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The Daily Agenda for Thursday, June 30

Jim Burroway

June 30th, 2011

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Marriage Ballot Initiative Kick-Off: Portland Maine. Equality Maine and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) are set to announce an initiative to collect 57,000 signatures by next January. The ballot initiative will ask Maine voters whether same-sex marriage should be legal in the state. In 2009, Maine voters rejected marriage equality 53%-47%. LGBT advocates say things will be different this time, citing recent polls saying that Mainers now support marriage equality 53% to 39%, with 7% having no opinion. That last group will undoubtedly pick up an opinion between now and election day, and when you throw in whatever the margin of error happens to be (for most polls, it’s between plus or minus 4-6%) , and that looks uncomfortably close to me.

There are added difficulties. In 2009, Maine’s Question 1 was the only one like it in the country, making LGBT advocates in that state the beneficiaries of donations from across the country. In 2012, Minnesota will also have an anti-gay ballot measure, and North Carolina may be on its way. Meanwhile, it’s not clear whether any LGBT groups campaigning for marriage equality have learned the lessons of past elections. Hard questions about tactics need to be asked — and answered. I asked those questions before, and was blasted for doing so. But I’ll ask them again because one thing is certain: doing the same thing we’ve always done will only get us the same results. All that said, it’s hard to tell anyone not to fight for equality, and so this fight deserves our support along with all the others.

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Cologne, Germany; Helsinki, Finland; London, UK; Los Angeles, CA (Black Pride); Marseilles, France; and Toronto, ON.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Bowers v. Hardwick: 1986. It all started in August, 1982, when Michael Hardwick threw a beer bottle into a trash can outside of an Atlanta gay bar. A police officer cited him for public drinking. When Hardwick failed to arrive for his court date, a warrant was issued for his arrest. Several weeks later — after Hardwick realized his error and paid the ticket – a police officer went to Hardwick’s apparent to serve the arrest warrant. The police officer entered the apartment (accounts differ on how he got in), and discovered Hardwick and a male companion engaged in oral sex, which Georgia defined as “sodomy” under the law. Both men were arrested, but the local district attorney decided not to press charges. Hardwick then sued Georgia attorney general Michael Bowers in federal court seeking to overturn the state’s sodomy law. The ACLU agreed to take the case on Hardwick’s behalf.

A federal judge in Atlanta dismissed the case, siding with the Attorney General. Hardwick appealed to the Eleventh Court of Appeals, which reversed the lower court’s ruling. Bowers then appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled on this date — during pride week — in 1986 that Hardwick’s right to privacy did not extend to private, consensual sexual conduct — at least as far as gay sex was concerned. Justice Byron White, writing for the majority, barely concealed his contempt for gay people. He wrote, ”to claim that a right to engage in such conduct is ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition’ or ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty’ is, at best, facetious.” Chief Justice Warren Berger, in a concurring opinion, piled on: “To hold that the act of homosexual sodomy is somehow protected as a fundamental right would be to cast aside millennia of moral teaching.”

Justice Lewis Powell was considered the deciding vote. It has been reported that he originally voted to strike down the law but changed his mind after a few days. In 1990, after Powell had retired three ears earlier, he told a group law students that he considered his opinion in Bowers was mistake. “I do think it was inconsistent in a general way with Roe. When I had the opportunity to reread the opinions a few months later I thought the dissent had the better of the arguments.” His mistake would remain the law of the land for another seventeen years, until Bowers itself was held to be “not correct” in Lawrence v. Texas.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. PLEASE, don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

Comments

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Ben In Oakland
June 30th, 2011 | LINK

“it’s not clear whether any LGBT groups campaigning for marriage equality have learned the lessons of past elections. Hard questions about tactics need to be asked — and answered. I asked those questions before, and was blasted for doing so. But I’ll ask them again because one thing is certain: doing the same thing we’ve always done will only get us the same results.”

This is why I will no longer support these things until I see what they are doing. If they are going to run these closet campaigns where they don’t address issues of bigotry, children, religion, and family, then I have no interest

Priya Lynn
June 30th, 2011 | LINK

“Mainers now support marriage equality 53% to 39%, with 7% having no opinion.”.

I also think this ballot initiative is ill advised. Based on past votes virtually all of the 7% undecided will end up voting against marriage and 3 or 4 percent of the supporters will change to “no’s”.

cbjames
June 30th, 2011 | LINK

I’m a bit disappointed by this post and by the comment above, though they are what I expect.

This issue will never come back on the ballot in California, for just these reasons and because our leaders here in the Golden State are much more concerned with advancing their own careers within the Democratic Party than they are with advancing gay/lesbian rights.

It seems to me that a true movement, a true activist, doesn’t wait around for the right moment or the correct campaign. You have to be willing to fight even when you’re going to lose. You probably have to lose several times before you win.

I’ll be sending whatever money I can to whomever is will to fight. I’m proud of the movement in Maine and embarrassed for the movement in California which will undoubtedly continue to sit and quietly wait for the courts to decide our fates rather than stand up for ourselves and risk defeat.

