Last week, the National Organization for Marriage, an anti-gay marriage group, released a very professional, very message-driven video titled “Gathering Storm” on YouTube and also bought TV air time in Iowa, where that state's supreme court recently legalized gay marriage. In response to the slick ad that Time magazine described as “ominous” and another full-on attack of gay marriage across the country, the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center, headed by chief executive officer Lorri Jean, is holding a contest reminiscent of Project Runway, where someone can win up to $2,500 for making and submitting a home-made video.

LA Gay & Lesbian Center's Lorri Jean

The themes of the “Gathering Storm” ad are not unlike the focus-group themes the “Yes on

8″ campaign used in the months leading up to last November's successful passage of

Proposition 8 — gay marriage will be taught in public

schools, religious freedoms will be trampled upon. The “Yes on 8”

campaign spent millions of dollars in research to come up with its

political advertisements.  With this contest, the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center and Lorri Jean, who operates with an annual budget of over $50 million, are spending a few thousand dollars for amateur videos.

According to a press release sent out late last week, the L.A. Gay

& Lesbian Center is launching something called “Project Pushback,” which will have a “people's choice” award and judges such as

Academy Award-winning producer Bruce Cohen, MTV producer Sherri Brown

Francois and political and communications strategist Chad Griffin, among

others, will look over the entries as well.

“It's time to grab your

camera and help change the conversation about marriage for same-sex

couples,” the press release says perkily.

While the L.A. Gay

& Lesbian Center will shill out a few thousand dollars to the

winners, the same press release notes that the “National Organization

for Marriage has just launched a $1.5 million ad campaign.”  So while

anti-gay marriage foes are once again pulling out the big guns, and plan to air more TV ads in same sex marriage battleground states such as New York, New Jersey, and New Hampshire, the Gay &

Lesbian Center, which describes itself as the “world's largest LGBT organization,” is literally stuck in amateur hour.

Even more bizarrely, the Center is asking the public to vote on the videos. That public will undoubtedly be other gays and lesbians, most of whom are already against anti-gay marriage threats and not the people who need to be educated. There's a very good chance, in other words, that the winning video will end up preaching to the choir rather than expanding minds.

According to the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center press release, the video contest is a way to “tap into

the grassroots energy of marriage equality supporters and to inspire

development of video messages that will effectively promote support for

the freedom to marry.”  Soon after the November defeat, gay leaders of the “No on 8” campaign's executive committee, which included Lorri Jean, came under tremendous scrutiny for inadequately organizing at the grassroots level, which then spawned a number of grassroots, gay marriage groups over the past several months. The video contest appears to be an ill-conceived answer to that criticism. 

All in all, “Project Pushback” comes across as one more unprofessional

effort by the gay political establishment, at least in Los Angeles, to

fend off anti-gay marriage supporters, who are skilled, organized, well-funded — and not fooling around with contests.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at

LA Weekly