Saturday, December 5, 2009

D.C. Marriage Equality Rally Monday; Bishop Jackson Says There Will Be "Bloodletting" For Bill Passage

Maryland pastor Bishop Harry Jackson, who has crossed his state's line into Washington D.C. (to the chagrin of many) and has meddled in the capital's affairs to fight marriage equality, warned the D.C. Council of consequences for passing same-sex marriage resolution.
We're going to have to start earlier and take straw polls earlier. Our opposition had been working with these [council members] for five years. They'd invested time and money, and, to their credit, my opposition applied extreme political pressure on 30 or 40 people in the city, in the mayor's office and the city council.

But they have not changed ordinary people's opinions. It's a faux change. For instance, they created a gay organization of clergy. Our side has done the opposite, mobilizing a grass-roots effort with 1,200 churches in D.C.

In future races, religious people are going to start going after people's political careers. In D.C., some very vulnerable black councilmen went along with the city council, and some of these guys will not be sitting in those chairs in 2010 elections. Many in our coalition are wising up, looking for candidates. Political action committees are going to be formed. You're going to see a bloodletting that is going to mark a new style of engagement for people who are against same-sex marriage.
Bloodletting? What is this, the Crusades? On top of that, Jackson had been investigated into whether or not he changed his home address to avoid the criticisms of him not even being a D.C. resident.

I read a comment that he and his congregants cross into D.C. on Sunday for church services, their cars with their Maryland license plates crowding residential streets. These are the people who don't want marriage equality, not necessarily the D.C. residents, the people he's "fighting for" to vote on the issue.

Council member Marion Barry, one of two who voted against marriage equality, also has an interesting fact about his ward.

So far in D.C., 36 hate crimes have been reported in 2009, about the same rate as 2007 and 2008; however, a far majority of these have been based on sexual orientation - 31 as of September, 35 as of December.
Numbers can be debated. But one number can not: the rise in sexual orientation hate crimes in Wards 7 and 8 [police districts 6 and 7].

In 2008, 13 percent of sexual orientation hate crimes took place in these wards. So far in 2009, the number jumped to 32 percent.

On a side note, only two councilmembers---Yvette Alexander and Marion Barry---voted against the gay marriage bill. Who do they represent? Wards 7 and 8.
Interesting. You can make your own conclusions - don't want to jump for anyone else.

The first council vote on marriage equality was a success - another is scheduled for December 15 and is expected to pass. A rally is scheduled for Monday to show support.

WHAT: Rally for DC Marriage Equality
WHO: Campaign for All DC Families, DC Clergy United, co-hosted by the Human Rights Campaign
WHEN: Monday, December 14 starting at 7:00 p.m. ET.
WHERE: Kennedy Recreation Center at 1401 7th Street, Washington D.C. 20001

Friday, December 4, 2009

VIDEO: Portia De Rossi v. Hassleback - The View Discussion on Marriage Equality

Hassleback: "Take men and women. Women want all the rights of men, but they’re not asking to be called men. Do you think…is the word [marriage] more important than the rights?”

De Rossi: “No, of course the word isn’t more important than the rights...Without the word, we don’t have equal rights…Every citizen of this country should have that legal right to be married...Marriage the word actually does mean something because people who see a gay coupling as a lesser thing in society can continue to [think] it’s lesser than marriage when really it’s the exact same thing. The exact same love, the exact same commitment, love of family.”

Wow. Honestly, I don't know much about Portia, but she was very eloquent and composed. Color me impressed.

H/T Lez Get Real

Prop 8 Documentary '8-The Mormon Proposition' Makes It Into Sundance; Protests Being Planned By Anti-LGBT Forces

The documentary 8 - The Mormon Proposition, which chronicles the passage of the first ever voter-approved initiative that stripped existing rights way from a segment of the U.S. population, has made it into the Sundance Festival in Salt Lake City, Utah, home of the Mormon Church.

From their press release:
DAVID v. GOLIATH PRODUCTIONS announced this week that their new and highly anticipated documentary, 8: THE MORMON PROPOSITION, a film by Reed Cowan & narrated by Oscar-winning writer of MILK, Dustin Lance Black, will debut its world premiere at the world renowned SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL in January 2010.


Months ago, in an interview with THE ADVOCATE magazine, SUNDANCE's John Cooper said: "I think we're going to see a lot more hard-hitting political documentaries. Prop. 8 was sort of a wake-up call. I can see that fire in the belly to finish this thing off, to get to the next phase in American life."

Everyone involved with 8: THE MORMON PROPOSITION is honored to be a part of what Mr. Cooper was talking about. 8:TMP is indeed the hardest-hitting political documentary to be released in years. It is to Mormons and their anti-gay allies what Fahrenheit 9-11 was to the Bush Administration.

That's why our team will have a ground presence in Park City and Salt Lake City the likes of which has never been seen before through our SLC manager Jacob Whipple. For that, we'll be enlisting the help of thousands of people ... details to come.

Director Reed Cowan, who is gay and was raised Mormon, told the Salt Lake Tribune, "We're bringing the pain of this home."

"It's really well done, and it's really thorough," festival director John Cooper said. "[Cowan] goes very deep, into the Mormon Church and its relationship to the anti-gay-marriage movement, all the way back almost before it really started, all the way back to the '90s."

Standard Net Live is reporting
that the documentary's acceptance into the film festival will spark protests and boycotts from anti-LGBT forces.

Gee, what a shock.

VIDEO: Jon Stewart Ridicules New York Senate Vote Against Marriage Equality

What can I say that he hasn't?

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Gaywatch - Meredith Baxter & New York State Senate
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

John A. Perez Poised To Make American History

This post originally appeared on reporter Karen Ocamb's blog LGBT POV. She has kindly granted me permission to crosspost. I've met John Perez a couple times and found him to be a great guy. I'm very happy to hear that this is happening and wanted to share Karen's amazing reporting on this wonderful news.

John A. Perez reminds me to put the initial “A” in his name when I write stories about him.

I don’t know how many other people with the name “John Perez” there might be in the state of California – but by next Thursday, arguably the most famous John Perez will be the first-term Assemblymember drafted by his colleagues to be America’s first openly gay speaker of any state legislature.

