Saturday, August 1, 2009

Away at Camp Courage East Los Angeles This Weekend

Hi UTF Readers,

I will be facilitating at Camp Courage East Los Angeles this weekend. This doesn't mean I won't be posting, but it does mean a lot less than the usual weekend pace. But don't worry, I haven't forgotten you.

Keep checking back as I do plan on posting a few items, and the site will be back full steam ahead Monday.


Friday, July 31, 2009

VIDEO: Central Valley's Porterville Continues to Work Against Marriage Equality

This video by Marie Cunninham shows in further detail the story behind Porterville, the only city in California to pass a resolution in support of Prop 8.

Now, the city council of Porterville, located in the Central Valley, is considering a resolution that would oppose Senate Bill 54, which would allow California to recognize legal same-sex marriages performed outside its border.

Former Mayor and current council member, Cam Hamilton, is shown in the video. He's been the driving force behind the anti-marriage equality resolutions. Shortly after the interview in the video taken post Prop 8's passing, Cam was replaced as mayor by Pete McCracken. However, despite this change, the anti-LGBT resolution against SB 54 is still being considered. Currently, Cam is drawing up a draft the council will later vote on.

Anti-Gay Group in Washington State Turn in Less Signatures than Reported for Ref. 71; Heated Exchange Caught on Tape

McClatchy reports:
Social conservatives who organized the Referendum 71 challenge to domestic-partnership rights for same-sex couples turned in fewer signatures than initially thought.

David Ammons of the Office of the Secretary of State said the actual number is 137,689, about 800 fewer than the 138,500 estimated at Saturday’s turn-in of signatures by the Protect Marriage Washington campaign, which is led by Christian faith groups.

The signature total is 14 percent more than the 120,577 valid signatures needed for the issue to qualify for the Nov. 3 ballot. That is below the typical 18 percent invalidation rate, raising questions about the measure's viability.

Signature checking begins today and could take several days.

Yesterday, when the signatures were being handed over, blogger Joshalot and Chris Mason of Driving Equality recorded the submissions on the capitol steps but Referendum 71 supporters attempted to intimidate them from their legal activity of videotaping in a public space.

You can read a full transcript of the interchange here.

Chief Justice Moreno, Sole Dissenter of Upholding Prop 8, Packs a Venue in an Open Q&A Session

Contributor Sara Pollaro is one of four founders of Equal Roots Coalition,a grassroots organization dedicated to fighting for equality for all LGBT people and a member of the OUT West Coalition. Stand Out and Fight Together.

Wednesday night at the California Endowment, a packed house of Angelenos spent their evening with one of their own. The very gracious Chief Justice Moreno shared with the crowd episodes from his life, his career, and his thoughts. Henry Weinstein, moderator and founding faculty member of the Irvine School of Law, gave a sweeping and interesting biography of Justice Moreno.

The Chief Justice grew up near downtown L.A and came from modest means. In 1962, he attended the very first game ever played at Dodger Stadium and currently keeps his primary residence in Los Angeles. Although the Chief Justice has achieved high rank and success, it was very apparent that he has not forgotten where he came from.

Chief Justice Moreno made the short list of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominees. When asked whether being the sole dissenter on the Proposition 8 ruling played a role in losing the nomination, he insists it did not. He received applause for this decision throughout the evening as well as several “thank yous” during the question and answer period.

Justice Moreno explained that the Court had voted in 2008 to include gay and lesbian people as a suspect class, thus providing special status and protection under the law for this group. The Prop 8 ruling made an exception to equal protection. “You cannot chip away at equal protection…If you make an exception to equal protection, then you don’t have equal protection,” he said.

When asked by activist and blogger Nakhone Keodara his thoughts about the prospect of the Federal Court Case filed against Prop 8, he responded “not good.” He went on to say that he doesn’t believe he will see a nationwide consensus for marriage equality in his lifetime. He does believe, however, there will be “legal change before societal change,” citing the nation’s feelings and treatment of interracial marriage.

Chief Justice Moreno, chose his words carefully when speaking to diversity on the bench – he jokingly said “that’s what got Sonia Sotomayor in trouble” – expressed the importance of a multiplicity of views. He shared, “Diversity across the lines of gender and ethnicity help people buy into the justice system” and also noted, “Judges are expected to add a human element.”

Justice Moreno also commented on the fractured death penalty system in California. He cited a report that estimates the system costs California $100M per year and absorbs 25% of the California Judicial system’s workload. The system is also not operated or funded properly. With 680 inmates on death row, California has one of the most inmates on death row in the country. The number one cause of death for inmates on death row is “old age, then suicide, only to be followed by execution. . . from judgment to execution, we are looking at an excess of 20 years.”

Having adopted a severely developmentally disabled daughter, Justice Moreno is a champion advocate of foster care youth and sits as the Chair of the California Blue Ribbon Commission on Children in Foster Care. He believes California is in need of social service reform. He shared the difficulties he faced trying to navigate his way through the system and securing services for his daughter and described the new cuts to California’s most vulnerable people as “disastrous.”

By the end of the evening, it was obvious that people had walked into the room with admiration Chief Justice Moreno, but left with much more in awe. He leads an exemplary life professionally and personally. He protects the under served and disenfranchised. He rules with the knowledge and experiences he not only received from Yale, but also from the neighborhoods and public schools of Los Angeles. He protects the law and those it is meant to serve from his heart. He is not only a wise Latino man, but simply a wise man.

Watch a video of the event.

