UPDATE 2 8:24 PST: Restore Equality 2010 has issued a response. See Bottom of post.
UPDATE: Lambda Legal's statement at bottom of post.
Original Post 11/30/09
The Courage Campaign, the largest LGBT grassroots organization in California working toward a Proposition 8 repeal in 2010 and one of the first to voice support for this strategy back in May, has announced today that more research and outreach needs to be done to clench a win for marriage equality in the Golden State and has withdrawn its support for a 2010 campaign.
Part of their press release states:
The Courage Campaign, in partnership with Lambda Legal, has recently concluded the first phase of extensive and groundbreaking research about public beliefs and concerns about marriage and homosexuality. It confirmed that attitudes are shifting steadily toward equal treatment of same-sex couples, and that conversations among family members and other close relationships inevitably speed the process. The statement released today is concurrent with a Lambda Legal statement.This announcement effectively leaves LGBT grassroots group Love Honor Cherish (LHC) alone in the forefront for a 2010 strategy. Recently, they kicked off a signature gathering campaign for a 2010 ballot initiative that, if passed, will undo the damage of Proposition 8. Statewide organizing coalition Restore Equality 2010, which includes grassroots representatives from across the state, is supporting the signature drive.
"For months, we have laid out the criteria for moving forward. Like the Obama Campaign, we understand that we need a combination of powerful and clear research that informs an expertly run campaign, an unstoppable movement that harnesses the new energy we have seen since the passage of Prop. 8 and the connections through personal stories and outreach in order to win at the ballot box," said Rick Jacobs, the Courage Campaign founder and Chair. "We are taking the lessons learned from last year's Prop. 8 campaign, the campaigns in Maine and other states to understand the fundamental work that must be done before moving forward in California. We also must come together as a community to create a broad coalition and governance structure, put in place a strong manager and secure the resources to win. Right now, the pieces are not all in place to do so confidently."
The recently concluded research validated the lasting effect of the work already being done in the successful Camp Courage training program and by 44 Courage Equality Teams organizing across the state in 23 counties. These grassroots efforts are building support for marriage equality by training Californians to tap into their community's resources to start a conversation and connect the movement for equality to their own lives and their own experiences, along with the broader progressive agenda.
Jacobs hailed the work being done in the field by grassroots activists, saying, "We must build our ultimate victory from the lessons of our recent disappointments," continued Jacobs. "We know that we can change hearts and minds through real conversations with our friends, family, co-workers and neighbors. This takes time and has to be built to scale -- so we can't delay. When we go back to the ballot, we must be strong, clear and embracing."
In response to Courage Campaign's announcement, John Henning, co-founder of LHC, told Unite the Fight in an email:
We respect Courage Campaign’s decision not to participate in the campaign to restore marriage equality in 2010. Every organization must focus its attention and resources on its most important priorities, and for the Courage Campaign those priorities include numerous progressive causes other than securing same-sex marriage rights.Currently, the state's largest LGBT advocacy group, Equality California, is focusing its efforts on its re-launched educational campaign Let California Ring with a goal of returning the issue of marriage equality to the ballot in 2012.
Meanwhile, we invite individual members of Courage, 80 percent of whom voted to support returning to the ballot in 2010, to join the Sign For Equality campaign. You will join thousands of people across California who have made this campaign their highest priority, and who are busy gathering signatures now.
Courage Campaign will continue to conduct its well-received Camp Courage and has recently launched its educational campaign Courageous Conversations, which encourages those in the LGBT population and their allies to talk to friends and families about marriage equality over the holidays, utilizing their "story of self," a tool taught at Camp Courage.
Lambda Legal's press release:
Lambda Legal today called for more outreach, education, research and time to change hearts and minds before returning to the ballot to reopen marriage to gay and lesbian couples in California. At least one initiative to restore marriage equality for same-sex couples is currently circulating that, if it qualifies, would appear on the November, 2010 ballot, but Lambda Legal believes that putting this measure to a vote in 2012 is the strongest strategy.
