Early Emerging Lessons & What’s Next for Marriage in California

December 4, 2008

In the New Year, throughout the state, in each of the major geographic regions, there will be gatherings of interested community members and organizations to help craft strategies for moving forward. The first meeting, open to all who care about marriage equality, is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 6 at 6 pm in The Center’s auditorium (3909 Centre Street). Whether you were involved in the last campaign or not, whether you have ever been involved in any political or advocacy work or not, whether you communicate through Facebook, email or more old-school methods, I hope you will consider attending and offering your energy, thoughts, ideas and leadership.

The devastating loss in California is barely four weeks old and already it has begun winding its way into the landscape and narrative of American and LGBT movement history.

In 2000 the San Diego County vote on Prop 22 was 63% Yes – 37% No. In 2008 it appears it may finalize at 54% Yes – 46% No. That represents huge gains in eight years, but not enough.

The San Diego LGBT Community Center and The Center Advocacy Project hosted an in-person community town hall the week following the election in order to solicit campaign comments, criticisms and feedback, and to begin to collect ideas for moving forward in San Diego. More than 350 people attended, and The Center Advocacy Project website continues to collect and record any and all feedback and suggestions at http://www.centeradvocacy.org (CAP blog) in order to hear from all who have thoughts to share.

Part of every one of our now 30 (!) losing campaigns has been the vital question: why and how did we lose? That question from Prop 8 has preoccupied bloggers, LGBT publications, some progressive newspapers, a few mainstream publications and the minds of most LGBT and LGBT-supportive citizens. Many are simply moving on now, while others continue to search for answers.

In every campaign thus far, and this one seems no exception, the easy, first answers to why we lost have sometimes been either based on incomplete or inaccurate information, or are so campaign-specific that they quickly become irrelevant and forgotten in a wave of disappointment and rage. Few remember those other 29 campaigns or any of their lessons.

After 40 million dollars and the lifeblood of hundreds poured in for more than five years, we all deserve more this time. And the biggest thing we deserve is to learn what this loss has to teach us.

The No on 8 campaign came closer to victory than any campaign in our history. It raised more money and more volunteers, and garnered more votes for equality across all demographics than we have ever before achieved. But it did not result in victory. And we must learn the larger lessons if we want to win in California or any other state. If any of the lessons are lost, we are doomed to repeat the outcome until we learn each of them.

Early Lessons Learned

Infrastructure. Every Sunday night during the No on 8 campaign we watched as our own poll numbers dropped. Every Sunday night! Do you know what enormous force it takes to drive poll numbers? It wasn’t a new ad, nor was it a new headline that reliably drove our numbers down every week. It was an incredible organizing tool.

It is a national, statewide and local organizing tool. It is comprised of people who do not necessarily share a neighborhood, a job, a school, or even the details of faith, but do feel connected in some basic way and feel some unity of purpose.

1,500 churches, each with 500 to several thousand families on their membership rolls, meeting weekly, can effectively communicate a message, a fundraising need or a strategy. That is the infrastructure that beat us and we must build it for ourselves, both in the real and virtual worlds.

Technology and online grassroots organization. The last few weeks post-election have taught us that there is vast capacity and creativity in the on-line communities: the people, the ideas and the technology. There is much to be learned about the potential that can be built and unleashed through the interface of on-line grassroots organizing with existing capacities. Not only are there thousands of unaffiliated on-line activists, there are also thousands of LGBT and progressive organizations, groups and lists that could be better connected to each other locally, statewide and nationally. We must find new and creative ways to connect all of these and build a community infrastructure that encompasses them all — and that can win. This means a shift in organizing strategies informed by the masters of those new strategies and supported by those with the infrastructure to sustain and grow them.

It is already clear that any future campaign will need to provide more opportunities for more people to get involved at the grassroots/voter contact/visibility levels. Both new technologies and old school methods will be required.

Money. We have learned many lessons about the need to finance our movement and our candidates, but the real lesson of investment we have not yet fully learned. Successful social change in the new millennium costs money. We need early, well-financed, educational, coalition-building campaigns and early campaign dollars — money that must come from all of us, not just a few amongst the wealthy.