*Photos of Moreno by Aaron Salcido.

Maine Marriage Equality Group Changes Name - Goes Into Full Campaign Mode

Maine Freedom to Marry, the coalition formed to protect the state's new marriage equality law, has shifted into full campaign mode now that opponents to the law have just turned in the signatures today to go to the ballot in a "People's Veto" to overturn the law this November. They need at least 55,000 signatures, but the opposition hasn't stated how many they're turning in, yet they have declared they're confident they have enough.

Mark Sullivan, Communications Director for the marriage equality group, said today, "I'm standing outside of the State Capitol building right now in Augusta watching our anti-equality opposition turn in the signatures they need to take away marriage equality in Maine."

"It's official: we are going to have to fight to protect marriage equality in Maine on November's ballot," he continued. "But we have been gearing up for this moment for months and we are ready to defend Maine's marriage equality law. Now it's a reality."

And they have been gearing up for awhile. Thursday the group turned in 60,000 pledge cards from people in support of marriage equality. On top of that, the group has changed its name from Maine Freedom to Marry to "No on 1/Protect Maine Equality."

Sullivan said the name change is designed to make it clear that a "no" vote on the referendum question in November would retain the gay-marriage law.

"We want people to be absolutely clear what they are voting about," said Sullivan.


The website is the same, but the new URL, which will redirect you to the original site, is Protect Maine Equality.

Join the Facebook Group here.

Find out ways in which you can get involved by going to the campaign's Take Action page which also includes ways for those who don't live in Maine to help marriage equality supporters.

You can also donate to the campaign for they're going to need all the financial help they can get.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Maine's Marriage Equality Opponents to Turn in Signatures Friday for Referendum


Coalition for 2010 Plan 'Next Steps Summit' to Move Forward on Ballot Initiative

The Coalition for 2010, formerly known as the Coalition of the Willing which sprung from the Leadership Summit in San Bernardino, will be hosting a "Next Steps Summit" on August 9 in South Los Angeles. At the summit, they plan to discuss actual actions to move forward for a 2010 ballot initiative to undo Prop 8's damage.

On the reservation page, the group states the event will be goal oriented, and will create task forces on the following topics:
  • Ballot language: we intend to decide on a few options, and plan polling/testing of the options.
  • Fundraising: we'll form a committee to begin the fundraising process, especially in the small-donor arena as we begin.
  • Signature gathering logistics: we'll talk about deadlines and auditing to create a workable road map for success within the narrow window required to gather 1,000,000 names.
  • Messaging: we'll brainstorm messaging for many different communities to ensure that signature gatherers are armed with appropriate responses to questions about this repeal effort.
  • Technology: we'll start a wish list for what we want to see in a technology solution to help us carry-out this campaign. This list will then be the starting point for a design team.
Tomorrow, I will have more information as the group is still developing the agenda, but concerns about these goals have already been raised by those who are wary of returning to the ballot in 2010 and others question whether or not having this summit will help unite the already divided California LGBT population.

However, Jordan Krueger of Equality Network, who is working on logistics, told Unite the Fight, "The agenda for the Next Steps Summit will be provided ahead of time, and the Summit will be planned in a way that will be open and participatory with room for debate and discussion."

This echoes the open letter to the LGBT community that the coalition issued, part of which says:
"While it’s no secret that not everyone agrees on when to proceed with a ballot initiative, everyone does agree that the work must be happening now. That work is to change hearts and minds and it must be done whether we are in a campaign for 2010 or later. Since we all share the goal of complete equality for LGBT people, there is much we can do together.

"At the meeting, we will be doing in-depth planning for all aspects of what needs to occur between now and qualifying a ballot measure. Everyone dedicated to working for marriage equality is invited, particularly those who have expressed reservations about a 2010 campaign. These concerns are legitimate and important, and any planning for a future campaign must take them into account to ensure our chances of winning.

"We recognize that the last few months have at times been divisive and painful. We hope that meetings like this will begin to unite us. The purpose of this meeting is not to discuss when this issue should return to the ballot or change any one's view about that question. Rather, we invite everyone to join in the planning for what needs to be done and learn how each of us can best contribute. The decision on when to make that contribution is yours.

"It’s time to work together. Juntos podemos. Together we can."
Summit participants/organizers include:


Go here for more information and to reserve a place at the summit.

Federal Domestic Partnership Benefits Bill Clears House Committee

Crossposted with Lez Get Real, written by Paula Brooks.

This morning, the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service, and the District of Columbia held a markup session on Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin’s (D-WS) H.R. 2517, the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act… a legislation that would extend benefits to same-sex domestic partners of federal civilian employees on the same basis as heterosexual spousal benefits.

Bill was reported out of the committee by a vote along party lines of five to three.

Last month at an LGBT Pride event in the White House, President Obama called the bill “crucial legislation that will guarantee these rights for all federal employees,” and pledged his support for the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act during the signing of an Executive Memorandum permitting domestic partners to purchase long-term care insurance and allowing employees to use their sick leave to care for domestic partners and non-biological, non-adopted children.

The Passage of the bill out of the subcommittee this morning was a first step toward it final passage in the U.S. House of Representatives and moves the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act one step closer to the President’s desk.

Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) sponsored a similar bill in the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in May that currently has 24 co-sponsors.

Washington State Judge Blocks Release of Ref. 71 Signer Names; Signature Gatherers Used Deceitful Tactics

UPDATE: Read this informative post about the numbers involved with Referendum 71.

