Thursday, November 19, 2009

Proposition 8 2010 Repeal Supporters, Not Swayed by Criticism, Explain Strategy Behind the Five Initiatives Submitted

UPDATE 11/19 8:45am PST: San Diegans kick off Prop 8 repeal signature drive

Original posted 11/18/09:

For a year now, the debate on when to go back to the ballot to restore marriage equality to California and repeal Proposition 8 has raged not only amongst the Golden State's LGBT population and its allies but also nationwide.

After the devastating defeat in Maine, the fundamentalist pundits claimed that it was a sign Americans were not ready for legalized same-sex marriage, despite the many advances in Iowa and New England. Unfortunately, contrary to what the politicians say, legislators in both New York and New Jersey appear to have taken a cue from what happened in Maine and are dragging their heels on voting for proposed marriage equality legislation in their respective states.

Currently, the District of Columbia shines as the one bright spot in the nation with its marriage equality bill predicted to pass before the end of the year, despite the Archdiocese of Washington threatening to end Catholic charities if marriage equality is legalized in the jurisdiction.

Amongst these developments, Love Honor Cherish (LHC), the California based LGBT grassroots group leading the charge for a 2010 Proposition 8 repeal, announced Monday the launch of the signature gathering campaign for its ballot initiative. Alongside the announcement, it kicked off the social site and online campaign hub, Sign For Equality.

" today launched a groundbreaking effort to gather signatures to repeal Proposition 8 and restore equal marriage rights for same-sex couples marking the first time that social networking technology has been used to qualify a California initiative for the ballot," said the group's press release Monday.

On the same day, California Secretary of State issued a statement that five ballot initiatives had been submitted and approved for signature gathering that caused some confusion.

CA SoS Statement on Five Marriage Equality Ballot Initiatives

John Henning, co-founder of LHC, confirmed with Unite the Fight (UTF) that five versions of repeal language were submitted to the Secretary.

"The reason we submitted five back in September was because of ongoing discussions about which five were most appealing to voters," Henning said. "There were some that voters responded to better."

At the time the language was submitted, Courage Campaign was in the middle of conducting research that LHC hoped would give guidance on which version was the best.

"The research that was underway at the time did inform the five ways the language was written, but we didn’t have any conclusive results on which of the five versions was the best. So we made that decision based on our own good judgment," Henning said.

Henning explained that all the language is very similar and was vetted by very prominent lawyers in the marriage movement, along with other leaders and Equality California (EQCA), the state's largest LGBT advocacy group.

Marc Solomon, Marriage Director for EQCA, confirmed this back in October with UTF. "It was mainly Geoff," he said, referring to Geoff Kors, EQCA's Executive Director. "He’s a Stanford educated lawyer and has much more legal expertise than I do."

Version 5 or 09-0042 ended up being the final language behind which the signature gathering campaign was launched. Henning said that the statewide organizing group Restore Equality 2010 (RE 2010) was involved in the decision making process.

"The final decision was made about a week before they were approved," Henning informed. "We allowed for plenty of time to think about it and [RE 2010]'s Interim Administrative Group (IAG) to consider the matter and give advice. We waited to choose because we wanted the input from everybody we could possibly have."

Henning said that the executive committee of LHC was strongly in favor of version 5 and that the IAG voted unanimously for it.

The full language reads:
This amendment would amend an existing section of the California Constitution. Existing language proposed to be deleted is printed in strikeout type. Language proposed to be added is printed in underlined type.

Section 1. To protect religious freedom, no court shall interpret this measure to require any priest, minister, pastor, rabbi, or other person authorized to perform marriages by any religious denomination, church, or other non-profit religious institution to perform any marriage in violation of his or her religious beliefs. The refusal to perform a marriage under this provision shall not be the basis for lawsuit or liability, and shall not affect the tax-exempt status of any religious denomination, church or other religious institution.

Section 2. To provide for fairness in the government’s issuance of marriage licenses, Section 7.5 of Article I of the California Constitution is hereby amended to read as follows: Sec. 7.5. Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. Marriage is between only two persons and shall not be restricted on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or religion.
In an email blast sent out Monday, RE 2010 gave a list of actions for supporters of the signature gathering campaign, including donating to reach their goal of $10,000 to cover the cost of the petition drive.

“We set a goal of $10,000 between now and December 1 for a variety reasons," said Jane Wishon, who is part of RE 2010's IAG. "We need money to start the process, update our website and logo, and provide resources for signature gatherers all over the state so that can be out gathering signatures rather than worrying about raising the money needed.”

