Bil Browning

Liveblog with anti-amendment leaders Kate Kendell, Nadine Smith and Barbara McCullough-Jones

Filed By Bil Browning | November 20, 2008 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Site News
Tags: Amendment 2, Arizona, Barbara McCullough-Jones, California, Equality Arizona, Equality Florida, Florida, Kate Kendell, Nadine Smith, No On 8, Prop 102, Prop 8

UPDATE: The LiveBlog can be found at this post. It has started now.

I'm pleased to announce that Thursday night Bilerico Project be hosting a liveblog with Kate Kendell, Nadine Smith and Barbara McCullough-Jones. We'll kick things off at 7pm EST.

The three women led the efforts to defeat marriage amendments in California, Florida and Arizona. Kate and Nadine are Bilerico Project contributors and Barbara is a frequent guest poster. They'll take your questions and comments about Prop 8, Amendment 2, and Prop 102, the recent protests, and what went wrong. Best of all, we'll talk about where we go from here.

Be sure to sign up below to get an e-mail reminder of the liveblog. We'll see you then!

Any suggested questions to start the liveblog? Leave them in the comments.


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Karen Collett | November 18, 2008 10:28 AM

Wow, that sounds interesting! Unfortunately, you scheduled it at a time that conflicts with most Transgender Day of Remembrance events.

Ah, man. Our TDOR is Saturday!

That stinks! Unfortunately, with three busy schedules to work around, 7pm on Thursday was the only time we could get all three of them together at the same time. Thankfully, the LiveBlog will still be up and available for folks to read after the session is closed.

Stacey Jenkins | November 19, 2008 11:47 AM

I introduced myself to Nadine at the ceremony for Kevin Beckner on Tuesday.

I'd like to know what is next, and how can I get involved in Florida?

Also, if a civil union law is passed at the federal level, what does that mean for states like Florida that have banned marriage or any equivalent?

The Latino community is the biggest minority in California but you didn't do almost anything to reach out to this community, why?

Was there any effort to coordinate some anti-8 efforts with the Log Cabin Republicans?

Are you going to allow different opinions, or are you going to shield these people from criticism? These people have a lot to answer for, they are failures and should be fired. They are no leaders, they are irrelevant to the future of gay rights anymore.

Ask any question you'd like, Dave. Kate, Nadine and Barbara know that there are things folks want to know. They know how angry the community is right now too. We obviously won't get to every question in the time allowed, but - by all means - submit your question either during the actual liveblog or here in the comments section.

I would like to ask what does gender matter to a marriage contract? Is a marriage contract really a license to have sex? Is sex required to have a marriage contract? I do not believe that any marriage contract requires the 2 parties involved in that civil contract of marriage have children. If that is the case then what reason can the state prohibit 2 persons of the same gender from marrying if gender has really no involvement to the contract? If sex is not REQUIRED, if children are not REQUIRED, then why is gender even considered? Thanks for taking the time to look at these questions.

On Florida's amendment 2, since Florida now has passed amendment 2 and it now places the following statement and LIMITS on marriage in the states constitution, "inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid be recognized."
Does not the first part clearly say Only one man and one woman may now be legally married in Florida? The second part, "no other unions treated as marriage shall be recognized or valid" seems to me would and has now invalidated ALL marriages except for whichever ONE marriage the state must now ONLY recognize. I think we should challenge Florida for continuing marrying anyone, gay or straight, until they have determined which ONE couple will be the ONE couple allowed by LAW to be the ONE couple. Please shut down marriage in Florida as there constitution now states, until they either toss it or get the votes together to repeal it in a few years. That should wake some people up since several other states constituions read the same way.

Stephen Velky | November 20, 2008 10:04 AM

Why was there such a lack of grassroots organizing on Amendment 2?

Why did I hear from Say No on 2 that they couldn’t speak to the African American Community because they did a study that said if they did speak to them about it they would vote against the LGBT community?

Why was this a top down organizing effort?

What can we do better to get people more involved in this issue?

Considering that Obama is wrong on Gay Marriage, and I have heard many people say they “don’t care what you call it, as long as I get the same rights as marriage”, what exactly is our strategy on this word “marriage”.

What does the LGBT leadership think about Obama suggesting a “separate but equal” so called “civil union”?