Those responsible for Referendum 71 hope to put the kibosh on Washington's State enhanced domestic partnership law which recently passed and extends the full rights and benefits equivalent to marriage. Known as the "Everything But Marriage" law, opponents state the next step is marriage itself.

(See bottom of this post - in order to keep the law with extended benefits, you have to vote YES for Ref. 71.)

Protect Washington Families, the anti-gay group that turned in 138,500 signatures to get Referendum 71 on the ballot and need 120,577 verified, requested of the court to block the release of the names of signers.

The Seattle Times reports:
A federal judge in Tacoma has temporarily blocked release of the names and addresses of those who signed Referendum 71, which would repeal a law giving gay couples new marriage-like benefits.

U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle this afternoon granted a temporary restraining order requested by Protect Washington Families to stop the Secretary of State's Office from making the signers' names public.
Though the secretary's office claims the court has no authority to block the releasing of the names, they don't plan on contesting the order. With the domestic partnership law being placed on hold until the signatures are verified, this is another setback for those who were against Referendum 71 taking place.

Tom Lang, director of, working in conjunction with Washington activists of, plans to post the names on his site and told the Seattle Times that he was intensely disappointed Washington failed to defend its own public disclosure law in court.

They had hoped to post the names and addresses as soon as they are available, allowing the public to do its own search for invalid names. "All this information belongs to the public," he said. "We should not have to ask for it to be made public or wait for a court decision."

They have already filed a formal request for the names to be released.

To make matters worse, claims have been made that signature gatherers for Referendum 71 used deceitful tactics to get people to sign. Reports had been coming in that they were struggling to get the minimum amount of signatures and resorted to lying.

This video shows a signature gatherer using dishonest means to get a woman who supports marriage equality to sign in favor of the referendum.

It could take up to a month to verify the signatures, but if supporters of the referendum succeed in having the minimum amount, voters will have a say on the initiative this November, which doesn't leave a lot of time for a campaign.


Making matters a little more confusing, the language of the referendum requires a YES vote if you want to keep the expanded domestic partnership law that gives same-sex couples all the rights and benefits of marriage. Find out more at Washington Families Standing Together.


VIDEO: Daily Beast Speaks to Sen. Gillibrand About DADT Hearings; Rep. Hastings Tells Maddow White House Blocked DADT Amendment

Action around Don't Ask Don't Tell has been heating up at the capital. Having been so wrapped up with the Leadership Summit and all the marriage equality news around the nation, I haven't had much time to report on the issue. However, here is a quick video recap with links to accompanying stories.

The Daily Beast talks to Sen. Karen Gillibrand about her unsuccessful attempt to temporarily suspend the enforcement of DADT and her wonderfully successful move to hold the first Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the law since its passing in 1993.

In the House, Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) speaks to Rachel Maddow about how the White House undermined his efforts to pass an amendment that would put an end to funding DADT investigations, a tactic that American Blog says ". . . Republicans have used for years to stop funding of programs they didn't like. For years, Republicans blocked federal funding of DC's domestic partnerships and needle exchange. I'm not sure if this was the best approach, but, sometimes, the only way to make progress is to use (or abuse) the appropriations process. But, a funny (or not so funny) thing happened on the way to the Appropriations bill mark-up. In his own words, Hastings was pressured by the White House and others to drop his amendment."

Also from America Blog:

Last night on Rachel Maddow's show, during her interview with Rep. Alcee Hastings, she read a statement from SLDN's communication director Kevin Nix. I got a copy of the statement. Kevin says a lot here:
We hope it’s not true the White House pressured Rep. Hastings to withdraw his amendment to stop funding “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” investigations. Such a move would go against President Obama’s commitment to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Now, we need to see some positive action, some follow through from this White House. The Commander in Chief has a key leadership role in ending this bad law. He should publicly endorse the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, sponsored by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA), that overturns DADT. The President and Congress need to get on the same page and same timeline in ending DADT and both need to act with a sense of urgency. Service members are getting fired literally every day just because they are gay or lesbian, and our national security is at risk because we’re losing some of the best and brightest linguists, medics, pilots, and intelligence analysts under this archaic law.
So, as far as those who know can tell, there's been nothing from the White House. SLDN needs "to see some positive action, some follow through from this White House." They haven't seen any yet. If SLDN doesn't know what the Obama administration's plan is, the plan doesn't exist.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

RECOMMENDED READING: Transcript of July 2nd Hearing of Federal Case Against Prop 8

Thanks to Michael Petrelis and his due diligence, he has been able to secure a transcript of the July 2nd hearing of the federal case against Proposition 8, where Ted Olson made his appearance representing the plaintiffs, basically us. The defendants in the case is the State of California, but since Gov. Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown are against Proposition 8, those responsible for the initiative stepped in to intervene and defend it. Judge Vaughn Walker (pictures) presided.

Page Highlights

Pg. 4-7 Statement of appearances.

Pg. 8 Judge Walker addresses concerns facing the court: "...first of all, the motion to intervene; second, the application for preliminary injunction; and then, third, how we are going to proceed in the case."

Pg. 9-10 Judge Walker addresses the preliminary injunction (in other words, to halt the enforcement of Prop 8 while the case against it is being considered).

Pg. 11 Judge Walker addresses how the case is to be handled, dealing with facts and law, more like a trial court proceeding and unlike the U.S. Supreme Court, which handles cases more through a philosophical bent.

