Tuesday, July 21, 1998

Group plans ad campaign
against gay marriages

By Mike Yuen


Reggie White, all-star professional football player and ordained fundamentalist Christian minister, has repeatedly preached that homosexuality is a sin.

Now, he's poised to tell Hawaii voters they should support a proposed constitutional amendment that would give legislators the authority to ban same-sex marriages.

Officials of the local political action committee, Save Traditional Marriage-'98, have confirmed that White, who earlier this year stereotyped Asians, Hispanics, blacks and whites in a rambling sermon to the Wisconsin Legislature, has been videotaped for a TV spot on behalf of Save Traditional Marriage.

Jennifer Diesman, a spokeswoman for Save Traditional Marriage, said the broadcast ad hasn't been put together yet. The group's consultant, Linda Rosehill, said White "wants to help us pass this amendment because he cares about Hawaii's future." She said he is a natural ally because of his fondness for Hawaii and his personal commitment to preserving marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

For 12 years, White, a Green Bay Packers defensive lineman, has played here in the Pro Bowl, the showcase for the National Football League's all-stars. A few days before the 1997 game, he delivered a sermon at the Word of Life Mission in Honolulu.

But the use of White could backfire, gay-rights supporters believe.

"He brings a lot of baggage," said Dan Foley, the attorney for three gay couples that sued the state for the right to marry. Foley and others point to White's Wisconsin sermon in which he said homosexuality is "one of the biggest sins in the Bible," that Asians are inventive and "can turn a television into a watch," and that Hispanics are gifted in "family structure" and can put 20 to 30 people in a home. He said blacks are talented at worship and whites "know how to tap into money."

"The message through Reggie White is not lost. It is not to protect marriage but to attack gays and sexual orientation," Foley said.

"Through White, the true agenda (of Save Traditional Marriage-'98) is demonstrated. It is about discrimination. It is about discrimination of Asians, Hispanics and others. Picking Reggie White as a spokesman is peculiar to say the least."

Steve Okino, a spokesman for Protect Our Constitution, the isle political action committee favoring same-sex marriage, said White's Wisconsin speech demonstrated "a lack of sensitivity. I hope we don't see it here."

In its ad campaign, Protect Our Constitution plans to use local people, Okino said.

Said Foley: "Bringing people from outside of Hawaii to tell the people of Hawaii what to do isn't particularly wise. White may get by in Green Bay, which has a small Asian population. But he has no racial sensitivity to race other than his own."

White, who is black, was not paid for the filming, said Diesman, a former aide to Republican Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, whose contacts were useful in persuading White to appear on behalf of Save Traditional Marriage.

The Schiller Group, the Honolulu advertising firm for Save Traditional Marriage, worked with a Green Bay production house to film White for the TV spot, which will likely air in October. The spot will be part of a broader advertising campaign to educate voters about the same-sex ballot measure.

Recently, a photograph of White was prominently displayed in a full-page advertisement in USA Today, condemning gay activists for branding White as "ignorant," "stupid" and "backward" for saying homosexuality is sin.

White and others opposed to homosexuality have a right to speak their minds and they should not be subjected to name-calling, which is a poor excuse for a public debate, declares the $63,000 ad, paid for by 15 groups, including the Christian Coalition and the Alliance for Traditional Marriage-Hawaii, which is headed by Mike Gabbard, a leading foe of same-sex marriage.

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