2012 Prop 8 repeal
by Seth Hemmelgarn
Several consultants approached by Marc Solomon, Equality California's marriage director, have indicated the community should try to repeal Prop 8 in 2012, which would allow for enough time to sway a majority of voters and raise the money needed to win.
Their views come after several LGBT groups, including Honor PAC, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, came out against trying to repeal the state's constitutional same-sex marriage ban in 2010.
Jill Darling, an out lesbian who was, until the end of 2008, associate director of the Los Angeles Times Poll, wrote that "it does not make sense to me to go back to the polls in 2010 or even 2012 unless we are prepared to win."
Prop 8 and the state Supreme Court's ruling to leave the existing estimated 18,000 same-sex marriages intact "left all Californians in an ethically untenable, emotionally disheartening, politically volatile, and legally unstable condition and we must take whatever steps are required to remedy the situation," wrote Darling in her analysis. "But there are a lot of steps to take and nothing to show that what we have done so far is working."
Equality California has yet to take a formal stance on whether to repeal Prop 8 in 2010 or 2012. Solomon, who spent the past several years helping to win marriage equality in Massachusetts, said that when he first joined the California effort earlier this year "my strong bias was toward going back to the ballot immediately."
However, he said, he's been listening to a broad range of communities, such as people of color organizations, young LGBTs, donors, and campaign professionals raise doubts about going to the polls next year.
"As I listened to the professionals, I was surprised about how consistent they were in not thinking that 2010 was the right answer - and I wanted to share that with the community," said Solomon.
He said he's going to write up his own conclusions about how the community could go in 2010 as well as 2012, along with his own analysis based on what he's heard. He indicated he plans to have this done by the first week of August.
"I'm very sensitive to the idea that nobody wants Equality California to tell [them] what to do," said Solomon. "What I'm trying to do is share points of view and share information, rather than sort of pull everybody together."
The No on 8 campaign executive committee, which included EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors, was heavily criticized for its strong reliance on campaign consultants. Solomon stressed that his soliciting feedback from consultants in this case should not be taken as further reliance on them.
"We will listen to everybody who can offer something useful and relevant to the discussion," said Solomon, adding that it would be a "huge mistake" to turn decision making over to political consultants.
"On the other hand, to not listen carefully to people who have worked some of the most important progressive ballot initiatives in the state - I think it would be foolish to not ask them for their counsel," he said.
Mark Armour, one of the consultants who provided analysis to Solomon on when a repeal should be put forward, was one of the people who came into the No on 8 campaign during its final weeks. His firm, Armour Griffin Media Group, was responsible for some of the best ads in the campaign, such as one that featured Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) urging the state's residents to vote no on the antigay measure.
Reviewing information including Field Poll research, Armour concluded in his analysis that "2012 could be a stronger time to go to the ballot than 2010."
In a phone interview, Armour told the B.A.R. that the decision about when to go back to the ballot "is a decision about when are we most likely to win, and it's a question of money, and who turns out, and it's a question of having the infrastructure and the outreach that will make us successful."
Many reasons to wait for 2012
In his report, Armour wrote that voters supportive of same-sex marriage are more likely to turn out in 2012, a Presidential election year with "more young and less involved voters, who tend to be more liberal to moderate."
Also, "it is likely that there will be fewer older anti-gay marriage voters," Armour noted, as that demographic dies off.
Referring to polling by David Binder of David Binder Research and Amy Simon, a partner at Goodwin Simon Victoria Research, Armour also wrote that more time would help in persuading "important targets" such as moderates, African Americans, and Asian-Pacific Islanders "who are not evangelical/born-again and who attend church once a month or less."
Armour also argued, "... losing twice at the ballot in California is not something you can recover from."
Dave Fleischer, a consultant who's openly gay, told the B.A.R. in an interview that, "As a community, what we really need to grapple with is these are tough elections, and we want to be sure we're doing a better and better job as we proceed, because the result the last time was not good enough."
There are a lot of voters to sway, and a lot of money that needs to be raised.
In his analysis, Fleischer said that Prop 8 passed by a margin of roughly 600,000 votes. He also noted that there are about 66 weeks in which to raise the $40 to $50 million that would be needed to win a 2010 campaign.
That's "$600 to $700,000 each week, every week" he wrote.
Gale Kaufman, of Kaufman Campaign Consultants, wrote in her analysis that it's important for different marriage equality groups to work together.
"I don't think anyone would argue with me that only one Yes campaign can be sustained moving forward," wrote Kaufman. "That means brining together the many disparate groups, all of whom, with the best of intentions, think that they are the best vehicle for victory. It's impossible for me to see a way to harness all of the incredible energy, emotion, intelligence, expertise and belief in this issue in such a small amount of time, if we were to move forward in 2010."
The group Yes on Equality has already proposed a ballot measure to repeal Prop 8. Chaz Lowe, who co-founded the group, has said they favor 2010.
But Lowe, who's helping to organize a leadership summit in San Bernardino on July 25 to discuss when and how to proceed, told the B.A.R. this week that organizers are "really just trying to create a safe, neutral place for people to air their ideas and/or concerns."
Lowe said that at some point, if marriage equality backers still haven't acted, it will be too late to put a 2010 measure on the ballot.
By not making a decision, people will be making a decision, said Lowe.
That's "probably one of the worst things we can do," he said.
To view the consultants' responses, visit http://ca-ripple-effect.blogspot.com.