Fellow bloggers Michael Petrelis and Dan Savage have posts up blasting No on 8 for allegedly sitting on or failing to make use of a letter from then-prez candidate Barack Obama that outlined his support for federal recognition of same-sex couples and opposition to Prop 8 (and all ballot initiatives “protecting” marriage).  It was read at the Toklas club’s Pride Breakfast back in June. Calitics blogger Brian Leubitz was at the breakfast and took photos and published the letter back at the time:

Dear Friends,

Thank you for the opportunity to welcome everyone to the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club’s Pride Breakfast and to congratulate you on continuing a legacy of success, stretching back thirty-six years. As one of the oldest and most influential LGBT organizations in the country, you have continually rallied to support Democratic candidates and causes, and have fought tirelessly to secure equal rights and opportunities for LGBT Americans in California and throughout the country.

As the Democratic nominee for President, I am proud to join with and support the LGBT community in an effort to set our nation on a course that recognizes LGBT Americans with full equality under the law. That is why I support extending fully equal rights and benefits to same sex couples under both state and federal law. That is why I support repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy, and the passage of laws to protect LGBT Americans from hate crimes and employment discrimination. And that is why I oppose the divisive and discriminatory efforts to amend the California Constitution, and similar efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution or those of other states.

For too long. issues of LGBT rights have been exploited by those seeking to divide us. It’s time to move beyond polarization and live up to our founding promise of equality by treating all our citizens with dignity and respect. This is no less than a core issue about who we are as Democrats and as Americans.

Finally, I want to congratulate all of you who have shown your love for each other by getting married these last few weeks. My thanks again to the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club for allowing me to be a part of today’s celebration. I look forward to working with you in the coming months and years, and I wish you all continued success.


Barack Obama

Michael’s headline (“Alice B. Toklas Killed Obama’s Pro-Gay Letter,”) is actually a bit misleading since his beef is with the No on 8 folks, not the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club, though you get the drift of the headline when you read the post. His ire is directed toward one of the consulting firm that didn’t take advantage of this Obama letter to counter the Yes on 8’s deceptive campaign.

And what exactly was the reason why Steve Smith of DeweySquare, a Sacramento-based consuluting firm affiliated with the Democratic Party, did nothing with Obama’s words of support for gay couples?

The answer came from Smith at the February 26 town hall in San Francisco, and was reported on this week in the Bay Area Reporter:

Smith also acknowledged that the campaign should have used then-presidential candidate Barack Obama’s stated opposition to Prop 8. Instead, little use was made of Obama’s opposition in a letter last June to the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, and right before Election Day the Yes on 8 campaign sent out a mailer featuring Obama’s image and quotes that he is opposed to same-sex marriage. “That was a close call,” Smith said. “Maybe we should have.”

Smith said that people outside the Bay Area wouldn’t know what the Alice Club was, but club Co-Chair Susan Christian spoke up and said that in fact, Obama’s letter to the club been widely reported, including in the New York Times.

And that is pretty mind blowing. Why would anyone care about the recipient of the letter more than the content of Barack Obama’s message?

More below the fold.Dan Savage’s blows his stack as well, with:

One of the “No on 8” campaign’s highly-paid consultants says now-now-that “maybe we should have” used the letter during the campaign, perhaps in an effort to reach out to African American voters, or black preachers.


But back to the initial visibility of the letter. It was a strong letter, and considering the Yes on 8 group’s ability to capitalize on Obama’s other, unfortunate statements about marriage being between a man and a woman, it’s doubly painful to see what could have been done with the letter.

While No on 8 and its high-priced consultants haven’t been an example of supreme competence, there actually was a lot of coverage given to the letter in the MSM and on blogs, including this one. It wasn’t buried by any stretch of the imagination, commenters here even debated about how much visibility it did or didn’t receive.  Just a sampling of coverage:

* Calitics: Barack Obama Opposes Prop 8, the anti-marriage amendment (June 29, 2008)

* San Francisco Chronicle: Obama opposes proposed ban on gay marriage (July 1, 2008)

* BGay.com: Barack Obama Opposes Gay Marriage Bans (June 28, 2008)

* Andrew Sullivan (July 1, 2008, referencing Calitics)

* Huff Post: Obama Opposes California Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment (June 30, 2008)

* The Advocate: Obama Calls Calif. Amendment ‘Divisive and Discriminatory’  (June 30, 2008)

* The Baptist Press (even here!):  McCain supports, Obama opposes Calif. marriage amendment (June 30, 2008)  

All that said, concentrated MSM coverage of Obama’s letter is not the same as using the content in specific ads/messaging to counter an anti-gay campaign, and that’s where the anger is coming from re: No on 8. It’s hard to understand what was going on in the minds of the folks who left this letter to collect dust as the fundie machine threw everything it had against the wall to ensure Prop 8 passed.

Given where we are now, with thousands of California marriages hanging in the legal balance, and marriage equality rolled back for the time being, we should learn from mistakes; what I’m reading from Michael and Dan is a frustration that the LGBT leadership in place doesn’t learn. It wasn’t Obama’s fault that his letter wasn’t used effectively. It was a gift and the ball was dropped by those in charge of representing our interests.

So, how do we address the failures of anti-Prop 8 efforts as a community? Griping and Monday morning quarterbacking has been going on for some time now, but what’s next and who’s in charge? I refuse to believe that we haven’t the brain power or commitment to out organize the professional anti-gays. I think our problem is that we’re not a cohesive community in so many ways, as we saw in the wake of Prop 8 — race, class, and faith often get in the way of unity, whereas the homogeneity of conservative faith on these matters is a powerful unifying factor that bridged any and all demographics. We can do better than this.

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding