Monday, August 17, 2009

Groups split on Prop 8 repeal timing

Equality California said Aug. 12 that it does not support returning to the ballot to try to repeal Proposition 8 until 2012.

Other groups are preparing for a 2010 ballot fight. They include the Courage Campaign, Love Honor Cherish, Los Angeles' Stonewall Democratic Club and at least 40 other organizations.

"Donors want to make sure their investments to win back marriage are wisely invested," EQCA Marriage Director Marc Solomon said in an Aug. 12 conference call with reporters. "Monolithically, they are not supportive of returning to the ballot (in 2010)."
"There's no question that the community is, you know, not unified behind one position and we really feel that we ... owe the LGBT community and our allies our best analysis," Solomon said. "We'd be leading people down a path that I don't feel comfortable leading them down (if we supported 2010). It's our job to say, 'We think this 38-month path is the right path.'"

Solomon said the next ballot fight will cost "$40 million to $60 million."

"Californians have been static on the issue of marriage equality over the last four years," he added. "We've been stuck and we need to figure out how to get unstuck. ... There are a small number of undecided voters on this issue."

EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors said that "if (other) people want to move forward with 2010, they're welcome to it."
"It's a democracy and a free country," Kors said. "If something qualifies, we will support it (but) we think we have one shot over these next elections. ... We've come to a different conclusion than other organizations. ... We're going to do this right and smart and strategically."

Meanwhile, the Courage Campaign announced Aug. 12, an hour before EQCA's announcement, that it is moving forward with plans for a 2010 ballot battle.

In recent months, the Courage Campaign arguably has become as important a player in statewide GLBT politics as EQCA, though EQCA is a traditional lobby group while Courage Campaign is more of a netroots and grassroots operation.

In an Aug. 12 mailing to its 700,000 supporters, the Courage Campaign sent a "special message" from Steve Hildebrand, who was Barack Obama's deputy campaign manager.
In the message, Hildebrand, who is openly gay, said: "I feel strongly that 2010 is the right time to courageously win back marriage rights in California -- as strongly as I felt when I decided to devote two years of my life to help Barack Obama run for President despite warnings from the pundits and pollsters that he would never occupy the Oval Office."

In an Aug. 10 interview with Los Angeles journalist Karen Ocamb, Hildebrand elaborated: "I believe it's winnable in 2010 and that the community should not be afraid to take this to the ballot in 2010. ... In a perfect world, you want everybody on the same page but we don't live in a perfect world and different people have different ideas. I do believe that if groups move forward and start a petition drive, that most all groups will feel compelled to join because they don't want to see a loss. But they might come kicking and screaming."

Hildebrand said the California "gay community ... needs to have confidence that it can win this" and should not "let political prognosticators who suggest they can't win it in 2010 scare them away."

Some California gay groups expressed dismay with EQCA's announcement and vowed to carry on without the organization.

"We are extremely disappointed, but not surprised, by Equality California's decision today to wait until 2012 ... especially since every poll we conducted shows majority support within the LGBT community (including 70 percent of EQCA's own membership) to put a marriage-equality initiative on the ballot next year," said Yes! on Equality.

Newly prominent California blogger Phillip Minton said the Aug. 12 developments kicked off a battle between Equality California and Courage Campaign over "who's going to win the right to win rights."

"The California LGBT population is experiencing whiplash and fears that these announcements will drive the wedge of division that already exists deeper into the heart of the community," Minton said.

Proposition 8, passed last Nov. 4 by 52 percent of California voters, amended the state constitution to re-ban same-sex marriage, which had been legal since June 16, 2008, following a state Supreme Court ruling that banning gay couples from marrying was unconstitutional. In May of this year, the state Supreme Court ruled that Prop 8 was a valid exercise of the voters' power to amend the constitution.

(Photos by Rex Wockner)
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