Washington’s Ref 74 soon to be a reality

Timothy Kincaid

May 31st, 2012

Those who are gathering signatures for R-74, a referendum on Washington’s November ballot putting that state’s marriage law up to confirmation from the voters, are predicting that they will turn in sufficient ballots to ensure qualification on next Tuesday. They will need 120,577 valid signatures, have about 150,000 from volunteers and project that when paid signatures are added in the total will exceed 200,000.

Three years ago, a sister referendum putting domestic partnership expansions before the voters (Ref 71) had so few surplus signatures that there was a strong suspicion that it would not qualify. After over a week of counting and comparing to voter rolls, there was a margin of only a few thousand valid signatures. This time around, absent a shockingly low validation rate, the referendum is assured to go before voters.

The good news is that a Strategies 360 poll for the Associated Press found strong support for legal marriage among likely voters.

Do you think it should be legal or illegal for gay and lesbian couples to get married?

54% – legal
33% – illegal
4% – depends
8% – “Elvis is living in my basement”

The poll has a margin of error of 4.4% and appears to have valid methodology and does not seem to have any leading questions. While this question does not specifically ask about intent to vote on Referendum 74, it is very encouraging.

Support comes from 87% of Democrats, 52% of Independents, and 22% of Republicans. And a strong majority of support comes from King County and North Puget Sound while West Washington polled at 50% to 37% and East Washington eked out a plurality of 44% to 41%. Age trended predictably with only those over 65 failing to produce a majority (44% to 40%).

The election should have a strong turn-out as while the poll shows support for the reelection of Barack Obama, the gubernatorial race is within the margin of error with Republican Rob McKenna leading. Additionally, questions on the ballot about the legalization of marijuana and college tuition may ensure that younger voters show up at the polls.

NOM may blather on about “31 states” and “the people have always voted no” but we have a very good chance at winning in Washington.


May 31st, 2012

I hope so, I sure hope so. Especially with DOMA being ruled Unconstitutional today. It would truly be a shame to leave all those loving couples in Washington in Civil Unions not recognized by our Federal Government, when they could be recognized as Married, by their State and by our Federal Government. There is even more at state for them I think after today’s ruling.

Ben In Oakland

May 31st, 2012

Personally, i would use the 9th circuit decision in prop. 8 as a way to take it off the ballot.

But then, I would also run the kind of campaign that I’m almost certain they will decline to run– one that actually says why marriage is important, shows real gay people and families, and talks about bigotry.

Oh, well, I can dream.


June 1st, 2012

You mean one like we’re running in Minnesota Ben?

F Young

June 1st, 2012

I agree with Straightgrandmother that “sexual preference” is unacceptable because it misleadingly implies choice. It thus mischaracterizes and trivializes the issue.

Also, it is incorect.

The term used by sexologists and mental health professionals is “sexual orientation.”

It is also the term used by anti-discrimination laws since 1977 at least, and it has been defined by the courts. So, it has become a legal term now.

It is an error for a judge to use a non-legal term to refer to what is now a well-known legal concept.

In my experience, it has been rare (but it does happen) for experienced LGBT activists to use “sexual preference” in the last two decades or so.

I acknowledge that it is used fairly often by supporters and newbie LGBT activists who have not read much on the issue.

F Young

June 1st, 2012

Sorry, the above comment from me was meant for another article.


June 1st, 2012

Technical correction: WA is a vote-by-mail state, so voters don’t “show up at the polls” any longer. The state starts mailing out ballots on Oct 19th, so voters have a several-week window within which to mark their ballot and return it by mail or deposit it into an official drop box. Consequently, unlike in most states, not all of the focus is on election day per se.

Timothy Kincaid

June 1st, 2012

Thanks Laurel. I’d forgotten that.

Priya Lynn

June 1st, 2012

F. Young said “Sorry, the above comment from me was meant for another article.”.

I recognized that and had recalled the comment you were addressing – its all good.

Jay Jonson

June 1st, 2012

Ben In Oakland: I absolutely agree with you, both in terms of the courts and, especially, in terms of the kind of campaign we run. The North Carolina campaign is exactly what we must avoid. They refused to defend same-sex marriage. They were even afraid to feature any gay people in their adds. It was all about the damage Amendment One would dot to heterosexuals.

Ben In Oakland

June 1st, 2012

Jay and Stefan– I’ve written extensively on this whole issue. I made numerous attempts to contact the responsible organizations in maine, NC, and washington, the human rights campaign, the NGLTF, and a whole bunch of other people. I have yet to get a single response or acknowledgement.

