Guest Blogger

The Night is Darkest Before the Dawn: the Rebirth of the CA Equality Movement

Filed By Guest Blogger | September 01, 2009 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics, The Movement
Tags: California, Equality California, Interim Administrative Group, Prop 8 challenge, Prop. 8

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Jane Wishon is a straight mother-of-three who has been married nearly 33 years. She actively campaigned for No on 8 and has started a cause for straight allies on Facebook. Jane also volunteers for AIDS Project LA, and twitters @janewishon

Jane-avatar.jpgAugust 29, 2009 may just be remembered as the dawn of the new California marriage equality movement. That's the day that the surprising op-ed piece by the co-chairs of Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club (a prominent 2012 proponent) appeared in the Sacramento Bee and called for a coordinated strategy with those who are driving towards a 2010 proposition to repeal Prop 8.

More than 80 LGBT and ally activists gathered in San Francisco to build a coalition, select interim leadership and agree on a plan for organizing the upcoming signature gathering for 2010. And, perhaps most surprising of all, several of those at the meeting represented organizations that had, only weeks before, declared that the battle for marriage equality will be unwinnable in 2010.

Let me put the importance of those events in perspective.

How Dark Is Dark?

July 2009 was undeniably a dark time for the California LGBT movement. You may think that the lowest point for LGBT rights in the last year was the day that Proposition 8 passed, but as terrible as that day was, the outright hostility that marked the lead up the July 25 Leadership Summit in San Bernardino threw doubt on whether Proposition 8 would ever be challenged successfully.

Anti-gay forces across the nation were dancing and cheering as California's LGBT leaders pointed fingers at each other and proclaimed that the battle for Marriage Equality was not winnable in 2010.The National Organization for Marriage, Focus on the Family, and similar groups sent triumphant emails to their members proclaiming that the battle for California had been won and that it was time to move on to other states to quash gay marriage rights for good.

Meanwhile, the July San Bernardino meeting devolved into a complete mess that brought new meaning to the term chaos. While both the 2010 and the 2012 camps expressed valid concerns about the others' plans, they defended their perspectives with the fervor and passion usually seen in fundamentalist religious groups. Votes on how to organize, when to organize, and even whether to organize for marriage equality showed no clear consensus.

The one bright spot? All agreed that they would continue to work for the restoration of marriage equality in California.

Meanwhile, you could practically hear the champagne corks popping in anti-marriage equality camps.

A Hint of Dawn

August 9, 2009 is the day that light began to creep back into the California marriage equality movement.

The former Coalition for 2010, now renamed Coalition for Marriage Equality to be more inclusive, hosted a meeting in Los Angeles to discuss next steps. The meeting was billed as an opportunity to begin planning a new campaign - whether for 2010 or 2012 - and it managed to do something that was desperately needed. It brought together activists from both camps (as well as some who had not yet decided) in a meeting that was well-organized, structured, respectful, and meaningful. Steve Hildebrand, top strategist in the Obama campaign, spoke to those assembled about necessary next steps. Real goals and objectives were adopted and real discussions occurred without devolving into a 2010/2012 argument.

At least for those few hours, the California LGBT community showed that it can come together without the acrimony that had marked recent months. Meanwhile, Courage Campaign found that Californians were willing to donate for 2010 by raising over $70,000 in 48 hours, once there were signs that the movement was getting organized.

Sunrise

In the weeks following the Los Angeles meeting the google groups and conference calls were ablaze with energy and discussion. We needed to get organized, Hildebrand had explained - but how to do so? A plan was created to pursue a dual approach:

  1. an immediate leadership structure to oversee the signature gathering and fundraising for 2010
  2. a greater, all inclusive leadership structure for the California LGBT and ally community that is blind to the 2010/2012 debate

As one activist stated, all meetings would be considered coalition building opportunities and open to all.

So, "What happened in San Francisco?" Glad you asked.

Another nationally known political consultant, Ace Smith, took the time to explain campaigns to the grassroots activists. And, for a second meeting in a row, a consultant told the crowd that this is a civil rights issue, so traditional wisdom does not apply. Like Hildebrand, Ace Smith told the grassroots that he believes there is no reason to wait - that this is a winnable battle for 2010. Citing Bill Clinton and Barack Obama's campaigns as examples of times when conventional wisdom counseled "wait," yet elections were won, Smith reminded us that there is no crystal ball to foretell the outcome of an election.

Smith further explained that there is a need for a two-pronged campaign structure that uses strong leadership while enabling the grassroots. Yes, there must be an executive committee that is nimble and able to act quickly, as in responding to new tactics by the opposition. When asked for his advice about what to do when the opposition runs ads that make false claims about gay marriage being taught in school, Smith replied that it is important for the campaign to act quickly to tell the public that those are lies. He pointed out that the public does not like being manipulated or lied to.

That said, Smith also counseled that we embrace our grassroots activists and their energy. "This is a civil rights movement. You can't script it. You have to let people go. They have to be able to organize freely, let themselves go. Capturing lightning in a bottle, it either happens or it doesn't, you have to let it happen. It's what you're seeking to achieve, but you don't do it by planning a typical campaign."

Taking Ace Smith's advice, the assembled activists heard and discussed presentations of 5 potential organizational models. By the end of the day there was consensus (Yes, consensus) for a model dubbed the Davis Plan that calls for 10 regions in the state to elect representatives to a leadership body. Those representatives will be joined by representatives elected by diversity caucuses and those appointed by the top LGBT organizations in the state. That combined body will elect an executive body that will then hire or appoint specialists as needed. This structure has the potential to morph into a leadership structure for the campaign. The framers of this structure, John Patterson of RENWL in Los Angeles and Linda Waite of GSAFE in Davis, were asked to fine-tune the plan in collaboration with the authors of the other plans.

Acknowledging the need for leadership while the positions in the Davis Plan are populated, activists self-nominated for an Interim Administrative Group (IAG). This group will form a Political Action Committee (PAC) and serve as interim leadership going into the signature gathering. The activists also empowered the IAG to add to their own number to balance it geographically once it determines specific skills that will be needed.

The new IAG is nicely diverse, except for geography - which will be addressed this week:

  • Kelechi Anyanwu (San Jose)
  • Lester Aponte (LA)
  • Aaron Bloom (LA)
  • John Cleary (LA)
  • John Henning (LA)
  • Misha Houser (Orange County)
  • Zakiya Khabir (San Diego)
  • Lisa Kove (San Diego)
  • Jordan Krueger (LA)
  • Chaz Lowe (Sacramento)
  • Jane Wishon (LA)

So, why do I think that the darkness has passed?

  1. The discussions at the meeting were robust but never disrespectful of other perspectives.
  2. Individuals and organizations who had previously counseled against 2010 were present at the meeting in solidarity and with an eye towards the broader coalition-building meeting planned for later in the fall. Their attendance did not construe support for 2010 and no mention of that divisive debate occurred.
  3. Supporters of 2010 specifically left room at the 2010 table for those organizations who have declared for 2012. No more "us vs. them" mentality.

Perhaps the whole dawn metaphor was wrong. After all, the hard work has only just begun to repair the terrible damage done to the LGBT community and California State Constitution. And, even when we do prevail at the ballot, the challenge of changing hearts and minds will continue until full acceptance for the LGBT community is the reality as well as the law.


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There's a reason why there are no people from San Francisco, it's because most of us up here are for 2012. We want to take the time to build the kind of coalitions and campaign it will take to win the right way.

I respectfully disagree with Mark at 3:22 PM's sentiment. San Francisco did show up, and it showed up with relative neophytes like me. I watched the live stream of San Bernadino meeting in horror – not just due to the lack of agreement, but also at our community's lack of courage to confront the failings of 2008 and formulate key learnings for the community.

I knew after watching that livestream that I had to do something. The group of activists at last Saturday's meeting were very welcoming and kind to an "unaffiliated" person who has been active on the internet, but hadn't been to an activist meeting since college. And I wasn't the only one. Several of us were there from San Francisco, and a few ran for IAG positions. In my opinion, however, the deep experience in the room was from other regions or SF attendees had other efforts like One Struggle One Fight and the National Equality March to attend to. And that's just how it worked out that day.

Meanwhile, the day after the meeting, the caucus of San Franciscans from the event started a Facebook group calling for attendees at a Town Hall designed to inform the local community of what happened at the meeting, present the well-thought out Davis Plan, and elect local representation to the larger state organization. Within 24 hours, around 100 people had confirmed, with 150 more "possible to attend" – and that's with a venue to be announced.

I am clear that there is local SF/Bay Area interest in 2010. Even the studies that have come out from the "Get Engaged" tour found that local communities in the larger cities like SF were for 2010, while the smaller cities and towns were more for 2012.

Self-righteousness and misinformation on either side serves nobody. It only sets us back. So far, I have kept my criticism in check for the organizations in favor of 2012, and I feel I have the right to expect the same as an advocate of 2010.

And if you don't like going for 2010, there's still an opportunity for people to promote and strengthen the Davis Plan, which looks to be a wonderfully effective way to organize statewide initiatives regardless of when they happen. A doc will be coming out soon clearly outlining how the Davis Plan works, so be sure to look for it.

I am in NoCal, but not affiliated with a formal group. Another straight ally outsider. Watched with HORROR that last 'CAMPAIGN',

mark, didnt you read this blog? This is NOT A CAMPAIGN...
This is a civil rights issue that is hurting people every single day!
Hurting our young teens who see us fight and be confused.

I am with Ace Smith. ... a cohesive plan sounds fine, especially with EQCA already putting soles to the sidewalks and knocks on doors to convince people, that Marriage Equality is deserved.

Keep it POSITIVE. Don't allow the anti-gays to play the victims again EVER!!!!

This is certainly a rosy picture being thrown out for the world to see.

The 2010/2012 divide has not died. As to IAG "diversity" class diversity is definitely missing.

Regardless, to say that the 2012 folks said they would be there with you if you qualify this for the ballot- is disingenuous at best. Of course they will be there, they'll be dragged there, despite their objections because this group of people decided to put it on the ballot. The whole community will have to show up, regardless of whether we think we're ready or not- b/c a small group of very wealthy folks decided that they would go ahead.