Pg. 12 Judge acknowledges that this case is just touching down in his court and it will be going to higher court, and therefor a solid record needs to be established.

Pg. 12-14 Ted Olson addresses preliminary injunction. "...with respect to the uncertainty of the effect of marriages, if a preliminary injunction was granted, my clients would prefer the uncertainty of the ultimate outcome in this case, to the certainty of daily irreparable harm."

Pg. 15 Charles Cooper of Alliance Defense Fund, representing proponents of Prop 8 responds to Olson. "...the closest thing that the plaintiffs offer, thus far, to this point is that tradition alone is a manifestly insufficient basis for a state to impair a person's constitutionally protected right to marry. And there, Your Honor, they are simply not coming to grips with the fact that tradition is a definitional element of the Supreme Court's test for identifying fundamental constitutional rights."

Pg. 19-24 Judge Walker declares case management discussion. Olson proposes a way to manage. (Funny moment on pg. 20-21 with cell phone going off.)

Pg. 24-28 Cooper proposes to case management.

Pg. 28-30 Judge Walker responds to proposal of 30 days before reconvening with factual record discussed and what facts they agree upon between plaintiffs and defendants. Cooper raises a concern of it being enough time, but Walker shoots this down.

Pg. 30-32 Olson proposes that during the 30 days they can also list what they disagree on. Judge Walker questions if his own deadline is reasonable.

Pg. 33-34 Courts sets the date of Aug. 19 to reconvene and a deadline of Aug. 7 to submit case management statements.

July 2 Hearing Transcript of Federal Case Against Prop 8

Iraqi Militia Violence Against Gays Continues, 82 Deaths Reported

"Why did Hitler start with gays?" asks Mithal al-Alusi, a secular, liberal Sunni legislator in a chilling piece by USA Today. "They are weak. They have no political cover. They have no legal cover."

Sadly, gay men in Iraq are proving al-Alusi to be correct. Iraqi LGBT, a London-based advocacy group, told USA Today that the death toll of gay mean at the hands of Iraqi militia has now reach 82. Earlier reports of torture, where the militia glue the anuses of the men shut and feed them laxatives, exposed the ghastly deeds of these fundamentalists groups, but it appears they haven't done anything to help curb the tide of human rights violations.

Excerpts from USA Today:
The young man turns to the camera and pleads with his tormentors.

"I'm not a terrorist," he tells the Iraqi police who surround him. "I want you to know I am different. But I am not a terrorist."

To some fundamentalist Iraqi Muslims, Ahmed Sadoun Saleh was worse than a terrorist.

He was gay. He wore his hair long and took female hormones to grow breasts. Amused by his appearance, Iraqi police officers stopped him in December at a checkpoint in a southern Baghdad neighborhood dominated by radical Shiite militias. They groped Saleh and ridiculed him.

The assault was captured on video and circulated on cellphones throughout Baghdad, says Ali Hili, founder of London-based Iraqi LGBT, a group dedicated to protecting Iraq's gays and lesbians. Shortly after the video was made public, Hili says Saleh contacted him, fearing for his life, and asked for his help to flee Iraq.

"Unfortunately, it was too late," Hili says. Saleh turned up dead two months later, he says.


The militias usually send out warnings before they attack. Posters go up in Sadr City listing the offenders — gay and flashy straight men — by name and neighborhood. "If you don't give up what you are doing," said a recent one seen by a USA TODAY reporter, "death will be your fate. And this warning will come true, and the punishment will be worse and worse."

The poster referred to the offenders as "puppies," the fundamentalist epithet for gays here. "In Arabic culture, if you want to insult someone you call them a dog," human rights activist Yanar Mohammed says. "If you're a small dog, you can just be crushed."


The militiamen pick their targets by entering cafes and looking for men who appear feminine or too showy, [Emad] Saad says. Then they ask around to get the offenders' names, and later put them on the death lists distributed around town.


Unable to trust the authorities — and in some cases shunned by their own families — many Iraqi gays have gone into hiding. Hassan and some gay friends say they had found refuge in a house in Karrada. But as the threat against them increased, they became afraid the police would find them. So they scattered.

Hassan says he sometimes stays at home with his brothers — their parents are dead — but he's afraid even of them, afraid they will kill him because he has brought shame to the family.

He says he wanted to move in with his sister, who lives in Abu Dhabi. She turned him away, saying she didn't want her children to know they have a gay uncle.

Unwilling to trust the police, Iraqi LGBT has set up its own safe houses for gays in Iraq. The group has struggled to raise money and had to close three safe houses in the past couple of months, leaving just one open.

Hili says five safe houses are needed, each of them housing 10 to 12 gay refugees. Rent for a 2,150-square-foot safe house is usually $600 a month. Yet other expenses pile up: security guards, food, fuel, medical bills, pots and pans, bedding.

"We desperately need to add more because we have so many urgent cases," Hili says. "We receive requests for shelter every day, but are not able to help."
The persecuted gays say that life and safety were better during the reign of Saddam Hussein. Consider the irony. America goes into Iraq to bring freedom and democracy, and the most vulnerable of this country are now suffering more than ever before.

ACTION: You can assist by donating to Iraq LGBT who have assisted in securing safe houses in Iraq.

Sign this's petition to Congress demanding more be done to stop the torture and killing of LGBT in Iraq.

States With More Catholics Are More Likely to Support Marriage Equality

A very extensive analysis of 15 years worth of polls on LGBT rights was recently released. It showed that though support for marriage equality and other LGBT rights has grown, policymakers lag behind in writing up legislation to reflect the public's massive shift in thinking.

