|The crowd was nervous but held out hope on May 26 before the California Supreme Court announced their decision upholding Prop 8. Activists Shelly Bailes and Ellen Pontac from Yolo County Marriage Equality USA, together 35 years. Photo by Rink.
After months of debate, Equality California has concluded that the GLBT community should wait until 2012 before launching a campaign to repeal Proposition 8. The decision was announced in a conference call with the press on Wednesday morning, and comes on the eve of an announcement on this same subject, scheduled Thursday by the Courage Campaign. Since it looks as if the Courage Campaign is gearing up for a 2010 repeal, we can expect nothing less than a full out intra-community war of words that will rival the spectacular outbursts we all exchanged after the November election.
Complicating matters is the fact that there are excellent arguments on both sides. Equality California spent the last three months setting up new field offices, knocking on 500,000 doors, interviewing donors, taking polls and talking to the various stakeholders en route to their conclusion that 2012 is our best chance.
Their conviction is bolstered by some key electoral demographics; in 2010 only 7 percent of voters will be aged 18 to 29, compared to 16 percent in 2012. Likewise, some 37 percent of voters will be in the generally anti-marriage over-60 cohort next year, while the number is expected to drop to 27 percent in 2012. That age shift alone could deliver four percentage points to our side without a dime spent or a precinct walked.
There was also much ado about using the extra two years for education, a fine idea but one weāve heard over and over again. It seems, however, that the only real educating invariably takes place in the context of a real contest, in short, in an election year.
Equality California also warned that the community could not lose three marriage elections in a row and expect to rebound with a victory the fourth time around. Peopleās attitudes harden, hence, they say, a loss in 2010 could ruin chances for a victory in 2012.
What else. The big donors were reluctant to commit to a 2010 investment absent a solid plan and a unified community commitment, which I think is clearly lacking. Then again, Obama proved that big donors can be replaced by lots of little donors, and one assumes that big donors would come around in September if a marriage proposition were to make it onto the ballot in November. Other financial factors weighing in favor of 2012 include the need to fund our crucial marriage battle in Maine this November, the pressure on Californiaās GLBT community in light of state budget cuts and the recession, and the fear that the federal marriage litigation will create the false impression that marriage rights will be delivered by the courts for free.
Keep in mind, that a winning campaign will require roughly $50 million.
Are you convinced? Well, I canāt speak directly for the Courage Campaign since I havenāt spent the last hour listening to them on a conference call, but the group just announced that they raised some $70,000 in 24 hours, meeting the deadline for a challenge grant that will pay for the research to draft a ballot measure. Proponents of a 2010 run say momentum is ours, the polls are close, the grassroots are excited, volunteers are mobilized, the money will come and the underlying justice of our quest canāt wait.
As for me, Iām torn. My main fear of 2010 is this notion that a loss will mean we canāt win in 2012, because I was kind of thinking that we should just fight over and over again until we emerge victorious. So Iāll have to do a little research on the repercussions of losing next year before I submit my final opinion. Oh, and raising $50 million requires that we collect $70,000 a day for the next two years, so weāll have to pick up the pace a little bit for a 2010 race.
But it may not matter what we think. If gay activists collect a million names by around April 2010, a definite possibility, then our fate will rest with the voters of 2010 regardless of anyoneās opinion or Equality Californiaās strategic analysis. Equality California told the press today that of course they would support a 2010 measure should it reach the ballot, although the implication stood that they would not do much to help the petitioners get there to begin with. Ergo, get ready for eight months of GLBT infighting.
Hearing Next Week on Federal Marriage Case
Meanwhile, letās not forget our current Gay v. Gay dispute over the direction of federal marriage litigation. When last we visited the goings on at the Olson/Boies lawsuit, our friends at Lambda, the ACLU and the NCLR had asked the court to let them intervene as plaintiffs in the federal fight against Proposition 8, a fight that these groups initially opposed.
But much as Equality California will fall in line behind a 2010 campaign should one emerge, the GLBT legal community has put its original strategic conviction aside and donned its battle gear, asking the court in mid-July to expand the case. The trio, representing Lavender Seniors, Our Families Coalition and PFLAG, wants to put together an extensive and detailed trial presentation that will improve the chances for success at the appellate level. Lambda and company also want the courts to consider the narrow issue of California marriages rather than risk a challenge to the entire structure of marriage discrimination around the country.
Olson and Boies disagree. In briefs filed this week, they asked the court to bar the door to the gay groups, as well as the City of San Francisco, who also wants in. The would-be interveners will file reply briefs on Friday, and Judge Vaughn Walker will hold a hearing on the question of who can intervene next Wednesday.
