Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Courage Campaign Withdraws From 2010 Proposition 8 Repeal Effort

UPDATE 3 12/1/09: Los Angeles Times story on the diverging views amongst the local LGBT community and the strategy to undo Prop 8.

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that more research and outreach needs to be done to clench a win for marriage equality in the Golden State and has withdrawn its support for a 2010 campaign.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.

"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."
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.

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.

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.
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.

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.”


  1. Phew. That John Henning - he sure sets a good example by demonstrating civility, patience, and understanding in light of this turn of events. I woulda told Jacobs to go %@&$ A *!%#$^ IN THE @&$#% *@!%$#&%$!!!

    But hey. That's just me...

  2. So Courage Campaign received all of the donations from their "members" and have officially backed off 2010! Way to throw the grassroots community under the bus RICK JACOBS!!!

  3. That's right! They did that big donation drive solely based on getting resources for 2010 research. It was all phrased, "Show us how much you support 2010 by donating now! We need the money ASAP or it won't happen!"

    Guess they took the money and ran.

    Are we going to see this research? Are we going to see what our money bought? Was our money used for the research?

    Sounds like EQCA and the No on 8 campaign.

  4. Yeah, John Henning may be civil about it, but I don't quite feel that way. I wonder what Courage Campaign will do (or not do) if this gets on the ballot. I'm more inclined than ever to ditch my personal feeling about this, and work my butt off to gather ballot petition signatures. (Well, this and an awfully coincidental meeting I had with the very same John Henning over the holiday weekend.)

  5. Sounds like they should change their name to "Lack-of-Courage" Campaign. They weren't there during the No on 8 campaign, so who cares if they are MIA during the Repeal Prop 8 campaign?

  6. *Sigh*
    I feel personally betrayed by the Courage Campaign, they were the ones telling us to go forward with this. They said they would be here for us every step of the way, yet we have walked alone. Oakland Camp courage is what sealed the deal for me in my support for Courage Campaign and Rick Jacobs. Now if just feel like we are all being used for our time and commitment for the cause to raise money for paid staffers that are unwilling to help it. I have a knife in my back right now, but the prints on it dont solely belong to Courage Campaign.

  7. We all should demand to be given the results of this "research" they supposedly spent money on. Courage Campaign basically not only robbed us, but the movement. They took money from big donors who believed they were supporting 2010, and now CC has backed out, which will leave those big donors A.) less that money which could have been used toward 2010 and B.) less likely to donate again for fear of being ripped off. Which means the 2010 movement is dealt yet another blow. Good job, CC and Rick Jacobs. Looks like CC is just like all the other groups - out to keep their jobs rather than work for our civil rights.

  8. oh, boo-hoo-hoo. you all got screwed by the courage cult and you're shocked, shocked that rick jacobs hasn't shown you his research. i'm sure the suckers who fell for the cult's rhetoric will be surprised to learn there's gambling going on in the casinos of vegas.

    adding to the weirdness of the courage cult, that refuses to ID as gay but sure likes to be thought of as CA gay leaders, the release from today is not on their web site.

    this cult was supposed to be the anti-EQCA and jacobs the anti-kors, and to some degree they are, but the cult is not the answer to the gay community's problems in CA.

  9. Adam Bink at OpenLeft thinks it's a good decision.


  10. This is not a time to be bitter, cynical or divisive. In my humble opinion, adoption of the bizarre Davis Plan --which was freely adopted by the grassroots without any participation by Courage-- was the downfall for a united 2010 effort. There was too much concern about rallying support from outlying areas and no concern about unifying our base. Some of our leaders should take Politics 101.

  11. Robert Z, were you not aware that they were at the meeting when it was adopted? They sure as heck did not speak up.

  12. Courage has been lacking in courage campaign all along - not surprised, here!

    Too much posturing and very little working for the rights of the LGBT community.

    The so-called leaders of the LGBT community in Ca are the reason we lost our rights last year and are our biggest roadblock in getting them back.

    Shame on you, Rick Jacobs!

  13. Ask them what these "courage" camps cost them, you'll be quite surprised. Then what happens afterwards, not a damn thing. They were the first ones out there shouting about EQCA, looks like they just joined the ranks. Welcome!

    And when you ask for the research they will give some BS about not wanting the opposition to get ahold of it, so YOU can't see it either. *sigh*

  14. I am suspicious of our so-called progressive allies or any organization that does not identify as gay yet puts themselves out as gay leaders. But what is the motivation of Lambda Legal here?

  15. I agree with CC's decision.

    But I would very much like to see what all this research came up with. Does it include polling? Market segmentation data? What?

    Unfortunately, after the fiasco in Maine the next debate will be 2012 v. 2014. The premise everyone had been operating under was that we lost b/c of our own incompetence and if we just put a competent campaign in place, we would win. But No on 1 was basically competent and it still lost by 5.5%.

    The only way to win, IMHO, is to both run a competent campaign and also frame the issue in terms of the self-interest of the majority. I hope UTF and the other gay blogs will harangue EQCA to seriously focus group arguments based on majoritarian self-interest prior to the next vote.

  16. We're going to continue losing until we don't lose anymore. Do you really think all the homophobe in Bakersfield needs to hear is that he's hurting gay families, and - poof! - suddenly he'll see things our way? People have already thought about this issue plenty and have strong opinions, and neither the campaign in California nor Maine changed the vote all that much. We're very close, but the most important thing that will is the natural progression of voter opinion. 2012 makes more sense than 2010, but even two years from now may be too soon.

  17. I think we have to keep fighting, whether we lose or not. There is an advantage to making our enemies pay a "hate tax" by having to fund campaigns against us. We are used to paying "fag taxes" so we can keep ponying up until we win. But I think the Mormons and the Catholics are soon going to get tired of being asked for money to deprive us of equal rights when they don't get anything out of it except to be revealed as the bigots that they are.

    Having said that, I think it is debatable as to whether California, with its robust domestic partnership law, is really the right battleground. It is true that a victory there would have an important psychological effect, but since California is more and more looking like a disfunctional state, I am not sure that people look to it as a leader they way they used to. Perhaps Illinois or Minnesota would be better battlegrounds.

    In any case, just because we may lose is not a good enough reason to abandon the fight. We will never win unless we fight. And our enemies will not give up until it becomes too expensive to them to continue the fight.