When the prop 8 campaign was running here, I made the same efforts with Equality california, Mark Leno, and the no on 8 people. Aftere we lost, I made the same efforts again, and again, no response.

Since i know I’m intelligent, thoughtful, and nowhere near a nutcase, I have no explanation for their failure to see exactly what is in front of their faces. Institutional myopia? Job preservation at the expense of the community? Stupidty? Closet mentality? Fear?

I really have no idea. I only know that I cannot provide any support to these organization if they persist in doing what I know to be wrong. I’m a fundamentalist in a gay-rights sort of a way.

I’m going to put my analysis of what went wrong with the Prop. 8 campaign in a separate posting. I’ve done this before. If Jim or Timothy want to remove it, I certainly understand. If they do, ask them to contact me, and I’ll send it to you directly.

Timothy Kincaid

June 1st, 2012


I think they all suffer from Groupthink. All other activists are certain that you can’t really talk about the real issues and no one wants to step outside the box and be first.

Minnesota seems to be a little bit, but they are using Model Two: reeeeaaaalllly old gay couples. I want to see a campaign with a young gay man of, say, 26 wanting to marry his boyfriend of 3 years.

When they go to the polls to ban gay marriage, that’s what they are thinking about. Not reeeeaaaalllly old couples or even lesbians. They are thinking about gay men and marriage (and when you think of marriage, you think young people).

And we haven’t argued – we haven’t even hinted – that this is okay, much less a good thing.