As to why this meeting was so lovely, maybe it had to do with many of the folks not attending the meeting were firmly in the 2012 camp and decided not to attend. I know some showed up, but EQCA definitely stated it would not be there. And I know many friends and allies who were at the previous summit decided not to attend.

And once again, great that Rick Jacobs was able to raise 70k in 48 hours, but it is going to take a lot more than that to run this campaign.

There is no way to run an inclusive campaign with less than a year - when those relationships have to be created from scratch.

But to pretend that everything is just "coming up roses" is silly. What really is happening is the whole LGBT community is being dragged into a 2010 ballot initiative, whether we like it or not.

Sorry to comment multiple times, but I will be checking these comments for inaccuracies and will correct them as I see them. It's unfair to all of the people who are putting in a lot of time and energy to be lied about like this, no matter how much you disagree with them.

"As to IAG "diversity" class diversity is definitely missing. "

How do you know? Do you have the W-2's for all the elected members of the IAG?

"...b/c a small group of very wealthy folks decided that they would go ahead. "

I don't know about everyone else, but I'm certainly not wealthy. If I were to use the classist prejudice that we all have and judge by appearances, at least of 75% the IAG AND the attendees of the meeting last Saturday were not wealthy. I'm afraid what seems to be an ad hominem attack doesn't hold water here.

"There is no way to run an inclusive campaign with less than a year - when those relationships have to be created from scratch. "

I'd like more support for this statement. You'll have to prove that the relationships aren't there amongst every single one of us, and show exactly what those relationships are that are make-or-break. What I will say to you, however, is that larger orgs like the Democratic party and HRC were represented directly or indirectly at the meeting.

The other thing to say here is that connections may help, but they are not what brings marriage equality in this effort. It's votes.

"But to pretend that everything is just "coming up roses" is silly."

I think you've characterized Jane's words to suit your interpretation of this matter. Nobody is deluding themselves into thinking there's an uphill battle ahead. However, to have a meeting of activists – some of which you yourself said are on the 2012 side of things – that reached consensus without requirement, came up with a great plan for statewide organizing and had no contentious arguments is a MAJOR step forward considering the current state of play in CA LGBT Activism.

I will live in hope that you open your mind. And if you feel "forced" into working for a 2010 vote, I invite you to look at areas to help that will be sustainable and also apply to a possible 2012 effort, such as the statewide campaigning structure. I am always available to help find those opportunities if asked.

Cut the elitist bullshit; you're quite as bad. Using wealth to dismiss people whose position you dislike, while making it seem as if a sizable sector of the community doesn't want 2010.

Newsflash for you, the activist community is not even a sliver of the gay community as a whole. Your petty circle jerks do not allow you monopoly over righteousness.

Dragged?

You can only be dragged by something stronger than you.

I'm always curious what people that say things like "LGBT community is being dragged into a 2010 ballot initiative, whether we like it or not" think about the internal polls that EQCA, Courage, and MEUSA each did of their membeships where the response was overwhelmingly (70%-80%) in favor of 2010. I understand that there are many in the activist community that think waiting for 2012 is the better choice, but I don't think it's correct to say that a majority of the community as a whole feels that way.

You can throw insults all you want, but it's just not a productive way to move forward for anyone concerned. If you don't want to get involved, then don't. And if the majority of the community feels the same as you, guess what - they won't show up to volunteer to gather signatures and they won't donate money and a 2010 campaign will never materialize. To me that's the real test of what the community wants, the rest is just posturing.

Everyone I know that's for 2010 is trying to reach out to those that don't agree with them and begin healing some of the rifts that have emerged. But that has to be a two way street. For my part, all I can do is move forward with a positive agenda, and not return venom with more venom. I would encourage everyone else to do the same.

@Capitalistpiggy: Thank you for speaking up on this. The rosy colored glass has to be shattered for some of us. Yes, we're all dreamers but at some point we'll have to become a realist. I agree that a group of wealthy gay attorneys have arrogantly engaged in a pre-emptive campaign going full-speed ahead regardless of the consequences. What's most troubling is that some of the LGBT people of color, the people who will be most affected by us going back to the ballot in 2010 due to lack of financial resources in our community, have actually been brainwashed to elect to act against their best interest.

@Lorion: "This is NOT A CAMPAIGN...
This is a civil rights issue that is hurting people every single day! Hurting our young teens who see us fight and be confused." This is a very simplistic take on hurt. You're right, some of the most helpless victim of this go it alone at any cost mentality of the 2010 camps will be LGBT Youth who's very lives are in danger with regards to violence committed against them and yet the Pro-2010 camps will go ahead even with the knowledge that social organizations that specifically cater to these youths will lose funding and the support won't be there for them when they need it the most. That's unconscionable! We shouldn't go to battle on the backs of our youth. And, to concur with Capitalistpiggy, Ms. Wishon's post is misleading when it attempts to gloss over the 2010/2012 divide, which is still alive and well. I do want to part ways with Capitalistpiggy's concession that the whole community will be dragged into a 2010 campaign if they qualify for the ballot. That's not true. I, for one, and others like me will not be supporting a campaign that has no heart. We'll wait until 2012, thank you!

