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Good-bye, Equality California, it’s been a good run

A Commentary

Timothy Kincaid

July 26th, 2011

In reviewing an article today about the new direction of a gay political organization, I couldn’t help but think back on a similar decision in our community’s history. Others will, undoubtedly, remember this story differently, but here is what I recall:

In the mid 80′s California’s political gay community came up with the revolutionary notion of coalescing the various factions into a single state-wide representative organization that was the political voice for California’s gay community. Instead of each duplicating the efforts of the other and having no central source of information or progress, various groups would contribute funds, hire a lobbyist, and send a representative to jointly agree on a legislative agenda for that lobbyist to work towards.

The Lobby for Individual Freedom and Equality (LIFE Lobby) sought to set aside partisan differences, regional rivalries, and local power-struggles to work together on presenting, supporting or opposing specific bills. Recognizing that each group brought its own unique contributions, there was a commitment to respect each other and to keep the focus on shared goals: legislation which directly impacted gay people and legislation that directly impacted people with HIV/AIDS.

This was, for a time, an effective model. Utilizing the various connections and approaches of each group but with a shared message and goal, LIFE maximized the potential. Democrats, Republicans, socialists, the ACLU and church groups, people of various races and ideological perspectives came together to achieve a common cause. And the camaraderie which developed was, in many ways, as important to our community as the legislation addressed.

But over time, the lobbyists and leadership developed relationships with others in Sacramento who were similarly engaged and began to see their efforts as symbiotic. As their own personal politics were in agreement with each other, they concluded that they were each but a part of the greater struggle and that they could be more effective working in unison and thus coalition politics became the mindset of LIFE Lobby.

Coalition building can be advantageous. For example, LIFE was itself a coalition of gay interests and HIV/AIDS interests. And while those are two distinct demographics, there was significant overlap and public and political perception linked the two so closely that combining the efforts played off the strengths of both.

But while coalition politics can at times be a smarter, more efficient way to influence change, there are some things to consider:

1. The positive impression that other coalition members have built over time cannot be granted to you but must be earned; however, every negative impression of every other member is immediately yours to defend.

2. Speaking on behalf of a community of voters is only effective if it is on issues about which those voters agree. The lobbyist is not Moses leading his people. His personal views on other matters may not be shared universally among his community and the further he steps away from his direct mission, the fewer actual people he represents.

3. The gay community, in particular, is not homogenous. Drawn from families of every race, economic strata, political affiliation, religious association, ideological belief, and every other dividing quality, gay people are as diverse a community as it is possible to find.

4. No other coalition member cares about your goals as much as they do their own. Unless the level of support you receive is comparable to the amount you are giving, the coalition is not to your advantage.

But, in the thrall of being part of something bigger, LIFE build alliances and made promises and was suddenly functioning not as the gay/AIDS lobby but as a partner in the battle for social change. And there was a desire not to advance the goals of the representatives in the room, which were holding them back, but to change the representatives to be more reflective of the coalition. So new representatives were found and, as their supporting organizations may have been quite small and unable to help fund their participation, the generosity of existing members was needed.

And soon there was a creative new way of defining ‘gay issues’. Because some immigrants were gay, therefor immigration issues were ‘gay issues’. Because some union members were gay, therefor labor issues were ‘gay issues’. Needless to say, this new way of defining ‘gay issues’ did not extend to gay taxpayers, gay home-owners, gay religious adherents, gay fiscal conservatives, or even gay blue-collar Democrat-voting people. Their issues, somehow, did not become ‘gay issues’.

The result was predictable. Eventually the board of representatives had sufficient votes to push aside those who wanted to keep the older focus (which, interestingly enough, was politically diverse) and took a position that was insensitive to the realities of some members.

Faced with an affiliation that would cost them their own political connections, the more conservative members left and sent their own representative to Sacramento. And about then it became apparent whose generosity had been funding the new members which had made the change possible. And although it tottered on for a few more years as a voice for progressiveness, that was the end of the experiment that was LIFE Lobby.

All of which came back to me when I read about the new Executive Director for Equality California and the change in focus which he wishes to bring with him to the organization. (LGBT POV)

Palencia, who officially assumed the job on July 5, advocates a shift in the EQCA’s focus from legislation towards being more of a social justice organization, a move with which the board apparently concurs.

“Every executive director brings their own strengths and approach to the organization,” EQCA Board Co-Chair Clarissa Filgioun told Frontiers via email. “Roland brings a set of experiences that are unique to him and perspective from outside of the political realm. His experience as a person of color and an immigrant will likely inform the organization in a new way. Overall, all of these qualities will be put to work to continue to build on the great work we’ve already done that our members care about—strong legislation, public education, electing fair-minded candidates, marriage equality and more.”

Ron Buckmire, head of the Jordan/Rustin Coalition, agrees. “Roland shares my values as a progressive activist who truly believes that LGBT equality is just one fabulous thread in the intertwined tapestry of social justice,” Buckmire said on July 21. “He’s only been on the job less than three weeks, but I think he’s doing an excellent job so far and I expect that to continue for years.”

It’s ironic. EQCA (then CARE) was born in out of the implosion of LIFE and has served as the gay lobby group in Sacramento since the late 90′s. But with a perspective that LGBT equality is but a thread in a fabric and with significant emphasis placed on Palencia’s ethnicity, it seems pretty clear that to whatever extent that Equality California has served lately as representative of the broader gay community, it no longer does so. And the shift in focus is already evident.

It was gay newsman Rex Wockner who, seeing no movement on EQCA’s part to support the FAIR Act (a pro-gay educational bill) used his own network to rally letters to the Governor. And while some strategists believe that as an effort must be raised to defend this bill (opponents have began signature gathering for a proposition) it might be the the best and most cost efficient time to couple it with an initiative to reverse Proposition 8 – or at least come up with a strategy on the anti-gay effort – Palencia seems to have other priorities.

During the interview, Palencia continually said that no decisions had been made on strategy about both responding to the SB 48 threat, as well as whether or not to return to the ballot to overturn Prop. 8 in 2012.