Ben In Oakland

June 1st, 2012

Matt Foreman has written an extensive analysis of why we lost on Prop. 8. Basically, he claims that we did the best we could, and we could not have done any better. As you will see, I disagree completely. I think we could have done a lot better. I have no doubt that we could have and should have won. And we would have, but for the nature of the campaign– a deeply closeted campaign in mentality, and so afraid of taking the wrong step that it did nothing at all. I believe that we did as well as we did in this election not BECAUSE of this campaign, but DESPITE it.
The justifications that Mr. Foreman has listed may be true. I have no way of knowing, except that these justifications contradict every experience of my 39 years as an out and proud gay man, and they have failed repeatedly in every campaign since 1996. That alone should tell us: let’s maybe try something different. Maybe let’s trust the basic decency and sense of fair play that I think most people in this country, and certainly, most people in California, would exhibit if only they were given the chance. But they weren’t given the chance. We assumed the worst about them, and they had to be protected from seeing us.
Let me also add that I do not know a single out, thoughtful, grounded gay person who thinks that this campaign was anything but a loser from the get-go. I spoke to Mark Leno personally about the need not to repeat this limply liberal, everybody-make-nice approach that completely avoided the reality of gay people’s lives, only to be told that despite its repeated failure for the past 10 years in 40 states, it was going to be tried yet again in this most important contest. He wasn’t interested in what I had to say, and clearly couldn’t wait to get away from me. (For the record, I am neither stupid nor crazy). I tried repeatedly to get someone at No on 8 to listen about the need for a speakers bureau, community outreach, and knowledgeable editorial writers, and was literally told “there’s no demand for it.” I finally gave up, and did what I could on my own.
This response might make sense in the political culture that these various people swim in, but it makes absolutely no sense at all in my world. It is insane to repeat the same tired campaign based upon the same tired political, sociological, and psychological assumptions, expecting to get a different result. And if there is no demand for outreach to the people of the your community, which is by definition the very nature of politics, wouldn’t you think it might be a good idea to CREATE some?
Thankfully, since the election, more and more people are speaking out about the effects of a closeted campaign, and starting a true dialog in our community about our willingness to stand up for who we are, as we are. If we continue to employ political consultants who may have their own issues around shame and fear and homosexuality, and continue the strategies of the past that have yet to work, then I fear that the push for marriage equality is doomed. And despite their rhetoric that they are just fine with domestic partnerships, the anti-gay crowd is clearly not fine with it, and we can probably kiss any progress in that area goodbye as well for another twenty years. I’m too old for that. I have been hearing anti-gay prejudice my whole life– the lies, the hate, the distortions, and worst of all, the hate-disguised-as-love. I’m tired of it. And frankly, I think the country, maybe even the whole world, not just gay people, has paid an enormous price for it, if indeed it led to the disaster known as the Presidency of George Bush.
Though I did a lot of work against 8, ultimately, I chose not to work with the official campaign above a certain minimum. It was very clear to me that this was going to be a campaign conducted from the closet. In fact, I wrote a couple of articles on the subject, which together constitute as clear a picture of what I saw happening as I could produce. This picture was confirmed to me when I took a training and I received the list of words that we were supposed to avoid, including these three: prejudice, religion, and children. I’ll get back to those three words and their absence in this campaign.
I read in the news and online the bases for the state lawsuits against 8. All very well and good, and possibly even valid. But they don’t convince even me– especially the revision vs. amendment part of it, which seems to be the main plank– and so I wasn’t surprised that they didn’t, in the end, convince a judge, especially if his/her job was on the line in a future recall. As with the No on 8 ads, these arguments were obscure and irrelevant. And I really wanted to be convinced. Also, I believe this tack was already tried, and was rejected by the court. Of all possible arguments, this seemed to be the weakest. And the argument failed, as expected.
I’m not a lawyer, but I do have my nearly 60 years of life, and 39 years as an out, proud, and happy gay man to guide me. Very frankly, it seemed to me that these lawsuits were being conducted from the closet as well, and in exactly the same way as the campaign was. Once again, before the Olson-Boies trial, I saw these three words being avoided: children, religion, and prejudice. And the result was exactly the same. During Olson-Boies, it allowed our opponents to say once again, “We don’t hate you. We’re just trying to preserve heterosexual marriage/the family/traditional values,” by which they mean the myth of heterosexual superiority and the realities of heterosexual privilege and prejudice. It will also allow them to continue to claim that somehow, if gay people are protected from discrimination, whether in marriage or the usual employment/housing/accommodations, that their freedom of religion is compromised, by which they mean their freedom to discriminate against gay people on the basis of their religious belief.
The closet is about living a lie. It IS a lie, it is based on lies, and it engenders lies. It distorts, perverts, and debases everything it touches, as the sorry life of Ted Haggard will attest. And like all lies, the bigger it is, the longer it is told, the more damage it ultimately causes. One lie, that the Jews were responsible for Jesus’ death, as told in the Gospel of John and the letters of Paul, ultimately led to centuries of anti-Semitism, the murder of six million Jews, and 250,000 murdered gay people as an afterthought. John was, of course, justifying the Jewish heresy that became Christianity, and was sticking it to the Jewish authorities of the time. The Christians won and the Jews lost. Another lie, that gay people are responsible for child molestation, has impeded so much progress in the battle to protect our children. After all, if you can blame it on the queers, you don’t actually have to look at child molestation and where it actually occurs most often– the family.
