Karen Ocamb

EQCA Town Hall in WeHo Split on Prop 8 Repeal

Filed By Karen Ocamb | May 25, 2011 7:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Equality California, marriage equality, Prop 8, same-sex marriage, townhall meeting

Note: I have tried to present here what happened at the EQCA town hall in West Hollywood Sunday night, May 22, as fairly as possible to provide those not able to attend any of the repeal Prop 8 discussions as much information as possible to make up your own minds. I've also included some information about new ED Roland Palencia.

By the time the Equality California EQCA-repeal-Andrea-panel-1-300x225.jpgorganizers took a final vote on whether the LGBT community in Los Angeles wanted to go back to the ballot to repeal Prop 8 in 2012, two hours had elapsed and about half the crowd of about 100 people had left. Of those who stayed in the West Hollywood Park auditorium Sunday night, 21 people favored returning to the ballot, 16 voted no, and roughly 15 others raised their hands for some version of "undecided."

The turnout for EQCA's town hall meeting - the second of 14 planned throughout the state - was apparently larger than the San Francisco crowd on Thursday, May 19, according to original Prop 8 plaintiff Robin Tyler who has worked with Marriage Equality USA.

The meeting was held just days after a new Gallup poll reported that a majority of Americans now support marriage equality. But residual angst and animosity from the passage of Prop 8 in November 2008 and frustration from the twists and turns in the federal Prop 8 case was palpable.

Here's how the meeting played out in West Hollywood:

EQCA's Marriage and Communications Director Andrea Shorter opened the meeting saying the lobbying group was following up on a promise made in the hectic wake of the passage of Prop 8 to come back to the LGBT community before making any recommendations on how to proceed with a future initiative.

The town hall panelists - who refrained from offering their opinions about going forward with a 2012 ballot initiative - were: David Codell who has been EQCA's lead attorney and has successfully litigated cases representing same sex couples; Occidental College Associate Professor Ron Buckmire, a blogger and co-founder of the Barbara Jordan/Bayard Rustin Coalition, an EQCA coalition partner; and EQCA Interim Executive Director Jim Carroll, who presented the findings of a new David Binder poll on Californian's attitudes towards same sex marriage.

In his Aug. 12, 2009, 32-page analysis of whether to go back to the ballot in 2010 or 2012/2014, then-EQCA

Marc Solomon and Evan Wolfson from Freedom to Marry (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Marriage Director Marc Solomon, who is now with Freedom to Marry, concluded saying:

Now it is our turn. We get to go at the time that is most advantageous for us--when the numbers tell us we have a strong chance of prevailing; when we've had sufficient time to do the real work to move voters our way; when we have a solid plan for raising the money required; and when our partners doing the hard work in communities of color think sufficient progress can be made. Our community of LGBT people and allies get to make the choice that is best for our community, the choice that our heads, hearts, and guts together tell us is right.

After months of listening, analyzing, and soul-searching, we at Equality California are confident that time is November, 2012.

As Solomon noted in his report, going back to the ballot was contingent upon a number of factors, some of which - on the face of it - seem to have been addressed. On the other hand, no one (except perhaps the founders of the American Foundation for Equal Rights) could have foreseen the impact of the May 27, 2009 filing of a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Prop 8 with star litigators Ted Olson and David Boies.

The Legal Situation

At the town hall meeting, David Codell tried to help frame the 2012 ballot initiative debate in the context of the AFER federal Prop 8 lawsuit. He repeatedly emphasized that gay people "won the right to marry" and deserve Equal Protection and Due Process under the Constitution. "We shouldn't have to do this," he said. "The question is - how are we going to become equal under the law, even though we already are?"

Attorney David Codell (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Codell asked the audience to bear in mind that:

there has never been a statewide measure voted on by the people of a state in which gay people have ever gained any protection under the law. We need to understand that if we were to go to the polls and were we to win the right to marry under the law in California, it would be the first time ever that there was a statewide initiative in this country in which gay people gained any right under the law. I won't go into the history of gay rights initiatives but we need to bear in mind that it's never happened before and that we need to think deeply about what kind of resources we have - financial and inside ourselves - to go back and have this state have a conversation about our rights under the law.

