B-roll — the images that swoop in and out of the frame while she talks — are straight out of a national playbook. Some of the same footage is currently airing in Maine, Maryland and Washington, the other three states facing gay-marriage referenda this year.

Never mind that for the most part, the ads have failed to pass muster with independent fact-checkers in state after state, they continue to promise the same dire outcome if marriage rights are extended. All are the creation of Frank Schubert, the manager of all four campaigns and the messaging mastermind behind Prop 8’s victory in California in 2008.

For its part, Minnesota for Marriage on Monday put its own fact-checking statement on its website, asserting that “Minnesota gay-marriage advocates mislead, distort facts.” The statement alleges that Minnesotans United for All Families has mischaracterized research showing that children fare equally well in same-sex-headed families.

The research Minnesota for Marriage uses to buttress its argument is a widely discredited study by a University of Texas professor that was funded by religious right organizations with ties to the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage. It is being used to bolster claims in ads here and in other states and in lawsuits seeking to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Because people who don’t hold strong views about same-sex marriage frequently feel legalizing someone else’s marriage won’t have an impact on their own, the spots rely on a formula known as “argument from consequence” — the suggestion that there are, in fact, unforeseen consequences.

Unless gay marriage is outlawed, this year’s crop threatens that children will be indoctrinated into homosexuality as early as kindergarten, parents who object will risk arrest, people who voice their opposition will lose their jobs, religious freedoms will be lost and small businesses will be subject to a flurry of lawsuits.

The first victims showcased in the new Minnesota ad are the owners of Vermont’s Wildflower Inn, who were defendants in a lawsuit filed by a lesbian couple who were told they could not hold their wedding at the inn. This much is true.

What is not, however, is that the case was caused by Vermont’s 2009 decision to legalize same-sex marriage. The couple sued under that state’s 20-year-old public accommodations anti-discrimination statute. In August, the innkeepers settled the case and announced they would no longer host weddings.

“A lesbian couple sued us for not supporting their gay wedding because of our Christian beliefs,” the innkeepers assert in an ad now airing in Maine. “We had to pay $30,000 and can no longer host any weddings at our inn.” 

Next in the Minnesota for Marriage ad is the image of Damian Goddard, a former Canadian sportscaster who now works for the campaign’s national sister group, the National Organization for Marriage. Last year, Goddard was let go by Sportsnet after sending a tweet voicing his agreement with a hockey agent who had used the social medium to oppose a New York player who had come out in favor of same-sex marriage there.

The TV network declined to discuss the dismissal of Goddard, except to say his departure had been in the works for some time for unrelated reasons. “Mr. Goddard was a freelance contractor and in recent weeks it had become clear that he is not the right fit for our organization,” a spokesman said.

Strictly speaking, Goddard describes the incident accurately in an ad now airing in Maine but doesn’t explain how the upcoming vote there would cost others their jobs. “Don’t let this happen in Maine,” is all he says.

The Maine ad featuring former Canadian sportscaster Damian Goddard

Seconds after Goddard’s image fades, the Minnesota ad shows a sheaf of legal documents while Yanta articulates another consequence: “same-sex marriage taught to young children in elementary school and parents have no legal right to be notified or to take their children out of class that day.”

Possibly the most notorious of the assertions frequently made in the ads, this one is based on Parker v. Hurley, a case in which two Massachusetts families objected when their children were shown social studies books that included references to same-sex parents as part of lesson units designed to meet state educational standards requiring children to be able to describe different kinds of families.

The Massachusetts laws in question are completely unrelated to gay marriage and have consistently been upheld by higher courts. Parents in that state are allowed to review classroom materials and can ask to keep their children out of lessons involving human sexuality but are not entitled to notice of each item of curriculum or to pick and choose which they approve of.

Ad campaigns televised in other states and broadcast online here go further than “Not Live and Let Live” and assert that parents who object will be arrested for trying to assert their parental rights. One of the plaintiffs in the Massachusetts case was in fact arrested in 2005, but for refusing to leave the school in question until his demands were met.

Other miscast consequences: “Charities closed down” and “churches sued.” The charities in question are Catholic adoption agencies in Massachusetts and the District of Columbia that stopped facilitating same-sex adoptions, long mandated by anti-discrimination laws, when gay marriage was legalized in those two places.

