In 1998, fifteen socially conservative groups launched a huge “ex-gay” advertising campaign that was billed as the “Normandy Landing in the cultural wars.” The attack began with full-page ads in The New York Times and USA Today. Now, ten years and several scandals later, it appears that the right wing may be reconsidering its strategy.
Last Saturday, TruthWinsOut.org, joined local organizations at the Billy DeFrank Center in San Jose to counter Love Won Out, Focus on the Family’s ex-gay road show. The anti-gay conference only drew 700 participants, down from past events, which drew thousands of mainly confused parents who were dealing with children who had come out.
More important, this was the second consecutive symposium where Focus on the Family chose not to market to the general public. As in Memphis, the group’s usual “ex-gay” billboards did not hover over major highways. The group also did not solicit press from major media outlets until days before the event. Instead, they concentrated their marketing efforts in right wing churches.
The subdued atmosphere of Love Won Out follows a decision by the largest “ex-gay” group, Exodus International, to recall their Washington lobbyist. It is too early to know if the right wing is rethinking the “ex-gay” issue or simply regrouping to launch another major ad blitz. Perhaps, the twin disasters of Sen. Larry Craig and Rev. Ted Haggard may have severely eroded the already shaky credibility of the ex-gay industry.