Tuesday, July 14, 2009

UPDATE: 2010 vs. 2012: The Brewing Debate In California Over When to Go Back to the Ballot Boils Over

UPDATE 3: After a little digging into the consultants that EQCA is turning to on next steps for marriage equality, which are mentioned in Marc Solomon's statement (see Update 2), Unite the Fight discovered that two of them worked on the No on 8 campaign. These consultants, who are not LGBT nor have run any LGBT grassroots campaigns (that goes the same for the rest on the list), were a large part of the blame for the failure of No on 8. It's rather alarming to see that EQCA may be returning to them for advice. I understand the need for consultants, but hopefully we can find some who know more intrinsically and expertly about the issues at hand. Hopefully, EQCA will receive good advice from the other consultants on the list, but also, not let said advice be the final say on how to proceed.

UPDATE 2: Marc Solomon, Marriage Director for EQCA, just posted a response to the Prepare to Prevail statement and covers how EQCA intends to act.

UPDATE: Prepare to Prevail now has a website at PreparetoPrevail.com.

Also, the Latino Equality Alliance was listed as an endorser on Love, Honor, Cherish's statement in support for 2010, but has organizations within its alliance that are listed on the opposing Prepare to Prevail statement, such as HONOR PAC. A member of HONOR PAC issued a statement, a part of which says:
We realize that LEA, like Courage Campaign and others have "endorsed" the 2010 proposal initiated by Love Honor Cherish last May -- before the Supreme Court decision and even before the LGBT poll for equality results were known. Later organizations that were not satisfied with the results of the LGBT poll - polled each other and got a predictable answer.

HONOR PAC strongly objected on a premature endorsement by LEA and others for a 2010 ballot based on our on the ground experience with the NO on 8 campaign office in East LA. Challenged to consider and articulate why we object and to submit an alternate proposal -- we reviewed poll results (especially those for our Latino community), met with other POC and non-POC orgs and our meetings resulted in the statement we released yesterday via our database, websites and the media.


As for the Latino Equality Alliance (LEA) -- it is not a formal organization and key members and organizations have been outspoken about keeping it that way. The general consensus has been that it be a conduit for communication and coordination among Latino and other organizations. HONOR PAC appreciates this relationship. However, LEA does not speak for HONOR PAC or the other formal organizations that have their own boards and decision making processes. All are independent allies and individuals supportive of the LGBT movement.
But again, my objection is how the statement was released. They didn't go to opposing groups personally first to discuss the eight points - they just blasted it out to the world. A discussion could've have been had, but now everyone's focused on trying not to splinter in different directions instead of discussing the points in the statement.

Within the last twenty four hours, the brewing debate over when California's LGBT population and allies should return to the ballot to overturn Prop 8 has begun to boil over. With a Leadership Summit scheduled for July 25 to discuss next steps for marriage equality in the state, everyone is vying to get the first word in.

It started Monday with "Prepare to Prevail," a statement released from a group of LGBT organizations, many of which are POC groups, that had many connections to the No on 8 campaign. It contained eight prerequisites or concerns that must be met before going to the ballot, heavily implying that 2010 would not be enough time.
  1. Winning requires full LGBT community support and a broad coalition of allies.
  2. We need to build strong majority support before placing the issue before voters.
  3. Campaign donors will be constrained given the current unprecedented economic downturn.
  4. Educational, voter-ID (not electoral) campaigns with specific goals should begin immediately
  5. We need time to build a coordinated data infrastructure that can support a winning campaign.
  6. Time and greater effort is needed to build trust and relationships in communities that represent the full diversity of California voters, including limited-English-speaking voters and voters of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.
  7. Labor, religious allies and communities of color are indispensable to winning. More time is needed to convert general support into full organizational backing to secure increased grassroots engagement, resources, and votes.
  8. More time means more “yes” votes for marriage equality.
Read the full "Prepare to Prevail" statement.

The statement appears in sharp contradiction to what many organizations have stated - mainly, the community is ready to go back in 2010.

The Courage Campaign, the politically progressive group that rallied a devastated community post Prop 8 and took the lead from the major LGBT organizations in training and organizing local community organizers and activists, came out in strong support for 2010 after polling its members and finding that 82.5% wanted to return to the ballot that year. In a response to the Prevail statement released today, they state:
"The Courage Campaign is doing its part by helping to build an electoral road map to victory, as are several other organizations that are laying the groundwork necessary to win back marriage equality. It is our responsibility to our members, who overwhelmingly told us that they want to go to the ballot in 2010, and it is our responsibility to the marriage equality community."

