Guest Post: Jane Wishon is a straight mother-of-three who has been married 33 years. She actively campaigned against Prop 8 and has started a cause for straight allies on Facebook. Jane, now a member of Restore Equality 2010's IAG, also volunteers for AIDS Project LA, and twitters @janewishon
Lightning in a bottle. Electric. Grassroots. Groundswell.
Notice how the best terms to describe the outpouring of energy since the passage of Prop 8 last fall are tied to nature – beautiful, chaotic, unstoppable nature? The fight for marriage equality in California has taken on all the beauty and awesomeness of a natural phenomenon, and the very last thing we should do is try to contain and control it. But channel it? Yes! Then we should take that energy, step back and watch the movement go!
First, the California LGBT grassroots gathered to create a checklist of “next steps” with Steve Hildebrand (Obama Campaign strategist) showing them the way to start.
Then, activists came together to choose an Interim Administrative Group, form a ballot committee and select a grassroots organizational plan with Ace Smith (Hilary Clinton Campaign strategist) cheering them on.
And this past week grassroots activists gathered in town halls all over the state to elect representation to a statewide advisory panel and lay the groundwork for selecting an Executive Committee for the campaign. And there’s more to come until each and every inch of California is represented.
Like a tidal wave, new activism with new energy is rolling over the state, making no apologies for disregarding the “expert advice” of more established institutions. At San Diego’s Town Hall, lesbian activist and academic Pat Washington urged these activists on, saying “You have a truly -- I mean absolutely unequivocal -- grassroots movement. So what if the powers that be don't like it? What if they don't like your timing? What if they don't like your message? ... There is no wrong time to fight for what's right.”
So how does a political campaign create momentum from this wonderful, chaotic energy? After all, the energy has to have a focus and discipline to be effective. Fortunately, John Patterson, board member of RENWL in South LA and co-author of the plan, has co-authored an organizational plan for California that is both structured, yet flexible enough to maximize local input and statewide communications. Simply, this plan calls for community based “hubs” of activity (everything from signature gathering to fundraising) formed within existing communities, gay and straight. These hubs are within 10 regions across the state. The regions are represented by democratically elected Regional Representatives as well specially elected Affinity Representatives. These Affinity Representatives are chosen to insure that all cultures, religions, labor, etc. are present “at the table” in decision-making.
These Regional Representatives and Affinity Representatives will join with representatives of the major Equality Organizations in California to form a Statewide Advisory Panel for the campaign. Yes, that’s right -- the traditional LGBT rights organizations will join with the democratically elected activists to create the Panel.
Once the Panel is seated in November, it will select the Executive Committee for the campaign. At that point, the Interim Administrative Group (IAG) will sunset and hand off the campaign to leadership selected by the people whose rights are at stake.
This past weekend saw the election of Regional Representatives from San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, Hollister, Santa Cruz, and the Inland Empire. More regions will be meeting in coming weeks. Meanwhile, hubs are forming and Affinity Representatives will be elected soon. Check http://www.restoreequality2010.com for updated information.
Asked why she agreed to serve as a Cat Wrangler for the movement, noted San Franciscan activist Jo Hoenninger commented "I'm doing this for all of the people who didn't get a chance to be one of the 18,000 same-sex couples who got to get married last year."
The political graveyard is full of candidates and campaigns who were told to wait. For those like Mario Cuomo, the right year never came. Other candidates and campaigns, like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, ignored the ‘experts;’ put their trust in the electorate to do what is right; and stepped boldly onto the stage of history.
"When people come to me saying there's too much to do – fighting for HIV/AIDS patients who have had their funding cut, working for change at the Federal level and all the other things that we must do – I tell them that we can do it all. We are not small people, and we have no idea how much we are capable of doing,” Jeffrey Taylor, another Cat Wrangler from the IAG.
When do you want your rights back? Now? Then join the movement – gather the signatures to get back on the ballot in 2010 – be a part of history. There is no wrong time to fight for what’s right.
Jane Wishon, Member of the IAG
Straight Ally Women 4 Equality