Today Freedom to Marry announced the formation of the "Win More States Fund." The group wants to raise $3 million dollars to spend in five "2012 marriage battleground states" - New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maine, Minnesota, and Washington state.
Noticeably absent? Maryland and North Carolina. Bluntly put, this is a big "Fuck you" out of the usually respectful Freedom to Marry gang that's straight out of the HRC handbook. They don't think they can win in those states, so they're only attaching their names to the battles they think will win.
Let's look at this from a number of disturbing angles:
First, which two states out of the seven have the highest percentage of African-American residents? Yup. North Carolina and Maryland. While the meme about how much black people hate gay people has been soundly trounced, it appears that Freedom to Marry didn't get the memo. What better places to find out what messages will work to move African-American households?
Second, the Democratic National Convention is being held in Charlotte, North Carolina. Freedom to Marry is pushing a platform plank to support marriage equality, but they're not willing to invest the time and money into securing marriage equality in the same state where the convention will be held?
Third, what message should this send to Maryland and North Carolina donors and volunteers? The message currently being sent loud and clear is "You're wasting your time." This will hurt the local orgs abilities to fundraise and garner support in both the LGBT and the general community.
And last, New Hampshire? Really? They announce today that they want to raise a boatload of cash and part of it goes to New Hampshire? News flash. New Hampshire voted yesterday. We won. The Granite State shouldn't even be mentioned in the release.
To be fair, Freedom to Marry's release has this to say about New Hampshire:
Yesterday saw the first victory in a Win More States Fund battleground when the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted down legislation that would have repealed the state's two year-old freedom to marry law. Freedom to Marry was the largest financial investor in the campaign with staff deeply involved, and will continue its work to preserve the freedom to marry in the Granite State.
That's about the silliest excuse possible though. This fund isn't being set up to pay for past expenses; it's about future wins. They should remove New Hampshire immediately and replace it with North Carolina.
The org has made clear it's issues with how marriage equality in Maryland was handled. The group refused to join the Marylanders for Marriage umbrella group of equality orgs that worked for marriage equality in the last legislative session.
Executive Director Evan Wolfson told the Washington Blade last December that "In Maryland, because of the likelihood that marriage legislation can be forced onto the ballot, the key question is not just passing a bill in the legislature, but defending it against an attack campaign via ballot measure."
"Freedom to Marry has made it clear to members of the coalition and to lawmakers that our goal is to win, not simply to pass a bill, if there is not sufficient groundwork and investment in a campaign to win at the ballot," he said.
Simply put, they don't think that folks in Maryland have done enough to make sure they'll win at the ballot box. Public education campaigns, communications strategies, etc are all needed when you know the likelihood of a referendum is high. Freedom to Marry isn't the only organization or movement leader who has said this.
Instead of abandoning them to the wolves, why not step in and help? If FTM knows what needs to be done, why not start doing it?
In an e-mailed statement, Wolfson told me, "We are well aware that there are battles where others have taken the lead. We have said nothing to disparage those efforts or any state; we want to win the freedom to marry in every state and finish the job. Freedom to Marry is not a foundation or a gazillionaire, so we have focused on where a relatively small but effective campaign like us can make a difference."
"I hope that people will see that what Freedom to Marry is doing with the Win More States Fund is elevating the call to action and investment in winning important battles in states; putting its staff, expertise, and money into the real work, as part of those state efforts that we have taken on, without pretending to do something that we are not; and summoning others, creatively and by example, to step up their own involvement and contribute toward the urgent opportunities before us in 2012," he said.
North Carolina is running one of the best anti-amendment strategies and campaigns I've seen in a long time on almost no money. It's also a red state with a high African-American population. It would be an uphill battle. There's a good chance we'll lose.
But I'll be goddamned if I'm not going down fighting the good fight for the little guys. I've already donated to Protect All NC Families once, but now I'm going to give again. The grassroots and blogosphere have been working overtime in North Carolina to help them win this battle. I guess it'll remain up to us to help them raise money and instill confidence in supporters.
In the end, for as much as we complain about HRC always seeking credit for victories and my snide remark about their handbook, which organization is down in the North Carolina trenches helping out in a campaign they may lose?