Joe Mirabella

Freedom depends on open government

Filed By Joe Mirabella | January 07, 2010 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics
Tags: Faith and Freedom Coalition, Gary Randall, KKK, Know Thy Neighbor, part 3, petition signatures, referendum 71, tony perkins

This is part 3 of a 3 part series discussing the pending Supreme Court case that will decide the future of our petition gathering process in Washington, and the push by anti-equality forces to operate in secrecy nationwide. In part 1 I argued that Referendum 71 petition signatures should remain public. In part 2 I proposed that the reason anti-equality forces want to remain private is because their philosophy is shameful.

It is important to remember exactly why we got to this point. Protect Marriage Washington brought their lawsuit against the State of Washington to keep petition signatures private shortly after Know Thy Neighbor announced their intent to create an online database of petition signers called whosigned.org.

The PAC representing hundreds of coalition partners, and over 6,000 couples protected by the Domestic Partnership law, Washington Families Standing Together, immediately opposed whosigned.org. I agreed with their decision then, and I remain opposed to whosigned.org.

Know Thy Neighbor's actions threatened our otherwise positive campaign about our families. The idea did not sit well with Washington voters, and it continues to upset them. You need to look no further than the comment section of Part 1 of this series on the Seattle PI to see what I'm talking about.

Whosigned.org was a misguided stunt by two people who think they are helping the LGBT community. In reality they are hurting our otherwise strong reputation for being good friends and neighbors.

Whosigned.org fed our opponents the necessary juice to launch their lawsuit and further their goal for a closed government. Our opponents turned an online database into a life threatening situation, which is simply outrageous. Our state has had a public record of petition signatures for over 30 years, and no one has ever been harmed by that process.

We can all acknowledge that whosigned.org is bad idea because the tone and tenor does not fit with the political traditions of our great state, but this is not enough of a reason to create a closed Government. Closed and secretive governments breed tyranny.

There are examples throughout history and our global governments that overwhelmingly demonstrate the dangers of secrecy.

Secrecy and Totalitarianism

In Iran, gay people are tried in private and can be executed for how they were born. In Saudi Arabia, trials are conducted in private and gay people are regularly executed. In North Korea, their government operates in secret and people are routinely rounded up, tortured, and executed without a fair trial. In China, people are arrested, tried privately, and executed for a wide range of human rights we take for granted.

These totalitarian governments exist because they conduct their business in secret. It is only because of the work of brave journalists, expatriates, and human rights organizations that we have the information we do about these places and others.

If their governments were open and democratic, these human rights atrocities would ultimately vanquish. Our opponent's push for a secret legislative process operated by the masses should terrify us all. Who knows what human right will be on the chopping block next? What punishments might they impose?

Our opponents have a long list of fundamentalist goals that if implemented would intrude into the most private aspects of our lives. They want to govern everything from the movies we can watch, the books we can read, a woman's right to govern her body, a straight couple's right to divorce, and how we die. There is no end in sight for their willingness to intrude their fundamentalist and medieval ideology into every aspect of our lives.

The irony is clear. They are obsessed with their own privacy, and yet want to intrude into areas of your life that they have absolutely no right to govern.

Their desire for a private government is essential to accomplish their goals, because publicity squashes tyranny.

Our Dirty Laundry

Unquestionably, secrecy breeds corruption, fraud, and tyranny. In the United States we have a dark history of groups trying to act in secret to repress the rights of others.

Most notably, the KKK met in private, wore hooded masks, and terrorized the African American Community and their allies.

People who should otherwise be respected members of society like doctors, lawyers and judges were able perform acts of terrorism and murder without consequence.

The KKK's ability to operate in secret corrupted our court systems, police departments, schools, local governments and state governments. Their reach was pervasive and destructive. Those who were targeted had nowhere to turn for justice, other than the public eye.

As journalists from the north began to broadcast the terrorism in the South, good people of all races stood up for the African American community. The KKK would have loved for their terrorism to persist in secret. They might even still be powerful today without public scrutiny.

Shameful behavior thrives in private and leads to tyranny and terrorism.

Learn From History or It Will Repeat Itself

It is not at all a stretch to link our current anti-civil rights foes to our country's shameful past. Gary Randell, head of the Faith and Freedom Network and the instigator behind the push to repeal the domestic partnership law in Washington, has absolutely no problem referencing known white supremacy groups as legitimate sources of information in his own blogs.

Randell is not alone. Tony Perkins from the anti-equality Family Research Council is also known to associate with white supremacy groups. According to Pam's House Blend, he was twice a guest speaker at the known hate group, Council of Conservative Citizens.

Tony Perkins KKK.jpgTony Perkins is pictured here in the CCC's news letter with the groups leader as he delivered his speech.

According to the Boston Globe:

The [Southern Poverty Law Center] SPLC characterizes the CCC as a "white nationalist" organization, and has reported that the group is "the reincarnation of the racist White Citizens Councils of the 1950s and 1960s." The CCC declares in its statement of principles:

We also oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called "affirmative action" and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races.

It is clear that our opponents are trying to force our country back to the 1950s and 60s when hate ruled, and secrecy was the norm. Anyone who does not look like them is a target.

We should not let the actions of a few misguided members of our community force our government back to the past when secrecy allowed domestic terrorism to flourish. We would be playing directly into the hands of those who wish to oppress us all. Our opponents may no longer parade around in hooded capes, but they certainly hope the courts will give them the opportunity to operate secretly once again. If the courts grant their wish, the consequences are far greater for democracy than if we let the status quo prevail.

Petition signatures are a form of legislation. They must remain accessible to the public. An open government at all levels is the only way democracy will continue to flourish in our country, and throughout the world.


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Actually, you should be THANKING Know Thy Neighbor for helping to win this campaign. Let's be honest. The WAFST was little different from other failed state initiative/proposition strategies (CA, Maine). Rather than a collective, democratic, collaborative effort by the entire community, WFST pulled a Nazi-style "do this our way or no way at all" strategy. We are an amazingly creative community and to not tap into that is simply sad. We saw ordinary people like Josh Castle take it upon themselves to bring the message to the community where it most needed to be.

It was hard to know that we were voting for the rights of lgbt people. How do you expect people to support lgbt equality if they don't know they're voting on lgbt rights? The campaign should not be proud of the "message" they put out. The campaign raised nearly $4 million while the bigots raised less than $500,000. All that cash was only able to eek out a couple points to push us over 50%? What won the campaign was the fact that thousands and thousands of people across the state mobilized, that we had a march which outnumbered the bigots' rally by nearly 40 to 1, and that we had national solidarity via the National Equality March (including shout outs from the stage) which got thousands of people across the country involved in our state struggle.

Let me introduce Lonnie Lopez to Bilerico. He is Seattle's LGBT representative to the local Socialist's club and enjoys creating facts to back up his agenda.

First, WAFST was unprecedentedly collaborative. We had over 500 coalition partners from throughout the state working together. Lonnie ran a small group called QAC that even pitched in by putting up posters from what I understand.

Lonnie, actively chose to ignore every opportunity to get involved in the campaign. He never came to our volunteer nights (every night), he never showed up at a fundraiser, he did not even attend community organizing meetings to encourage the community to get involved. Instead he stood outside selling his Socialist newspaper.

We ran two television Ads and both of them featured lesbians. Charlene Strong's ad was the most powerful ad, and ran continuously for several weeks. She spoke about the death of her partner and the hospital's objection to her being with her during her final moments of life. Her brother was also in the ad and talked about the love Charlene shared for her wife.

Charlene is a friend of mine and an amazing asset to our communities. Lonnie's revision of history is an insult to her sacrifice and the work she's done over the years to get us to this point.

Lonnie also lied about how much money was raised. You can look at the Washington State Public disclosure documents at the PDC's website and see we raised approximately $1.5 million in cash, with another $500,000 of in kind donations.

We wisely spent the bulk of that money on television advertising. TV is expensive in our market. We also spent money on research (very expensive but very valuable), we also spent money on mailings, also very costly.

WAFST and our coalition partners made history. For the first time ever, voters approved an expansion of rights for LGBT couples. We won by 5% state wide. In Lonnie's neighborhood and mine, we won 92% of the vote. In Seattle we won 82% of the vote. We saw gains in every county of the state except for one.

We had 6 short weeks to win this election, an off year election. Referendum 71 was only the 6th referendum to ever be approved by voters. It is far easier to reject a referendum than win won. Over 20 referenda have been rejected.

In those short weeks, volunteers from throughout the state worked their butts off and it worked.

I'm sorry Lonnie continues to choose to attack those who helped him get the rights he enjoys today.

Maybe next time around he will try to help the effort instead of work against the community.

Lonnie, I'm wondering if you read the Nov 5th newspaper? We won. I guess I'm supposed to apologize for that victory now, but I surly can't understand why. But I will say "you're welcome".

Priya Cloutier | January 8, 2010 2:35 PM

I am a bit confused by this article. Joe, you argue that government should conduct its business in public but, criticize the backers of knowthyneighbor.org and whosigned.org. These organziations have merely compiled the names of people who signed thier names in favor of excluding LBGT rights. This is public information. Isn't it time that the Court of this great State assert that our government conduct its business in public. As a resident of the Great State of Washington I would say that anything less would be a travesty of justice. If you are afraid of litigation, you are not ready for this fight!

Additionally, these organizations have brought the issues of LBGT rights to our citizens. My son and I proudly marched in the Seattle Pride Parade last year with your group. As I was handing out stickers, I learned that most of the people marching in that parade did not understood the issues. That was a failure on all our parts! But, what a shame that a group whose mission it was to educate our voters failed to educate those who they were trying to protect!

Tom Lang, founder of Knowthyneighbor.org, and Brian Murphy, founder of whosigned.org, are visionaries. They brought the issue to the people. Their mission was to make names accessible to those us that support LBGT rights and help educate people we may know. The referendum was confusingly worded and many people I spoke to said they signed it because they did not understand it. It was even more confusing when the vote came along because now we were voting YES! Tom and Brian allowed us all to do some grassroots work! And, look how successful we were!

Joe, I thank you and your group for all the money you raised, all the door belling you did, all the phone backing you did. However, Tom and Joe also helped. This is not the time for us to splinter but to,work together.

I look forward to winning more and more of these battles!!!!!!

Priya, my own objection to WhoSigned.org was that their announcement of their intentions was very poorly timed and terribly worded. It felt menacing or intimidating to very many people. It caused a public relations nightmare for WAFST, and reportedly induced some people to sign the petition just out of spite at the thought that they were allegedly being intimidated *not* to sign.

After WhoSigned's public launch, most press conversation shifted away from "here are our normal, lovable families" to "those gays are trying to intimidate me!" for weeks. To this day WhoSigned is synonymous with "the gays" in many news reports. Check the papers, and you'll see that this is true.

The timing/messaging approach used by WhoSigned.org played right into the hands of our opponents, and modeled every heterosexual's nightmare vision of The Demon Queer. Remember, many straight people are not predisposed to think critically about slurs against gays because they already start with negative assumptions about us. It's similar to the knee-jerk assumption that a black man walking towards you is a likely mugger. You don't want voters to be presented with such challenging material right before a crucial vote hinging on whether people view gays as moral people and valuable neighbors. WhoSigned.org apparently doesn't understand some of the sociological nuances at play, and so blundered.

Priya,

I think Lurleen did a great job summarizing the strategic issues with whosigned.org so I will not expand upon that, other than to say she hit the nail on the head.

I do want to address your comment about pride and encountering people who needed to learn more about our community. To that I say, great! If you find people who still don't understand our community than you are doing a great service to us all. It is the entire community's job to serve as ambassadors to the world, in a positive and honest way.

Our Pride festival in Washington is in June, the campaign did not officially begin until Referendum 71 qualified for the ballot in September, six short weeks before the election.

We attempted to prevent referendum 71 from getting to the ballot by running a decline to sign campaign, but whosigned.org did a great job steeling the message and managed to encourage people to sign petitions, rather than discourage them according to anecdotal comments left throughout the blogosphere and newspapers on the subject. People signed petitions to prove they were not intimidated by whosigned.org's posturing.

With that said, with only 6 weeks to run a campaign our goal was to win. The polls showed us clearly that our education efforts over the last couple of years were working, a strong majority of Washington voter's support domestic partnerships. It was our job to get out the vote in an off year election when younger more progressive voters tend to sit out -- the very supporters we needed to win.

We targeted our campaign to turn out those voters. We connected tens of thousands of voters and increased their voter turn out enough to win the election. We used social media and attracted 40,000 fans in less than 6 weeks, who became an online resource who's second tier reach was over 6,000,000 people. And ultimately, we did what we set out to do we got out the vote and we won.

With that said, we still have a lot of work to do. We still need to education voters, but we need to do it in a friendly inviting way so voters do not get turned off and think we are on the attack.

We have plenty of time right now to work on persuasion, to win new friends, and to educate voters. We need to all work together and realize we are on the same team. If we do, then when we have a marriage bill or other issue to defend at the ballot in Washington, we can run another get out the vote campaign and win once more.

Your article and "opinion" is bullcrap. KTN played hardball in Mass and wanted other GLBT citizens in other states to follow suit. NOBODY that signs a petition to regulate or delegate the civil rights of any group should have the right to hide. Their names should be out there for the entire public to see. You should know if your neighbor, who might be nice to your face signed a petition to deny you your civil rights. For you to say KTN "threatened" your otherwise positive campaign is just a bunch of horse shit. KTN had the balls to publish the names of the bigots in Mass. Maybe if all the other GLBT groups stood up to all the bigots and said WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE and we aren't going to swallow your discrimination any more, we gay folks in the main stream would be enjoying full equality under the law. Sometimes you have to expose the naked and ugly truth for what it is, regardless if you think it's "politically correct". Your tactics are shameful and the GLBT population should extend a HUGE thank you to Know thy Neighbor.

With all do respect, your comment is exactly the tone that I refer to in my essay that drives away voters.

We have a choice in this movement to be angry hateful people who use every turn to spew that anger, or we can be ambassadors for our community that show our neighbors the best we have to offer. We can demonstrate love in the face of adversity and be living examples of integrity. This is the strategy I'm choosing.

If we continue to put our best foot forward we will win far more friends than your strategy of anger and hate. No one wants to spend time with angry people, nor do they want to go out of their way to help them. Anger shuts people down immediately.

Lurleen is right here. Time and place took things off course for a campaign who had its hands full trying to ratchet the campaign up, fight the wingnuts on the other side on their questionable petition submissions, educate the community on the need to approve this damn thing, etc. To have to wetnurse some people in the community who placed their own priorities over business item #1 of just getting the referendum approved frittered away some valuable time and made the battle all that more uphill with the skeptics in the public. So boys, yes, as American citizens you certainly have a right to pursue this, but the way you did it could have messed the whole thing up in the end. I sure hope you think that was a risk worth taking. If you can't cope with the fact that you screwed up on the timing in favor of your own needs to feel like you were jumping in the game, it's not my problem, but the fact is, you did. A win is a win for god's sake. Now - enough whining out here - no one beyond these blogs cares and it's time to move on.

Lurleen is right here. Time and place took things off course for a campaign who had its hands full trying to ratchet the campaign up, fight the wingnuts on the other side on their questionable petition submissions, educate the community on the need to approve this damn thing, etc. To have to wetnurse some people in the community who placed their own priorities over business item #1 of just getting the referendum approved frittered away some valuable time and made the battle all that more uphill with the skeptics in the public. So boys, yes, as American citizens you certainly have a right to pursue this, but the way you did it could have messed the whole thing up in the end. I sure hope you think that was a risk worth taking. If you can't cope with the fact that you screwed up on the timing in favor of your own needs to feel like you were jumping in the game, it's not my problem, but the fact is, you did. A win is a win for god's sake. Now - enough whining out here - no one beyond these blogs cares and it's time to move on.

Bluntly, I resent members of the community who flatly refused to participate in the process of winning the campaign and are now attempting to revise history to claim the success for themselves. One wonders what their strategy would have been had we lost.

I'll admit my own biases right off the bat and say that I was also very involved with WAFST and the campaign to Approve 71. I speak here, however, only for myself and on my own behalf.

Anyone who did nothing but harass campaign staff and bitch at community members who were more interested in winning than they were in making a scene, cannot claim a morsel of credit in this win.

If the best you can do is cite the name of someone else who stepped up and did work for the campaign, you certainly aren't deserving of much by way of recognition. (Josh Castle, by the way, was *asked* by the campaign director himself to do the work he did, and was actively supported by the campaign's field and communications staffs with materials, training, and information. Check your facts, Lonnie.)

If whosigned.org would have quietly (strategically, even) waited in the wings to publish its information, instead of grandstanding and media-grabbing right off the bat in the most egocentric possible way, it might have been considered a strong message that our community will not be silenced or oppressed by nameless and faceless individuals.

Instead, they took to drawing the spotlight away from the important point (winning equality) and onto themselves and some ill-considered temper-tantrum of a "statement".

It was transparent to the thinking members of the LGBT community, an unneeded drain on the resources of the campaign, and had the potential to flush our chances of winning down the toilet.

WAFST won by 6 points in an historic election, making Washington the first state in the 233 year history of the United States to vote in favor of recognition for same-sex families at the ballot. We did it on what is, for many campaigns, a shoe-string budget, and we did it in just over six weeks.

If that's still not sufficient, perhaps those folks who would stop the rest of their lives (and that is, by the way, what *everyone* on the WAFST staff did) to fight a fight on behalf of this community should think twice in the future.

Lonnie, the next words I see from you had better not be anything other than "thank you", lest you want to further make mockery of yourself, and of the ideals you claim to represent.

I'd like to make one more point, and then I'm gonna move on with my life...

Lonnie, comparing the likes of Josh Friedes (WAFST Campaign Director) and Anne Levinson (WAFST Board Chair) to the Nazis is not only laughably ironic, it's offensive to the memory of the cultural/religious ancestors of both of them, who were subjected the the real wrath of Hitler and his twisted ideology.

It also, frankly, offends me as a gay man whose own cultural predecessors were subjected to the hell of Nazi brutality, and it offends me as a scholar of history and a human being.

Reductio ad Hitlerem (literally, 'reduction to Hitler') is a noted logical fallacy, and you'd do well to study it before you go making those sorts of sick comparisons in the future.

Josh Castle | January 11, 2010 2:55 AM

I read through the entire string and wanted to weigh in on this discussion. Washington Families Standing Together and Equal Rights Washington were quite obviously the leaders in getting Referendum 71 Approved. Without these organizations, we would be licking our wounds like 30 or so other states that have voted down the rights of same sex couples and families – in other words these organizations helped to make history!

How did they do this? They used their army of volunteers for one on one voter contact, their huge database of supporters for email blasts to keep them informed of ways they can help and motivated to keep working hard, focused on positive, consistent messaging throughout, and carefully used their funds raised on the most important campaign activities. I still recall the 30 – 40 volunteers that crammed the ERW office almost every day of the week to make phone calls on behalf of Approve Ref 71 and to encourage progressives to vote. And I will never forget the hundreds of canvassers who knocked on thousands upon thousands of doors and went face to face with voters to encourage them to get those ballots filled out. As an example, ERW & WFST organized Trick or Vote which was a creative mix of canvassing and trick or treating. This effort resulted in nearly 8,000 doors knocked on in only 3-4 hours time! In addition, they reached millions of people through effective advertising by showing real people whose lives are affected when their families are denied their protections. It was a positive campaign on purpose (hence the signs held up by WFST volunteers over the highways - “Protect All Washington Families. Approve Ref 71.”) Positive messaging wins campaigns. Voters like to feel good about what they’re voting for, not intimidated, made to feel stupid, or called names.

And that was the overall picture. Here’s what they did for me… I came in with all the events organizing experience from the Obama and previous campaigns and just started setting up events. From the very first day I started this, everything that was needed for these events was provided by the campaign and the State Field Director Darci Larsen quickly asked me to be the Seattle Events Coordinator. In fact, I didn’t even need to ask for things…there were so many offers to help from the campaign I could barely keep up with them. They provided the materials, got me in touch with their finance and media people, their campaign staff came to the events to give speeches and provide some guidance (Adam Kuglin was a huge help with this), and of course the mass email/FB blasts to get the word out (Joe Mirabella is a one man FB event message blasting machine!).

With all this said, the ultra conservative right wing leadership and their lemmings will not rest and will eventually come back for more. When this happens, the question you should ask yourself is this (and it’s an old tried but true adage) – are you going to be part of the solution or part of the problem? Are you going to jump in and help or sit on the sidelines and gripe? I know where I will be, I know where most of you will be, and for the rest, well, I hope you will join us.