Nakhone and Cap'Piggy
What is the evidence you are going on that rich lawyers are behind this? There is a diversity of people working on this, lawyers included. This spring, Courage Campaign, MEUSA, and EQCA all polled their memberships. Each poll resulted in a great majority supporting 2010, all kinds of people are in favor of returning marriage equality to CA as soon as possible. I'm in San Diego, we have no rich lawyers, but a scrappy determined group of activists, growing in number, and starting to realize the power of the movement for equality.

Nakhone,
You seem to be suggesting that this LGBT civil rights struggle is causing harm to our LGBT children. This line of argument sounds alot like telling the abused wife to keep taking the beatings because its better than wondering how good it would be to leave the relationship.
We...or I don't feel any need to stay in this abusive relationship any longer - I'm done with a CA that doesn't treat me as an equal.

Why folks are still sitting back thinking about waiting 2 more years is beyond me. The myth that "2010 is a bad idea" has been debunked by well respected political campaign strategists(Ace Smith, Steve Hildebrand). I think the pressure should be switched around, I want to hear why waiting is such a "good idea" for a change.

I and many other Californians, gay and straight, black, white, brown and other beautiful colors, want to work to get back to equality NOW.
With the right ballot language, polls have shown we have an 8% lead with a solid majority in our camp. There are 5 new states that have granted marriage equality to all since our dreadfull 2008 election. We have more people, more time, and more enthusiasm than the last campaign had at the start.

I am feeling extremely positive!

Sean - First let me say that I am grateful to see an upsurge in new leaders coming forth since lat November. And, I also appreciate your passion as it relates to wanting to win back our rights as soon as possible. We all want that and as soon as possible is not exclusive to 2010. To answer your question about who're these rich lawyers behind the 2010 Campaign, I would like to point out that Lester Aponte as well as John Henning are lawyers and both are associated with Love Honor Cherish (John Henning is the executive director), the grassroots organization that is spearheading the 2010 Campaign. I met another lawyer who came to the Equal Roots Coalition meeting on behalf of LHC last Monday and he's an attorney. I also know that Thomas Watson, another lawyer who's a founding member of LHC. To clarify my position on the LGBT Youth issue, it's not my suggestion but several other established organizations as well as grassroots organizations such as F.A.I.R., Gay Straight Alliance, National Youth Advocacy Coalition, PFLAG have advocated for a 2012 campaign due to their findings that in a political campaign, especially a contentious ballot initiative, anti-gay violence increases exponentially and with the funding cut to social service organizations catering to these youth, they will be one amongst the many groups that will end up being collateral damage. We're all done with an equal California. On that point I agree with you 100%. However, your suggestion that if we win marriage equality back in California, it will solve the homophobia in society is unfounded. And your comparison of my position of preparing to prevail in 2012 and not sacrificing our LGBT youth during this difficult financial time for our community as somehow akin to someone advocating for an abused spouse to stay in an abusive relationship doesn't make any sense. Your assertion that the due diligence that Prepare to Prevail as well as EQCA has done concerning an analysis and plan as to why going back to 2012 is the right time is a "myth" against 2010 is, well, contempt prior to investigation and that principle is a bar against all information. Truth of the matter is, that's exactly what I and many other Pro-2012 contingents have been trying to do by educating the Pro-2010 camps that their lack of due diligence, their wishful thinking ("With the right ballot language, polls have shown we have an 8% lead with a solid majority in our camp. There are 5 new states that have granted marriage equality to all since our dreadful 2008 election. We have more people, more time, and more enthusiasm than the last campaign had at the start.") and insistence that passion and momentum is the only we need is just that--wishful thinking. I worked on the No on 8 Campaign as a field organizer and I can tell you that even then convincing the LGBT community to show up for a volunteer shift was like pulling teeth. Imagine what it would be like to rush into a ballot initiative without clear message (we don't currently have a clear message let alone micro-targeting messaging for the people of color communities)to try to convince someone that their religious convictions is wrong. What did you think happened between now and November of last year that had moved those numbers for us to be in the lead? If anything, many sources have reported that all our protests, rallies and events that we've organized since 2008 have harden our oppositions' position even more. You also stated that we have more time then before, which is the 2012 contingent's position that we can choose when to go back to the ballot because we have more time. However, if we look at the current 2010's lack of due diligence and our community's lack of financial resource, you'll know--based on EQCA's Plan and Analysis--that we will have to raise an approx. $750,000 per week between now and November of 2010 in order for us to pull off a successful Campaign that will cost the total of $40 million dollars (midpoint between projection of $30 million and $50 million). You mentioned that the Courage Campaign raised $70,000 in 48 hours. If we projected it for the week it would only total $245,000. That's not nearly enough as you can see. Also, the Courage Campaign never followed up on whether or not it reached its stated $200,000 goal in its challenge to the community--at least I haven't seen the release of that information. Oh, if you want to know the reasoning why 2012 is such a good idea then I suggest you read Prepare to Prevail statement (www.preparetoprevail.com) as well as EQCA's Plan and Analysis (you can find it here: www.eqca.org). I'm sorry to be bursting your feeling good bubble, but couldn't it be that it's wishful thinking?