Today, Mark Silk of Spiritual Politics culled his own interesting fact:
A new study by Columbia political scientists Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips (h/t Robbie Jones), forthcoming in the American Political Science Review, ranks states according to public support for same-sex marriage and civil unions. Putting the rankings together with the 2008 Trinity ARIS survey reveals that six of the eight states where 50 percent or more of the public supports gay marriage are the states with the highest proportion of Catholics, ranging from Rhode Island at 46 percent to New York and California at 37 percent. Meanwhile, the eight states most opposed to gay marriage include six of the seven with the lowest proportion of Catholics, from Alabama at six percent to North Carolina at nine percent.
Blogger Cathy Lynn Grossman at USA Today doesn't credit the bishops for the Catholic support. "The bishops have campaigned long, loudly and clearly against same-sex marriage but the Catholic Church also offers a pervasive message of social justice, an umbrella many liberal Catholics stand under when they argue for marriage equality or life issues such as abortion, contraception and end-of-life decisions."

This is a good reminder to us when we're out canvassing and talking to our friends and family about marriage equality. You can't automatically assume that because someone is religious, or in this case, Catholic, they're automatically against us. Each person is an individual and holds different opinions, some of which may contradict their own church's edicts.

You may actually have an ally in someone you may least expect. Remember that when you're knocking on doors or broaching the subject of LGBT rights - you may be pleasantly surprised.

Returning to the Ballot: It's Not About When Anymore, It's About Uniting. And Other Points of View

The effects of this past weekend's Leadership Summit in San Bernardino, CA is still being felt and processed far and wide, with intense debate about its outcome and with different groups moving ahead with their various strategic plans.

My post on the summit, "CA Marriage Equality Leadership Summit an Utter Failure - Shame On All of Us", has drawn numerous reactions and has been referred to in many different opinions. I have been told by many that I hit the nail on the head, others have said I want it all to be kum by ya and that I'm too "Pollyanna," and still more have criticized me, saying that for someone who is trying to unite the community, my piece only added division.

I must disagree. I call it tough love. Sometimes, in order to unite, we have to take a good, long, hard look at ourselves. To call the summit anything other than a failure to me is not constructive because it undermines the seriousness of our divisions. (See the results of the Get Engaged Tour. Its bottom line result: there is no consensus.)

In my piece, I called for our community to put aside our differences, to unite by allowing ourselves to heal from the damage of Prop 8, to trust each other, and most importantly, trust our leadership again. That "it's not about 2010 or 2012 anymore. It's about us uniting. Only then, can we win."

I haven't stated on this blog whether or not I support 2010 or 2012. In my summit piece, I did state that at one time I was personally for 2010, but that after the summit, I just don't see how that's possible with us, as a whole, not united. Does that mean I won't support it? No. But those in favor of 2010 first have to prove that they can unite us, and by doing so, show true leadership.

Here's my official stance: I will support either date, or a later date, because now, it doesn't matter to me when. (And yes, I want to marry my partner. It's devastating not to be able to NOW.) What matters to me most is that we have a united front working together to WIN. And I will work tirelessly on seeing to it that we do unite. (I may have to show tough love at times again!)

People have asked numerous times, "Can you put a price on your rights?" If that price is the unity of our community, then that price is too high. For who are we if we don't have each other?

I've already seen, as the result of the summit and its failure, people already making efforts to work with those they disagree with, because they realize keeping us united is more of a priority than stubbornly sticking to what they believe is to be the one and only path.

I'll quote Karen Ocamb from her piece on the summit:
It seems to me that the first step to winning back marriage equality is finding a mediator who can help this community find common ground and learn to keep our eye on the prize so we can move forward together. There are now so many LGBT folk who want to be leaders - let this be their first real test of leadership: find a way to bring us together.
I repeat, it's not about 2010 or 2012 anymore. It's about us uniting. Only then, can we win.

Below are links to other posts and articles on the Leadership Summit. If you have one and want it to be added, please email me with a link at

Karen Ocamb's posts:
What Really Happened at the Repeal Prop 8 Leadership Summit
Repeal Prop 8 Leadership Summit: The Expert Point of View
The Unnoticed Power Player at the Repeal Prop 8 Leadership Summit

Dawn Cobalt: A Great Opportunity

The Advocate: 2010? 2012? The Fight in California Continues

Gay Fresno: Strategy & Self-Preservation

The New Civil Rights Movement (Jane Wishon): Recipe for Disaster?

OC Weekly: Anti-Prop 8/Pro-Gay Marriage Summit Deemed "a Disaster"

David Mixner: Oh California!

Queerty: Are There Any California Activists Who Know How to Play Well With Others?

The Gawker: California Activists Not Going to Bother Overturning Prop 8 Next Year

Sara Beth Brooks and Chelsea Salem: The Elephant in the Room

Edge: 2010 Prop 8 Repeal Effort Up in the Air

Bay Area Reporter: Gays squabble over Prop 8 repeal debate

Beyond Chron: Repealing Prop 8: Should We Do it in 2010 – or 2012?

Jeff Cilione: 2010 and the Irrelevancy of EQCA

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Extensive Analysis Shows While Support for Marriage Equality Rises, Policymakers Lag Behind

Columbia University today has released an analysis of extensive polling on LGBT rights, and in particular, marriage equality.