As a Jew, I’m weary of losing. As a gay man, I have no use for the closet.
There is only one answer to a lie, and that is the truth. By hiding us, hiding our families, we are complicit in this lie. Jesus said “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” So when do we start telling the truth? Because I, for one, wish to be free.
For 2000 years or more, gay people have been subject to a vicious, virulent, and consistent prejudice, a veritable avalanche of outright falsehoods, made up “facts”, agenda-based “research”, and distortions of religious teaching. We have been imprisoned, slandered, criminalized, degraded, pathologized, and murdered for being different. We have been scapegoated for child molestation, the collapse of empires, and the decline of the family. There are many people who deem it a good thing to make our lives as difficult and unpleasant as possible, often under the guise of “We love you” and “This is for your own good”. That this prejudice exists is beyond all doubt. The bulk of the Yes on 8 campaign was a conglomeration of known lies, distortions, and the-gays-are-gonna-get-your-children fear mongering, all very consistent with the existence of a prejudicial mindset. Prejudice and bigotry are not good bases for either law or public policy, and as we have progressed as a society, we have consistently rejected them.
So why is prejudice apparently not a part of our legal and electoral arguments and strategies? Are we still afraid to call the people prejudiced who have slandered us for two millennia– or for twelve months straight– especially since we know it is true? Whether it is presented as sincere religious belief, or admitted for what it is, it is still prejudice. Why can we not say that absent a compelling, factual, and real reason, our equality before the law cannot be compromised by someone else’s prejudice? I know the argument goes that we win no converts by calling people bigots. As far as I am concerned, if we are willing only to be silent about it, we are consenting to it. We can be polite, but we have to start being truthful. The closet depends on both lies and silence for its power over gay people and its support from heterosexuals. We don’t have to call people bigots. We do have to start talking about bigotry. We are not responsible for how people to react to us. We are only responsible for who we are, and to tell the truth– our truth.
This is what Rosa Parks had to say about the consent of silence: “It’s not that I was fed up (that day). I was fed up all my life, as far back as I can remember, with being treated as less than a free person . . . as long as we continued to comply with these rules and regulations that kept us crushed down as a people, then the power structure would always say: ‘Well, they are not complaining, and they accept this, so they are satisfied with it.’”
I would re-phrase that for gay people. “I have been fed up all my life, as far back as I can remember, with being treated as less than a whole person, as not good enough, not citizen enough, not human enough, to allow me the simple dignity and respect of living my life in peace. Well, actually they will allow that, as long as I don’t demand equality before the law — or respect, or dignity, or to live my life in peace.”
It has been documented over and over again that the Catholics and the Mormons, along with other religious conservatives, were the primary organizers, financiers, movers, and promoters of Yes on 8. In fact, they are proud of it. Their arguments were primarily religion based: it’s against our religion, God ordained that marriage is between a man and a woman, ministers will be jailed, churches will be taxed and/or sued, religious freedom violated. The President of the Mormon church sent out a letter encouraging Mormons to “do what they can”, resulting in millions in out-of-state donations. Pastoral letters from the Catholic Bishops were read in church; Bishops Niedeaur and Mahoney have trumpeted their parts in this, claiming that they are only doing their Catholic duty. Brigham Young university students were encouraged to phone bank. All of this to enforce a certain, conservative religious view about homosexuality, and place a religious view about same-sex marriage onto the civil contract of marriage. The state, by virtue of the First Amendment, is supposed to be neutral in religious matters. By enforcing 8, the state is not being neutral. My marriage is a civil matter, with nothing to do with anyone’s religion but my own. We don’t have to attack people’s religion. But we to have to start talking about religion, freedom of religion, and the difference between religious belief and civil society.
I was grateful that Jerry Brown was not defending Prop. 8 in court, but defending the equal protection provisions of the Constitution of the State of California. But he should also be defending the religious freedom provisions as well. I believe he has the legal ability to do so. But he must choose it. And so should we.
One issue that MUST be addressed under the rubric of equal protection is this pernicious and false belief that Domestic Partnership confers exactly the same rights under California law as marriage. Not only does DP stop at the state line, which marriage does not, it does not confer Federal recognition of the legal relationship, which its host of benefits. There is one other extremely significant difference: No one will ever vote on any heterosexual’s right to marry as often and badly as they wish, provided they are legally eligible. But, if they can vote to “disappear” my marriage, then they can vote to “disappear” my domestic partnership as well. And they would have done so if they thought they could have gotten away with it. Let us not forget that there was another petition being circulated by Randy Thomason which would have done exactly that.
Moreover, ask just about anyone, and they would be hard put to say just what domestic partnership entails; its qualifications, its rights, benefits, and responsibilities would be unknown. A homophobic nurse would have no problem keeping one’s domestic partner out of the hospital room. And this happened too many tragic times to count. Ask anyone what marriage entails, and they can tell you immediately, and this nurse would not have a legal, moral, or administrative leg to stand on. This is one of the things we are struggling for: the right to be recognized as legal family, as legal next of kin. Domestic partnership is polite heterosexism, just another nice way of saying that your life, your relationship, and your family are not really as important as ours.