"That's why the Courage Campaign announced support for a 2010 initiative in May. While we respect other organizations discussing and deliberating this very important question, we have been building the infrastructure to win marriage equality rights at the ballot box sooner, rather than later. Our members are ready to do the hard work needed to win."
"The Courage Campaign believes that by training community organizers and sharing resources like staff support and access to the voter file, we can win in 2010 -- not just in Los Angeles, or San Francisco, but in the heartland of California."
Equality California (EQCA), one of the leading organizations behind the No on 8 campaign and who had lost its foothold within the LGBT community, appeared to be in agreement with the Courage Campaign by attempting to keep up with the community and stating they were preparing for 2010. Shortly after Courage Campaign announced its support for 2010, EQCA announced its grassroots campaign and new educational PSAs showing LGBT families (who were noticeably absent during the No on 8 campaign). Though their membership also supported a 2010 ballot, EQCA never came out in official support for 2010. (Dabblepost evaluates the well-known rivalry between the groups.)

Marc Solomon, marriage director of EQCA ,who was brought in from Massachusetts to help the organization repair the damage in the community due to No on 8, told the Los Angeles Times, "We initially said we believe 2010 was the right time to go back to the ballot. We've also made it very clear we will only move forward if we have a clear road map to victory. . . . The last thing we want to do is go back to the ballot and lose."

But something smells bad here. Though many of the points in the "Prepare to Prevail" statement are extremely essential and must be discussed and met, the statement's timing and how it was released couldn't be more divisive and is being seen as attempt by the major LGBT organizations to wrestle back control of a movement moving beyond them.

Dabblepost states, "The timing is especially relevant given that the mainstream LGBT organizations have all but been left behind in the high profile federal challenge to Proposition 8 (one that many believe will lead to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage). The lawsuit was orchestrated by a small but wealthy group of individuals who managed to get two high profile lawyers to take up their cause - with the mainstream LGBT organizations seeking to undermine the suit at every turn because they 'felt it was too soon.' Sound familiar? Now the federal case is gaining steam and the mainstream LGBT organizations want on board. Of course, the original petitioners in the case are saying, 'Ummm... NOW you want in?! No thanks, we don't need you and your abundant caution and ineptitude.' Equality California likely sees the potential of the same scenario arising in the case of a ballot initiative: another organization launching a ballot campaign all on their own, and then gaining mainstream support."

Many of the groups listed on the statement work directly with many of the pro-2010 groups and some are part of OUT West Coalition, the largest LGBT grassroots coalition in California, which meets at least once a month to discuss concerns facing the community. (In an effort of full disclosure, Unite the Fight is part of the OUT West Coalition).

Though there had been rumblings that they didn't support 2010 due to timing and work that needed to be done, the Prevail statement was prepared in secret and instead of going to these groups to discuss the points, they sent it to the press blindsiding their colleagues. With the Leadership Summit just two weeks away, why couldn't they have just waited and presented these points in person?

One group in particular who is listed as a main supporter of the Prevail statement, the Jordan Rustin Coalition, an African American LGBT grassroots organization, recently went through a leadership upheaval which has caused a divide within it. In the move, the group quickly aligned itself with EQCA and not only worked together on the new educational PSAs, but are also in the process in creating a field office in a predominantly African American neighborhood in Los Angeles. Some have told Unite the Fight that they see the move as a quick fix to the problems the No on 8 organizations caused by neglecting the needs of the POC LGBT groups during the campaign.

Sources to Unite the Fight state that many in the Prepare to Prevail group felt that they wouldn't be heard if they didn't go to the press. However, some felt strong-armed into joining in on the statement, or in some cases, never agreed to have their names on it in the first place, and are now requesting that the statement be corrected without their organizations included on the list. When asked where the pressure behind the statement was coming from, they wouldn't state.

In other cases, some appear on the Prevail statement and on the support of 2010 statement (or different chapters of the same organizations appear on opposing statements) issued by Love, Honor, Cherish (LHC), an adamantly pro-2010 organization, that was sent out way before the Prevail statement. So something changed.

Yet some on the statement told Unite the Fight that if in fact the concerns on the statement are met, they will be for 2010. But what if they're not, and if we move forward - will they support it? Will they join in? The answer to that is not clear.

LHC wasted no time and yesterday prepared a detailed response to the Prevail statement. John Henning, of LHC, also spoke to Los Angeles Times.

