State Marriage Campaigns are Targets of Intimidation Tactics

Pete Winn,

People in Colorado, Arizona, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wisconsin are just 26 days away from deciding the fate of amendments to protect marriage.

In Wisconsin, proponents of traditional marriage find themselves the target of intimidation and harassment tactics utilized by their opponents, according to Julaine Appling, executive director of the Wisconsin Family Research Institute -- and a leader of the Vote Yes for Marriage campaign.

"What we should be debating here in Wisconsin," she said, "is: What does this amendment do? What will happen in if we don't put this amendment in place? What will Wisconsin look like if we give people who want to redefine marriage the opportunity to do so, by not putting the amendment in place?"

Instead, gay activists have used the press to make personal insults against Appling -- accusing her of everything from being a liar to being a lesbian.

At the same time, she said the news media have ignored and refused to cover the intimidation tactics that homosexual activists are employing.

"The opponents of this measure have a lot of money and a lot of people," Appling said. "One thing we know is that they are not above trying to intimidate."

The examples of harassment run the gamut from the frustrating to the downright creepy.

It was frustrating, for instance, when a pro-marriage amendment display in the public library of a Madison suburb was vandalized.

"Thirty-six hours after the display went up it was vandalized," she said. "People inside the library took the words off the display, but left the pictures. Well, the pictures without the words were meaningless, so we were robbed of our freedom of expression."

Worse, the design team that created the marriage campaign's logos and Web site found themselves the targets of intimidation by referendum opponents.

"They told us, 'We are getting so much pressure from people who are against the amendment because we work with you, that we have to drop our business ties with you," she added.

The pro-marriage campaign has also been denied advertising.

"Whether it was through the newspaper or other kinds of advertising we were doing, they've told us, 'No, we won't carry the message.' The message was: 'Vote Yes for Marriage: One Man, One Woman. Nov. 7.' "

But most seriously of all, threatening phone calls have been made to people working in support of the amendment.

"These are phone calls that should never have been made," she said, "that were completely inappropriate; filled with foul language, and very threatening messages given to the recipients."

Appling said the campaign isn't going to be intimidated. And it won't put up with such tactics.

"This isn't what this is about," she said. "We aren't going to conduct ourselves that way, and we don't believe it is appropriate that opponents of the measure treat us that way, either, and attempt to intimidate us in any way or deny us of our right to express our opinion on this amendment."

Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality said what is happening in Wisconsin is happening in other places as well.

"Gay activism has an 'end-justifies-the-means' mentality," he said. "You just have to shake it off and go on your way, because we cannot let these thugs intimidate us from doing what's right."

LaBarbera said threats against defenders of traditional marriage seem to come with the territory -- he's had more than his share.

"It's very sad to me that a movement which espouses tolerance," he said, "would harbor so many people who are willing to use ugly, evil means to achieve their goal of victory."

Appling, meanwhile, said the pro-marriage campaign has adopted a motto -- "Stop the Lies! Tell the Truth!"

"At the heart of this debate," she said, "is something we cannot ignore -- and that is, Massachusetts and Vermont have happened. We now, in this country, give same-sex marriage licenses to people who live in Massachusetts -- they have legal marriages. You cannot discount that.

"This is not about whether people are going to have benefits -- or have them taken away, if they have them or get them in the future. This is about whether we, the people of the state of Wisconsin, or a judge with an agenda will get to determine what marriage means."

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