But Palencia would not get specific about questions such as whether there is a “Decline to Sign” campaign in the works and what an initiative campaign structure would look like.

“We are having conversations with our coalition partners on how to respond,” Palencia said. “We will be coming out with a strategy about the kind of help we will need.”

And Palencia’s vagueness extends to who is involved in EQCA’s decision on the matter or even if any actual gay people are included. (My guess: if you can’t say “yes, there are gay people” then you don’t have any).

But while I think it is fairly evident that EQCA will no longer be a gay organization, I’m not really sure that this is a loss. Under its previous leadership, EQCA used astonishingly poor judgement in its anemic opposition to Proposition 8. So if Palencia decides that reversing the gay marriage ban does not really fit with his social justice agenda, that might be to our advantage.

And, honestly, if my rights need to be blessed as the highest priority of a coalition of progressive heterosexuals before any action is taken, then I’d rather they just sit the effort out. There will always be someone else more deserving of social justice than me and I’d rather work with someone who hasn’t got conflicting priorities.

And perhaps there isn’t as much need for EQCA anymore. It is not the same state that it was in the 90′s and Californians are not the same people. We’ve accomplished a great deal – much of it due to EQCA’s efforts over the years – and each year the legislative battles seem less important and bit more “something for the gays”.

While gays and lesbians in other states are fighting battles over being denied adoption rights, we are getting Harvey Milk Day. And while they are fighting to have any form of recognition of their relationships, our legislation is to require textbooks to teach about the positive contributions of gay people while banning “any matter reflecting adversely on a person due to their sexual orientation.”

I’m sure these bills – along with the nasty rhetoric of those in opposition – fill us with a sense of purpose. But it’s been quite a while since California textbooks reflected adversely on a person due to their sexual orientation and the importance seems a bit, well, contrived.

So maybe its time for EQCA to go serve some other purpose. They had a good long run, accomplished a lot, and (if we forget that unpleasant Proposition 8 issue) can go with their head held high.

But I do have a word of caution for them as they transition away. As the “gay legislative group” EQCA had a niche, an identified role. But the position of ‘progressive Californian political organization that has some interest in gay issues’ is already filled by the Courage Campaign. And I won’t be betting on EQCA.

Comments

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Lucrece
July 27th, 2011 | LINK

It isn’t just a coalition of progressive heterosexuals. There’s plenty of progressive homosexuals if Signorile/JMG and his following is any sign to you.

I’m sure you’ve realized how the progressive movement has tried to co-opt the gay movement, and the effective manner in which partisan hacks have indoctrinated generations of gay people into idolizing a political party and the progressive philosophy over any meaningful accomplishments as opposed to just joining the protest gravy train.

There is no big tent in contemporary gay organizations and groups. It’s all about ideological purity.

Hunter
July 27th, 2011 | LINK

Co-opted again. This reminds me of the ’70s, when the gay rights movement was absorbed into the New Left so that our struggle became everyone’s struggle and we got pretty much nowhere — or would have, if it hadn’t been for groups like ACT-Up, which remained focused on gay causes.

Perhaps that’s why I have a deep distrust of the “politically correct” left and those who use alphabet soup to describe us: we’re not about ideology, we’re about civil rights.

TampaZeke
July 27th, 2011 | LINK

For the most part I agree with this commentary although I don’t know how likely it will be to develop or sustain a gay coalition that includes the GOProud wing of “gay taxpayers, gay home-owners, gay religious adherents, gay fiscal conservatives” or how effective such a coalition would be since there would be more infighting than fighting for gay civil and social justice.

TampaZeke
July 27th, 2011 | LINK

…or the extreme left-wing of the gay community either for that matter.

Neither the extreme left-wing nor the extreme right-wing of the gay community supports marriage equality. The left because they don’t believe ANYONE should want to, or be allowed to, marry; and the extreme right-wing because it doesn’t pass the purity test of the Republican base and even if they were to believe in it personally they would never let it be known publicly. Chris Barron, who is GAY MARRIED, never talks about it and takes every opportunity to support anti-gay and anti marriage equality politicians and to disparage those fighting for marriage equality.

Matt
July 27th, 2011 | LINK

I’m feeling very effusive after reading this. Thank you for saying what you’ve said here! This phenomenon of mission creep needs to be pointed out more often.

“Needless to say, this new way of defining ‘gay issues’ did not extend to gay taxpayers, gay home-owners, gay religious adherents, gay fiscal conservatives, or even ga yblue-collar Democrat-voting people. Their issues, somehow, did not become ‘gay issues’.”

And I would further point out that these gay folks are the *majority* of gay folks. Not that that means they are better than the progressive or liberal or whatever gays. But this kind of “broadening” and “inclusionary” movement of political organizations always, in real life, means a shrinking down to the most ideologically pure.

EQCA will no doubt be a powerful voice for those who support open borders, abortion rights, affirmative action, anticircumcision laws, divestment from Israel, state-subsidized childcare, taxpayer-funded sex change operations, card check, a more progressive tax code, public funding of political candidates, campaign finance reform, high-speed rail, subsidies for solar power, wind power, and biofuels, a repeal of President Clinton’s welfare reform law, a smaller military, the unionization of federal government employees, the decriminalization of marijuana, speech codes, single-payer healthcare and gay rights*!

(*negotiable)

Matt
July 27th, 2011 | LINK

“Roland shares my values as a progressive activist who truly believes that LGBT equality is just one fabulous thread in the intertwined tapestry of social justice”

I wonder how many gay rights activists at other organizations (HRC, NGLTF, GLAAD, etc.) would essentially agree with this statement? The sense I have is that most of them would wholeheartedly endorse it — maybe they wouldn’t do so in an official press release, but those who work at such orgs would probably mostly all say this is true for themselves.

EQCA is simply being less discreet — more upfront — about a phenomenon that is a major problem in the gay rights movement. Most of the people with the biggest bullhorns and platforms are folks who see gay issues as a single “thread” in a tapestry. I’m not sure how many threads this tapestry is woven out of — hundreds? thousands? — but that tells you a great deal about the individual’s priorities.

