California’s leading gay rights organisation is launching an advertising campaign to promote acceptance of gay marriage and is also helping to form a coalition of 1,000 clergy to help in changing negative religious attitudes towards same-sex unions.
Same-sex marriage was outlawed in California in November 2008 but the California Supreme Court is now considering whether to overturn the ban.
The television adverts, featuring gay and lesbian couples and their children, form part of a massive PR campaign by Equality California (EQCA) which is aimed at changing public opinion towards same-sex marriage. Plans include creating a coalition of 1,000 members of the clergy to promote positive attitudes towards same-sex marriage.
Coordinator Andrea Shorter says EQCA wants “to have a broad-based representation of all faith traditions”, not just the more progressive “welcoming congregations”. It is looking to recruit clergy, regardless of denomination, “who are standing up to what they’ve been told about marriage equality and are saying ‘no’.”
EQCA is also hiring 25 full-time organisers to support thousands of activists in a door-to-door campaign across the state. In addition, it wants to train 100,000 “equality ambassadors” to spread the word.
The campaign follows a wave of success for gay marriage campaigners across the USA. Just last week, Maine became the fifth state to allow same-sex marriage, joining Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts – all in New England - and Iowa.
Ron Prentice, executive director of the California Family Council and a staunch opponent of gay marriage, acknowledged that gay rights campaigners had been encouraged by the changes in other states.
"However, the people of California have spoken twice on this issue and it is the decision of the people,” he said, adding that he planned to continue "a strong education and political action front."
But there is a strong sense amongst campaigners that the tide of opinion in the USA is turning.
“Usually we measure social change on controversial issues on, at a minimum, years and more often, generations,” said Kate Kendell, director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “On this issue, we’re measuring it by days.”