How did they beat us? With $20 million that poured into their campaign $100 to $1,000 at a time in August. We couldn’t and didn’t catch up until October. Why not? Because we don’t yet understand the lessons of Emily’s List — early money buys more of everything and late money buys little except regret.

This movement and campaign can teach us three painful but important lessons about money: investing early in ground work pays a better dividend than waiting for the crisis; early campaign money will determine who gets to define the issues and the debate, and that side generally wins; and it will always take more than anyone imagined possible.

Our LGBT rights movement has not yet learned to invest heavily early, instead of ending up in the reactive position. Moreover, we continue to count too heavily on very large donations from a few rather than many, many smaller donations from all who care about fairness and equality.

Aligning Our Base. Much of our attention post-election has focused on communities where we have fewer friends and less support. Less attention has been focused upon the critical need to deepen and strengthen our relationship with our allies: people who support a woman’s right to choose, labor, environmental allies and other progressive causes and voters. We did not get every vote we could have from the progressive base — and it may well be the case when all the votes are counted that those base votes were absolutely critical to winning in such a close campaign.

Further, we have not successfully registered every voter or turned out all of those voters on Election Day. In a presidential campaign with voter turn-out at the highest level in decades, one in five California voters still did not vote. Many of those voters are LGBT or LGBT-supportive voters.

Ethnic and faith community relationship development. The time to build a relationship with your neighbor is not when you need his signature on a new fence permit — or his/her vote. While much outreach prior to the campaign and during the campaign was conducted, it is clear that more relationship development is desperately needed in order to build a winning coalition.

We have allowed the right-wing extremists to hijack the national faith agenda and to continue to target ethnic communities through that faith. For the last 10 years we have watched while the agenda of the most extreme right has come to define all faiths. Gone are the ministries of justice, of hope and of compassion. Those are not the voices that lead the faith movement. They have been replaced by the screeching voices of fear, of hate and, above all else, of victimization. And we have watched it happen. We have allowed those voices to define what is “tradition,” what is “love,” what is a “rightly lived life,” what is “family,” and what is democracy.

If we don’t fight back, if we don’t help to embolden the communities of faith to reclaim their values and stand up and say “no,” we will continue to lose.

We must invest our energies in those who understand faith as a driving force for justice and for equality and help them to take back their faith and install new leadership.

By the same logic, ethnic communities are our communities. LGBT does not equal white. Thousands among us are Latino, African-American, Chinese, Filipino and Native-American, and we desperately need their voices, wisdom and strength. Moreover, the struggle for justice is not only an LGBT struggle; it is a struggle for racial, gender and religious freedom. It is a struggle for the soul of American democracy and our energies need to be invested in all communities that struggle towards that “more perfect union.” We need to be invested every day as a full partner, not only when we find we need their votes. This is a commitment that will require planning, time, energy and an overall commitment to the ongoing development of much deeper and broader relationships. Either we strategically invest in and commit to this or we continue to suffer the consequences.

Voters and polling. In spite of the fact that a measure such as this had never before been defeated anywhere in the nation, many believed that victory for No on 8 was a foregone conclusion. This belief was reinforced and fed by public polling that, throughout the campaign, over-stated the degree of support for LGBT equality and under-estimated the likely response of conflicted voters when the inevitable attacks occurred; attacks that always occur in one form or another. This was not the first time that public polling over-stated the support of the voters for equality. In fact, it has happened in almost every single campaign we have lost — and most predict it will happen again.

Like many contentious social issues, the public mood in many urban areas appears to divide 40% yes – 40% no with 20% “leaning” or “uncertain” or “conflicted.”Unlike many other types of ballot campaigns (bonds, etc.) most of the voters (80%), have strong opinions about marriage equality from the beginning, and a small minority will dictate the outcome. In the No on 8 campaign, equality received 8% of the 20%, but we needed 11% of the 20%.

We need a much deeper understanding of what kinds of polling and turnout models can better predict the outcomes in LGBT equality ballot measures. Moreover, we need to educate the entire progressive community about these polling discrepancies so that public polling does not again lull us all into a false sense of security.

Telling our Stories. We all hope for a day when the ultimate, uber-creative team can design a 30-second commercial that tells the story of our struggle and our strengths, our decency and our shared humanity.