Catholic Charities in Boston was ordered to stop the adoptions by church leaders after Massachusetts legalized same-sex weddings; agency administrators in the capital chose to stop placing foster kids rather than comply with anti-discrimination laws.

The church being sued is the Diocese of Worcester in Massachusetts, which terminated a real estate transaction with a gay couple who hoped to turn a former church property into an inn. After an e-mail from the chancellor of the diocese surfaced citing worries about the “potentiality of gay marriages” at the inn, the couple sued last month under the state’s fair housing laws, not its same-sex marriage statute.

An ad just released in Maryland but not yet under discussion here has drawn fire not just from gay-rights advocates but from the putative victim depicted herself. On Oct. 10, Angela McCaskill was placed on paid administrative leave from her job as the associate provost for diversity and inclusion at Gallaudet University. Also the first African-American deaf woman to earn a Ph.D. from the Washington, D.C., institution, McCaskill had signed a petition to place a referendum on same-sex marriage on the Maryland ballot next month.

“I want to inform the community that I have placed Dr. Angela McCaskill on paid administrative leave effective immediately,” Gallaudet President Alan Hurwitz said in a statement to students, faculty and staff. “It recently came to my attention that Dr. McCaskill has participated in a legislative initiative that some feel is inappropriate for an individual serving as chief diversity officer; however, other individuals feel differently.

“I will use the extended time while she is on administrative leave to determine the appropriate next steps taking into consideration the duties of this position at the university. In the meantime an interim chief diversity officer will be announced in the near future.”

Within hours, the group campaigning to overturn a Maryland law legalizing same-sex marriage began broadcasting a TV ad spotlighting her case. “They promised us Question 6 protects people who oppose gay marriage. It doesn’t,” the narrator intones as images of first lawmakers and then McCaskill flash across the screen.

“When marriage has been redefined elsewhere, as Question 6 does, people who believe in traditional marriage have been punished,” the spot continues as many of the images being broadcast here are shown. “They were threatened. He was fired. They were sued. Who will be next? We’re all at risk under Question 6.”

McCaskill who has said she is not anti-gay, signed the petition at her church because she thought the issue should be put to a vote and wishes they would stop broadcasting the ad. Groups on both sides of the Maryland debate have demanded the university reinstate her.

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Comments (22)

  1. Submitted by LynnMarie Lindl on 10/25/2012 - 10:53 am.

    The fear the church is trying to instill in it’s followers shows the truth of the matter. The fear it once wielded is now the fear it feels. I see the church grasping at straws, getting louder with the gloom and doom, fire and brimstone. “Fear what we tell you to fear, without question, or else…” just isn’t working anymore. Education of the masses started the church’s downfall centuries ago. It’s the last dying gasp of an outdated notion. It’s the fall of a once mighty ruling force, that like all ruling powers that had too many egos manipulating it, was destined to fall. And this goliath is falling. It will never go away, most ideological concepts don’t “die”. A few will always hold on to the concept. But it’s time, it’s power, it’s hold, it’s fear, have run the course and now it’s time to let it go. Rome wasn’t built in a day and it didn’t die in a day. But the Roman Empire did die, did fade away, it’s lands fell under other powers, became other countries. And so shall the church fall. It’s time to move past the antiquated ideas of repression based on fear and move forward into the future.

    Vote NO and move forward into a more inclusive, tolerant, caring, empathetic world where love is not determined by the “naughty bits” you were born with but the capacity to love and cherish and care for one another without the fear of some mythical, eternal damnation if you don’t do it in the way someone else tells you.

    The only true hell is denying who you truly are. The only true sin is denying others to be who they truly are.

  2. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/25/2012 - 12:17 pm.

    Misleading ads

    Local media outlets have pulled ads supporting/opposing candidates the outlets deem misleading. Do the same standards not apply to ads on constitutional amendment questions? Or is this just a question of whose ox is being gored?

  3. Submitted by Simon Alipio on 10/25/2012 - 12:21 pm.

    Beth Hawkins is a mouth piece for Same Sex Marriage Campaign

    As usual, this is not journalism and you know it.

    You take the propaganda from one side and just never check the facts but become their mouth piece.

    People know deep inside that they will be silenced, can loose their jobs as well as their religious freedom.

    That is something that you cannot change even with your propaganda. It is too late. They are too many cases of injustice all over the country.

