"We are trying to change the climate in California," said Seth Kilbourn, policy director of the Equality California Institute, which is sponsoring the "Let California Ring" effort. The campaign, from DDB, Seattle, includes a TV spot that shows a young woman getting ready for a wedding. But instead of an elegant procession down the aisle, she and her father encounter a closed door, cars parked in the path that require her to lift up her gown to pass through, a branch that tears off her veil and an elderly relative who sticks a cane in her path. A flower girl is whisked away.
Every day, gay and lesbian couples are prevented from marrying the people they love, the spot says. "Support the freedom to marry." It is slated to run in five California markets: Palm Springs, San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles and Sacramento.
Traditional heterosexual couple
While the commercial is in support of same-sex marriage, it purposely features a traditional heterosexual couple. "What we wanted to do with the commercial is to put people in [a same-sex couple's] shoes metaphorically, to show what it felt like not to be able to marry the person you love," Mr. Kilbourn said.
Mr. Kilbourn said polls show between 42% and 46% of Californians already support allowing same-sex couples to marry. "The purpose of the campaign is to push us over the tipping point," he said, adding that the group is taking a long-term view. A number of initiatives involving same-sex marriage are pending in California, including a bill passed by the legislature that is headed for a veto by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and a case before the California Supreme Court.
Opponents of same-sex marriage charge the commercial with using emotion to sway people. "There is much more to marriage than emotion," said Ron Prentice, CEO of the California Family Council. "It is not coincidence the couple pictured is traditional. People would react differently to an ad that displayed a same-sex couple walking down the aisle."
No call for action
Mr. Prentice said he had no plans to call for action against TV stations or programs that air the spots. "There is no plan for a united response," he said, adding that the group would communicate its concerns to churches and pastors "encouraging them to refute this message with Judeo-Christian truth."
He said California Family Council research shows there has been "insignificant change in people's perspective on same-sex marriage" during the past eight years. Domestic partnerships, which are legal in California, have provided same-sex couples with many of the benefits available to heterosexual couples, he said.
The campaign, which has a goal of "sparking one million conversations" about same-sex marriage, also includes a program for house parties among supporters, as well as sales of plastic rings for $11 on its website, letcaliforniaring.org. The rings are intended to be used by supporters to generate conversations on the topic in much the same way wristbands have for other causes.