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Prop. 8 opponents say they welcome Cindy McCain's support of same-sex marriage

January 22, 2010 |  7:59 am

Cindymccain Gay rights supporters in California say they have found an unlikely ally in Cindy McCain, the wife of Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who lent her name this week to the cause of same-sex marriage.

McCain’s support comes as Proposition 8 proponents and opponents battle over the constitutionality of California’s ban on gay marriage in San Francisco federal court. The ad features McCain, right hand over her heart, wind rustling her blond locks, with “No H8” written on her cheek and silver duct tape over her mouth.

“To have the wife of a Republican presidential candidate really turns everything upside down,” said John Henning, executive director of pro-gay marriage group Love Honor Cherish. “People expect conservatives to be against same-sex marriage, and more and more conservatives are saying that they favor it.”

But conservatives shrug at the suggestion that Cindy McCain is influencing the public.

“The people of California have been very clear on this issue,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, one of the groups that supported the Proposition 8 campaign in California. “They’ve voted twice to preserve the definition of marriage.”

The photograph of McCain was a spontaneous decision, said No H8 Campaign co-founder Adam Bouska. McCain’s daughter Meghan, who had been involved with the campaign, had come to Bouska’s studio for a photo shoot for her new book, "Dirty Sexy Politics."

Cindy McCain, who had accompanied her daughter, saw the “No H8” photo of her daughter holding an elephant and a few minutes later voiced an interest in participating in the “No H8” campaign. Bouska, the campaign’s photographer, said he was “surprised and honored” by the decision.

The elder McCain had not arrived prepared for the shoot -- she was dressed in a black turtleneck and red jacket, and all participants are supposed to wear white T-shirts. They grabbed a shirt from the rack and had her place her right hand over her heart, as if pledging allegiance.

Henning said McCain's support would help redefine the Republican brand and help the tide to turn against Proposition 8.

A Los Angeles Times/USC poll published in November found that 51% of California couples favored marriage rights for gay couples, with 43% opposed.

Family values groups scoffed at Cindy McCain’s supposed role in redefining the GOP.

“There’s probably a reason she’s not first lady,” Perkins said. “People were worried about the influence she would have on social issues such as this.”

Part of the issue for opponents of same-sex marriage was that relatively few supporters lent their images to the cause, gay rights activists said.

“They have a charisma problem,” Henning said. “They won the vote, but they won it by operating in the shadows.”

-- Amina Khan

Photo: Cindy McCain in an ad supporting same-sex marriage. Credit: Adam Bouska / Love Honor Cherish