His election appears to be a “fait accomplis,” if one is to believe Capitol Weekly:

“Capitol sources said if Perez is able to secure a majority of his caucus, the vote on a new speaker could come by next week, when the Assembly reconvenes to vote on education legislation.

On Wednesday, incumbent Speaker Karen Bass endorsed Perez. She said she expects the full Assembly Democratic Caucus to vote on a new speaker on December 10.


One of those involved in the Draft Perez movement was Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael. Huffman told Capitol Weekly Tuesday, ‘I believe John now has the votes. I think it’s over.’”

Rick Jacobs, openly gay founder of the online progressive Courage Campaign, expressed his support via Huffington Post:

“John Perez is California. He’s openly gay. He’s Latino. He’s a son of Los Angeles. He’s an intellectual, a strategist, an environmentalist, a labor leader. He’s an organizer, a skilled consensus-builder, a unifier and a stunningly disarming public speaker. John is that rare elected official that we know will hold the public interest at heart.


California rarely has the opportunity to place the assembly in the hands of a speaker for more than a year or two. John would follow Karen Bass, who has lived through one of the worst imaginable times in our history. Karen is a true progressive, and she supports John. So do I.

And while these leadership battles seem very arcane and insider, it’s time for all of us in this state who support progress to understand that we have a stake in who leads our assembly.”

Longtime openly gay politico Garry Shay, who is a member of the Democratic National Committee’s Executive Committee, and Lead Chair of the Rules Committee of the California Democratic Party, told me:

“I have known John A. Perez for over a decade. He is far and above one of the most intelligent, quick-witted individuals I know. He has empathy for those less fortunate, a clear sense of integrity, and a great sense of humor. His ability to understand complex problems is phenomenal. I have the utmost confidence in him. California, and the Assembly, will be well-served by him as Speaker.”

And then there’s Eric Bauman, Vice Chair of the California Democratic Party and Chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party. Perez is Bauman’s best friend and served as the best man at his wedding to longtime partner Michael Andraychak, when Bauman was serving as Special Assistant to Gov. Gray Davis.

Perez and Bauman met in that heady year of 1994. There was no “AIDS drug cocktail” at the time and gay men were dying fast. Bauman was the newly elected President of the important LA-based Stonewall Democratic Club – and Perez was working the club to get an endorsement for his cousin, Antonio Villaraigosa, who was running against closeted gay Brian Quintana to represent the 45th District.

Villaraigosa won, as did Sheila James Kuehl – who also became the first openly gay person elected to the California Legislature. Villaraigosa approached Kuehl in their first days on the floor and suggested that the two start the first LGBT Caucus. Perez got very heavily involved in Stonewall after the election.

I asked Eric if it was accurate to suggest that Perez might prove to be something like the effective Willie Brown – the pre-term limits Assembly Speaker from 1980-1995, noting Perez’s ability to court and charm, negotiate, and twist arms when necessary. Bauman said:

“It is perfectly reasonable to allude to his studying and emulating Willie Brown’s political skills, sharing the intellectualism of Bob Hertzberg [who followed Villaraigosa as Assembly Speaker in 2000] and demonstrating the charm and ability to bring people together of Antonio.

But what is amazing is how this has come together with little actual campaigning on John’s part. He was drafted by his colleagues, including two who were contestants for speaker. They went to him and asked him to step up and run for speaker. He was preparing to run for the Senate. That is a real demonstration of the leadership skills he posses and demonstrates.

I could not be prouder of John. It seems as if he was born to be Speaker. He has the extraordinary intellectual vigor, combined with keen political and tactical instincts and years of experience as an organizer and negotiator. When you combine those assets with the fine taste of a gay man, you have the perfect guy to be our nation’s first openly gay legislative speaker.

If John’s ascends to the speakership, youngsters in our community, especially youngsters of color, will have an incredible role model; adults will have a fearless champion they can count on to stand up for what’s right. What a victory for the LGBT community!”

Here’s the take away, as Bauman noted: Perez was drafted because his colleagues think that in this time of economic crisis – California faces at least a $21.7 billion deficit – John A. Perez is not only qualified for the job, he will be an effective leader.

I’ve known John since I first started reporting on the LGBT community in Los Angeles in the early 1990s. He was kind enough to sit down with me over lunch at the French Market in West Hollywood and explain the intricacies of Latino state politics – who was siding with whom and why. One of his great strengths is that he has the patience to be an “explainer in chief,” when called upon.

I have also watched him graciously move aside when the Latino leaders wanted to promote someone else – whose name I don’t even remember now! I suspect it is that graciousness, coupled with the honing of leadership skills that comes from working tirelessly for the local United Food and Commercial Workers Union – as well as workers who are not unionized – that prompted Assembly Speaker Karen Bass to appoint John Chair of the Assembly Democratic Caucus.

UPDATED: One of those Latino leaders – Gil Cedillo – who is termed out in his state Senate seat – is challenging John in the primary for John’s Assembly seat. Capitol Weekly reported Thursday:

A new poll commissioned by Sen. Gil Cedillo shows him with a 26-point lead over incumbent Assemblyman John Perez, D-Los Angeles, in a potential Democratic primary match-up.

Cedillo’s potential challenge of Perez is being used by allies of Assemblyman Kevin De Leon to try to slow down Perez’s momentum in the battle for Assembly speaker. De Leon and Perez both seeking the speaker’s job. De Leon’s backers have cautioned Assembly Democrats from electing a speaker who could potentially lose a primary, or have to spend heavily to protect his own seat.

Perez’s political consultant Douglas Herman dismissed the survey results, saying surveys at this stage of a campaign measure nothing but name identification. “Polling is like any statistic,” said Herman. “You can make polling numbers say what you want them to say.”

Herman noted polls that showed Cedillo running ahead of Judy Chu in a recent race for Congress – a race that Chu won.

“This is not even a credible poll,” Herman said. “This is a poll floated by the same guy who all the polls showed would win his congressional race. And the conduct of his campaign, and the money he spent clearly shows he’s lost credibility in this district.”

