I’m actually relieved to see this perspective out there, because my initial reaction to the seemingly urgent call by LGBT groups out in Cali to try to undo Prop 8 by putting it back on the ballot in 2010 seemed rash, so soon after the millions of dollars and energy into the unsuccessful Prop 8 fight. More than $82 million was raised on both sides of the issue, the most expensive ballot initiative over a social issue in the Golden State’s history.
Prepare to Prevail, a coalition representing API Equality-LA, HONOR PAC, the Jordan-Rustin Coalition and other groups, released a public statement that says to the LGBT community — give it little more time in order to guarantee a big win in the long run. It’s the first widely supported public call by LGBT community groups and supporters to forego a rush to the ballot box in 2010 to repeal Proposition 8. There are logical, practical reasons to wait, even if the emotions and motivation are high to do something in 2010.
Ron Buckmire, President of the Barbara Jordan / Bayard Rustin Coalition, cites resource constraints. “We’ve got massive economic challenges in California right now. And our own LGBT service organizations are struggling. We are all being forced to make difficult decisions. Investing in a robust, coordinated public education campaign about marriage is a wiser investment than choosing to wage another very expensive electoral battle at this time.”
“We want to win. And winning a political campaign requires ample preparation,” says Luis López, President of HONOR PAC. “The renewed energy and collaboration in our community will, with time and direction, become the fuel of a well-oiled campaign machine. For now, though, with little movement among voters on this issue and key components not yet in place for 2010, we need to take stock and focus on building our capacity.”
I think those who are in favor of action in 2010 need to consider who these groups represent and why they hold this position:
API Equality-LA is a coalition of organizations and individuals who are committed to working in the Asian and Pacific Islander (API) communities in Greater Los Angeles for equal marriage rights and fair treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) families through community education and advocacy.
HONOR PAC advocates for the political empowerment of Latina/o LGBT communities. HONOR PAC supports candidates and ballot propositions that advance progressive policies and serve the unique needs and interests of Latina/o LGBT communities.
Barbara Jordan / Bayard Rustin Coalition Jordan Rustin Coalition was created in response to the lack of outreach to African Americans in the campaign against Proposition 22, the anti-gay marriage initiative in 2000, and the realization in 2005 that another such initiative was imminent. The mission of JRC is to empower Black same-gender loving, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and families in Greater Los Angeles, to promote equal marriage rights and to advocate for fair treatment of everyone without regard to race, sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
Need I say more? If we have POC groups, communities where outreach was poor, ineffective or non-existent the last time around concerned that the train is leaving the station too soon, I think it’s time to listen to the full rationale for holding off until the ducks are in a row.
Read it below the fold.
A public statement on how to win back marriage equality in California
July 13, 2009
Issued by: API Equality-LA, HONOR PAC, Jordan Rustin Coalition
www.apiequalityla.org l www.honorpac.org l www.jordanrustincoalition.org
Unlike Proposition 8 in 2008, any upcoming electoral campaign for marriage equality would be one of choice, not one of necessity in fending off an attack from religious-right foes. Timing is ours to determine. Going back to the ballot to remove the voter-imposed ban on same-sex marriage from the state constitution in 2010 would be rushed and risky. We should proceed with a costly, demanding, and high-stakes electoral campaign of this sort only when we are confident we can win. We should choose to Prepare to Prevail.
We have much work to do before we proceed to the ballot. Many of us, which includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) organizations and progressive allies, have been doing critical educational and organizing work for years, intensified it during the Prop. 8 campaign in 2008, and have continued to communicate with key constituencies after the election. We vow to intensify our efforts until we win back marriage equality in California. We invite all groups and individual leaders to sign on to this statement and join us in building a solid battle plan for equality. We must step up our work, collectively and in concert, as soon as possible.