I can think of very few politicians who have the integrity and the fortitude to stand for much of anything. I voted for John Kerry, but held my nose while doing so. I’m happy that Obama was elected, but despite his rhetoric, I’m fairly sure that gay concerns are way down on his priority list. He only sees “out” gay people. I doubt he gets the crushing burden of the closet, simply because he has never had to be in one. It is one thing to “support” gay marriage, it is quite another thing to be willing take a rhetorical bullet for it. We need only look at Feinstein’s wishy-washy “unfair and wrong” commercial, or Schwarzenegger’s unfulfilled promise to campaign against 8. He somehow managed to be out of the state in the final week of the campaign, when he should have been on TV. And as far I can tell, no one called him on it. Certainly not his lesbian chief of staff.
Where is the lawsuit from a coalition of religious groups– UU, UCC, Episcopal, Reformed Judaism, to name but a few, plus a host of ministers from many other denominations– who don’t want their religious beliefs dictated by the conservatives and imposed upon civil law, especially in the matter of how civil law affects their parishioners? Since this is a civil contract, why is my access to it compromised by the religious beliefs of people who want their religious views reflected by civil law? Why is it that only THEIR freedom of religion the one that counts?
Moreover, just because they claim it is about their religious beliefs does not make that a true statement. Nor does it make it right. It only makes it sound reasonable, unmotivated by hate or fear. Like all prejudice, religious prejudice is never reasonable. It’s just prejudice. And what about MY freedom of religion, which is every bit as important as theirs? Again, by not speaking out about it, we are consenting to it. We don’t have to attack anyone for their religious beliefs. But we do have to talk about it.
If this were not about gay marriage, but was about any other religious difference of opinion, this would be called what it so clearly is: discrimination on the basis of religious belief. We have laws at every level of government which say that discrimination on the basis of religious belief, yours or mine, is wrong and has no place in a secular, pluralistic society. Why is this different? I’m certainly old enough to remember “exclusive” country clubs and neighborhoods. But if Prop. 8-1/2 said that Jews could be discriminated against because they do not share majority Christian belief, it would be thrown out by the courts without a moment’s hesitation, though before WWII such practices were considered acceptable. But because this is about this very ancient prejudice against gay people, often supported by religious belief but occasionally admitted for what it is, and about sex in our deeply puritanical culture, somehow, we are not allowed to point this out. Why is this 800 pound gorilla in the living room apparently invisible? What do we have to lose by calling out bigotry for what it is? What do we have to gain by pretending that it is not? How is the continuation of the closet served by not talking about bigotry and prejudice?
Again, our silence means consent. Or, as my Act Up brothers would say, Silence=Death.
Finally, there is the matter of children and family, or as I like to call it, The Children (TM). Because, despite all of that pro-family, love-the-children rhetoric of the religious right, The Children (TM) are just one more commodity in their never-ending battle against both ending this prejudice and our full inclusion in society– and arguably, in their whole socio-political agenda, which I believe is ultimately the control of our society and the rule of their “theology”. I can think of all kinds of children they don’t care about: the estimated 70,000 children in California with gay parents, the 3%-4% of the children that will grow up to be gay, but meanwhile have to grow up in the closet and suffer every last indignity that it can bestow, from shame and self-hatred to the ultimate: a Larry Craig life of sleazy furtiveness, or a Bobby Griffith suicide of despair. And how many children world-wide could have been fed, clothed, educated and immunized for the 85 million spent on this campaign? How many children in Darfur died of starvation while Yes on 8 was attacking my marriage? How many social programs in Utah have gone begging while the Mormon Church was getting all moralistic on our asses?
When I attended the above mentioned speaker’s training, which turned out not to be much of a training at all, my intellectual hackles were raised when we were told there was a list of words we weren’t supposed to use and were to try to avoid (at worst) or to euphemize (at best). It reminded of the first time I ever heard the words “politically incorrect”, when I was working against the Briggs Initiative 30 years ago; I thought then that speaker was joking, and was shocked to find that she was serious. This time, when I saw that list of words, my spirits fell, because I received yet another confirmation that this campaign was going to be conducted from the dark recesses of the closet, as has every other failed campaign for the last ten years.
But the final blow, what told me that we were very likely to lose this battle, and what decided for me that I would put little energy towards the official campaign– though I did personally donate $500 to it, and raised about $1000 more– was the exclusion of one word: children. I asked the presenter why we could not talk about that. Her first response was that the Yes people had appropriated it. I couldn’t swear to it, but she may even have used the word “co-opted”, a word I haven’t heard used since I first learned it from the admitted socialists (and I don’t mean that as a put-down, just a context) running the anti-Briggs campaign.
I asked the trainer why we couldn’t talk about gay families, or gay people with children. Her response: focus groups had shown that any association of gay people and children activated the worst animosities of the anti-gay crowd and, more importantly, the worst fears of the crucial undecided voters in the middle who would actually decide the contest. What a concept! Let’s ask straight people who are afraid of gay people about how to win gay rights, instead of asking gay people what has worked in their lives.