Codell noted that oral arguments are scheduled in September before the California Supreme Court on the issue of standing for the proponents of Prop 8:

If the California Supreme Court rules that [the five individual Prop 8 initiative proponents] don't have standing under California law to step in and force the state of California to appeal a District Court verdict [by now openly gay Judge Vaughn Walker] that Prop 8 violates the US Constitution...then they probably will not have standing [in federal court] and this case will come to an end with a ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional.

If the California Supreme Court says they do have some kind of standing to step in and substitute on appeal for the state, then this litigation could go on for years and years.

So I think the question we're facing today is what do we do as a community when 1) the courts right now are not requiring gay couples to marry, even if we ultimately may win this case. It's going to be years before any gay couple can marry here in California because as long as this litigation continues, no one is being permitted to marry. So we need to think about how long is too long? Prop 8 was enacted in 2008. This litigation could go on for years more.

And then secondly, if there is some desire by the community to go forward and do something different, how does litigation effect that calculus?

Codell clerked for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who ruled against 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Justice Reinhardt on an Arizona case in which Reinhardt wanted to grant standing to initiative proponents. Codell said of the 9th Circuit, where the Prop 8 case is now:

American Foundation for Equal Right's Brandon Hersh (rt) attended with Evan Sippel (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

I think we're in good hands in the 9th Circuit. We are in front of some very good judges who are carefully considering this. And, as difficult as it may be to have to sit and wait and see what the courts do, I think we all need to have confidence that the courts are doing the right thing. It takes a long time, it's frustrating. But ...I think we need to trust that the California Supreme Court is giving careful consideration to this issue....

I think we need to decide as a community whether we have support to get this measure passed. I think that's the question. Can we pass this? If we can, we should try. If we can't, we shouldn't. And I don't think any judge will be swayed by the fact that this thing is hanging out there and we shouldn't want them to be....

There is actually no case law providing standing to these ballot initiatives. The legal arguments here are really complicated. They have to do with very technical court decisions. But what's striking is that there is no case ever that gives these ballot initiative proponents the right to do what they're trying to do - which is to appeal a federal court judgment when the District Court has said that the law violates the US Constitution and the Attorney General and the Governor have said we will not appeal. We agree this violates the US Constitution. If we lose this case in the California Supreme Court, it will be yet another example of a Bush versus Gore kind of case where the law is made up for the case....That happens to gay people, though, so don't be surprised.

If we win in the state Supreme Court, I think it's likely that gay couples can then begin marrying and that the state officials would not pursue any course that would prevent that. However, we would be walking into a no-man's land….

If Prop 8 is overturned, then all the litigation is over. And we would go into la-la land.

Codell said that he can't wait to see what he assumes will be a "very angry decision" by the judge in the case seeking to overturn District Court Judge Walker's Prop 8 ruling because Walker is gay and in a longtime same sex relationship.

In a subsequent interview, Codell told me:

I generally don’t make public predictions about how courts will rule in cases in which I am involved. What I will say, however, is that if the California Supreme Court were to hold that initiative proponents are not authorized to represent the State by filing an appeal from a district court ruling invalidating an initiative and do not have a particularized interest in the initiative’s validity, then the Ninth Circuit should hold that the proponents of Proposition 8 do not have standing to appeal.

I think it is likely that, regardless of how the 9th Circuit rules, there will be a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking review. I’ll decline to predict whether the Court would take the case.

[But] if the Supreme Court were to review this case, the Court would likely issue its ruling by June of the term in which it hears the case. Were the Court to take the case, it would likely be heard and decided in the October 2012 term — meaning that a decision would likely be issued by June 2013.

Codell added, for good measure: "I don’t have a position on the ballot issues. I am still in listening mode."

