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View From Washington: Offense

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We knew it was only a matter of time before someone broadened the big tent of socialism from the slippery slope of health reform to the realm of homosexuality.

Hats off to GOP representative Steve King of Iowa (pictured), who pontificated about same-sex marriage on a conservative radio network this week, saying, "Not only is it a radical social idea, it is a purely socialist concept in the final analysis."

King's "analysis" suggested that allowing same-sex marriage would equalize things too much, creating "a push for a socialist society -- a society where the foundations of individual rights and liberties are undermined and everybody is thrown together living collectively off one pot of resources earned by everyone..."

OK, so King is no Plato, but he is sort of a one-man embodiment of Iowa Republicans, who during the last primary cycle anointed a front-runner so far to the right of the nation's electorate that he was doomed to ultimately lose the GOP nomination. That would be Mike Huckabee, who coincidentally just won the straw poll at last week's Values Voter Summit -- where attendees could take in panels like "Global Warming Hysteria: The New Face of the 'Pro-Death' Agenda."

What King's anti-equality musings cannot erase are the two major victories Iowa has handed the LGBT community this year. The first, of course, is the right to marry.

The second is the defeat of National Organization for Marriage-endorsed candidate Stephen Burgmeier, who lost to Democrat Curt Hanson in a September special election that was one of the most expensive state house races in Iowa history. NOM lavished more than $86,000 on an ad buy that touted what was widely believed to be their most potent argument: that Iowans should be allowed to vote on the marriage issue.

The ad read: "When judges improperly imposed same-sex marriage on Iowa, we needed Governor Culver and legislators to ensure the rights of voters were considered ... Gov. Culver said he was reluctant to give Iowans that same right. A handful of judges redefine marriage and our legislators are reluctant for voters to have a say? ... Stephen Burgmeier supports giving Iowans a say on the gay marriage issue... "

I bumped into Bill Smith of the Gill Action Fund the week Burgmeier was defeated and he told me, "They threw the best thing they had at us and it didn't work."

I guess NOM's "Reclaim Iowa Project" got off to a costly, bumpy start.

Of course, NOM's next battleground is Maine, where they have enlisted Schubert Flint, the media firm that orchestrated the Proposition 8 win in California, to do their bidding again.

While I always hesitate to handicap things as a journalist, I do see a few factors that distinguish Maine from California.

First off, the anti-equality forces in Maine don't have the insta-infrastructure of an army of Mormon volunteers who just happen to be expert door-knockers. Mormons account for only about 2% of the Golden State's population, but their numbers are concentrated in the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, and San Bernardino -- the four largest in the state, according to Census figures -- all of which voted in favor of the same-sex marriage ban.

Frank Schubert himself credited the win in large part to the campaign volunteer structure they built through organizing in churches. In a strategy debrief following the vote, he said they won "most importantly, because we activated that coalition at the grassroots level in a way that had never before been done."

Second, Maine's vote will not be as impacted by the airwaves. The know-your-neighbor nature of the Pine Tree State, which has roughly 3.5% as many residents as Cali, lends itself to a message that is based on the interaction of real people rather than stoking the fear of the unknown.

Perhaps more importantly, the No on 1/Protect Maine Equality camp had a preview of the ad blitz Schubert Flint would throw at them, and they have apparently been minding those lessons.

Right away, No on 1 made sure to get up on the airwaves first so they would not continually be caught on the defensive end of the battle. And this week, they heeded the political wisdom of California's very own perennial politician Willie Brown, who once said, "In politics, a lie unanswered becomes truth within 24 hours."

So after the anti-equality folks floated an ad on Wednesday claiming that "homosexual marriage" would be promoted in Maine schools (an ad that incidentally used the very same footage as a California ad), the No on 1 camp turned around a response spot within two days. Not quite 24 hours, but in TV production time, that's speedy.

The ad cleverly elicits people's natural empathy and protective instincts for children -- making the point that to single out same-sex couples is to single out their kids.

Here's the text: "In Maine, we're proud of every family and child, regardless of who their parents are. That's the Maine way, but outsiders are trying to harm our kids and make them feel ashamed by making false claims about what's taught in Maine classrooms ... It won't work. Schools should be safe havens for children, places where all children feel welcome, accepted, and safe."

The marriage equality folks also got an early assist last week from two Maine newspaper editorials in the Bangor Daily News and the Lewiston Sun Journal that unequivocally stated gay marriage would not necessarily be taught in Maine schools because local school boards set curriculum.

After Maine education officials also refuted the claim, Schubert said it was concerning that these decisions are made locally in the state, suggesting that he believes residents might prefer to have centralized control over what gets taught at the local level.

"The local school boards will have tremendous influence, obviously, over the curriculum," he told the Sun Journal. "That means it is out of the hands of parents, out of the hands of voters on a statewide basis, and that is a concern and it's certainly something people need to be aware of."

A Research 2000/Daily Kos poll last week put same-sex marriage opponents at a two-point advantage, with 48% of Mainers saying they would vote to overturn the law and 46% saying they would not -- meaning it's still anyone's game.

But the View From Washington suggests that the marriage equality camp is blending more offense with a highly agile this go-round.

Advocate Magazine - KehlaniAdvocate Magazine - Gus Kenworthy

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