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Group starts contest to get America to say "I do" to gay marriage

Group starts contest to get America to say "I do" to gay marriage

Borrowing a page from the playbook of online political organization, a national gay rights group is sponsoring an advertising contest that it hopes will lead to positive images of same-sex marriage on national TV. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, which monitors how gays and lesbians are portrayed in the media, plans to air the winning entry or entries in its "I Do" competition in markets where political opposition to marriage rights for gay couples is fiercest, said Joan Garry, the New York-based group's executive director. "My hope is that we come up with a winning spot and an inventory of other spots that speak to people in America who may not be quite clear about where they stand on the issue of marriage rights, and it's my hope these spots will move them, literally and emotionally," Garry said. The contest begins Thursday with the launch of a new Web site where viewers will be able to vote for their favorite 30-second ads, which can be submitted to GLAAD until July 1. A seven-member panel of entertainment industry judges will choose the winner from a group of finalists selected by GLAAD's staff. As part of the campaign, GLAAD also plans to produce a public service announcement on "the universality of love" featuring actress Susan Sarandon. GLAAD based the idea on a formula that MoveOn, a liberal group headquartered in Berkeley, Calif., employed late last year when it invited its members to participate in an advertising contest dubbed "Bush in 30 Seconds." The MoveOn competition generated more than 1,500 submissions and a brief controversy after at least two submissions, comparing President Bush to Adolf Hitler, appeared on the MoveOn Web site for several days in December. The ads prompted an angry denunciation from Jewish groups and Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie, who called it "political hate speech." Garry said that while she would not be surprised if GLAAD's contest follows a similar trajectory--"I'm accustomed, as someone who runs a gay rights organization, to negative reactions to things we do"--the winning ad won't be unnecessarily provocative. Participants are being encouraged to design nonpartisan ads that tug at the heartstrings of mainstream audiences. "The hook of this is giving people a chance to share their stories, to be creative, to generate new messages around marriage we might not be considering, and to give those messages visibility," she said. To broaden the contest's appeal to straight videographers, GLAAD set up a separate Web site so visitors would not feel intimidated by visiting a gay site, Garry said. The budding videographer behind the first-place spot won't be paid but will get his or her work viewed by a panel of judges that includes Scream director Kevin Williamson, actress Judith Light, and Chicago producer Craig Zadan. Bruce Cohen, a Hollywood producer whose credits include American Beauty and Down With Love, said he agreed to judge the contest because he supports the cause, adding that he's glad he's not charged with boiling down the essence of the gay-marriage debate into 30 seconds of video. "If I would be able to come up with something, I would hope that it is moving and impactful but with a sense of humor, which my guess is, the best ones will be," Cohen said. "Marriage is as all-American and all-family as you can get."

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