Last night I reached a moment of clarity...

The 2010 and the 2012 debate is becoming increasingly irrelevant to me personally.

We all have respective constituencies, and communities that we bring to the table. Those strong community ties strengthen the LGBTQ community as a whole. Overall, the LGBTQ community is not as homogeneous as we would think. In LA county, at most LGBTQ events & clubs you will find a sizable percentage of Latinos, but at the same time there are many thousands more in Latino LGBTQ specific events and clubs. We are the population majority in LA county - so that means there are many many more Latinos LGBTQs in LA county. A percentage are involved in the WeHo/WLA/Hollywood based LGBTQ organizations, an equal percentage are involved in ELA based LGBTQ organization, but a huge percentage are not involved in either.

My responsibility is to the Latino community.

That sentence ended in a period. I think that anyone reading this should appreciate that fact. You see, the Latino community is soon to be the majority in this state. We are rich in voters, and are future generations are going to be the largest voting block. Until that time, we are that swing vote in California. Where the Latino vote goes, an election will be decided. It is interesting to see that this fact is acknowledged clearly by the Democratic gubernatorial candidates. The Latino community is obviously heavily Democratic, progressive in many areas, but they are also conservative on certain key issues. Sexuality is one of those issues. Religion and children also can be figured to be conservative points for Latinos.

Let's acknowledge one important thing: not even many LGBTQ Latinos are invested in marriage equality. They are not necessarily opposed, but not invested to become involved. Let's also be honest in looking at the Latino community as a whole. We are a hard-working people. But our financial demographics still trail those of our White Californians. Wait, don't panic. No blame is given. It is just a fact that our median incomes are much lower. Our high school graduation rates are lower. Our college graduation rates are lower. Our substance abuse rates are high. Our HIV rates are higher. Far fewer of our people have health insurance, and often our first line of care is an emergency room.

And our community is decimated by this current rescission. Our unemployment rates are disproportionately higher. Many were duped into going into upside-down mortgages and have lost their homes into which they invested their life savings. Don't cry for us Argentina. Like I said we are a hard-working people. We are intelligent, passionate and caring people. Our incomes will continue to rise, our graduation rates will rise. And our futures are bright.

By remaining responsible to the needs and voice of the Latino community, I become an asset to the greater LGBTQ community. A strong Latino LGBTQ constituency leads to a stronger LGBTQ community. This is not an accusation nor blaming point, but please acknowledge that right now, today, there are very few East LA, South East LA and Harbor area Latino LGBTQs involved in the current campaign or coalition. Acknowledge that and then we have a point to start a conversation...

And then please acknowledge the extra obstacles we will have to overcome in involving Latino LGBTQs in the campaign. If we acknowledge those two points then we can agree to look for some solutions.

If we can get a significant number of Latino LGBTQs from the Latino-populated communities involved - then we have a chance to win Latino votes. I can promise you that the conversations that are needed to move Latino voters to our side need to come from familiar faces. Until then, Latino voters will be polite to people knocking at their door, they will smile and nod, and agree to support same sex marriage - just to not be confrontational. BUT unless we can bring about an empathy that leads to investment of our cause they will continue to vote against same sex marriage at the ballot box.

2010/2012/Coalitions/EQCA/Courage Campaign:

1) As of today, we need more diversity of Latinos involved in all levels of all the campaigns and organizations. That includes employees.

2) There are some additional obstacles to participation by Latinos - including the distraction of their current living conditions and community issues.

3) Acknowledge that we need a broad diversity of Latinos in the leadership of the governing structures. That includes poor, unemployed, blue collar and Latinos who live in the barrio - ask the Labor movement such Latinos are their strongest leaders.

4) Commit to the creation of a Latino Marriage Equality project, immediately. Just like the over-all campaign structure needs to start now, so does the creation of such a project. Make sure the IAG invites some of it's self-selected leaders to their membership, just like you are doing for under-represented regions.

5) Since the Current IAG leadership is heavily LA based, at this moment, use LA County as the starting point for such a Latino Marriage Equality project. Give a date, time and location in ELA/SE LA and I will message loud and clear, far and wide that all interested Latinos are to come together and create the founding chapter of such a Latino Marriage Equality project. And I will work with some of your leaders to formulate an agenda and plan to move such a project forward.

To me that would be a serious sign that the 2010 Signature Gathering Campaign is ready and committed to involving the Latino community in all levels from start to finish.

Please don't tell me to arrange it all myself. We, the Latino community, need help with resources. As you probably are noticing, there are not many Latino organizations rushing to get involved at this point (not pointing fingers, just a fact). Please don't assume they will get involved even if a ballot initiative is qualified. I'm not saying they won't - but waiting to see will not be sound strategy. Many of the most involved activist Latinos also employees and clients of the Latino LGBTQ HIV prevention, testing and treatment organizations. With their budgets slashed, they may not be able to help at the level they could have in the past.