The Courage Campaign, in partnership with Lambda Legal and other leading groups, has recently concluded the first phase of extensive and groundbreaking research about public beliefs about marriage and gay people. It confirms that attitudes are shifting steadily toward equal treatment of same-sex couples, and that conversations among family members and other close relationships inevitably speed the process.
"Over the past year since Prop 8's passage, we've expanded our community education in California and have seen the remarkable national progress exert a positive influence here," said Jennifer C. Pizer, Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal. "We've seen our many community groups collaborating as never before. With the great field operations of the Courage Campaign, Vote for Equality, Equality California and countless new activists and allies across the state, the next two years hold great promise. This work complements the efforts within California's racial and ethnic minority communities and within the state's diverse communities of faith. There has never been any doubt that the LGBT community and our friends and allies will restore marriage equality in California ÿÿ the only question has been when. We now believe it's November 2012."
The recently concluded research validated the lasting effect of the work already being done in the successful Camp Courage program and by Courage Equality Teams organizing across the state. These grassroots efforts are building support for marriage equality by training Californians to tap into their community's resources to start a conversation and connect the movement for equality to their own lives and their own experiences. This outreach has surged ahead, fueled by the passion and determination of countless new activists who have committed to this cause within the past year.
"We're so close," said Pizer. "Each year, each month, public understanding shifts a bit more in our direction. As crushing as it was to lose in Maine this year and in California in 2008, support is building strongly in our favor: in 2000, Proposition 22 won with 61 percent of the vote; Proposition 8 passed by a meager margin of only four points. It's insulting to have to wait and work to regain a core human right that should never have been taken. As legal advocates, we know minorities should never have to beg the majority for equal rights. Given the decision by the California Supreme Court earlier this year, that's our only path. It's essential that we choose wisely when to return to the ballot ÿÿ while we're within striking distance, we believe we're not there yet."
Restore Equality 2010 response:
Restore Equality 2010 (RE 2010), the statewide coalition of organizations committed to repealing California’s Proposition 8 in 2010, responded strongly to the statements issued today by the Courage Campaign and Lamba Legal calling for more time before returning to the ballot box. Jo Hoenninger, chair of the interim Executive Committee for RE 2010, said, “This is a movement for equality. Harvey Milk didn’t wait for research. He hit the streets year after year. We honor his memory by gathering signatures now so our rights can be restored in 2010 not at some later time when it might be an easier struggle.” Hoenninger added, “We appreciate the research work done by the Courage Campaign. The results to date – that one-to-one conversations are the most effective way to change hearts and minds – show that it is all the more important for us to continue to have the conversations necessary to gather the signatures for 2010 repeal of Proposition 8 .”
RE 2010 continues to work with coalition partner Love Honor Cherish to gather 1 million signatures by next April ensuring a repeal of Proposition 8 is on the California ballot in 2010. Through the first-of-its-kind social networking site SignforEquality.com signatures have been gathered at locations in every corner of the state of California by volunteers, and have been signed and sent from home by individuals. “We understand that a grassroots effort takes time to find its feet,” said Jeffrey Taylor, spokesman for RE 2010, “We are staunchly committed to creating increased momentum until we meet our goal. Concurrently, we are working to ensure every place and every population in this great state has a voice in the 2010 campaign when we reach our goal.” Taylor continues, “Even though the leadership of the Courage Campaign chooses to wait, many of Courage Campaign’s members are regional representatives with RE 2010. In fact, 80% of the membership of the Courage Campaign are in favor of a Prop. 8 repeal in 2010 “
RE 2010 remains confident even though organizations like the Courage Campaign and Lambda Legal prefer to stand on the sidelines for now. “We are encouraged by the LA Times poll showing an increase in support among Californians for same-sex marriage (now 51% of Californians favor marriage equality), and we are also encouraged by the initial findings from Courage’s research showing a shift in our favor as well.” said Taylor. Hoenninger agrees, “We know this a tough battle, but we are up for the challenge and fully expect those who disagree with us to respect our volunteers.” Taylor adds, “We look forward to Courage Campaign and many other great organizations keeping their promise to join us when the signature gathering effort has been successful and the ballot campaign commences.”