Ben In Oakland
July 27th, 2011 | LINK

I stopped supporting EQCA when they made it clear they intended to lose the prop. 8 fight. This just confirms my opinions there.

TomTallis
July 27th, 2011 | LINK

“Roland shares my values as a progressive activist who truly believes that LGBT equality is just one fabulous thread in the intertwined tapestry of social justice”

The word “just” says it all for me, since in this context it is clearly a substitute for “merely.”

Muscat
July 27th, 2011 | LINK

I think coalition politics is most effective when specific interests (such as GLBTQ interests or subsets thereof) are specifically represented by an organization, while that organization formally and informally works with or supports other groups in areas where there are shared interests AND in areas where there is potential for education/ trust/ support building between the groups. So, I agree with the commentary insofar as it criticizes the apparent movement of a GLBTQ-focused organization towards being a “self-contained coalition” organization.

I also think there’s some validity to the criticism that coalition opportunities are, in some organizations, approached with blinders on (although I find it somewhat humorous to suggest that labor issues and interests are all that different from “blue-collar Democrat-voting people”‘s interests). On the other hand, I think there’s a clear logic of coalition between GLBTQ organizations and other minority-group organizations fighting against discrimination and prejudice in a way that simply doesn’t translate to groups such as “taxpayers” or “homeowners” (not to mention that of course progressives and liberals are also taxpayers, homeowners, and sometimes even “religious adherents”).

Shifting focus to most of the comments above, I also have come to the impression over time that the writers for this site tend to position themselves as, and have a certain following of, “centrist” /center-left/ center-right GLBTQs. As such, I find it a bit ironic to see so many people complain of the “co-opting” of gay issues by the “progressive movement” (whatever that is), when clearly it is centrists (although perhaps especially the center-left) that have been most guilty of claiming gay rights issues as their cause but then turning around and doing little about them. See, as Exhibit A, Bill Clinton and, arguably, Barack Obama – neither of whom could be described as “extreme left-wing” or situated in the core of the “progressive movement.”

I’d also like to know what left-wing spokesperson (or, better yet, government representative) has been arguing that people shouldn’t be allowed to marry or has opposed marriage equality. This sort of false equivalence between the left and right is discrediting to centrist arguments.

Priya Lynn
July 27th, 2011 | LINK

Muscat said “I’d also like to know what left-wing spokesperson (or, better yet, government representative) has been arguing that people shouldn’t be allowed to marry or has opposed marriage equality. This sort of false equivalence between the left and right is discrediting to centrist arguments.”.

Now that you mention it I don’t recall any such statements from people on the (far) left either. I’ve heard some say marriage is a crappy institution LGBTs shouldn’t want, but I don’t remember any wanting to prevent those who do want it from achieving it.

Timothy Kincaid
July 27th, 2011 | LINK

Zeke,

I agree that neither GOProud or Bash Back would fit in such a coalition. But LIFE was for quite a while a very politically diverse and yet it worked. And something similar – though on a much smaller scale and for one specific purpose – was the coalition created to advance marriage in New York.

andrewdb
July 27th, 2011 | LINK

Amen, Brother Timothy.

As for someone on the left opposing marriage equality, I am still awaiting the President to evolve.

Priya Lynn
July 27th, 2011 | LINK

Andrew, I was thinking of LGBT people on the left who oppose marriage equality – I’m not aware of any.

Muscat
July 27th, 2011 | LINK

@andrewdb – As I mentioned in my comment, the president is not far-left; more to the point (and as an illustration of his non-far-leftness) his opposition to marriage is not based on a leftist argument of “[not believing] ANYONE should want to, or be allowed to, marry” but rather a conservative argument. So he fails as an example.

Timothy Kincaid
July 27th, 2011 | LINK

Muscat,

Would BeyondMarriage be an example?

They don’t come right out and say that they oppose marriage equality, per se, but if you can slog through the intentionally vague and obfuscating language, it becomes clear that they wish to devalue marriage as a unique institution and they organized solely to oppose our efforts to achieve it.

I think that they illustrate Zeke’s statement:

Neither the extreme left-wing nor the extreme right-wing of the gay community supports marriage equality.

Priya Lynn
July 27th, 2011 | LINK

Timothy said “they organized solely to oppose our efforts to achieve it. “.

So you can provide the evidence of that…Oh wait, you admitted you can’t.

Timothy Kincaid
July 27th, 2011 | LINK

Priya Lynn,

You are entitled to your opinion.

Priya Lynn
July 27th, 2011 | LINK

Thanks for the admission that you can’t support your claim.

Timothy Kincaid
July 27th, 2011 | LINK

You are entitled to your opinion about that as well.

Priya Lynn
July 27th, 2011 | LINK

For those who don’t want to wade through it, here are a couple of clips from the link Timothy posted:

“we believe the LGBT movement should reinforce the idea that marriage should be one of many avenues through which households, families, partners, and kinship relationships can gain access to the support of a caring civil society.”

“The Principles at the Heart of Our Vision

We, the undersigned, suggest that strategies rooted in the following principles are urgently needed:

Legal recognition for a wide range of relationships, households, and families, and for the children in all of those households and families, including same-sex marriage, domestic partner benefits, second-parent adoptions, and others…

Now, more than ever, is the time to continue to find new ways of defending all our families, and to fight to make same-sex marriage just one option on a menu of choices that people have about the way they construct their lives.”.

To Timothy such statments demonstrate “they organized solely to oppose our efforts to achieve [same sex marriage]. “ – the exact opposite of what they really do say. Of course when your dogma insists you claim the left is as bad as the right you have no choice but to be dishonest.

Priya Lynn
July 27th, 2011 | LINK

Timothy, you’re entitled to you own opinion, but not your own set of facts.

Timothy Kincaid
July 27th, 2011 | LINK

Priya Lynn,

You are entitled to your own opinion.

