Editors' Note: Guest blogger Wayne Besen is an author, activist, columnist and public speaker. He currently serves as the Executive Director of Truth Wins OUT, an organization founded to combat the 'ex-gay' myth and right wing propaganda.
As far as action-steps a few broad outlines are clear:
1) Much better minority outreach. The specifics are for each organization to figure out. I am grappling with this, as are many organizational leaders. We can do a better job and we must.
2) Test a marriage campaign in a state and do the polar opposite of what we have done in the past. In other words, use real GLBT people to have a real conversation with the people. Do it in a state where we will lose - so we can experiment without the pressure of blowing a victory. But, take a poll before the campaign and after the campaign to see how effective the approach is. Was progress made? Right now, we keep doing the same poll/focus group tested campaigns. Perhaps this will prove most effective in the end. But, we won't know until we test a new way. Isn't it time?
3) Direct action must be a component added to every organization. This will bolster - not replace - the insiders. To continue to have only lobbyists who are not backed by legions of people is a strategic mistake. I know some of you are "message" control freaks and just terrified of direct action - as it may go against the poll-tested talking points. But, guess what, in the Internet age, you lost exclusive control of your message 15 years ago. Indeed, Andrew Sullivan, Dan Savage, Hilary Rosen, Rachel Maddow, Ellen, Rosie and Elton John - among others - all are gay and have huge national platforms (and this does not even count others like me, Signorile, Andy Towle, Rex Wockner, Bil Browning, Mike Rogers, Pam Spaulding, John Aravosis etc.) and can dominate a news cycle on gay issues at any given time. Thus, the age of organizations exercising strict message control is gone. done. finito. This is why direct action can strengthen your cause, not weaken it. Accept this reality and adjust.
4) We have to give America a civics/history lesson. a) People don't understand that the courts are there to protect minorities from mob rule - tyranny of the majority. b) People buy the line that anti-gay churches are just voting their values. Voting values is only to ensure that a religious group can practice their beliefs and live their values. It does not allow them to force other people to live by the rules of their church - effectively making everyone members - against their will.
5) We must do a better job making people understand the difference between civil and religious marriage. It must be hammered home. Until people get this simple point - we will have trouble.
6) Finally, there is a misconception that those who are protesting are some dumb mob who go home and do nothing after the screaming dies down. While this may be true of many, even a majority, a sizable minority of protesters will become energized and propel the movement forward. My own activism began after I saw a Save the Children billboard in Fort Lauderdale during a campaign in the late 80's. I then went to a rally and decided to dedicate myself to the movement. Many of us have a similar story.
So, far from providing a venue for a bunch of people yapping, these protests are energizing those who will eventually replace us and lead the movement. The passions stirred at these events do not stop when the protesters leave. Individuals will take this energy to the workplace, to universities, to the op-ed pages, to blogs, to their family dinner at Thanksgiving this year. Many more people will now come out over the holidays as a result of what is going on. They drew strength to do so from the massive crowds.
So, let's give these people who stood out in the lousy weather a little more credit. The action we are now discussing is already in motion in a thousand different ways that are not included in any memo or action plan we may write.