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Gay rights group works around ABC's snub of ad

A gay rights group that wanted to place an anti-discrimination television ad during the Ellen episode where the lead character reveals her homosexuality has been turned down by ABC.

Despite the network rejection, the Human Rights Campaign said most of the local ABC affiliates it asked then agreed to run the commercial.

The ad depicts co-workers expressing surprise that a former colleague has been fired because she is a lesbian. It is designed to build support for a federal law banning job discrimination due to sexual orientation.

ABC's rejection is ironic, given its hopes that the April 30 Ellen episode, which will feature Oprah Winfrey, Laura Dern and k.d. lang, is a big ratings grabber, said David Smith, spokesman for the campaign.

The network has a blanket policy against issue-oriented ads, said Janice Gretemeyer, ABC spokeswoman. "Topics of this nature are better discussed in news programs," she said.

Smith's group went the more expensive route of trying to persuade local affiliates to run the ad. Traditionally on a prime-time show, time is set aside for ads bought through the network and through the local affiliates.

The Human Rights Campaign found that 59 of the 74 stations it asked agreed to run the ad. Seven affiliates turned it down and the rest did not give an answer, Smith said.

Ads were purchased in 29 markets, including Boston, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, Seattle and Bismarck, N.D.

The local ad buy will cost the campaign $175,000, Smith said. A 30-second spot running nationally would have cost the same, he said.