Priya Lynn
June 30th, 2011 | LINK

Cb, repeated losses at the ballot box will convince people marriage can’t be won and discourage supporters from showing up to the polls while at the same time annoying people on the fence and encouraging them to vote against marriage to punish those who keep bringing up an issue that looks solidly decided.

I do however agree with you that if the fight is undertaken in Maine we should get behind it 100%.

Ben In Oakland
June 30th, 2011 | LINK

Given their prior bad campaign, mirroring as it did the loser campaign against prop. 8, I’ll be happy to writre letters, but no money from me.

Theo
June 30th, 2011 | LINK

I have spent a good deal of time analyzing Maine. I guess some people have World of Warcraft as their obsession and I, at least for a time, had Maine.

I am surprised that Equality Maine decided to go ahead with this. It’s pretty bold. I thought that they were just stoking excitement to boost membership and revenue, which is exactly what EQCA did. (It never had any intention of launching a repeal effort.)

As the result of the Question 1 battle, they have a very large database of Maine voters, which after 18 months is still largely accurate. So they very likely will get their 57,000 signatures.

There is some precedent for their “if at first you don’t succeed, try try again” approach. Gay rights advocates had to go through 3 ballot fights before they finally won their battle for an anti-discrimination law. They lost in 1997 by 53-47, the same margin as Question 1. They tried again in 2000, and lost, but with a closer margin. 51-49 if I am remembering correctly. Finally, in 2005, they won 55-45. Attempt #2 came 3 years after the initial defeat, just as this latest effort on marriage comes 3 years after Question 1. I note all of this not as an endorsement of their decision, but only to provide some historical context that may have driven their decision.

There’s a lot more to say about this. To my knowledge, only one little-read blogger has gotten to the heart of the 2009 defeat; the rest are caught up in arguing over secondary or tertiary issues. (And for the record, No on 1 did NOT mirror No on 8.)

I hope BTB continues to fearlessly offer analysis and criticism, regardless of those who demand cheer-leading and happy talk. Let them blast you. You guys just keep doing the same quality work you always do.

EOJinDC
July 1st, 2011 | LINK

These comments are riddled with the type of cynicism and Monday morning quarterbacking that demonstrates why our community keeps losing.

It’s so easy to criticize when you’re not the one canvasing door-to-door and organizing events to educate the public in battleground states. If you’re not happy with the decisions being made by others, step up and change them. Start your own groups. Do whatever you need to do to win your equality, but this incessant complaining about the job being done by others is in no way helpful.

Legitimate observations about strategy are important, and BTB should continue to make them. The fact that certain communities are being entirely written off and ceded to NOM is a valid point to raise. Any strategy that doesn’t show LGBT families telling their stories will fail. All the research done by the national LGBT groups has unequivocally said that, if we want to win, we have to show our faces, talk to our neighbors, friends, family and co-workers, and we have to include our stories in general public outreach. If those things are missing from a campaign, it is perfectly reasonable for someone to constructively ask, “Hey! Didn’t you forget something?”

Momma says, “When you point a finger, there are three pointing back at you.” So, everything else aside, what are you as an individual willing to do to remove barriers to your equality? BTB is on the front lines, keeping people informed and giving us the information we need to make our own decisions. Our community seems to be under the mistaken impression that the decision we need to make is either are you going to feel victimized and complain quietly, or are you going to be mad and complain loudly? The choice facing each of us is, as a matter of fact, how are we as individuals going to make a contribution to the fight for our liberty?

The reason groups like NOM can come along and undo court cases that recognize our rights is because we don’t own our freedoms. When you do something to make a contribution, when you make a personal investment (beyond just writing a check or a letter), it is much harder to take something away because we feel like, for example, the right to marry, belongs to us. It is ours, and we will defend the things that are ours vigorously instead of sitting by passively watching others play political ping pong with our rights.

LGBT people were rightfully outraged by the teen suicides last year. We’ve collectively told younger generations of LGBT kids that if they hang on, “It will get better.” That’s a promise I intend to keep. I don’t want to pass on the world I inherited when I came out and force LGBT kids to deal with the same obstacles and barriers (NOTE: I don’t blame the generation before me. They fought valiantly and tirelessly for our right to live, to be out, and to mount a global response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The previous generation did and continues to do their job.)

Now, it’s our turn. Ask yourself. When you are entering your twilight years, what world do you want to live in? If you have an LGBT child or niece or nephew, what world do you want to leave them? If you want it to be better, stop complaining. Read BTB to inform yourself. Get off your rear-end, and get do something.

Cynicism and complaining have never magically turned into social change. To quote Ethel Kennedy, “The arch of justice does not bend on its own; we have to bend it by taking a stand.”

justme
July 1st, 2011 | LINK

cbjames, you are, of course, correct. How anyone can think otherwise is beyond me. If we won’t fight for our own rights, why on Earth should anyone else ever take us seriously?

The good guys were winning on Prop 8 in the Spring of ’08 and then EQCA and other self-designated leaders threw that lead away by the Fall. And then these same “leaders” decided that it wasn’t worth fighting for in ’10 and now again in ’12. Why are they even calling the shots?

And thank you, Jim, for recognizing Michael Hardwick, a true hero for human rights.

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