I have heard many people “spinning” the fact that Americans, while opposed to gay marriage are in support of gay rights by significant numbers, either the people are lying about that or we have failed to message the right to marry as part of equality. (Which is why I am concerned about dropping the word marriage, it caves into the message of full equality).

I want full civil rights, what is the leaderships plan to get us there? How can we get new people engaged and on board to work collaboratively? How can we be more inclusive within our organization and get away from the “in fighting” we saw in Florida with two separate groups?

How can we get more str8 people engaged and involved? Leadership roles?

Why was there such a lack of grassroots organizing on Amendment 2?

Why did I hear from Say No on 2 that they couldn’t speak to the African American Community because they did a study that said if they did speak to them about it they would vote against the LGBT community?

Why was this a top down organizing effort?

What can we do better to get people more involved in this issue?

Considering that Obama is wrong on Gay Marriage, and I have heard many people say they “don’t care what you call it, as long as I get the same rights as marriage”, what exactly is our strategy on this word “marriage”.

What does the LGBT leadership think about Obama suggesting a “separate but equal” so called “civil union”?

I have heard many people “spinning” the fact that Americans, while opposed to gay marriage are in support of gay rights by significant numbers, either the people are lying about that or we have failed to message the right to marry as part of equality. (Which is why I am concerned about dropping the word marriage, it caves into the message of full equality).

I want full civil rights, what is the leaderships plan to get us there? How can we get new people engaged and on board to work collaboratively? How can we be more inclusive within our organization and get away from the “in fighting” we saw in Florida with two separate groups?

How can we get more str8 people engaged and involved? Leadership roles?

My questions:

What are the campaigns doing in terms of a post mortems? will the results be made public?

How do the campaigns balance the need of the community to know what is going on and the need to keep the opposition in the dark?

How are the campaigns addressing the difficult economic climate and fundraising needs?

Time. Energy. Money.

As a recently married gay man, I contributed a lot of each against Prop. 8. I’m sad that we failed to beat it. But I'm also angry-- and not just about political campaigns fueled by bigotry, conservative religion, and way too much tax-free money-- because I could see defeat coming with the inevitability of a slow-motion train wreck.

At the campaign kickoff, I asked Mark Leno personally if campaign leaders were going to do the liberal-tolerance-equality strategy again, pointing out that it has failed repeatedly. Or, were they going to show actual gay people, actual families, and actual lives. You know: reality. He said that focus groups indicated that everybody-make-nice and civil liberties were the way to go. This would move the undecided voters who were so crucial. I made the same point to HRC’s Marty Rouse and several campaign leaders, and got the same response. The approach would be political rather than human, in every sense of both words.

What a concept! Let's ask straight people who are afraid of gay people about how to win gay rights, instead of asking gay people what has worked in their lives. You can see the result of focus group viewpoints. We have been focused over big-time.

Politics may move undecided voters, but the movement is only as valuable as the last person they spoke to. Human connections move hearts and minds, even minds that are made up. People who know gay people don't usually vote against them. But it's easy to vote against someone who is invisible, faceless, a menacing other, instead of friend or family, or even someone you just met on the street. And in No on 8, we were invisible. We saw the supportive, loving parents, but no gay daughter, no grandchildren. No on 8 was uninterested in a speakers’ bureau to reach out to community groups and churches; I gave up asking. They wanted volunteers for phone banking and sign waving, not personal contact with real voters. At a training we were told NOT to use words like children, because Pro-8 people had appropriated the issue. Because we refused to claim it-- to claim reality-- it was used against us. Likewise, we can't talk about this ancient and deeply rooted anti-gay prejudice, either, because by calling attention to a reality in our lives, we might offend the very people who call us a threat to family, faith, and country. Newsflash! Our existence offends them.

This all may make sense to professional political people in their world and culture, but not in mine. It fails as a strategy because it embraces THE CLOSET, which is our real enemy. The closet is US. It is making ourselves invisible and unknown, rather than showing the simple fact and humanity of our lives. It is our consent to the lies, our silence in the face of naked prejudice. It is us not standing up for ourselves, and when we don't, who else will stand with us? I absolutely praise and thank our leaders for their efforts and sacrifices and dedication. But frankly, if our leaders don't know that we have to stand up for ourselves, as ourselves, then they shouldn't be our leaders. Because here's the result: we gay people were barely visible, and more people thought that the standard of living of California chickens was more important than the families of their fellow Americans.

