Waymon Hudson

The Fight in Florida: Where do we go from here?

Filed By Waymon Hudson | November 09, 2008 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Amendment 2, domestic partnership, Florida, Marriage Protection Amendment, Noon2.com, SayNo2.com, Yes2Marriage

There is no doubt about it- Nov 4th was a bittersweet and historic day.

Barack Obama shattered a glass ceiling by becoming the first African-American elected to the office of the Presidency. But for many in the LGBT community, it was also a day of tremendous setbacks and the installation of a new and more confining ceiling of bigotry.

Anti-gay amendments and propositions passed in numerous states- including here in Florida, where Amendment 2 (the so-called "Marriage Protection" Amendment) passed with a supermajority of 62%. So that leaves many of us here in Florida wondering:

Where do we go from here?

Looking Back and Learning from our Mistakes

Obviously we are all upset and depressed. Emotions are running high and the finger pointing has begun. And while no one person, group, or demographic deserves all the "blame", we do need to take a serious look as a community at what happened in the campaign and how we can learn from those mistakes.

Giving up the Minority Vote

One of the contributing factors to the passage of Amendment 2 that is already being talked about is the heavy turnout of the African-American and Latino Community and their overwhelming statistical support for Amendment 2. It is important to realize that this vote is not the lone cause of Amendment 2 passing, but it is a realistic factor that needs to be looked at and addressed. I do not think we need to "blame" anyone, but we need to look at strategy and outreach.

I think the failure on this rests squarely on our community's shoulders, and that of the campaigns waged against Amendment 2. We did not, as a whole and as a strategy, reach out and actively engage these communities. Instead, we gave them over to the religious right, whose case for the Amendment was the only one they ever heard in their churches. Where we did engage on an individual level (like Bilerico contributor and Law Professor Anthony Niedwiecki, who went to numerous town hall meetings and debates sponsored by the Urban League), our side was listened to and we changed hearts and minds. By not doing this as a statewide campaign strategy, we let the other side win.

Divided and Conquered

We also allowed ourselves to be divided and conquered. There were at least two separate campaigns - with different websites, branding, messages, and plans - going on simultaneously in Florida. This was a waste of time, money, and energy. How much more could we have done if we weren't wasting money doing the same polling, focus groups, mailers, and websites?

Meanwhile, our opponents had one group, one message, and one plan. And they won.

Community and Ally Apathy

We also failed to really get our own community up in arms about this amendment. There were many dedicated activists working themselves into the ground, but many in the LGBT community where either too embittered by the history of anti-gay legislation in Florida or distracted by other causes and political races to throw their full weight behind Amendment 2.

We also failed to call in any political capital our community had earned with leaders and allies in the state. It seems many in our movement are so used to taking whatever scraps are thrown from politicians that they will not reach out, twist some arms, and demand the people we supported support us.

I think Florida failed to really communicate with the national LGBT community and groups. With the fight for marriage in California getting much of the attention, our state was left behind in funding and support. I'm not sure we managed to stress how important the Florida battle was (we lost not just the right to marry- which we never had here- but perhaps even basic domestic partnerships rights).

Where We Stand

So where do we stand right now in Florida?

Currently what has happened is that the ban on same-sex marriage has been written into the constitution. Domestic partnerships registries and benefits still stand- for now. There is sure to be a long legal fight ahead, led by the very same dishonest people behind the "Yes on 2" who said it wouldn't affect domestic partnerships. We have to be ready and able to fight this push that will surely come.

Also, I hope that the people from Florida Red & Blue continue their lawsuit against the illegal campaign tactics of Yes2Marriage and John Stemberger. They need to be punished- and kept busy- which might delay or derail their future activities.

Plus, everyone needs to know how this battle was won- by lies, deceit, and illegal activities.

Moving Florida Forward

Where do we go from here?

One of the first things I think we should do is mirror what is happening in California. We need to be protesting. We need to be in the streets and letting people know what has happened. This isn't the time to sit quietly by and shrug our shoulders at another loss for the LGBT community in our state. We need our statewide leaders and organizations to step up and galvanize our community and our allies.

