Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018

Organize now, EQCA told


Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors, right, listens as National Center for Lesbian Rights legal director Shannon Minter makes a point at a town hall meeting Monday. NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell is at left. Photo: Rick Gerharter
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The long-awaited report evaluating Equality California's role in the defeated No on Prop 8 campaign was released this week, and the statewide LGBT lobbying organization was urged to begin organizing now for any future ballot fight.

That organizing includes working with grassroots entities, as many as 96 of which have formed since Proposition 8's passage last November, rather than "controlling" them or pushing them aside.

The $7,500 report was prepared by Woodward & McDowell, a Burlingame-based campaign consulting firm. EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors released the report late Tuesday afternoon.

Prop 8, which eliminates the right of same-sex couples to marry, was passed by a majority of California voters in November. The state Supreme Court is set to decide by June 3 whether to overturn the measure. If the court upholds Prop 8, a measure to repeal it is expected to appear, possibly as early as 2010.

EQCA was a key agency in the No on 8 campaign. Kors was a member of the No on 8 executive committee, which was responsible for raising about $14 million out of the approximately $45 million donated to the campaign. EQCA also contributed several staff members to No on 8.

Overall, the report suggests that EQCA needs to hit the ground running, especially when it comes to money and working with grassroots groups.

"The problem on Prop 8 was apparently not how much was raised, but when it came in. Particularly when compared to the 'Yes' campaign, which brought in significant sums earlier than the 'No' side," states the report.

Many in the community have criticized the campaign for taking a "top-down" command approach, where input from many people was ignored. Since Prop 8's passage, many new groups have sprung up with the goal of repealing Prop 8, should the court uphold it.

"We will implement many of the suggestions in the report and that we are receiving from community members at town halls and in other ways," Kors said in an e-mail.

While the report states that one person needs to be in charge, it also noted that grassroots groups are going to be active in any campaign and that it's more effective to "channel" and "focus" those groups, rather than "control" them.

"Right or wrong, there is a feeling that volunteers were too restricted in what they were asked to do and that sentiment will carry forward to the next effort," the report notes.

At the same time, campaigns are by their nature focused.

"We understand how hard this may be to hear for a large, diverse, egalitarian movement," the report states. "... But the hard truth is, that while a movement such as this can be run as a democracy over the long term, once you're actually in a campaign, things are different."

To make everything work, one person has to be in charge and that person, "cannot be overly concerned about whether or not he or she will be 'liked' after the election," the report states.

However, the report acknowledges, "It's unlikely the next campaign supporting marriage equality will be able to impose heavy control if it wants to fully activate the grassroots."

In addition, the report suggests that a "very small management committee" should be established.

"When a decision needs committee approval, the campaign manager should not have to get in touch with more than three to five people," the report states.

During the No on 8 campaign, the executive committee grew to as many as 18 people, according to the report.

Looking ahead

Looking back at last year's campaign, however, isn't the answer, the report states.

"Don't make the mistake of re-fighting the battles that were particular to Prop. 8," the report advises EQCA. "The specifics are different for every campaign, even if the subject is the same. The political environment is different, as are the messages, makeup of the electorate, voter turnout, etc. If you let yourselves get continuously mired in the details of the Prop. 8 campaign, you will not be able to clearly analyze and prepare for the next fight."

The report also recommends things that have been widely discussed since Prop 8's passage and that EQCA is showing signs of doing, such as public education and increasing the focus on coalition building, particularly to the faith and people of color communities.

In a statement accompanying the report, Kors said, "In addition to gathering feedback from experienced campaign professionals, we are continuing to seek input from the community through the statewide town halls already under way. With this feedback, we are committed to finding the most effective ways to serve the community as we continue our efforts to achieve full equality together."

A separate report that addresses the No on 8 campaign, rather than just EQCA's role, is being prepared by UCLA.

The EQCA report is online at; click on Elections.

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