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Politics

Are 'No on 8' Leaders Geoff Kors and Kate Kendell Off the Hook?

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Thu, Jun 17, 2010 at 9:02 AM

click to enlarge EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors
  • EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors
With closing arguments for the Proposition 8 federal trial wrapped up, honchos at Equality California and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, who were major players in the disastrous "No on 8" campaign, are touting a so-called "groundbreaking" study on Proposition 8, partly holding it up as proof that the devastating 2008 loss wasn't their fault.

EQCA executive director Geoff Kors and NCLR executive director Kate Kendell say the study shows that voters' opinions about gay marriage cannot be swayed in the final months leading up to election day -- which is a way to vindicate "No on 8" leadership while also pushing a "go-slow" agenda for a possible pro-gay marriage ballot measure in the future.

The study was conducted by public opinion expert Patrick J. Egan, an assistant professor of politics and public policy at New York University, and commissioned by the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund.

Interestingly, a press release on the EQCA and NCLR Web sites appears to pass off the study as an independent endeavor, describing the Haas fund as "a long-time supporter of extending the freedom to marry to gay and lesbian couples."

Which is certainly true and good.

But Kors and Kendell fail to mention that the Haas fund has also been a major contributor to EQCA and NCLR over the years. In 2009, gay blogger Michael Petrelis uncovered that from 2003 to 2008, "the fund contributed $1,385,000 to EQCA and $1,175,000 to NCLR, for a combined total of $2,560,000."

The motives behind the study are questionable.

Especially when you consider that "No on 8" spent tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions, lost in one of the most progressive states in the country with a huge Democratic voter base, and the defeat continues to cost the gay community and its allies millions of dollars as they contribute money for legal fees to contest the ballot measure in court.

Kors and Kendell also want millions more for a pro-gay marriage ballot measure down the road. With a need to show they can still be trusted with all of that cash, their championing of the Haas study serves themselves well.

"This (report) underscores the simple reality that in the heat of a ballot campaign it's very difficult to move someone on marriage equality - voters are being hit with messages from both sides," Kors says in a press release. "As a result, it is essential that we have majority support for marriage equality before the final months of a campaign."

Reading between the lines, Kors seems to have other things on his mind than simply what's best for the gay community.

Armed with his study, Kors appears to be not only trying to set the agenda for the gay rights movement in California, but he's sending a message to other gay rights groups -- a pro-gay marriage ballot measure in 2012 is no sure thing.

As for his political analysis, convincing and moving voters has always been tough. How's that news? It's why campaigns are run by highly-skilled, battle-tested professionals -- and not executive directors of gay rights groups who ran "No on 8" by committee -- who spend tons of time organizing, plotting, polling, etc.

"No on 8" leader Geoff Kors, however, decided to take a vacation during the summer of 2008, just a few months before Proposition 8 was passed in November.

Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, came up with this chestnut about the study's findings: "Clearly, the time to changes hearts, minds and votes to support equality is before a campaign starts."

That's common knowledge, no?

No word on how much the groundbreaking study cost to help Kendell and Kors figure out the basics of political campaigning and grassroots activism, but the San Francisco Chronicle asked Brian Brown, president of the anti-gay marriage group National Organization for Marriage, about the report.

"I don't see how you can claim with a straight face that the campaign didn't matter when you look at polling before and after we talked about the effects same-sex marriage would have," Brown said. "Equality California is trying to account for the fact that they lost to their donors and convince them to support longer-term change."

Brown, who is no friend of the gays, finally got one thing right.

At the Proposition 8 federal trial in San Francisco, in the meantime, attorneys for both sides of the gay marriage battle gave their closing arguments to U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who asked tough questions throughout the proceedings.

A ruling is expected during this summer, with legal observers, Keen News Service notes, wondering if a decision that strikes down the gay marriage ban in California will ultimately lead to the end of other anti-gay laws in the United States.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

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