While Cedillio has been an advocate for people with HIV/AIDS – several LGBT politicos with whom I have spoken basically snarl at Cedillio for what they perceive is a crass attempt to save his own political hide at the expense of the earned rise to power of an openly gay Latino.

John has also worked on behalf of people with HIV/AIDS – as acknowledged by the grassroots Latino group Bienestar, has sponsored important LGBT legislation and was named the Man of the Year for 2009 by Christopher Street West, the LA LGBT Pride organization.

Geoff Kors, Executive Director of Equality California, said:

“Equality California strongly supports John A. Perez becoming the next Speaker of the California Assembly. He would be the first openly LGBT person to hold this very prestigious post. He is a effective and passionate advocate for LGBT and civil rights, labor and other progressive issues and would make an excellent Speaker for California. With California facing unprecedented challenges our state needs a strong leader like Assemblymember Perez.”

John Perez CSW

As his official Assembly bio says:

“Growing up in the working class communities of El Sereno and Highland Park, John’s parents taught him the value of hard work and community service. With over 15 years working within the labor movement, John has channeled these values into fighting to create jobs, expand healthcare and protect workers’ rights.”

And here he is commenting on the California Supreme Court ruling upholding Prop 8. Meet John A. Perez, first in English, then Spanish.

It's Looking Like Prop 8 Proponents Won't Have to Hand Over Internal Campaign Documents After All

The three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals looks like they will reverse Judge Walker's orders that the Prop 8 campaign hand over internal communications to the Olson/Boies team who is challenging the discriminatory initiative in federal court.

Judges Kim Wardlaw, Raymond Fisher and Marsha Berzon, who were all appointed to the court by former President Bill Clinton, said proponents "have made a strong showing that they are likely to succeed" in their Tuesday arguments that their private communications were protected under the First Amendment. The judges said they will issue a ruling soon, but in the meantime, have stayed Walker's order. See full order posted below.

The ACLU, in a unusual move, issued an amicus brief, siding with the Prop 8 proponents despite the fact that they campaigned against the initiative.

San Francisco Chronicle reports, "Andrew Pugno, a lawyer for the Prop. 8 sponsors, said the court's order was 'very encouraging. Free speech requires protection for citizens to engage in campaigns, and that is all we are asking for.'"

Yusef Robb, spokesman for the American Foundation for Equal Rights - the group behind the Prop 8 challenge, told Unite the Fight, "Regardless of these discovery matters, we have prepared a powerful case to demonstrate the unconstitutionality of Proposition 8."

Robb also told the Chronicle that they do not expect a delay of the January 11 trial. "...we are on track to present a powerful case demonstrating that Prop. 8 violates the U.S. Constitution."

The case against Prop 8 doesn't depend on acquiring these documents. The Olson/Boies team has numerous resources to prove in court that the defendants, aka Prop 8 proponents, acted with animus toward gay and lesbian couples and intended the initiative to be discriminatory - ads, media interviews, expert testimony, witness testimony (campaign volunteers, plaintiffs, etc.), and more.

However, recourse on this particular matter depends on the final ruling of the Ninth Circuit Court judges, and as the panel declared, that will be coming soon.

12-03-0 Order in Perry v. Hollingsworth No. 09-17241 (9th Circ.)

More Protests in New York City Over Failed Marriage Bill; Pro- and Anti-Marriage Equality Forces Face Off in New Jersey Rally

Last night Gov. David Paterson, Sen. Tom Duane, NYC City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and more showed up to the second protest in two nights, this time at Union Square.

Andy Towle of Towleroad guessed that possibly more than a thousand people showed up to voice their dissatisfaction with New York's senate voting down the marriage bill 24-38. A bill that had passed the Assembly three times. A bill on which eight democratic senators, who have their jobs because of major LGBT support, voted against.

Yeah, I'd be protesting, too.

Sen. Tom Duane rightfully gets "angry at the betrayal."

The crowd.

Joe.My.God said of the rally and the forthcoming backlash:
Throughout the crowd and from the stage, threats of retribution rained down on the "Hate 38," the Senators that voted against equality. Particular scorn was heaped upon the eight traitorous Democrats, whose faces adorn many placards and who were named and shamed from the microphone. Hearty cheers went up whenever our new heroes like Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson were mentioned. The crowd was instructed about the coming 2010 elections and the NYC seats now in everyone's crosshairs. The evening was definitely not another useless venting of rage, as these things are often characterized.
Joe Sudbay takes the topic of retribution and runs with it at AmericaBlog as well as Crain's Insider.

John R. Bohrer of Blue Jersey has done a great podcast on what is going down in New Jersey. Due to massive lobbying coordinated by Garden State Equality, the state Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on the New Jersey marriage bill Monday. It must get through them before it goes to the full senate. If it does, the full senate will vote Thursday

Read the New Jersey's Star-Ledger's editorial, "Gay marriage: Equality poses no threat to marriage or religion."

ACTION: From Garden State Equality.

Images of New York by Andy Towle

Thursday, December 3, 2009

New Jersey Marriage Bill To Be Considered By Essential Senate Committee Monday

After New York's failure to pass its marriage equality bill, the prospects of New Jersey passing its own have dimmed even more than before. Yet thankfully, this hasn't stopped the local advocates and our supporters in the Senate. is reporting that the Senate Judiciary Committee will take up the proposal and vote on it Monday. Without this committee's approval, the bill won't make it to the full Senate for a vote.
"On Monday in the Judiciary Committee, we're going to vote on marriage equality," [Sen. Ray] Lesniak (D-Union) said, while making the announcement to a crowd of more than 650 gay marriage supporters on the Statehouse steps today.

"On Thursday (Dec. 10) the full Senate is going to vote on marriage equality," said Lesniak, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "And God be willing, we'll have 21 votes."
Recently, Sen. Paul Sarlo, who chairs the committee, said ". . . we do not have the votes in the Judiciary Committee," said Sarlo. "Until somebody can demonstrate that we have the votes in the Judiciary Committee, it will not be posted."

Hopefully now that they plan on taking up the proposal, it indicates that things have shifted and the votes may now be secure.

Also, Senate President-elect Steve Sweeney though has left the door open for a full vote.