“At the same time, we need to prove to the larger donors in the community that we’re legitimate, we’re for real and that we can do this,” she added. Monday's email stated they had succeeded in raising 20% of their goal. "I think today we’re at 25% or over $2,500."

LHC will act as the clearinghouse for the signatures that are turned in and will safeguard those submitted either online or mailed to their PO Box that has been set up to receive large amounts of mail.

The Blueprint for Equality, LHC's strategy on a 2010 victory released in July, states that 5,500 volunteers will be needed over the course of 150 days to gather the one million signatures required to qualify for the ballot. 5,000 will each spend one day gathering 100 signatures per volunteer, another 500 "super-volunteers" will spend 10 days gathering the same amount each day.

"What we are looking for is a combination of hardcore volunteers" and others who will give one day said Henning. "The ten days over 150 days is one full day every two weeks for the volunteer. To me it’s a commitment, but it’s not an enormous commitment. We’re looking for 500 people throughout the state to give us that commitment."

"Many of these people we won’t actually ever meet because they’ll be inspired to do it through the website or send them in through the mail," Henning added. "On top of that, they’ll be many people who will be sending just 10 signatures. They’ll have friends and family sign and then send them in."

Gathering 100 signatures in a day is challenge, but Henning doesn't doubt that they'll qualify for the ballot. "I'm extremely confident. I wouldn’t be spending my own time if I didn’t think this will be getting on the ballot."

But LHC and RE 2010 have faced many naysayers, some going as far as urging people to decline to sign the petition. They fear that going to the ballot this soon after Prop 8 will create a backlash against the marriage movement. Others have pointed out that polling has shown no shift in opinion in California on the issue of same-sex marriage, and after the defeat in Maine, believe it is unwise to move forward.

"Sadly, there’s a lot of defeatism in our community," Henning responds. "Some of it comes from the pain of losing Prop 8. You have to have faith that things are going to be better. We can’t just wallow in defeat and fear. People are capable of changing their minds. I know there are people who think we can’t win and they’re always be people who think we can’t win. But there are many people who do."

Henning, whose grandfather is from Maine, has spent every summer of his life in Pine Tree state, claims that Maine wasn't a factor in their decision to move forward. "The defeat in Maine was always possible," he said. "Maine is a relatively rural state. It’s not nearly as diverse of a state as California. Not many people know gay people in Maine. I was amazed that it even got far enough for people to vote."

"What happens in a state that is 3,000 miles away and is 1/30 of the size of California doesn’t really affect what happens in California," he added.

Others resistant to going back in 2010 accuse the groups leading the charge of steamrolling and wonder why LHC should be the ones to heading it up.

"Our group has heart and we represent a part of the pure grassroots in the state," Henning said. "We are not a staffed organization. We are not controlled by big donors. We are doing this because we think it’s the right thing to do. There is no agenda. I think people should look to that, that we have consistently pushed for this with no other agenda."

Henning paused for a moment, then added, "Restore Equality 2010 is another group that has taken a leadership position because these other staffed groups have chosen not to. It was never our intention to be the leader of the 2010 charge, and we’re not going to sit down because a large group that claims to be in charge of the movement has decided not to play ball."

EQCA has stated that if the language qualifies for the 2010 ballot, then they will throw their weight behind the campaign to give the best chances of a victory.

"We’re not going to abandon the effort once the initiative qualifies," Henning remarked. "We’re going to be a part of it. We hope that Equality California will be part of it. They said they will be. I hope we do it all together. We know that a lot of people in the LGBT community want this."

Images by Phillip Minton.


  1. Oi, I'm conflicted about this. I'm against participating in the degrading and unAmerican charade of putting our civil rights up to a majority vote ... and yet I feel I cannot withhold my support from the signature gathering effort.

    I'm no longer affiliated with LHC, but I feel a strong tug to support their effort at reaching our common goal ... though I hate the thought of participating in this humiliating and morally bankrupt method.

    Sigh, I'm gonna talk this over with my ex, who's conveniently currently living with me. Ugh, FormerGay Rights Activist Conundrum.

  2. after watching all the misspent energy, time and enthusiasm go into the months of organizing for cleve's ego march on DC, and the whole group behind hit collapsing within a month after the march, i see no reason why anyone should support another dumb idea, and a 2010 ballot measure is that.

    there is no statewide network hitting the streets and gathering signatures, toward a 1,000,000 goal. henninger may be good at crafting well-written releases and statements, but that ain't enough to motivate people for another inept ballot campaign.

    let's make sure we tell all our friends to decline to sign. gay marriage is sucking too much of the gay agenda. so many more single gays need good health care and decent, affordable housing before they worry about wedding cakes and tossing the rice.

    i am in no mood to put up with another gay ballot campaign effort in CA or anywhere. we are sissies with the campaigns, hide behind closeted equality rhetoric, and render gay invisible from the campaigns.

    we do not need to give the opposition another chance to bash us with lies and then watch a lame ass equality/fairness group act shocked that that is happening again.

    the big problem with gay ballot campaigns is the gays.

