by Alissa Scheller
On May 15, 2008, California became the second state (after Massachusetts) to legalize same-sex marriage. So called “activist” judges, ruled that statutes limiting marriage to a relationship between a man and a woman violated the equal protection clause of the California Constitution, which prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. Since June 17, same-sex marriages have been recognized by the state of California. Proposition 8 is a ballot initiative that would introduce an amendment to the California Constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
Both the Yes on 8 and No on 8 campaigns have used media outlets, such as television ads, to promote their viewpoints. One television ad sponsored by Let California Ring features a woman going to through various obstacles to reach her wedding, and concludes with the statement: “What if you couldn’t marry the person you love?” Other No on 8 television ads parody the Mac vs. PC ads, and focus on how leaving the state constitution as it is would have no effect on traditional families.
Interestingly enough, few of the No on 8 ads actually depict gay people — the very people the campaign is fighting for. The ads mainly feature heterosexual couples with gay children, friends, or family members urging voters to ensure that all people are treated equally. One ad has two women (who are very clearly not a lesbian couple) talking about the issue. Another has Superintendent of Schools, Jack O’Connell, telling voters that Prop. 8 has “nothing to do with schools or kids” (after a Yes on 8 ad asserted — falsely — that if the proposition failed, schools would be required to teach children about same-sex marriage). The entire ad does not mention the words “gay,” “lesbian” or “same-sex.”
One Yes on 8 ad features a child telling her mother that she learned about same-sex marriage in school (the impossible circumstance to which the No on 8 ad with Superintendent O’Connell was referring). Another shows San Francisco mayor, Gavin Newsom, proclaiming to a celebratory crowd (after same-sex marriage was legalized in May) that “It’s going to happen whether you like it or not,” and later — again, falsely — claiming that if Prop. 8 fails, its supporters will be sued for their personal beliefs. Again, there are no depictions of actual gay people.
I think that this exclusion of gay couples from the television ads is because it could easily backfire — use words like “discrimination” or “exclusion” and people are more willing to be on your side. Use words like “gay marriage” and, well, a lot of people will disagree with you. However, by not showing gay people in their ads about gay people, it seems to me as if the campaigns don’t want gay people to become the focus of an issue about gay people.
To be quite honest, as a Californian, I fervently hope that Prop. 8 fails, but I think both campaigns have made mistakes in their television ads. I understand the reasoning behind the exclusions of gays from television ads on both sides — to make the ads more appealing to heterosexual voters — but I find it interesting that in the ads, Californians rarely get to hear from the main benefactors of same-sex marriage.
(The photo of demonstrators in favor of gay rights and gay marriage was taken in San Francisco; the photo is by crichton91 via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license. For more on the gay rights debate, please see: "The Story, the Truth and Fred Phelps." Also, please see the iVoryTowerz blog's "Isn't Love All You Need?")
same sex marriage
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