Priya Lynn
July 27th, 2011 | LINK

Wow, that was quite the intellectual tour de force Timothy, I concede defeat to your superior intellect.

michael
July 27th, 2011 | LINK

timothy,

Without getting into the specifics of the above argument, it is extremely childish and unconvincing to repeat “you are entitled to your own opinion.” Either engage the argument or don’t.

It’s disappointing as I am a loyal reader and want you to follow your Mission and Principles: “We consider other points of view, and we formulate our arguments with respect to those points of view. We will acknowledge when opposing arguments are valid, and we will point out errors of fact where we find them.”

Loki
July 28th, 2011 | LINK

I think my eyes rolled so fast that they might have rolled right out of my head.

Needless to say, this new way of defining ‘gay issues’ did not extend to gay taxpayers, gay home-owners, gay religious adherents, gay fiscal conservatives, or even gay blue-collar Democrat-voting people.

Amazing how you describe the “redefinition” of gay issues in the twenty years dead LIFE lobby in exactly identical terms to the modern conservative movement’s perceived issues. That’s what this is about, isn’t it? Shilling for the conservative movement? After all… it’s not like our opposition comes entirely from the conservative movement. There’s “Beyond Marriage” which is absolutely the equivalent of, say, the Baptist church.

Reed Boyer
July 28th, 2011 | LINK

Thanks for this. Sharing my comments elsewhere.

Timothy Kincaid
July 28th, 2011 | LINK

michael,

A very long history has illustrated that nothing fruitful comes from engaging Priya Lynn in debate. It simply results in page after page after page of back and forth mostly consisting of a compulsive desire to prove that whoever she’s debating is wrong. It doesn’t matter what about or even if she actually agrees with their overall point, so long as she can find some minutia over which to prove you “wrong”.

Ignoring Priya Lynn isn’t much better. That results in a string of comments full of insults and deliberate mischaracterization of one’s views in an attempt to goad one into a pointless ‘debates’. (See example above)

For me, it also is annoying in that it invariably is loaded with the assertion that by not answering that I have conceded her point (see above) and can lead infrequent readers to the notion that what Priya says that I believe or say or support has some basis in reality. As a writer here, I don’t want people to go away with the perception that I’ve taken a stance that I have not.

The only thing that seems to work is a simple acknowledgement that I’ve seen what she’s written and that I’m not engaging in her war and, so far, “you are entitled to your own opinion” is what I’ve come up with.

And what’s the point in responding, really? To treat her statements as valid?

Look at this one. It is so far off topic as to be laughable. We were discussing whether there were those on both the right and the left who do not support marriage equality.

I provided BeyondMarriage as an example on the left. I think most folks would see it as a good example of folks on the left who would not want to join a coalition to fight for marriage equality.

They open by saying that they want to “move beyond the narrow confines of marriage politics” and clarify that they oppose marriage having preference over other family structures and want to make it just one item on the menu.

That is not the position of those who support marriage equality; we don’t see marriage as being fully equal to domestic partnerships, or we wouldn’t be fighting in court over Proposition 8.

But Priya Lynn got all excited, thinking that she caught me in a misstatement when I said that they organized solely to oppose our community’s efforts to achieve marriage equality. I’m not ever sure what the gotcha is this time. Is it “solely”? Or is it that she thinks “opposing our efforts” can be twisted into “opposing marriage in all cases for all people”? Is it that “to provide a voice for those who think that our resources are better spent elsewhere” would be friendlier wording than “solely to oppose”?

I don’t know. Or care.

What I do know is that I don’t have enough time in my life to waste it on arguing with Priya Lynn.

Timothy Kincaid
July 28th, 2011 | LINK

Loki,

No, BeyondMarriage is not comparable to a Baptist church. But they do share some attributes with GOProud and illustrate that those are the far left and those on the far right are probably not going to support a coalition of those who are on the left, right, and middle.

Muscat
July 28th, 2011 | LINK

Timothy,

I think organizations like BeyondMarriage are probably what TampaZeke had in mind, but I don’t think you can find any support for the argument that they are the equivalent of right-wing opposition to same-sex marriage or that they oppose marriage equality.

As Priya Lynn has already pointed out, the second principle includes legal recognition of same-sex marriages, and in all cases they state same-sex marriage is something to be fought for (though in a context of other relationship options as well). To argue that they oppose marriage equality because they also support other relationship forms seems to me akin to arguing I oppose gay men’s civil rights because I don’t think those rights should be fought for at the expense of lesbian, bisexual, or transgender rights. An argument which I don’t believe holds any weight.

You said, “…they wish to devalue marriage as a unique institution…”
This seems to me a bit of a non sequitur for a couple of reasons. First, the argument you are trying to support is that this organization opposes marriage equality. Marriage equality, as I would understand it, is that marriages should be treated equally (especially in the civil/legal realm) regardless of the genders of the persons involved. How much one values marriage as an institution versus other relationship forms is really beside the point – and in fact people who support same-sex marriage and/or are in a same-sex marriage have a variety of viewpoints about its uniqueness and value. One supports marriage equality if one believes marriages should be equally recognized regardless of gender. I don’t see anything in BeyondMarriage’s statement contrary to the idea of marriage equality, and much that directly supports that idea (and, again, in fact says it should be struggled/ fought for).

Second, and in relation to the first, your statement seems to assume that believing other relationship forms have value and should be supported of necessity devalues marriage, but of course one does not necessarily follow from the other. For example, one can believe marriage is a unique, valuable institution and still believe that access to it should be fought for alongside access to other relationship forms. There is no clear reason why we should consider valuation of relationships to be zero-sum game, nor any indication that BeyondMarriage’s position is to value relationships in a zero-sum fashion.

“…and they organized solely to oppose our efforts to achieve it.” This is clearly not true unless you believe their statements are made in bad faith. If you want to argue they are an example of an organization that opposes marriage equality because you believe their statements of support for same-sex marriage are made in bad faith you need to provide evidence for why we should believe the statements are in bad faith. I have seen nobody produce such evidence.

