How to Inspire a Movement

Rob Tisinai

June 27th, 2013

started a movementOur opponents are putting their bravest faces. Thomas Peters, NOM’s Communications Director, works with a group called Catholic Vote and is pushing the slogan, “The Supreme Court has not ended the debate. It has started a movement.”

That’s an odd slogan, practically an admission that they haven’t managed start a movement up to now. It makes them sound like a blustering loser. And what on earth does the antigay camp in general, and NOM in particular, know about starting or even inspiring a movement?

Actually, quite a bit. In fact they’ve already done it, by following these steps.

  • Target a tiny minority in the nation’s wealthiest and most populous state.
  • Shock the minority by stripping away a basic human right, one that affects their daily lives in a thousand ways.
  • Prove to them they cannot protect their liberty through a polite and deferential silence.
  • Force them to fight back by dehumanizing them, declaring their relationships inferior, and their very existence a threat to children.
  • Make sure you’ve chosen a state with an enormous media industry, one that is a beacon to the nation’s aspiring creative class.
  • Make sure you’ve chosen a minority represented heavily in that industry.
  • Tell ridiculous lies about the minority, lies that will outrage their straight coworkers, their friends and family, lies that can’t stand up in court.
  • Finally, then, all that’s left is to inspire this minority with what experts call a SMART goal — something specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

And repealing Prop 8 was one smart goal.

Bingo! You’ve created a movement. You’ve created a whole generation of activists and reignited the passion of generations that came before. I’m a living example. I never got involved in the struggle until the antigay industrial complex inspired me to. You need a rally? I’ll launch a rally. And I already create instructional videos for work — why not do a few for the cause?

So it went. You like parties? I like parties. Let’s turn them fundraisers! Let’s make signs and graphics and blogs. Let’s write lesbians and gays into sitcoms and dramas, making them neither villains nor saints, treating them like real people. Let’s go door-to-door and website-to-website, sharing our stories. Let’s create a message of hope, dignity, optimism, and American idealism. Let’s inspire and teach the rest of the country, and let the rest of the country inspire and teach us.

Let’s go on being true — let’s just do it louder.

Of course, California wasn’t the first state to achieve marriage equality — it wasn’t even among the first ten. The fight didn’t begin in this state and it doesn’t end here. And frankly, California’s first lessons came from its mistakes and were about what not to do — not to be hidden, oblique, abstract. But still: California’s the state where NOM worked the hardest and ended up provoking the biggest response, poking the biggest tiger, releasing the biggest torrent, opening the biggest wallet — whatever metaphor you like.

So ultimately we have to give NOM credit. They do know how to inspire a movement. And as a result, Prop 8 and DOMA have been wiped from our nation.


Ben in Oakland

June 27th, 2013

As a.ways, rob, you knocked it right out of the

Especially this, my own private fury from 2008:

California’s first lessons were about what not to do — not to be hidden, oblique, abstract.

God, if there were one, alone knows how much time and energy I put in battling that bit of stupidity. I finally have up trying to work with campaign, and instead, wrote a column/letter to every singe newspaper in the state published in English.

The Lauderdale

June 27th, 2013

“And as a result, Prop 8 and DOMA have been wiped from our nation.”

DOMA’s still here. 8( But Section 3 was a key part.


June 27th, 2013

Mrs. Peters is still waiting for little Tommy to be inspired to move. They were married in April and still no celebratory tweet from Thomas regarding any pregnancy for his wife. For a person who works for an organization and believes in a religion which want to define marriage by procreation, Mr. Peters is not fulfilling his role.

bill johnson

June 27th, 2013

They are still hoping that their imagined “silent majority” of Americans that opposes gay rights as much as they do is going to wake-up and change things back to the way things are. They refuse to believe polls that show increasingly large majorities supporting marriage equality and even stronger majorities that no longer see homosexuality as morally wrong; instead they live in a fantasy world where most people agree with them but just aren’t engaged but now will engage because “the gays have gone too far this time.”

Jim Hlavac

June 27th, 2013

We should haul all these groups who malign us a “threat to children” into court for slander and libel. It would be fun to see them try to prove it — and our side could use the money we’d win in the defamation suits. Our side has been woefully weak in going after these groups (there are many) which accuse us of being threats to this or that — they are willfully, knowingly spreading falsehoods — there’s tort law you know. Time to go after them.

Richard Rush

June 28th, 2013

I believe there is another movement that the anti-gay religious fanatics have started, or at least accelerated: A movement away from religion (ironically).

There have always been people who have private doubts about religious beliefs, but for most of them it is easy to just “go along to get along,” or in the worst case, go along to survive. But nowadays people are bombarded with daily doses of religion-driven/justified bigotry against people they know and/or themselves, and it dramatizes just how ugly and cruel religion can be. The result, I think, is that many private doubters refuse to remain silent any longer.

Also, there have always been people who accepted religious beliefs without having ever given them much critical thought. They just trust that their families, friends, communities, and thousands of years of history are correct. When they experience up close how ugly and cruel religion can be, I think it motivates many of them to begin asking themselves and others some critical questions about religion.

In my view, rational critical thought can only lead to a movement away from religion, not toward it.

Timothy Kincaid

June 28th, 2013


You make a good point. For many years people who may not have been particularly devout saw religion as a positive influence. It encouraged things like caring for the poor and helping those in need. It taught civility and decency and discouraged recklessness and selfishness.

But today many of the positive social aspects have been shifted to government. Now the state, not the church, cares for the needy and runs programs opposing bullying and anti-social behavior.

And while many churches still focus on being a good citizen and neighbor and or caring for others, the most vocal now spend their time in attack mode, exhibiting arrogance and selfishness.

Consequently, those who are ambivalent about personal faith have few reasons to see the positive aspects of religion and lots of reasons to find it annoying and counter-productive.


June 30th, 2013

This is a good post and it made me think about how the LGB community has come to view this whole issue so differently in the last few years.

Even though this issue came onto the national stage in 1993 and was voted on from 1998 and after, a lot of us just didn’t appreciate how significant it was. I basically thought that the issue had arrived much too soon and I told myself that it didn’t matter if we were losing all of these amendment votes because marriage was something to expect in the late 21st or early 22d century, not now. Why fret over a hopeless cause? I don’t think I was alone. If you look at the amendment battles preceding Prop 8, the vast majority were uncontested. We didn’t even try because we didn’t expect to win. Even when we did make some effort, it was lackluster and we were almost always outspent.

It really wasn’t until Prop 8 that it started to hit home that this was something we could get now and something that we deserved. Now. I am not sure why it took CA to make this happen. Maybe it was the size of the battle or maybe it was the fact that we lost by a few points or maybe it was the fact that Prop 8 was the first and only time that an amendment was terminating an existing right to marry. But whatever it was, it woke me up.

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