"There is a majority of the community . . . that favors going forward in 2010," said John Henning, executive director of the pro-same-sex-marriage group Love Honor Cherish. "The fact that some favor waiting should mean only one thing: They can wait, if they need to wait, but we are going to go ahead."

As already stated, many of the points in the Prevail statement are extremely important and must be addressed. The upcoming Leadership Summit would have been an ideal forum in which to address these concerns.

However, the Prevail groups' fear of not wanting to be the bad guys by opposing 2010 in discussions, which drove them to declare their views through the press instead, has now caused them to be the target of those in support of 2010. A self-fulfilling fear it appears. They're now being viewed as holding back the community's momentum and eagerness to win back their rights. The essential and valid points being made in their statement are now in danger of not being discussed due to the fact that the community now faces the even harder task of mending the cracks in what was hopefully going to be a unified front.

QUESTIONS: Do you believe that we, the LGBT population in California, are prepared to make a decision on 2010 or 2012? Or do you think we need to spend more time in looking at all the different factors, including those mentioned in the Prepare to Prevail statement, and work on unifying our movement? If we are ready to decide, when do you think we should return to the ballot? Because in the end, it's your voice that matters.


  1. To be fair, I don't think the "Prevail Statement" argues for 2010 or 20102. It argues that 2010 is too sooon and we should wait indefinitely. They are really talking about 2014 or beyond.

  2. I agree with the Love, Honor, Cherish statement in support of 2010, and I think the vast majority of our LGBT activists and community agree, as well. The "Prepare to Pravail" statement is a bump in the road, but I think it will ultimately be up to our large and growing, fired-up, grass-roots organizations and activists to mount the winning fight for equal marriage rights, not the lumbering and largely discredited mainstream lobby groups. Full steam ahead to 2010!

  3. I think the statement is arguing or siding for "2010 or 20102", just a direct statement saying that those organizations don't want to see the same mistake made last time. basically, in order to avoid the damage that prop 8 had did we will need to address those eight concerns. simple. so, have we met these concerns? in my opinion, i don't think we have.

  4. I think the movement needs to ask itself whether it can realistically raise the $40-$60 million it will take to mount a realistic campaign. My sense is that most of the folks who funded the No on 8 campaign will not return as donors unless there is a winning message supported by polling that shows us clearly winning. So can the new grassroots organizations demonstrate that they can raise the money it will take to win?

  5. I'm voting for 2010. Let's take this momentum and ride the wave.

  6. The statement you mention as being from the Latino Equality Alliance ("LEA") is actually from a member of Honor PAC who is criticizing LEA. LEA is on recoprd in support of a 2010 initiative and that has not chaged. The statement from LHC in response to the "Let's Wait" letter is being joined by other organizations, including Somos Familia.

  7. Thank you, Lester. I corrected my wording as I realized it was misleading as to who was saying what. I want to be sure everything is portrayed accurately and with respect.

  8. To be fair, the statement does not say for waiting indefinitely. It says "a future year." Last time I checked, 2012 is in the future, and defintely a year. For someone so dedicated to making sure things are kept honest, you've managed to twist the words of three organizations that do honest, good, hard work in communities. Instead of constructive, you've decided to take arms against other people working to accomplish the same goals of equality. There is no love, honor, or cherish in your statements. Just simple hate.

  9. Thanks for posting. I value lots the contribution Unite the Fight makes to the community’s efforts.

    So to hit the specific issues you raise, the two consultants you mention as having worked for No on 8 were actually brought in during the last two to three weeks to help try to right the ship (that's what I understand from those who were involved--I was still duking it out in Massachusetts and Connecticut then). They were not lead strategists and did not devise the campaign plan for No on 8. Instead, they were folks who had extremely stellar records in California, who cared a lot about the issue, and who wanted to help out towards the end.

    Of the seven folks we reached out to, three are openly LGBT. One, Sue Burnside, is a superstar grassroots/field expert based in LA who is part of one of the 18,000 couples that was able to marry. She has worked on field strategy on marriage equality in Hawaii and she co-chairs a key board of the LGBT Victory Fund, which helps get openly LGBT people elected to office. Another, Dave Fleischer, has been involved in devising and implementing field strategy on literally dozens of LGBT-related referenda on the local and state level. He knows more than anyone else I can think of about how to move voters on LGBT equality issues at their doors.

    Anyhow, the idea here is not to rely on any one consultant as having the silver bullet answer (though of course I’d love it if they did). But instead to get some really good information from smart people who have been involved in winning—and losing—campaigns, and add it to our community’s collective wisdom.


