Spread over two full pages, the ad appeared on 5 June 2008 in three major newspapers, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and the Washington Post.
This amount of money would have fed countless hungry children around the world at this time of rising food prices, not to mention helping homeless and injured people in the wake of the Sichuan earthquake.
The campaign was obviously in response to the California Supreme Court decision of May 15, which legalised same-sex marriage. Weddings will start on June 17 and since California has no residency requirement, any couple from anywhere around the world can get married in the state.
New York, for example is gearing up to recognise out-of-state gay marriages such as those contracted in Calfiornia. Governor David Paterson has instructed all government departments to make the necessary changes to procedures and policies to this end, following a New York appellate court decision in February this year that ruled that same-sex couples must be legally recognised in New York, just as the law recognises those of heterosexual couples solemnised elsewhere.
Thunderous objections to same-sex marriage and homosexuality
The two-page ad by The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (text can be found at www.tfp.org) asserted that those who supported same-sex marriage "deny that the self-evident biological, physiological and psychological differences between men and women find their complementarity in marriage, just as they deny that the specific primary purpose of marriage is the perpetuation of the human race and the raising of children."
This is a misreading of social history. Across cultures, marriage as a custom has mainly been for regulating power and property. That's why marriage has always been a public event involving an extended family or the whole clan, rather than a purely private matter between two people. It signals publicly who would in future have exclusive sexual rights over the body of the female, who - including mothers-in-law - would have power over the wife and offspring and who would have inheritance rights. Notice, for example, how common it is for societies to make a distinction between legitimate and illegitimate children.
Christian Europe, for nearly two millennia, was no different in the way it treated marriage. The traditional marriage vow in Church ceremonies included the bride promising to obey and serve her husband, but not the other way around.
The newspaper ad then invoked a sense of threat. It said that by legalising gay marriage, "the State will expect Christians and all people of good will to betray their consciences by condoning, through silence or act, an attack on Divine law and the natural order."
It was interesting how the above attempted to broaden its appeal by referring to "all people of good will," as if those espousing tolerance, inclusiveness and social justice aren't "people of good will."
The second half of the ad was aimed more at homosexuality in general, reminding readers of the "perennial moral doctrine that homosexual acts are intrinsically evil."
It also called on Catholics in public office to (ab)use their public office to advance the Church's position. "The Catholic lawmaker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favor of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral."
Finally, it rounds off its attack by threatening excommunication, suggesting that "A Catholic who accepts the practice of homosexuality and same-sex 'marriage' as good renounces natural moral law principles confirmed by Divine Revelation and thus breaks the vow of fidelity made to Our Lord Jesus Christ at baptism."
However, the most interesting sentences in the long advertisement were these: "Civil laws are structuring principles of man's life in society, for good or for ill. They play a very important and sometimes decisive role in influencing patterns of thought and behavior."
It's a tacit admission that people can get used to seeing gay persons and gay marriage as perfectly normal, and in the end see the fallacy of their doctrine.
Only the first wave of the campaign
More such public campaigns will come, not only from Catholic organisations, but certainly from evangelical Protestant groups too, as California gets closer to the November elections when voters are likely to be asked to decide on a constitutional amendment to overturn the recent Supreme Court decision.
In California, a simple majority is all that is needed to amend the constitution to define marriage as something between a man and a woman.
A recent opinion poll conducted by the Field Research Corporation indicated that this is likely to be a close-run thing. It found 51% approval among of registered California voters for the idea of same-sex marriage, with 42% disapproving.
When asked whether they favoured changing the California state constitution to define marriage as only one between a man and woman, 54% said they were against doing so. 40% said they were for changing the charter.
The poll was conducted among 1,052 registered voters in California between May 17-26.
Given margins of error, and the likelihood that opinions will shift over the next few months, the November ballot will probably be a crucial watershed. Stay tuned.