As the Battle Over Same-Sex Marriage Is Fought in More and More States, How Each Side Positions Its Ads and the Message in Those Ads Is Paramount

Jul 1, 2013  •  Post A Comment

In a fascinating article written for Political Research Associates (PRA), David Dodge, who "has an extensive background in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.organizing and a Masters of Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School," explains how the anti-same-sex marriage forces changed their messaging in 2012 from what they had said in 2008, and how that change hurt them.

We heard Dodge speak this past weekend on NPR’s "On the Media," in a segment about last week’s Supreme Court decisions about same-sex marriage. We then tracked down his article, which was acually written in February, which is an absorbing piece about advertising and messaging.

It begins, "In 2008, millions of California voters saw this scene play out on their television screens: A young mother is working away in the kitchen as her little daughter comes home from school. Brandishing a copy of the gay-themed children’s book King & King, the child excitedly tells her mother: “Mom! Guess what I learned in school today! I learned that a prince can marry a prince, and I can marry a princess!” The mother’s reaction turns to horror, then consternation, as a narrator warns that this will happen in schools across the state should same-sex marriage remain legal. This commercial — the “Princes” ad — was by far one of the most controversial, and most effective, ads run by the religious right-backed “Yes on 8″ campaign in their successful 2008 effort to pass a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in California. A study conducted with data collected by Vote for Equality (VFE) showed that a remarkable 15 percent of all voters became less supportive of marriage equality after viewing the ad, including a whopping 26 percent of all undecided voters."

Dodge continues, "One would expect that the right would reuse this successful message, peddling the misleading implication that legalizing same-sex marriage would force public schools to discuss LGBTQ relationship and sexual behavior with children. And so they did, most prominently in Maine’s similarly successful “Yes on 1″ campaign, which in 2009 convinced a majority of the state’s voters to reject the state’s recently passed same-sex marriage law. But in the 2012 election, when Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington had marriage referenda on the ballot, voters in all four heard a very different message from the right — one which failed to resonate with voters, leading to long-hoped-for victories for marriage equality in all four states."

Dodge concludes, "Just as pro-LGBTQ campaigns learned from their mistakes, so can the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and its allies. It is likely that they will return to the successful ‘harm to kids’ message, and also likely that future battles at the ballot box will be fought outside blue states — meaning less favorable terrain for the pro-equality side."

One Comment

  1. This is interesting. It’s also important to remember that, like many California ballot initiatives, the wording of Proposition 8 confused many voters because it was phrased as a negative. Voting “no” was a vote in favor of same sex marriage. Going forward in other states, the phrasing is likely to be more direct.

Your Comment

Email (will not be published)