EQCA's Andrea Shorter and activist Robin Tyler (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

During the question and answer period, longtime activist Robin Tyler said she is angry, frustrated, and doesn't trust the Supreme Court. But, she said:

"if we can wait, I believe they're going to rule in our favor. And I think if we raise another $20-or-$40 million and lose again or even won again, somebody will go back on the ballot - the Mormon Church, the Catholic Church. So I think we should wait. But I don't think we should just wait for the court to rule. I think somehow we need to keep organizing."

I asked if EQCA anticipated another initiative if the EQCA/Sen. Mark Leno California FAIR Education Act is passed and signed into law. The bill - which mandates teaching about LGBT people and historical contributions in public school alongside the contributions of other minorities - was designed to "inoculate" against the very successful arguments used by the Religious Right that same sex marriage means children will learn about gay people.

Andrea Shorter said:

We anticipate that there will be some organized pushback. We're already getting some indications - not so much in terms of an initiative drive but mostly in terms of their selecting and promoting people getting elected to school boards or city council. So we would anticipate - as we should - that they're going to move along that track. But as far as an initiative campaign at this point - no, there's no formal movement that we are aware of.

At this point, at about half way through the presentation, Shorter called for hands for who wanted to go back and who didn't. The vote was about one-third to go back, one-third opposed and one-third undecided.

Jim Carroll presents the Binder Research Poll

EQCA's Carroll then presented what for some were pretty confusing poll numbers. EQCA joined the Pro-Choice group NARAL and a social justice group - both of which expect ballot measures in 2012 (including one to repeal the death penalty) in a David Binder Research poll. EQCA's portion was funded with former Ambassador Jim Hormel and Love Honor Cherish. The poll was conducted in English and Spanish from May 10-14 and presented to EQCA on May 19. It was based on 900 likely voters with a base sample of 800 voters and an oversample of 100 voters, half from the 50 African American community and half from the Asian and Pacific Islander community. (Greg Matsunami from API Equality later noted that many in the 12% Asian community have limited English proficiency, which makes it hard to communicate the equality message, especially with religious groups). The sample also included cell phone voters who no longer have landlines. The margin of error was 3.3% points

Carroll explained that most public polls survey adults instead of voters and surveys that only focus on likely voters often underrepresent young voters who are more likely to support marriage equality. The folks most likely to turn out to vote tend to be more white, church-going and older - hence, more conservative.

EQCA Interim Director Jim Carroll (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

The first of three questions Binder asked was: Do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose allowing same-sex couples to be legally married? The answer shows a closely divided California: 45% favor, 45% oppose with 10% unsure.

However - the result also shows a slight DECREASE in support for legalizing same sex marriage from 47% in May 2009 to 45% in May 2011. But at the same time, opposition has also decreased from 48% in May 2009 to 45% in May 2011. The undecideds, meanwhile, have increased from 5% in 2009 to 10% 2011.

Republican opposition has softened a bit - but over 30% of Democrats still remain opposed. The critical Independents still remain virtually the same, given the margin of error - from 55% supporting in 2009 to 53% supporting in 2011. Their "don't know" margin has increased 4 points from 6% in 2009 to 10% in 2011.

Younger voters have increased support while older voters are more undecided. Under age 30 voters went from 66% in 2009 to 71%; voters ages 30-44 remained virtually the same with support hovering around 50%. People ages 45-64 kept the same support at 43% – but their opposition decreased from 53 to 48%. However, support among voters age 65 and older decreased from 37% in 2009 to 34% in 2011. The "don't knows" increased from 8% in 2009 to 13% in 2011.

Binder reported what we know from other polls: frequency of worship is highly correlated with opinion on same-sex marriage, with strongest opposition from those who worship weekly or more. Those who "hardly ever/never" worship support marriage equality by 65%, compared to 68% who worship once a week or more who oppose marriage equality by 68%.

Another point showed that the frequency of worship is a stronger factor than ethnicity. Additionally - and this got a round of applause in the room - Latino Catholics have made greater strides in the last two years than Catholics overall.

Binder also reported that opposition to marriage equality has decreased among African American, Latino and Asian voters. However - the decrease has primarily moved from opposition to "Don't Know," including 4 points among whites. The biggest jump is among African Americans who opposed marriage equality 60% in 2009 but less so - 53% in 2011. The "Don't knows" grew from 6% to 10%.

Mike Bonin, deputy to LA Councilmember Bill Rosendahl and Courage Camp co-founder, monitored the presentation (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Binder reconfirmed that voters who are gay or are close to gay people are much more likely to support marriage equality. Someone yelled, "So come out! Come out!"

Voters were also asked about a potentially amended initiative that included a religious exemption: Would you vote yes or no on a ballot initiative that would legalize civil marriage for same sex couples, on the condition that clergy or religious institutions are never required to perform a marriage that goes against their religious beliefs? 47% said they'd support such a measure; 43% said they'd oppose it - showing a 2% increase in support for marriage equality. 10% were undecided.

But here's where it gets really tricky: some original supporters said they would oppose the measure amended to include the religious exemption. This had many scratching their heads. However, Binder also found that a slightly higher proportion of those who were originally opposed to marriage equality said they would now support the initiative if it included the religious exemption.

Binder calculates that if original supporters of the Prop 8 repeal do not "defect" and they are combined with voters who said would support the measure with the added religious exemption - the support for the amended repeal initiative goes up to 58%, with opposition down to 34% and unsure at 8%.

A reminder: EQCA and Sen. Mark Leno introduced a religious exemption bill in the California Legislature - which passed but was vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger. I asked Carroll if he knew if Leno would re-introduce such a bill to make that exemption a done deal before a prospective 2012 ballot vote and he didn't know.

Audience listening to presentation (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

So here's another confusing point for me: The first take-away from the Binder poll indicates that support for marriage equality among likely voters actually shrunk. John Henning, also from Love Honor Cherish, said he as confused too and asked Carroll to nail down the numbers at the town hall meeting. Carroll said:

Polling is very complicated sometimes and it's not as straight forward as you think it was. The number of people who said 'yes' on they would legalize marriage or they would overturn Prop 8 was 54%. The number of people who said they would support legalized marriage or supporting a ballot initiative that had the religious exclusion, was 58%. The number of people who said that they would legalize same sex marriage or overturn Prop 8 or support a ballot initiative that had a religious exclusion, was 62%. ...So, if we just take all of the 'yes' votes and them compile them, then 62% of those involved said yes to at least one of the questions.

But that was immediately qualified. Asked if the numbers were hard - Codell just smiled and said, "It's one poll." He then repeated his earlier point:

Never in the history of our nation have the voters in the state enacted a measure that would grant gay people a legal right. It has never happened before. And so when you pose this question to people on the telephone, you're asking a question that people have never had to confront. And it has never happened in this country and so we have to understand the limits of polling.

For context - remember that Prop 8 passed by 52% to 48% (rounded off). Only the LA Times poll in May 2008 predicted that outcome, while the Field and other polls all seemed to indicate that Prop 8 would be defeated. Meanwhile, however, the No on Prop 8 campaigns internal polling by Binder and Celinda Lake consistently showed that Yes on 8 was ahead - though, according to campaign consultant Steve Smith from Dewey Squares, at the very end, the polling was neck-in-neck at roughly 47/48% – until that Yes on 8 ad showing kids going to their teacher's wedding at San Francisco City Hall. That's when women in particular swung away from the No on Prop 8 campaign to Yes on 8. Between civil rights and even the remote possibility of something happening to their kids - women would pick kids every time.

I asked if Binder polled on women - but Carroll didn't have that information. This is key since the LGBT community too often assumes women will automatically "get it" and remain solidly in the LGBT camp. Prop 8 proved that assumption wrong.

Parent Bill Walker (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Bill Walker, the parent of a then-4 year old daughter, said he understood why people might have voted for Prop 8 if there was the slightest chance that anything would harm a child. But he said his daughter – who was very excited about her dads marrying on June 17, 2008 – was devastated by the passage of Prop 8. "She could not believe that people would do that," he told me. "It was a horrible loss of innocence."

Tom Watson – LOVE HONOR CHERISH says go back

Tom Watson of Love Honor Cherish said that since the passage of Prop 8, EQCA and other groups have had a million conversations with people about marriage equality that could aid in the signature-gathering effort.

Watson said that he thought the polling numbers show "strong, significant support" for repeal:

It seems to me the only issue should be this court case. Has that altered the analysis? Equality California said we should go back in 2012. The numbers reflect the ability to win and the chance of success," he said. "The only new factor we know - that has not gone as we foresaw - we knew after Prop 8 we could have run a better campaign before. We knew after Prop 8 people started coming out who hadn't come out. We got Bill Clinton to voice support - who we hadn't had before. All of us know and live the changes in the last couple of years. 'Glee' is on the air. We all have observed this and lived this so it seems to me the only issue should be: Does the court case impact this in some way that should make us not seek to do what David said, which was to finally...Look, our opponents say all the time, 'Let the voters decide. Not the courts, not the legislature. Minnesota said last night - even though they have a ban on same sex marriage - they said let's put a constitutional ban on the ballot. Everybody says, 'Let the voters decide.' We need to tell them once and for all - 'yes, the voters can decide and they can decide our way.' Take away that argument from the other side. Unless we have 100% confidence in the US Supreme Court is going to do the right thing in a time frame when I can get married and all the other folks here who have not had the opportunity to get married before illness or death seeps in, or in the next couple of years – I think we should go back to the ballot.

Watson received considerable applause from a number of people, many of whom seemed to be part of the group, founded in May 2008. Despite a well-articulated plan (see their Blueprint for Equality) Love Honor Cherish was unable to get sufficient funds for a signature-gathering effort to return to the ballot in 2010.

What about the economy?

Funding and the economic stress felt by voters is another issue to consider during the Prop 8 repeal discussions.

Margaret representing California Faith for Equality (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Margaret from the Unitarian Universalist Ministry – representing California Faith for Equality, (which is experiencing some upheaval of its own) raised the issue during the town hall meeting, saying her own church in the Valley is in financial crisis. She distributed a position paper that included this point:

Many people, who under less stressful circumstances would provide financial support and volunteer time, are struggling for economic survival and are not able to make marriage equality a priority. In addition to individuals and families, many supportive non-profit organizations and faith communities are also facing financial challenges. We must be good stewards of our resources and recognize these current limitations.

Even though the economy now appears to be in an upswing, much of the national consciousness still hears the echoes of President Obama, just six months in office, saying in June 2009: “We’re still in the middle of a very deep recession,” he said, and “it’s going to take a considerable amount of time for us to pull out.”

But not everyone agrees that the economy should be a factor in the decision about whether or not to return to the ballot in 2012. An LGBT thought-leader who asked to remain anonymous told me:

The economy is still in bad shape. Yet President Obama’s campaign is saying they will raise one billion dollars, breaking all records. If polling shows that our side now has majority support we won’t need to move voters on marriage equality but instead will need to keep them on our side and turn them out to vote. While that will take money, the other side will need to spend as much, if not more, and the economy will impact them just as much. The result could very well be both sides spend significantly less than in 2008 -which benefits our side if the polling shows us with a large lead going in.

