The night was cool and clear, the vista of the city of Los Angeles was dazzling from the Hollywood Hills home of Adam Press – a point LA City Council President Eric Garcetti noted repeatedly as he teased and saluted his close friend Marc Solomon at a stellar gathering Wednesday night, April 6, to bid Solomon farewell. The former director of the Marriage Project at Equality California and the former executive director of MassEquality where he lead the fight to defend marriage equality in Massachusetts, has joined Freedom to Marry as the national group’s new National Campaign Director. Garcetti met Solomon in 1999 when they were named by the Rockefeller Foundation as two of 24 Next Generation of Leaders and spent a year working together as part of the fellowship. Garcetti told how Solomon flew to California to do “whatever it took” to help Garcetti win his city council election. In turn, Solomon spent much of the evening urging party-goers to support Garcetti’s all-but-announced run for LA City mayor.
Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti, Freedom to Marry National Campaign Director Marc Solomon, Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, Freedom to Marry founder Evan Wolfson; all photos by Karen Ocamb
LA City Council President Eric Garcetti, Lance Black, Evan Wolfson
Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black was equally effusive, distinguishing Solomon from other national leaders with huge egos. “We’d talk about boys” and not about writing checks, Black said, when he’d run into Solomon at the Coffee Bean while Black was writing. “I’d never get any work done.” Black, who is on the board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which is sponsoring the Perry v Brown federal case against Prop 8, lauded Solomon’s charisma and intelligence, telling Solomon that “Freedom to Marry will excel under your new leadership.”
Eric Garcetti and Marc Solomon
Garcetti, who served as emcee for the program, told how Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson has “dedicated his life to the cause” of marriage equality, which was “a very lonely place for a very long time.” Wolfson, who was called a “prophet” and “visionary” throughout the evening, explained the organization’s “Roadmap to Victory,” which, drawing on social movements from the past, means persuading either Congress or the US Supreme Court to end marriage discrimination. That requires building a critical mass of states. The way to achieve critical mass is to 1) win marriage in more states; 2) grow and solidify a majority of support, which in turn leads to action and emboldening elected officials; 3) end federal marriage discrimination by repealing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which is why Freedom to Marry has increased its presence in Washington DC.
Part of the strategy also relies on having one-on-one conversations and listening to what people actually say, combined with new technology – a practice Solomon used to successfully save marriage equality in Massachusetts when faced with a possible constitutional convention to repeal marriage equality there. In his remarks, Solomon revealed that he came to California two weeks before the 2008 election at the request of his friend Patrick Guerriero, executive director of Gill Action Fund, who had taken over running the No on Prop 8 campaign. Solomon said Guerriero told him, “We need you. Things are tough.” When Prop 8 passed, Solomon said he looked at the Rainbow Flag flying at half mast in the Castro District and knew he had to come to California to help win back marriage rights.
EQCA's Marc Solomon listening to an activist at the hot summer Prop 8 repeal summitt (2010 or 2012) in San Bernardino, CA in 2009
Solomon named a number of younger activists who “inspired” him – including Mike Ai (co-founder of the post-Prop 8 Equal Roots Coalition and EQCA field organizer) and Susie Jack (LGBT liaison in LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s office) and Luis Lopez (founding member of HONOR PAC and candidate for the California Assembly from the 45th District). Indeed, Solomon’s ability to listen and then process what he heard was a significant reason he won over so many angry activists in the post-Prop 8 environment.
Solomon called Wolfson his “mentor” since he “realized this is the work I wanted to do.” He, too, talked about the “tested” approach of telling personal stories and having those “tough conversations” to show how committed, loving same sex couples want to be part of the American Dream. “We also need to win elected officials,” showing them that vision and leadership supporting equality “play politically” as “not just a moral vote but a smart political strategy.” Solomon saluted philanthropist Tim Gill for his foresight in “advancing LGBT equality” through political strategy. He also acknowledged Geoff Kors, former executive director of Equality California, who helped make the California Legislature “the most progressive equality Legislature” in the country, and Chad Griffin, who founded the American Foundation for Equal Rights and “hired” Ted Olson and David Boises to fight Prop 8 in federal court.
Marc Solomon and Evan Wolfson
Speaking of Prop 8 – since EQCA recently announced they will hold town halls and released a survey asking Californians to weigh in on whether a repeal of Prop 8 should be placed on the ballot in 2012 – during an economic crisis in the state and with President Obama’s re-election campaign apparently gearing up to raise $1 billion in campaign funds – I asked some folks randomly what they thought. Generally, the first response was “Yes” – followed by a beat and a qualification – if multiple polls and the ability to raise the required amount of money is in place.
Lance Black said Chad Griffin was AFER’s strategy man but offered that he hoped there would be no need to go back to the polls. He noted that the California Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments on the question of standing in the Perry case (on Monday, April 4, AFER filed a brief with the California Supreme Court on the question on standing for Prop 8 proponents) in September and has up to 90 days after that to issue its opinion. Black noted that the 9th Circuit, which has already heard arguments, has expedited the case “so I expect them to make a decision quickly.”
Marc Solomon said the question of returning to the ballot is “super complicated” and, given his new national position, prefers to “let folks on the ground figure it out.” In 2009, Solomon wrote a memo about “next steps” post-Prop 8 and later wrote a well-researched report on why the LGBT community should not return to the ballot in 2010 but consider 2012 instead.
crossposted at LGBT POV