The National Organization for Marriage has generated some controversy with a video ad featuring the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.' s likeness as a backdrop for its message advocating a referendum on gay marriage legislation.
NOM President Brian Brown praised the ad, launched last week on YouTube and radio, as an effective effort to educate Minnesota voters about where gubernatorial candidates stand on same-sex marriage, and to remind them of their rights.
"Just as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for the civil rights of Americans, we echo his words to give people the ballot and let the people vote," he commented.
However, same-sex marriage advocates have cried foul over the usage of the prominent civil rights activist and Baptist minister's image. The Human Rights Campaign has cited the video as one of a list of reasons that Minnesota is its "number one battlefield for tolerance." It alleges that NOM is an anti-gay organization, and has launched Project NOM, an effort to expose its financial affiliations and financial doings..
"NOM's stealing both the image and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. conveniently forgets that Dr. King sought to have a minority of Americans participate in a basic right – voting – a right every other American enjoyed," said Kevin Nix, director of Project NOM.
"All loving gay and lesbian couples want is [to] join in the right of marriage, not change it," he added.
Minnesota Independent columnist Paul Schmeizer, meanwhile, claimed that the ad employed "tricky rhetoric" to imply that "those promoting marriage rights for [gay and lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender] people are somehow in opposition to King's values."
But Brown responded by pointing out that King's image is fair game within the laws of public domain, and was not stolen. He also said the video used King's message of voter equality in the right context, unlike same-sex marriage advocates, who he says have "highjacked" the civil rights leader's image to fit a political agenda that he did not preach.
"I think Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not standing up and advocating redefining marriage. He was standing up and advocating racial reconciliation, rights and respect for all and we agree with that," said Brown.
Furthermore, while King's late widow, Coretta Scott King, had in her lifetime spoken out against a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages, Brown does not believe that King, a southern Baptist minister, believed in same-sex marriage.
"The fact that family members have different views on this doesn't have any effect on the fact that there's no evidence again that Dr. King himself supported same-sex marriage. All of his arguments lead to the point that voters should have a say on this issue," Brown argued.
The recently launched NOM ad, funded by NOM and the Minnesota Family Council, shows the prominent civil rights leader in a prayerful pose, hands folded and resting against his mouth.
After King exclaims, "Give us the ballot," the ad begins its message saying, "The right to vote, our most important civil right. Martin Luther King said it simply. Yet some politicians in Minnesota want to impose gay marriage without a vote of the people."
The ad goes on to list problems both NOM and MFC believe same-sex marriage would pose on schools, businesses and churches. It then endorses GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, who is campaigning on the stance that marriage is between a man and a woman.
Aside from his conservative stance on marriage, Emmer also promises supporters that voters will be given the chance to vote on the definition of marriage.
This past summer, the Human Rights Campaign criticized retailing companies Target and Best Buy for making a donation to a political group supporting the conservative Minnesota House member and gubernatorial hopeful.
Correction: Friday, November 12, 2010:
An article on October 19, 2010, about the National Organization for Marriage's video ad incorrectly reported that the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. exclaimed "Give us the battle" in the ad. King stated "Give us the ballot," not battle.