Basic Rights Oregon’s Expensive + Useless Marriage TV Campaign Shows Equality Groups Have Learned Nothing

So, this is part of a new statewide television advertising campaign from Marriage Matters Oregon, which is funded by Basic Rights Oregon. Apparently the spot, now in the second week of a three-week run, is “aimed at warming Oregon hearts and minds to same-sex marriage,” which is what it’s TV campaign last summer was all about. The current campaign, which includes 200,000 mailers sent to Oregon homes, has a tab of several hundred thousand dollars, though Basic Rights Oregon won’t specify how much money it is spending wasting. Yes, wasting — because these feel good campaigns aimed at “convincing” people to like gay couples doesn’t work. We’ve proven that already. We’ve also seen other state equality groups engage in this type of “love thy neighbor” advertising, and they are equally terrible. But the real measure of whether Basic Rights Oregon is doing a decent job with donor dollars is to check in with what the competition thinks of it.

The Oregonian checks in with BRO’s lead opponents on gay marriage.

The Oregon Family Council, a statewide Christian-based network that opposes same-sex marriage, doesn’t want to fight another initiative battle over marriage, said spokesman Tim Nashif. “But make no bones about it, we will,” said Nashif, who led the council’s fight to pass Measure 36, Oregon’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, in 2004. Basic Rights is “going at it the right way” by preparing residents to vote on overturning the ban, Nashif said. If the group launches an initiative drive, he said, “we would be most grieved by the fact all of this money and all of these hard feelings and the rhetoric and all of the stuff we went through in 2004 is all going to be put back on the table.”

Here’s a clue: When the very people who don’t want you to have marriage rights think you’re “going at it the right way” with your television campaign, you’ve got a serious problem. Translated, Nashif is saying BRO is a bumbling mess headed in the wrong direction.

In Oregon, marriage is banned at the constitutional level, though a 2012 ballot initiative could change things — not that BRO executive director Jeana Frazzini has any “specific plans” to do that.

And so here we are again: Wishing the best for state equality groups, and fully supporting their efforts to get gays marriage rights, but branding their miserable (and very expensive) ad campaign efforts as complete FAILs. The straight and gay couples in this spot seem wonderful. They are not, however, going to convince marriage opponents to change their minds, nor will they convince gay marriage supporters they absolutely have to run to the ballot box to make sure an initiative passes.

Get Queerty Daily

Subscribe to Queerty for a daily dose of #advertising #basicrightsoregon #jeanafrazzini stories and more


  • Mike_AFX

    I live in Oregon, and Basic Rights Oregon just seems to be a bunch of fucktards. If they really want marriage equality, they need to go the judicial route. I don’t feel comfortable with a gay rights organization trying to get our rights up on the ballot again. This matter is for the courts.

  • greenmanTN

    Okay. You’ve described what’s crappy, worthless, ineffective, and a waste but then what’s your alternative, what *should* they be doing instead? Unless you have a better idea, shooting down what other people ARE doing is easy but not really helpful or constructive.

    Seriously, what’s your solution?

    IMO, it would be effective if, instead of focusing on couples who *might* be harmed, they used examples of people who HAVE been harmed. Either through interviews and news clips or dramatizations they could show the real life consequences of gay relationships not being recognized. They don’t have to be just from Oregon, so they could use the case in Florida where a woman wasn’t allowed to see her partner before she died because they weren’t “family,” even though they had all the legal papers gay couples are recommended to have, even though they’d adopted children together. Or there’s the case of the two men who were together for decades and raised a son one of them had from a previous marriage, yet because the will had one too few witness signatures a distant cousin was able to step in and claim the estate, evicting the partner and his son.

    What *could* happen is too abstract. What *has* happened is far more powerful, IMO.

  • Brian Miller

    what’s your alternative, what *should* they be doing instead

    Ceasing wasting money on advertising and effectively targeting swing votes with *real* outreach.

    This is the conclusion a number of independent researchers came to back in 2008 during the Prop 8 run-up. We did research that showed that black voters believed that gay marriage would force their churches to marry black people, and developed a message that pointed out that wasn’t so. When we tested it with black voters, they overwhelmingly embraced it.

    We brought it to the No on 8 people and were completely ignored.

    They ran one of these “we’re just like you” campaigns, with a tagline lifted from a second grade teacher — “unfair and wrong.”

    Of course, they lost, with black voters overwhelmingly voting for Prop 8 due to… wait for it… concerns that gay marriage would require their churches to marry gay couples.


    LGBT rights organizations are rather useless. They’re cliques that burn tremendous amounts of money on demonstrated failed strategies, and their only response to criticism is either “I’ve never heard of you before” (as if that’s supposed to mean anything) or “what’s YOUR alternative” (as though incompetence is the only option).

