Complete and utter cowardice on display here from the marriage equality advocates among Big Gay Inc. First of all, Respect for Marriage Coalition chose war criminals, and Laura Bush, to demonstrate the broad acceptability of marriage equality in America.

Not a good idea to include war criminals, first of all. No one cares what Colin Powell and Dick Cheney think. They aren’t going to bring the majority of Americans in to the marriage equality mainstream; they are followers, not leaders. And they should be consulting with their war criminal defense attorneys, not being used to illustrate the broad acceptance of marriage equality in America.

But not getting the permission of the people whose images are used in the ad? Priceless.

The former first lady, along with Colin Powell, Dick Cheney and President Obama, was featured in a new commercial from the Respect for Marriage Coalition. The ad was supposed to run for weeks, but Bush asked to be removed, and the group quickly agreed: Instead of editing her out of the 30-second spot, which has aired on CNN and MSNBC, they’ll stop running it altogether after Friday, a coalition spokesperson told us.

Oh, did we tread on the former First Lady’s toes? Oh, pardon us, that must have offended AFER fundraisers like Ken Mehlman. Let’s drop the ad completely and pretend it never happened.

Courage. And while you’re at it, please leave the ad on the Respect for Marriage website, along with the press release announcing it, as if nothing has changed.

The right thing to do would have been to challenge the First Lady’s request to have her image removed: “Oh did you not mean you supported full legal equality and recognition for same-sex couples? Because that’s what it sounded like you said to Larry King. But maybe you could clarify your views for us, please?”

Instead, the entire ad campaign is dropped. Without any explanation, except to The Reliable Source at the Washington Post, as if it’s a gossip-columnist item. This ad was a serious stumble by a coalition of organizations dedicated to making marriage the central LGBT issue of our time: they spent donor money making the ad, and they haven’t accounted for their choice of “leaders” in it, or their decision to end the ad’s run.

If you’re going to pre-empt every other LGBT issue, as marriage has done to fair employment and housing laws, you need to tread carefully and act transparently. Time for some explanations from the Coalition, and its chairs, Freedom to Marry and the Human Rights Campaign.