You can see the result of focus group viewpoints. We have been focused over big-time.
So many lethal absurdities here. Yes on 8 had co-opted the issue, so we can’t talk about it. Let’s pretend that gay people don’t have children instead. Let’s tell a lie, even one of omission. From my point of view, it is all the more reason that we should be talking about it, and loudly. People who don’t know gay people, who know nothing about us, who don’t know that we have children, that many of us love children, that some of us have adopted the unwanted, cast off children of irresponsible heterosexual reproduction, cannot be informed that their beliefs and perceptions are wrong, lest we…what? Scare them? Challenge them? Educate them? If they are so locked into their fears and their hatred that the simple act of showing our humanity, our families, and our children will cause them to vote against us, then they would not be voting for us anyway.
But Foreman’s column said we SHOULD be avoiding this topic. However out-of-the-closet Mr. Foreman and these political consultants may be, this sentiment makes me wonder if they might have their own issues around fear and shame. I have seen very little in popular culture that supports the idea that lies, either of commission or omission, about important matters are superior and preferable to the truth. I say we should trust the basic decency and fairness of our fellow Americans. I say we should reach hearts and minds with real people and real families. I would rather lose the campaign because we have told the truth, than because we have been complicit in a lie. There was a very telling scene in the movie “Milk”, where the politicos were going to hide gay people, and Harvey Milk said NO. He understood the closet, and in fact, personally gave me my understanding of its pernicious nature long before many of these political consultants were even aware that they were gay, or in some cases, even born.
I have a friend who adopted a child with her partner– an unwanted child who would have been raised in poverty and disease, another piece of third world refuse heading towards an early death because his heterosexual parents neither wanted him nor were prepared to care for him. M. has been given a chance at a different life with her, and is now healthy, bright, charming, well behaved, and a joy to be around. Marriage provides a certain set of rights and responsibilities upon people who are married, and a certain set of protections for their children. Preventing my friend from marrying another woman, which would give M a set of married parents and all of the benefits that the law and society allow, is advocating is to keep him, and the children of all gay couples, in as legally, financially and socially precarious a position as possible. Domestic partnership goes only so far in protecting the children of gay people, and stops exactly at the state line.
The legal and social status of the children of gay people is an issue that must be addressed, and if we don’t do so, you can be sure that we will see another anti-gay, Arkansas-style initiative that will. By conducting our campaign and our lawsuit from the fear and loathing of the closet, we are avoiding it. We are doing nothing to counter the the-gays-are-gonna-get-your-children fear mongering stereotypes and outright falsehoods that are the anti-gay industry’s stock-in-trade, and their most potent and vicious ammunition. And in so doing, we are failing our families and children just as surely as our opponents are. What’s good for the children of heterosexuals is good for the children of homosexuals. Opposing marriage equality is tantamount to punishing those children. What have they ever done to deserve that? What about their equality before the law, their freedom of religion, their rights? We are also failing the children who will grow up to be gay. If we are going to say that children are our most precious resource, then we must stand up for them now, just as we surely should have done throughout this whole, sorry campaign.
We should have won and we could have won. We cannot allow our opponents to own those three words– religion, prejudice, and children– any more than we can allow them to own the word “marriage”. Keeping our lawsuit and our campaigns in the closet is the same as keeping gay people in the closet, and will have the same results. We will remain invisible and powerless as a community.
There is one last issue that must be addressed, yet another closet issue. One of the outstanding features of the campaign’s obliviousness to reality was its utter failure to attempt to talk to gay people, not only about what has worked in their lives around the issues of marriage, coming out, and family, but also the failure to spend a portion of the budget on statewide advertising on TV, encouraging people to come out to their families, to discuss the issue of marriage and what it means to us, and to encourage their family members to vote NO; or if they could not vote no on it, at least, not to vote on it at all. They relied on a baseless assumption: of course, gay people WILL come out to to the people they know, and talk about important issues. They always do. That’s why there isn’t a problem with the closet. Right.
Encouraging conversation is never a bad idea. Such a campaign would have had at least four obvious benefits. First, there is the obvious benefit of more people coming out and living their lives freely. Secondly, the appeal to family love and loyalty is of far more value than a revered Senator from San Francisco making grand, if somewhat vague appeals about Truth, Justice, and the American Way to people who wouldn’t listen to her anyway (see San Francisco Democrat, above) about people she could not bravely put a name to. Third, many people don’t think they have the option not to vote on something controversial. This could have flipped a lot of votes away from 8. And finally, that fabled “movable middle” would have had yet another chance to see that this is in fact about real people, about family, children, faith, and yes, prejudice.
Let me repeat two things: The enemy is not now and never has been the religious right, the anti-gay wingnuts, or even those homo-hating-homos who wanna-be-straight-but-ain’t. The enemy is, now and always, the closet. Rip that door off its hinges and the anti-gay industry will be reduced to functional irrelevance. Our strength will be the truth about our lives, our children, our families. I would rather lose because we told the truth, than lose because we hid our heads in shame and lied