Thirty years ago, I worked against the Briggs Initiative, which would have banned gay teachers. A much smaller group of people, with far fewer resources, in a far less accepting time, succeeded against great odds. Maybe I'm romanticizing, but I remember it was because all we really had to show were ourselves and our lives. We said NO to the closet.

I know this fight is far from over. We will be back. However, if future campaign organizations want to continue this losing strategy of focus groups, phone banking, invisibility, and cute but irrelevant ads that look good on political resumes but change nothing, the rest of us need a parallel campaign that comes out of the closet and presents us as who we are.

If you expect me to stay in the closet, then don’t--DON"T-- expect one minute of my time, one iota of my energy, or one dime of my money.

I gave $2500.00 to NoOnProp8. I assume you didn't spend it because we lost the fight. Please send my money back before you throw it on another focus group that is ashamed of us.

"If you expect me to stay in the closet, then don’t--DON"T-- expect one minute of my time, one iota of my energy, or one dime of my money."

Great point Ben, they said the same thing in Florida. Don't even mention gay people and only show the Old Straight couple. I am not sure who was in that focus group.

I have a counter to this, if people are so strongly in support of LGBT equality and rights (just not marriage) then perhaps we need to re-frame that for them and show how their support for LGBT equality includes gay marriage. If we break this down for people we end up on the winning end.

Perhaps if we show them they "boogyman" is just two guys with a couple kids, they would have a harder time voting against our rights that they so strongly support (just not marriage).

I feel like the str8 people who voted against us have drawn a line, and said you can have everything else but this, this you can not have!

Our message is off, we need to sort that out.

I wrote the above comment the day after the election. Below is what I wrote just after Labor Day. It was published in the BAR.

To begin with, I am no one in particular-- just a happy gay man who hopes my marriage will survive the election. I am politically aware, knowledgeable on gay issues, as out as I can be, and possess a decent understanding of humanity. I have no political axe to grind.

After the No on 8 kickoff, I spoke briefly to a man who is very high up in gay politics. I asked if they were going to repeat the campaign against Prop. 22: talking about being nice, tolerance, freedom, etc. Or, would they deal with the substantive issues of anti-gay prejudice, and the social, financial, and legal impact on gay people, especially those with children, of not having marriage available? He responded that the focus groups had shown that undecided voters respond best to the former approach, and that would be the emphasis in order to move those voters.

"Do you mean to say that you are going to fight an anti-gay marriage initiative without showing any gay people or even talking about marriage?" While conceding that personal stories and real people are relevant, he repeated what the focus groups show, and that political processes like phone banks will trump personal stories. Liberal tolerance will be the message.

I pointed out some things to him. A smart friend of mine saw the anti-8 ad where a straight bride is continually prevented from getting to her wedding. Until she got to the very end and saw the No on 8 message, she had no idea what it was about. She reasonably wondered why a heterosexual wedding was featured when the discussion is about gay people. I told him of my experience against the Briggs Initiative thirty years ago, when we were fighting the invisibility of the closet as well as that hateful legislation. The public could see real gay people, not the phantasms of the rabid Right. And that reality moved them.

I also pointed out that this strategy has been tried repeatedly, and possibly except for Arizona in 2006, it has yet to work. It failed miserably against Prop. 22. Now, I am not immersed in political culture. And I know that there is far more to politics than merely presenting issues and people voting. The politico may well be right, and I, quite wrong. Though his approach has merit, it is very troubling to me. It smells uncomfortably of the closet, which I have long maintained is the real enemy, not the Radical Right. It tells us to be invisible, not to talk about our lives and the REAL issues we face, lest we offend some undecided voter who needs to be manipulated into doing the right thing.

It avoids the larger issue of anti-gay prejudice, an apparently invisible 800 pound lavender gorilla. Research and experience show that people who know gay people tend not to vote against them. If we do not show gay people, we remain a faceless, menacing other, instead of friend, neighbor, or family. It is easy to vote against someone who is invisible. This was the lesson of Briggs and Prop.22.

I can see producing commercials featuring pretty straight girls. But why are we not also showing the couple who have been together for forty years, and who, because they cannot marry, are not eligible for each other's pensions, guaranteeing one of them an old age of poverty? Why not show the two women who are raising their children, children who deserve the same protections that marriage would bring their family as it does their hetero counterparts? Why are we not showing the minister marrying two men in their church, surrounded by their happy, cheering families? Why are we not showing indignant Rabbis and Episcopal, UCC, and other ministers who don't want a few denominations telling them what to do? Why are we not showing the man who nursed his partner through a heart attack? Why are we showing anything but us?

