Groups tussle over when to repeal Prop 8
by Seth Hemmelgarn
A coalition of LGBT and allied groups is urging the community not to try to repeal Proposition 8 in November 2010, saying it's too soon. The move exposes what could be a rift in the movement to restore marriage equality in California.
Asian and Pacific Islander Equality-LA, the Latino-based Honor PAC, and the African American-centered Jordan Rustin Coalition released a joint statement Monday, July 13 titled "Prepare to Prevail: Why We Must Wait In Order to Win." The statement comes just over a week before marriage equality supporters convene a second leadership summit, this one scheduled for San Bernardino.
"Going back to the ballot to remove the voter-imposed ban on same-sex marriage from the state constitution in 2010 would be rushed and risky," the groups said in the statement. "We should proceed with a costly, demanding, and high-stakes electoral campaign of this sort only when we are confident we can win."
Luis López, Honor PAC's president, seemed to feel that despite debate over when to proceed, there would be cooperation.
"At the end of the day, everybody can agree that we need to engage in developing a campaign infrastructure and reaching out to voters ... to bring them on our side," López said in an interview.
"From that vantage point, we're all doing the same thing, and we all want the same thing, so what we are working on currently are identifying those folks that are prepared to work with us to establish the infrastructure, the campaign planning, and the education work that'll get us there," he added.
The Prepare to Prevail letter was met with a response within hours from Love Honor Cherish, a group that is working to repeal Prop 8 next year. Love Honor Cherish is gathering money and volunteers to launch a signature gathering campaign for a potential 2010 ballot initiative.
John Henning, Love Honor Cherish's executive director, said in an interview that to a degree, the discussion on when to proceed is "healthy."
However, he said, "there comes a point where it becomes apparent that the majority of people want to go a certain way, and if the minority continues to object and fight it, it just undermines what is eventually going to be a campaign that we're all going to have to run. ... Someday, we're going to all be in a campaign together, and all this talk about how the campaign isn't going to succeed is not helpful to making it succeed."
Among other factors in overturning Prop 8, the state constitutional marriage ban passed by California voters in November, Prepare to Prevail points out the importance of having full community support and a broad coalition. People of color groups, LGBT families, and others who were largely left out of the No on 8 campaign need to be pulled together and there has to be a "unified strategy," the statement said.
The current economic downturn makes it harder to raise the tens of millions of dollars that will likely be needed, and there also needs to be get-out-the-vote data systems and a statewide voter contact database to ensure contacts with voters are coordinated, the statement said.
Labor groups are among those that are supporting the call to wait, which could impact the marriage equality movement.
"Labor, religious allies, and communities of color are indispensable to winning," the Prepare to Prevail statement said.
The Office and Professional Employees International Union, AFL-CIO; three California chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union; API Equality-Northern California; Gay Straight Alliance Network; and Our Family Coalition are among the groups that appear as signatories on the statement.
"We think that we haven't established the predicates we need for winning yet," the ACLU said in a statement. "If we were to enter a campaign in either 2010 or 2012 with the people of California where they are now on marriage for same-sex couples, we'd have a tougher time winning than we did in 2008."
Among the work that needs to be done is convincing people who voted against allowing same-sex marriage to change their votes, the statement said.
Additionally, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has signed onto the letter.
"For well over five years, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has devoted significant resources to winning marriage equality in California," Executive Director Rea Carey said in an e-mail. "This commitment continues, and we look forward to working with our partners in California to build a strong, diverse, and successful campaign for marriage equality."
'We each lose something'
Love Honor Cherish's memo contains a point-by-point rebuttal of the Prepare to Prevail arguments.
"Every day that Prop 8 remains part of the California Constitution, we each lose something," the group said in its statement.
Included in its rebuttals are that a broad, diverse coalition supporting 2010 already exists, the money needed for the campaign can be raised, there's "plenty of time" to build a get-out-the-vote data system and an online database for voter contacts.
The organization's statement also said that "many labor organizations, religious allies and groups within communities of color already support 2010, and we will work hard to enlist others in the effort to repeal Prop 8."
The progressive Courage Campaign added its own statement to the mix Tuesday, July 14, noting that in May, 82.5 percent of its members expressed support for a 2010 ballot measure, rather than waiting for 2012.
Referring to the Prepare to Prevail statement, Rick Jacobs, founder and chair of the Courage Campaign, said in an interview, "It's not where Courage Campaign members are, and I still think there is a path to victory in 2010, but having this letter out is very beneficial because it furthers the conversation, and I think that's really important."
"I think we will all come together," Jacobs added.
The group Yes on Equality has already proposed a ballot measure to repeal Prop 8. Chaz Lowe, who co-founded the group, said, "The position of Yes on Equality is pretty clear. We're obviously in favor of 2010. That said ... there definitely needs to be room for dialogue and allowing people to air their thoughts and opinions and suggestions."
Yes on Equality is one of the organizers of a July 25 summit in the Inland Empire section of Southern California, where discussion will include whether to proceed in 2010 or 2012.
An item Tuesday on Equality California's blog (http://ca-ripple-effect.blogspot.com) posted by George Simpson and mentioning the Prepare to Prevail statement said that in late May, EQCA told the community "that, preliminarily, based on all we knew at the time, we believed we should return to the ballot in 2010."
In an e-mail blast Tuesday, Geoff Kors, EQCA's executive director and a member of last year's No on Prop 8 executive committee, asked for money. He noted that about two-thirds of the way into a 100-day effort to raise $500,000 to help "hire and support 25 field organizers and open field offices," the group has raised only $210,000.
Asked about any plans the Prepare to Prevail coalition has to raise money or work on public education, Honor PAC's López said, "the very hard work" of public education on marriage equality is important, particularly in regards to communities of color.
"We need to get to work right away in a coordinated education campaign," because it "takes time to do that education work and to build the relationships with voters, [and] with the right organizations" in order to focus on persuading people rather than just identifying supporters, he said.
The July 25 summit will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at First Congregational United Church of Christ, 3041 N. Sierra Way, San Bernardino. Due to limited space, RSVPs are encouraged at http://www.formspring.com/forms/?647269-CJujTB1WwZ.