Same-sex marriage opponents target N.J. in $1.5M ad campaign
by John Reitmeyer/Statehouse Bureau Wednesday April 08, 2009, 2:08 PM
A national organization that opposes same-sex marriage is targeting New Jersey in a $1.5 million advertising campaign, launched today on broadcast and cable television.
The effort by the National Organization for Marriage was in the works before recent decisions in Iowa and Vermont allowed same-sex marriage, but those events make it more timely, said Brian Brown, the organization's executive director.
The goal of the campaign is "activating those millions of Americans who already agree with us," Brown said this morning during a news conference in the Statehouse in Trenton.
New Jersey currently allows same-sex civil unions, but it does not permit gay couples to marry.
A commission set up to study civil unions reported last year that inequities exist between married couples and those joined by civil unions and the panel recommended New Jersey take the next step and allow same-sex marriages. Same-sex marriage legislation has already been introduced and Governor Corzine has said he would sign a same-sex marriage bill if one reaches his desk.
Steven Goldstein, who chairs Garden State Equality, an organization lobbying for same-sex marriage in New Jersey, said Vermont's decision to abandon civil unions earlier this week shows New Jersey that "the time to act is now."
"New Jersey's separate and unequal civil union law is an abject embarrassment to the nearly 9 million people who live in our progressive state," Goldstein said.
Brown said his organization is targeting New Jersey in the advertising buy -- along with Iowa, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont -- because it is one of the hottest battlegrounds on the issue right now.
"Obviously there's a coming fight in New Jersey over same-sex marriage," Brown said.
The organization's television commercial, called "Gathering Storm," asserts same-sex marriage advocates "want to change the way I live" by forcing everyone to accept that same-sex marriage is acceptable. That means wedding photographers and marriage counselors could be labeled bigots and sued if they oppose working with same-sex couples, the group said.
"It's obviously going to happen if gay marriage is the law of the land," said organization president Maggie Gallagher.
The new advertising campaign was immediately opposed by The Human Rights Campaign, an organization that advocates for gays, lesbians and transgender individuals.
"Again and again, opponents of equality have claimed one shallow victory after another by telling lies about who we are as individuals, as loving couples and as families," said organization spokesman Brad Luna. "These lies must be called out for what they are every time the right-wing seeks to derail our progress by spreading distortions and inciting fear mongering."
West Orange resident Damon Owens is one of several people who appear in the television commercial, saying "people of every creed and color are coming together to protect marriage."
Owens said he is simply seeking to "uplift marriage."
"It's a great fit and it's a privilege to work with (National Organization for Marriage)," said Owens, who is also the organization's outreach director for New Jersey.