Television commercials and online videos were ubiquitous.
Groups backing gay marriage, the side that narrowly won the spending battle, had an online fundraising video in which all sorts of gay marriage proponents, including children, used profanity and described opponents as hateful. Another ad, criticizing the role of Mormons in campaigning for the amendment, showed two Mormons knocking on the door of a lesbian couple's home. One of them said: "We're here to take away your rights."
Social conservatives asserted that allowing gay marriage would have widespread negative consequences. A frequently cited one: Schools would teach about homosexuality even if parents objected. In one spot, a girl tells her mother: "Mom, guess what I learned in school today? I learned how a prince married a prince and I can marry a princess." Another thread is that religious groups would be punished for having anti-gay or anti-gay marriage beliefs.
Solomon called those ads "pure hate-mongering."
And he said that the campaign caused harm. Young gays and children of gays were more likely to be bullied during the campaign, he said, and gay-led families suffered the psychological damage of having their very existence debated.
The National Organization for Marriage, which was founded in Princeton in 2007 but has since moved its headquarters to Washington, has emerged as one of the largest fundraising groups opposed to gay marriage.
Brian Brown, the group's director, said it would invest heavily in New Jersey if there were a vote here. "The content of our ads would be similar to what you've seen throughout the country, which is telling the truth about the consequences of same sex marriage," he said.
Garden State Equality's Goldstein said opponents' ads prey on people's fears — but often sway voters. "If there were a law banning both sides from spending a penny, we'd win," he said.
Jim White, a former state deputy of the Knights of Columbus, a Roman Catholic-affiliated group that says it would campaign against gay marriage, doesn't have much patience for statements like those.
"They keep bragging about the polls," he said. "But they refuse to put it to a vote."
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