From their website:

Analysis of Polling Data Finds Growing Support for Same-Sex Marriage

According to a comprehensive new analysis of public opinion surveys conducted over the last 15 years, support for the legalization of same-sex marriage has grown substantially in the United States. Among other conclusions, two political science professors at Columbia University found reluctance among state and local policymakers to expand equal rights laws and protections even where majorities of voters support them.

The state-by-state analysis of polling data, titled "Gay Rights in the States: Public Opinion and Policy Responsiveness" tracks trends over time on eight policies affecting gay and lesbian rights: same-sex marriage, civil unions, employment non-discrimination, housing non-discrimination, hate crimes, second-parent adoption, health benefits for same-sex partners and sodomy laws.

Explicit support for same-sex marriage by state and age [Image credit: Jeffrey Lax]
Explicit support for same-sex marriage by state and age (Click to enlarge image.)
Image credit: Jeffrey R. Lax and Justin H. Phillips
The peer-reviewed findings of Jeffrey R. Lax and Justin H. Phillips will be published this August in the American Political Science Review.

“The most important predictor of whether a state has a particular policy protecting the rights of gays and lesbians is public opinion,” said Phillips. “Public support for a policy matters far more than how liberal the voters or government officials are in general. For same-sex marriage, majority support seems sufficient for it to be adopted.”

Lax elaborates on why strong supportive public opinion is critical.

“Majority support for a policy isn’t always enough. You often need supermajority support,” said Lax. “Politicians and policy makers are lagging far behind the public’s support on a number of key gay rights policies that are currently being debated across the U.S., particularly housing and employment protection, but even including civil unions.”

According to the analysis, the growth in support of gay rights is accelerating. Roughly half of the change in support nationwide has occurred in the last four years alone. Majorities now support same-sex marriage in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Of these, only New York and Rhode Island have not yet legalized same-sex marriage. New York Gov. David A. Paterson, however, has announced his support on the issue and his intention to advocate for legislation this fall.

While support for same-sex marriage is growing in all 50 states, polarization between the so-called red states and blue states is becoming more pronounced. (For the purposes of their analysis, Lax and Phillips define red states as those won by George Bush in the 2000 election for president and blues states as those won by Al Gore).

The difference in support for same-sex marriage between red states and blue states has nearly doubled in the last 12 years. Since 2004, support for same-sex marriage in blue states grew twice as much as in red states—an increase of eight points versus four points. Since 1994, support in blue states increased by 18 points versus 10 points in red states.

“In our analysis of persons 18 to 29 years old, roughly 38 states have majorities explicitly favoring same-sex marriage,” said Lax. “Generational change alone could lead to same-sex marriage rights across most of the country.”

Other findings of the study:
  • The more media coverage a policy gets, the more likely it is to match majority public opinion. For example, media coverage of same-sex marriage and civil unions is far greater than coverage of job and housing non-discrimination. This increased visibility leads to increased congruence with opinion majorities.
  • Of the 25 states with legislative majorities explicitly favoring civil unions, only 12 allow them. No state has legalized civil unions where majorities oppose them.
  • Many states have not adopted housing and employment non-discrimination policies despite the fact that large majorities support them. Only 20 states have adopted such protections.
  • Interest groups and voters opposed to marriage equality and other non-discrimination policies have influence far beyond their relative share of a state’s population. They can block equality measures even when there is a significant majority favoring them.

Here is the full analysis:

Gay Rights in the States - Public Opinion and Policy Responsiveness

Courage Campaign Proposes "Four Principles for a United Movement."

Reiterating Courage Campaign COO Sarah Callahan's statements to Unite the Fight, the Courage Campaign has formally proposed the "Four Principles for a United Movement" -- the foundation of a campaign to restore marriage equality to California:
  1. Our campaign to win must begin now, regardless of when the movement decides to place a marriage equality initiative on the ballot.
  2. To unite the strength of activists across California, the campaign must be independent, accountable, and not dominated by any one organization.
  3. To gain the trust and full commitment of supporters, the campaign needs a representative and functional governance structure.
  4. Victory on election day requires a strong, experienced campaign manager who understands California politics and has won battles like this before. Our opposition is well-organized, and we need exceptional leadership on our side to prevail.
"Following on these principles, the Courage Campaign does not expect and does not intend to run the next campaign to repeal Prop 8," said the organization in a press release. "Although we expect to have a voice at the table."

After this past Saturday's Summit, this is music to my ears. Though Sarah proposed these principles earlier, Courage Campaign has now officially gone on record with a proposal to unite our movement. Our fractured approach and in-fighting has been the cause of much distress for this blogger who truly means to stick by his mission to help unite the fight for equality. The question remains - Will the other organizations - EQCA, Love Honor Cherish, Prepare to Prevail, MEUSA and more - sign on to these principles?

"Winning a campaign to repeal Proposition 8 will take hard work and sacrifice from thousands of activists, community leaders, contributors and volunteers," the press release also said. "The marriage equality movement is powerful and determined. The next step for the movement is to add structure that empowers the grassroots and netroots to win as soon as possible..."

ACTION: Courage Campaign is continuing its great work this weekend of training and empowering the grassroots and community. They, along with API Equality LA, Bienestar, California Faith for Equality, Equal Roots, HONOR PAC, Latino Equality Alliance, Somos Familia, and The Wall Las Memorias Project will host their fifth Camp Courage in East Los Angeles this weekend August 1 and 2.

For more information and to sign up, go here.

I will be there myself. Hope to see you there, too.