I'm not going to tell you 2010 is not doable. Is what I ask of you too much? The few Latino grass-roots activists currently involved cannot organize the community on our own without some help. We cannot spread the work, and work to get people involved if we are distracted by trying to figure out if we even will have a local venue to meet, for example.

2010: Maybe, I didn't make these points as simply and clearly before. Maybe there was a lot of frustration in hearing you ask us to trust you, and believing that you would be willing to help in doing this after the SF meeting. Maybe there are communication issues on both sides.

So there, the guard is down... the hand is out... we won't beg you to put your guards down too and reach back out - that would be demeaning. Just two equals with an opportunity to shake things off, hug it out and move forward.

So where do we go from here? Does Latinos 4 Marriage Equality continue the path of joining the significant majority of Latino LGBTQ organizations in preparing for 2012? Or do we agree that we all have made some mistakes and that we all need to work on some solutions quickly?

A gentler...

Robert Olivarez
Latinos 4 Marriage Equality!

PS Also, 2010, please know, I have been equally direct with EQCA. Today alone I made it clear to them that while I applaud their hiring of many talented Latinos - they are still not representative of the Latino community as a whole. They are still mostly young 20-something college graduates. That isn't broadly representative of the entire Latino community and their experienced, intelligent and passionate grass-roots activists... And I told them I found that offensive. I said it quite clearly.

PPS I think that other communities of diversity need to similarly organize, but it is not my purpose to speak for them. Such movements to organize within the 2010 campaign must come from within each community of diversity and of color...

PPPS If people like me are too rough on the edges for your comfort level, you need to look at that, and decide if you are going to invest in up and coming leadership, mentor them and polish them up for the greater good, or do you just expect us to march to the tune from the top...

This is fantastic, Roberto. Thanks so much for taking the time to craft a respectfully direct comment that leaves an opening for unprecedented results.

I have passed your comment on to the IAG via the Coalition for Marriage Equality (i.e. 2010) list-serv, and I will ensure they reply directly to the needs, issues and concerns that you have raised in your comment. Stay tuned.

Robert - I'm glad you finally broke your silence. And I think we can all agree that a softer, gentler approach when it comes to communicating with each other is the way to move forward. I've made some adjustments myself as to my tactic of race-baiting the white gay male community. Truth of the matter is, I know and love far too many wonderful white gay men to have made those sweeping statements and for that I am sorry. However, I did what I felt was right in my heart to jump start the conversation. Sometimes we have to yell and scream and be jolted into action. I agree 100% with your enumerated point #3: "Acknowledge that we need a broad diversity of Latinos in the leadership of the governing structures. That includes poor, unemployed, blue collar and Latinos who live in the barrio - ask the Labor movement such Latinos are their strongest leaders." I would like to add that regardless of when we go, we have to include also the African-Americans and the Asians. You know, when I founded the Gays United Network over the Thanksgiving Holiday of 2008, I was unemployed, sleeping on my friend's couch and struggling to get clean and sober from drugs and alcohol. Yet, because my passion ran high and I felt punched in the gut like all of us because of the pain of loss and burden of guilt that I didn't do enough for the No on 8 Campaign, I made some personal sacrifices, just like a lot of the grassroots activist I know who are working within the movement today are making, for the community and for the movement and for myself. Now, the movement came to life of its own and we need to come to some kind of resolution as to the 2010/2012 debate. We needed to air out our dirty laundry in public and we needed to acknowledge openly that there exists a systematic inequality within our community and until we can embrace it and accept it we won't be able to unite, not really, and the different factions of our community will hold a grudge to the overall LGBT community during this historic fight for our rights. That has been and always will be my points. I wanted to be heard that we have to have compassion and we have to be considerate of other people and we have to reach our hand out to help other communities with their causes as that will foster a sense of trust and generate some positive feelings toward the LGBT community. So far the responses have been silent scorn and sometimes blatant disrespect of the views of the LGBT communities of color. Truth be told, I don't know everything and I don't know if 2010 is the right time to go or 2012 is a better strategy. However, I am going to go with my gut and stick to the facts that our community is tapped out financially and it begs the question of: what about the LGBT Youth, the disabled, the elders, the people of color and the people who are infected and affected with HIV/AIDS because of the funding cuts. Can we ignore those hard facts and push ahead with a 2010 campaign and hoping for the best because that's a lot of what I'm seeing with the Pro-2010ers. In the end, all I want to say is "Brothers, can we talk?"

The ball is in their court...

In 1996 (while still, I confess, a Log Cabin Republican) I jumped into the marriage equality debate in the face of Pete Knight's attempts to force what later became Prop 22 through the California State Legislature where he was then an Assemblyman. Later that year, on my own dime and time, I traveled to Washington and visited EACH of the 100 U.S. Senators' offices to add my voice in opposition to "Defense" Of Marriage Act. I was present in the Senate Gallery as I watched Senator Ted Kennedy join a mere 13 colleagues display courage in the face of overwhelming odds in shouting a loud "NO!" as his name was called by the Senate clerk during the DOMA vote.