Ben In Oakland

June 1st, 2012

Groupthink was the company that dug the political pool that all of these activists swim in.

Personally, as far as I’m concerned, no one has noticed that the that pool is a bright shade of stinking yellow.

take that as you will.

Ben In Oakland

June 1st, 2012

Oh well. My husband is going to be angry with me that I spent the day writing, but I got the yen. Maybe it will provoke a discussion. Maybe one of our unelected representatives– or even an elected one– will read it and say Duh.

Or perhaps doh.

I’ve stated a number of times that the closet is the enemy, not the Religious Right. They merely draw their power from it, like Sauron needing the One Ring in Mordor, but without the charm and sparkle.

I see no real reason to change that opinion. In my rant above, I state my belief that the closet is the place where this political mentality seems to, if not MUST, originate from. “We can’t talk about this”, “We will upset them with that”, and “Let us be deferent to their tender sensibilities like good little nigosexuals” are all statements that anybody who was ever in the closet– i.e., just about all of us– ought to recognize as the poison that sits on the top shelf of that closet.

We all know it’s there, but unless Crazy Aunt Minnie gets ahold of it, we don’t think of it as a toxic substance that can kill us. But it can, and like so many poisons, it works it way into the nooks and crannies of your being, poisoning you when you think you’re just enjoying a nice glass of fresh water,

The closet has only one benefit for gay people. It allows us to hide in a hostile environment. But if we’re not actually in a hostile environment, or more importantly, are trying to change that hostile environment, then arguing from the closet undermines our whole strategy and approach.

If we don’t believe it, why would anyone else? If we’re not going to BE and LIVE the changes we would see in the world, how can we effect those changes? If we believe at any level, however unconscious, that we are not as good as heterosexuals, then that is the reality that we’re going to create in the world.

As we have 32 times running. These campaigns have, in my estimation, been conducted from so far within the closet that they’re having Visions of Narnia. Yes, these tired old ideas make your asinine look BIG.

The closet is once again the enemy, and the whole mentality of people who counsel the closet as a strategy are merely the enablers of a codependent, dysfunctional relationship. I always thought it telling that to the best of my knowledge, the lead person in a recent memorable marriage battle had never been in a long term relationship. How could he actually argue what marriage equality meant to him?

I’ll try to state this as baldly as I can, lest someone see me as less than compassionate towards my not-fully-liberated-from-the-awful-closet brethren. (I actually have a lot of compassion. It’s my patience that’s failing).

If our basic political claim is that we are and ought be treated exactly the same as heterosexuals, under the same sets of laws and expectations, if our basic claim is that of EQUALITY–

Then why are we not allowed to talk about our loves, our lives, our families, our children, our assets, and our religious faith? Why are we not allowed the obvious follow up, that these, our treasures, are very bit as important as theirs, for exactly the same reasons, and deserve exactly the same legal protections?

I actually see the political problem as identical to the religious problem that Timothy has been exploring the past few weeks– and admirably well, I should say. The problem, of course, is the failure of religious moderates, and even religious conservatives who don’t try to dress up plain old bigotry in its drag of sincere religious belief, to speak up forcefully against the hate and vitriol that the Reichwingwers have been serving up for decades, but especially the last few weeks.

I wrote a very long letter to a prominent, gay supportive Rabbi, a few weeks ago. I never heard back from him, but then, he might not have appreciated my respectfully-expressed, but expressively clear, directness. What I had to say was this:

” I have listened to every single vicious lie, scurrilous vilification, craptastic fairy story, unjustified condemnation, and obvious projection ever told about us by these “good people of God”, and noticed how very few of the other “good people of God” bother to call it out for what it so clearly is. It’s not their lamb being sacrificed, after all. Those who should be our defenders are in fact merely spectators at the event, failing in the end to defend even their own faith from the slander. Instead, like you, they claim their feelings are hurt, as if that even compares to murders, lies, jailings, hate-filled political campaigns, kids killing themselves, anti-gay bullying, and the destruction of gay lives and families.”


“You write as if Phelps and Worley and their ilk are merely a few people on the fringe. There is a lot of ilk there. They are not an aberration. They are a large, loud, organized, and well-funded plurality that is allowed to flourish rather than be flushed in large part, I believe, due to the silence (at worst), obtuseness (at middle), and moral wishy-washiness (at best) of well-intentioned religious moderates like yourself. Religious moderates enable the sordid behavior of anti-gay religious bigots first by either obtusely failing to see them for whom they obviously are, or obtusely preferring to excuse them rather than offend them.

The second failure, the source of this obtuseness, lies here: the failure to reconcile and resolve what their religion says, what their own issues on this durable prejudice might be, and what basic humanity, common sense, compassion and morality say. You see, frankly, I don’t think you even believe your own religion on this subject, because one of those Levitical passages clearly prescribes the death penalty for what you are calling homosexuality. You have rejected that little tidbit, clearly elevating your basic decency over the religious beliefs you claim, and by extension, the God you serve. I mean no blasphemy here, but if this is indeed the case, you’re demonstrating that you are far more a moral being than He is. I would prefer to believe it is a bad, misused translation, than to believe that the Fount of Morality is immoral.”

