Advertising has been purchased by the Vote No On 1 campaign on a large electronic billboard on West End Avenue in Nashville as efforts by the campaign intensify to increase visibility and reach out to voters.
Tennessee voters will decide on two Constitution amendments on Nov. 7 – whether to enact a stronger ban on same-sex marriage (it is currently against state law) and to allow local governments to freeze property taxes for homeowners 65 and older.
The two proposed amendments will appear on the ballot as questions for voters to answer with "yes" or "no". More than half of all voters in the gubernatorial election have to approve amendments for them to be adopted.
With that in mind, the billboard currently carries the simple message “vote no on 1” along with the campaign logo. The message may change over the upcoming weeks, as the electronic message will also be used to let travelers on West End know of upcoming events surrounding the campaign.
"The ad went up on the 22nd [Sept. 22],” said Anne Gregory-Cole, a field coordinator with the Vote No on 1 campaign. “It will remain until the 7th of November, with a change in the middle to announce our event on October 16, called ‘Stand For ALL Families’.”
Gregory-Cole said the ad on the sign was visible for 10 seconds, and rotated with other ads every 2.5 minutes. She declined to say how much the campaign paid for the ad.
“I hope it [the large electronic ad] starts conversations that lead to open minds and open hearts,” she said.
Gregory-Cole said the owner of the billboard, Innovative Media, didn’t raise any questions about running the ad.
“The owner of the billboard, Innovative Media, was very supportive of us and has no problem with putting his name on the Vote NO on 1 campaign,” she said.
With a law on the books in Tennessee outlawing same-sex marriage, advocates of the amendment say they fear the law could be overturned by the courts. By including the prohibition in the constitution would mean it could it could only be altered by voters in a future referendum. The amendment would also prohibit Tennessee from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states that do recognize such unions.
A recent online poll conducted by the Memphis newspaper The Commercial Appeal showed that 59.5 percent of their online readers would vote “no” on Amendment 1.
The Chattanooga Times Free-Press called for a defeat of the proposed amendment in a July 19, 2006 editorial.
“The very idea of writing unequal treatment under the law into the state constitution deserves rejection. A defeat in Tennessee would also help curb a religiously motivated, national anti-civil rights movement,” the editorial said. “Recognizing that many Tennesseans who believe in equal rights for homosexuals still balk, on a gut level, over marriage, we would like to stress that voting against the constitutional amendment will not change the state law to allow same-sex marriage. It will simply stop the effort to write discrimination into our state constitution.”