New Ads to try to build public support for marriage equality in NY state

Posted by Michael Barbaro on nytimes.com:

"Advocates for the freedom to marry in New York, in a major departure from their strategy of lobbying political insiders, will begin making a direct appeal to ordinary voters in a series of commercials featuring Hollywood actors, fashion designers and civic leaders.

"The videos, to be released starting this week, are the most vivid attempt yet to persuade the state’s lawmakers to legalize marriage equality, which the Legislature voted down last year, despite polling that showed a slight majority of New York voters supported it.

"In the aftermath of that defeat, many grumbled that the backers of the freedom to marry had failed to rally ordinary residents behind the bill or to humanize the issue outside of Albany — the explicit aim of the new ads.

"In them, celebrities like Julianne Moore and Kyra Sedgwick and leaders like Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the Rev. Al Sharpton will speak in strikingly personal ways about their support for marriage equality.

“'I’m Julianne Moore, and I’m a New Yorker,' begins one of the videos. 'We all deserve the right to marry the person we love.'

"She adds: “We are so close to equal marriage rights in New York. But we need your help.”

"The timing of commercials is deliberate, and revealing: With the front-runner in the governor’s race, Andrew M. Cuomo, the Democratic attorney general, pledging his support for marriage for same-sex couples, and the Legislature in Democratic hands, advocates are pushing for a new vote early next year. 'We want to build excitement and momentum in advance of that,' said Brian V. Ellner, of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights organization that is sponsoring the ads.

... "But there are several hurdles: With most voters fretting about the dour state economy and a budget crisis, the next governor may be uneager to plunge into a potentially divisive debate about marriage equality. Opponents, like the New York State Catholic Conference, are expected to fight the bill. And the lawmakers who doomed the measure in 2009 could hold on to their seats.

"Still, gay rights advocates say they want to lay the groundwork for its passage now, well ahead of a vote.

"The ads were the brainchild of Mr. Ellner, a former Bloomberg administration official and a one-time Democratic candidate for Manhattan borough president. They will appear first online and later on television, closer to a vote on the freedom to marry bill, organizers said.

"Mr. Ellner, who is overseeing the group’s marriage push in New York, said that 'polls show there’s broad-based support for marriage equality in this state, and this campaign is the first in a series of efforts that will put faces to that support.'

"In interviews, those appearing in the videos expressed puzzlement and dismay that New York had fallen behind states like Vermont, Massachusetts and Iowa in legalizing marriagel equality.

“'I think we will look back someday and say, I can’t believe we were so blind to this issue,' Ms. Moore said. She called it a human rights issue.

"Future ads will feature, among others, Kevin Bacon, Whoopi Goldberg, Fran Drescher, Tom Colicchio, the chef, and Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, the widow of Arthur Ashe."

 

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