Basic Rights Oregon has launched a 3-week television campaign that is blanketing the state with these two ads.  

The goal is simple: reach out to people who haven’t yet formed strong opinions about marriage equality and encourage them to consider the issue in perhaps a new way.

People who have talked to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) folks and straight allies about marriage equality are twice as likely to support it.  But not everyone has someone in their lives to ask them to consider the issue.  That’s where the ads come in, Jeana Frazzini told me in an interview earlier this week.  Ms. Frazzini is Executive Director at Basic Rights Oregon.

We’ve set out to build a campaign to get folks talking, get out of the head and into the heart.  Get people connecting on the values that we all share.  Whether you’re a same-sex couple, opposite-sex couple, straight or gay, Oregonians can agree that we believe in fundamental fairness.  

We believe in treating others as we want to be treated, and we have a shared understanding of what marriage is.  It’s about love and commitment and taking care of one another in good times and bad.  This ad campaign is about bringing that conversation to a much broader audience.

It’s terrific to be at a point now where we’ve laid such a solid foundation and been able to build so much enthusiasm for the effort that we were able to raise the resources to run a statewide ad campaign like this.  It expands the scope of this conversation in ways that outside of t.v. advertising you really can’t reach such a large number of people.

It’s really exciting to think about the kind of change that that makes both in terms of building support on the issue of marriage equality but I think fundamentally in shifting how people view their gay and lesbian neighbors.  These are real families, real people who live, work, play and love right alongside folks all across Oregon, and they’re sharing their stories of why marriage matters to them.  I think it’s really lovely.

If the ads and other aspects of BRO’s education campaign (door-to-door canvassing, phone banks, community meetings, etc.) are successful in creating a pro-equality majority in Oregon, BRO will take marriage equality to the ballot.  Most of us are adamant about not putting the rights of a minority up for a popular vote.  But in Oregon there is no other choice.Here’s why:

In 2004, Oregon voters passed Measure 36, which amended the state constitution to specifically exclude gay and lesbian couples from marriage. Basic Rights Oregon worked with the best attorneys in the state and challenged this measure in court, but the Oregon State Supreme Court refused to take up the case. And the Oregon legislature does not have the authority to amend our constitution – they can only refer the issue back to the voters.

This means that to win the freedom to marry, the voters themselves must amend the state constitution to replace the current discriminatory language with inclusive language.

Because the courts have refused to take action and the legislature cannot amend the constitution, the only way to achieve the freedom to marry for all committed couples in Oregon is through the ballot.

BRO is eying 2012 as the earliest date to go to the ballot, “but that decision has yet to be made,” says Frazzini.

In terms of the decision of whether or not to go to the ballot in 2012, we see that as a shared responsibility between our organization and the community.  It’s something we’ll spend a lot of time engaging the LGBT and our allies over the course of the summer through all of the pride festivals.  We’ll be out gathering input from folks.  We’ll be doing town hall meetings.  We really see this as a shared responsibility where we need to decide wholeheartedly that we’re going to put the energy and resources behind it.

In some ways that is a monumental opportunity, because in every ballot measure here in Oregon on all of the issues we face, but across the country on marriage in particular, we’ve been on the defensive.  It’s been the opposition that’s called the shots.  This is a chance for us to do the work on our own terms and on our own timeline and build our support.  And given the expense of putting on a ballot measure campaign, really making the decision to go when we have a reasonable expectation of success.

One enormous advantage that BRO has in setting its own timeline is that it can conduct this education campaign well in advance of an electoral campaign, when voters are open to persuasion.  A study released last summer showed that voters attitudes on marriage equality remain steady over the course of an election campaign, the implication being that to be effective, a voter persuasion campaign on marriage equality must happen during the quiet times between political campaigns.  Like right now in Oregon.

The ads have been getting rave reviews from BRO supporters.  Here are a few of the earlier comments left on BRO’s Facebook page:

I noticed the ads running today and I think they are very poignant and well done. I am impressed ! good work !

I just saw it during Ellen! It was great!

YEAHHHHHH! I just saw a commercial too. Makes me happy and proud. Thank you!

Just saw 2 different ads and they’re great! Nice work.

Just saw it on KATU, got goose bumps!

Love this ad! It’s the perfect message.

Just saw it on GLEE – awesome!

Over 1,000 shares of this page in the first day! THAT’s awesome!

We just saw the commercial on Medford’s network! Hurray! Thanks for showing it in our neck of the woods!

Love is love. Let’s make it happen across Oregon and America!

KGW ran the ads earlier today. Good job, they should have some influence for the petitions and election. Tell your friends, relations and neighbors.

I saw several of you ads and was very impressed by them. Good job and thank you, BRO!

So exciting to see the ad during Glee – what a great campaign! Great work, BRO!

So now I’m crying because that’s so awesome!

It was talked about on Channel 2 news this am…love it! I even know one of them! Nice job

Saw it, loved it, looking forward to seeing it again and again.