Monday, December 05, 2011

From Australia, "Possibly the Most Beautiful Ad for Marriage Equality"

That's how The Advocate describes A Love Story, an Australian pro-marriage equality advertisement that has become an Internet sensation over the past two weeks.

A Love Story (also known from its tagline as It's Time) was produced by GetUp!, a non-profit organization that describes itself as "an independent movement to build a progressive Australia and bring participation back into our democracy." The two-minute video has been viewed by over three million viewers on YouTube since its posting on November 24 – a feat that no doubt owes much to its widespread sharing via social media such as Facebook.

In Australia, a quickly organized grassroots effort has raised enough money for the ad to be
broadcast on commercial television, as well as on satellite TV. Meanwhile, a Facebook page has been established, dedicated to getting the ad aired on U.S. television.

A Love Story was produced in response to the current debate in Australia over marriage equality. Notes The Advocate's Lucas Grindley:

Polls in Australia show support for marriage equality has increased to almost two-thirds of voters. But Prime Minister Julia Gillard remains opposed, arguing that “the institution of marriage has come to have a particular meaning and standing in our culture and nation and that should continue unchanged.”

In [A Love Story], the couple seems like any other that might fit that “meaning,” except for their gender. Groups such as The Third Way in Washington have argued based on new research that it’s a message of commitment like this one – and not about benefits or rights – that will be most effective with voters.

Stephen Gray of the U.K.-based
describes the ad as follows:

The film . . . charts a relationship from first meeting to engagement, and is shot from the point of view of one character, who strikes up conversation with a man called Paul.

After the short follows the characters through first meetings with families, illnesses, holidays and celebrations, Paul proposes.

It is only revealed in the final moments that the character from whose point of view the story is shot is a man.

The films ends with the message: “It’s time. End marriage discrimination.”

GetUp!, a non-profit organisation launches campaigns with the aim of achieving an accountable and progressive Australia, concentrating on areas of economic fairness, social justice and environmental sustainability.

I must admit that when I first saw GetUp!'s marriage equality video I was moved to tears. I think this was partly due to the fact that it comes from my homeland and features places I readily recognize – Sydney Harbour, Luna Park – and activities that I miss, from get-togethers with family and friends, to the simple joys of beach cricket and swimming in the ocean. On multiple levels I find A Love Story a truly beautiful and powerful work – and beautiful not just because of the handsome lead! No, the video, as the website notes, is "a poignant demonstration that we [as LGBT people] very much have lives, not lifestyles."

Anyway, without further ado, here's A Love Story, aka It's Time . . .

Watching A Love Story makes me feel sorry for people like Jessica Zittlow, Communications Associate of the Minnesota Catholic Conference of Bishops, who states that "love and commitment is not sufficient for marriage."

What planet does she live on? Obviously not the same one as Julian Shaw, the actor who features in A Love Story, and who, in an
interview with Australia's Ten News, said:

I didn't think in terms of heterosexuality or homosexuality, I just thought this was a beautiful love story. Quite frankly it's an actor's dream role to be able to convey a whole relationship with all these beautiful pungent moments in two minutes.

Mmm . . . such relational moments appear lost on Zittlow and presumably the bishops she speaks for. Instead, the message she attempts to stress is that "the government ultimately has no interest in regulating the 'love and commitment' between two people [but should have] an interest in promoting institutions that help ensure a child is raised by his or her biological mom and dad."

Yes, it's all about sex for these folks, and a very narrow understanding of sex at that. Love and commitment are not sufficient for marriage, they say, but baby-making apparently is.

Even if for a moment we were to take seriously this asinine assertion, it should be noted that the granting of civil marriage rights to same-sex couples does absolutely nothing to threaten straight couple's baby-making activity or potential. Nor does it do anything to prevent children from being raised by their biological parents. Do the bishops really believe that gay couples, once civilly married, are going to snatch children from their biological parents? And what about opposite-sex parents raising adopted children? What a slap in the face Zittlow's comment is to these folks. Are we now to perceive and declare marriages between straight couples unable to biologically procreate as a threat, as a type of institution that fails to ensure that children are raised by their biological parents? Do we now need a "marriage amendment" against such non-baby-making unions?

