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Breaking: McCain VP short lister Gov. Sanford shot down SC gay tourism ad

Gareth Fenley of Q-Notes has an explosive report on the backstory of the deep-sixing of a South Carolina ad campaign that targeted the gay travel market.

Governor Mark Sanford, another pol doing his own bit of marketing — he’s angling to be John McCain’s VP to bolster support from social conservatives — personally intervened to “correct” any notion his state was tolerant or welcoming of LGBT dollars:

When South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford learned that his state was being advertised as a gay tourism destination, he ordered a Cabinet-level department head “to do the right thing personnel-wise or process-wise to ensure this does not happen again,” Sanford’s spokesman Joel Sawyer told Q-Notes.

…A state employee who approved the ads was called to a meeting with management and resigned, according to Marion Edmonds, spokesman for the state’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism (PRT).

If the employee broke any rule in the conduct of her job, it was apparently an unwritten one.

Well, of course it’s an unwritten one. South Carolina is one of the most homophobic states in the country, and it has shown its ass yet again with the reaction the ad received from state officials who were horrified that unsuspecting European homosexuals might get on a plane and spend some money in the Palmetto State.

More after the jump.When the news about the ad first broke, spokesman for Gov. Mark Sanford, Joel Sawyer, said that the state will not promote itself as a tourist destination through campaigns “aimed at a specific group of people.”.” Of course that idiotic statement raises an obvious question — does South Carolina not market to any demographic of any kind? That seems ODD from a marketing perspective, don’t you think?

Out Now CEO Ian Johnson spoke to Q-Notes in his first interview with a U.S. media outlet regarding the upset from his gay marketing agency’s branch office in Brussels, Belgium. “The reaction from the South Carolina politicians is quite disturbing,” he said. “I felt sorry for the gay and lesbian community there.”

And we all should. This deeply red state does have an island of tolerance that counters the homophobic bigoted lawmakers and leadership in my neighbor state to the South. The city of Columbia is the top sponsor of South Carolina Gay Pride; its city council gave $10K to the event from its hospitality tax fund. QNote reports that the sponsorship is more than double that was spent on the Sanford-panties-bunching London ad.

Ryan Wilson, president of SC Pride, is eager to promote the event:

We at the SC Pride Movement believe that South Carolina can be a gay-friendly tourist destination as we say that SC will be “So Gay” during our Sept 20th Festival and Parade featuring RuPaul.

…The SC Pride Movement commends the Parks Department employee who sought to promote our state to GLBT tourists and we are saddened that this ad campaign has been stopped. We intend to promote our state and our upcoming Pride events in the coming months, and are proud to have the City of Columbia as an official sponsor.

Q-Notes’ Matt Comer has a blistering editorial on Sanford.

Sanford’s hostility toward LGBT citizens and his reluctance to deal with our existence are key character flaws. If Sanford hopes to be McCain’s V.P. (a pie-in-the-sky dream after his abysmal, Miss South Carolina-style performance on CNN), let’s hope he quickly learns the value of appreciating and valuing all of his constituency – gay or straight.

…What happens when a gay British couple spends those thousands of dollars buying airplane tickets for themselves and their kids, reserving a hotel room and taking that taxi to the colonial inn at the Charleston battery? Who’s going to help that gay family when the radical Christianist at the receptionist’s desk tells them, “Fags can’t stay here,” and they’re forced to leave?

What’ll happen when the state finds they’re losing hundreds of thousands of dollars each year because LGBT Europeans and their friends and allies have started a boycott of South Carolina? What happens when Sanford and his Republican cronies find out their sister to the north is getting all that cold, hard tourism cash?

South Carolina won’t be feeling quite so gay then.

…Now that Sanford’s sealed tight the Palmetto closet door, South Carolinians can go back to whistling “Dixie.” Maybe Jesse Helms’ hate-filled soul can find a place to rest in one of those gigantic antebellum mansions.

We may not be Massachusetts or California, but North Carolina will be more than happy to accept the enhanced revenue that bigots like Sanford turn away. On the matter of the soul of Jesse Helms, I wouldn’t wish that on the LGBT citizens of SC.

UPDATE: Gay South Carolinians make a classy move:

After South Carolina’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism (PRT) refused to pay its bill for a British advertising campaign, a statewide LGBT organization has stepped up to the plate to save the state from indebted embarrassment.

The Board of the South Carolina Pride Movement has decided to raise the $5,000 necessary to pay the debt owed by the state for the “South Carolina is so gay” ads created for London Pride Week.

UPDATE 2: To donate to help SC Pride raise the $5K to repay the state’s debt to the London agency that created the ad, click here.

Board member and Executive Producer of Rainbow Radio, Bruce Converse suggests, “Unfortunately, South Carolina has sent a message to the world, that a signed contract from any state agency could be nullified if someone says, “Oops, we made a mistake in signing this contract”.  In other words, the “word” of South Carolina can’t be trusted. We believe it is the right thing to do, to repay this debt.”

Ryan Wilson, President of SC Pride states, “We feel it is our duty to keep the word that the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recs, and Tourism gave through their contract with ARMO Worldwide and we intend to raise the necessary funds since they have refused to pay their bill!”


* SC: overseas campaign to attract gay tourism yanked


* South Carolina “so gay” ad controversy – See this is what we mean when we say homophobia

* S.C. Gov. issued directive for “SC so gay” ad cancellation, Brit ad exec speaks to U.S. media  

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding