The fight for 2010 isn't dead yet:
A coalition of Californian gay rights groups have said they are determined to get gay marriage back on the ballot next year.
Jo Hoenninger of Restore Equality 2010, said: "This is a movement for equality. Harvey Milk didn?t wait for research."
This week, the state's largest grassroots gay advocacy group withdrew its support for the 2010 campaign.
Courage Campaign, based in Los Angeles, said it does not believe the movement currently has enough leadership or financial support to be successful in the next 12 months.
The group said campaigners should wait until 2012 instead.
Equality California decided on 2012 a long time ago citing its own internal research that showed that winning was next to impossible in 2010. It takes time to move people on these issues, and there simply isn't enough time to do that in the next eleven months.
That means that the two largest groups working on same-sex marriage are out for this next year. If the coalition that's still working on it can get enough signatures (and signature-gathering costs money and takes volunteers and time), then good luck to them. Everyone out here hopes they win, but there are quite a few people who just don't think they will.
This case provides an interesting study, though, in who controls the LGBT movement. The folks pushing for 2010 tend to be less politically experienced, have less access to donors or political consultants, and are often the people who just realized, in November of 2008, that people are still pretty homophobic, even in the sunny state of California.
They tend to be a bit neurotic, too. Hoenninger, quoted before the jump, quotes Harvey Milk as if he were Jesus. Love Honor Cherish calculated how many queers would die between 2010 and 2012 without having the right to marry. In fact, their entire position is based on trying to make something happen two years earlier when all the evidence available says that there's little chance of that happening. And you don't have to take my word for it:
The proponents of 2010 co-opted the discussion at every turn, using scare-tactics, mis-information, revisionist history and mob rule that would make Karl Rove proud. They purposefully dismissed and denigrated any sort of "so-called" expert, i.e., campaign consultants, if they didn't fall in line and support their position. If the facts were not to their liking, well, then, anecdotal evidence and their "feeling" that we will win should have been evidence enough for the community to put up the resources and gird for battle next year.
The audience reception to the Prepare to Prevail presentation was polite, at best. However, Love Honor Cherish used their time not to present their plan and make the case based on its merits, but rather attack Prepare to Prevail and go into campaign mode and use every emotional appeal to whip the room into a frenzy of "2010! 2010!" I was appalled by the personal attacks spoken from the podium. It was clear they expected everyone to "fall in line" under their leadership. They offered zero empirical evidence that anything they proposed was achievable. I was offended by their accusation that those who had legitimate concerns about proceeding hastily were defeatists.[...]
At one point, while we were debating taking a (non-binding) straw poll at the end of the day, someone commandeered the microphone and basically said, "Our opponents are watching us online laughing. If we don't take a vote now on 2010, they win."
On the 2012 side are people of color, who created the "Prepare to Prevail" coalition to convince other queer Californians that not enough work had been done, and the A-gay donors, who'd have to finance the thing and think that there's a better return for their investment in 2012. The two biggest LGBT orgs in the state went with 2012 as well.
I wrote about how money often determines the outcomes to the strategic and ideological questions in the LGBT community in terms of activism last week. While the 2010 coalition is going to trudge ahead trying to collect signatures on their own, without the benefit of hired hands, the Courage Campaign's Rick Perry mentioned that they're having trouble raising funds to keep on going (they've raised less than $200,000 "by a long shot"). He doesn't directly link it to the decision to go forward in 2012, but since they aren't releasing the research that led to this decision anyway, it's easy to imagine that someone mentioned the fact that they're far behind where they need to be at this point to run a multi-million dollar campaign.
Adam Bink wrote a while ago on Bilerico that he was worried about the moral hazard of letting the pushiest people set the agenda (speaking specifically of the march) because we're worried about them failing. The problems such an organizing model raises are both democratic and strategic: how does everyone get a voice in a process that affects us all? How do we make sure that the best decision gets made?
The democratic discussion would fall, according to the best, although severely flawed, data: the internal polling of Equality California and the Courage Campaign. The majority of both their constituencies wanted them to go for a ballot initiative in 2010. The data is far from a fair vote, though: not everyone is a member of these orgs, and the data is old enough now to pretty much be useless.
As for the most strategic solution, it seems that, while we can't ever really know the answer, the evidence is piling up in favor of 2012. Equality California released a report this past summer showing that they won't be able to change enough people's opinions before next November, and the Courage Campaign seems utterly persuaded by their expensive focus-group data, even if they haven't released it to the rest of us.
But what's interesting about California is how the questions of democracy, money, strategy, and energy have unravelled in front of everyone. And just because a group of people is determined to get on the ballot in 2010 (for all those gays and lesbians who are going to die between Nov. 2010 and Nov. 2012), if they can't convince the political insiders or big donors to back them, they'll have a hard time getting enough signatures. But, if they do get enough, then a ballot initiative on same-sex marriage being on the ballot in 2010 change the environment in which the big orgs make their decisions about how to use their volunteer and staff time.
I'm not counting anyone out, although a win in 2010, or even 2012, seems unlikely to me. But I've already seen what a group of committed queers who can work themselves into a frenzy over simplistic slogans and feel-good rhetoric can do, so I still wouldn't be surprised if the 2010 side pulls something off.