  3. Once again, LHC offers up a bunch of faulty logic. And where did this $10,000 figure come from? Do they really think that's all it will take to launch this? And puhlease! 100 signatures in one day? Are they off their rocker?

    Passion doesn't equal strategy. Ideology doesn't make you right. LHC and those who support 2010 don't have the backing of most of the LGBT CA population, but they will still risk all of our rights by prematurely going back to the ballot in order to save face and avoid a bruised ego.

    And if they make on the ballot in 2010 and we lose - no, you can't keep going back over and over. We will have been set back years all because LHC wouldn't face facts.

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  5. The 2010 crowd is unflappable and in action, and aren't too concerned about a bubble of LGBT activist naysayers bitching bitterly from the stands like Statler and Waldorf.

  6. The way I see it, we've got two choices in 2010.

    1) We can fight for our rights in California, with our ballot language, on our terms, and with a year's worth of time to organize (we've never had that long); or

    2) We will be dragged into a fight in New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New York, or New Jersey.

    I don't know about you, but I find Option 1 a lot more appealing. Let's fight this fight on our turf and on our terms. And let's fight ALONGSIDE our allies in the reproduction rights and immigration rights communities (they're likely to be under attack at the ballot). Together, we can secure liberty and justice for all.

  7. Why would we wait for equal treatment? I say go for it!

    I agree with Ian - we set the agenda, we set the fight, and we win!

  8. And how do you suggest we go about winning? We haven't won ONE marriage ballot initiative. We have lost 31. We ran a tight campaign in the most secular state in the nation - Maine - and we still lost.

    I'm not saying we wallow in defeat, but I have yet to see any convincing plan that will lead us to victory in 2010, just empty phrases, "We set the agenda! We win!"

    Exactly what is your strategy? What messaging research have you done that convinces voters to vote in our favor? What on earth makes you think having one year to prepare is enough?

    You think not going back to the ballot immediately means we won't be working for our rights? That's shortsighted. This is when we do some of the hardest work. Doing the persuasive work, the voter ID, the canvassing and one-on-one conversations. That's educational work, most of which can't be done during an initiative campaign.

    One year is not enough to sway the voters of CA. And please, don't say if we lose, we'll just keep going back to the ballot over and over. It smacks of the ignorance of history. If we do that, we'll never win.

  9. OK, this is just getting crazy.

    1. 100 signatures in a day is NOTHING! We were able to get 900 in just about 3 days worth of work, we sure as hell were not working 24 hour shifts. This was for the DOMA petition that was put out by Join The Impact. In 2 hours here today one volunteer got 50 in a population dead part of the college free speech area.
    2. To the person who said you dont keep going back year after year to win back your rights, are you off your rocker? Honestly what the hell do you think Planned Parenthood does? What do you think that immigrants rights people do? IT WILL ALWAYS COME BACK TO THE BALLOT! even if you win, you will have to go back to defend it. you must be unaware about issues campaigns such as this, as they are always an on going battle. If we lose in 2010 then we go back in 2012, if we loose again then we keep fighting. IF we give up it invalidates us as as people.
    3. To the guy who says "to see any convincing plan that will lead us to victory in 2010," well i got for for ya. Get off your ass and help us win. Hows that for an idea? Maybe you can get some friends to join in as well. It is called community organizing, it has proven to be very effective.

  10. @Jay Matthews

    Pro-Life people keep going back to the back year after year in many parts of the country and look how well that's turned out.

    You can use multiple different examples supporting either side of the 2010 vs. 2012 debate, but they're not the same as marriage.

    I have to say the same to you, "Are you off your rocker?" about returning year after year. It takes time and resources we simply do not have in a state who hasn't budged on the marriage issue. The essential large donors will walk away if we keep being defeated (you can't ignore the fact that you need them), and you'll suffer from voter resentment on the issue.

    And though the "get off your ass" comment wasn't directed at me (it didn't answer the commentator's question about strategy), I am not going to work to help you qualify for 2010 because I think it's foolhardy. Instead, I'm committed to working the next THREE years for 2012, where I see large organizations AND community organizing coming together.

  11. @Anonymous replying to Jay.