I cannot insist that I am right, but my life's experience tells me I am. And telling the truth, especially in the face of so much hate and lies, is never a mistake. What if we lost this election because undecided voters say, "I voted yes because I don't know any gay people, or anything about them. And I didn't get that commercial."

Which brings me to my final point. If you want to do the minimum against Prop. 8, unless your physical safety is an issue, COME OUT NOW-- especially to your family and friends. Not eventually, not next month, but NOW. Ask those people to vote NO on 8 for your sake, or, if they cannot vote no, at least, not to vote on it.

Be the change that you would see in the world. This will be your gift to the future.

I wrote the above comment the day after the election. Below is what I wrote just after Labor Day. It was published in the BAR.

To begin with, I am no one in particular-- just a happy gay man who hopes my marriage will survive the election. I am politically aware, knowledgeable on gay issues, as out as I can be, and possess a decent understanding of humanity. I have no political axe to grind.

After the No on 8 kickoff, I spoke briefly to a man who is very high up in gay politics. I asked if they were going to repeat the campaign against Prop. 22: talking about being nice, tolerance, freedom, etc. Or, would they deal with the substantive issues of anti-gay prejudice, and the social, financial, and legal impact on gay people, especially those with children, of not having marriage available? He responded that the focus groups had shown that undecided voters respond best to the former approach, and that would be the emphasis in order to move those voters.

"Do you mean to say that you are going to fight an anti-gay marriage initiative without showing any gay people or even talking about marriage?" While conceding that personal stories and real people are relevant, he repeated what the focus groups show, and that political processes like phone banks will trump personal stories. Liberal tolerance will be the message.

I pointed out some things to him. A smart friend of mine saw the anti-8 ad where a straight bride is continually prevented from getting to her wedding. Until she got to the very end and saw the No on 8 message, she had no idea what it was about. She reasonably wondered why a heterosexual wedding was featured when the discussion is about gay people. I told him of my experience against the Briggs Initiative thirty years ago, when we were fighting the invisibility of the closet as well as that hateful legislation. The public could see real gay people, not the phantasms of the rabid Right. And that reality moved them.

I also pointed out that this strategy has been tried repeatedly, and possibly except for Arizona in 2006, it has yet to work. It failed miserably against Prop. 22. Now, I am not immersed in political culture. And I know that there is far more to politics than merely presenting issues and people voting. The politico may well be right, and I, quite wrong. Though his approach has merit, it is very troubling to me. It smells uncomfortably of the closet, which I have long maintained is the real enemy, not the Radical Right. It tells us to be invisible, not to talk about our lives and the REAL issues we face, lest we offend some undecided voter who needs to be manipulated into doing the right thing.

It avoids the larger issue of anti-gay prejudice, an apparently invisible 800 pound lavender gorilla. Research and experience show that people who know gay people tend not to vote against them. If we do not show gay people, we remain a faceless, menacing other, instead of friend, neighbor, or family. It is easy to vote against someone who is invisible. This was the lesson of Briggs and Prop.22.

I can see producing commercials featuring pretty straight girls. But why are we not also showing the couple who have been together for forty years, and who, because they cannot marry, are not eligible for each other's pensions, guaranteeing one of them an old age of poverty? Why not show the two women who are raising their children, children who deserve the same protections that marriage would bring their family as it does their hetero counterparts? Why are we not showing the minister marrying two men in their church, surrounded by their happy, cheering families? Why are we not showing indignant Rabbis and Episcopal, UCC, and other ministers who don't want a few denominations telling them what to do? Why are we not showing the man who nursed his partner through a heart attack? Why are we showing anything but us?

I cannot insist that I am right, but my life's experience tells me I am. And telling the truth, especially in the face of so much hate and lies, is never a mistake. What if we lost this election because undecided voters say, "I voted yes because I don't know any gay people, or anything about them. And I didn't get that commercial."

Which brings me to my final point. If you want to do the minimum against Prop. 8, unless your physical safety is an issue, COME OUT NOW-- especially to your family and friends. Not eventually, not next month, but NOW. Ask those people to vote NO on 8 for your sake, or, if they cannot vote no, at least, not to vote on it.