Congressman Nadler to Submit Legislation to Repeal DOMA

The Bay Area Reporter (BAR), in an exclusive interview with Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-New York), reports that the U.S. Representative plans on submitting legislation that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. However, the bill would rule out anything other than marriage, consequentially only extending federal benefits to only marriages and not domestic partnerships or civil unions.

"No, it will not include domestic partnerships or civil unions. It is going to be just marriage," Nadler said.

The BAR reports:
Under DOMA's Section 3 the federal government is forbidden from recognizing LGBT couples married in the six states where same-sex marriage is legal. Section 2 of the law says those states that outlaw same-sex marriages do not have to recognize legal same-sex marriages from other states. Nadler said his bill would repeal both sections of DOMA.

"We have got to repeal DOMA and have got to make sure it accomplishes for federal purposes allowing the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages," said Nadler, who led the fight to defeat a Federal Marriage Amendment that would have enshrined the same-sex marriage ban in the U.S. Constitution. "The time for dumping DOMA is long overdue."


Nadler said that including domestic partnerships or civil unions in his legislation "gets very complicated" because the laws governing such legally recognized relationships are "different in every state." Also, he said it would cloud the legislation's end goal, which is ensuring all Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation, have the right to marry.

"Historically domestic partnerships and other relationships have been an interregnum until we get to marriage, which we need to push for as soon as possible," said Nadler, adding that he could not predict what chances the legislation has of passage. "We have to see what reaction we get. It won't pass this year."
With concerns to California, only the 18,000 couples that got married before Prop 8 would get recognition. However, couples could go to states where marriage equality is legal and get married there. They could then return to California and the state would then be legally bound to recognize their marriage.

"During his prepared remarks, Nadler said he would include the 'certainty provision' in his bill in order to give same-sex couples and their families peace of mind that should they move to a state that does not allow same-sex couples to wed their marriage would still be valid," the BAR article says.

This is great news. America Blog reminded its readers the strong support that Nadler has shown for the LGBT population in the past.

When the infamous DOMA brief was released, Nadler said, "For my part, I have long objected to DOMA as unfair and unconstitutional, and I am working toward a legislative solution that will ensure security and equality for all American families. I urge my colleagues to contact me and join the effort toward equality for LGBT Americans."

In a week that for me personally has pushed my optimism to the breaking point, this gives me hope. Sure, it's far from certain that this will go anywhere, but the fact that a powerful ally is working along with us to make a difference really brightens my day.

Contact Rep. Nadler and thank him for his support.

Monday, July 27, 2009

CA Marriage Equality Leadership Summit an Utter Failure - Shame On All of Us

Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it was that an amazingly gracious church who, on a hot, San Bernardino summer day, had 200 sweltering people emotionally overheated and packed into its hall with an AC struggling to keep up.

Or maybe it's because the California LGBT population has cannibalized its leadership to the point where no one is willing to take the unpopular stance of leading this wounded community made up of people that will bite anyone's head off who has a slightly different opinion from theirs.

Whatever you believe the reason to be, the Leadership Summit on Sunday was an utter failure. And we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Our community has splintered into factions lead by no one, going in all different directions with various agendas, some with good intentions, but many motivated by egos in attempt to out maneuver the other, causing us to fight each other instead of those who have taken away our rights. And why? Because our leadership once failed us in a disastrous campaign which ended not with rights being denied us, but rights we enjoyed being stripped away from us, leaving us naked and exposed. And now we're so anti-leadership, we have spiraled into a quagmire of anarchy with no visible way out. ("The Tyranny of Structurelessness.")

And we're still grieving the loss of our rights. Right now, we're in the angry phase of grieving, but instead of channeling our anger in the proper direction at those who were truly responsible for taking our rights away (NOT our leadership), we're behaving like humans and taking it out on our brothers and sisters. (Read "Marriage Amendments and Psychological Distress in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual (LGB) Adults.")

I'm not going to go into a lot of detail about what happened at the Leadership Summit. I streamed it live, I recorded it, you can watch it. But it boils down to this:
  1. Hard working organizers struggled long and hard to have a successful summit and took lots of consideration into putting together an agenda.
  2. Attendees showed up, decided to more or less ignore the agenda (which wasn't, sadly, sent out in advance so attendees weren't prepared), crucified "the experts" and ran an ad hoc meeting.
  3. People hissed and booed those they didn't agree with, spoke over each other, shouted out cuss words, and debated every single tentative, progressive step forward. Yet at the same time, many attendees demanded a final decision be made on when to return to the ballot without agreeing on a process or getting the rest of the community's input.
  4. Ended with nothing accomplished. No next steps, no decision on when to return to the ballot, no agreed upon process to decide when to return to the ballot, no agreed upon deadline for a decision on when to return to the ballot. (The Coalition of the Willing was not agreed upon.)
  5. Oh, and a last minute straw poll about 2010 vs. 2012 while people were filing out to leave, which was a last ditch effort to feel that something was accomplished but means absolutely nothing other than highlights the dire straits we find ourselves in.
Is this what we have succumbed to? We should be ashamed of ourselves! (And I definitely include myself here.) We have all but forgotten our opposition and instead have aimed our bloody spears at each other.

Just the other day, I posted an audio recording of a secret meeting with Ron Prentice whose Protect Marriage group was responsible for Prop 8. At this meeting, he gleefully asked that attendees pray for LGBT divisiveness on this issue. He then said, "Which sounds typical, doesn't it?"

Maybe there is a God. Because it appears their prayers have been answered.

