2010 vs. 2012: the internal divisions that will kill us

There's some controversy (I hate that word, but I can't think of a better one) about just when the best time is to try to put Prop. 8's overthrow on the ballot. Do we immediately spring back, trying to bring the vote in 2010, or do we keep our heads down this round and wait until 2012? Reading The Bilerico Project posts on the subject, I'd tend to believe that the 2010 side used dishonest means to establish the appearance of being the majority. Personally, I still agree with them about the timing; as I've mentioned, I'm opposed to waiting at all. But I'm frankly disgusted with the campaign's leadership already, based mostly on the stuff I've been getting in my inbox. These are quotes from messages from the Courage Campaign, which was decent to good on the initial No On 8 campaign:
(Message title: "Repeal Prop 8 in 2010? Or not?" Date: 10. August 2009 10:52. Abbreviated for your sanity; emphasis added, links removed.)

It's time to make a very big decision. And the power to make it is in your hands.

Right now, several organizations within the marriage equality movement are debating whether to place an initiative on the ballot to repeal Prop 8 in either 2010 or 2012.

The Courage Campaign community already spoke out in favor of 2010, quite strongly. In May, 83% of our members told us to work with our partners to place a marriage equality initiative on the ballot in 2010 -- and to help build the movement to support it.


But the only way a 2010 campaign can be launched is if the marriage equality movement raises $200,000. That's right. $200,000. That's how much money it will take to determine -- through research, polling and focus groups -- the initiative language and messages that will move voters to support marriage equality.

We are ready to do our part but we can't do it alone. That's why we are asking the Courage Campaign community to raise $100,000 by August 13. And we are challenging our partners in the marriage equality movement to raise the remaining $100,000 as soon as possible.

Are you ready to commit? Time is running out to launch a 2010 initiative. To put marriage equality on the ballot next year, will you help us meet this $100,000 community goal by making a contribution right now? DEADLINE: August 13.


But if the marriage equality movement is not able to raise the $200,000 necessary -- $100,000 from the Courage Campaign and $100,000 from our partners -- to pay for the research to launch an initiative campaign, then we will have to accept that our movement is not ready to repeal Prop 8 in 2010.

And we will have to wait until 2012 to bring marriage equality to the ballot again. It's as simple as that.

It's up to you. Will you help the Courage Campaign community raise $100,000 before August 13? [...]
A follow-up message, sent a day later, quoted the same text with some stats about how much they'd raised, reasserted the urgent need to act (read: give them money) immediately, and was titled "60 hours left to decide Prop 8's fate".

Here we've got a beautiful combination: we need lots of money now (the deadline is completely arbitrary) or it's your fault that we're stuck waiting around for two more years! Don't think about it; act now or you're against us! (Their emails actually have more bolding than my emphasis gives.) Basically, they're guilt-tripping people to raise an arbitrary amount of money -- they say it's the necessary amount for their research, but don't explain why -- by a completely arbitrary date. And I'm sitting here wondering how on Earth they expect to keep the community united behind them when they're fear-mongering and guilt-tripping their way into cash they'll use for goodness knows what.

The movement is splintering, and I think it's pretty clear why. We need new leadership, and it can't be these organizations, or the dubiously-aligned lawyers who supposedly think the US Supreme Court is going to help bring equality to California (long-term? Sure. This court? No.) It's got to be one of us, or a group of us, but acting as individuals, not as a faceless organization.


setting the tone

Back in June, FiveThirtyEight.com posted some interesting poll data on how differently gay marriage polls depending on the wording. Specifically, the difference was that one poll asked "if the government has a right to pass laws to prohibit or allow" marriages based on various categorizations of the relationships in question (interfaith, interracial, same-sex, polygamous, and involving children under 16, to be precise.) The other polls asked if same-sex couples should be allowed to marry -- quite a different question.

What's the result of changing the wording? 63% of people polled believed that the government did not have that right, vs. the usual 40some% that think same-sex marriage "should be allowed." (Leading me to wonder what people think voting for laws is -- if they don't believe the government has a right to regulate something, shouldn't they vote against regulating it? But people tend not to analyze their voting process, I think.)

I've mentioned before that I think conservatives are controlling the dialog. That's why this is the hot GLBT issue, and why it's being sold so badly: they define the terms and make the attacks, and we argue with the terms and counter the attacks. We aren't fighting more winnable battles on such a public stage, even though they're as important; I think we could convince people that homeless GLBT youth deserve better services, for example, and actually get a lot of support for youth-related issues in other areas, because "the children" tend to be an automatic selling point, but it's not in the limelight. And we're fighting from the position that we ought to be given rights, implicitly suggesting that the government (the voting public, Congress) has the right to deny them to us. Which it doesn't.

The big question is, though, how do we change this? I've talked a lot about what's wrong; we all do. How to make it right is harder. I, personally, will be changing my emphasis in future debates, and I advise everyone who sees this to do the same.

What future debates, specifically? Well, if it's true that an overturn of Prop. 8 will be on the ballot next year, then I'm going to try to find a way to travel to the high-Yes parts of the state and campaign next summer, because there aren't a lot of people I can influence in my own town. The hard part is transportation -- I don't drive and public transit is unlikely to work well -- but I'm optimistic about it.

Someone's got to go, anyway. The highest concentrations of queer people in the state are, not surprisingly, in the most queer-friendly areas, so we really need to be out knocking on doors further from home. As scary as that sounds.