Priya Lynn
July 28th, 2011 | LINK

Typical Timothy, start off with a long winded adhominem and then accuse me of going off topic when I was referring to a link and point he brought up himself.

He claims Beyond Marriage is an example of a left group that organized solely to oppose LGBT efforts to achieve marriage equality. When I point out from HIS link they made NO SUCH claim and in fact repeatedly stated support for marriage equality he isn’t mature enough to admit the obvious – he’s wrong..

Timothy’s posts on this thread show he is projecting his own bad behavior on me. I originally responded to Tampazeke saying that there are those on the left who oppose marriage equality, Timothy couldn’t let my comment go without feeling a need to show me I’m “wrong”, so he posted his “beyond marriage” link and made the absurd claim that they organized to oppose marriage equality, yet in Timothy’s “reality” somehow I’m guilty of his wrongdoing.

Muscat
July 28th, 2011 | LINK

Priya Lynn,

To be fair, I think Timothy posted the link in response to my post – I don’t think it was about you or proving you wrong.

Priya Lynn
July 28th, 2011 | LINK

Yes, I see that appears to be the case Muscat.

Timothy Kincaid
July 28th, 2011 | LINK

Muscat,

I don’t believe that either Zeke or myself were suggesting that BeyondMarriage was the equivalent of right-wing opposition to same-sex marriage. Rather, we were both speaking of the various ends of our own community and he brought up GOProud as the far-right gay group example.

I think that GOProud is a good example of a far-right organization that would not join our cause. The technically support marriage equality but, like their other gay positions, this is secondary to their other interests.

And BeyondMarriage is very comparable on the other end. Well… kind of.

Let me stop here and correct a misconception that you have. I haven’t said that they “oppose marriage equality.” I was careful to avoid that language. I said that they organized solely to oppose our efforts to achieve it.

LGBT movement strategies must never secure privilege for some while at the same time foreclosing options for many. Our strategies should expand the current terms of debate, not reinforce them.

However, I am now ready to say that BeyondMarriage not only opposed our efforts, but opposed our goal.

I think that you were not well served by looking at Priya Lynn’s out-of-context cut and paste. Because what BeyondMarriage means by “same-sex marriage” and what Evan Wolfson means by “same-sex marriage” are not remotely similar.

I suppose you could say that BeyondMarriage does endorse a form of marriage equality. They believe that same-sex couples and opposite sex couples should have the exact same privileges of marriage – none at all.

And I’m sure that you can agree that this is not the goal of the marriage equality movement.

I encourage you to read the manifesto.
The language is diffusive, but the constant theme is that we should not prioritize changing the gender criteria to marriage.

However, as I read this manifesto more carefully, it became evident to me that their concern is not simply that marriage equality not take strategic precedence over other goals, but that they view gay endeavors to achieve legal marriage (as marriage otherwise exists) to be in conflict with their goal that marriage drastically change to have the same stature and status as grandparent / grandchild, siblings, polygamous relationships, singles and others.

Because our marriage equality quest reinforces the privileged status of marriage, it threatens their vision. To sue to marriage rights in a state that has domestic partnerships makes a statement that marriage has inherent value other than just legal rights. And this is contrary to what they believe.

Theo
July 28th, 2011 | LINK

Excellent piece. However, if we are taking note of irony, I note the irony of Timothy’s unthinking acceptance of the ultimate sham coalition, the mythical hybrid beast called “LGBT”.

This fantasy did not exist before the mid-1990s at which time someone decided that it not only existed, but that it was mandatory to worship at its feet. The gay rights movement, we were told, is not actually about gay rights. No, it’s about being “gender outlaws,” waging war on the “gender binary” and on undermining “heteronormativity” as well a bunch of other trite concepts invented by B-grade “queer studies” academics.

Who decided all this? Probably some of the same people who decided that illegal immigration and support of a Palestinian state are “gay issues”.

Well, whoever or whatever made this decision, instantly, organizations and institutions changed their names to accommodate our new identity, and to erase any evidence that there was a time when it didn’t exist. It was like that scene from 1984, when Oceania suddenly goes to war with its former ally and becomes allies with its former enemy. All the ideological drones go into a mad rush of activity to make banners, newspapers and slogans conform to the political choice du jour. By 2000, gay was LGBT and had always been LGBT.

As with EQCA’s shift, none of this ever gets debated. It is simply decreed and then enforced by hectoring activists who hurl insults at any dissenters. But if this is the sad state of affairs, it is only b/c the gay majority has allowed itself to be conned and intimidated.

Timothy Kincaid
July 28th, 2011 | LINK

Theo,

LGBT isn’t perfect but works in a few ways:

1. Many of the laws that target any one, effect the others.

2. The same folks who hate one hate them all.

3. Our enemies deliberately confuse the groups so as to stir up animus. And if my rights are being restricted because my enemies already say that because i’m gay that i’m “a man in a dress”, then it certainly is no extra burden to include transgender people in my coalition. And they assume a transgender people are engaging in homoseeeexual sooooodomy, so we are fighting the same battle.

4. Our physical community, our safe places, provide to all of us. So even without the political battles, we are natural allies. And, honestly, while there are some gay poeple or bi people or trans people who don’t actively support the rights of the other, when it comes down to it, very very few oppose those rights. So our reps and lobbyists aren’t working agaiinst the goals of any big portion of the community.

Muscat
July 29th, 2011 | LINK

Timothy,

You said: “I said that they organized solely to oppose our efforts to achieve it.”
I think I see the distinction you are making. The signatories of the Beyond Marriage statement would clearly prefer a more inclusive strategy for securing and maintaining recognition of relationships (including marriage) than those who are focused only on securing and maintaining recognition of marriage. This means that there are some disagreements, for example, about the place of domestic partnerships. So, in that sense, yes, they oppose tactics that don’t take their preferred strategy into account.

