The ad war over the marriage amendment begins at noon today.
Freedom to Marry, a national group working to defeat the amendment, is launching its first television advertisement in Minnesota in what will likely be the first of many volleys to win votes on the marriage issue this election season.
The amendment on the November ballot would define marriage as between one man and one woman in the state constitution, effectively blocking same sex marriage.
The ad will run on television and cable networks in the Twin Cities and Duluth. According to Minnesotans United for All Families, the main group in Minnesota fighting to defeat the amendment, the ad buy is in the mid-six figures, and it will run for several weeks.
Minnesota for Marriage, the main group working to pass the amendment, has not yet run ads, and a spokesman says they will come later in the campaign.
Freedom to Marry's ad features a Duluth couple, Yvonne and Fred Peterson, who have been married for 59 years. The ad opens with them walking along a path lined with birch trees. Fred, a veteran, wears his U.S. Marine Corps hat, and says he fought for the basic freedoms of all people. His wife Yvonne sits next to him on a park bench:
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Yvonne: If someone had asked me if gay people should get married, I would have said no.
Fred: The world is changing. Gay and lesbian people want to get married for the same reason that I wanted to marry my wife. Why shouldn't other people be able to enjoy the happiness and the love that we've enjoyed through our lifetime?
Yvonne: Love is love and it does belong to everybody."
To John Aldrich, a political science professor at Duke University, it's noteworthy that the first advertisement features older, straight, grandparents from greater Minnesota.
"Ten years ago, you wouldn't have seen an ad like that. It may not have even been possible to find — except for professional actors acting professionally. You couldn't find people in the street to have played that kind of a role," Aldrich said.
He said reaching older, blue collar voters is what the VOTE NO campaign needs to tip toward majority support and defeat the amendment.
Aldrich's state of North Carolina was the most recent state to take up a marriage amendment. In May, voters there overwhelmingly approved an amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
Aldrich says the first Minnesota ad resembles what North Carolina viewers saw as well.
"There were so many ads," he said. "There were a number that were sort of very heartfelt on both sides, and this is I think more like that than some of the others."
In the North Carolina campaign, Aldrich said, both sides ran ads playing to voters' values, as well as ads with a practical message. Amendment opponents talked about equality, and the need to care for family members. Amendment supporters used Christian themes in ads like this one:
Woman's voice: "Marriage has been one man one woman since before North Carolina was a state. It's what God created to give children a mother and a father."
No doubt Minnesota will see these themes hitting the airwaves soon. Minnesotans United has reserved a million-dollar ad buy for the final weeks of the campaign and amendment proponents will likely spend their war chest as well.
So far, amendment opponents have raised $5.4 million while supporters have raised $1.4 million.