The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

October 30, 2008
Parents to Prop 8's Frank Schubert: Don't use our kids

Update: An attorney from the Yes on 8 campaign responded with a letter to the parents, dated Oct. 30.  It dismisses their concerns, takes no responsibility for the Yes on 8 use of footage of the children in its ads, places the blame on the parents for allowing their children to go on the field trip.  The letter refers to the field trip as a "staged publicity support of gay marriage."  It concludes that "you as parents made the deliberate choice to use your own children as stage props in this debate" and, thus, it seems, anything goes.  Anybody can use your children for any purpose without your knowledge or permission.  End of story. Incredible.

Here's a follow up to my posting of Oct. 29: Proposition 8 is about rights, not field trips

The parents of two children featured most prominently in video footage in a Yes on 8 ad have repeatedly asked the campaign to stop using images of their children to promote changing the California Constitution to eliminate same-sex marriage. They've written letters.  They've made phone calls. The Yes on 8 campaign has refused to pull the footage.

The parents are at their wits' end.  So two of them came to Sacramento on Thursday to appeal to legislators and to Yes on 8 campaign manager Frank Schubert in person. I followed them on their journey. 

To legislators, their message was: "I don't want to see another parent have to go through this."   Assemblyman Mark Leno told the parents that under current law if the ads were for a commercial purpose, consent to use the images would be required.  But ads for a political purpose don't require consent.  Leno continued that the Yes on 8 use of children's images, however, reveals a tension between First Amendment rights to free speech and the right to privacy. This is a particularly sensitive issue because the campaign did not use images of adults, but of young children -- without the knowledge or consent of the parents. He made a commitment to explore solutions in the upcoming legislative session.  But that doesn't do anything now.

Then the parents went to Schubert's office at Schubert Flint Public Affairs at 14th and L. "I've heard he's a father," said one parent. "I want to ask him how he would feel if his children were manipulated like this."  She wanted to appeal to him as a moral human being.  "This is our last hope," she said.

Neither Schubert nor others in his office would speak to the two parents. Schubert's office called security and a guard escorted them out of the building. The parents left a letter saying, "We appeal to your sense of decency as a parent to take those ads off the air and off your website."

The irony is that the Yes on 8 campaign touts itself as protecting children. As one of the parents said, "Fight the good campaign, but don't use my daughter.  Use your own or someone who's signed on." They believe the Yes on 8 campaign is exploiting their six-year-old children shamelessly.

This controversy arises out of a 90-minute Oct. 11 field trip organized by parents of 18 first-graders at a public charter school in San Francisco. They went to City Hall to surprise their children's teacher, a lesbian who was getting married that day.  Parents had to sign permission slips and could opt out of the trip.  Two did and those children spent the 90 minutes with another first-grade class back at school.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the event and posted video images on its website. The parents do not object to that. But the Yes on 8 campaign downloaded the images for use in television and web ads, without the knowledge or permission of the parents. The  newspaper, the parents have been told, has asked the Yes on 8 campaign to stop using the images. 

So far the Yes on 8 campaign has refused. Only days before the election, the campaign is cynically using these children to grab people's emotions and is willing to risk backlash from a few parents to score points statewide.

What do you think?  Should Yes on 8 stop running the video footage of the children?  Or should the campaign keep running it in political ads?  As the parents asked: "Would you think it was morally right to take your child's image without your knowledge and without your permission and use it politically?" You can let Yes on 8 campaign manager Frank Schubert know your views by calling his office at 448-4234 or e-mailing him at

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About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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