SACRAMENTO — Backers of an initiative to ban same-sex marriage began airing their first commercial Monday, warning that a loss could lead to gay marriage being "taught in public schools" and that churches could lose their tax-exempt status.
Proposition 8's promoters said their initial ad buy was $10 million. They hope to raise $3.6 million more by the Nov. 4 election. Foes are spending roughly similar sums.
The Yes-on-8 commercial opens with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom declaring to a cheering audience: "It is going to happen now, whether you like it or not."
The 30-second commercial notes that four judges in a recent 4-3 California Supreme Court decision opened the way for same-sex marriage and warns that if Proposition 8 fails, people could be sued over their personal beliefs, churches could lose tax-exempt status and "gay marriage" would be "taught in public schools."
Newsom began his tenure in 2004 by trying to legalize same-sex marriage, and he remains involved in the fight. He was in New York last week raising money to defeat Proposition 8. The Yes-on-8 commercial gives Democrat Newsom unexpected attention as he prepares to run for governor in 2010.
In an interview, Newsom noted that much of the funding for the Yes-on-8 campaign comes from national conservatives.
"These people make their careers attacking people like me," he said. "This effort is so much bigger than me. It is about real people. It is about denying people their civil right."
He called the ad "classic distraction" and misleading.
Yes-on-8 campaign manager Frank Schubert said he didn't care whether the spot helps or hurts Newsom's candidacy. But he also said the spot underscores the "arrogance" of same-sex marriage proponents.
"Californians are tolerant," Schubert said. "Tolerance is no longer the construct. Now it is mandatory acceptance."
Steve Smith, managing the campaign to defeat Proposition 8, denounced the proponents' ad as misleading, saying parents could "pull their kid out" of classes where same-sex marriage is discussed.