Anti-gay campaigns losing their punch
November 9, 2006
The GOP's formula of using anti-gay fear tactics in political campaigns is starting to fail.
On Nov. 7, voters around the country were confronted with divisive ballot measures to ban marriage equality for committed gay and lesbian couples. Even though the freedom to marry for gays exists only in Massachusetts, anti-gay activists have force-fed voters proposed amendments to their state constitutions on this issue in 27 states -- eight of them this month alone.
But all of a sudden something happened this year. Voters in one state -- Arizona -- defeated a constitutional amendment on marriage.
In other states, gay rights advocates are losing by smaller margins than before.
"Two years ago we had 11 of these on the ballot, and in only two of them did we do better than 40 percent," said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, referring to Michigan and Oregon. "This year there were eight [states] and in at least five of them we did better than 40 percent."
In South Dakota, pro-equality activists came within striking distance of defeating the measure.
These figures and the Arizona victory show that Americans may be ready to accept marriage equality in the near future.
In election after election, conservative politicians and right-wing leaders use campaign commercials and mailings to stir up fear and resentment toward people of color, immigrants and gays.
Focus on the Family even ran television ads around the country depicting children as targets through the scope of a gun. These efforts did not backfire, but they certainly didn't work as planned.
Stories of prominent conservatives -- like former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., and evangelical pastor Ted Haggard, who were caught in unflattering gay-related sex scandals -- reminded Americans of the hypocrisy of judging others when these folks should be focusing on their own families.
The trend is moving rapidly toward support for equality.
The current governor of New Jersey, Jon Corzine, and the incoming governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer, have pledged to not stand in the way of marriage equality in their states.
The Federal Marriage Amendment has little hope of passing, and many expect future marriage ballot measures to start fizzling out.
People have come out of the closet and they have talked to their loved ones about these meanspirited initiatives. And those conversations are moving us forward.
Sean Kosofsky is director of policy for Triangle Foundation, Michigan's leading civil rights organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.