Political Notebook: Ad campaign promotes gay marriage
by Matthew S. Bajko
At bus stops around town commuters will find ads plugging a mobile phone service that are a ringing endorsement for marriage equality. Using mashed-up text on different color grids the ads read "yo wassupport gay marriage."
The campaign is to promote progressive telecommunications company Working Assets' new Credo Mobile phone service. The text at the bottom of the ads calls on phone users with left-leaning politics to sign up.
"When you have a credo you stand for something. Credo Mobile stands for progressive causes such as gay marriage, forest preservation and freedom of speech," read the ads. "Join Credo Mobile and help change the world each time you make a call."
According to the company, every time a subscriber makes a call, 1 percent of the phone charges is donated to a progressive organization. Both the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network are listed as beneficiaries.
The campaign's debut comes as Equality California, the statewide LGBT advocacy group, raises money to air its own television ads promoting marriage equality. Dubbed the Let Freedom Ring campaign, the television ad shows a bride encountering myriad problems on the way to the altar.
The ad appeared sporadically throughout the state last month and EQCA is raising funds to air the commercial again. The goal is to drum up support for same-sex marriage ahead of ballot fights over anti-gay propositions several anti-gay groups are trying to place on the ballot in 2008.
A September 2006 poll by the Public Policy Institute of California showed that 47 percent of likely voters supported same-sex marriage while 46 percent were opposed. Those findings were based on a telephone survey of 2,003 adult residents interviewed between September 13 and September 20, 2006. The margin of error was plus or minus 2 percent.
A March Field Poll report stated that when asked to choose between three options â€“ allowing same-sex couples to legally marry, allowing them to form civil unions or domestic partnerships, or granting them no legal recognition â€“ opinions in California split almost perfectly into thirds. The findings were based on independent random-sample surveys of adults over a 22-year period (1985-2006) by the Field Poll. Trend analyses were based on an aggregate of 4,300 telephone interviews conducted over this period.
In an e-mail last week, Sarah Reece, the field director for the Let California Ring campaign, urged supporters to pass along video of the commercial to friends and family to tip the balance toward having a majority of people behind marriage equality.
"There are millions of Californians who support the LGBT community, but who still don't stand up for the freedom of gay and lesbian couples to marry â€“ simply because they haven't heard from the people behind our fight. So let them hear. Let them see. Pass the video along now," urged Reece.
Working Assets, a 22-year-old, San Francisco-based firm, has long been a supporter of LGBT rights. Last month it organized a protest outside Senator Dianne Feinstein's local office to voice opposition to the appointment of anti-gay judge Leslie Southwick to a seat on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal. Feinstein ultimately cast the vote leading to Southwick's confirmation.
Company spokeswoman Ellisa Feinstein , who joked she is not related to any Republicans (meaning the senator, who is a Democrat), said the ad campaign is a public statement of the company's ideals.
"This really goes along with their mission to support causes that matter most to them and to their customers or members who are really socially conscious," she said.
The Credo service, and ad campaign, launched Sunday, November 4. It will appear throughout San Francisco and Berkeley, as well as in Seattle's gay Capital Hill neighborhood.
Locally, the bus shelter ads can be found in Noe Valley, the Castro, and several other neighborhoods. They are also on the side of buses, in BART stations and trains, and will remain up through February, when the city marks the fourth anniversary of Mayor Gavin Newsom 's decision to wed same-sex couples.
The Credo pro-gay nuptials campaign is not the first from a phone company. Europe's Mobitel ran print ads featuring a gay marriage theme in 2005, and back in 2002, Verizon placed an ad in the program guide for that year's National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association convention. More recently Yahoo ran ads with a gay marriage theme in California.
"It is easier, and more likely, for a smaller company, and one that is young and new, to address political issues in their advertising and do something perceived as controversial to get attention than a major, old-line company to do so," said Michael Wilke , founder of the Commercial Closet, which tracks gay and anti-gay marketing campaigns. "It is also driven by demographics. If they are trying to appeal to younger people it is easier for them to do something along these lines."