And these protests need to extend to the groups (like the Florida Republican Party, the Catholic League, the Baptist League, and many other groups) that gave money and support to Amendment 2. We need to hold politicians accountable- like Governor Crist and others- and make sure there are consequences for their support of hate and bigotry.

We also need to be having conversations like this- figuring out where we went wrong and how we overcome it. Not in closed door meetings with the same leaders that ran these campaigns, but with the entire community.

I also think we need to be proactive. We cannot wait for the religious right to take this to court and try to take away more of our rights. We need to be shaping the argument now.

Perhaps it is time for a push for an expanded, statewide domestic partnership registry. Instead of having to fight back and go through the courts to define Amendment 2, let's work to get our own progressive bill on the ballot and passed. If there is overwhelming support for civil unions or domestic partnerships, like emails from the No on 2 Campaign say, then we need to act on it and secure our rights.

One thing is clear- we cannot keep sitting idly by while more of our rights are taken away. We had our time to mourn this loss, but now it's time to shake it off and move forward.

We need to regroup, get tough, and keep fighting.

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I've been screaming about radicalising the activism of the LGBT community for years now. Nice to see that people finally see the need for it.

I thought this was a great call to action. I'm not sure I understand what you mean by radicalizing the activism of the LGBT community. Can you help me out? Thanks.

By "radicalizing", I took that Maura meant the protests and marches, not just "checkbook activism". I could be totally reading my own views into that though. :)

Frank Jay Hall | November 9, 2008 6:29 PM

I couldn't agree more. We need to speak out loud and educate the electorate.

We need to continue working with our state and local ally politicians. And educate the rest of them. We need to engage all demographic groups.

And we all need to be out and damn proud of who we are!!

First-class taxpayer. Second-class citizen.

DOMA is the cause of all the states initiatives. As Patricia Warren wrote, cut the hydra so it will stop sprouting tentacles. We must hold Obama to his promise to repeal DOMA and put into law federal civil unions. He can do it now with the newly elected Democratic Congress. A protest march on Washington is not a bad idea to remind the new adminstration of what Obama promised.

Obama never promised national civil unions laws. He said he supported civil unions for gay couples and felt that the issue should be "left up to the states".

I sincerely doubt that we can even count on him to take on DOMA in his first term; especially after seeing just how hot a potatoe this issue is and where most people, even in California, stand on the issue.

I hope people aren't putting our eggs in the Obama basket. I supported him 100% but I'm not living in a fantasy world where he will make gay rights one of his priorities. It would be nice, it would be right but it just ain't gonna happen.

Under the banner of Federalism, I would hope that he would not undertake or sign a bill that establishes a national marriage or civil unions law.

The thing we should encourage him to do is establish domestic partner registries that would provide employment related benefits to federal workers. In defense of such a move he can claim best employment practices as established in the private sector.

Andrew Conte | November 9, 2008 8:37 PM

We need a massive march on Washington to let President elect Obama know how we feel. Every gay and lesbian throughout the U.S. should be there to show our unity. The activism of the 60s must return and now that we have a receptive ear in Washington, let's roll.

I'm all for the march for visibility, BUT there are many of us who cannot march due to poverty, jobs, care-taking responsibilities, etc.

There are also some of us who simply refuse to CONTINUE begging and pleading and marching and donating for a right we know we ALREADY deserve RIGHT NOW.

In the 21st Century, we COULD try something we have not tried yet (effectively); an organized tax protest. We can sit at home and not lift a finger and do one of the most radical things possible to WAKE UP and SHAKE UP the countless apathetic citizens amongst us of ALL orientations. We could put our money where our mouths are in this very Capitalistic society, and refuse to file this April 15th, 2009 until we become FULL U.S. CITIZENS, with ALL of the rights afforded to all.

Or we could keep having these little social tea parties and get-togethers, and waste millions more that our families, neighborhoods, and cities could certainly use. This ain't a freakin' beauty contest, and I don't need to have society "like", "tolerate", or "approve" of me or my family.

I do DEMAND that I am EQUAL, and will fight the IRS until my last breath.

I wish you the best with the tax protest angle...I will pray that you do not get arrested for tax evasion due to that method!

Something DOES need to colapse the wall of bigotry in this nation!

