The community asks – and on 2/5 No on 8 EC members will answer

February 5, 2009 in It is what it is - opinion column | Comments (1)


It’s 1:00am. I’m exhausted. But the energy coming from the emails, blog comments and Twitter messages makes the idea of sleep just now very hard.
In preparation for Thursday afternoon’s discussion with No on 8 Executive Committee members Kate Kendell, Geoff Kors and Tawal Panyacosit, I’m grokking tons of data bits in the interest of trying to ensure we cover as much ground as possible.
In addition to the questions below – and with thanks to Jo Hoenninger, acting President of Marriage Equality USA; and Jay Matthew of Erase the H8 in Fresno – I’ve also been given the raw list of questions that went unanswered during the No on 8 Executive Committee session at last month’s Equality Summit in LA. It’s an 11-page list that Jo is hoping to clean up, flesh out with a full complement of answers and ultimately post online. In the mean time, I’ll be folding in as many of the questions as possible to the Thursday afternoon conversation.
***Some things to know about how things will go on Thursday***
1) CAPTURING THE CONVERSATION: I will be recording (video and audio) of the session. In addition, we will be doing a live video stream of the entire conversation. To access that live stream, which will start at 2:00pm Pacific time on Thursday, February 5, 2009, go to my profile page at The featured video on that page is the current or most recent stream. If you’re seeing a video entitled “Final test” then we haven’t started quite yet.

The live stream site includes a chat room. If you are viewing the stream you have the ability to type in questions. I will monitor that as best possible during the conversation to take any new questions that might arise.
3) COMMENTING BY TWITTER: Please mark any Tweets related to this discussion with #marriageequality. I will monitor the Tweet stream as best possible for any additional questions that arise.
4) WHEN IT’S DONE: When we finish the session I will embed the entire video here. You can feel free to repurpose.
With that, here are the questions that were submitted on this site, at Other Than That and as comments on Facebook.
Comments submitted at
Not sure from whom, precisely, but comment links to the site for LA Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence:
1: To what degree do you suppose the current, long-standing disquiet is being fed by the perception that the people of EQCA (who, we were told, ‘did their best’) have resisted accountability for their best not being good enough? That is: had any of you come forward with a sincere, unqualified mea culpa immediately, taken your lumps (even if undeserved) might we have been willing to ‘move forward’ with EQCA?
2: What changes have been made to EQCA, to board membership or to policy? Given the current perception, (that EQCA has neither learned or changed) why should EQCA still be considered a viable organization?
Richard (aka Willingthrall) asks:
Do you think No-on-8 would have benefited from pointing out that the Netherlands has had same-sex marriages for some time with no ill effects on the social fabric. Or would the right-wingers have decided to nitpick something about Dutch society?

Comments submitted at

Jennifer Rinkenberger – Central Valley Regional Director (co-) for Yes! On Equality (aka Progressive Mama Blogger) asks:
The No On 8 campaign made a deliberate and public decision to ignore the Central Valley. Taking David Binder’s recent report at face value, and understanding that demographics of Valley voters closely resemble the movable 6-7% of the electorate. What plans do you have to reach out to the Central Valley LGBT community? Many activists wrongly attacked the African-American community in the wake of Prop 8’s passage. Those attacks brought some long seated resentment between LGBT people of color and white LGBT people, issues that obviously need to be addressed, to the surface.
However, I am concerned that the guilt regarding the initial reactions attacking people of color is going to translate into a campaign strategy that continues to ignore the geographic majority of the state — the Central Valley. The Prop 8 campaign was run on the premise that if the Coastal counties could be carried the rest of the state could be ignored. Is the new campaign going to be to focus on communities of color in the Coastal counties…so that the rest of the state can continue to be ignored?
What plans have you for paid staff and an office of operations in the Central Valley?
What plans have you for including members of the Valley on your Executive Committees and boards?
What steps have you taken to diversify the people who make decisions for your organizations, beyond ensuring that all ethnicities and sexual identities are represented?
The Binder report says that voters that are influenced by discussions with LGBT people were more likely to vote no on 8, whereas voters influenced by religion were more likely to vote yes. It seems to me that talking to people of faith, in the language of faith, is something we need to do as a major component of any future campaign. What plans does EQCA have to work with groups like the California Council of Churches, who have developed a curriculum for discussing same-sex marriage from the faith perspective? The Binder report also suggests that gay and lesbian people and families are not effective messengers for marriage equality, at least on t.v. — which is where most people get their messaging.
One of the major criticisms of the No On 8 campaign was the lack of LGBT family presence. Assuming we take the Binder report at face value and cede that we are not our best spokespeople — has there been any consideration to reaching out to a handful of straight allies/clergy to serve as spokespeople in future campaigns and PSA’s in an offensive/preemptive ad campaign, so that we can frame the issue and debate instead of being so reactionary?
If the Supreme Court fails to overturn Prop 8 and Yes! On Equality succeeds in getting marriage equality back on the ballot in 2010, we’re going to be running a campaign during a midterm election, a cycle that is far more likely to attract older, whiter, conservative voters, than younger ones.
What do you think the priorities of such a campaign should be? Focusing energy and resources on trying to draw out younger voters, or tailoring a message that chips away at the stranglehold that some religious communities have on their members and hoping that some of that message trickles down to youth and other democratic minorities?

