The American gay and lesbian lobby group Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has launched a series of ad campaigns that is taking the fight for equality into the nation’s newspapers and into the capital’s subway stations.

The national newspaper ad campaign aimed at influencing the gay marriage debate began last month.

The ads feature real same-sex couples facing hardships, including the surviving partner of a September 11 victim who was not eligible for the same benefits as other surviving partners, and a senior couple who worry about passing on their pension and retirement savings.

HRC executive director Elizabeth Birch said civil marriage benefits must be separated from the religious institution of marriage.

These families pay taxes just like every other American family, but do not have the same rights, she said.

The US Congress is currently considering the Fed-eral Marriage Amendment, which would amend the US Constitution to permanently define marriage as being between one man and one woman. It would also deny each state the right to decide family law and relationship recognition for itself.

With an uncertain economy and threats to our national security, politicians should be strengthening families, not seeking to permanently deny them critical protections, said Birch. A constitutional amendment is a rarely used tool that should never be employed to write discrimination into our most cherished document.

The Metrolight campaign in the Washington subway was designed to counter a homophobic campaign launched in October by Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX), a group promoting damaging reparative therapy techniques.

When we learned about the misleading and anti-gay ads Metro had accepted, we looked for a way to counter those wrong-headed messages with the truth, HRC’s education director, Kim Mills, said.

The HRC ads are among the last that will be accepted by the Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Asso-ciation after its board voted to end free public service ads in its system after getting complaints about the PFOX campaign.

The headline of the HRC ads reads: Equality And Fairness: Fundamental American Values. The text goes on to detail public support for GLBT issues. According to polling, 90 percent of Americans support hospital visitation rights for same-sex partners; 85 percent support equal treatment in the workplace; and 73 percent want tougher hate crimes laws including 65 percent who want hate crimes laws to include transgender Americans.

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