...I know that my family and I (including moms, dads, grandparents and aunts, etc.), eventhough we are all engaged in hetero relationships are in favor of *everyone* having rights no matter who they are or who they love.

my motto:

LIVE & let LOVE!

I don't live in Florida anymore but I worked briefly on the campaign against this amendment earlier in the year. I couldn't agree more about the problem with two state campaigns. It was extremely ineffective and I could see that coming six months ago. This was too important to let turf, ego and even strategy differences stand in the way of a unified campaign. I didn't understand why more people weren't worked up about it and why we allowed the orgs to continue in that way.

beachcomberT | November 10, 2008 9:15 AM

Just returned from an Atlanta conference of International Christian Community Churches, a gay-majority denomination, where Amendment 2 and Prop 8 were discussed. Gay churches need to do more to break out of their self-imposed closets and reach out to straight churches -- enlist them in joint ministries, such as food pantries, AA support, recycling, etc. Grassroots efforts like those will help straight people learn about gays close-up and counteract the demonizing coming from some of their pulpits. Marching on Washington is fine, so are national ad campaigns and such. But don't forget about everyday life on Main Street.

Join I oppose Amendment 2. Let's get out there and demonstrate on Nov 15th here in miami fl. Let's let the world know that Floridian's will also stand up and fight for their civil rights.

Yeah, these seem like the same mistakes as in CA.

I am writing this blog about the importance of Amendment 2. Everyone that knows me knows that I am not a political person or have much interest in politics. There has been an issue brought in Congress regarding banning same sex relationships and gay marriages. What is the big deal and what the hell does the same sex relationship have to do with politics. Why is this a major focus that needs to be voted on? Since this has been brought to the table for a vote, I hope that all my true friends will vote NO on Amendment 2 to ban gay marriages. I have been with my same sex partner for five years and truly happy. Becca and I flew to New Jersey and got married last year. We have a car financed and a time- share resort together. We share everything together, our lives, finances and family, but in the eyes of the law we are not married. If we live in New Jersey, then it would be recognized. Here in Florida we can't be on each other's medical insurance or be allowed to be next to one another in the hospital if on our death beds, because we are not blood related or considered a family member. We would have to draw up a will and give each other Power of Attorney to make medical decision for one another if we were incapable of making decisions for ourselves. How ironic that I would have to do all this just to prove that we are a couple even though we got married in New Jersey and is not recognized in the state of Florida. I can't even put my partner, spouse, soul mate on our medical insurance, because they don't recognize same sex partner or gay marriage. This is not fair, all I'm asking for is equal rights for myself and others like me. I don't want anything that others can't have. I only want what others have that I can't have. I live my life the way every other married couple lives. We pay bills together, we make decisions together, we share our families together and we bleed and hurt like everyone else. So please tell me why is this a big issue for Congress, how about they focus on bigger issue like why our country is going Bankrupt. If you are my true friends out there then you'll support to vote NO to Amendment 2. Please understand where I'm coming from regarding this issue. All I want is equal treatment.

first of all, let me start off by saying there is enough evidence in this year alone to prove my point on this.. the STATE has now defined a religious ceremony, separation of church and state- pay up- more campaigning was done this year alone in churches and church owned organizations , preachers telling you who god says should be president etc, it time that they pay taxes like the rest of us , they say they are tax exempt because they take that money and give it to charity's, ummm how bout now you can fix the roads and you can provide schools with what they need, and you can sell your beamers and become HUMBLE. look at our society this is what religion has given us a world of struggle and hate and separation, yet the same god they preach to appease , they kill, murder, discriminate , suffer greed, lie...in his name.... i thought god smite those like this and sent them to hell?
whats wrong with this picture - if they want to believe in something i feel crazier than love , so be it im not taking that away from them, but when you push your bigotry,, hold on to your horses!

THIS HAS GALVANIZED OUR COMMUNITY ACROSS THE BOARD. It is more than gay marriage its our rights as americans to have the same rights as everyone else and I have never seen this unify our community since i have been in it. We must rally again because with more notice there are many straight people who are ready to join our cause for equal rights. STOP LETTING PEOPLE POUNCE ON US... We have become the doormat of the religious right .. so its time for everyone to get off their lazy ass and do something