There's an uncomfortable and, yet, universal truth when it comes to marriage equality. Every time its been on the ballot, its lost. Even worse, the far more draconian anti anything laws that ban anything remotely close to a same sex legal union, even sharing health benefits, has won all but one ballot initiative.
Another universal truth? Every campaign by marriage equality proponents to defeat homophobia has featured wishy washy media campaigns that are scared to put gay people on tv to talk about how banning equality would effect them.
So, when I asked Maine's equality campaign leader at Netroots Nation if he was going to take the lessons of North Carolina and Maine - just a couple years ago - and change the media strategy, he said no.
I'll be fair and explain his reasoning. He insists that featuring straight allies is the only way to reach undecideds.
Here's the problem: if that was a winning strategy, it would work. It hasn't. Not even once.
Our opponents are putting out ads telling people that gays are unsafe around kids... and we're showing the public, through not featuring gay people in our ads, that we're afraid of what people think about us. Does anyone else see the disaster there?
Now, the Maine equality leader is right that we need to reach undecideds. That's absolutely true. However, the messenger is only as effective as their ability to deliver the message. By featuring straight allies in the vast majority of ads, we can never really get the message out: these hateful ballot campaigns destroy lives.
Grandma talking about how she loves her 'btw lesbian' grand daughter isn't as effective as a lesbian talking about how her spouse has cancer and will lose her insurance if equality is defeated.
We need to feature gay couples and gay families and make them deliver the message that banning civil marraige hurts them and hurts their children. They're the ones most capable of delivering the message in a way that can be seen and understood in a thirty second ad. This way, undecideds will also get to see gay families are normal families, with normal problems - not nameless others to be feared.
Straight allies have a roll to play, no doubt about that, but featuring them in the ad campaign - almost exclusively - is like featuring volunteers over a candidate in a campaign. It can be of some effect, but there's nothing quite like the real thing.
The Maine campaign is incredibly well organized, with a good shot at winning. However, if they don't put out the right ads, the chances go down. Way down. History has demonstrated that featuring allies over actual gay families is a political loser. Maine would do well to learn from it.
Note: Published from my phone. Will spell check when I get home :)