Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 12 / 22 March 2018

The ad that never ran


Jeanne Rizzo, right, and her partner Pali Cooper. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
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The No on Prop 8 campaign made a television ad that featured a lesbian talking about marriage but the commercial never aired, the Bay Area Reporter has learned.

Kate Kendell and Geoff Kors, members of the No on 8 executive committee, confirmed during an interview Monday, November 10 that such an ad was made and that it was not shown on television because the campaign had to counter the Yes on 8 ads that said children would be taught about same-sex marriage in schools.

"We had to respond," Kendell said. "I think it was the right decision."

A No on 8 ad featuring state schools chief Jack O'Connell was hastily put up to fight off the steep drop in internal polls that Kendell said was seen after the Yes on 8 ad with a daughter coming home from school telling her shocked mother that she "can marry a princess" and showing the children's book King and King about a prince who falls in love with a prince.

"We dropped 19 points after that ad, the O'Connell ad brought us back 12 points," Kendell said. "We were closing."

"There was not enough money to do both," she added. "The ad choices were dictated by reality."

Kendell said that the unaired ad featured local lesbian Jeanne Rizzo, who was a party to the successful lawsuit that overturned the state's anti-gay marriage laws.

Rizzo and her partner Pali Cooper were one of a handful of couples who were turned away by county clerks in March 2004 minutes after the state Supreme Court ordered same-sex marriages halted.

Rizzo, a registered nurse and executive director of the Breast Cancer Fund, told the B.A.R. Wednesday in a phone interview that she was happy to help the No on 8 campaign by appearing in the ad. She said that the ad was made by Ogilvy Public Relations and taped in her home. In the 30-second spot, she said the core message was: "You've heard domestic partnerships are similar to marriage. I'm here to tell you it's not. My partner and I got married after 20 years together." The ad closed with her saying that she's 62 years old, a nurse, an American, "and I should have the same rights."

Rizzo said she also participated in a "softer interview" that was considered by the campaign but not used.

While she was not part of the decision-making process, Rizzo said that once the Yes on 8 negative ads hit, the No on 8 side felt it had to respond.

"The decision not to run the commercial, they felt was the best strategy," Rizzo said. "I have to respect that decision."

"I don't know that I needed to see myself on TV," she added.

"The question is, what it takes to win this, and do we all want to see ourselves in the campaign to make us feel better or [have] a campaign to vote no," she said.

Rizzo said that like many in the community, she is mad that Prop 8 passed and she questioned those who are second-guessing No on 8's strategy.

"I think we're all mad. But even if there was a misjudgment, that should be in-house and we should not be giving it to them," she said, referring to opponents of same-sex marriage. "They used our own dissension against us."

She cautioned community members to "take a deep breath."

"I think the people who weren't there need to ask themselves ... if you don't like it, get involved, do outreach," she added. "Self-reflection would be good."

While Kors and Kendell said that the B.A.R. could view the ad, at press time a copy of the commercial had not been made available to the paper.

The lack of gays and lesbians in the No on 8 ad campaign was a chief criticism before Election Day, and that has only intensified since Prop 8's passage last week.

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