Prepare to Prevail requires making progress on the following before proceeding to the ballot:
1) Winning requires full LGBT community support and a broad coalition of allies. Only a few segments of the LGBT community have announced their intention to pursue a “vote-yes” campaign next year. Energy and passion are a necessary prerequisite for any effective campaign but are not a sufficient substitute for a broad coalition with a clear strategy backed by ample resources. For California to win back marriage equality, broad segments of the LGBT and progressive community including critically important people-of-color groups, LGBT families, and other allies need to pull together. We should proceed when we have a unified strategy and a massive coalition of progressive non-LGBT allies ready to act in unison. Anything short of a broad coalition of allies would place our campaign in a strategic disadvantage from the onset.
2) We need to build strong majority support before placing the issue before voters. Popular support for marriage equality for same-sex couples has not changed since the last election. Today, California voters’ opinions on a constitutional amendment to overturn the voter-imposed elimination of marriage equality remain evenly split, according to all recent polls. In order to seek major investments of time and money from key stakeholders and allies in an affirmative ballot-measure campaign seeking a “yes” vote from voters, seasoned campaign experts advise against proceeding to the ballot without evidence of a strong majority in favor of the measure. Failure to begin with a sizable majority puts sponsors in a more likely position to lose. More than two-thirds of all ballot initiatives fail to pass on Election Day. Moreover, polls can overstate actual public support for LGBT rights because respondents may be reluctant to reveal their bias to pollsters. In 2008, some polls indicated majority support for marriage equality and against Proposition 8, which was not the result on Election Day. This was also true for Proposition 22, when opponents of the measure thought there was more support for marriage equality than the final vote demonstrated. In Washington State in 1997, some gay-rights activists pushed forward with a pro-active ballot measure aimed at outlawing antigay discrimination in the state. Despite having public opinion narrowly on their side, they lost 60 to 40 at the polls on the measure. It took nine more years for LGBT rights supporters to secure passage of a nondiscrimination law by the Washington state legislature. Proceeding with campaigns seeking a “yes” vote without support from a strong majority of voters holds foreseeable danger.
3) Campaign donors will be constrained given the current unprecedented economic downturn. Over $81 million was raised and spent by both sides in the Proposition 8 campaign, more than in any previous anti-gay ballot initiative. Many of the LGBT nonprofit organizations doing critical work for our communities have suffered layoffs and cutbacks in services. The current economic downturn has also reduced the capacity of campaigns both educational and electoral to amass multi-million-dollar war chests from small, large, and institutional donors. The scope of anxiety and human need in California means that individual donors are making hard choices about charitable dollars. Major donors, including foundations that provided funding for critical educational campaigns, have endured hits to their portfolios, and many are exercising caution. Any successful “vote-yes” campaign will require generous support from pro-LGBT institutional donors. These donors give based on evidence of likely success, which for 2010 is filled with grave doubts. It is unlikely that we will be able to raise the necessary funds to undertake an effective electoral campaign until after 2010.
4) Educational, voter-ID (not electoral) campaigns with specific goals should begin immediately. To reach a threshold of support for marriage equality suitable to begin an electoral campaign, supporters need a voter-ID campaign aimed at moving an identifiable subset of California voters. Vote-no campaigns typically seek to plant doubts and promote confusion among voters about measures. Several arguments used to pass Proposition 8 have not been widely rebutted and thus retain their appeal as attack strategies with particular currency as part of a vote-no campaign. A campaign of changing hearts and minds of selected groups of voters requires time, diligent research, and targeting of specific communities. The worst time to attempt to educate voters is in the midst of a heated campaign, which makes it difficult to rebut lies and fear-mongering. The voter-ID campaign should precede the electoral campaign aimed at mobilizing support to remove from the state constitution the discriminatory language already approved by voters.
