Valley roots for man in controversial same sex JC Penney ad

It was an ad that sparked controversy, showing two dads with their children and all part of a JC Penney sales pitch.

But while some are upset over the campaign, others are supporting it.

Action 4 News spoke to one of the men in the ad, Cooper Smith Koch who is also a Rio Grande Valley native.

"A friend of ours who does casting for JC Penney knew that they were looking for families like ours," Smith said.

The public relations executive is putting same sex partnerships and their families along with the Valley, in the national spotlight.

"I always joked that it was actually harder growing up being very tall, very white and very blonde in the Valley than it was being gay in the Valley," Smith said.

He grew up in Elsa, attended Todd Junior High in Donna and spent three years at Donna High School.

"When I was at Donna High School I was very active in student council and band," Smith said.

The McAllen High School Class of 1993 graduate is now living in Dallas but still has family in the Valley.

But its the family he created that got all the attention in the new add from JC Penney.

He is pictured with his partner Todd Koch and their two adoptive children Claire and Mason.

"I think that its such a beautiful loving snap shot of a second of our lives playing and laughing together," Smith said. "Its very genuine."

While he admits he is no model like others you would see in a major retailer catalog, he reluctantly takes the title of role model for gay teens growing up in the Valley, just like he did.

"I think JC Penney is trying to reflect the American experience," Smith said. "Gay people are in this world. People can deny that all they want but there are here and we have families and we care about the exact same things that any other parent cares about."

Critics say JC Penney is marketing to a small percentage of the population at the risk of offending other customers.

"JC Penney needs to go back and focus on selling knit socks and T-shirts and take a neutral position in the culture war," said Bryan Fisher of American Family Association.

Smith has a much different take on the use of his loving family's photo in the advertisement.

"It normalizes us in the minds of everyday Americans and they now know somebody who's gay. Even if they only know me as the JC Penney guy, they know me," Smith said.

His advice to the Valley's gay community, "It gets better," Smith said.

The advertisement can be found on the JC Penney website.

The company also has catalogs with Smith's family picture sent out to homes across the country.