I suppose in analogy we could look at the case of those who advocated for an inclusive ENDA including gender presentation and identity, and say they opposed the efforts of those who sought passage of an ENDA that only included sexual orientation. However, whatever side one comes down on this particular strand of dilemma, I think it would be somewhat imprecise or ungenerous (at best) to say that those advocating for a more inclusive ENDA don’t support sexual orientation non-discrimination or efforts to achieve sexual orientation non-discrimination.

As a more concrete example of why I don’t think “oppose” is perhaps precisely the best word, one of the people who signed the statement and spoke to the media about it immediately afterwards works with a prominent local chapter of COLAGE. They explained that their organization has been actively working toward marriage equality because that is in the interest of the children and youth they work with who live in same-sex couple households because it will provide protections for them in the cases of illness or death of a parent (for example). But they also explained many of the children/youth were involved via extended family, foster care, or guardians and felt those relationships needed to be “protected and respected” and that “all legal institutions [need to be] flexible and protective enough to give children what they need to grow and thrive in this community and society.” From what I have read, this signer does not appear to be atypical – many of the signers appear to be people that have worked individually on marriage equality issues and are a part of organizations that have played prominent roles in work on marriage equality.

If I may, I think another part of the problem here is I don’t believe your point here is the same as TampaZeke’s original characterization – which is what I especially objected to. I don’t expect you to defend his point, but I do want to be clear what my objection was/is. TampaZeke said, “The left [doesn't support marriage equality] because they don’t believe ANYONE should want to, or be allowed to, marry.” I don’t think there is anything in the Beyond Marriage statement to suggest it fits this characterization. So, in that respect, it fails as an example using TampaZeke’s criteria.

You said: “I suppose you could say that BeyondMarriage does endorse a form of marriage equality. They believe that same-sex couples and opposite sex couples should have the exact same privileges of marriage – none at all.

And I’m sure that you can agree that this is not the goal of the marriage equality movement.”

Well, yes and no. Beyond Marriage does say marital relationships shouldn’t be privileged legally and economically above all others (but maybe some/most others?). However, it also states that marriage may carry deep personal and spiritual (and presumably social) significance. I’m not sure this makes them necessarily distinct from the marriage equality movement. Pursing the practical goal of obtaining equal access to marriage given current politicosocial realities is compatible with a wide range of beliefs about what privileges or relationship with the state marital relationships “should” carry – and I see a wide range of sentiments in this regard among those actively fighting for marriage equality.

You said: “The language is diffusive, but the constant theme is that we should not prioritize changing the gender criteria to marriage.”
I suppose it is a matter of interpretation. I think you can make a strong argument the statement is saying same-sex marriage shouldn’t be “the” top priority. But beyond that, I get the sense marriage is considered at least “a” top priority, given that it is paired with the idea it is urgent and needs to be fought for. What it says is that it should not be dealt with as a stand-alone issue but rather should be considered in the context of, for example, relationship recognition issues more generally. But I think we are now at least one step removed from the original issue, since I don’t think this rules out coalition work on marriage equality.

You said: “To sue to marriage rights in a state that has domestic partnerships makes a statement that marriage has inherent value other than just legal rights. And this is contrary to what they believe.”
It might be contrary to what some of the individual signers believe, but the statement itself actually acknowledges the belief that marriage has inherent value other than legal rights (as mentioned above).

Priya Lynn
July 29th, 2011 | LINK

Timothy said “I don’t believe that either Zeke or myself were suggesting that BeyondMarriage was the equivalent of right-wing opposition to same-sex marriage.”.

Speak for youself, not Zeke.

Zeke said “Neither the extreme left-wing nor the extreme right-wing of the gay community supports marriage equality. The left because they don’t believe ANYONE should want to, or be allowed to, marry;”.

You then agreed with him saying “I think that they illustrate Zeke’s statement:

Neither the extreme left-wing nor the extreme right-wing of the gay community supports marriage equality.

” while skipping his immediately following statement that the left doesn’t believe anyone should be allowed to marry.

Timothy said ” I haven’t said that they “oppose marriage equality.” I was careful to avoid that language. I said that they organized solely to oppose our efforts to achieve it.”.

A distinction without a difference. If they’ve organized solely to oppose our efforts to achieve marriage equality you should have no problem showing some examples of them doing just that – let’s see them or admit you were wrong about that.

Timothy quotes “Beyond Marriage” saying

LGBT movement strategies must never secure privilege for some while at the same time foreclosing options for many. Our strategies should expand the current terms of debate, not reinforce them.

and then
suggests that proves they oppose marriage equality. That’s utterly absurd.

If I say I oppose heterosexuals securing marriage privilege for themselves while at the same time foreclosing opportunities for gays it in no way means I oppose marriage for heterosexuals. Just because you oppose group A being given a higher priority than Groups B and C doesn’t mean you oppose equality for group A. This is Timoty’s whole argument to support his false claim that “Beyond Marriage” opposes same sex marriage and it is obviously a logical fallacy.

Timothy said “I think that you were not well served by looking at Priya Lynn’s out-of-context cut and paste.”.

Yes, you’d like people to ignore what they did say and focus on what you only imagined they are saying – no rational person is going to do that.

Timothy said “Because what BeyondMarriage means by “same-sex marriage” and what Evan Wolfson means by “same-sex marriage” are not remotely similar.”.

You’ve presented no evidence of that. Given the things you’ve read into “beyond Marriage” that aren’t there I can only assume you’re making this up as well.

Timothy said “I suppose you could say that BeyondMarriage does endorse a form of marriage equality. They believe that same-sex couples and opposite sex couples should have the exact same privileges of marriage – none at all.”.

Once again, they never said any such thing – you imagined it. What they are seeking is to give other relationship types recognition and privileges but to some people if another group gets what they have by some magic what they have becomes worthless.

Timothy said “However, as I read this manifesto more carefully, it became evident to me that their concern is not simply that marriage equality not take strategic precedence over other goals, but that they view gay endeavors to achieve legal marriage (as marriage otherwise exists) to be in conflict with their goal that marriage drastically change to have the same stature and status as grandparent / grandchild, siblings, polygamous relationships, singles and others.”.

