Strategy & Self Preservation




The
Get Engaged
Tour
, organized by Marriage Equality USA, was a recent set of
meetings held throughout the state of California, including one here in Fresno,
which I participated in with other local LGBT groups and activists. The
meetings solicited communities to come out, listen to results of polling data
concerning public opinion on same sex marriage, and to offer up opinions and
ideas of how the battle for marriage equality should move forward. The tour
ended a couple of weeks ago, with the results shared at a summit held last
weekend in San Bernardino. You can watch some of the video of the summit HERE. (Apparently technical problems resulted in
some video being lost, and be prepared for a difficult time watching some of
the meeting, as the camera was swung and jerked around far too much and audio
is less than great. How about setting the camera up in one place in the back of
the room so we don’t get a headache and we can at least follow the
conversation?)

From
virtually all honest accounts, the meeting was not good. Contentious and
divided, there still seems to be no clear strategy in sight. Unite The Fight
called the meeting an utter failure on their blog, going into great
detail about our now fractured movement. The blog hit more than a few nails on
the head when it pointed out that anyone with a different point of view in this
movement is ridiculed and has their head bitten off, and that a few massive egos
are derailing any chance of unity simply because they want to be the ones with
the brass ring in their hand at the end of the ride. (I’ll add that I couldn’t
find anything on the Unite the Fight site about who runs it, and blog entries
are simply credited to "Unite The Fight". And with such a strong
opinion in the blog about unity and not ridiculing other groups, it seems
strange that in their list of action sites, virtually everyone is mentioned
with the exception of EQCA.)

Click on Read More below for the rest of this article…




The
main question that needs answering is do we go back to the voters in 2010 or in
2012. This was the ultimate focus of the Get Engaged Tour, and the focus of all
groups looking for the way forward. Still, the summit meeting last weekend
failed to come up with an answer. While a vote was taken on the issue, it was
taken after the meeting was over, when many in attendance had already left.
According to one source, the vote count was 93 for 2010, 49
for 2012 and 20 undecided. Forget that the vote doesn’t include many of the
over 200 people in attendance, but it certainly doesn’t include anything but a
tiny  number of LGBT Californians. Part of the problem with the LGBT
movement in California is that a small number of people have decided they have
the answers. The truth is, history has proven they do not.

One
thing that continually angers me every time I hear someone say it (and I hear
it ALL THE TIME) is that we only lost the battle by a few percentage points.
Why doesn’t anyone ever say that we lost by just over 600,000 VOTES??! Does
anyone consider that a small number? It tends to change your perspective on how
many minds we have to change before another vote. It’s disingenuous, even
manipulative, for activists to continually ignore the number of votes we lost
by and only talk in single digit percentages. 

More and more groups are supporting a 2012 ballot
measure over one in 2010, with some previous financial supporters of marriage equality
re-thinking a push in 2010. This is not being taken well by those in favor of
2010. From my point of view, it seems those who are aggressively pushing for a
ballot measure in 2010 are not listening to opposing opinions, apparently
insulted by the idea that waiting might be a better idea. There are blogs and
comments online labeling those in favor of 2012 as "traitors" and
weak. From my perspective, those in favor of 2012 have not only listened to
others, but have considered the options. Is that what some of us have come to,
a closed mindedness which now locks out all but a few players? What is
honorable about blindly pushing forward rather than weighing the pros and cons?

Clearly,
all LGBT citizens want same sex marriage legalized in not only California, but
the entire nation, which brings a certain lack of respect and integrity to the
"no discussion necessary" camp in favor of 2010. There are valid
arguments for each option, but it seems the 2010 camp is annoyed by anyone
questioning if next year is the best move.

Imagine,
for a moment, that we get a ballot measure on for 2010, and we lose, which all
the polling data indicates. At that point, not only have we lost with the
courts, after losing with the voters, but we will have lost a pro-same sex
marriage battle after losing an anti-same sex marriage battle. What will that
do to our credibility among the population of the state, not to mention the
will of our supporters and allies? Let’s at least be honest with each other
here, what we’ve done in the past has failed, and our movement is more
fractured than it has been in some time.

Focus
seems to be a major roadblock. Meet In The Middle was a massive, event in
Fresno after the ruling of the California Supreme Court to uphold Prop 8. The
mission of that rally, repeated endlessly, was a focus on grassroots, and the
Central Valley and other areas in the state where a conservative base needed to
be moved. It was all about a grassroots movement. How is it that those
involved, who routinely emphasized local action, are now dedicated to a
National March On Washington when time is critically short to design and put
together a 2010 ballot measure, let alone procure the signatures needed? Not to
mention that the National March is on a holiday weekend when politicians won’t
be around and at a time when the current economy plays a major impact on who
can attend, who can support, and what gets accomplished in the interim? Why are
so many who tout grassroots as the answer choosing to get behind yet another
march, a NATIONAL one no less, where we talk to ourselves? How are we supposed
to come up with a cohesive plan to get equal rights when after months of being
force fed nothing but grassroots, we are immediately told we need to fly to
Washington to affect the opinions of politicians who won’t even be there? Are
we thinking at all?

The
truth is that NO ONE KNOWS WHAT WILL WORK. No one, including myself. But
without consideration, contemplation and examination, we’re finished as a
movement. I’m tossing out questions, something many of us no longer know how to
do, at least among ourselves. When was the last time you heard anyone involved
in the fight for marriage equality say that an idea was bad? When was the last
time you heard someone say about a planned rally, march or protest, "I
don’t think that’s the way to go?". Every time someone announces their
next political action, it seems everyone just signs up and unanimously supports
it. The problem is, for all our actions and protests, we’ve continually failed.

I
automatically discount anyone who says they know how to win this battle. Not to
mention that the only people I ever hear say they have the answers, are using
the same failed strategies of the past. How is it that a movement supposedly
filled with innovative and free thinking people can’t seem to come up with one
idea that’s new? (aside from the current federal lawsuits working to be heard on a
national level. Check out the piece written by David Boies , who, with Ted
Olson, is bringing a federal lawsuit on the basis that Prop 8 is
unconstitutional. While most were highly critical of this at first, the case is
gaining support.) We can’t even get beyond chants that have been around for
decades…"Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, These Tired Chants Have Got To Go!"

I
haven’t seen the kind of childish behavior and cheap infighting among gay
groups that’s happening now since the immaturity of high school. Groups now
routinely ridicule and even exile others simply for approaching the battle from
an angle they aren’t comfortable with. We’ve seen this vividly in Fresno in
recent weeks, when not towing whatever line is drawn will result in condemnation.
There are more than a few activists, including local ones, who need to just
grow up and realize they don’t have any more answers than anyone else. Fame is
not the goal here, equality for all Americans is.

I
don’t know the right answer any more than anyone else. I just wish those who
keep proclaiming that they do would take a moment to reflect. This is not a
game that’s played simply to keep yourself busy and viable. This is a movement
to end civil discrimination in America. This means something to people’s lives,
their very existence. Nothing, so far, at least in California, has worked. So
let’s all stop trying to personally win and think about what’s wise to get
involved in, rather than what supports our own interests. Let’s work for the
LGBT American who is too isolated to be involved, too scared to make their face
known. Let’s stop trying to win the trophy for ourselves. 

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