Catalina Ruiz-Healy – San Francisco

I would like to know why the gamble was made on “there are more of us than them”, which is my understanding of what the strategy was. You need to pick a strategy, and that’s cool. And one makes the wrong call sometimes. But I would like to better understand what data they used, knowing that Obama was going to be on the ticket and how this would affect turnout.
Also, I feel like there was absolutely NO reach out to straight women, Latinas, or anyone else who could have helped bridge the “them” divide. Calls were made only to perceived “friendlies” and I understand having to focus, but there was no reason surrogates couldn’t be sent to churches, CBOs and other places to at least help frame the issue and start a discussion at home.
Jason Scott – Marriage Equality USA/Gay Fresno – Fresno
Why were calls for ANY money or ANY staff to be sent to Fresno (or anywhere in the central valley for that matter) completely unanswered. We were told we should drive up to San Francisco or down to Los Angeles to help out with the “offical” campaign. Why were our super volunteers offered paid work in San Francisco and taken away from our area.
We were bombarded with emails to send money to the campaign, but why was no support coming back to us?
In the interest in moving past this, will the leadership here today agree that this will never happen again? Apologies were made for many mistakes, but never for this one. We’d like to move past it, but even after election day, Lorri Jean from the campaign stated that “Focusing on the areas with the most votes” was done and was done “rightfully so”. (Quote taken at 42:42 minutes in the Prop 8 Town Hall audio.)
Mariva – San Francisco Bay Area
1. Many people with political organizing and campaign experience tried to help with the No on 8 campaign on an organizational and strategic level, and yet there was no avenue for them to have a dialog with you. Why didn’t you take feedback and suggestions from the LGBT and/or political organizing community? Why did you rely solely on the “wisdom” of focus groups, which proved to be deeply flawed?
2. Why wasn’t there an immediate effort to launch a competing initiative, one with a similar description to Prop. 8 (e.g., “Protect Marriage”) but with the exact opposite language therein? This worked very effectively with Prop. 99 against Prop. 98 (the so-called “eminent domain”/repeal rent control initiative). This tactic — one among many — was an obvious tenet of California Initiative Strategy 101, but no one seemed to think of it. Why didn’t the No on 8 campaign work with experts with this type of ballot initiative experience and savvy?
3. On November 4, 2008, there was a No on 8 campaign visibility effort, but absolutely no GOTV effort. GOTV is one of the most important parts of a campaign — and it should be taken care of *before* committing any volunteers to campaign visibility. The turnout in San Francisco was appallingly low. Why didn’t the No on 8 campaign have volunteers dragging voters out of their homes to get them to the polls within 96 hours of Election Day?
Deirdre Saoirse Moen
I just want to say: thanks to everyone working for equality for LGBTs. I don’t have any questions, but just wanted to offer warm fuzzy support.
I’d also like to point out my husband’s article that points out that there are even apparent straight couples affected by prop 8, and not to ignore them: Right now, they’re probably very in the closet, and if they know, they’re probably very hurt.
Our community didn’t reach out very well to religious institutions and ethnicities among others, nor did we refute in any way many flat-out lies. What sorts of things can we do besides a vague “talk to people” to try and change this? (e.g. make materials about this to hand out for people to read, go door to door in our neighborhoods and talk with everyone, explain why allowing gay marriage doesn’t infringe on rights, use science studies to show that being gay is not a “lifestyle choice”, etc…)
Jere Keyes
With so much community focus on the shortcomings of the campaign, are there any decisions that you continue to stand behind even if they are unpopular with LGBT people? What things were absolutely done right and should be done again in future elections?
Lisa Lindsay
What was with not being trained to talk to actual people when going door-to-door? Was this because I’m in the Central Valley where there were no resources (i.e. no paid staff who might do training on how to do a face-to-face conversation) or did we really people doing the work of a postage stamp everywhere?
What research was done to indicate not showing the face of real gay people in a commercial was going I be what “wins”? What research was done to indicate where money/resources should be spent? What will be done differently? What are the mistakes that won’t be repeated?
Do you have any (expletive deleted) idea how it feels to live in a town where their are signs opposing your marriage being handed out every Sunday, and then to have friends who want to show support for your side (so much so that they’ll pay the $10) to the not even be able to find the one god damn office that has signs?
Looking backwards, I am one of the ones who was angry and frustrated with the campaign. The deliberate decision to exclude 18,000 real live same-sex couples who legally and joyfully married during the available window was hurtful. I believe there should have been a parade of these people, their friends and family members. It was no less than internalized homophobia disguised as “political strategy” to take this action. We cannot live in fear. We must demonstrate that our lives are all about love.
One thing I also must say: I attended the Equality Summit, starting the day angry; but as things continued, even though my anger continued, I have to give credit to the members of the No on 8 Executive Committee for their willingness to sit in front of a large group of frustrated and furious people in the way they did. We need to move forward.

