Freedom to Marry taps Fenton to expand PR

NEW YORK: Freedom to Marry has hired Fenton Communications to expand its media and public relations activities. The group, which seeks to win the right for same-sex couples to marry, tries to establish national cooperation among organizations interested in the subject, such as the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and People for the American Way.

NEW YORK: Freedom to Marry has hired Fenton Communications to expand its media and public relations activities. The group, which seeks to win the right for same-sex couples to marry, tries to establish national cooperation among organizations interested in the subject, such as the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and People for the American Way.

Fenton Communications will handle communications strategy, media relations, and PR projects for Freedom to Marry.

Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, which he established in January 2003, said he picked Fenton because of its national reach (it has offices in New York, Washington, DC, and San Francisco) and experience in handling this type of issue. "They have people like [media relations director] Cathy Renna and [account director] Robert P?rez with vast knowledge of how to talk about gay families. They know how to present them to the non-gay media."

Renna, who recently joined Fenton after 14 years in media relations at GLAAD (PRWeek, March 1), added that a major goal will be to coordinate rapid response. "There are constantly things breaking," she said. "We have to either respond to negative comments by public figures, or a mayor decides to marry people."

She also said Fenton will simply promote what Freedom to Marry does. "We see it as a national issue [that's] being fought at the local level," she added.

Renna and Wolfson declined to disclose the terms of the contract. Wolfson said he spoke to other firms about the account but declined to name them. "It's fair to say marriage and equality is a very hot question, and we had many people offer to work with us," he said. "We're excited to see so many interested in getting that message out."

Fenton specializes in public interest communications. Its other clients include MoveOn. org, the American Lung Association, the American Medical Association, and the Goldman Environmental Prize.

Same-sex marriage has become a hot-button issue in this election year. In 2003, Canada legalized marriage for lesbian and gay couples, and the Massachusetts high court ruled the denial of marriage licenses unconstitutional. The issue has spread to other forums as several cities have issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples, some say in violation of the law.

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