Soulforce buys 16 billboards in Nashville as Federal Marriage Amendment comes to the Senate floor

The hometown of Senator Bill Frist has been selected by a national orgaization for the placement of 16 billboard messages that will bring attention to the Federal Marriage Amendment as Tennessee voters prepare to vote on a November Constitutional amendment that would probit same-sex marriages.

The billboards are expected to start appearing on June 3, which is the day of Nashville's annual pride festival and expected to draw more than 10,000 people at Centennial Park.

Soulforce, an organization founded to end religion-based discrimination of gays and lesbians, is placing sixteen billboard posters in and around Nashville, the hometown of Senate Majority Leader Frist (the Senator responsible for re-introducing the controversial marriage amendment). A vote on the amendment is scheduled for the first week of June.

Soulforce officials say they hope to call attention to Republican pandering to the so-called religious right.

Christopher Sanders, spokesperson and incoming president of the Tennessee Equality Project, said his organization found about about the billboard campaign on the morning of June 2.

"It's important that people of faith get involved in the debate on equality in this country," Sanders said. "We are pleased that soulfource has raised a progressive voice on this issue."

Sanders said current TEP president Randy Cox had contacted Soulfource to offer thanks for the billboard campaign and to explore ways to work together in the future.

The billboards feature part of a speech given by Coretta Scott King at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey on March 24, 2004, when she said, "Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protections, whether by marriage or civil union. A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing, and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages."

In addition to the web address, the billboards include a photograph of Soulforce Executive Director Jeff Lutes with his partner and son.

"Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and others, under pressure from wealthy fundamentalists, are again trying to write discrimination into the constitution rather than focusing on the real problems facing America," Lutes said. "Soulforce reminds Senator Frist's hometown that Mrs. King stood for the full equality of lesbian and gay Americans and against homophobia, especially homophobia in the black community. Mrs. King publicly saluted the gays and lesbians that fought for her freedom in Montgomery and Selma and other places during the civil rights movement, and she compared homophobia to racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of bigotry that set the stage for repression and violence."

"Soulforce is dedicated to educating the public regarding the lives of non-traditional families and the harmful effects of religion based bigotry on the children caught in the cross hairs of this political red herring," Lutes added. "The billboard campaign will remind people that Coretta Scott King called all Americans who believed in Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream to resist injustice and instead 'make room at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people'."

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