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Misleading Ads Debut in Maine


Proponents of a Maine ballot measure to repeal marriage rights for same-sex couples in November have emphasized the need for "real Mainers" to speak out in television and radio spots for their cause. But the anti-equality playbook is straight out of California.

A recent ad for Yes on Question 1 tapped Charla Bansley, a private school teacher in Ellsworth, Maine, who also happens to moonlight as state director of the conservative group Concerned Women for America, to use a well-worn boogeyman strategy: Shift the argument from equality and discrimination directly to gay marriage being taught in public schools.

The strategy was the linchpin behind the Proposition 8 campaign, which stripped same-sex couples of marriage rights through a constitutional amendment. Schubert-Flint Public Affairs, the Sacramento, Calif.-based political consultancy firm that ran the Prop. 8 campaign, was tapped by Stand for Marriage Maine (financially backed by the National Organization for Marriage) to be Yes on 1's campaign manager.

"[Question 1] has everything to do with schools!" Bansley says in a recent TV ad. Standing in a classroom, she then clicks on a television that shows a Massachusetts Mormon couple whose son's second-grade class had read the children's book King & King by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland. The couple, Robin and Robb Wirthlin, were also used in ads that ran throughout California during the Prop. 8 fight.

The Wirthlins sued the school, but lost. A U.S. court of appeals ruled that "public schools are not obliged to shield students from ideas which are potentially offensive to their parents" (the U.S. Supreme Court subsequently declined to hear the case).

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