July 18, 2006
Two pooches are the unlikely mascots for competing ideas in Colorado Springs over what makes a person gay. First there was Norman, the puppy who says “moo” because he was born different, according to an ad campaign that started early last month.
Organizers of the Born Different campaign said Norman is a metaphor for gay people, who they argue were born different but deserve acceptance. On Tuesday, a dog named Sherman launched a counter-campaign with a sharp “woof,” a sound handlers said he makes because that’s what dogs do. A campaign featuring Sherman called “No Moo Lies” begins today with an advertisement in The Gazette. The Colorado Springs-based Christian ministry Focus on the Family developed the No Moo Lies campaign to rebut the Born Different effort, which is funded by the Denver-based Gill Foundation. “Dogs aren’t born mooing, and people aren’t born gay,” Focus said in materials distributed to reporters at a news conference. In the materials, Sherman is pictured as a real dog. At the Tuesday event, he also was a person in a dog costume. While organizers of the Born Different advertising campaign said they want only to spark discussions, Focus on the Family said Born Different is really an effort to champion legal status for same-sex marriages. Colorado voters will decide in the November election whether to change state law to grant the benefits of marriage to same-sex couples in domestic partnerships. Organizers are gathering petition signatures for three other ballot measures to change the Colorado Constitution, including one to ban any new legal status similar to marriage, one to define marriage as only the union of one man and one woman, and a third establishing domestic partnerships for same-sex couples. The last measure is similar to the one already on the ballot, except that it would change the constitution rather than merely state law. The ballot initiative efforts have until Aug. 7 to submit the 67,829 petition signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. Focus on the Family officials said the Born Different campaign is a veiled attempt to boost the measures recognizing same-sex unions. “What we’re talking about here is a radical redefinition of the human family,” said Bill Maier, a Focus vice president and psychologist. “Same-sex marriage intentionally creates motherless or fatherless families.” A spokesman for the Born Different campaign denied it’s tied to the ballot measures. Bobby Rauzon said he welcomes the Focus dog, Sherman, to the discussion his group tried to start with a puppy that says “moo.” “This is about two dogs, Norman and Sherman. It’s about inviting the people of the Springs to really engage in a conversation about whether gay people are born gay,” Rauzon said. “Colorado will face some political decisions, and voters will really need to sit down and weigh those issues. This is separate.” Focus on the Family said it’s exploring various venues for its Sherman campaign, but on Tuesday had developed only a newspaper ad and a Web site. Both were modeled on the Born Different campaign’s graphic designs. The Born Different campaign has appeared on television, in movie theaters, radio spots, yard signs, paper napkins and other media. Focus spokesman Gary Schneeberger didn’t reveal how much the ministry will spend on its campaign, but indicated it will be much less than the $900,000 grant the Gill Foundation gave for Born Different. The Born Different campaign has focused only on Colorado Springs because of the city’s reputation as a battleground over gay-rights issues, organizers said. The No Moo Lies campaign initially will focus only on Colorado Springs as well, but Focus officials said they might consider expanding it elsewhere. The No Moo Lies campaign disputes Born Different on several points, including an assertion on the Born Different Web site that a person cannot change his or her sexual orientation. Melissa Fryrear, a gender issues analyst for Focus, said she’s proof that’s wrong. “I used to be someone who was lesbian identified,” Fryrear said. “I know first-hand that people are not born gay, and homosexuality can be overcome.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0187 or email@example.com