Comments from Facebook

Marivi Lerdo de Tejada – San Francisco
I think it is important, no, critical, to understand what mistakes were made so we can move forward with the campaign. But I’m not sure conducting a witch hunt is helfpul. Silicon Valley is full of *very* successful people who had equally spectacular failures, precisely because you learn more from your failures than from your success. Can we focus on the strategic and tactical mistakes and use them to chart a better course instead of looking for scapegoats?
Michael Mullin
Voting No on 8 could have been a vote for the status quo/ no change… which in our world seems (often sadly) to be a pretty easy sell. Learning from loss makes sense. Finding blame within the gay marriage proponents world seems like a divisive energy drain. Infighting makes the left relatively effete. We could be identifying common denominators among fellow Obama supporters, lending our support and building energy with them for shared causes. Right now it feels like the larger conversation is still located in a Republican context despite the opportunity to shift reference points to a Democratic one. When manipulating policy through fear and ignorance becomes marginal then those players will be motivated to become part of the change. As we move into a new paradigm Prop 8 will look more and more outlandish and ultimately, naturally be overturned.
Katherine Keon
Not too original however a constant in my mind…how to effectively organize is a big one here…often reiterated as the down fall to the last go and spoken about as the key to the next round however how to do it better must be understood in relation to the issue. I think it is critical to discover / develop, and I think it is both, a method of organizing that is unique to the issue. i think that we can learn truck loads from the obama organizing drive and the successful technicalities to that process AND i think we need to think about the issue itself and the way in which it is held in society, how gays are held in society at this juncture in time and organize based on what is there.
— Cathy


One response to “The community asks – and on 2/5 No on 8 EC members will answer”

  1. Cathy,
    I look forward to the interview. Here are some things I’ve been wondering about that you may want to bring up:
    – What can we do now? Is there hope for marriage equality? How long will it take until we have equal marriage rights?
    – Why are there so many different LGBT organizations? And why do they compete/ not get along?
    – What steps will the committee take next?
    Hope this helps!