ACTION: From Garden State Equality


ACLU Sides With Prop 8 Supporters Over Disclosure

Yes, you read that right. The ACLU has sided with the Prop 8 supporters on the issue of internal campaign documents and whether or not they should have to hand them over to the plaintiffs in the federal case challenging the initiative. They argued their case at Tuesday's hearing.

The San Francisco Gate reports that the Northern California chapter, which supports the challenge, filed arguments with the Ninth Circuit Court arguing that forced disclosure of the documents could endanger people's freedom to speak while planning political campaigns, which they say is an infringement upon First Amendment protections.
"Political advocacy and strategizing is inherently rough and tumble," the ACLU told the court, which accepted the filing Tuesday shortly before hearing arguments in Pasadena on the disclosure issue.

"The people charged with running those campaigns cannot do so effectively while fearing that every proposal they float, every crazy idea they shoot down ... will ultimately become fodder for their opponents," said Stephen Bomse, a San Francisco attorney who represented the ACLU.

He also said Prop. 8's backers have demanded similar campaign documents from the ACLU, which opposed the ballot measure.
Parts of the amicus brief filed by the ACLU, posted fully below, states:
What Plaintiffs want are Proponents’ internal strategy documents—private e-mails from those who were central to the campaign, strategy plans, and “brainstorming” sessions with campaign consultants and pollsters about arguments that should and should not be advanced ...But that is all core First Amendment information ...

The people charged with running those campaigns cannot do so effectively while fearing that every proposal they float, every crazy idea they shoot down, every campaign plan that ultimately is not implemented will become fodder for discovery by their campaign opponents in the event of subsequent litigation, not to mention a blueprint for those opponents to use in future electoral battles. A rule that would open internal campaign communications to compelled disclosure upon a simple showing of ordinary litigation relevance would not breathe fresh air into the electoral process so much as flatten it like a house of straw.
ACLU's Amicus Letter Brief for Review and Filed Motion to Become Amicus Curiae, Filed 11-27-09 in Perry v. ...

I guess you can say I'm a little flabbergasted. I've been fully in support of the effort to get the Prop 8 folks to hand over the documents. Never before has a marriage case gone to trial, and revealing the motivations behind those who ran the campaign is essential to proving the argument that the initiative was done purely out of animus and a means to discriminate against LGBT citizens.

However, the ACLU raises a good point that our own efforts to get a hold of these documents can turn around later and bite us, and the rest of the nation, in the ass. It may already since the ACLU claims that the Prop 8 proponents have already subpoenaed them for NO on 8 documents (I guess proponents figure if they have to . . . ), and ACLU says they themselves will appeal any court order demanding they hand the communications over. Though I would say to this, "What do we have to hide?" But the impact could be much wider than how it affects us.

Which activist hasn't held brainstorming meetings and recorded ideas that came out of these sessions only to toss them aside as not workable, and in some cases, having realized to be offensive? Would we want these sessions used against us later as evidence of prejudice even though the concepts that came out of them were the result of free-flow thought and never used?

I'm not defending these Prop 8 folks. It's quite obvious why they did what they did, but that's not what the ACLU is arguing against. Is there another means by which we can prove the animus? I know the Olson/Boies team plans to use expert witness testimony, question Prop 8 campaigners and more - so how important are these documents to our strategy?

Honestly, I haven't made up my mind on this. I have been in full favor of disclosing the Prop 8 documents, but the ACLU's arguments have given me pause. Yet if the court does rule that the communications be handed over, and it gives the anti-LGBT forces second thoughts on continuing their unconstitutional ballot war, then maybe it will be a good thing.

(H/T to Proposition 8 and the Right to Marry)

Courage Campaign Founder Rick Jacobs Responds to UTF With Answers Surrounding Marriage Equality Research

Tuesday, I wrote a post titled, "Courage Campaign Not to Release Marriage Equality Research - Information Behind Project Could Help Mend Broken Trust." In it I wrote that to regain some of the trust lost among the LGBT grassroots community when they pulled out of the 2010 Prop 8 repeal effort, Courage Campaign should answer some questions about how the partially community-funded research was conducted, such as who was behind it, how much of the raised money was spent and in what capacity, what demographics made up the focus groups, and more.

Courage Campaign founder Rick Jacobs agreed to answer the questions and sent me the following response.

First, thanks for your consistently sober, careful and thoughtful reporting and insight of and into the LGBT equality movement. You are one of the best examples of the new generation of activists that has arisen post-Prop. 8. In that vein, it’s important to note that the atmosphere and the attitude since the campaign have changed radically. On the one hand, there is less trust than before and that is both good and bad. The good of it is that activists question authority, doing their own diligence and making their own decisions about where to put their energy, effort and donations. The bad of it is that a very few spend time looking for what is wrong and picking it apart without looking for or at the solutions.

The LGBT community is nearing the end phases of the struggle for equality. Whether via the judiciary, state and federal legislation or the ballot box, we are making major strides. The ballot box has been the most disappointing and therefore gets the most attention, but we need to remember that if two candidates had come as close as they did in Maine or California, the loser would be gearing up to take on the winner as soon as possible. And there’s the rub. We are not in a candidate fight. We have a disparate movement with lots of voices, all of which are valid, but not all of which can ultimately and equally run a campaign. It just won’t work. In a candidate race, the candidate ultimately decides. In our community, there is no trusted leader, no trusted organization that can say, “follow us. We have the solution.” And frankly, no one yet does.

Over time, that will settle out. Either folks will realize that to win, we need the best of what Obama had, namely the best research possible (which is expensive), the best campaign talent possible (which is hard to find) and highly motivated and integrated grassroots movement that has input and will work to win. And with any good fortune at all, the Olson/Boies lawsuit will obviate all future such electoral battles. We cannot count on that and we must change the way people this country think about LGBT people regardless of legal, legislative or ballot box decisions. The gains of the civil rights movement in the 1960s did not eradicate prejudice; that still takes work to this day.

With that in mind, let me answer your questions.
1. We did a large series of focus groups, round tables, dyads and triads. The goal of the work was to get as broad and a diverse a view of potential swing voters as possible. To that end, we were in San Diego, Riverside, Fresno, LA and Concord. We did round tables with Asian-American, African-American, Latino groups. Our focus groups included all of the above and white folks. We worked with men and women. One conclusion we drew at the end of the focus groups was that we needed to do more qualitative work to go deeper on the issues of religion and education. A poll didn’t make sense at this time. More qualitative work should be done first.

