Bil Browning makes an interesting point about the pro-marriage equality TV ads being run in Minnesota and Washington, where same-sex marriage referendums are on the ballot in November — where are the gay people? The ads are almost devoid of actual gay people, consisting of straight couples talking about their gay friends or family. Here’s the Washington ad:
And the Minnesota ad:
And Bil says:
Personally, I’m sick of seeing super happy straight couples with their arms around each other telling other straight people what marriage means. Fuck that. Let’s hear it from the people who actually want to get married and hear what it means to them.
It boils down to this for me: The whole point of coming out was to show people that the LGBT people they deal with on an everyday basis aren’t monsters or pedophiles or three-headed dragons. Instead, we’re just as good as they are and remarkably normal Americans like the majority of straight people. It’s been the most successful aspect of the modern LGBT rights movement.
So why do allow pollsters and marketing flacks to decide that it’s okay to hide our faces in the television closet when it comes time to fight for our own rights?
This is certainly a reasonable argument, and I don’t blame him a bit for taking it. But there’s a good argument for why these ads are the way they are, which is that the vast majority of the people who will actually be voting for or against those laws — the people the commercial is obviously aimed at — are straight. So if you’re going to appeal to those voters, it’s a good idea strategically to speak to their reality as straight people who may have gay friends or family.
But these are two different kinds of arguments being offered. Browning’s argument is, in some sense, a moral one (that may not be the right word here, but I think you know what I’m saying). The other side has a purely pragmatic position. And I recognize that I may put greater weight on the pragmatic one because I am one of those people the ads are aimed at, a straight person with many gay friends. And while I obviously don’t need to be persuaded to support marriage equality, it is precisely because the sentiments in these ads, the concern for the well-being of people I care about, already convinced me.