Guest Blogger

CA's Prop 8 is Not About Gays or Marriage?

Filed By Guest Blogger | September 17, 2008 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: gay marriage, Kate Kendell, LGBT, LGBT civil rights, marraige equality, marriage, political campaigns, Prop. 8, same-sex marriage, visibility

Editors' note: California gay rights and AIDS activist and frequent guest blogger Michael Petrelis updates us on campaign rhetoric from the fight against Proposition 8.

(Current image being used on the pro-gay-marriage forces' site, to the right. Other signage from California's Prop 8 battle, after the jump.)

no on 8, tee shirts.jpgSilly me, I thought California's proposition 8, the initiative about gay marriage equality, was about gay marriage. But based on the outreach posters and materials from the No on 8 forces, the pro-gay-marriage folks, which omits the words "gay" and "marriage" altogether, I'd say the No on 8 leaders have not only de-gayed the the proposition, they've also divorced it from anything to do with marriage.

Latest tee shirt design from the anti-gay-marriage side:

yes on 8, protect marriage.jpg

Signage from the pro-gay forces in July.

no on 8, marriage wording sign.JPG

Back in July, at a community town hall meeting in San Francisco with campaign leaders, I raised the matter of closeting the fight to defeat the measure. Signage at the time avoided using the word "gay," but at least "marriage" was used. Excerpted from the Bay Area Reporter account of the forum:

Later on during a question and answer session, Michael Petrelis also brought up the issue of wording, stating that Equality for All, which is the coalition of LGBT and allied organizations against Prop 8, should use the word "gay" in campaign signage. He pointed to one of the signs on the wall that read, "Vow to vote No on the marriage amendment." . . .

"Are we going to take the campaign out of the closet?" Petrelis asked. "I don't like the sign. I'm fighting for 'gay marriage' on the sign."

But longtime bisexual activist Maggi Rubenstein countered that the campaign should "push for same-sex and LGBT, rather than gay, with all due respect" to Petrelis.

Kendell was blunt in her response to the issue. "There's no doubt that it will be very clear to everybody - it's a big ol' homo thing. You will see yourself reflected in what we're doing."

Kendell also said that the language issue "wasn't intentional or calculated."

"The campaign messaging is one of those things that's a moving target. This is feedback we will certainly feed into that," she said.

Now, I happen to respect Kate Kendall and her advocacy very much, and I believed she was quite sincere when she made these comments in July. I had hoped that at this point, less than two months from election day, there would be signage from the No on 8 campaign mentioning gays. Not only hasn't that happened, but the campaign leaders have now omitted even the word marriage from their propaganda.

Yes, I'd like to see Prop 8 consigned to the electoral waste dump in November, but I favor doing it without running a campaign effort that renders gays, and even marriage, invisible.

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Michael - to play Devil's advocate here...

Does it matter if it says, "gay," "mongoose," or "LGBTQ" as long as we win?

I tend to agree with Bil's comment/question, and would go a step further. I fully understand the general concern that we in the LGBT community can't fight discrimination based on something that is intrinsic to our being, namely our sexual orientation or gender itentity without reference to those concepts.

Having said that, though, I don't have a problem with the approach in California being questioned. If people were being deceived or misrepresentations might otherwise result. But unless they live under a rock with a long-term lease expiring after November, or are on vacation to the other side of Jupiter, I have a pretty high confidence that virtually all California voters believe the issue has to do with whether or not same-sex marriage should be legal in their state.

As I learned from my participation in the fight against Indiana's proposed so-called "Marriage Protection Amendment", there are folks who aren't all that comfortable with us when the subject of the morality of homosexuality, be it described by the "G", "L", or any other term, but who also are sympathetic with the thought that even couples in relationships they might not personally approve of ought not to be denied equal rights.

If one takes the position that they would rather lose on Proposition 8 than not banner the term "gay", then I salute them for sticking to their principles. The potentially shattered marriages of George Takai, Ellen DeGeneres and many others resulting from a close loss tend me to cast my vote for a modicum of pragmatism.

Just to present the obvious response so that the discussion moves forward:

I think the argument is that with such vague advertising, we won't win.

It's called strategy. While you may be willing to lose such an important battle over mere semantics that would make you feel better, some prefer to do anything to keep that amendment at bay.

Losing this battle would be devastating. Sadly, we're being outfunded because many would rather keep getting their D&G/Armani latest fashion rather than donate to the cause.

Melanie Davis | September 17, 2008 4:51 PM

And whomever is designing the signage needs to be canned. Theirs is positive and sunny and all happy family. The sign for those against is too crowded, visually confusing, and coarse. There is no graphic representation of their message. And "equality for all" is lost.

Language on a sign is good and all, but that's not how people identify issues. They've got a logo that looks like it's advertising * vitamins and minerals for the health of your family on a cereal box for crissakes! HetChex "eat it up"

Everyone knows what it's about, you just have to make the masses identify with your cause.

Evan Horowitz | September 17, 2008 6:10 PM

The sad fact is that the swing voters in this election are homophobic. They do not like gay people. They also don't like taking away people's rights.

So while the campaign stuff is not exciting to supporters, it avoids alienating the swing voters.

I'm confused about why a yes on 8 tee shirt design is labeled as the latest "from the pro-gay-marriage side".

It's tricky enough to make sure people know if a yes or no vote on any initiative represents their point of view. If the community's leadership isn't clear about it, how can we campaign for the desired outcome?

Honestly, I hate all initiatives, and don't think they should be permitted.

Rory,it looks to me as if in laying out the article, some captions got switched/mislabeled. Is there an editor in the house?

As a bi person who has dealt with bi invisibility for many years I agree with not listing it as gay marriage on the materials because it isn't. It is same sex marriage and not everyone who gets married to a same sex partner is gay. I very much support equal access to marriage but the moment a group starts to call it gay marriage in their ads etc. I cut loose.
It is simple for me if a group wants to have bi people help fund their activities and wants to claim to represent LGBT people then they need to represent those people completely and not only one or two of the subgroups. If you want to use terms that exclude some of your subgroups or render them invisible then do not ask those people to help foot the bill or help with the work.
Same reason that I was angry with the HRC when they excluded trans-folk. If it is going to say that it is inclusive it needs to actually be inclusive.
Putting gay marriage on the sign renders bi people invisible on the issue.