Funders are very well aware of the polls. LGBT philanthropist Tim Gill said in April said that while "all options are open," returning to the ballot with another initiative requires that people "look at what the polls say and the ability to raise the funds." Gill said it would be "really silly" to begin the process without those considerations. Philanthropist David Bohnett, who gave over $1 million to the No on Prop 8 campaign, told me earlier that that support would have to be around 60% in the polls for him to consider contributing. Meanwhile, the union movement is also under attack and the AFL-CIO told Democrats they need to see more progress before contributing funds. The California Teachers Association and SEIU contributed millions to the No on Prop 8 campaign

But that anonymous LGBT thought leader with whom I spoke later also cites the human cost of waiting:

The cost of discrimination is huge both in the human toll it takes as well as the financial harm it inflicts. When government mandates discrimination against a group of people they are sending a message that the Individuals who are part of that group are somehow less than others. That leads to self esteem issues resulting in an increase in harmful behavior and suicide as well as an increase in bullying and hate crimes. Add to that denial of benefits such as long term care and social security survivor benefits and it becomes clear that the cost to the individuals and society is enormous.

Ron Buckmire of Jordan/Rustin Coalition says don’t go back

Ron Buckmire did not express an opinion while sitting on the panel - only noting that 6,500 door-to-door conversations a coalition of people of color groups held need to be tested since the results on a face-to-face encounter might not hold up when someone is asked the same questions anonymously over the phone.

Ron Buckmire, center in pink shirt, studying the power point presentation (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

But in a blog "REPORT: Why 2012 Is Not Year To Repeal Prop 8" posted Tuesday, May 24, Buckmire - an Associate Professor of Mathematics, has a different take on the numbers:


All in all, I went into the Town Hall undecided and left pretty convinced that a 2012 ballot measure campaign to restore marriage equality to California is a bad idea. Especially when there is a pending federal court challenge which may not only restore marriage equality in California but support the legal argument to strike down the 30 other constitutional amendments which ban marriage equality around the nation. There are numerous other states which will likely have anti-gay marriage measures on the ballot (Minnesota, North Carolina and Indiana) and there may be states which have affirmative pro-gay measures on the ballot (Oregon and Maine). For the amount of money it takes to expand California from civil unions to full marriage equality one could have a good shot of winning one or both of the affirmative measures and possibly defeating one or some of the anti-gay measures. Nationally, it just doesn’t make sense to me to spend 30-plus million dollars to enact marriage equality in California when there are states which do not have basic laws banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (29) and gender identity (38). We shall see what happens in the future, EQCA says they will report back to the community in September 2011. LHC says that we can file ballot language and collect signatures before the California Supreme Court rules on the standing issue. Depending on the decision, the signatures do not have to be submitted. I’m not opposed to this idea, but I think it will be very very difficult to not submit the signatures to the secretary of state in March 2012 if the Cal Sup. Ct. or 9th Circuit either doesn’t rule our way.

Lester Aponte, others suggest a ‘Third Way’

Towards the end of the town hall meeting, Lester Aponte raised the idea of what was later called "the Third Way" - drafting ballot language, raising money to test the language then gathering signatures - all preparing to submit a ballot initiative in March or April if the courts ruled against the federal challenge and litigation promised to be endless. This was excitedly discussed after the town hall adjourned as something to keep "in our back pockets" – just in case.

Lester Aponte (l), unknown man, Tom Watson and Robin Tyler discussing the 'Third Way' option (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Some activists are now hoping the Third Way argument will be officially added to future EQCA town hall meetings.

Remaining issues: FPCC fines, Roland Palencia’s donations to No on Prop 8

There are a couple of other outstanding issues to clear up so as not to be a distraction as the discussions proceed.

In response to a question about whether there is any money left in the bank from the No on Prop 8 campaign, Carroll said there is roughly $400,000 left but hundreds of thousands of dollars may have to be paid in late filing fees to the Fair Political Campaign Committee.

Here is the official full break down from EQCA:

In July 2010 we transferred the balance of Equality for All funds – $197,790 to the EQCA (c4). Equality for All is now closed. The current balance in the EQCA Issues PAC is $471,977, which breaks down as $280,180 from EQCA Issues PAC funds and $197,790 in EFA funds.

