Our bleak spirits are rising. Over the last couple of weeks, ever since the No on 8 leaders issued their emergency call to action, the money has been flowing into the campaign website at the rate of up to half a million per day. On Tuesday night, a Hollywood rally was expected to raise $3 million. In the middle of next week, says Kate Kendell of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the campaign will launch another major media buy. That plan, which reflects our sideâ€™s new ability to match the other sideâ€™s TV spending, will require us to collect even more money over the next several days. But this time, it sounds like the dollars may be within our reach. One more push.
Kendell was one of those activists in shock early this month, when it became clear that the Yes campaign had the resources to outspend us by not quite two-to-one. Their $25 million war chest, filled mainly from the fat purses of the Mormon Church, had already shifted the balance in the contest from a slight No lead to a five-point Yes advantage. Most of that money had been raised under the radar, taking our side by surprise.
Community leaders issued a full-throated scream for help, and it looks like community members and our allies responded. We are now matching them on the air, and the polls are trending back in our direction, Kendell says. A survey released Tuesday showed us within three points, and we are apparently moving closer. A viral campaign is up and running. We are now on radio in addition to TV. Our mailers are, um, in the mail. And campaign leaders are in conversations with the governor and other influential types in an effort to deploy their past and perhaps future public statements against Prop 8 to our benefit.
I canâ€™t help but believe that a specific call for a no vote from Schwarzenegger would have a major impact on the race and could secure Prop 8â€™s defeat. Will he do for our generation what Ronald Reagan did for our predecessors thirty years ago? We can only pray, but I also hope our campaign directors are on their knees.
Kendell says she is now very very cautiously optimistic, and only my word count limit prevents me from adding the other dozen times she said â€śveryâ€ť before that statement.
Latter Day Sinners
According to Kendell, the Mormons may be responsible for as much as 70 percent of the Yes campaign stash. Kendell cited their website, but I donâ€™t have the stomach to surf over to the cyber headquarters of this bizarre institution. The Wall Street Journal said Mormons account for 30 to 40 percent of Yes on 8â€™s $25-plus million, which is bad enough, not to mention strange.
What accounts for this obsession? Itâ€™s not as if, letâ€™s say Southern Baptists are head over heels in favor of same-sex marriage. But I havenâ€™t read about an average middle class Baptist family contributing $50,000 to pass Prop 8, as did Pam and Rick Patterson of Folsom. This Mormon family of seven lives in a â€śmodestâ€ť three-bedroom, where sheâ€™s a stay-at-home mom and he drives a 10 year old Honda Civic to work, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The Bee also talked to David and Susan Neilson, an Auburn Mormon family who will forgo vacations and scrimp for the next few years in order to pay for their $35,000 contribution. Heâ€™s a retired insurance executive.
Look, I was pretty content with my own contribution to No on 8, but I didnâ€™t empty my savings account, sell my car or mortgage my house. Compared to the Pattersons or the Neilsons, my effort was a paltry drop in the bucket and yet I am married, and my own civil rights hang in the balance here. I suspect other community members on board with No on 8 gave what they thought they could afford, and maybe a little more, but like me stopped short of sending the very shirts off their backs.
Why then, would people like these Mormons, who one imagines have a religious and intellectual commitment, but no personal stake in the outcome of this election, contribute such massive amounts? The answer must be, that they do have a personal stake, that their most fundamental beliefs would be undermined by same-sex marriage in a way that will literally hurt them.
This is odd, because even the most devout adherent to a particular organized religion believes as a rule simply that they should follow church tenets and they will be rewarded in the afterlife. Jesus himself told followers to make a distinction between Caesar, i.e. the state, and a transcendent divinity. Yet here we have a group, dare I say cult, that makes no such distinction and that conflates their spiritual lives with the public policy of California. Mormons arenâ€™t draining their bank account because theyâ€™re worried about whether marriage will be taught in public schools. It seems theyâ€™re doing it because theyâ€™re deeply scaredâ€¦ of something.
Waiting To Graduate
Speaking of Mormons, I ran into an odd story, which I normally wouldnâ€™t cover but which fits in perfectly. It concerns a graduate of Brigham Young University, and I call him a â€śgraduateâ€ť because he completed all his class work and was set to receive his degree on Aug. 15.
In July, however, Chad Hardy was excommunicated from the Mormon Church for conduct unbecoming a church member. It seems our young scholar failed to pay tithes, the ten percent of your net income that you are obliged to turn over to the authorities (did I mention the word cult?), and he also helped produce a 2008 calendar called Men on a Mission. The calendar, Hardy said, was designed to challenge Mormon stereotypes, and featured shirtless Mormon missionaries in what the press called â€śmodest poses.â€ť I say the â€śpress,â€ť because I have cut off the byline of the article Iâ€™m reading and forget where it came from.