5) We need time to build a coordinated data infrastructure that can support a winning campaign. We need time to establish robust get-out-the-vote (GOTV) data systems and a statewide online voter contact database to make and measure contacts with California voters in a coordinated fashion with participation from the many pro-marriage stakeholder groups across the state. Unlike narrow special interests, our cause is a broad-based movement that will require coordinated data collection among multiple groups working in concert. Many individual groups have started this work, but winning will require buy-in and participation in a singular statewide and coordinated data system. Agreements and accountabilities need to be worked out and trust needs to be rebuilt. Time and true collaboration are vital to developing organizational partnerships and the data systems needed to tap and deploy our grassroots network and measure our progress toward specific voter-contacts goals.
6) Time and greater effort is needed to build trust and relationships in communities that represent the full diversity of California voters, including limited-English-speaking voters and voters of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. The 2008 campaign against Prop 8 did not adequately reach non-English-speaking voters and failed to engage or empower allied groups poised to communicate with millions of such voters. The Yes-on-8 campaign, in taking its victory laps, bragged about the many tongues into which it translated its materials and the diverse congregations whom it mobilized. This lapse must be overcome in a future campaign to win back marriage equality. We must learn from our mistakes made during the last campaign and not repeat them. Doing so will require deepened relationships with partner organizations and leaders who can reach diverse racial, ethnic, and non-English-speaking communities. It will require working to increase the ability of LGBT parents and caregivers with children across these communities to effectively communicate the impact of marriage equality on their children. We must establish the communications capacity needed to achieve cultural competency as well as fluency in persuading immigrant, people-of-color, and non-English-speaking communities to support marriage equality. Most of all, it requires time to build trust and relationships in targeted communities in order to succeed.
7) Labor, religious allies and communities of color are indispensable to winning. More time is needed to convert general support into full organizational backing to secure increased grassroots engagement, resources, and votes. Coordinated outreach with labor and religious institutions remains crucial to building a strong majority for marriage equality in California. Forging lasting collaboration with and among these organizations must be a top priority for both the education and electoral campaigns. In addition to traditional civil-rights and community groups, as well as entertainment and sports celebrities, the same labor and religious organizations already highlighted will be critical in mobilizing people of color voters to support marriage equality. Rather than simply asking for support from allies, a winning campaign must be prepared to welcome these entities to the planning table and demonstrate reciprocity with them in the course of the long campaign to regain marriage equality. Winning a majority of “yes” votes on a future ballot measure will not be easy. But it will be impossible if we work in isolation or avoid competent and fluent communication with California’s diverse voters.
8) More time means more “yes” votes for marriage equality. The demographics of opinion on marriage equality indicate that natural changes in the state electorate, with new and younger voters replacing older voters, contributes over time to increased support for marriage equality. In weighing the options of presenting a ballot measure on statewide ballots either next year, in 2010, or in a future year, the latter portends a much greater capacity by marriage equality supporters to leverage and benefit from the natural shift in voter opinion.
THE UNDERSIGNED COMMIT to PREPARE to PREVAIL. Evidence and data should guide political strategy. Running and winning a statewide ballot-measure for a “yes” vote on marriage equality depends not on haste, but on preparation. Expanding public support and developing the infrastructure to mobilize our communities should be our top priorities. We commit to continuing the hard work of identifying the partnerships, commitments, and resources to launch necessary public education campaigns and setting the foundation for a solid and winning campaign. We call on all interested organizations to join in a collective body to coordinate the critical educational work that we must do. When we go back to the ballot, we intend to be active players to ensure its success just as we have always participated in the fight for marriage equality. Please join us in winning back marriage equality in California.
