As supporters of California's Proposition 8 ballot initiative picketed last night's San Francisco premiere of Milk, producers of the film fired back at allegations that Focus Features is hiding their spiritual follow-up to Brokeback Mountain because it's too gay to promote during an election season. In a letter to The Hollywood Reporter, Focus chief James Schamus slams the report, citing the film's "most explosively received and appreciated trailer in the history of our company" along with a litany of gay tie-ins.As you'll recall, Steven Zeitchik slammed Focus' marketing approach yesterday, resulting in an angry letter from Schamus, who first cites the film's production schedule as the reason for the delay, and then tries to counter Zeitchik's criticism of the studio's gun-shy approach:

The premiere is timed to the final week before a crucial election, one which includes an anti-gay state proposition much like the one Harvey Milk vanquished 30 years ago. The after-screening gathering will be held at San Francisco's City Hall, and today has been proclaimed "Focus Features Day" by the Mayor – who clearly didn't get The Hollywood Reporter in time to understand our underhanded, apolitical approach to marketing the film. ... But if a journalist is to write about our marketing campaign, might he consider actually talking about…our marketing campaign?

Of course, Schamus doesn't challenge Zeitchik's main contention: that the studio hasn't given Milk the standard Important Oscar Film roll-out of festival premieres and months-in-advance screenings for critics and "tastemakers." But when it comes to courting the audience that propelled its last gay-themed film to unprecedented financial and critical heights? Yes, Focus is more than willing to take their money.