2. Courage members rose to the challenge of funding the only serious research that has been done on this issue since before the campaign. We challenged our members in August to raise $100,000 for research. We said that if we could raise that $100,000, we would ask other groups interested in winning back our rights to match that amount. The only contribution we received from a group was $3,700 from the IAG, which we deeply appreciate. Not one other group put up a penny. By rights, we could have either offered our members a refund and stopped or go ahead. We decided to take the risk and go ahead. To date, we have spent far in excess of $200,000, frankly more than we have raised by a long shot. We did that because we owed our members and the community the real research that had not been done.

3. We assembled the best team we could find. It includes David Binder, Amy Simon, Dean Tipps (former head of SEIU State Council and later an Obama Campaign advisor), Dr. Phyllis Watts (who created the road map by which Planned Parenthood and other allied organizations have thus far defeated parental notification around the country and three times in four years in California). The team was led by Steve Hildebrand with Sarah Callahan and other Courage staff engaged in the process. Dean Tipps has more than thirty years of experience in California policy and politics. He built the SEIU in California from 150,000 to 750,000 members and has been through virtually every major initiative fight in the state. The community knows David and Amy.

4. We will not release the findings of this first round to the press because it would be equivalent, as you point out, to handing over hundreds of thousands of dollars of research to the opposition. Interestingly, the Yes on 8 crew is in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals right now trying to prevent handing over their internal communications because they believe those communications have some value and would be useful to our side. Why would we willingly hand over our research? Had the Obama Campaign, the most data-driven campaign in history, publicized all of its research, John McCain would be president today. We will share relevant data confidentially with allied LGBT and progressive groups over the next two weeks.

5. Keep in mind that Courage is an organization. We are not a campaign. We have always said that we do not think any one organization should dominate the next campaign. And we’ve been consistent in repeating and sticking to our principles that dictate when we would go back to the ballot. They include: research that informs a path to victory; a governance structure that the progressive and LGBT communities trust; a highly experienced, successful campaign manager who is empowered by that governance structure to make decisions; enough money to win. We concluded that those elements are not in place. And your post underscores that they are not in place.

6. We continue to operate a robust, all volunteer field campaign with teams in 23 counties. This is all done under the leadership of 33 volunteer Deputy Field Organizers and four full time staff. We continue our highly successful Camp Courage program, which has trained over 1,400 people since January of this year. Our next Camp is scheduled for 30-31 January in Santa Barbara. We have requests for Camps Courage from at least five other states. Pending funding and targeting, we’ll take the Camps beyond California as we did at the request of Cleve Jones, Kip Williams and Robin McGehee for the National Equality March.

7. Courage Campaign continues our national work in states such as New York, where we recently mobilized our more than 50,000 members to call their state senators in advance of the marriage vote and just did so again this morning. (See email below.) We are working other states as well, in cooperation with local organizers.

(Click email image to enlarge)

8. Courage will play a major role in trying to ameliorate the California budget disaster in 2010 and in setting a course for transforming the way this state functions over a longer horizon. We face a potential $40 billion budget deficit next year that dwarfs the one that cut nearly all services in 2009. If you thought this year was bad, buckle your seat belts; it’s about to get more than bumpy. LGBT and progressive folks are greatly affected by what’s going to happen here. The right wing is getting its wish: state and local governments that are completely starved of funds and therefore incapable of caring for those who most need government in this time of economic crisis. And look at what happened with our former crown jewel, the higher education system. Students virtually rioted because of 300% increases in tuition in a ten year period. We cannot go on that way. The LGBT movement needs to look after itself, but it had damn well better look after this state and other progressive imperatives or we’ll have nothing left. While we are having this discussion about research, the nation is gripped in debate about Afghanistan, healthcare and soon the environment. We have to look out for ourselves, but we are not only for ourselves. If we are, as Hillel said, who are we? And if we are, as any vote-counter would say, how can we win?

After Rick's initial response, I had a couple more questions which he answered.
1. Is the Courage Campaign being "secretive"?

Not at all. We are willing to disclose the basic nature of our work without giving away the details of this robust research, our methodology or thought process to the opposition. As campaign professionals across the spectrum would agree, it is not in the best interest of the LGBT movement to conduct this research in public; otherwise, there’s really no point in doing it.

As to the basic nature of our research, to repeat, we did a large series of focus groups, round tables, dyads and triads. The goal of the work was to get as broad and as diverse a view of potential swing voters as possible. To that end, we were in San Diego, Riverside, Fresno, LA and Concord. We did round tables with Asian-American, African-American, Latino groups. Our focus groups included all of the above and white folks. We worked with men and women. One conclusion we drew at the end of the focus groups was that we needed to do more qualitative work to go deeper on the issues of religion and education. A poll didn’t make sense at this time. More qualitative work should be done first.

2. Will the Courage Campaign focus group research be out-of-date by the time the LGBT community returns to the ballot box?

We conducted focus groups in order to get the best sense of what specific issues roadblock marriage equality, how deeply ingrained perceptions are on the issue, and what sort of messaging works best to address those issues. The results of our focus groups will inform the future polling done by us and other marriage equality advocates, and will be a cornerstone of a political strategy. So, unlike survey data, this focus group research is not out of date and won’t be because it is a fundamental building block for the next phases of research and for our current work.
Reporter Karen Ocamb of LGBT POV also had a chance to speak to Steve Hildebrand, who worked closely with the Courage Campaign on the research. You can see what he had to say on her blog.

Image by Marta Evry of Venice for Change.

Lead Sponsor of New York's Marriage Bill Sen. Duane: "I Am Enraged"; Protest Held in Times Square

Sen. Tom Duane, who has spent a majority of the year working behind the scenes to get New York's marriage bill to the floor to a vote, and who at point said he had all the votes needed to pass, officially responded in a statement to the bill failing.
Today’s vote against Marriage Equality makes me very angry. Promises made were not honored. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community, and all fair-minded New Yorkers have been betrayed. I am enraged, deeply disappointed and profoundly saddened by the vote today.

