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Critics bring down gay ad

Clear Channel bows to activists

CAMBRIDGE -- Media giant Clear Channel plans today to take down a billboard ad featuring two bare-chested men, wrapped in each other's arms and the American flag, after receiving complaints from local activists opposed to gay rights.

The image, an ad for the San Francisco-based dating and news website, was scheduled to come down tomorrow, but the complaints motivated the company to remove it one day early, said Drew Hoffman, president of Clear Channel Outdoor, a Phoenix-based media company.

''We're very sensitive to the community concerns," he said in a telephone interview from his office in Stoneham.

Spencer Moore, a spokesman for, said the company was not upset the ad is coming down a day early.

Clear Channel received about five complaint calls yesterday, Hoffman said. They were the first protests the company fielded since the billboard went up in early April, he said.

Brian Camenker, director of the Article 8 Alliance, a Waltham-based group working to overturn same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, said people affiliated with his group made the complaints. The activists posted a picture of the ad, along with addresses and phone numbers for regional and national Clear Channel offices, on Article 8's website yesterday, he said.

''You have two men embracing, wrapped in the American flag, advertising a porno website," Camenker said. ''How can you get more offensive than that?"

Moore, of, said the website is not a pornographic site. It offers online dating services, along with editorial and commercial content, he said.

Moore said he had not spoken with Clear Channel representatives yesterday.

''As far as we know, the contract expired," he said. is planning a new fall ad campaign, which will most likely include Boston, and it plans to work with Clear Channel again, he said. could, however, pursue legal action against Clear Channel, if it chose to, said Sarah Wunsch, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. The media company may have violated its contract with the advertiser and interfered with its state civil rights, she said. ''It's pathetic that Clear Channel caved in with a complaint from the Article 8 Alliance. I consider them quite a fringe, on-the-edge kind of group."

In Cambridge yesterday, passersby had mixed opinions on Clear Channel's decision.

''Somebody paid for it," said Ron Stoute, 44, of Newbury, about the billboard. ''They might as well get their money's worth."

Lela McMurray, 19, of Somerville, said the controversy is silly. ''I don't think it's offensive," she said. ''They are just making a big deal out of nothing."

But Mary Miller, 54, of Watertown said she wished the billboard had never been put up. ''It has nothing to do with gayness, but the flag? It's kind of like, can we hold nothing sacred in this country anymore?" she asked.

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