The company is also deploying a viral component where an image of President Bush and Dick Cheney with blank quote bubbles is projected onto buildings around town. People can text in what the two are saying. There is also a White House wedding invitation people can phone in names to beam on to it.
Two weekends ago Credo's political director Becky Bond hit the Castro Theatre, and this Saturday night, she will be in front of the Gift Center for the 2007 Miss Trannyshack Pageant.
Assemblyman chairs hate crimes hearing
Growing up in Honolulu, freshman Assemblyman Mike Eng (D-Monterey Park) said he suffered from low self-esteem and often found himself the target of bullies. A descendant of Chinese immigrants, Eng grew up and moved to Southern California where he opened a law firm and focused on immigration cases.
So when news broke this summer that Satendar Singh, an immigrant from Fiji, died after a group of Slavic men perceived him to be gay and allegedly viciously attacked him at a Sacramento-area lake, the case hit close to home for Eng.
"This case I was very personally moved by because of a number of reasons. Here you have someone who was an immigrant and the perception he was offending a particular group because he appeared to be a particular sexual orientation," said Eng. "Was he murdered because of his ethnic background? His perceived sexual orientation? Both? Or perhaps other factors we don't know about? Then, to make it worse, his parents couldn't even get a visa to be here with him during his final moments."
After he was elected last November to the 49th Assembly District seat that his wife, Judy Chu, used to represent, Eng asked to chair the Assembly's Select Committee on Hate Crimes. Today (Thursday, November 15) Eng will convene the committee's first hearing this year to examine how the state responds to LGBT hate crimes that occur in state parks.
"The thing about prejudice is it is often a perception and perception becomes a reality. The concern I have is these attitudes formed at an early age become perpetuated because these parents pass these same perceptions onto their children," said Eng. "The state has an interest in this crime because it occurred in a public area at a state park. State parks, beaches, public venues, state recreational areas are gathering points for everyone in the community. They should feel welcome."
So far only one person has been charged in the case. This week Aleksandr Shevchenko, 21, who pleaded not guilty to a felony count of intimidating and interfering with a person's rights, a hate crime, returned to court to hear motions. A preliminary hearing in the case is set for November 27.
Shevchenko was set free on $25,000 bail. According to local press reports, authorities have yet to find Andrey Vusik , who allegedly threw the fatal punch on the evening of July 1 at Lake Natoma. The West Sacramento resident is believed to have fled to Russia.
Eng has invited Sacramento police and sheriff's department officials to the hearing to update the public on the case. He said the hearing is not meant to "point fingers" at anyone but to examine how state park officials and police personnel responded to the incident and to see if procedures need to be changed.
"The Satendar Singh case focuses on how serious it is when we don't have all the answers or procedures in place," said Eng.
The hearing runs from 1 to 4 p.m. in room 447 of the State Capitol. It can be viewed at http://www.Calchannel.com or listened to from the http://www.assembly.ca.gov Web site by clicking on Assembly audio session and committee hearings, then clicking on committee room list and selecting hearing room 447.
Senate candidates face off Saturday
The three Democratic contenders in a contentious state Senate race will face off in San Francisco this weekend at a debate sponsored by the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club.
Incumbent Senator Carole Migden , state Assemblyman Mark Leno and San Francisco Police Commissioner Joseph Alioto Veronese are all scheduled to participate. It will be the first time the three candidates debate each other in front of a San Francisco audience.
Bay Area newscaster Belva Davis , anchor of KQED's This Week in Northern California, will moderate the debate. Panelists are: Bay Area Reporter news editor Cynthia Laird, Bay Guardian editor Steven T. Jones, and Bay Times publisher Kim Cosaro. The event takes place from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, November 17 at the State Building's Milton Marks Auditorium, 455 Golden Gate Avenue.
Gov appoints gay Repubs to posts
James Vaughn has been appointed to a seat on the State Bar Board of Governors Examining Committee. The committee is tasked with examining all applicants for admission to practice law and administers the requirements for admission to practice law.
Arnold Schwarzenegger also tapped gay GOPer Alex Calero, 31, of San Diego for a seat on the State Board of Psychology.