    Your attitude is self-serving. How will you feel IF we did lose in 2010 and then in 2012 you are out trying to collect signatures and I encourage people to decline to sign your petitions because I don't agree with going back in 2012. That is ludicrous. Get off your ass and fight for your rights. I can promise you karma will come around and IF we do lose in 2010 because of people like you who are MORE concerned with being right than winning, we will FOR SURE lose again in 2012 just because of your negative, pessimistic and non-supportive attitude of the people that are out in the trenches NOW working to restore OUR rights.

  12. The negative comments here are not only bitchy but ugly. I myself am ambivalent about whether it is worth fighting for the name marriage in a state that has robust domestic partnerships, but that is different from the 2010-2012 debate. There is an advantage in keeping the issue, if we deem it important, in front of the voters. It also means that our enemies have to keep pouring money into the battle against us. We are used to having to pay "fag taxes" in order to secure protection for our families and to secure equality under the law. Now we have to make our enemies pay "hate taxes" in order to keep us down. Since they have much less incentive than we do, I suspect that at some point they will get tired.

    What we also need to do is to launder money the same way our enemies do. The liberal Churches should take up collections for same-sex marriage campaigns that we can contribute to and get tax deductions for charitable contributions just as the Catholic and Mormon churches do.

    In any case, if LHC gets the proposition on the ballot, I will be happy to pony up. If they cannot get 1,000,000 signatures, then clearly marriage equality is not important in California.

  13. @Slater619

    I don't encourage anyone to decline to sign. I don't agree with that at all. But just because I don't support 2010, you tell me to get off my ass and fight for my rights, AFTER I said I would fight for the next three years for 2012. You're not only illogical but offensive.

    Just because I don't agree with your date doesn't mean I'm not working my ass off fighting for my rights. I've heard 2010 people say they don't want to work this hard for the next three years. What I hear is they want immediate gratification. Well, I'm sorry, the reality is, Californians haven't changed their minds at all! I'd rather win than rush right back into the fire without any real plan and lose.

    I can support your efforts if you support mine. But the manipulation and guilt trips and in your face tactics from many of the 2010 group can only come from people on a high horse with blinders on. Time to get off and get in the trenches and build on each other's work instead of tearing it down.

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  15. Some pretty expensive research went into ballot language that tested well enough to move the needle just over the line needed. Is that a guarantee? Not at all. Might other polls differ? Sure. But to say there's been no change in California is not quite accurate. This was legitimate polling showing the incremental move necessary to squeak out a win just like the opposition squeaked out their's last year.

    We can argue 2010 vs. 2012 till the cows have marriage rights. But we might as well think it would be better strategy for the sun to rise in the west than the east. Waiting for a better moment might be wise, but it's often useless - because you can't control the population, and not everyone will wait.

    Olsen/Bois is going forward whether it's the right Supreme Court time or not. When will it ever be? 2097? The big gay rights groups were against it, and now they've realized they'd best get behind it full force. No choice.

    So if this gets on the ballot in California, what will you do? Will you wait till 2012? All it takes is enough committed people who refuse to wait, and the rest might have to take the shot that's been offered WHEN it's been offered. This is not a corporation with a top-down structure. It's a civil rights effort with pull in 20 directions.

    As for 3 years of work being better than one ... I can tell you as burnt-out activist that there are likely MANY such people who could be in for a year's tough battle, but far fewer who will devote their lives to this.

    Just as I'm sure it's easier to persuade voters without the contentiousness of a campaign, I'm just as sure there's far less human and monetary resources for doing that without the immediacy of a campaign.

  16. The reality is that we're going to try for 2010 -

    51% of Californians say they support SSM now!

    But, even if they didn't - the only way to communicate to the straight community that this issue is important is to keep fighting for it.

    How do you say to someone that you believe equality is important - and then say you'll wait 3 years?

    All I ask is that you, who believe it will take more than 1 year to win this, not see this as a defeat for your perspective. It will take that long to convince many people.

    We just believe that we can convince enough people to repeal Prop 8 by next November.

    Let's keep our eye on the prize -- full equality -- and keep fighting until that's a reality in every state of the US.


  17. I don't know if 2010 will work or not but so much for the "all for one and one for all" attitude. And might I just say to all of those people saying we can't go back year after year.... how many times did it take Milk to win? Did he quit after ALL his losses? Year after year, humiliation and defeat, he charged on. Perhaps we need a little more motivation and a lot less bickering. Simple fact is, if all the signatures get gathered and we make it back to ballot then whether you agree with it or not, your ass should be helping out, regardless! It is better to lose in unity then to win or lose divided.