CA Gay Groups Advise Waiting, Waiting
This commentary is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect that of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin
July 14th, 2009
Those gay organizations that led the disastrously ineffective campaign against Proposition 8 are sharing their wisdom again. According to the LA Times,
“Going back to the ballot . . . in 2010 would be rushed and risky,” read a joint statement issued Monday by three gay-rights groups and signed by more than two dozen other groups and individuals. “We should proceed with a costly, demanding, and high-stakes electoral campaign of this sort only when we are confident we can win.”
Personally, I suspect some organizations have ulterior motives behind their opposition to moving forward.
Take, for example, the LA Gay and Lesbian Center. This organization is primarily a health organization – with a few other worthwhile programs. I have long pointed out that this organization is far removed from gay men and women in the community and no longer provides any services to gay men and women other than those narrowly defined by their state-funded programs (they dropped the word “Community” from their name years ago).
Yet Lorri Jean, the LA Gay and Lesbian Center’s Executive Director, was one of the small number of individuals calling the shots during the campaign. Lorri was so concerned about Prop 8 and took her job so seriously that she decided to take a month long vacation in Alaska. In July 2008. Three months before election day.
But the Center has an opinion is back with an opinion about the next election date, and it takes little to see their motivation for delay.
Jim Key, spokesman for the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, also worried that a 2010 political campaign might tap the same donors that service organizations rely on to fund HIV care, services for homeless youths and other programs at a time when, because of the economy, those programs are needed the most.
In other words, your fight for equality cuts into donations for our programs. And so you should wait.
Another group counseling waiting is Equality California, another prime player in the 2008 losing game.
“We initially said we believe 2010 was the right time to go back to the ballot,” said Marc Solomon, marriage director for Equality California, one of the state’s biggest gay-rights groups. But he added: “We’ve also made it very clear we will only move forward if we have a clear road map to victory. . . . The last thing we want to do is go back to the ballot and lose.”
He said his group has sought advice from political consultants and polling experts and would present it publicly later this month.
This is the same group that kept quiet about their “inside polls” that showed the campaign behind and instead let gay folks – who might have walked precincts and held house parties and talked to their church – believe that we were ahead and their efforts weren’t needed.
We don’t have to wait for next month to know what they will say. EQCA will give us a slicing and dicing of the demographics of voters who vote in gubernatorial elections and tell us that there is a tiny advantage to avoiding the older voters now in order to chance it with higher black turnout in 2012. And in 2012 we’ll hear that 2014 is really, really even better.
I think that all of these organizations miss the big picture. Because they are all motivated by fear.
They fear a decrease in donations. They fear a repeat of the loss of position they felt after Prop 8. They fear losing by a bigger margin. They fear that they may upset the establishment or the connections or the money guys or the Party or any of a number of others who can give them goodies, enhance their image and influence, and prop up their resumes.
I fear too, but my fears are different.
I fear that we are fighting a battle of retreats. I fear that we capitulate, give up territory, and let our enemies define the frontier.
We are accepting the declarations of our enemies that the battle is over. We are conceding defeat.
In every instance in which a state has passed a discriminatory amendment to deny gay couples equality under the law we have stood back, said, “oh well”, and waited for the next battle. What we should have done is collected the signature to reverse that vote, put it back on the ballot, and fought in every state in the nation.
I’m not saying that we should have committed huge sums or that we should have exhausted our resources, but we should have made the citizens of those states face this question for the rest of their long-lasting lives until they tired of their own bigotry and – faced with scorn from their children – reversed their position and removed discrimination from their constitution.
Had we been battling in other states, I believe that the tide would have already turned. And Proposition 8 would never have happened. They would never have dared attack us in California. And faced with the prospect of voting until equality wins, Californians would have voted for an end to the war.
We should go back to the ballot in 2010. And should we fail, go in 2012. And if that doesn’t work, we’re back in 2014.
We need not put $40 million on the line. We need only push Gay, Inc. out of the way and run a grass roots campaign that ignores the “political consultants and polling experts” and speaks to our neighbors and our churches and our communities. We build coalitions that include churches and civil rights fighters and ethic interest groups and Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian activists and Susan who picked up a flyer at her yoga session and Gilbert who saw a table in front of a bar on Saturday night.
Screw the pointless tepid advertising. Away with the carefully crafted (and stupid and offensive) scripts for volunteers to follow when calling specifically filtered phone lists. Be gone with centralized “messaging” and selected media access. Done with the elimination of anything that will remind the voter that we are actually talking about real living breathing gay people. And enough with the pussy-footing around about who is funding the anti-gay efforts and their motivations.
Our cause is right. Our cause is just. Our cause is moral.
And the battle is in our own states, cities, and communities. We aren’t going away. Our need for equality isn’t diminishing. So why have we let our “leaders” convince us that the battle is over in Oregon or Arizona or Colorado or Wisconsin? The question is not whether we should be putting this back on the ballot in California in 2010, but why we aren’t putting it back on the ballot in every state in which discrimination has been enacted.