Thursday, August 13, 2009

Winning in 2010

In the movie “Godfather II” Al Pacino’s character shows up in pre-revolutionary Cuba for a meeting of mafia dons. There is a scene where he finds himself in one of Havana’s picturesque colonial era streets and he witnesses a confrontation between Batista’s army and some young revolutionaries. In that scene a revolutionary who is, being arrested blows up several soldiers and loses his own life in the process. Al Pacino’s character comments, “They [the revolutionaries] can win.” A Mafioso replies “Batista has the Army and Air Force.” Al Pacino’s character observes, “The soldiers are paid, the revolutionary isn’t. They can win.”

That scene from the Godfather II came to mind as I read an article, which authoritatively announced, “Gay marriage advocates to wait until 2012 for ballot measure.” An article in the Sacramento Bee went on to declare “Bowing to the advice of political consultants and pollsters, gay marriage advocates have decided to wait until 2012 to return to California voters with a request to legalize gay marriage.” Well, it would seem that the matter is settled.

Just as it seemed that Batista’s Army had neutralized the small rebel faction in Havana. However, appearances can be deceiving. Yes, EQCA announced that they would wait until 2012 to move forward with a ballot initiative. Yes, EQCA and its satellite LGBT organizations represent the “Establishment” in California’s LGBT community. They call the shots. They certainly called the shots in running the “No on Prop 8” campaign in 2008, but in the aftermath of the election last fall the grassroots of California’s LGBT community took to the streets and decided to be less passive towards “the Establishment.”

What is happening in California now is that a large contingent of LGBT grassroots organizations is moving forward with a ballot initiative in November of 2010. These include over thirty organizations statewide, for more information go to Unlike the establishment, these grassroots leaders are not paid, but they are very passionate and they work tirelessly for what they believe is a just cause.

Why don’t we hear more about them? You will. At a meeting held in South Los Angeles last Sunday, Steve Hildebrand who was instrumental in President Obama’s victorious campaign told the grassroots “You can win.” He said 47% are in favor of marriage equality in California, “what are you waiting for?” EQCA is looking towards the big donors and is waiting for more money, the grassroots organizations are far more reminiscent of Dr. King’s passionate “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

Activists like Robin McGhee, the lesbian mom who organized Meet in the Middle 4 Equality in the Central Valley of California (RED California). Interestingly enough, when EQCA was looking for someone to represent LGBT efforts in Fresno, they did not hire Robin, but rather brought in someone from out of state to do the job. When I spoke with some business leaders in Los Angeles recently, they told me that employers do not like controversy. If two people are applying for a position and one is controversial, even if he/she is more qualified, they won’t get the job.

Of course, that was the guiding “wisdom” in the “No on Prop 8” campaign do not be controversial. Newsflash folks, we are the controversy. Being LGBT and same sex marriage are controversial. Running a campaign for marriage equality like you are trying to sell a soft drink or an automobile didn’t work in 2008 and it won’t in 2010 or 2012. As Julian Bond, the president of NAACP stated in Los Angeles this [marriage equality] is a Civil Rights issue. We need to look not to Madison Avenue but to Selma for guidance in how we conduct our campaign.

It is that single-minded commitment and passion which drives the LGBT grassroots organizations. They are moving forward. They are filing a ballot initiative with the Secretary of State of California next month. They are organizing an all-volunteer signature gathering campaign in our state to put this initiative on the 2010 ballot. When they accomplish this EQCA, et al will have no choice but to join in the battle for a restoration of full marriage equality in California. As far as donors are concerned, they want to see a leadership that is committed and in place. They want to see a united community with the passion and commitment to a cause. The grassroots will deliver that. To quote Al Pacino’s character “They can win.”


Jeff said...

I'm not concerned about what EQCA and Geoff Kors thinks. It was their poorly run campaign that cost us 2008. Kors broke it, he doesn't own it anymore. Let him sit on the sidelines. Courage Campaign and others are moving forward.

Freedom Fighter said...

I have read your posts Geoff and have watched them become even more focused and passionate as time progresses. This post really hit home. I agree that EQCA is wrong on this one. I do have a question... Who is the LGBT "Martin Luther King"? Who is our leader? You are so right. We need Julian Bond and Maya Angelou to help us reach out to the AA community. Dolores Huerta is critical to help us in reaching out to the Latino/Latina community. Justice delayed is justice denied! If not NOW, the WHEN?!!

Unknown said...

As the co-chair of a extremely successful local campaign in Santa Cruz County - I am also in favor of 2012.

I am a grassroots organizer and have been in this fight long before the Prop 8 battle. As someone who has spent nearly all of the last year working on marriage equality, I object to being lumped in with the statewide campaign - who made mistakes, but was far from a failure.

If people want to go in 2010, and I think that is a mistake, great. But as someone who was awake BEFORE they voted to take our rights away and working on these issues, I am not lacking vision - I know what takes to win a campaign, because we won with a 12 point increase over the results in 2000 with Prop 22 in my county

I love your blog, and I can't wait for you to join us Episcopalians - but I think this version of what happened is unfair to those who have worked long and hard on this issue.