Thanks to reporter Rex Wockner, Steve Hildebrand, Obama's former Deputy Campaign Manager who worked with the Courage Campaign (CC) on their marriage equality research, has answered the question everyone's been asking - will the research that lead to the grassroots organization pulling out of the 2010 Prop 8 repeal effort be released?
Hildebrand answered in an email to Wockner:
Rightfully so, there is significant interest from reporters and bloggers about the research conducted for the Courage Campaign regarding same sex marriage and voter opinions in California. The high level of press interest should not dictate if this research is made public. What should dictate the public release of our research, is if it's in the best interest of winning same sex marriage rights. In my opinion -- and the opinion of the Courage Campaign -- we do not think it is in the best interest of the marriage equality movement to share strategic research with the media, as it would result in news stories that provide vital strategic information to our opponents.
Same sex marriage opponents have proven to do whatever it takes to prevent LGBT people from gaining equality. They have kept a tight lid on their strategy and tactics and it's proven successful. Our side needs to be just as smart and keep strategic data internal to our efforts.
From the time the California Courts ruled that same sex marriage should be allowed to the repeal put forth by the opposition, this has been a contentious battle. The Courage Campaign research is very instructive and will help lay a path to eventually gain marriage rights through a new vote of the people. We are preparing to share the research with LGBT groups in California and elsewhere.
Putting aside the drama surrounding CC's announcement (and seriously, were any of you that surprised? They have been hinting at it for some time), I have to agree that the core findings of this research should not be released to the public.
I mean, c'mon, many of us did pitch in on this research - do we want our dollars to go to waste by handing the information over to just anyone? I understand that many of you feel your trust has been betrayed because you believed CC was completely behind 2010, but that is a separate issue. The question at hand is what should be done with the research.
I've heard some say that no research was done at all, but I view that as simply a conspiracy theory cooked up in response to the confidentiality surrounding the research. Kind of like all the outlandish theories surrounding secret societies simply because they're secret.
I would ask of CC that they release some of the non-sensitive information, such as how much research was done? How extensive? Who did the analysis and how much of that was done? How much was spent and in what way? How much if any is left over? How big the sample base, what regions of California, etc?
However and whatever way you peel the onion, CC has lost some trust in the grassroots community, no matter whether you agree that trust should have been broken or not. Showing how much research was done and by whom, how much money was spent, how extensively and in what way, could be a first step in rebuilding that trust. (Another step could be to confidentially share their findings with other LGBT advocacy groups who may really need the information.) Otherwise, CC is well on its way to being ironically put in the same position as its old rival Equality California found themselves after Prop 8 - being angrily and distrustfully called to intense accountability with disbelief being the response to anything they say.
Calling our leaders into accountability should be standard practice anyway - but with trust and respect.
The California LGBT population is already suffering from a lack of trust in its leadership. Sure, progress has been made, but any more damage and our fight for equal rights in California may consume itself.
Image of Steve Hildebrand by Rex Wockner.