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Sherman's march through Colorado 

click to enlarge The Born Different campaign officially ended Aug. 6, but - tongues are still wagging over the dog that moos.
  • The Born Different campaign officially ended Aug. 6, but tongues are still wagging over the dog that moos.

Norman has officially stopped mooing, but expect, between now and November, Sherman to keep barking his head off.

The question is, will people get so sick of the ruckus that they call animal control?

You might have missed the gay-friendly Gill Foundation's marketing campaign of earlier this summer but only if you were in the doghouse. The rest of us in Colorado Springs were treated to the whimsical image, on television, in print ads, on billboards and on yard signs, of a cute little puppy named Norman, who happens to moo instead of arf. The ad campaign, which ended Aug. 6, was designed to get the dialogue started: Are people born gay, or do they choose to be gay?

A few acts of vandalism were reported, but by most accounts, the community discussion was a huge success. Mary Lou Makepeace, a spokeswoman for the Born Different campaign and the city's former mayor, reported that she was delighted by the refreshingly positive response. Neighbors who had been strangers became friends because of Norman; children laughed over the funny dog that mooed; lots of folks appreciated the fact that the issue of being gay was raised decidedly outside the realm of politics or religion.

"We were not trying to push a political agenda, but to engage people in conversation," notes the Gill Foundation's communications program officer, Joanne Kron.

But it was clear that one group didn't approve of all of the ooohing and ahhhing and tongue-wagging over the adorable puppy. Suspecting that Norman was political indeed and trying to "soften people up" for the November election Springs-based Focus on the Family jumped into action.

The ministry, which maintains that gays can simply walk away from the "lifestyle," kicked its media machine into high gear. It unleashed Sherman, the basset hound, with a stern reminder that dogs don't moo, they, uh, bark and so therefore, somehow, gay people aren't born gay. So far, Sherman has appeared on downtown banners and yard signs across the city.

click to enlarge Prepare to hear plenty more barking from Focus on the - Familys basset hound.
  • Prepare to hear plenty more barking from Focus on the Familys basset hound.

"Seeing a cute puppy is cute, so we made it a dialogue by saying, "Here's another cute puppy, and here's the truth behind what the other cute puppy is saying,'" says Gary Schneeberger, public policy media director at Focus on the Family.

But we're not just barking and mooing here. We're talking big bucks.

So far, Focus on the Family has donated a cool half million to a newly formed group, Colorado Family Action, which will spend the next several weeks trying to convince voters across Colorado to approve a man-woman-only constitutional marriage amendment on the November ballot. At the same time, Focus will battle another proposal to provide same-gender domestic partners with basic legal rights.

So what's next for the Sherman media machine? Billboards? "Keep your eyes peeled for what's coming next," Schneeberger says.

TV commercials? "Keep your eyes peeled for what's coming next," Schneeberger repeats.

A feature-length movie starring Focus' favorite celebrity, Mel Gibson, as Sherman? "Keep your eyes peeled for what's coming next."

No offense to our friends at Focus, but it seems odd to use a basset hound to promote marriage as something that should only happen between a man and woman or to prohibit people from making funeral arrangements for their same-gender partners.

Far stranger, say, than a dog that goes moo.

degette@csindy.com

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