In 2006, when the New York State Court of Appeals shamefully ruled that the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community did not have equal protection under the law in relation to Marriage Equality, I predicted that passing legislation to right this wrong in the State Senate would be a profound personal and sadly political battle.

I have been proven right.

Yet there is an irony in today’s vote. Five years ago no one would have predicted that a vote would even be possible in the Senate. Today, on the floor of the Senate, we had an open and honest debate about the indignity of denying Marriage Equality to thousands of New York’s LGBT citizens. We heard stories of family members and friends who have suffered merely because they are gay. Only one Senator, who opposed marriage, spoke on behalf of that position. Again, an honest debate of which only one side, sadly not the winning side, represented justice and equality.

Now that this discussion has started in the Senate, it cannot be stopped. We will see Marriage Equality pass in New York. Yes, not today, but in the near future -- openly and with bi-partisan support.

I want to applaud those friends and advocates in the LGBT community who insisted on a vote, regardless of the outcome. This was very brave and it was the right thing to do. I was honored to bring the bill to the floor of the Senate, for an up or down vote, with their support.

Today also brought home the fact that the State Senate must maintain a Democratic majority– and in even greater numbers. It was only under Democratic leadership that this vote was possible. We must also have a Governor willing to sign marriage equality into law.

Most importantly I am grateful to all my Democratic colleagues who spoke so eloquently in favor of marriage equality and all those who voted in the affirmative. I also believe in redemption, even for State Senators who need that chance.

I am confident that we will win the fight for marriage equality in New York State.
Within hours of yesterday's devastating vote, 200 to 300 protesters crowded into Times Square despite the cold rain to voice their disappointment with the Senate's failure to stand up for civil rights.

Blabbeando blogger Andres Duque has done a great post with amazing photos covering the protest, one of which I posted here. Blogger Joe.My.God was also there, voicing in particular his disdain for Democratic senators Hiram Monserrate, who at one point said he would vote for marriage equality, and Ruben Diaz, who has a long history of outright bigotry. Andrew Towle reports on the most "heinous defector."

Another rally is scheduled tonight in Union Square.

Reporter Rex Wockner has written a piece on yesterday's vote and the impact it has had.

Image by Andres Duque

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

BREAKING: New York Senate Votes Against Marriage Equality Bill 24-38

UPDATE 5 5:16p PST: CNN reports that Marist College poll released same day as Senate vote finds that a majority of New Yorkers support marriage equality 51-42%. Only if their representatives would've listened instead of voted with cowardice.

UPDATE 4 2:44p PST: NY Daily News reports lead sponsor Sen. Tom Duane's response. (H/T Towleroad)
"I wasn't expected to be betrayed, and so I have some justified anger," Duane said. "But it's just going to propel me to - I don't want to say redouble my efforts, because my efforts have been pretty strong - but I'm not going to let up."

I'm angry. I'm disappointed. I am let down. I'm betrayed. But I am not going away."

"Unfortunately, I think there was a contagious lack of backbone that occurred here today. And I’m angry about that and sad about that, but it was contagious. Similarly, the opposite would have meant far more votes than anyone had expected but unfortunately that wasn’t the way it went today."
UPDATE 3 2:21p PST: New York's largest LGBT advocacy group, Empire State Pride Agenda, responds to today's vote.

UPDATE 2 2:09P PST: NOM celebrates.

UPDATE: Rally tonight Times Square to protest today's vote, 6pm EST.

Original Post 12:00pm PST

After months and months of tumultuous back and forth power struggles, political maneuvers and looming budget issues, New York's Senate finally got it together enough to vote on the marriage equality bill. Unfortunately, they failed history and civil rights by voting against it 24-38.

These eight Democrats helped defeat the bill:

• Joseph Addabbo (D-Queens) - NO
• Darrel Aubertine (D- Cape Vincent) - NO
• Ruben Diaz (D-Bronx) - NO
• Shirley Huntley (D-Queens) - NO
• Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn) - NO
• Hiram Monserrate (D-Queens) - NO
• George Onorato (D-Queens) - NO
• William Stachowski (D-Buffalo) - NO

See the full roll call.

Openly gay Sen. Tom Duane, lead sponsor for the bill, opened the debate on the marriage bill by telling his fellow senators that voting for the bill will make him equal to his colleagues in every way.

Anti-gay Sen. Ruben Diaz, who was two gay brothers and lesbian sister, said a vote for the marriage equality bill would be "treason." He went on to list all the states that passed same-sex marriage bans, and then reminded the Senate that all the states that do have marriage equality only have it because a court ordered it or the legislature and not the people.

Sen. Diaz concluded by urging the Senate to let the people of New York decide the matter and then proclaimed, "This is the day that the Lord has made."

He was the only senator to speak against the bill.

Sen. Eric Schneiderman said this isn't about morality. "You can't legislate morality," he said, "but you can legislate justice."

Sen. Schneiderman went on to say, "Every generation is called to this quintessential challenge of making Thomas Jefferson's words more true."

Hear Sen. Schneiderman's speech.

Sen. Eric Adams believed Sen. Diaz was speaking "from his heart and not his mind." Then he went on to list states that sold "blacks into slavery" and said, "Just because a numerical majority is in one place, it doesn't mean they are in the right place."

Sen. Adams implored his colleagues to read the comments made against African Americans and their right to marry and they will see they are the same being used against gays and lesbians and their right to marry.

Ending his powerful speech, Sen. Adams said, "You don't have to be gay to respect the rights of those who are."

Hear Sen. Adams' speech.

Sen. Jeffrey Klein, Deputy Majority Leader, started off apologizing that it took so long to vote on marriage and said the senators should not be afraid to vote their conscience.

"We owe it to the entire gay community around New York to pass this legislation," Sen. Klein said. He went on to argue the economical advantage of marriage equality, stating that it will benefit New York to the tune of $200 million over the next three years.

Sen. David Valesky, who was undecided, asked why marriage equality was such a difficult issue. He concluded it was because it was extremely emotional and that senators owe to themselves to listen, to research and peel away the layers and get to the facts.

