Tuesday, October 6, 2009

New Anti-Marriage Equality Yes on 1 Ad Hits Maine's Air Waves

It was only a matter of time before the Yes on 1 people realized that using outsiders wasn't a good idea in Maine. But unfortunately, they didn't have to look far to find an anti-LGBT local willing to go on the air.

Jeremy Hooper at Good As You does a good job on reporting who Donald Mendell actually is, adding "Love how Mr. Mendell says 'this Maine teacher is a gay activist' (in reference to his co-worker at his very own school, by the way) as if he's a mere layman. It would seem that those who live in glass political ads shouldn't throw "activist" stones!"

Of the course the Yes on 1 used that line in rebuttal to us objecting to their use of Charla Bansley in their last ad, portraying her as a public school teacher - but she isn't and is a well-known anti-LGBT activist.

Also, thanks to Jeremy, the Robert Skutch interview referenced in this ad is available below in full:

*Source: Here & Now, 5/3/05

What chills me to the bone is the reference to the curriculum at the center of the Alameda Unified School District lawsuit happening here in California. I've been working on a longer piece regarding this case and how it's intertwined with the marriage battles here in the Golden State, but before I've been able to finish, Frank Schubert, the man behind Yes on Prop 8, has wasted no time inserting it into the Question 1 struggle as a reason to ban marriage equality in Maine. Illogical? Yes. Effective? Unfortunately, yes.

The lawsuit against the Alameda school system, filed in August by the conservative Pacific Justice Institute, was brought by parents who were denied the option of opting their children out of curriculum teaching about bullying, and this included bullying of LGBT students. However, the school said they couldn't opt out because the curriculum doesn't fall under the California Education Code provisions which allow for it. So the parents sued. Obviously, I think they're pawns in a bigger scheme. And that scheme is already playing out in Maine and will soon again here in California.

I really do hope the NO on 1/Protect Maine Equality campaign responds just as quickly as last time (they've been amazing at fast responses), but this time, not just call the ad baseless but actually point out the lies. Somehow, Yes on 1 has successfully linked the marriage equality issue to school curriculum and the effects on kids, a tactic we already knew they would use.

Despite the NO on 1 ads, the opposition is able to successfully stick to their message discipline while we keep repeating that "outsiders are harming our families." Yes on 1 easily fixed that by using a local to do their dirty deeds.

We have to avoid Yes on 1's trap of getting us to respond to what is happening in California. Sure, the curriculum they refer to has nothing to do with marriage equality, but it DOES have to do with the fact that LGBT people exist. It's a fact of life.

As I've said before, "We need to tell Mainers, 'You're going to hear that marriage is going to be taught in schools, but you have the power to decide that yourself in your districts. You're going to hear that your church is going to be sued, but you already have protections in place by law. The other side is going to try and confuse this issue, to state things that are not in the law. They want to mislead you. They will lie to you.

"'This is not about curriculum, not about religion. What this is about is civil marriage for all. It's about protecting families. It's about being fair.'"

If we do this, anything Yes on 1 says going further will be overshadowed by doubt.

The "outsiders" argument isn't going to work now. We have to play fire with fire. Call a lie a lie.


  1. "Somehow, Yes on 1 has successfully linked the marriage equality issue to school curriculum and the effects on kids, a tactic we already knew they would use."

    - I am not sure I agree with that. Sure they continue to raise the issue in each of their ads, but that does not mean that the issue is resonating this time around. I think the quick turnaround time on the last two No on 1 rebuttal ads has taken some of the steam out of it. Also, No on 1 was smart enough and rich enough to run 2 new ads simultaneously in the last exchange. One was a rebuttal and the other was proactive. This prevented the ad campaign from devolving into an argument over schools. No on 8 never did that.

    I am not saying I know for sure that it is not working this time, but I would want to see real polling data to back it up. We saw a dramatic shift in CA when this tactic was used, but I haven't seen anything like that in ME.

    I also would note that Yes on 1 is putting all of its eggs in the schools basket and thus bears a risk. They have hardly made any argument other than schools. If that fails, it will be hard to pull a new rabbit out of the hat in the last 2-3 weeks.

  2. The link is undeniably there. They have shifted the debate about children, and that's how we lost in California, and if we, God forbid, lose in Maine, that will also be one of the major factors.

    NO on 1 is doing great work, but as I read yesterday from a great observer, we need to get an emotional response from heterosexuals to vote NO. Right now, for many, marriage equality doesn't stir any emotional impetus to move. Right now, the NO on 1 ads, as far as I see, isn't doing this. Straight parent families are concerned about their own welfare. Unfortunately, the welfare of other families, especially those that don't look like theirs, doesn't stir them to get up and vote. In other words, we're hoping for a sympathy vote from them.

    For example, I'm a gay male. When I see an ad on tv about female birth control, I don't tune in. It has nothing to do with me. That's a crass example, but it's similar to how many are probably reacting to all the Question 1 ads.

    We need to stir them up emotionally. Tell them they are being lied to, that the Yes on 1 folks want to CHANGE how their schools are ran and insert homophobic THEIR views into public life; we need to use a negative tone by letting voters know that the Yes on 1 side should be shamed for their discriminatory views.

    Playing nice, in my opinion, will only get us sympathy votes, and I don't think there's enough of those to get us a victory.

  3. OK, I agree with your point that people tune in to an issue for selfish reasons and we would benefit if we could find a way to give heteros a personal stake in marriage equality. That goal has nothing to do with "playing nice" or "playing mean". It is a message that either is developed and marketed or not. The tone need not be mean. I would remind you that No on 8 ran "tough" ads - including one that compared Prop 8 to racist segregation and the internment of Japanese-Americans. It went over like a lead balloon.

    Your other point - that Yes on 1 has succeeded in making a marriage/schools link - is not proven. The mere fact that they make the argument repeatedly and feature it in ads doesn't mean that they have succeeded in making the link in the minds of voters.

    In CA, after the first schools ad ran, the numbers changed dramatically. I haven't seen that in Maine.

    On an unrelated point: Do you think you will be able to post the decision by Judge Walker requiring that Yes on 8 disclose documents? I have read news reports about it, but have not seen the actual ruling. I know you have posted filings and rulings from the case in the past, and it would be helpful to see this. I am hoping that there is a possibility that some of these documents will be made public before 11/3.

  4. Looks like we'll have to agree to disagree on some of these points, but that's the beauty of discussion. :) However, I'm not saying we have to be mean, but when I say "negative message", it means not continually playing up the whole "feel-good" ads and ending on a positive message. In order to get people who wouldn't normally care to vote, you have to point out the negative crap the Yes on 1 people are putting out there and blatantly calling them bold-faced liars.

    As for your request, here's Judge Walker's discovery ruling (pdf) (aka, ordering Yes on Prop 8 people to disclose documents).

    What I'll do also is add it as an embedded document on my post on the ruling so that you don't have to download the pdf if you don't want to.

  5. UTF = Best. Blog. Ever.

    Thanks for the Walker document. BTW, I can tell you that they are very much aware of your blog in Maine. You have a following there.