The advertising regulator has been widely criticised for launching an astonishing investigation into ads which simply support the current law on marriage.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) says it has received ten complaints that ads for the Coalition for Marriage are “offensive”.
View the ad for yourself here.
The ASA claimed that one of the complaints was from the Jewish Gay & Lesbian Group.
But the group says it never submitted a complaint, and that one of its members did so independently. The group has distanced itself from the matter.
Even supporters of gay marriage have scoffed at the ASA for its overreaction.
The National Secular Society, which backs gay marriage, said the ASA’s “bullying tone” should be resisted for the sake of free speech.
The events unfolded last week when the ASA wrote to publishers that carried the pro-marriage ads, demanding an explanation.
It also asked the publishers to keep news of the investigation quiet.
Today, the ASA attempted to backpedal by issuing a statement saying there is no obligation for publishers to respond.
It also says that information provided in confidence by publishers can assist the ASA in assessing whether an ad is likely to cause any offence to readers.
But one publisher, the Christian blogger who goes by the name of Archbishop Cranmer, has said the ASA appears to be lying.
He said: “There is manifestly an intimidating request for ‘robust documentary evidence’, followed by a threat that non-response is ‘considered a breach of The CAP Code’ and may itself be subject to investigation.”
He added: “It is categorically not stated anywhere that he is ‘not compelled to respond’; indeed, there are so many suggestions to the contrary that the ASA appear not merely to be obfuscating with semantics, but lying.”
The campaign group Coalition for Marriage said: “It is a troubling sign of what may happen if marriage is redefined.
“Will the authorities pounce on every utterance in support of traditional marriage?
“Will activists demand punitive action every time someone thoughtlessly uses the deeply offensive, heterosexist phrase ‘husband and wife’?
“Yes, the ASA has lost all sense of perspective. But a loss of perspective is what happens when ordinary people are ignored.
“It breeds a superiority complex that looks down its nose at ‘other people’, and thinks it is acceptable to penalise them for their beliefs.
“So, as long as we’re all confident that public bodies are in touch with ordinary people and keep a good sense of perspective, we needn’t worry.
“But if you are not confident about that, respond to the Government’s consultation and tell them to stop meddling with marriage.”