The tide is turning. Marriage equality is spreading from state to state. It is coming back to California. It's a matter of how and when.
Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules on the challenges to Proposition 8, we will win equal rights here in California and nationwide -- if we, in the grassroots, take ownership of the process and engage the broader progressive movement.
With more than 700,000 members and growing, the Courage Campaign's members embody the new, post-Prop 8 grassroots energy that fueled Barack Obama's victory in November. The Courage Campaign's goal is to provide these progressive activists with the tools, skills and infrastructure to build a permanent grassroots movement that will win, defend and protect marriage equality.
Winning marriage equality in California can only be accomplished by building and waging a campaign fundamentally different than the one run last fall. Together, the grassroots will build a coalition from the start, including the decision on when to go back to the ballot.
The Courage Campaign is ready to go back to the ballot in 2010, assuming the Supreme Court rules to uphold Prop 8. But before we can make the ultimate decision to support an actual ballot initiative, the Courage Campaign will survey our members and consult with our allies in the polling group formed by several organizations a few weeks ago. Based on a vote of our members, we will move forward on a decision along with our partners in the marriage equality movement.
This will be the most important decision we make as a movement -- and it must be made after thorough and open deliberation with everyone who wants to have a role in the campaign.
Together, we will launch an initiative campaign when we are certain we have all the pieces in place to ensure victory.
That said, the first step to victory at the ballot, no matter the date, is training and empowering marriage equality activists across the state -- serving the organizations and individuals that are fueling this movement.
So far, more than 700 activists have taken part in "Camp Courage" training camps in Los Angeles, Fresno, San Diego and Oakland designed to teach the basics of telling their personal stories as part of one-on-one campaigning (see articles in the Wall Street Journal and the Sacramento Bee.)
These Camp Courage organizers have already begun meeting with voters one-on-one in 23 local canvassing Equality Teams in 15 counties across the state, using the Courage Campaign's Equality Hub -- the same toolkit used by Barack Obama's presidential campaign.
The second step is organizing together, county-by-county, working in collaboration with our partners across the marriage equality movement, from LGBT rights organizations to labor and progressive movement organizations.
We all must work together on the variety of progressive issues in this state that are part and parcel of full equality for all Californians.
Another way we will build that movement is by using conventional tools in an unconventional way. With our partners, we are engaged in an opinion research project that will be "open-source," meaning the coalition will collaborate on the poll's content and share the information openly with marriage equality supporters as we move forward. We're doing this research together to gather baseline information and to inform the broader community's decision about when and how to go back to the ballot.
It's no secret campaigns use polling to refine and target their messaging. But the difference here is we aren't going to keep it locked away for proprietary purposes. We are going to put it to use by getting it in the hands of people closest to their communities. The goal of this project is to become an informational clearinghouse so our efforts are effective and focused.
The Courage Campaign is also providing access to the voter file so that any group that wants to talk with voters about marriage equality can do so -- regardless of its size or budget. The Courage Campaign is using this project as an opportunity to develop a coalition that coordinates voter contact programs and activities. We are building a movement for marriage equality by giving tools away.
By training community organizers and sharing resources like research, access to the the voter file, we can win -- not just in Los Angeles, or San Francisco, but in the heartland of California.
Winning marriage equality will not be easy. It will take time, talent and treasure. But we know in our hearts that time is on our side, that justice will prevail, and that equality will be ours.
Together, as a new movement, we can, we must, and we will win.
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