A controversial billboard that popped up next to a Catholic church in Clearwater, Florida, has some people scratching their heads. The pro-gay message designed to advertise BeautifulPeople.com, a dating web site, is posted right across the street from St. Michael's Catholic Church, causing some to wonder if the move was intentionally made.
Greg Hodge, founder and manager of the web site, created the billboard to promote gay marriage and new versions of his web site which help facilitate same-sex relationships. Despite speculation, he denies that it was strategically placed, calling its close proximity to the church "unintentional."
"We were unaware that the billboard in Florida was opposite St. Michael's Catholic Church or any church for that matter," Hodge told The Christian Post. "However, it would not have factored into our decision of where to post the billboard either way if we had known."
St. Michael's has reportedly -- like most other Catholic churches -- taken a firm stance against gay marriage. The house of worship, according to the Post, distributed voting guides in the past that addressed the issue of same-sex unions. Patch corroborates this report:
The church's most recent bulletin included a Republican primary election guide from the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops. It listed all candidates potentially representing the Diocese of St. Petersburg and where they stood on seven fundamental Catholic issues including defining marriage as "the exclusive union of one man and one woman."
The church declined to comment on the matter and referred reporters to the Diocese of St. Petersburg; the Post did not receive comment from church officials there either.
But the controversy doesn't end there. The billboard that Hodge posted ended up being "censored" after Clear Channel Outdoor, the company that sells ad space, refused the original designs. TampaBay.com explains:
BeautifulPeople.com wanted to advertise its new dating sites for gays and lesbians on a billboard near the intersection of State Road 580 and Belcher Road — not even in Clearwater, but in unincorporated Pinellas.
The advertisement the website wanted to put on the billboard depicted look-a-likes of well-known national politicians of the same gender being married by President Barack Obama.
In one of the advertisements, an Obama look-a-like is presiding over the marriage of the look-a-likes of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and billionaire Donald Trump. In another, Obama is marrying the likenesses of former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and former Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, who are kissing.
The billboard company, Clear Channel Outdoor, rejected the advertisements. So BeautifulPeople.com put up a different ad. It shows just the outlines of the look-a-likes and has the word CENSORED stripped across the images.
Originally, Hodge's company accused the City of Clearwater of censorship, but corrected these allegations once it became public knowledge that it was Clear Channel Outdoor that chose not to showcase the original ads. The company cited legal concerns in making its decision.
Despite these problems, Hodge defends the company's new initiatives supporting same-sex couples (see a BeautifulPeople.com photo album of mock marriages featuring prominent politicians).
"BeautifulPeople.com has launched two exclusively gay versions: beautifulpeoplegay.com and beautifulwomenonly.com," Hodge said of his business. "We want to emulate the same success we have had on beautifulpeople.com on our gay sites."
Hodge went on to reiterate the company's belief that gay couples deserve "the same rights as their fellow citizens." He also said that "it is a basic human right to marry the person you love."
(H/T: The Christian Post)