Little more than a month ago the American Family Association created a poll on their web site intended to query from their constituency their views on the question of gay marriage. The AFA is a right-wing conservative group which strongly believes that only a select few should be entitled to the legal benefits afforded by marriage. Their poll was intended to prove that point — and they had every intention of taking the poll's results to Congress to prove that all patriotic Americans believe in the class system and advocate bigotry, hatred and exclusionary laws. Unfortunately for the AFA, the exercise did not turn out to be as straightforward as they had hoped.
When the poll first appeared on the AFA's site just before the end of 2003, they had every intention of keeping the poll isolated to like-minded people — an activity often referred to as "stacking the deck." Given that the target audience for the poll was to include only those AFA supporters who believe that people who are different than their views are to be hated, reviled and excluded from any legal protections offered to others, it was with great displeasure that the AFA learned that their poll had leaked to the broader Internet audience.
As the URL for the poll spread across the Internet, a grass-roots drive to prove the AFA wrong began to spring up around the globe.
As of Jan. 19, 60 percent of respondents — more than 508,000 voters — said, "I favor legalization of homosexual marriage." With an additional 7.89 percent — or 66,732 voters — replying, "I favor a 'civil union' with the full benefits of marriage except for the name," the AFA's chosen position, "I oppose legalization of homosexual marriage and 'civil unions,'" was being defeated by a 2-1 ratio.
In response to the bitter defeat they suffered at the hands of their own Internet poll, the AFA quickly announced it was annulling the poll and would no longer offer the results to Congress.
"We're very concerned that the traditional state of marriage is under threat in our country by homosexual activists," said AFA representative Buddy Smith. "It just so happens that homosexual activist groups around the country got a hold of the poll — it was forwarded to them — and they decided to have a little fun, and turn their organizations around the country (onto) the poll to try to cause it to represent something other than what we wanted it to. And so far, they succeeded with that."
Gee, Mr. Smith, would you like a little cheese with your "whine" today?
Despite finger-pointing at the "homosexual establishment" for the utter failure of the poll (at least so far as the AFA's goals are concerned), the results prove some valid considerations which the AFA failed to realize until it was too late.
(1) The AFA learned an embarrassing lesson in how the Internet works. If you put it on the Internet, expect it to spread on its own and to attract audiences well outside of your target market.
(2) Hatred and exclusionary practices often bring out community-based efforts to fight them. Assuming it was right and that there was no argument against its case kept the AFA blind to the response they would ultimately get.
The sad truth of this situation is that the AFA will use the results to galvanize their constituency into believing there is a vast "homosexual agenda" trying to destroy American life as we know it.
If for an instant they would remove the selfish religious blinders they have on and look beyond their own self-righteousness, they would realize that equal protection and treating all people fairly is as much a Constitutional protection as it is a religious directive (for all religions, not just Christianity, although very few religions practice that particular aspect of their beliefs).
For now, the AFA has learned a lesson about the Internet.
Let's just hope that, even if only a few, some of them have also seen that the hatred and exclusiveness with which they practice their beliefs and the law are only going to drive deeper wedges into American society.