WE CHOOSE to PREPARE to PREVAIL
ACLU of Northern California
ACLU of San Diego and Imperial County
ACLU of Southern California
API Equality-Northern California
Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team
Asian Pacific American Legal Center
Asian/Pacific Islander Queer Women/Transgender Activists (AQWA)
Ballot Initiative Strategy Center Foundation
Chinese Rainbow Association
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA)
Elections Committee of the County of Orange (ECCO-PAC)
Equality Action Project (Santa Cruz)
Gamba Adisa Quilombo
Gay-Straight Alliance Network
Harvey Milk Stonewall Democrats of Orange County
Imperial Court of Los Angeles and Hollywood
Inland Counties Stonewall Democrats
Jordan Rustin Coalition
Martin-Lyon Leadership Institute
Office & Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), AFL-CIO
Our Family Coalition
SATRANG, South Asian LGBT Organization
The Wall Las Memorias Project
Robert Chacanaca, President, Monterey Bay Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO*
Kerry Chaplin, Interfaith Organizing Director, California Faith For Equality*
Rev. Dr. Jonipher Kwong, Interfaith Organizer, California Faith For Equality *
Jerry Sloan, President Emeritus, Lambda Community Fund, Sacramento*
*affiliation listed for identification purposes only
Ron Buckmire bottom-lines it on his blog:
Let me be more specific. If it takes JRC working in coalition with Equality California and Vote for Equality 350 volunteer-hours (not including staff time, or travel time for the volunteers) to change 50 votes (from against marriage equality to undecided, or from undecided to in favor of marriage equality) and we have 6,000 times that many votes to move in 2010, then we will need 2.1 million volunteer-hours of effort to achieve that.
People who say that we can do that by November 2, 2010 (which is exactly 477 days away from today) need to demonstrate a plan for how they intend to pay for, lead and plan this work in that time frame, in the worst economy California and the United States have seen since the Great Depression.
So, did they make their case, or is it smarter to forge ahead now — and the enthusiasm for overturning it will rule the day, despite Ron’s dire predictions of a lack of human and financial resources needed to put a 2010 initiative over the top? What do you think the right course of action should be?
UPDATE: Courage Campaign chair and founder Rick Jacobs responded with this statement:
“We welcome the ‘Prepare to Prevail’ letter from API Equality, HONOR PAC, the Jordan Rustin Coalition and so many others as an honest, open contribution to the deliberations through which the community is participating.
“The ‘Prepare to Prevail’ letter, along with Love Honor Cherish’s compelling statement on moving forward in 2010, is part of a healthy, vigorous debate that should help to inform the community as we begin the process of choosing the best path to victory.
“We encourage everyone engaged in this movement to put forward their portions of the road map to victory so that together, we can all win.
“Back in May, we asked our members to vote on which year — 2010 or 2012 — the Courage Campaign should support going back to the ballot to restore marriage equality. The response was overwhelming — 82.5% expressed support for a 2010 ballot measure.
“The Courage Campaign is doing its part by helping to build an electoral road map to victory, as are several other organizations that are laying the groundwork necessary to win back marriage equality. It is our responsibility to our members, who overwhelmingly told us that they want to go to the ballot in 2010, and it is our responsibility to the marriage equality community.”
“That’s why the Courage Campaign announced support for a 2010 initiative in May. While we respect other organizations discussing and deliberating this very important question, we have been building the infrastructure to win marriage equality rights at the ballot box sooner, rather than later. Our members are ready to do the hard work needed to win.
“Since January, the Courage Campaign has been training and empowering marriage equality activists across the state at ‘Camp Courage’ training events as well as building 44 “Equality Teams” in 23 counties across California — serving the organizations and individuals that are fueling the movement toward marriage equality.
“The Courage Campaign has been laying the groundwork for a victorious campaign by conducting intensive training, coordinating online, mobilizing volunteers, partnering with progressive organizations and building infrastructure for the long-term.
“We are leading the effort to train volunteers to become field organizers through Camp Courage training events. Modeled after Camp Obama, these intensive one or two-day programs have been instrumental in channeling the enthusiasm of activists into effective action. More than 700 activists have been trained in Los Angeles, Fresno, San Diego and Oakland. Some of the lead co-sponsors of Camp Courage include the Human Rights Campaign, CREDO Mobile, Dr. Bill Resnick, HONOR PAC and the Dolby Family.