They began airing this morning:

The genius here—which has been the trademark of Frank Schubert, behind this campaign and others to defeat gay marriage—is making the case that voters can oppose gay marriage without being a bigot. "Referendum 74 is not about equality," it begins. "You can oppose same-sex marriage and not be anti-gay." Gay couples in Washington already have the rights of marriage thanks to domestic-partnership laws, the ad says, while segueing to the lynchpin of their argument: In other states that have legalized same-sex marriage, people who disagreed have faced "lawsuits, fines, and punishment." In a nutshell, the argument goes, gay people won't face discrimination if we reject R-74; straight people will face discrimination if we approve it.*

In making this case succinctly, the ad also gives anti-gay voters a script to defend themselves in awkward conversations, which puts the onus on gay-rights voters in those conversations to unpack—and get sidetracked by—the debunked claim that people will face fines and lawsuits.

It also shoehorns in the arguments that marriage is about procreation and approving R-74 would "redefine" the institution, contributing to a jumble of soundbites. But these are their best messages in one tidy package. And like California and Maine, where Schubert nixed marriage in 2008 and 2009, the opening salvos were also a kitchen-sink of opposition messaging.

You'll notice that this ad is toned down from the "marry a princess" commercial Schubert deployed in California, but the gentle tone is smart, too. This piece was tailored to Washington's electorate and media, which tend to be more wary of abrasive attacks. But I expect Schubert may roll out separate pieces in the next few weeks, breaking out these arguments with a slightly sharper edge.

* The argument that voters will be "punished" for tolerance is horseshit: Lawsuits in other states have arisen from discrimination of gay people, which is illegal for the same reason you can't deny service to black people at the lunch counter. One famous example they're referring to here concerns a Massachusetts lawsuit, in which a couple lost their case attempting to black out any school curriculum that acknowledged existence of gay relationships. But courts found that parents don't get to decide what's acceptable to teach, and those other state's laws—just like R-74—don't require teaching anything. Here's a piece that debunks the argument. If anything, R-74 takes pains to restate constitutional protections that clergy and churches may deny weddings to gay people, the same way they can deny them to people of different faiths.)