You’ve presented no evidence of that, just because you desire to believe something doesn’t make it true. Just because one seeks to give groups B and C the same privileges as Group A doesn’t in any way mean Group A having privileges is in conflict with getting privileges for the other two. Your entire argument is based on an obvious logical fallacy and your reading of things into “Beyond Marriage” that don’t exist, and ignoring the repeated statments of support for same sex marriage.

Timothy said “To sue to marriage rights in a state that has domestic partnerships makes a statement that marriage has inherent value other than just legal rights. And this is contrary to what they believe.”.

Once again, they’ve never stated any such belief, they’ve said the exact opposite of what you claim:

“we honor those for whom marriage is the most meaningful personal ­– for some, also a deeply spiritual – choice”

Timothy said “Because our marriage equality quest reinforces the privileged status of marriage, it threatens their vision.”.

Once again, wanting gays to have the same recognition and privileges as heterosexual marriage does not in any way mean I oppose the goal of heterosexual marriage. You’re making the same arguent the anti-gays make: If we recognize and give privilege to marriages other than heteorsexuals that is an attack on marriage. They are no more correct about this than you are.

Timothy Kincaid
July 29th, 2011 | LINK

Muscat,

You read the same document that I read and came up with a slightly different take – which is fine. And though I see “instead” where you see “also but not priority”, we are not that far apart.

At this point I think that our disagreement, to the extent that it is one, seems to be a dispute over degrees.

I think that we both know that there exist people within our community on the far-left who oppose the patriarchal institution of marriage as a tool of oppression which historically has been used to sanction men owning women. But you are right that we can’t broadly assign that belief to every signatory of the manifesto.

And we can quibble over whether “oppose” is the right word, but I think we can agree that in general BeyondMarriage did not support the marriage efforts by Evan Wolfson and Mary Bonaulto, etc., and argued for a different approach.

And I’m sure we agree that some of the signatories do individually fit Zeke’s comment, even if we don’t agree about whether the collective fits each detail.

So since I think that we agree in principle, lets not engage in a cut-and-paste war that looks for dispute where there is otherwise harmony.

Fair enough?

Timothy Kincaid
July 29th, 2011 | LINK

Priya Lynn,

You are, as always, welcome to your own opinion.

MPetrelis
July 29th, 2011 | LINK

hey tim,

good piece over all, could have done without all the CAPE/LIFE history, but you say much that needs to be raised about new crappy developments with EQCA. you might be interested in a piece i wrote this week, pointing out some depressing key similarities with how EQCA/mark leno/a-gays reacted to a nascent ballot prop in 2008 that turned into prop 8, and how they are reacting today to a potential repeal of SB 48:

http://mpetrelis.blogspot.com/2011/07/eqca-leno-use-no-on-8-playbook-for-2012.html

i too have questioned the importance of SB 48, in the context of how EQCA/mark leno pushed harvey milk day as an effort to have schools instruct about him and his legacy, only to see the day turned into another fundraising function for EQCA.

wanna laugh? ask EQCA what it does to deliver on their promises that they would work with schools to have harvey milk day lessons taught in CA public schools.

did we really need this day just so EQCA could hold an elite money-maker in bel air?

http://mpetrelis.blogspot.com/2011/04/eqca-harvey-milk-dayla-equals-private.html

Timothy Kincaid
July 29th, 2011 | LINK

Thanks Michael. And sadly, I think your comparison is on target.

However, I don’t agree that Karen has failed to question EQCA or that she’s blaming the community. Her coverage of EQCA’s new leadership is anything but glowing. And though she doesn’t bring up town hall meetings specifically, it would appear that she shares many of the same concerns about secretiveness, mobilization, and just what the hell Palencia is babbling about community involvement.

And I’m not sure just how much more sarcastic she could be than “He had to go to another appointment before he could answer the question about whether any gays were among those being interviewed for the position—a point strongly underscored by people critical of the No on Prop. 8 campaign.”

MPetrelis
July 30th, 2011 | LINK

and after having a much-needed nap, i really agree with and appreciated even more your labeling the mark leno gay education bill a contrivance.

my new post is about how EQCA uses resources this week to mark the death of a straight labor ally, and said nothing about issues directly impacting gay californians:

http://mpetrelis.blogspot.com/2011/07/eqca-notes-straight-labor-leaders-death.html

Muscat
July 30th, 2011 | LINK

Timothy,

I don’t think we are so very far apart regarding interpretation of the document, but as I suggested in my previous note I’m not sure how much any of this has to do with my original objections.

On the one hand we have on the far-right the leader of an organization who, by Zeke’s characterization, never talks about same-sex marriage, supports anti-gay and anti-marriage politicians, and disparages those fighting for marriage equality. On the other hand apparently the best representation of a far left example that doesn’t “support marriage equality” that has been come up with is a group that does talk about same-sex marriage in positive terms, does not to my knowledge ever support anti-gay or anti-marriage politicians, and to my knowledge has not disparaged those fighting for marriage equality. When these two groups are characterized as consisting of equal opposites to me that says there’s something wrong with the calculus. And such mischaracterizations have real effects (on both the marriage movement and the GLBTQ rights movement as a whole) – which on the whole I would say are more destructive than constructive. If you agree that that’s fair to say, then yes, we are in harmony more than disagreement.

Theo
July 30th, 2011 | LINK

@Timothy:

You are one of the sharpest and most independent-minded bloggers out there, so I really hope that at some quiet moment you will sit down and really give some critical thought to the logical underpinnings of “LGBT.”

You accurately summarized the primary justification for LGBT: “Our enemies deliberately confuse the groups so as to stir up animus.” Assuming this is true, how is it logical – or even sane – to conclude that the appropriate response is to foster the confusion, to formally define gays and lesbians as being part of a singular community with cross-dressers and transsexuals (and, taking the broadest definition of “T”, everyone else who is in at war with the “gender binary”)? At various times in recent history, the enemies of gay people have confused or conflated us with psychopaths, narcissists, the hormonally imbalanced, adulterers, fornicators, sadomasochists, communists, Nazis, and pedophiles, to name just a few. When the anti-gay side makes false statements about gay people – whether out of a deliberate intent to confuse or out of a genuine misunderstanding about homosexuality – the proper response is to correct and educate, not to adopt the lie and define ourselves by it.