  • Brian Miller

    We did research that showed that black voters believed that gay marriage would force their churches to marry black people

    ARGH! Not enough coffee today.

    What I meant was that most black voters we spoke with in CA thought gay marriage would force their churches to marry GAY people.

    PS, when we pointed out that religious discrimination was illegal, but that their churches weren’t forced to marry a Jew and a Muslim, or even other Christian denominations, their thinking IMMEDIATELY changed in over 80% of cases, and they became anti-Prop 8.

    But that was completely ignored by the No on 8 geniuses, who instead decided to tell them that they’re “unfair and wrong,” and the ridiculous racism that many of the demonstrators showed afterwards was just icing on a very fetid cake.

  • greenmanTN

    @Brian Miller: Thank you for answering, because I was honestly asking “What does work?”

    I’m frustrated with LGBT rights groups too. For many years I donated to the HRC before deciding they were useless and more concerned with their own stature in DC and their salaries than in effective activism. I’m frustrated with the Democratic Party because despite their sporadic and uneven support for gay rights most of them don’t seem to really get it, can’t explain in simple terms why prejudice against gays is wrong, why basic fairness demands equality. Even Obama, considered a great orator by many, seems unable (or unwilling) to lead on the issue, explain why it’s right even though it’s really not that complicated. What we get instead is political positioning based on the most recent polls, not honest advocacy.

  • Pantherq

    @Brian Miller: The real outreach that BRO engages in is going door to door in targeted communities and discussing with those that may not have been exposed to LGBT people who we are and why it is important for us to have civil rights. Would you go door to door in a conservative neighborhood and announce you are LGBT? It really isn’t as scary as it sounds but it takes work. BRO is not just running commercials.

  • Mike in Asheville

    And on what basis, Queerty, do you really know what works and what doesn’t?

    Yes Prop. 8 won; but from public support, marriage-equity had never garnered as much support in California as it had than the No on 8 side.

    In EVERY public vote, our side keeps improving! Even though we lose more than win, each time there is a vote, our side keeps gaining support.

    Recent national polls show that nationwide support for marriage-equality exceeds 50% for the first! Again, support for our side grows.

    Part of the ways getting there has been the use, as you call them, feel good advertising. Do not discount the accumulated results of the effort made by those who believe in the success of their ideas.

    Instead of taking cheap shots at those who are making the effort and a difference, applaud their efforts. And if you believe you have ideas to also push for equal rights, then make your ads too and get them placed. More ideas and more efforts are more likely to combine for success than fewer ideas and fewer efforts.

  • zeb

    Getting people to support samesex marriage isn’t the same thing as getting them to go vote for it OR to vote NO to bans. People will show up because theyre afraid of gays marrying, we know that.
    ………But will they actually go vote for some abstract idea that samesex marriage is a good thing for “other people”? Its not the same motivation — sad to say

    Shoutouts to GreenmanTn and Brian Miller for good ideas and info.

  • Brian Miller

    Would you go door to door in a conservative neighborhood and announce you are LGBT?

    Yep. I’ve done so many times.

    Part of the ways getting there has been the use, as you call them, feel good advertising.

    That’s not what actual research shows. Most of the people shown the advertising who are undecided or leaning against us find the advertising to be uninteresting.

    The entire idea of “validate me and give me the dignity I lack through your vote” is not compelling for most people, and it’s the core of these advertising campaigns.

  • Laurel

    @1 the OR state supreme court has refused to take up the marriage cases, and the OR legislature doesn’t have the authority to repeal a constitutional amendment. going back to the polls is the only choice in OR.

  • J. W.

    “They need to go the judicial route.” (First Comment).

    From my limited understanding of the issue, this kind of criticism apply only to States which have NOT passed constitutional amendments. Unless the Oregon constitutional ban on same-sex marriage is to be challenged as a violation of the United States Constitution (which, incidentally, is an option currently being exercised in CA), there is little room for a judicial attack.

    Leaving aside the possibility (and dangers) of a federal court challenge, there is little option for rights activists in Oregon beyond persuading a majority of their fellow citizens that the ban on same-sex marriage warrants repeal. Sadly, while the vindication of civil rights might truly be a “matter for the courts,” the people of Oregon, in 2004, made it a matter for the majority. While I certainly hope that SCOTUS will save the day, I’m guessing activists in OR are trying their darnedest to do something a bit more, well, active.

  • Roymond

    I’ve seen the ads. They can’t be called ineffective, because I know people who have changed their mind because of the ads. The question is how effective they are, and if they’re the best thing to do with funds.

    Targeting worried groups like churches is very effective when there’s something they’re afraid of and it can be shown it’s not so. And there are probably other groups that can be targeted as well.

    But putting all your ad money in one campaign is a bad idea no matter how effective ads are — if they’re aimed at a narrow audience.

Comments are closed.