In their brief, Olson and Boies recommended a crazy sounding trial schedule, right out of one of those legal dramas where the client is at the conference table in one scene and sitting in court three days later. We know itās three days later because the main character is still trying to resolve the incident of the drunken kiss at the bar that took place the evening that he first met the client.
Seriously, the suggested schedule had the entire pre-trial phase wrapped up in a matter of three months, including depositions, briefs, legal stipulations, pre-trial motions, interviewing expert witnesses and whatever else lawyers have to do to prepare. Notably, Judge Walker asked the parties to revise their proposed timetables by Monday, and although I havenāt read the Olson/Boiesā briefs, Iām guessing Walker had Olsonās whizbang thank you maāam recommendation in front of him when he made that request.
Lunatic Fringe in Full Voice
So did you miss me when I went on vacation for two weeks? Looks like I returned just in time to dive into the bracing waters of the GLBT news stream, doesnāt it? I came back to over 500 emails, including a suggestion that I pay money to determine the composition of my dogsā DNA. This solicitation came from the same company that just sold me a robotic vacuum cleaner, and my point is, I am impressed that todayās technology can connect the dots between a woman who is incapable of cleaning her own floor and a woman who owns dogs.
Itās interesting, I think. Unfortunately for the purveyor, I am not a crazy dog owner, just a lazy one, and I will survive without a genetic breakdown of these animals. If it looks like a pug and barks like a pug, itās a pug.
So, French TV said not a word about the belligerent tea baggers who I gather have been disrupting an attempted national dialogue on health care. But thatās not to say the French have higher priorities. Instead, we watched days of anxious analysis of the excess subsidies that lined the pockets of French vegetable and fruit farmers back in the 1990s, money that the government now wants repaid. We all live in our own worlds, donāt we?
Paul Krugman wrote a great essay on the supposed health care outrage, noting that the issue is not health care. The passion in the town hall meetings reflects a smoldering resentment over Obamaās election that burns in the hearts of a certain segment of our populace, and that has found a reason to erupt and an outlet from which to spew its noxious heat. These people, he writes, are the same as the birthers, who will never be convinced that the man was born in Hawaii, and who see in our President a threat to their evidently fragile personal sense of self.
They know nothing about health care. Indeed I gather that someone asked one group if any of them or their parents benefited from Medicare, and half raised their hands - this a minute after decrying government sponsored health care as a Satanic enterprise. They simply hate Obama and what he represents with a shared bitterness that makes you wonder who they are, what made their lives so miserable, and when they will become extinct. A Cynical Interlude
Meanwhile, while I was away a gunman shot two people dead and injured others in a Saturday night rampage at a Tel Aviv gay youth center. Sounds like the worst psychotic anti-gay attack in Israeli history, and the expressions of horror and sadness have come from all sides of the Israeli political fences. Do you think a hate crime law would have made the madman think twice? No, neither do I. There are some things, hate-based murders among them, that cannot be stopped by statute. Criminal laws wonāt prevent killing, stealing or rape. And a hate crime embellishment on top of a life sentence is small consolation to the victims. Yes, Iām happy that the hate crime law has passed Congress, but only for the symbolism of it and for the significance of passing any GLBT bill out of the House and Senate. But Iām tired of reading our own community talking points, listing all the horrible things that have happened to transpeople, gays and lesbians, as if this law would have the slightest impact on such violence. It wonāt. Changing society will reduce hate, and passing GLBT bills out of Congress is part of changing society, so in that sense itās progress.
Speaking of progress in Congress, we are also all encouraged to line up with our arms around each otherās shoulders and do high kicks for the introduction of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act in the Senate. My legs are tired, and Iām not going to rehash my frustration with the piecemeal approach to civil rights legislation so dear to the hearts of our allies in Washington. One thing at a time! Letās not get greedy! First things first! So we plod together down the long and winding road, turning a blind eye to shortcuts, better routes, and new ideas. But hey! Weāll get there in time! Break out the Champagne for the GLBT Civil Rights Act of 2050!
Finally, I can tell you that Billie Jean King and Harvey Milk have just won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the U.S. government. Thatās very nice for both of them, particularly for King who can actually appreciate the award prehumously. Yes, I made up the adverb, but with justification I think.
āHis name was Harvey Milk,ā Barack Obama remarked in an East Room ceremony, āand he was here to recruit us ā all of us ā to join a movement and change a nation.
āFor much of his early life, he had silenced himself. In the prime of his life, he was silenced by the act of another. But in the brief time in which he spoke ā and ran and led ā his voice stirred the aspirations of millions of people. He would become, after several attempts, one of the first openly gay Americans elected to public office. And his message of hope ā hope unashamed, hope unafraid ā could not ever be silenced. It was Harvey who said it best: t: āYou gotta give āem hope.āā
I confess, that gives me some hope.āarostow@aol.com