Fenton, groups aid Marcel-Keyes outreach

ANNAPOLIS, MD: Fenton Communications and two small advocacy groups were the driving force behind the media swarm surrounding the daughter of conservative politician Alan Keyes, who last Monday publicly acknowledged her homosexuality for the first time.

ANNAPOLIS, MD: Fenton Communications and two small advocacy groups were the driving force behind the media swarm surrounding the daughter of conservative politician Alan Keyes, who last Monday publicly acknowledged her homosexuality for the first time.

Dan Furmansky, executive director of the event's organizer, Equality Maryland, had been in talks with Maya Marcel-Keyes for several weeks before the rally and helped prep media for her announcement. He arranged two exclusive pre-interviews with The Washington Post and The Advocate's website, and alerted general media to her presence at the rally five days before.

Marcel-Keyes' sexuality had been the subject of rumors during her father's 2004 congressional campaign, which he eventually lost to now-freshman Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL).

"We worked to connect her to different resources and to make sure the messaging she wanted to get out there was conveyed to the media," Furmansky said.

Equality Maryland has only two full-time employees, so Furmansky, along with some help from the ACLU of Maryland, handled nearly all the media requests. He said the media attention was the largest it had received for any event in its history.

Cathy Renna, director of media relations at Fenton Communications, brought in client The Point Foundation, which provides scholarships to LGBT students, upon learning that Marcel-Keyes had been accepted to Brown, but that her family allegedly was refusing to pay. The Point Foundation will provide housing and financial assistance when Keyes begins college in the fall.

Fenton issued a press release announcing The Point Foundation's contribution, and a Point scholar from American University attended the rally to lend support.

"In addition to that, we've offered to help with media," Renna said, noting that the combined organizations have fielded media interest from outlets as varied as Metro Weekly and Air America. "We tried to provide support to her by triaging all of the press calls coming in."

Furmansky characterized the collaborative approach as characteristic of the gay-rights movement.

"[It] is notoriously under-funded," Furmansky said. "This event is one example of a small staff having to handle lobbying, fundraising, and media requests [while] constantly moving in 25 different directions. It's the same challenge we face every day."

Alan Keyes released a statement on Monday night, saying, "My daughter is an adult, and she is responsible for her own actions. What she chooses to do has nothing to do with my work or political activities."

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