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Where are the gay voices in ads for gay marriage?

Four states will vote on gay marriage this November, but gay people speaking for themselves have been noticeably absent from the TV ads promoting gay marriage. 

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John, (l.), and Kim Canny, Catholic Republicans from Savage, Minn., in a commercial in which they say they oppose a proposed constitutional amendment this November that would ban gay marriage. Some gay activists question an ad strategy that rarely puts actual gay people on camera, saying it contradicts their philosophy of openness and hasn’t worked.

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About these ads

In one TV ad, a husband and wife talk fondly of a lesbian couple who moved into their neighborhood. In another, a married couple speaks of wanting fair treatment for their lesbian daughter. A third features a pastor talking supportively about gay unions.

Each of these ads ran recently in states with gay marriage issues on the November ballot. What's missing? Gay people speaking for themselves.

Four states are voting on gay marriage this fall, and gay rights groups are pouring tens of millions of dollars into key TV markets in hopes of breaking a 32-state losing streak on the issue. But even as gay people and same-sex relationships gain acceptance through pop culture staples such as "Modern Family" and "Glee," the idea is still seen as dicey by media strategists involved in the ballot campaigns, resulting in ads that usually involve only straight people talking about the issue.

The decision to keep gays in the background has been widely noticed in the gay community and debated on gay-oriented blogs, with some activists complaining that the move contradicts the central message of the gay rights movement for a number of years.

"If we don't show ourselves, people aren't going to get comfortable with who we are," said Wayne Besen, director of Vermont-based gay rights group "Truth Wins Out," one of many that presses gays to live openly with pride in who they are.

But others counsel deference for the complexities of public messaging, pointing out that the ads are designed to speak to the fears and values of the heterosexual majority, whose vote will decide the issue.

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