Proposition 8 – The silver lining

November 18, 2008 in It is what it is - opinion column | Comments (0)


It took a bit of digging but after some time, a lot of conversation and even more rumination I’ve cleared through my layers of anger and disappointment about the loss on Proposition 8 and found the silver lining.
Why, you may ask, has it taken me this long to write these thoughts? After all, the election was almost two weeks ago and it’s not as though the topic hasn’t been anchored to the forefront of most of my conversations since then, right?
It’s a good question.
And I have an answer for it.
Besides the obvious point that I am just a teensy bit occupied with the world that is business development at a start-up the truth is that I wanted to make sure that the energy with which I was galvanized after the election was … for lack of a better word … real.
It’s oh-so-easy to get fired up in the moment, and even to sustain such energy for several days as you’re swept along – by your own passion as well as the roaring river of others’ emotions.
But most people have short attention spans. Myself included. And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being a bit more than cynical as to whether the collective disgust and fury (or my own) over the Prop 8 debacle would coalesce and gather momentum. Or would it suffer the fate of so many largely unstructured movements and fade away.
Ten days may not bring quite enough data to be considered a statistical conclusion, but I feel pretty safe in saying that just as Democracy proved itself alive and well on November 4th, in the time since, so has the equal rights movement.

Granted it’s a pity (and more than a bit shameful) that issues of equal rights are even an issue. But putting that aside, it can’t be denied that great progress has been made – and in a relatively short time.
For starters, the last time this issue came to a vote, the delta of loss was slightly north of 22 percent. This time when the very last vote is tallied, that differential will be somewhere between 2 percent and 4 percent.
Did I mention that the last time this issue came to a vote was 8 years ago?
A 20 percent change in 8 years is a pretty big deal.
It becomes an even bigger deal when you consider the tactics employed by the Yes on 8 campaign and its supporters that led to their victory.
I won’t say they cheated, because technically they didn’t. What the proponents of Proposition 8 did was work the system more effectively. They targeted the communities they needed to win with precision, and then they presented those communities with just enough bullshit, pushing them towards the vote to which their inherent community qualities already had them inclined.
It was a masterful stroke of politics given an even greater advantage by the fact that the other side just wasn’t as well organized or mobilized.
And that’s where the gleam of silver lining explodes through for me.
This experience was to the LGBT community what George W. Bush was for the Democrats – a clarion call to pull our collective heads out of the sand, get serious and get something accomplished.
In the days following the election I watched with amazement and pride as myriad groups appeared across various social media platforms. From “Repeal the CA Ban on Marriage Equality”, which is the largest thus far on Facebook, to the NoonProp8 Twitter account, to more traditional web sites that have social media structure underneath them like Join the Impact (and these are merely a few examples), the community is engaged.
And things are starting to happen.
In Sacramento, the artistic director for a musical theater company resigned when it came to light that he had donated substantially to the Yes on 8 campaign.
Another group mobilized, outing the CEO of the Cinemark Theater chain, who donated a sizable sum to the Yes on 8 campaign, at the same time that he is reaping profit from showing the recently released “Milk” – a film about San Francisco’s first openly gay Supervisor who served as a champion and lightening rod for the modern gay rights movement. In this effort, they’re also using digg in an effort to further spread the word.
These are just a few examples. The Internet is rife with links, groups and organizations sprouting up. Which of course could be a challenge, but I’ll address that in a bit because first there are two things about all this that make me proud.
For starters, as a rule the LGBT community isn’t altogether cohesive. In fact, as I’ve written about here before, the infighting and backstabbing is pretty common among the almost ridiculously splintered set of sub-groups. And this time, at least so far, I’m seeing a more true sense of solidarity.
Secondly, and perhaps even more important, is the fact that many of these activities are powered heavily by people who are not members of the gay community.
Now to the challenge of which I made mention above. At the risk of closing on a downer note, I do feel that urging caution is important at this point. And there are three thoughts on which I wish to leave you:
1) Abraham Lincoln said it far better than I ever could, but to paraphrase – a house divided unto itself cannot stand. (If you have never read the full speech, I highly recommend you do so.) And so the LGBT community must put aside its petty differences and stand strong, which leads to the next point, namely;
2) This movement must be inclusive, meaning that this is not about gay rights, this is about the right to marry – for anyone. It is imperative that we rise up from this disappointment stronger as a group and more powerfully allied with the majority, who we know truly supports civil liberties for all.
3) And finally, it is critical we learn from our mistakes. This is not about a traditional, top-down political effort. This is about doing for the latest struggle of the civil rights movement what Obama did for overall politics. And it’s not an either/or. It’s about AND.
I am proud to be stepping forward and joining forces with some amazing people in an effort to help bridge the divide among the various parties, bring together the old-school top down approach with the truly democratized power of social media.
So stay tuned … more to come.


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