Op-ed: Frank Schubert Can’t See the Pain He Causes

The documentary filmmaker who observed the PR guru’s antigay strategy in action in Maine says a new makeover of his public image is just another tactic.

BY Joe Fox

July 20 2012 7:03 AM ET

Frank Schubert as seen in Question One

“Why should we care about Frank Schubert?”

That’s what a reporter from The San Francisco Chronicle asked me while doing interviews for a profile on the Prop. 8 strategist and proponent.

The question, I thought, was a bit odd because the answer seemed so obvious. Schubert is the man who orchestrated the Prop. 8 win, imported that same campaign to Maine, re-ran it in North Carolina and as the newly appointed political director for the National Organization for Marriage is hitting the replay button in the four states holding same-sex marriage referendums this fall. He is no peripheral figure in this issue. He is the person who is most shaping the outcomes on behalf of the antigay side.

The headline from The Chronicle says the “Strategist behind Proposition 8 is loved, feared.”

I observed Schubert’s tactics in Maine when he prevented gays and lesbians from getting married via a marriage referendum battle in 2009. During the three months that me and co-director James Nubile covered the campaign for our documentary Question One, while embedded as filmmakers in the heart of both campaigns, I never met Frank Schubert. Nor did I ever speak to him.

Although he rarely set foot in Maine, his prints were everywhere. I saw him from afar and heard him at pro-marriage rallies, on numerous conference calls and on Election Day when he practically pushed aside the local campaign co-chairman to claim victory. His pervasive influence and personality shaped the course of events.

The Chronicle story mirrored a carefully crafted image, spun by the PR guru (who with his partner Jeff Flint was awarded the American Association of Political Consultants’ Public Affairs Team of the Year award in 2009),of a man who claims he experienced a spiritual epiphany afterProp 8.  and has since dedicated his life to defending “traditional” marriage.

Religious callings and how they play out come in different forms. Some are driven by missionary zeal (think, Crusades) and others are wrapped in a warm blanket of humanity. I might question Schubert’s intention and the post-Prop 8 timing of his calling, wondering if instead a lucrative pay check was a stronger lure to lead the “good” fight rather than a call from God. But who am I to question his faith?

What I do question is something Schubert told The Chronicle, which reported that the strategist was worried his actions had caused some pain. "In retrospect, I wish I would have done more communication about the good of marriage."

When exactly after Prop. 8 did Schubert start feeling these pangs of concern? And did his actions after Prop. 8 reflect a man who was truly concerned about causing people pain? Not from what I saw.

I saw Schubert for the first time at a Stand For Marriage Rally in Maine’s state capital of Augusta. The event was invitational and was off-limits to the general press.

“What is it about homosexual marriage that requires us to abandon the idea of monogamous relationships?” he asked, trying to stir up the crowd.

“What is it about homosexual marriage that requires us to eliminate the interests of children from our marriage laws?” asked Schubert, who happens to have a lesbian sister who is in a long-term relationship with two children.

“What is it about homosexual marriage that forces us to forget about families and only consider the desires of the two adults involved in the relationship?” he asked, the crowd now on its feet cheering wildly.

Could saying that gay people are not monogamous be the type of pain Schubert should have been concerned about causing again?  Or maybe he should have thought about the conference calls with “Yes On One” leadership during which he vociferously advocated running an ad he created that showed sex toys graphically depicted with the sole intention of scaring parents into voting against us.

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