A pause in the rush to repeal Prop 8
With just over a week until the next statewide leadership summit on marriage equality, three leading LGBT people of color organizations revealed on Monday their major concerns in a letter urging the greater community not to move forward with any repeal Proposition 8 ballot initiative in 2010. The letter, entitled, "Prepare to Prevail: Why We Must Wait In Order to Win" was blunt in its assessment of the work that needs to be done before a campaign gets under way. The three groups – Honor PAC, Asian Pacific Islander Equality-Los Angeles, and the Jordan Rustin Coalition – were joined by nearly 30 other individuals and organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and organized labor. Significantly, organizations serving LGBT youth and families also signed on, which is not surprising given how last year's Yes on 8 campaign pummeled kids and used scare tactics to frighten parents.
The letter acknowledges the outreach work that began at the start of this year. The problem is that there is so much more outreach work to do that there's not enough time to lay this foundation. Money must to be raised, which will be challenging in this economy, the groups noted, and there is no coordinated data infrastructure for the get-out-the-vote campaign. Indeed, since last November's election, LGBT and allied organizations have squabbled at times and in no way seem closer to a true collaboration that is vital to a focused repeal campaign, as we have repeatedly noted.
Mostly though, the letter raises alarms for us because the progressive, largely white LGBT groups that have sprung up in the aftermath of Prop 8's passage, so far, seem to have failed in their efforts to build a solid relationship with LGBT people of color. And we all know that gay people of color will be much more successful in reaching out to the broader minority communities in California with targeted messages that will resonate with straight voters.
Love Honor Cherish, one of the new groups formed last year to defeat Prop 8, issued a point by point rebuttal letter within hours. It points out that there already is a broad coalition of allies in support of repealing Prop 8 in 2010. And it acknowledges that "there will never be 'full LGBT community support' to move forward in 2010, 2012, or any year." True enough. For many in the community, marriage equality is not a priority, but it's the job of those groups pushing for a 2010 repeal effort to bridge that divide as much as possible.
The Love Honor Cherish letter makes several assumptions that may or may not be accurate. Regarding the millions of dollars needed for a statewide ballot campaign, the letter states that "the next campaign is likely to cost much less." The reasons given are the reductions in the cost of TV and other advertising in the present economy and the fact that a repeal campaign next year will not be competing with a presidential campaign. The group also theorizes that conservative donors "may be hard pressed to match the kind of contributions they made to support Prop 8 last year." Don't bet on that. The anti-marriage equality side will be just an energized next year as it was in 2008. Calls from church leaders – especially the Catholics and Mormons – will be just as desperate, and true believers will find a way to donate to the other side. Count on it.
Regarding central data infrastructure, Love Honor Cherish's response states that there's plenty of time in the next year to build a GOTV data system. While that may be true, the work hasn't even started. Yet since the election, the three largest organizations, Equality California, Marriage Equality USA, and the Courage Campaign, have been posturing for the role of top dog. Publicly, officials from the groups tolerate one another; privately, there is little evidence of coordination. The LGBT community must demand that they all work together, share resources, and focus on the common goal of repealing Prop 8. We don't see that unwavering cooperation yet, and until it's there, it will be difficult to persuade people to join the fight.
Organizers of next weekend's summit in San Bernardino must provide significant time to discuss the Honor PAC letter and the Love Honor Cherish rebuttal. Other summits should be held in urban areas so more LGBT people of color can attend. The first summit, held in Fresno, was comprised of mostly white activists and allies. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but in order for the community to have a real chance for a successful campaign in 2010, we must reach out and genuinely connect with gay people of color where they reside.