EQCA was elected by the Equality for All committees to handle all outstanding money to pay anticipated campaign financing costs and all actions have been transparent, says Cary Davidson, the just retired chair of EQCA's board and legal counsel for Equality for All.

In a phone interview from New York City, Davidson explained the byzantine world of campaign finance reporting that resulted in the possible substantial fines to both sides after an audit by the State Franchise Tax Board. He said the statewide ballot initiative was as complex as the presidential campaign.

The Proposition 8 campaign was the largest grassroots ballot initiative ever in the history of the state of California. There were huge numbers of contributions - so much so, both the Yes and No sides crashed the Secretary of State's website," Davidson said. "As a result, all different kinds of reports were required to be filed - many within 24 hours - whenever the contribution received was over $1,000 or more. That was applicable to in-kind contributions as well as monetary contributions.

So, if someone through a big house party or provided resources to the campaign - those in-kind contributions had to be disclosed within 48 hours of receipt of the contribution. It was very difficult for the campaign offices and the people keeping track of contributions throughout the state to compile all the reports, sort through them and file them in a timely manner. Additionally, reports could be held up by checks being contributed by someone signing their full name one time and only an initial and last name another time, or failing to include other required information. The clock starts ticking when the credit card is swiped or the check is received by anyone from the campaign. And considering that checks might be made by one committee fundraiser that then funnels the bundled checks to a larger committee that then sends the checks to the office of the campaign Treasurer – even with all the new technology, Davidson said it is "unrealistic" to expect full compliance in the time allotted.

"I'm hoping the Fair Political Practices Commission will understand the complexity of this campaign - for both sides - and decide not to access fines for these types of reports filed late," Davidson said. "I trust they will realize that the vast majority of all contributions were properly reported."

Incoming EQCA Executive Director Roland Palencia (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

That leads to the final point to clear up. In my interview with Roland Palencia, I accepted his point that he participated in the Obama campaign and regretted not participating more in the No on Prop 8 campaign. As I remember - and Ari Gutierrez of HONOR PAC and Latino Equality Alliance has since confirmed - Palencia volunteered some time in the HONOR PAC East LA office. The Bay Area Reporter, however, went a little further, prodding him about if and how he participated in the No on Prop 8 campaign. Palencia said he'd written "several checks" to the campaign, which prompted blogger Michael Petrelis to scour all the different campaign finance reporting data bases and find no contributions from Palencia.

Other LGBT reporters also checked and either found nothing or eventually found a $50 check. What might have otherwise be considered a minor mistake by a new executive director getting his feet wet in a new media-centric state was made more complicated by simultaneous story about Palencia's friend, Assembly Speaker John A. Perez who had questions raised about the veracity of his resume.

I interviewed Roland after the EQCA town hall meetings, where he was greeted by strong applause when introduced. Since he doesn't assume his new job as executive director until July, Palencia sat in the sidelines and listened.

After when asked to clear up whether he contributed checks to the No on Prop 8 campaign when none could be found, Palencia said that he wrote "some checks," not "several checks." He also repeated that he was not involved in that campaign:

"Well, first of all I said I was not as involved as I wish I had been involved. And I think it's important for me to acknowledge that. So I'm looking whether I gave checks directly to the campaign, or if I gave to other groups."

EQCA Communications Director Vaishalee Raja, who was there for part of the interview, said EQCA's Finance Director Steve Mele "went on I think the Sec. of State's site and found a check for $50." She later said Palencia contribute $50 to HONOR PAC on June 20, 2008 - which was three days after the marriage equality was available to all same sex couples in California. She also provided a screen capture of a record for $50 on Oct. 19, 2008 to the Equality For All campaign, albeit from the EQCA records rather than the SoS site - and said that Palencia gave $50 to API Equality at an LA fundraiser for No on Prop 8 - also on Oct. 19, 2008. Palencia said he told BAR about the $50 check to API Equality.