Be the change that you would see in the world. This will be your gift to the future.

We have to win hearts and minds if we are truly going to progress. The incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial no on 8 campaign won very few of either because of its insistence that this had to be argued from the closet. Though a new battle would be expensive and difficult, I think the battle could be won decisively if the battle is fought in the open.

No more vague appeals to tolerance and liberty. Though these are important, they are a support to the message, not the message itself. Here are real people and real families and kids, and this is how they are affected by this. Here are real ministers that support gay marriage. In our lawsuit to overturn 8, where is the brief filed by ministers who object to their (and my) freedom of religion being governed by the theology of the few? I wouldn’t mind a campaign that mentions freedom of religion for everyone, but is not built on it. I’m not sure how it would play out, but the basic idea would be that weird conservative religions don’t own G.

We need a campaign, probably funded by foundation money, to encourage gay people to come out to their families starting ASAP. Not this once every October thing, but in the next two years leading to a new election. A campaign that is not directed at gay people as well is a campaign that will ignore one of our greatest resources.

The legislature should put a repeal on the ballot (saves a lot of money and time) combined with language that insures (not that it needed to be) freedom of religion and freedom of speech and deals with the children and school issue. They have nothing left to argue with if that is done.

Speakers bureaus and community outreach, totally lacking in this campaign, should begin ASAP as well. I wanted to go out and speak to groups, but the campaign was totally uninterested. Big mistake. And the little that they were even willing to consider had to be very strictly guarded. "You must stay on message". As far as I could tell, that message was "You must stay in the closet". I've been speaking the message for most of my adult life. I don't need someone else to censor my words. My life is all the proof I need.

We should have won this battle, and we nearly did, despite the lies and the hatred. What if we had actually conducted the campaign in the right way--TRUTHFULLY AND HONESTLY-- we wouldn't be having this discussion right now.

My question - "Why is the Q community asking for EQUALITY like children?"

The Q community's response to PROP 8 and discrimination in general is tantamount to a child asking a parent for a cookie.

"May I have a cookie, please?"

"No, not right now. You may have one in 2028,
or maybe if you're really good by 2015"

I have a serious problem with that. Since WHEN do we allow taxation without equality as US citizens? Maybe it's my Italian heritage, since historically my people DON'T PLAY that noise. If anyone thinks that DEMANDING what we ALREADY DESERVE is "bullying" or "social fascism" [a recent Idiocy-by-Newt Production] , then that is THEIR problem.

Are we really worried what Mrs. Kravitz will think?

Is our struggle for equality really just a popularity contest?

Isn't that what PROP 8 was, and why were we surprised when we found out we're NOT "popular" with the masses?

Regarding ASKING for what we have DESERVED SINCE BIRTH, we are a bunch of [insert highly misogynistic and homophobic terms here]. I won't type these words here, but they are still part of our vernacular and seem quite fitting.

Begging for crumbs is for children; demanding equal rights to protect my family and children is NOT child's play. I don't care if you "like" me, but you damn well better respect myself, my spouse, and my children in U.S. law!

We need to grow up as U.S. citizens.

I'm interested in the status of the legal challenge to Amendment 2, Prop 8, etc. even being ON the ballots. What is the precedent in this country for putting the rights of a minority to vote by the majority? How far along do we suppose the black civil rights movement would be if their rights (including interracial marriage) were left to the whim of the white majority?

I am also a fan of making "civil union" the description for all unions currently described as "marriage" and letting that emotionally-charged word shift to association with one's religious persuasion. Civil unions would be legal for consenting adults with all the rights and privileges currently afforded heterosexual couples and couples would have the choice to marry in their churches if they so desire.

Thank you for hosting this live blog. I find myself, as a married (at least for now) lesbian becoming a bit of an unwilling activist. We all have more enjoyable things to do with our time but I find I have no choice in the matter any longer.

I am curious as to who came up with the ad that ran on the back cover of Watermark that came out the week before the elections? It was tacky and came off like an ad for a circuit party or an escort service. I know many other openly GLBT folks who were shocked that you guys would find that ad acceptable. Watermark is a great publication for our community and can be picked up in many mainstream places like Borders, Barnes and Noble etc. Did it occur to any of you that this is the kind of ad that could be used as ammunition against our fight?