July 11th, 2008 11:15 EST
South Carolina joins 'So Gay' campaign
This may come as a surprise to many South Carolinians, but your tax dollars are being used to target gay travelers from across the pond.
The Palmetto Scoop reports that the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism " a state agency overseen by the Gov. Mark Sanford`s office "is spending an undisclosed amount of its nearly $14 million advertising budget to take part in the So Gay " campaign, an effort launched in London, England, by the gay marketing agency Out Now to lure homosexual tourists to South Carolina and five U.S. cities.
Out Now is dubbing it "the gayest ever mainstream media advertising campaign" in London.
South Carolinians will be irate when they learn their hard earned tax dollars are being spent to advertise our state as `so gay,`" Sen. David Thomas (R-Greenville) told The Palmetto Scoop. South Carolina is a wonderful, family friendly destination not a Southern version of San Francisco. This campaign goes against our core values."
Thomas said he would be calling for a comprehensive audit of PRT, an agency in the governor`s cabinet.
State Rep. Greg Delleney (R-Chester), echoed Thomas` concerns, citing questions over whether or not the governor or anyone in charge at PRT authorized this expenditure."
It`s simply unbelievable that PRT would be using our tax money to promote the homosexual lifestyle," said Delleney.
Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer could not be reached for comment.
But Kirsty Dillury, a spokesperson for South Carolina Tourism, called the "So Gay" campaign an important one.
"South Carolina has a lot to offer gay travelers, and we think that people may be surprised to see our destination reaching out to the gay market," Dillury said in a June 27 press release. We are delighted to be involved with the `So Gay` campaign in particular as it sends a powerful positive message to everyone that there is nothing wrong at all with a destination being described as `so gay.`"
Dillury continued, For our gay visitors it is actually quite wonderful for them to discover just how much South Carolina has to offer "from stunning plantation homes to miles of wide sandy beaches."
That press release noted that the gay travel agency Amro Worldwide "received the funding and support" from South Carolina to help with the campaign.
In an effort to confirm the amount of money given to the project, The Palmetto Scoop contacted Dillury, who redirected questions to Marion Edmonds, Director of Communications for PRT. Repeated attempts to contact Edmonds over the last week, including a Freedom of Information Act request sent this morning, yielded no results.
SCPRT received $13.7 million in this year`s budget for the purposes of advertising, $10.5 million of which came directly from South Carolina taxpayers.
Out Now`s CEO Ian Johnson said the effort is an attempt to make homosexuals more comfortable about being gay.
"For all people seeing this campaign, it is important to know that using `so gay` as a putdown is far from clever in the eyes of lesbian and gay people," Johnson said. "We wanted to reclaim that for the gay community. It is really about standing up and saying: You say: `So gay`? Then I say: `So what!`"
Dr. Oran P. Smith, President of Palmetto Family Council, disagrees.
Said Smith, "If the story is factual, and it appears that it is, the taxpayers of South Carolina are unwittingly funding one side of the culture war. State tourism dollars shouldn`t be used to fund what is in essence a political agenda."