But the Leadership Summit wasn't a complete failure. It illuminated many facts about the state of our community.

First, we're not done grieving our loss brought upon us by Prop 8. The full scope of its damage has yet to be seen by us because we're still too close to it. We're emotional and want the pain to end, resulting in many of us wanting to rush blindly back to the ballot, and who can blame us? (I myself wanted to rush back at one point.) But we have failed to see that Prop 8 did much more than strip us of our rights. Its tragedy has also made it nearly impossible to gain them back anytime soon in the near future. 2012 seems light years away, and we're going to have to live with this burden of second-class citizenship until then? (Don't get me started on the many other inequalities, not just marriage.) As for 2010, I honestly used to think we could do it, because collectively and united, we really could. But after witnessing the Summit, I just don't see it happening, even with the dedication of the pro-2010 groups. Nor do many major donors it appears. (I understand a great but small meeting took place after the summit, but again, many had already left and yet again, it's another faction.)

Second, we have become what we've hated. Right after the election, we were right to be angry at our leadership. We were right to demand accountability, something that was missing during the campaign. We were right to demand an apology for such a historical mishap, which has failed to occur. But we have taken it too far and for too long. In such a short amount of time, we have cannibalized our leadership to the point where we barely have any, and those who remain have nearly given up on the community, refuse to take a stand to lead again, or have been forced into the shadows to do things, yet again, without community involvement. (After witnessing the summit, who would want to involve us?) We are now what our leadership once was - unaccountable.

But also in this short amount of time, we have failed to see the new leadership for what it is. Accountable to us. Open. Willing to listen. Vocal. And all this almost to a fault. Why? Because we have lost our trust. We demanded to take the responsibility away from them and do it ourselves, many of us with no experience. And we have the right and power to do that. They are our leadership after all. But look where it's got us! After the summit, no one knows what to do now and we have no map! This isn't like an improv troupe with no director. We can't improvise this!

We need to trust our leadership again. But they need to remain accountable, something that didn't happen before.

Rick Jacobs of Courage Campaign, whom I admire and for whom I hold deep respect, needs to stop dissing EQCA in the press. Rick needs to sit down with Marc Solomon, EQCA Marriage Director, and work it out (this includes Torie Osborne, Robin McGeHee and many others). Marc Solomon, Marriage Director for EQCA, whom has earned my respect and trust, and EQCA itself, need to stop trying to one-up Courage Campaign in an attempt to keep EQCA relevant. I call out these two, not only because I know them well, but specifically because Courage Campaign has rightfully gained a lot of the grassroots trust through its amazing Camp Courage sessions throughout the state, but has also been hellbent on taking the lead away from EQCA. Geoff Kors of EQCA, doing something smart and staying out of the picture, hired Marc Solomon. Marc has, since his arrival, done great work for the community, including marriage efforts, and for me, has restored EQCA's respect, but he has also done his share of pulling the rug out from Courage Campaign in an effort to stay relevant.

I call out Love Honor Cherish for steamrolling their position and strong-arming many in the community to follow them or take the highway. I call out the Prepare to Prevail Coalition for its tendency in the past to be isolationists and not truly engaging in discussion (at one point, yes, they were stonewalled out, but that is not the case anymore and they need to engage, especially if invited to discuss their views). I call out the grassroots activists and community organizers - YOU ARE NOT EXPERTS. Stop throwing the baby out with the bathwater and LISTEN.

If these organizations and coalitions, along with Marriage Equality USA, can just drop the shit and finger pointing, sit down and together form blueprints for both 2010 and 2012 (delegates from each locked in a room together), stop coddling the community and actually lead us in a common direction, then we may actually get somewhere. They set the tone. They set the example. Lead. We follow.

We need to heal. To heal, we need to trust. How can we possibly even think about doing another campaign when we can't even sit in the same room with each other for a few hours, such as at the Summit? And the sad thing - we're all on the same side but view each other and our leaders with disdain. We have lost sight of the fact that we have all been hurt by Prop 8, all have good intentions and have all but forgotten the opposition - who by the way, is literally watching us with smug smiles on their faces.

It's time for us to get over it and move on to a better future. It's not about "repealing Prop 8" anymore. Prop 8 is done. It's in the history books. ITS BLOT IS NEVER GOING TO GO AWAY. We can turn that into what motivates us! What we have to do now is unite, show the world who we are, educate them about us, show them what a mistake Prop 8's existence is, and that when they have another chance to vote on it on a brand new initiative, they won't even have to think about it and we'll have the right to join in on marriage.

But that can't happen without our healing. And that requires trust. This may seem like one of the most negative posts I've ever written, and maybe it is, but I also know what I've seen, and I'm calling it out so it can stop. Because for me, after witnessing the Summit, it's not about 2010 or 2012 anymore. It's about us uniting. Only then, can we win.

Trust the leadership again. Trust that they'll make the best decisions they can with the community in mind. Then shut up, get in line and get to work. We have our rights to win back.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Yesterday Was a Big Day at the Leadership Summit

Just ask anyone who was there or witnessed it online - the Leadership Summit yesterday in San Bernardino was a draining experience - tons of opinions on next steps for marriage equality, an agenda that many didn't want to stick to, extreme heat, tons of people packed into a hall where the AC couldn't keep up, hissing, booing, applause, cheers, highs and lows.

I will be taking today to gather my thoughts and put together my post on it. I hear positive developments have indeed resulted from yesterday's meeting.

Stay tuned.