    Marc Solomon
    Marriage Director
    Equality California

  10. Marc,

    Thank you very much for addressing the concerns mentioned in this post and providing the readership and myself more information on what is happening at EQCA. It is truly a sign of engagement from you and that some things have definitely changed at EQCA since No on 8.

    I'm also heartened to hear that going to the consultants isn't a knee jerk reaction if and when at a loss on how to proceed (which was witnessed in the past), but just a further gathering of information.

    This sort of engagement from EQCA and the other large organizations is exactly what the community has been clamoring for as well as an active role in future developments. Please continue respond to posts here at Unite the Fight as you see fit when concerns are brought up or perhaps when information listed here needs updating or correcting.

    As you already know, many of the wounds from No on 8 have yet to heal, but a continuing involvement with the community will always be seen as a step in the right direction.

    Thank you for your hard work.

  11. In response to "R of WeHo" I am a lawyer and so are the authors of the Wait, Wait Manifesto. I know that when someone uses language like "a future date,"there is a reson. If they wanted to say 2012 they would have. Sveral of the signatories are talking about 2014 at the earliest. It is important that the community understand the import of what a decsion to not go to the ballot in 2010 is.

  12. UTF, you make some good points about which consultants EQCA is looking to for help in deciding how to proceed in the fight for equality.

    It is great to hear the response from Marc Solomon of EQCA. It sounds like he is interested in learning from the community and is sensitive to our concerns. I think the “wounds from No on 8” are important for us to remember – not to assign blame but to use for learning how not to repeat the same mistakes again.

    The only consultant included in the EQCA list that raises questions is Rick Claussen. His group, Goddard Claussen, may have a good reputation for winning, but when checking out their client list, most of their successes are for campaigns fighting health care reform (they take credit for ‘Harry and Louise’) and supporting many business-related causes. I trust that Marc knows who he is his dealing with, but it seems like an odd choice. It is good that some of the late-comers to the 2008 campaign are included at this stage, but I would encourage Marc to include as many new participants as possible.

    His approach to using consultants is also on the right track. They can be valuable resources, but the campaign for repealing Prop 8 needs to be managed by people who are committed to the cause and not in it only for the paycheck. Because we got burned last time it will be difficult for any group such as EQCA to earn back the trust of the community. We are more wary and more prepared than last time. This discussion on UTF is a good example of the level of engagement anyone who wants to manage the campaign can expect to see.

    I attended the Get Engaged Tour/Love Honor Cherish meeting in West Hollywood last night and saw the presentation on the research recently done to determine the messages to use for supporting marriage equality. Almost everything pointed in a different direction than was used last year; and it is disheartening to realize that this same information could have been used by a smart group of people during the campaign and we could have been successful. Hopefully there is a smarter group of people leading the charge this time.

    Keep up the good work.

  13. You can't criticize Prepare to Prevail for posting their opinions to the public before the leadership summit. Love Honor Cherish and those in favor of 2010 had signs printed and campaigns launched for 2010 for months, as seen at the last leadership summit.

    Speaking of which, not everyone knows about those summits and not everyone is able or willing to attend.

  14. I'd like to clarify that I'm not criticizing Prepare to Prevail for speaking up. I actually agree with a lot of what they say and happy they said it. What I criticize is how they went about releasing the statement and for not speaking up sooner and making such a strong stand before. (One thing Love Honor Cherish has going for them - you know where they stand and their message is clear.)

    I know the Prevail groups felt this way for sometime, but they didn't engage the pro-2010 groups who now feel some trust has been broken in that they weren't approached first.

    Many of these groups I have worked with and highly respect, which is why I'm glad they have now chosen to speak up. They are involved constantly with pro-2010 groups. I just wish these points could have been made in the plenty of meetings held before so that an actual discussion could have been had. But instead, I fear (and am witnessing) how they released the statement, such as going to the press and not engaging pro-2010 groups in discussion (could also have been done at the summit), will overshadow the very important message their sending.

    As for the summit, the Get Engaged Tour has gone across the whole state with numerous town halls talking about the new polling data and communicating about the summit, involving as many groups as possible. I understand not all will be able to attend, but if, as you say it's as simple as not being willing, then they forfeit the right to complain later.

    In the end, I hope we can all set aside the drama behind the releasing of the statement (what's done is done) and actually discuss what the statement says. Because if we don't address the issues it brings up, we're in deep trouble.