In modern politics, words and phrases that were once innocuous now seem packed with explosives. Red, blue, family, adoption, conservative, religious, faith, partner -- they've all taken on new weight. The big standout, however, is "marriage."
The debate surrounding amending constitutions, both states' and the nation's, to prevent gays from ever legally marrying in this country has been spun so many times and in so many directions that even saying "I do" seems to carry political subtext. No wonder, then, that a new "Marriage Works" ad campaign may raise a gay eyebrow or two.
"We're promoting marriage as a very practical thing for people to do," says Hal Donofrio, CEO of Baltimore-based Campaign For Our Children, the group behind the campaign. "As far as we're concerned, it's not a religious issue. We promote people being 20 or 21 before having their first child. That's what's behind it. There's no hidden agenda."
The Marriage Works messages are simple. Photos of bride-groom couples carry messages like, "Married people earn more money," and "Kids of married parents do better in school."
While Donofrio insists that CFOC's mission centers on preventing unwed pregnancies, he admits that he expected members of the gay community to take issue with the new campaign. "We haven't gotten as muck flak from the homosexual community as I thought we might," he says. "We got one who was fairly articulate, fairly emotional, saying, ‘By telling people you'll earn more money if you're married, that's a slap to my face.'"
Donofrio says that discussing the campaign with the person who issued that complaint did not help to allay that person's concerns. "Overall, acceptance has been wonderful," he adds.
Scanning the group's Web site, cfoc.org, only reinforces Donofrio's claim that neither the group nor the campaign have any anti-gay sentiment. To the contrary, the group's site even includes links to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays; and Youth Resource, all of which advocate equality for gays.
Donofrio offers a blunt retort for gay and gay-friendly passerby who may take issue with the campaign's message, now found throughout the metropolitan D.C. area and Maryland.
"I would say, it's not your issue," Donofrio offers. "It has to do with the birth of babies and preventing unwanted pregnancy. Grind your axe somewhere else. We're not in that arena. We don't want to dictate to anyone. We just want to prevent teen pregnancy."