    • Submitted by john herbert on 10/25/2012 - 02:15 pm.

      Beth Hawkins is a mouth piece for Same Sex Marriage Campaign

      Could you please cite those instances of injustice for us?

  4. Submitted by Jim Bernstein on 10/25/2012 - 02:18 pm.


    There are too many cases of injustice all over the country but, the injustice is the adult, same sex couples being denied the right to marry. I haven’t noticed proponents of the anti-marriage amendment being silenced, in fact they same to be speaking quite freely and loudly. That won’t change when the amendment is defeated. How will anyone “lose their religous freedom” when the amendment is defeated? People will still be attending their place of worship and no doubt some congregations will be pleased when the amendment is defeated and others will be upset but no one will have their “religous freedom” affected one iota!

    • Submitted by Jackson Cage on 10/25/2012 - 04:18 pm.

      Jim, you clearly don’t get it…

      ….let me give you an example of the loss of religious freedom. If this fails to pass, Catholics will no longer have the freedom to impose their beliefs on other religions. Can’t you see that?

      • Submitted by Thomas Michael on 10/26/2012 - 10:28 pm.

        Can you give me an example of how Catholics are imposing their beliefs on other religions? I would like to know how this is happening.

  5. Submitted by john herbert on 10/25/2012 - 02:18 pm.

    Marriage Ads

    Great article Beth, thank you.

    As I have mentioned on this and other forums before, if a “church” wants to act like a business and make money from the general public, then it must act like a business and not discriminate. Also, can we please get government out of the marriage business entirely?

  6. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 10/25/2012 - 02:45 pm.

    There is no campaign advocating same-sex marriage. What there is, is a campaign advocating the limiting of civil rights for all gay people, by placing that limitation in the Minnesota Constitution. That’s awful. It’s unnecessary and contradicts what a Constitution is supposed to be. The villains here do not include the reporter for this piece.

    And, contrary to the assertion above, there is no restriction of anyone’s religious freedom in speaking against this referendum item. All people can believe what they wish. All churches can advocate and actually perform only the marriages they deem proper for their faith. No one is limiting Catholics. But Catholics are attempting to impose their religious ideas on the rest of us (as are the religious protestant evangelicals of the fundamentalist types).

    I can’t understand why, when the churches get into politics, they refuse to see the political impact of a denial of rights being built into the state Constitution. They’re imposing a religious view on a lay society, not understanding that our national Constitution has a freedom FROM religion clause in it, to protect us all from exactly what these conservative Christians are trying to impose.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 10/25/2012 - 03:29 pm.

      Religious freedom

      The people who are howling about their potential “loss of religious freedom” are (conveniently?) failing to notice that as long as they are using only money provided by fellow congregants who share in their faith tradition, they can continue operating as they have been.

      It’s when they accept PUBLIC money (i.e. from taxpayers who may or may not share in their faith tradition) that they have limitations placed on what they can and cannot do with it.

      They want to have it both ways. Feed at the public trough but insist they are not subject to governmental regulations.

      I don’t know to what extent their failure to see the unfairness of that is deliberate. And I’m going to be kind and not speculate further here.

  7. Submitted by Neal Krasnoff on 10/25/2012 - 03:27 pm.

    There is no campaign

    Connie Sullivan wrote:

    “There is no campaign advocating same-sex marriage.”

    “Sometimes Winston, sometimes they’re five, sometimes they’re three, sometimes they’re all of them at once.”

  8. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 10/25/2012 - 04:14 pm.

    2 Things I’m ABSOLUTELY sure of….

    ….the Hubbards will pull these ads from the aire and Simon will address John’s question.

    (Cue the crickets).

  9. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 10/25/2012 - 04:21 pm.

    In the clinical sense

    …it’s interesting to watch the combination of sexual and religious bigotry play itself out in the current campaign to enshrine a very narrow and obvious form of discrimination in the state constitution. Having it already enshrined in state statute is apparently not enough. Mr. Alipio is merely one of many knee-jerk commenters convinced that any sort of social institution of which he doesn’t personally approve simply cannot be tolerated. As John Herbert notes, there’s nothing in Mr. Alipio’s comment to support the hysterical assertions being made there, and of course, that’s the point – not only of Mr. Alipio’s comment, but of the ad campaign that’s the subject of Beth’s piece.