I'm sorry, but the rhetoric of the bishops and their spokespersons lacks logic and compassion – which, of course, makes perfect sense when one acknowledges that it's divorced from the lived experiences of real people and from what science tells us of human sexuality. As I've noted previously, such a lamentable state of affairs means we are left with official church pronouncements on sexuality that are woefully impoverished and disturbingly fixated on specific sex acts rather than on the relational quality of consensual adult partnering. The bishops have forgotten that truth (including the truth of human sexuality) is discovered through time, and that tradition (including the tradition of marriage) evolves. Thankfully, the Catholic people have not forgotten these liberating hallmarks of our living Catholic faith. I believe that those polls that show only one-in-three American Catholics describing opposition to same-sex marriage as “very important,” and seventy percent supporting legal recognition for same-sex couples, are evidence that God's transforming Spirit is alive in the Church and the world, doing what She always does, inspiring and moving us to be an ever-inclusive and loving community of compassion, justice and truth.

I see these qualities in GetUp!'s A Love Story video, and am so happy and grateful that they have been so powerfully conveyed in this beautiful and artful video from my homeland. I'm also happy and grateful to have played a part in Catholics for Marriage Equality MN's video project, one that, like A Love Story, puts a human face on the issue of marriage equality.

I conclude this post with an interview that The Advocate recently conducted with Paul Mackay, director of A Love Story.

The Advocate: How did you decide to tell the story from the perspective of half of a gay couple?

Paul Mackay: We gave a lot of thought as to whether we would tell this love story as a gay or lesbian couple and had varied feedback in the scripting process. Much research, at least here in Australia, is that same-sex female relationships are more widely accepted and we should consider using two women. In the end, we decided to use two men for the benefit of the final reveal. It’s common in advertising to pitch men as dopey characters who fawn over their partners, and so we played into that narrative.

The Advocate: How would you describe the general mood of the cast and crew during the filming?

Paul Mackay: The mood of the cast and crew during filming was fantastic. Marriage equality is an issue we are all committed to, which helps, but more so we were all committed to the concept. We’re a small organization and run on the smell of an oily rag, so the shoot was completed on a tight schedule and a tighter budget. It was at times quite demanding, but that never stood in the way of us enjoying the process and remaining committed to it. Plus, so much of what we were doing — fun date activities like hanging out at a theme park or beach — provided grounds for having a great time.

The Advocate: What’s the response been like so far?

Paul Mackay: To say we’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response we’ve had is an understatement. We knew the concept was good when we started filming, and we knew the video was good when we launched last Friday — but we never considered it would reach a million views in two days or continue to grow in the way it has. We never expected celebrities would tweet about it or massive international sources like yours would be interested in covering it.

We launched the video with a very simple ask: that people watch, be affected by, and share the video. We thought the simple action of sharing the video would start conversations about equality that would build momentum and public support for the issue and pave the way for change. The massive response we’ve had is hopefully doing just that.

Recommended Off-site Links:
Taking a Lesson From Down Under – Lanae Erickson (The Advocate, December 5, 2011).
Australian Labor Party Conference Defies Prime Minister Julia Gillard to Support Gay Marriage – James Park (, December 3, 2011).
Catholics Fire Back at Bishops’ Anti-Gay Campaign – Peter Montgomery (Religion Dispatches, November 16, 2011).
Pro-Gay Catholics Vastly Outnumber Homophobic Bishops – Richard Wagner (Hear Our Voices, November 26, 2011).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Minneapolis (and Online) Premiere of Catholics for Marriage Equality
A Head and Heart Response to the Catholic Hierarchy's Opposition to Marriage Equality
Marriage: "Part of What is Best in Human Nature"
The Same People


Michael O'Sullivan said...

Thanks for posting this. What a perfect little film, its made me cry tears of happiness. I now want to tell my friends here in the UK about it.

Helen Smith said...

Amazing video; such a powerful message. Thank you for posting it

Anonymous said...

From Chris Morley

Cool, clever, and powerfully affecting. Thanks for spreading the word.

Let's hope it works its magic on Australian PM Julia Gillard, as well as in Britain and the US.