Monday, May 4, 2009

Torie Osborn of Courage Campaign Says of Repealing Prop 8, "If Not Now, When?"

"We are the ones we have been waiting for," quoted Torie Osborn, a respected leader in the movement and one of the founders of Camp Courage, borrowing a line from African American, lesbian poet June Jordan's "A Poem For South African Women."

In her closing speech at the two-day grassroots organizing camp in Oakland, CA on Sunday, Torie channeled the energy of the movement when she announced that the Courage Campaign would be there to support and empower the grassroots for a November 2010 initiative to repeal Proposition 8 if the state's supreme court didn't overthrow it.

Rick Jacobs, founder and chair of the Courage Campaign, summed it up in a statement to Unite the Fight:
"At Camp Courage Oakland over the weekend, Courage Campaign staff conducted a series of conversations with various marriage equality activists, progressive organizers and grassroots leaders. As Torie Osborn's closing speech demonstrated, the consensus was clear: We are ready to go back to the ballot in 2010, assuming the Supreme Court rules to uphold Prop 8. But before we can make the ultimate decision to support an actual ballot initiative, the Courage Campaign needs to survey our members and consult with our allies in the polling group formed by several organizations a few weeks ago. Based on a vote of our members, we will move forward on a decision along with our partners in the marriage equality movement."
This is no small announcement.

Even though the organization is still waiting for more information from polling in regards to the technical aspects of submitting an initiative, their commitment to support the grassroots if they choose to go for a 2010 initiative speaks volumes.

Many a debate has waged within the LGBT population in California and abroad about whether an initiative to repeal Prop 8 should happen in 2010 or 2012. Pros and cons for both are numerous, but a lot boils down to one, do we have a enough time to organize a campaign for 2010? Two, can we persuade enough voters to swing the small percentage that gave the Yes on 8 campaign the majority to vote on our side the second time around?

But Torie pointed out that the grassroots, which was denied a role in the No on 8 campaign, is ready for the daunting challenge to take on a 2010 initiative. If the grassroots is ready to go, the Courage Campaign will be there to support them every step of the way.

This underlines the fact that a new campaign would be different, she noted. Instead of being ran top-down like the No on 8 campaign, it would be run from the bottom-up. Indicating the crowd that attended the camp, she added "by the grassroots."

One could definitely feel the electric energy at the Camp Courage site, with exciting discussions peppered throughout about the inevitability of 2010. In a conversation with Rick Jacobs this weekend, he remarked that it was obvious where things were heading and that if Prop 8 isn't overturned, that the grassroots was ready to go full steam ahead for November 2010.

Another fact that makes this a big announcement is that it comes from the Courage Campaign, the organization responsible for the record breaking "Fidelity: Don't Divorce Us" video.

The organization is an online organizing network that empowers nearly 700,000 grassroots and netroots activists to push for progressive change in California. Engineering online tools and giving voter information to anyone motivated to to make a difference, they provide a way for individuals to make a change in their neighborhood. It's as simple as logging in.

The network enables grassroots to set up their own "Equality Teams" to reach out to the electorate either through canvassing, phonebanking and more in order to change hearts and minds for equality. It's an unprecedented giving away of information that empowers the community to run a campaign on their own. Even if they belong to another organization.

Truly grassroots. And the key difference between victory and defeat.

Overwhelmed by the massive amount of work and strategy needing to take place for 2010, Torie admitted she was in denial about the need for an immediate campaign. But after seeing the passion and drive from hundreds of activists eager to repeal Prop 8, she knew justice couldn't wait.

With tears in her eyes, Torie made the announcement, alongside co-facilitators Mike Bonin and Lisa Powell, that the three of them and the Courage Campaign would be committed to working side-by-side with the grassroots for a 2010 campaign.

They were greeted with thunderous applause.

Rick Jacobs then took to the stage and read from MLK's "A Letter From a Birmingham Jail":
"We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."
Learning from the mistakes of 2008's No on 8 campaign, the leaders of the Courage Campaign and Camp Courage envision a new campaign for marriage equality that includes everyone - grassroots, big organizations, small organizations, LGBT, allies, young and old and of all races. Keeping to the mantra, "Respect. Empower. Include," everyone will be responsible for winning their rights back and spreading equality for all. Most importantly, it will be sooner than later.

Are you up for the challenge? Because if not now, when?

Photos by Marta Evry who blogs at

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