When the Hawaii State Supreme Court ignored its responsibility to rule in favor of the plainiffs seeking marriage equality and instead sat on its collective hands until reactionary forces could gather and organize what became Question 2 on the November 1998 ballot, I helped raise money in collaboration with the LA Gay and Lesbian Center's Freedom to Marry project and then travel to Hawaii as a pair of "boots on the ground" to make calls and walk precincts in Honolulu in the final week of that losing campaign

And 2 years later (by then a registered Democrat) in the aftermath of Prop 22's passage (the fight against which I was active in from the start) I joined LJ Carusone and others on the founding board of Marriage Equality California as we conceived our first press event: a series of protests, taking as our inspiration the "Woolworth's lunch counter sit-ins" that 40-odd years earlier made so manifest the injustice of legalized segregation. We deliberately timed the first of these--the now familiar marriage license counter protests--to coincide with the anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution.

And it was these events, later timed to Freedom to Marry Day and Valentine's Day, so ably propagated and organized by Molly McKay, Robin Tyler and hundreds of others, that in 2004 resulted in that wonderful (if temporarily aborted) opening of the licensing counters in San Francisco City Hall when it briefly appeared that the bad guys were about to win in the Massachusetts Legislature in their attempts to short-circuit that state's now-uncontroversial Supreme Court decision opening marriage to LGBT couples.

And in the aftermath of last fall's shameful passage of Proposition 8, I--like so many of you--joined the tens of thousands that filled our streets in protest; sometimes organized, sometimes spontaneous. And, as my friends in the new organizations such as Equal Roots and others--as well as personnel at EQCA--can attest, I answered the call from EQCA and others to voice my thoughts on the wisdom (or lack thereof) on the timing of 2012 or 2010 by being as dispassionately analytical as I could be in my written assessment of the reasons favoring one year or the other. Indeed, it was only then in that process that I came to support 2010.

I relate these things not to "toot my own horn," but establish to readers here that I'm not a voice out of the left field that is blindly advocating for 2010 without due consideration to alternative arguments.

While active in the initial often-contentious meetings to try to organize the beginnings of a repeal effort, I've refrained from participating in the online debates (for one thing, my one good eye glazes over at the mere quantity of messages in recent weeks!) And I admire those of you who were able to slog through the 100-plus emails per day! I have, however, tried to keep myself abreast of the tenor and topics of discussions and add my thoughts only if and when I believe I have something important and constructive to say. So if you'll humor me in a soapbox rant for a moment:

At the San Francisco conference on Saturday, in my remarks at the end of the debate over the various proposed plans I pointed out that the great hole in the California Constitution torn by the Supreme Court's decision is even now being exploited in search of new victims by the folks representing the very forces that foisted Proposition 8 upon us: Witness their next nascent ballot measure--for 2010--that would strip from CHILDREN of undocumented immigrants their RIGHT to partake of health, public education and other benefits; labeling these NATIVE-born KIDS as "non-citizens!"

And make no mistake: these bigots will spew their invective, their lies, and their hate in all its ugly fury at their latest target--and STILL they will not be satisfied even if they win THEIR 2010 ballot measure. For it is not in the nature of their ideology to compromise; to live-and-let-live; nor to respect the rights of others with whom they disagree--even on the right to exist. For them, opposition to every "enemy" is a litmus test.

Our foes will not rest--and neither can we, lest we let our disagreements (minor or fundamental) clumsily blind us to the danger that we distract ourselves from in our bickering and therby give solace to the REAL enemies of freedom as they smell blood in the water, spilled by our own internecine quarrels.

The ENEMIES OF EQUALITY are the people with whom we have the quarrel. And THESE are the people--the "dittoheads" of Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, Gingrich, Palin, Dobson, Robertson, Terry and others; and the self-deluded persons who've bought hook-line-and-sinker the proposition that America is not a land for any others but those they see in the mirror; that those who do not march in lockstep with their narrow ideology are deserving of officially-sanctioned discrimination; and that boastfully arrogate unto themselves to define what it is that "God wants." It is THEY who are the enemies of freedom; of democracy; of the Constitution; and who are disloyal to what America is SUPPOSED to stand for. And (for those of us who are religious) it is THEY who corrupt the name of God and ignore the CORE principles of their purported faiths.

And it is these kids of immigrants (along with our own LGBT youth) and their families who are the next intended victims of the aspiring perpetrators this "Son of Prop 187"--and the targets of their next victimizing measure; and the one after that, and the ones that will surely follow those; each in their turn unless and until these dark forces of ignorance and intolerance are banished in defeat back to their caves. It is these KIDS and THEIR FAMILIES, and other targets of hate, that ARE OUR NATURAL ALLIES IN 2010...IF we proactively stand by each of THEM in THEIR hour of need--and IF we LET them know that WE TOO, and our allies in the LGBT community, as a people fighting for equality for ALL persons, stand by THEM; courageously and proudly shouting it at the top of our lungs with our own battle cry!

My point here is this: If our adversaries--our REAL adversaries (the folks that crystallized their hate and ignorance in Proposition 8)--are good at ANYthing it is this: they stick together among themselve--AND they are very adept at dividing all whom they would target (and at exploiting and egging-on our own pre-existing dissentions); dividing us each from the other, repeating day after day the fear-mongering, lies and distortions that prey on ignorance and feed our own internal demons. As said Benjamin Franklin at the outset of the Revolution: "We MUST all hang together. Or surely we will each hang separately."

