MassEquality takes anti-amendment message to the airwaves

by Laura Kiritsy

Bay Windows

Thursday May 17, 2007

With a second and final legislative vote on an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment looming, MassEquality unveiled an ad campaign May 16 that emphasizes the impact a public referendum on marriage equality would have on LGBT families. The organization is also intensifying its grass-roots mobilization as part of an ongoing, all-out lobbying assault to persuade legislators to vote against the amendment and thus keep it off the 2008 ballot.

The "It's Wrong to Vote on Rights" campaign features three Bay State families stating why they believe it's wrong for their families' rights to be put to a popular vote. At the end of one of the 30-second spots, for instance, Keith Toney, a Central Mass. man who has raised an 18-year-old daughter with his husband Al, says, "No other families have to worry about being put up to a vote." In another of the ads, 27-year-old Peter Hams, who celebrated with his parents Marcia and Susan as they became the first same-sex couple to apply for a marriage license back on May 17, 2004, asserts that, "If this was all taken away from us, it would be absolutely devastating to my family. I think it's wrong to vote on other people's rights. It's not American to do that." A third ad features Nigel and Vera Godley gushing over their 3-year-old grandson Leo, who has two moms, "and grandparents and relatives who want everything for him," as Vera puts it.

"Leo is no different from any of our other grandchildren," adds Vera, who raised five children with Nigel. "There is no way that people should be allowed to vote on whether one family is better than another family."

The spots will begin airing on May 17, the third anniversary of the advent of equal marriage, on broadcast stations and cable networks statewide in addition to being available online. The campaign, which cost $750,000, also includes online banner ads and newspaper ads.

MassEquality Communications Director Melissa Threadgill said there are two main goals for the ads. "I would expect that every legislator is going to view this ad and I hope that they'll take that into consideration when they're making their decision," said Threadgill. Additionally, said Threadgill, because the ads are airing in legislative districts across the state, "we hope that constituents are going to see this and make sure that they call their legislator to make their voices heard." Legislators are expected to vote on the amendment to the state constitution that would prohibit same-sex couples from marrying at a June 14 constitutional convention. Pro-equality advocates say they need to swing eight votes to defeat the amendment, which needs just 50 votes to be put on the 2008 ballot. (The measure, which needs to pass in two consecutive constitutional conventions was approved by lawmakers Jan. 2.)

The ad campaign is the latest effort in MassEquality's multi-pronged effort to swing votes against the amendment. The organization is sponsoring a May 17 lobby day at the State House that begins with an 11 a.m. rally in Nurse's Hall. The organization is also enlisting marriage equality supporters for tasks like data entry and phone banking on Tuesday and Thursday volunteer nights from 5 to 9 p.m. at its Beacon Street headquarters. With June 14 just four weeks away, Threadgill says there's been an increase in people contacting their legislators, writing letters to their local papers and volunteering to help out. But she also says, "I think there could probably be more urgency. ... We just hope to reach more and more people that know about the issue but don't realize the urgency of it, and bring them in and get them involved as well."

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