Monday, August 3, 2009

Obama's Deputy Campaign Manager to Attend Sunday's "Next Steps Summit"; Tentative Agenda Released

"We are not Frankenstein, lurching toward the finish line no matter what," Jordan Krueger of Equality Network and of the Next Steps Summit logistics team told Unite the Fight.

The Coalition for 2010 (formerly known as the Coalition of the Willing) will be hosting a Next Steps Summit August 9 in South Los Angeles, where they hope action items will be confirmed in order to move the California LGBT population forward in getting an initiative on the ballot to end Prop 8's rule.

On Saturday it was confirmed that Obama's national deputy campaign manager, openly gay Steve Hildrebrand, will appear and inform the process at the summit. Hildebrand's extensive knowledge and key role in the largest and most successful grassroots campaign in our nation's history, will add an element of expertise not easily ignored by either side of the 2010 or 2012 debate. The number of attendees on both sides of the issue are likely to increase, especially given Hildebrand's appearance and that this summit's focus will be action points and "deliverables."

However, many in the community are still concerned about the coalition's focus on 2010 and how that may skew the summit. "We want everyone there. We need to hear their concerns," Jordan responded. "There's only so much we can do if they're not willing to attend."

I asked about the agenda since many are still not clear on what will happen at the summit. Jordan gave me a tentative agenda that he says was 90% confirmed. A final agenda will be released early this week.


Morning: Key notes and panel discussion, including Steve Hildebrand, Obama's deputy national campaign manager. Q&A session. (This will last about an hour and fifteen minutes. I don't have time breakdowns for the rest.)

Breakout Sessions (Subject to change, and this does not reflect all sessions but just a few.)
  • Signature gathering
  • Ballot language
  • Fund-raising
  • Outreach and Relationship Building
  • Messaging
Attendees can call out ad hoc sessions if need comes up. Groups will come back and report on decisions and next steps to all.


Second breakout for sessions, but these will be different from first break out.

Report back again with decisions and next steps.


Happy Hour

After going over the agenda with Jordan, I raised concerns about certain topics being discussed and next steps decided upon in break out sessions, such as the ballot language and messaging, which requires lots of expertise and knowledge of the political campaign process, assets many in the community lack, including yours truly.

"It's our desire to have experts in the break out groups, but they will not facilitate," Jordan said. "Let's all come to a consensus together instead of having the experts say this is how it should be."

When it comes to ballot language, objections have been raised. If the language isn't legally solid, it can open the door to many lawsuits from the opposition trying to undo any initiative that we work really hard to pass.

At the Leadership Summit in San Bernardino, it was requested that all cameras be turned off and that the press either leave or consider the conversation "off the record" when the topic of ballot language came up. That's how sensitive and essential ballot language can be. Give the opposition any hints on what you come up with and you give them immediate ammunition to undo your work. On top of that, the specifics of whether or not to include the issue of school curriculum in regards to marriage equality is a gray area for many in the community.

"Everyone is in agreement that there has to be testing" of ballot language, Jordan said. "There is an understanding of significant cost to testing and that will be brought up for discussion at the summit. We understand it is critical to going back to the ballot."

According to the organizers, tickets are going fast, and it will be interesting to see who shows given that the Next Steps Summit has been viewed as vital yet possibly premature given that the community has not come to a consensus on timing.

Even Torie Osborne, who in May came out strong for 2010 at a Courage Campaign's Camp Courage, told reporter Karen Ocamb she's changed her mind.

“As time ticks by, it seems less likely that we will go to the ballot in 2010 and I'm fine with that,” Osborn wrote in an email to Karen Ocamb for a Frontiers in L.A. article. “The vision and movement that is built is as important as when we win, as the state's challenges require us to all step up in new and powerful ways. If ‘Spawn of Prop187’ [a previous anti-immigrant initiative] qualifies in 2010, that can become our unified battle, and we will all need to join together and lay in place the organizing networks that can lead us to victory in future years on marriage equality.”

However, Courage Campaign's Rick Jacobs has reiterated his support for 2010. “Our members are ready to do the hard work needed to win.”

Equality California's Geoff Korrs announced at the Equality Awards Dinner on Saturday night that the organization will come to a decision on next steps this week after its board meeting Sunday, a statement that Marc Solomon, EQCA's Marriage Director confirmed with Unite the Fight at the event. Many believe though the organization should listen to its members, who were polled with a majority supporting 2010. There's also been talk that EQCA's board is divided on the issue.