Sen. Valesky went on to say that marriage equality "can't be a matter of religion." Nothing on the senate floor "can be done in violation of the United States Constitution." The marriage bill could never, in any way shape or form, compel any house of worship to go against their religious beliefs.

"This bill is about a civil, legal commitment that provides benefits to same-sex couples and for this reason I will be voting in favor" of marriage equality, concluded Sen. Valesky.

Sen. Kevin Parker followed, stating "We have an opportunity to change our history. This is the time we strike a blow to one of the last inequalities in our country . . . Stand for marriage equality now because it is the right thing to do and now is the time to do it.."

Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. said, "If this vote was taken in my district today, marriage equality would fail." But he added that this wasn't about demographics. "My mind has been made up. It was made up a long time ago."

"This is a vote of conscience," Sen. Espada added. "I believe it is morally correct to vote 'yes.'... Let's not be scared into ignorance to think that it is not morally correct."

Sen. Diane Savino said she was nervous not because she doesn't how she was going to vote but because she didn't know what the outcome of the vote would be, a rarity for the New York Senate.

"This vote is about an issue of fairness and equality, not political," she said. "I hope we are going to make history here today." She went on to make a great speech about the farce the heterosexuals have made of marriage.

Sen. Liz Krueger said voting yes "is not a hard vote for me. I never had to think twice." Holding back tears, she said she knew about discrimination because she's a Jewish woman. "My religion says I must vote yes today."

Sen. Daniel Squadron said he wanted all New Yorkers to have the joy of marrying the one they love, as he recently did.

Sen. Velmanette Montgomery said that in the older days, religious belief dictated that people living together outside of marriage was considered sin. "For those of you who wonder why we should support people being able to marry, we do not want them living in sin."

"The churches would not exist without choir directors, many of whom are gay," she went on to say, talking about her constituents. "They would like to have the right to marry . . . I am going to vote so you have every right that every other citizen has."

Sen. Jose Serrano opened his speech by saying, "This is truly a wonderful day . . . Extending civil rights . . . will make our communities stronger . . . No one should be subjugated to less rights than anyone else." He added, "History once again will prove this civil rights movement to be right and correct."

Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, who had thus far been undecided, for the first time declared her brother was gay. Her brother had disappeared from his family because their mother was a pastor and his parents did not accept him. After a long search, she found him and told how he suffered the death of his partner and the struggle he faced because they did not have the right of married couples.

Hear Sen. Hassell-Thompson's speech.

Referring to her sister who is now a pastor, Sen. Hassell-Thompson said her sibling would not agree with how she was going to vote. "No one elected me to be moral arbiter of their choices. But they did elect me to be a leader," she declared.

Referring to the many calls she received from her constituents, she said, "I am going to vote so you have every right that every other citizen has . . . I will be voting yes today."

Sen. Craig Thompson said, "This is about love and two individuals who love each other . . . this is about civil marriage!"

Sen. Bill Perkins thanked the LGBT rights movement for their vigilance and their push on the Senate to get them to vote on the marriage bill. "More than half the people in this room would not be here at another point in time. Marriage equality is here. And it is inevitable . . . It is inevitable that we will be successful . . . it is a change that is going to come. MLK is looking down on us today . . . I vote Aye."

Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer asked, "Some people have said to me [same-sex marriage] diminishes their marriage. I don't understand that. Why would it diminish my marriage?"

"Please don't quote the Bible or refer to it if you are not clear on what it really means," said Senate President Pro Tempore Malcolm Smith, who had earlier denied the marriage bill to come to the senate floor for a vote. "The Bible does not say that same-sex marriage is wrong . . . What's wrong is when you use the Bible for your own purposes."

He added, "When you experience discrimination, it hurts."

Openly gay and lead sponsor Sen. Tom Duane closed the debate. "To my [undecided] colleagues, there is still time to feel my gratitude in its fullness!"

Tearing up, Sen. Duane said, "Thank you for letting me have my rage . . . my sadness . . . my office is always a cry safety zone."

"The time is never right for civil rights. But the paradox is, it's always the time to be on the right side of history," Sen. Duane continued. "We are beating New Jersey today. Unfortunately, we are behind Iowa, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont - I may have left one out," he laughed. Well, the list is getting longer.

"I don't give up. I don't know how to," he went on.

Sen. Tom Duane had to stall the vote by extending his speech several minutes. Joe.My.God reports that the Republicans were pulled out and being strong-armed into voting against the bill.

As he voted, Sen. Diaz told his colleagues not to leave their Bibles behind and said he stood alongside Bill Clinton in voting against marriage equality.

Sen. Duane, when he stood to vote, corrected Sen. Diaz, reminding the senate that Bill Clinton has changed his position and now supports marriage for gays and lesbians.

Unfortunately, it appears most of the senators either clutched their Bibles or voted in fear for their jobs.

This is truly a sad day.

Audio supplied by Good As You.

Catholic Charities Will Continue Work in D.C. Despite Marriage Equality Advancement

Well, I guess it was an empty threat, and the D.C. Council called their bluff.

Catholic News Agency reports:
The Archdiocese of Washington D.C. and Catholic Charities are still “committed to continuing to serve the people of the District of Columbia as we have done for more than 80 years,” despite D.C. Council members voting in favor of same-sex “marriage” in the nation's capital yesterday.

Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the archdiocese said in a statement yesterday that they will move forward “with the resources available to us,” though the current legislation could threaten to cut government funding of faith-based organizations, such as Catholic Charities, if they do not compromise their religious beliefs.

On Nov. 17, Archbishop Wuerl stated that the same-sex “marriage” bill would cause the city itself to withhold contracts and licenses since Catholic Charities and other religious institutions cannot comply with city mandates to “recognize and promote” it.

Gibbs continued to say in her statement that “as the legislation moves forward, the Archdiocese of Washington will continue its dialogue with the Council to seek a balance of interests in the legislation – that of the city council to legalize same sex marriage and that of religious organizations to protect religious liberties.”

Brian Brown Says D.C. Residents Have 'God-Given' Right to Vote on Marriage Equality

I DID say I wanted to see the look on the faces of Brian Brown and Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) when they heard that the D.C. Council passed marriage equality on the first of two scheduled votes. But I DIDN'T say I wanted to hear from them.