That day will come when we have told our stories already, in our own ways, in our own voices, to the hundreds who surround us — to our neighbors, our elected and appointed representatives, our co-workers, our families, the families of our children’s friends, our congregations and our friends — and have helped to teach all of those people to re-tell our stories to their own ever-broadening circles. On that day, a powerful, persuasive commercial will be possible, because it will do what all successful commercials do: remind uncommitted voters of the importance of something they already know.

Ongoing education campaigns must focus on teaching us to find the courage not to censor our own lives. We must find the courage not to leave our conservative aunt off of our holiday letter list, to include the fact that we were married, that we are grieving a terrible loss of our rights. We must take those everyday opportunities to tell the truth about our lives rather than continue to hide in the terrible, oppressive silence of omission. The loss on 8 has already emboldened many to begin to tell their stories and truths to those who oppose marriage equality, and the outcomes have been surprising!

Political issue campaigns last 4-5 months and are successful or not based on the previous/ongoing work of their movement. We are not there yet on marriage equality with the majority of voters and California reminds us that we have work to do. That work begins with a full understanding of all of the lessons and moving forward with a plan to address those challenges.

Please join us in the New Year as we attempt to craft solutions and a plan for moving forward to win full equality. Please also see any of the following for updates on upcoming events and programs:

CAP Facebook page

1) MILK Movement, Dec. 5
Honor the memory of Harvey Milk.

2) Day Without a Gay, Dec. 10
Join the economic boycott by spending nothing.
jointheimpact.wetpaint.com/page/Day+Without+a +Gay

3) Light up the Night for Equal Rights, Dec. 20
Join a demonstration that will make an impact on the private sector.
jointheimpact.com/l ight-up-the-night-for-equa l-rights/

4) Urge your legislators to support the invalidation of Prop 8.

Dr. Delores A. Jacobs
CEO, Center Advocacy Project


Community Forum on Monday, November 17

November 15, 2008

6:30 – 8 pm at The Center
The goals of the session are:

  1. To provide a forum for questions, comments, suggestions, criticisms and feedback regarding the last No on 8 campaign. While much of the information that will allow a formal and complete analysis of the statewide campaign is still being collected, some information is currently available. A complete evaluation of the statewide campaign will be conducted and made available; however, many of you have written to request a forum here in San Diego sooner rather than later.
  2. To begin to collect and record some of the great suggestions and thoughts from community members for going forward, both locally and statewide. The community-level organic energy is incredible and many have great suggestions and thoughts that should be considered and discussed.

Please join us as we examine lessons learned and look toward the next steps to equality!
Dr. Delores A. Jacobs
Center Advocacy Project

Change Comes So Slowly

November 14, 2008

After months of unbelievable hard work, determination, courage and generosity, we have crossed the finish line of the hard-fought 2008 election. We are a country changed with the election our nation’s first African-American president, President-elect Barack Obama. But today we are trailing in the California fight against discrimination.

The current vote count has us behind with an incredibly steep hill to climb. But there are somewhere between 2.5 – 4 million votes that have not yet been counted (provisional ballots and absentees) and the information about where they are from is not yet available. The No on Prop 8 campaign has indicated that, given the incredible gravity of the situation, they will not issue the ultimate call on this election until they have that information (24-48 hours).

Never before in California’s history has a group who currently enjoys a basic right, been singled out, and then had those rights ripped from them by a vote of their fellow citizens. This decision is so radical and so egregious, that every voice must first be heard, no matter how unlikely a changed outcome might be.

We are all diminished whenever discrimination is sanctioned and fundamental rights are stripped away from any of our citizens. We are all diminished when some families in California are denied access to the security and protections they deserve.

In this fight for fairness and justice, tens of thousands of Californians built a campaign that far surpassed any previous civil rights effort on any ballot measure, not only in California, but anywhere in our entire country. They poured their talents, their time, their resources and their hearts into this struggle for freedom and this fight to have their relationships treated equally. Thank you for each and every sacrifice.

And today, at least 5 million Californians voted with us to reject discrimination and we thank them for their support for equality.

