Thursday, July 9, 2009

UPDATE: LGBT Groups Who Opposed the Federal Case Against Prop 8 Now Want to Join In - Too Little Too Late?

UPDATE: Larry Kramer, who inspired the founding of ACT UP, tells the groups to butt out of the case in an email:
i implore your three organizations, lambda legal of los angeles, national center for lesbian rights, and aclu lgbt project, to not interfere with the olson/boies case. you will only botch up what they are trying to achieve. you have thus far not achieved it on your own and with your own tactics, so why are you trying to kybosh someone who has come along with fresh new energy, ideas, and clout? you are only behaving in the worst possible bitchy way, the way gay groups can fall victim to when their feelings are hurt. keep your noses out of it, will you please? i beg of you. you should be cheering these guys from the sidelines and showering them with gratitude for coming along and trying to help us in our hugely enfeebled position, brought on in great part by our inability to work together effectively ourselves. you are only perpetuating this useless behavior.

larry kramer
When the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) announced that they would be taking the fight against Proposition 8 to the federal court with power team Ted Olson and David Boies at the helm, numerous LGBT groups immediately issued a press release stating their opposition to this strategy, "reminding the LGBT community that ill-timed lawsuits could set the fight for marriage back."

The groups associated with the press release included ACLU, Lambda Legal and NCLR. However, now they have changed their tune and have filed a motion to intervene (see definition), which would allow them to be co-plaintiffs on the case. Having fought for marriage equality in the state for sometime, it appears they don't want to be edged out. And though they did file amicus curiae (friend of the court briefs) for the lawsuit, it was clear the support was lukewarm.

"These groups wish to illustrate for the court the diverse needs of their members and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community generally to provide the full factual record," said Jennifer C. Pizer, National Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal in the press release stating their new intentions.

Yet now, after slamming the case since day one in the media, "It would appear Lambda Legal, National Center for Lesbian Rights and the ACLU LGBT Project are either realizing the case might actually be successful and therefore want to ride its coattails for credit and relevancy, or—depending on your capacity for cynicism—are intentionally dragging down a suit from a rival group working for the same cause," says Towleroad.

I hate to say it, but I agree. I'm all for uniting our efforts and our resources, but this action from these LGBT groups comes off as wanting credit for what now appears a chance at success. Having faith and trust in each other is key to winning, and these groups did not demonstrate that from the beginning. Now it just sounds as if they're looking for the media attention that a win could bring.

Chad Griffin, Board President for AFER, sent the groups a rather harsh letter. In it, he provides numerous examples of AFER's attempts to involve the groups from the beginning, but also he provides numerous other examples of how they dissed the case to the media.

He opens the letter with the following:
"On behalf of the plaintiffs and our board, donors and supporters, I am writing to ask that you not intervene in Perry v. Schwarzenegger.

"Given our willingness to collaborate with you, and your efforts to undercut this case, we were surprised and disappointed when we became aware of your desire to intervene.

"You have unrelentingly and unequivocally acted to undermine this case even before it was filed. In light of that, it is inconceivable that you would zealously and effectively litigate this case if you were successful in intervening. Therefore, we will vigorously oppose any motion to intervene."
Here is the letter in full:

American Foundation for Equal Rights Letter

The San Francisco Gate is calling this another skirmish within the LGBT equal rights movement due to the passing of Prop 8 and its aftermath.

I'm hearing some say this does not look good for us because its showing divisions amongst us. However, I would like to remind them that civil rights movements in the past weren't fully united and had their own share of disagreements. Not everyone agreed with MLK or the tactics that he used - some to the very end. But constant questioning of our strategies is essential to final victory.

History is hindsight 20/20, and because MLK was pivotal in winning the rights for African Americans, it now appears as if everyone was behind him from the beginning. We look back and think, "He did no wrong." And that is just not the case.

Nor will it be the case for us. We will have disagreements. We will pursue different strategies. We will have "skirmishes." However, as Chad Griffin of AFER told Unite the Fight about the beginning of the case, "We're in a war, and we [AFER board] discussed where we could take the war. If you have a single goal in winning that war, you want to have the opposition on the defensive on all fronts."

In regard to the LGBT groups criticisms, he said, "We can all agree to disagree on different tactics but at the end of the day, we all have the same goal - we can all agree on winning full federal rights for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people."

It appears now the groups are agreeing with AFER's strategy to achieve that goal.

Don't get me wrong - I have nothing but respect for these groups. I for one am a fan of Jenny Pizer - she has done great work and I was thrilled to have a chance to meet her on several occasions. However, I would like to see us reach our goal as fast as possible. If these groups' direct involvement cause a delay in the courts because they failed to act earlier, then they shouldn't have direct involvement. But AFER is open to their consultation and assistance, and if that's the best resolve for a united front, then these groups need to accept their position and assist in fighting to the end for the common goal of full equality under federal law.


  1. The gay orgs are coming across as cowards, opportunists and hypocrites. While I'm wary of Olsen Boiles, the last thing they need is to have all that baggage undermining their case.

  2. I'm waiting to see how many gay bloggers who were against Cleve Jones' March on Washington (you know who you are!) in October 2009 not only show up, but start blogging about it as if they were supportive from day one.

  3. You are not alone in thinking that!