The Coalition for 2010 has shifted its tone since the day of the San Bernardino summit. They express a desire for all to be involved, even those who don't agree with them on timing. Their focus is to get the work started, and get it done as soon and as efficiently as possible.

In an email sent out to its members Sunday, Love Honor Cherish, the grassroots group who has strongly supported 2010 since Prop 8's passing, wrote, "Everyone dedicated to working for marriage equality is invited, particularly those who have expressed reservations about a 2010 campaign. These concerns are legitimate and important, and any planning for a future campaign must take them into account to ensure our chances of winning."

"We want people to be there to give input on benchmarks," Jordan told Unite the Fight, saying that those who support 2012 will bring vital input to the process. "This is not a sit and listen summit."

"There is an awareness," he added. "If 2010 turns out not to be possible, then based on benchmarks set on August 9th, we will consider how to proceed."

If those in support for 2012 want input on those benchmarks, then I highly recommend you attend.

Get information and tickets.

(Note: Unite the Fight, along with the organizers, is looking into streaming this event if possible based upon technical capabilities as well as sensitive information discussed at the summit.)

Image: By BlueCinema


  1. Great News that Steve Hildebrand will be at the meeting on the 9th! I’m excited to see that the experts within the LGBT community are coming forward to offer their help in regaining Marriage Equality in California.

    I know that amazing legal minds from within the LGBT community will also be there to make sure that the ballot language agreed upon will withstand legal challenge. After all, these will not be highly paid consultants, but expert attorneys whose own rights are at stake.

    I do expect the ballot language and other break-out groups to be sites of spirited debate. It is that very passion to regain lost rights, to be treated as full citizens in our state that draws straight allies, like me, to this cause.

    I know that some feel that 2010 is too soon; that there is not enough time to pull together a successful campaign. In 2008 we had only a few months – this time we have 15 months. Whatever concerns the “Prepare” group has (and I believe they are legitimate) must and can be addressed as part of a strong campaign plan. With the energy that now exists in the community, there is no shortage of willing workers.

    I also know that delaying a return to the polls tells the straight majority that, perhaps, the right to marry isn’t all that important after all. Sure, it’d be nice, but we can wait.

    Meanwhile, who wants to tell the youth of the LGBT community that we all chose prudence over their rights? That we think it's ok for the people of California, the United States, and the world to treat them like second class citizens for one day longer than necessary?

    We are role models for those youth and their allies. Do we take the stand that LGBT people are fully equal? I believe that we must.


  2. I see an add in your sidebar promoting Equality Maine in their efforts to fight off a marriage-ban in their state. The best way to help them fend off this attack on Maine equal rights is to work on a campaign in California, splitting the oppositions money and attention between the two coasts!

  3. Great points Jane and Sean. Thanks!

    Yes to Equality in 2010!

  4. Sean, with Maine's ballot coming up THIS November and a potential California ballot being November 2010, I doubt that will do too much to split up the opposition.

    The opposition is already here, and those in Maine will be done in just a few months.

    If anything, some of us (but definitely not all) should pause here and throw our weight behind those in Maine for some weeks. Maine LGBT won their right to marriage through the legislative process. Imagine the setback a loss, brought down by the voters, could bring to all of us if that happens.

    If they win and we helped, I wouldn't be surprised if we got a lot of help in return from Mainers in 2010 or 2012.

  5. I think we can multi-task. I have already sent money to Maine and am prepared to send money to Washington state if necessary. I am also eager to support a 2010 campaign in California.

    Sean is right. One huge advantage of fighting in 2010 is that while it may stretch our resources thin, it will also stretch the resources of our enemies. Despite all the money that flowed into California from Utah, we actually raised more money than they did in 2008. If we make them have to fund competitive campaigns across the country, we will damage them. Believe me, if we give them a respite in California in 2010, they will use their resources to defeat the repeal of DOMA and the enactment of ENDA, as well as fund anti-marriage equality campaigns all over the country.

    Jane is exactly right: if we don't act in 2010, we say that marriage equality is not that important after all. She is also right about the message delay sends to our youth. But even more devastating is the message it sends to us old people. We have only so much time left.