Together, we put together the largest volunteer and grassroots network of any campaign other than a presidential campaign. Together, we spoke to our families, our friends, our neighbors and co-workers. Together, we reached outside of our community to build coalitions that will strengthen us all. Together, we raised more money for this fight, in a shorter time than anyone believed possible. And the struggle for equality is not over.

Activist and writer Anne Lamott writes, “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.” Because of the struggle fought here in California and fought so incredibly well by the people in this state that love freedom and justice — our fight for full civil rights will continue. Each of you has my very deepest gratitude and my immeasurable respect.

And while we cannot say victory is ours this day, we know that because of the work done here; freedom, fairness and equality will be ours …our dawn will come.

With you always in this struggle,
Dr. Delores A. Jacobs

National Protest Against Prop 8 on Saturday, November 15

November 12, 2008

March – 10:30am starting in Balboa Park at 6th & Upas (map it)
Rally – 1pm at the County Administration Building 1600 N. Harbor Drive (map it)
For details visit Equalitysd.org or JoinTheImpact.com

Marriage Equality Comments and Suggestions

November 7, 2008

Part of any ongoing education or political campaign for social change is evaluating our strategies and the results of those strategies. The ongoing campaign for marriage equality is no different. We are deeply interested in hearing from everyone about all aspects of the strategy regarding Proposition 8 and all other marriage equality efforts.
Please take the time to send us all your comments, criticisms, suggestions. They will all become a part of the community wide debriefing strategy and ultimately, part of the ongoing planning.

Comments are sent directly to me – they will be catalogued and recorded then routed accordingly: if they are about a political campaign they will be sent to that campaign’s leadership team; if they are about educational strategies, they will be reviewed by the No on 8 leadership team.

We appreciate all feedback and suggestions as we continue to form strategy and shape materials and actions to ensure that California’s promise is realized and equality and justice for all are achieved! Click the “Comments” link below to submit your message.

Dr. Delores A. Jacobs
The Center

San Diego Mayor Courageously Supports Gay Marriage

September 25, 2008

On September 19th, 2007, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders took a courageous stand in support of gay marriage. Watch his heartfelt explanation of this decision.

Marriage Equality: Overview and CA Prop. 8

July 16, 2008

Marriage Equality: Overview and California Proposition 8
Freedom, Fairness and Equal Treatment under the Law

The historic struggle for marriage equality is a struggle for freedom, fairness and equality for all. It is a fight for the most basic of American values: equal treatment under the law.

The most central American value is freedom. It is the principle upon which our nation was founded. It is what we pledge our allegiance to: “… with freedom and justice for all.” Fundamental freedoms like the freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the freedom to marry are at the heart of who we are as Americans. While many things divide us; this principle is what binds us together as a great nation.

Those who support the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples understand this. Regardless of their own personal views on gay and lesbian couples, regardless of whether they personally wish to marry; they understand that the freedom to marry is basic. No group of tax-paying, law-abiding Americans should be singled out and denied freedom or equal treatment under the law.

Those who oppose marriage equality seek to single out and exclude long-term, loving, committed gay and lesbian couples from the freedom granted to all Americans: the freedom to marry. In state after state they work to write exclusionary language into the state constitutions that denies the basic freedom to marry to gay and lesbian couples.

Even in California.

Gay and lesbian marriages began June 17th, 2008 in California. It was an emotional and moving day for all Californians that believe in love and commitment. A day some couples had waited 25, 30 and even 50 years for. But the struggle for freedom did not end on that note.

On June 2, 2008 the California Secretary of State certified Proposition 8 for the November 2008 ballot. A yes vote on Proposition 8 would amend the California constitution to excluding lesbian and gay couple from the fundamental freedom to marry and to only recognize marriages “between a man and a woman.”

Those who oppose equal treatment under the law are determined, will go to any lengths and have promised to spend millions to deny gay & lesbian couples the fundamental freedom to marry and deny those couples equality.

Some call the battle for equality in California the “civil rights battle of our lifetimes.” Other writers remind us that the nation is watching. Civil rights and equal treatment for all Americans is what is at stake.

Make sure your answer to the question from our youth, the question that will undoubtedly be asked: “Where were you when that fight was going on?” is a resounding “I was there. I was there fighting for freedom for all Americans.”