At any rate, Brigham Young placed a â€śnon academic holdâ€ť on Hardyâ€™s diploma, and told the student he might be eligible to receive his degree if and when he is reinstated as a member of the church. Hardy, in turn, plans to fight the school â€śtooth and nail.â€ť
My first reaction is to ask since when can a university, which has already cashed and spent your tuition checks, withhold an earned degree for lapsed morals? My own diploma folder contained a note advising me, or better yet my parents, to stop by the Bursarâ€™s Office where I had accrued a small but manageable debt to the storied institution. But had the deans decided to evaluate my moral conduct in addition to my barely passing grades, I would have been checking â€śhigh school graduateâ€ť on surveys for the rest of my life. Hell, if my high school had required such a test, Iâ€™d be really sunk. Is there a box for eighth grade?
My second reaction is to suggest again that these people are crazy. They wear scratchy underclothes, they donâ€™t allow women in their temples, they believe adult male members of the church are â€śprophetsâ€ť who will be rewarded in heaven with multiple wives, and their founder discovered scrolls with divine texts that could only be interpreted with magic reading glasses and which disappeared before any independent observer could verify their existence. Oh, and they believe Christ wandered around North America with the Indians.
Hey, I donâ€™t know. Itâ€™s something like that, but whatever they believe, the Mormon Church makes the Raelians look downright traditional. After all, the Raelians insist that an advanced extraterrestial race brought life to Earth, Which scenario makes more sense to you? Rael also supports same-sex marriage, so as cults go, theyâ€™re not so bad. I just wish they had more money for political causes.
Can We Please Win, Just This One Time?
There might be a few newsworthy GLBT stories. For example youâ€™ll be happy to know that the British chef who murdered his boy toy and grilled up part of his thigh in olive oil and herbs has been sentenced to life in prison.
But honestly, is there any subject that affects our community (aside from Prop 8) more than the presidential election? I admire the stamina of John Paul Stevens, but not even Stevens can stay on the Supreme Court until heâ€™s 92. We need a Democratic victory for Stevens, for our country, and perhaps most critically, to keep Sarah Palin out of the Vice Presidency.
I am still holding my breath as the days go by and our lead stays flat or trending Democratic.
I am addicted to political cable and watch in both pleasure and horror as McCain prattles on inanely about Joe the Plumber, shifting up and down on his toes and flashing his creepy smile on and off like a strobe. Five minutes later, here comes Sarah Palin chatting and laughing about Obamaâ€™s terrorist connections in a surrealistic disconnect. Hello! If Obama was truly a terrorist, donâ€™t you think a serious tone of voice would be appropriate? At last, The One appears, with his reassuring ability to answer questions without notes and intelligently discuss the complexity of our economic and foreign crises.
And then come the pundits, armed with their trite talking points, ponderously worrying among other things that the â€śBradley Effectâ€ť might rear its ugly head. You know what? Tom Bradley lost the race for governor in 1982. Count with me. Thatâ€™s over a quarter of a century ago. Since then, plenty of African American politicians have matched or beat their polling numbers. As a matter of fact, Barack Obama matched his poll numbers throughout the primary.
Some people were afraid to look racist when questioned by pollsters in 1982. That does not mean that the phenomenon is a permanent feature of American electoral politics. Itâ€™s not, and it wonâ€™t have an effect and Iâ€™m sick of hearing about it.
Iâ€™m also sick of the media trying so hard to be â€śbalancedâ€ť that they insist both campaigns are â€śturning negative.â€ť
Sure looks like McCain Palin have gone negative, accusing Obama and company of terrorist associations, being anti-American, and planning a socialist redistribution of wealth (otherwise known as progressive income taxes).
But how about Obama, the talking heads then cry! Heâ€™s gone â€śnegativeâ€ť too, accusing McCain of, um, taxing employer health insurance benefits, voting with George Bush 90 percent of the time, and ignoring the middle class! Thatâ€™s supposed to comprise the â€śnegative campaigningâ€ť from the Democrats and, and what? Are we all in the mud together, throwing accusations right and left? For Godâ€™s sake thereâ€™s a difference between implying your opponentâ€™s a traitor and condemning his policies.
Is it too much to ask that the media just come right out and say that Obama is by far the better candidate? I have no problem doing so. Colin Powell can do it. Come on, Fox News! Admit it.
And now, without further ado, I am pulling out my credit card and making one more donation to No on 8, this one in honor of the Pattersons and the Neilsons. If they can shell out $35,000 or $50,000, I think I can manage another hundred. Mel and I went out to dinner to celebrate an event the other night and there went $100 worth of wine, crab and broiled trout into our hungry and thirsty little mouths and stomachs. Surely we can resist a similar impulse over the next month or so and weâ€™ll be even. Itâ€™s not like weâ€™re giving up vacations for the next five years like the Pattersons, or whoever.
But Iâ€™ll do one other thing. Iâ€™m going to call my second cousins in Ross and make sure theyâ€™re voting against Prop 8. As Kendell emphasized, the most powerful thing we can do as a community aside from sending cash is to call our friends and family and neighbors and whoever might listen to us, and ask for their vote. Thirteen days and counting down. We can do this.