As I said, I haven’t heard back from him.

In short, from my perspective as a former social psychologist, the same dynamic that underlies the failure of our political leaders to choose a campaign strategy that actually works is exactly the same dynamic that underlies the failure of the moderate religious to confront the faith-based homohatred that so poisons our society, and to deter the hypocrisy that so viciously informs (for example) Catholic thought on homosexuality.

Let me repeat: ? If we believe at any level, however unconscious, that we are not as good as heterosexuals, then that is the reality that we’re going to create in the world. If we operate from the closet, we remain in the closet.

David Waite

June 1st, 2012

Ben, my opinion of you, already high, just went through the roof. By the time I’d finished your second comment I knew what I need to do with these truths. I’m going to write a series of diaries for Daily Kos, expressing exactly what you’ve laid out here at BTB. It is time to change the way we’ve been doing business.
I had hoped and expected that younger, still employed activists would learn from those early mistakes and change their campaign model. North Carolina disabused me of all that. I’m 70 now but I guess I still have one last fight left in me. I’m going to try to change grass roots thinking on this, so the end customer/funding source can begin to persuade those campaigners how we expect to be presented.
I’ll be citing you and BTB a lot, and I hope everybody here will come on over to contribute to the discussion once I get it started. Thanks (I think) for blowing the battle horn one more time in my retirement stable.

Ben in Oakland

June 2nd, 2012

Well,david, thank you for the praise and the promised action. I feel like the proverbial voice in the wilderness. After the last Maine debacle in 2009, I basically gave up trying to get anywhere with our political establishment. They’re not listening, and more than did mark Leno on the day of the prop 8 campaign. He told me that wider heads than mine knew exactly what they were doing, and he clearly couldn’t wait to get away from me.

Since I know I’m not a nutcase, it is clear to me that for whatever reasons, they’re not interested in listening.

If you want to use any or all of either if these, feel free. You’d flatter me immensely just by printing them as is, or i’ll rewrite as necessary.

Ben in Oakland

June 2nd, 2012

Sorry, WISER heads.

well, actually, Wider works as well.

Secret Advocate

June 2nd, 2012

@Ben in Oakland:

Printouts of your posts in this thread should be on the desks of every LGBT activist in the United States.


June 2nd, 2012

Ben in Oakland, your analysis makes so much sense. I wonder if Jim or Timothy or Rob could collect these comments into a guest post, or series of posts, so that folks who don’t read the comment threads can see them.

I agree that the closet is the enemy, partly because keeping our families in the closet allows people to go on imagining them in scary ways. I don’t think most people are afraid of (or threatened by) our REAL families–what they are afraid of is the gay people of their imagination, or of their ingrained assumptions and stereotypes. To put it another way, when they know our actual families, going about our ordinary lives, most people lean toward being accepting or at least feeling comfortable.

To me, it’s baffling that many activists’ response to that fear of imaginary gay families has been to completely avoid mentioning family or children (as you were instructed at your “training” session). As you keep pointing out, hiding the truth of our families and children makes it seem that there is something sinister about that truth. I would think that it would make more sense to show the real families, as often as possible, to give people an alternative that could displace those scary (and false) imaginings.

Mark F.

June 2nd, 2012

I share the dislike for many gay “activists.” For example, EQCA has nothing better to do these days than getting virtually meaningless state holidays passed and trying to scare us into falsely believing that anti-gay candidates are close to taking over the state so we’ll send them money.

Ben In Oakland

June 2nd, 2012

Thank you all three. Believe it or not, I sent out many copies of my prop. 8 analysis. I made an extra special effort to get through to Bruce bastian. I got as far as his assitant, who basically told me that Bruce Bastian wasn’t interested in discussing it with me, that he had far more important claims on his time.

I’m sure it was right before he had to dress for an HRC dinner, wherein the wealthy and politically connected a-gays can share their cocktails and congratulate themselves on what they’re doing for– or in my opinon, TO– gay America.

i sent it to that waste of time EQCA. No repsonse.

I sent it to North caorlina. no response.

I sent it to HRC and NGTLF. No response.

I sent it to the Washington campaign–TWICE. No response.

I sent it to the Florida campaign. No response.

I sent it to Mark Leno and… well you get the picture.

And the response.

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