Our COMMON foes have raped the definition of "family values" and have corrupted that very term by ignoring the fundamentals of it that were so presciently voiced by the late Christopher Reeve: the fundamental TRUTH that "we are ALL family; and we ALL have value." And it is by proclaiming and working tirelessly in service to THAT truth--and our willingness to stand by our brothers and sisters in witness to our dedication to it--that will prove OUR worth and worthiness as friends and thereby help to open THEIR ears, hearts, minds--and doors.

So let's ALL--regardless of anyone's stand on the wisdom of 2010 versus 2012--keep that in mind as we make the argument to fix the REAL problem: Winning--and protecting--respect for the fundamental equality of ALL our brothers and sisters in whatever communities they live as they fight what is now our common foe. So as we launch this ship we now build; as we invite new friends to join the oars, let our ship's mast proclaim to all who see its flag and hear its call that WE are THEIR allies too.

Rick Watts

Misha Houser | September 2, 2009 3:48 AM

I'd just like to say to whoever it was that claims that it's a bunch of "rich people" who decided to move forward on 2010: that's a bunch of hooey.

I've rolled up my sleeves and at great personal cost, have jumped in with both feet. I'm not rich, in fact, I haven't had a real paycheck for more than 3 months...and yet I'm here. I found the cheapest way to get to San Francisco via van pool, I was fortunate to be able to stay with the most gracious of hosts. I didn't have to come, I could have left the work to others.

I made the trip because if I hadn't, I knew that my county would be missing out on having a voice in the process.

I talked with a lot of the other activists in San Francisco, and I would like to remind anyone who believes that our activism is a sport for rich people, there were plenty of us there who were struggling financially, struggling with health challenges, struggling to have the time to be away from work and family in order to make the trip.

I would also like to dispell the idea that it's a bad thing to be engaged in activism because you have money. It's going to take everyone from all walks of life, all abilities, incomes, cultures, and talents in order to win this civil rights battle. We are all needed and for those of us who are actively engaged, reach out to others.

Keep reaching out until we win this battle. Reach out to everyone you know and those you don't. Don't wait for permission to act. Let's get busy! :-)

In Solidarity,


Bravo Rick. So you finally wrote that powerful and moving yet reasoned article that I requested of you on our drive back from Meet in the Middle 4 Equality. The last paragraph made me cry. You are inspiring!!! Thanks! Now we have to find a way to work with the Latino community in defending their rights in 2010. I'm not declaring my support of a 2010 campaign but I am supporting your proposal that we ally with our naturally ally to build relationships. Great response!

187 Jr is on its face unconstitutional.

So then it's purpose?

There must be a purpose... bring out the right wing, conservatives, and non-progressive moderates who are angry, frustrated and ready to vote and lay blame on the power-less... over the economy and the failings of government. These are the voters the right wingers want voting in 2010:

1) They will be able to easily mobilize against a marriage equality proposition

2) They can elect a conservative slate of candidates

During the HIV Budget Cuts rally in DTLA - the crowd was mostly Latino. Where was the LGBTQ community in mass?

Where are the throngs of LGBTQ community members rallying for health care... There are many in my Facebook friends list who were involved... but I am talking those large numbers that would clearly indicate to our allies that we stand by them?

Our allies must see our alliance in action, not words. A strong Latino Marriage Equality project would be able to identify the need for such key issues and events in the Latino community and will be able to rally the troops in the greater campaign to come out for these important events.

Rick Watts, I appreciate what you write because it lends further pause to thought that this LGBTQ marriage equality movement needs a strong Latino Marriage Equality project and they need it now, not later...

I feel obligated to point this out:

While large amounts of money will be spent on either 2010 or 2012, couple in California will still have the relationship recognitions but without the name "marriage." So when I see people arguing so vociferously and, in some cases, hatefully, I stop and wonder what it would take to get some of that energy focused into helping those of us who have none of the basic protections you take for granted - hate crimes, employment protections, etc.

This is why I'm supporting the National Equality March. It focuses on moving us all forward at the same time.

Please Nakhone. I am tired of reading your responses on every blog. It feels like you are saying that you would rather vote against Equal rights in 2010. If that is the case, I think you should align yourself with NOM for the next year.

You always mention dollar signs, but what you fail to realize is that the almighty dollar doesn't amount to a hill of beans compared to the will of the people. It seems like Equal rights do not matter to you unless you are getting paid.

I'm sorry John. It just so happens that I read a lot of blog and I do have an opinion on everything. That's part of being an activist I guess. Your assertion that equal rights do not matter to me unless I'm getting paid is an outright lie. Where's your proof that I am getting paid. Apparently, you must have not read my post above that clearly states that I founded the Gays United Network on my own time and spent my own dime. Like most activists in LA we don't get paid for the work that we do. Where's your proof to make such a character assassination, John? Please provide them here and I want details, otherwise, get used to seeing me comment on all of the blogs cause I'm not going anywhere. I'm a blogger, isn't that what bloggers do? They blog?