I agree with your other points about our having some common interests on specific issues. And I don’t think that anyone would have any problem allying ourselves with Ts on those issues, just as it would be a non-issue if EQCA or the former LIFE had formed alliances with other interest groups on specific issues or bills before the CA legislature.

But it is an entirely different beast to create a new fictitious identity, to insist that gay organizations become “LGBT” organizations and that gays and lesbians become “LGBT people” and to chart a course that makes “gender identity” issues equal to or more important than gay civil rights. It is wrong that millions of gays, lesbians and bisexuals in most of the US will have to go without civil rights protection in employment for years to come because their “LGBT” leaders told Congress that unless federal legislation addressed the issue of transsexual bathroom choice, we would rather have nothing at all.

And to take it outside of the political arena, it is also wrong to tell gay kids, who are attempting to understand who they are and what their place is in this world, that they have some ontological connection to transsexuality or hermphroditism, or that they are destined to spend their lives in conflict with their gender. I think they have enough to deal with; they don’t need their own community spreading misinformation that would be worthy of a George Rekers academic paper. It is equally wrong to suggest, as LGBT does, that trans women trans men are not “really” bona fide members of the gender with which they identify, but in some sense are just very feminine gays and very masculine lesbians.

IMHO, when you give real scrutiny to the justifications for this concept, it just doesn’t hold up – logically, morally, or politically.

Timothy Kincaid
August 1st, 2011 | LINK

Muscat,

Let’s get back to the topic and to what Zeke said. His contention was “I don’t know how likely it will be to develop or sustain a gay coalition” and as an illustration of his doubts,

Neither the extreme left-wing nor the extreme right-wing of the gay community supports marriage equality.

Towards that question, it is irrelevant whether the far right gays and the far left gays are “equal” in some moral equivalency calculus. We are not talking relative worth. Rather, they are simply illustrations of how the two extremes cannot work cohesively with less extreme community groups.

Timothy Kincaid
August 1st, 2011 | LINK

Theo,

Your opposition appears to be based not on shared political efforts but on personal animus towards transgender persons and your objection to being seen in the same category. I don’t share your objection so your argument isn’t effective in shifting my perspective.

b
August 1st, 2011 | LINK

Theo,

I think some of what you said in terms of civil rights organizations being “LGBT” as opposed to “gay” borders on being offensively reductionist to those who are transgendered. Since when has protection from orientation-based employment discrimination ever been derailed by something so wholly singular as a failure to include, in your words, “transsexual bathroom choice”? And what gives with repeatedly using the word “transsexual” in your discussion about “LGBT” rights versus “gay” rights? I get the impression from your words that somehow lesbians and gays’ fight for equality (FYI what about bisexuals?) just gets compromised as a result of also fighting against discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Well I for one am not down with this implication, IF IN FACT THERE IS ONE MIND YOU, that for example I as a gay man have had my rights not come to fruition because of certain sexual minority interest groups working to include gender minorites as well. TO ME, IN MY OPINION you make it sound as though sexual orientation discrimination would be closer to ended if it weren’t for those “transsexuals” and their trivial quibbling over their myriad number of demands and personal gender definitions that keep getting gays and lesbians’ rights lost and awash in a sea of Shortbus/HedwigandtheAngryInch-esque genderqueer solidarity. I for one think that fighting for gender identity protections IN ADDITION TO sexual orientation protections HARDLY amounts to gays and lesbians getting screwed as a cost of sticking up for our transgendered fellow human beings as well as for ourselves.

Désirée
August 3rd, 2011 | LINK

oh look, a gay man who wants to throw trans people under the bus… how quaint. “I’ve got mine… now you freaks, go away and quit ruining it for the rest of us” Isn’t that what you really mean Theo? Yeah… thought so.

MPetrelis
August 4th, 2011 | LINK

hi tim,

i want to bring this seth hemmelgarn story in the latest BAR to your attention: http://ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=5911 . it’s about roland palencia and his plans for EQCA and CA gays.

was very disappointed you and this essay of yours were not cited. there are no voices critical of roland and his first month on the job. the two folks who are quoted about his short tenure, mark leno and kate kendell, are hardly independent observers of EQCA. both have long and deep ties to the group, so they can be expected to only say the most glowing things about it.

voices unhappy with roland and EQCA? the BAR couldn’t find any.

something that pissed me off was this:

> “We represent all LGBT Californians, whether they donate to us or not,” Palencia said during an interview with the Bay Area Reporter. “I talk to everyone that wants to talk to me.” <

no, EQCA does not represent me and my BF, and a good number of other gays in SF. also, i have requested numerous times that roland hold public talks in SF, and he has not yet done so and EQCA has made no plans about any public meetings in SF.

i don't know which is worse. the arrogance and aloofness of EQCA, or the BAR not quoting any critics of the group.

Timothy Kincaid
August 4th, 2011 | LINK

Michael,

Thanks. What I learned from that puff piece is that Palencia is not yet sure what to do about Prop 8, if there “any gaps of inequality” that address the gay community, or how to get input from living breathing gay people, but he is sure that we need to focus on issues such as health care disparities and address systemic issues of racial justice.

Oh, and that LGBT issues are not in isolation, so EQCA will belong to every community.

While is is glowing and free of criticism, I doubt that BAR did EQCA any favors by what they did say.

MPetrelis
October 4th, 2011 | LINK

hey timothy,

i performed more accountability work with EQCA yesterday, when i tried to find out what became of their promise to get back to the community about repealing prop 8 in 2012 at the ballot box. you won’t be shocked to learn EQCA failed to keep its promise to report back to the community in september. check this out:
http://mpetrelis.blogspot.com/2011/10/eqcas-decision-on-2012-prop-8-repeal.html .

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