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

Q1 - Frank Schubert At Stand for Marriage Campaign from Fly On The Wall Productions on Vimeo.

 

In these ads, it was strongly inferred that if Mainers voted to let gays and lesbians get married, then gay sex toys would be used in the schools to teach children about the birds and the bees. The ads were set to air, and — as was often the case — local leaders were seeing it for the first time at the eleventh hour. Up until this point, the locals in Maine had pretty much rubber stamped any decision being made in Sacramento where Schubert’s firm was located.

Not this time.

The sight of a dildo going into a vagina had co-campaign chairman Marc Mutty going into an apoplectic fit.

Stammering and stuttering, Mutty tried to convince Schubert and NOM President Brian Brown (who was also on the call) that the ad went to far, would turn people off and offered up this assessment: “Mainers had had enough of these tactics.” Mutty was referring to previous ads that diverted the issue away from marriage to kids and schools — two more potential sources of pain for LGBT folks.

But with polling numbers in a dead heat, Schubert was adamant that vaginas were the way to go. 

“We’ve done our research,” said Schubert, “and we’re not going to lose this.”

After rounds of backs and forths, Schubert offered up a compromise —  a “less offensive” 30-second ad that also featured sexual graphics. The sex-toy ad was put on hold for later use if needed.

“So Frank wins the day again,” muttered Mutty in disgust as he hung up the phone.

Perhaps in referring to the pain he caused, Schubert should have thought twice about the bogus press conference he choreographed and scripted in Maine in which children as young as 12 were trotted out in front of the press to claim how they as straight students were being “discriminated” against in schools by being denied Bible study classes, and how gay students were being given “preferential” treatment by being allowed to start organizations like the Gay-Straight Alliance.

It’s now been almost four years since Prop 8. Three years since Maine.  Only a few months since our defeat in North Carolina. And it’s a few months away from a new round of referendum campaigns in Minnesota, Maryland, Washington and Maine again — all to be run by Schubert as well. And so the questions to be asked are: Is Frank Schubert truly concerned about the pain he caused gays and lesbians? If so, what pain in particular is he concerned about? And what will he do differently to cause less pain?

Will we be seeing a kindler, more gentler Frank? Sure didn’t look that way in North Carolina. Sure doesn’t look that way in Minnesota, with “Marriage Minute” ads on The Minnesota For Marriage website citing “facts” and statistics about our supposed inability to be monogamous.

And it sure didn’t look that way even in The Chroniclearticle when asked about his gay sister. “I pray for her children,” he said.

How could that remark not cause any pain?

A recent Advocate profile on Frank Schubert called him “The boogeyman.” The definition of Boogeyman is “an imaginary monster used to frighten children.” And for many years, as The Advocatepointed out, that’s how Frank Schubert stayed – like the Boogeyman lurking in the shadows. Schubert used to be content to stay in the closet, so to speak, for fear that if his corporate clients (Coca Cola and Ford to name a few) knew about his role in defending “traditional” marriage, that his business would suffer. He has recently split his anti-marriage operation away from the firm for just that reason.

In Maine, I approached Schubert no less than three times for an interview. Each time he refused. With the last refusal came an explanation that he did not “want to be known as the same-sex marriage firm.”

Shortly after “Question One” was screened in Sacramento and for the first time outed Schubert in his hometown, he announced he was leaving his public affairs firm, Schubert and Flint, which he founded and ran for decades. As the recently appointed political director of NOM, Schubert is no longer the boogeyman. He has now taken on a more public and visible role and has in some ways become the new public face in the same-sex marriage debate.

As such, a more appealing public persona needed to be created. Hence the spiritual aura projected in The Chronicle. It’s merely another tactic.

“Why should we care about Frank Schubert?”

Because as the boogeyman slowly recedes and Frank Schubert becomes a more visible figure in his new role, he will grow stronger, and so will his tactics. His games are used to stop voters from seeing us as human beings and instead as immoral, degenerates who aren’t worthy of marriage.

Why should we care? Because it’s the type of pain we cannot ignore.

 

 

JOE FOX is the co-director of Question One, a documentary about Maine’s recent same-sex marriage referendum, which opens in theatres nationwide in the fall. On the following pages, see more clips from the movie that were mentioned in this article.

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