A Storm Over Gay Marriage

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There is a storm gathering. The clouds are dark and the winds are strong.

Apparently, there's lightning too. Oh, and your freedom's about to be taken away and you will have no choice about it. (Read "Despite Wins for Gay Marriage, Obstacles Remain.")

We won't keep you in suspense. The storm is the gay marriage debate. The clouds and strong winds? Those are an April 3 Iowa supreme court ruling and the Vermont legislature's decision to override a governor's veto on April 7, making the states the third and fourth in the country where gay marriage is now legal. (The other two are Connecticut and Massachusetts.) In response to these recent additions, the National Organization for Marriage rushed out this ominous new television ad ahead of schedule, featuring monologues from parents, teachers and doctors in gay marriage battleground states worried about what same-sex unions mean for their freedom. "This comes from the heart of people who want to protect marriage," says Maggie Gallagher, president of NOM.

Well, it's not exactly straight from people who want to "protect marriage." The zombie-like figures in NOM storm ad are actually actors — whom in retrospect Gallagher might have some regret over hiring. Shortly after the NOM ad was released, the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy organization, got its hands on some of the characters' very watchable audition tapes. (The audition videos were a huge hit on YouTube, but were quickly removed due to copyright infringement.)

But even Gallagher admits, "People like that behind the scenes flavor." Joe Solmonese, the president of HRC, said he doesn't know how his organization got the audition tapes — he would only disclose, "I assume someone sent them to us from where the people auditioned." In addition to the casting call videos for the storm ad, NOM's television campaign has inspired a bonanza of YouTube spoofs. See this, this and this.

NOM plans to spend $1.5 million on such ads over the next few years and is airing the storm commercial in states like New York ( where Governor David Paterson has just asked for a gay marriage bill), New Jersey and New Hampshire, all expected to be the next battlegrounds in the marriage debate.

No word yet on if NOM plans to re-cut the commercial or make more. For now, "a rainbow coalition of people of every creed and color are coming together in love." Just not that specific rainbow. Or that kind of love.

See TIME's pictures of the week.