    “Dubious claims” is a polite way of saying “lies,” or, if you’re feeling charitable, “half-truths.”

    As Connie Sullivan points out, there’s no campaign – none – advocating same-sex marriage. The only campaign advocating something is the campaign advocating negatively – AGAINST same-sex couples who’d LIKE to get married. As George Lakoff has pointed out in books and articles, recent decades have witnessed a genuine mastery of the Big Lie by the right wing, and its sycophant Republican Party.

    Josef Goebbels, a master of the Big Lie, would be quite proud of the ad campaign in favor of the proposed marriage amendment. Use an attractive mouthpiece in the form of a former television anchor, speak in soft tones of vague threats to commonly-accepted norms, whether they exist in fact or not, advocate a right being determined by “popular vote,” and skip right past the reality that rights that rely on popular appeal aren’t rights at all, but social conventions that can be easily and readily removed.

    Bigotry of which the public approves remains bigotry, and perhaps even more ugly because of its public approval.

  10. Submitted by Logan Foreman on 10/25/2012 - 04:54 pm.

    Nothing more than

    Expected at the end of the campaign – typical Schubert.

  11. Submitted by Neal Krasnoff on 10/26/2012 - 07:10 am.

    Full disclosure time for Beth Hawkins

    Beth Hawkins should advise the audience of her involvement in any political organizations or voting patterns that would indicate an underlying bias in her writing. This would include her membership, monetary support or signage support for Minnesota United or like organization, if she votes consistently DFL or Green, or any other information that would be necessary and proper.

    • Submitted by Ray Schoch on 10/26/2012 - 08:24 am.

      Full disclosure

      Just out of curiosity, why should she do this?

    • Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 10/26/2012 - 09:20 am.

      Standard “Conservative” Response

      When you can’t refute what a journalist, scientist, pastor, or other public figure is saying on an issue,…

      attack the person saying it.

      The underlying reality is, of course, that you are so highly (and unconsciously) resistant to allowing the truth they’re telling to enter your awareness that you have no choice but to push it away by dismissing its source,…

      because if you were actually to allow yourself to consider that information you might, indeed, discover that truth of it and your mind might be changed, which simply can’t be allowed.

      Of course when any of us are confronted which information that makes us extremely uncomfortable, or invokes a deeply-programmed response of “yuck,” the most honest thing we can do is look in the mirror and ask ourselves “Why am I reacting this way?”

      Perhaps, in examining that question as deeply and accurately as possible, we’ll discover that we do, indeed, have healthy, evidence-based reasons for that reaction and decide to hang onto it,…

      but we may also discover that we have that reaction because we’ve been programmed by our family members, community, friends, and church to ensure that we WILL have that reaction and no other,…

      thereby perpetuating the biases of those people.

      A good clue to whether or not that’s the case is how those people would respond if we were to change our minds. If they would then attack us and reject us, then we’ve been perpetuating their biases.

      If they would ask questions and discuss what we now believe and how we came to those beliefs, and accept that we have a perfect right to our new way of understanding things without seeking to force us back to their “true faith,” it would be a sign that we’ve been raised by healthy people.

      • Submitted by Neal Krasnoff on 10/28/2012 - 05:51 pm.

        Ethics in journalism

        “When you can’t refute what a journalist, scientist, pastor, or other public figure is saying on an issue…attack the person saying it.”

        Asking a journalist to advise the reader if she has any conflicts of interests is a necessary and proper question. It is the responsibility of the writer to answer such queries.

        I thank Miss Hawkins for advising me about any conflicts of interest. That being said, with Miss Hawkin’s former journalism experience with “mainstream” or “alternative” outlets, she will, like any other journalist (as opposed to a reporter), bring her socio-political views into her writing.

        It is her prerogative not to reveal her voting record as a private citizen. As a journalist, however, it will reveal her political biases that is absolutely relevant to the articles she writes and how she presents an issue.

  12. Submitted by Beth Hawkins on 10/26/2012 - 09:50 am.

    Requested Disclosure

    I do not belong to any political organization or advocacy group, nor have I contributed monetarily to any candidate or to Minnesotans United for All Families or any other ballot question committee. There are no campaign or advocacy signs in my yard. I routinely refuse to sign petitions. I do vote, but like any other citizen I am not compelled to disclose my personal preferences at the ballot box. 

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