Of course, that didn't stop them from yakkin'. Brian Brown issued this response to the vote:
This battle is not over. DC politicians are blocking the right of people to vote on marriage. Voters in 31 other states have already exercised their right to vote on this issue. It is ironic that some politicians actively campaign demanding DC voting rights and yet they are conspiring to deny those same citizens the right to vote on the definition of marriage. We will not give up on D.C. The people of D.C. have the right to vote for marriage; we will fight for their rights and we will win. NOM will be proud to fight alongside Bishop Harry Jackson to make sure politicians hear the people's voice loud and clear: don't mess with marriage. We will fight in Congress. We will fight through the courts to get this to the people of D.C. who have a God-given right to vote for marriage and Charter-given right to overturn the council's decision. We are confident marriage will win in the end in D.C. as it has in Maine and 30 other states.
Yes, it's Americans God-given right (because the Bible says so, right?) to vote away minority rights, just like they did on interracial marriage.


No they didn't. Because if they did, interracial would still be illegal today! When the Supreme Court ruled on Loving vs. Virginia, a large majority of Americans thought it was immoral.

(We need to do a better job of teaching history - we have a lot of people today who don't realize that they're committing the damning error of repeating it.)

Just because 31 states have voted on this doesn't make it right. Herd mentality doesn't indicate intelligence.

NOM and Harry Bishop Jackson have appealed the D.C. Board of Elections ruling that no initiative will take place because it would violate the District's Human Rights Act.

Our Families Count reports that D.C. has the largest percentage of same-sex couples in the country with 1.5%, doubling any other state. This is roughly equivalent to 3,600 couples. Opposition would face a stiff challenge at the ballot box, however unconstitutional the vote may be.

Bring it on.

Prop 8 Proponents Argue at Hearing That Handing Over Campaign Documents Violates Their 1st Amendment Protections

UPDATE: Listen to an audio file of the hearing.

Earlier, I reported on the federal challenge against Prop 8 and how the defendants, those defending the initiative, we're trying to wiggle out of Judge Walker's orders to hand over internal campaign documents to plaintiffs by appealing to the Ninth Circuit Court. Plaintiffs need the documents to prove at the January 11 trial that the ballot measure was passed with "discriminatory intent."

Tuesday was the hearing on the appeal which took place in Pasadena, CA. According to the Los Angeles Times, defendants argued that handing over the documents would violate their 1st Amendment protections.

Defendant's lawyer Charles Cooper argued to the three-judge appellate panel that disclosing the documents would have a "chilling effect" on freedom of speech and free association, especially in regards to any future ballot campaigns.

Arguing for plaintiffs, Theodore Boutrous, said the documents would prove that the Prop 8 campaign plotted to "push the buttons" of voters, stoking their ant-gay fears.

"He produced one message obtained from a Proposition 8 proponent warning that the consequences of failing to pass the gay-marriage ban would include California 'falling into the hands of Satan' and the next step in the gay-rights movement, including 'sex with children,'" reports the Los Angeles Times.

Melanie Nathan of Lez Get Real and O-blog-dee-o-blog-da, reports:
The three 9th Circuit judges hearing the appeal, all appointees of President Clinton, expressed reservations about approving an overly broad disclosure.

“We’re not just talking about Prop. 8,” said Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw, noting that every campaign in the future could be subject to similarly exhaustive document exchanges if they approved the requested disclosure.

The other two judges on the panel, Marsha S. Berzon and Raymond C. Fisher, suggested that there probably was voluminous information illuminating the campaign strategy available online and from public pronouncements such as the flurry of television ads than ran ahead of the vote.

Although 9th Circuit panels often take months to issue rulings, a decision on the campaign communications is expected sooner, probably within a couple of weeks, to allow the trial on Proposition 8’s constitutionality to proceed on schedule, according to attorneys.
I don't blame the judges for their reservations - the trial of Prop 8 will be the first ever held on a marriage case. Whatever is determined in this trial and the run-up to the trial will be setting precedent.

Their determination on whether or not the Prop 8 campaign should follow Judge Walker (whose job it is to gather as much information as possible for the higher courts who will hear the inevitable appeals) and his order and hand over the internal documents can have a long-lasting effect on future campaigns.

Of course, I think that would be a great effect. The referendum process is broken and being abused, and this would surely curtail blatant discriminatory actions taking advantage. Simply the fact that anyone can come forward in California with ballot language and enough signatures and say, "Put this on the ballot" is a bit ridiculous. And though I think the California divorce ban ballot measure is hysterical, it also proves my point.

Let's hope the Ninth Circuit Court judges agree with me.

New York State Assembly Passes Marriage Bill Again to Remove Obstacles For Expected Senate Vote Today

Back in May, New York's State Assembly voted to pass the state's marriage equality bill sponsored by the openly gay Assemblyman Danny O'Donnell, brother of comedian/actor Rosie O'Donnell.

Yet because the Senate is expected to vote on their version of the bill today (I'll believe it when I see it) in an extraordinary session (not a regular one), the Assembly had to vote on the bill again Tuesday night to clear all hurdles for its passage.

Empire Pride Agenda said in a press release:
Just a few moments ago, the New York State Assembly passed marriage equality legislation for the second time this year in a bipartisan vote of 86 to 51. By taking a vote in what is called an “extraordinary session,” the Assembly has removed any obstacle to the bill being sent to the Governor for his signature if the Senate votes on the bill when it reconvenes tomorrow to conduct business.

The Pride Agenda gives special thanks to the New York State Assembly, under the leadership of Speaker Sheldon Silver, that has now voted and passed the marriage equality bill three times. Our thanks also to the legislation’s prime sponsor Assemblymember Danny O’Donnell for leading the successful effort again on the floor.

It is anticipated that forces opposing marriage equality may be coming to Albany tomorrow to put pressure on the State Senate to take no action on the bill. We continue to expect the Senate to give this issue the respectful debate and vote it deserves.
ACTION: Contact your senator and tell them to vote for marriage equality!

Watch the Senate session live! (Scheduled for 10am EST - they're a little behind.) Now removed.