This underscores the problems Davidson discussed about campaign finance reporting in California. Palencia's check to HONOR PAC was on June 20. Prop 8 had just qualified for the ballot on June 2 - but there was a challenge that wasn't settled until July 16 so while Palencia may have thought he was contributing to No on Prop 8 via HONOR PAC, there was uncertainty at the time if the proposition would officially make it to the ballot. And note that Palencia's $50 to API Equality - and to EFA were posted as received on the same day, Oct. 19, 2008. That was probably the same check - but since it was under the $100 reporting threshold, it took some time to find it in the maze of data on the Secretary of State's database.

This is an important lesson to bear in mind about jumping to conclusions as we approach yet another hectic campaign season: data might not show up instantly through our favorite or even expert databases.

If you can't attend one of the remaining EQCA town halls on repealing Prop 8 - the group is holding an online town hall on: Thursday, June 09 06:00 PM – Back to the Ballot? – Town Hall Meeting | Online

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

I have all sorts of issues with the money that has been spent helping 31 states pass anti gay marriage amendments by the LGBT community.Yes that's right I said helping instead of working on more important issues like the ability to be able to afford food regardless of alphabet letter on the LGBT food Chain or not. Then there is that little thing called a roof over your head and the ability to either rent or buy one again regardless of the alphabet letter position on the LGBT or not. Or how about being able to find a job and keep that job for all in the community not just the I'm normal just like you accept gay crowd and oh did I also tell you I'm white just like you crowd oh and I forgot to add male. Wouldn't it be great to work on simply being able to walk down the street or go to the bathroom without either getting the shit beat out of you if your lucky or if your not so lucky murdered without carrying a gun not because its illegal to but instead because you don't need one regardless again of where your alphabet letter falls in the LGBT soup or not.As a T though my biggest beef is the failure of those in the LGB to fix its own prejudism issues towards all of those they place in their personal garbage receptacle called transgender.You know who they are they call themselves catchy names like womyn born womyn, Log Cabin Republicans, and Democrats. They just love to disrespect Transsexuals and Transgender people by misgendering them. Yeah I'm fired up this morning I'm giving queer activism a trial run and I'm finding I really like it accept there's one problem though its really called trans activism and I think I'll take it back thank you. Now do you all realize that if all those issues had been worked on first we'd all be way further along right now? Despite all that I do believe those in California and elsewhere should be working there asses off to become valuable enough in their State and Country to get prop 8 overturned and all the other Constitutional amendments at the ballot. Don't just spend money spend volunteer hours at whats left of your State Parks to keep them open. Work at feeding and sheltering the homeless. Work on helping to clean up blighted neighborhoods and teaching the residents to treat each other as human beings without evicting them. Work at making your state and Country better and at lifting the American spirit out of our slump. Support Americans and American jobs not those who sneak in to steal them or ship them overseas. Work on those things and you'll work elbow to elbow with other Americans and help to teach them that treating LGBT Americans like human beings and respecting their relationships won't hurt them it will help them and in turn help America. We don't have time to be fighting with Republicans we have to teach them that diversity in America and the American dream is worth keeping alive. Its up to you get off your lazy asses or pucker up and kiss them goodbye.

A town hall meeting in California? Did Michael Petrelis's head explode?

Jeez, how complicated is this? I feel stuck in a maze, unsure which way to turn on whether to support a ballot amendment. Gosh, I hope those lawyers sure know what they're doing.

Such a thorough explanation of the meeting - but knowing all of it has made me, like Jill, even more confused about how I feel about taking it back to the ballot.

Slight correction: I'm the dad quoted in the article. My daughter was 7 (not 4) at the time of our wedding and Prop 8's subsequent passage. Unfortunately just old enough to have some understanding of what was going on. She had nightmares that people who voted on Prop 8 came to our house with torches and tried to burn it down so we couldn't be a family anymore. This was just some if the damage done by people who purported to be all about "protecting the children." Blessedly, our son was only 2 then and doesn't remember any of it.