Equality California Seeking Relevance With Prospect of Pro-Gay Marriage Ballot Measure?

And so Equality California leaders came to West Hollywood yesterday, holding one of their town hall meetings to understand if ordinary gays and lesbians in California want to go back to the voting booth with a pro-gay marriage ballot measure in 2012.

There are many critics of such an expensive strategy -- such as bloggers Michael Petrelis and Patrick Connors -- but that hasn't stopped EQCA from appearing to seriously consider such an option, even though a federal lawsuit to overturn Proposition 8 is still working its way through the appeals system.

The whole thing seems more than a little ill-timed when you have a potentially landmark lawsuit on your hands that could positively impact the lives of gay Americans everywhere.

Why anyone would want to mess with that lawsuit in even the slightest way before it's over is beyond us. After all, a federal judge has already found Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional.

But there they were, Equality California stalwarts Jim Carroll, Andrea Shorter, and David Codell giving about 100 people inside the West Hollywood Park Auditorium all the data points and whatnot. EQCA's next executive director, Roland Palencia, was sitting in the audience.

Carroll said that a recent poll funded by EQCA showed that 45 percent of likely voters in California oppose allowing same-sex couples to legally marry. Another 45 percent were in favor. 10 percent were "unsure."

Is that good news?

Codell said that if the gay community thinks they can win in 2012, they should put a pro-gay marriage initiative on the ballot.

Several minutes later, he brought up the alarming fact that no voters in any state have approved a ballot measure that has given rights to gay folks.

Shorter said EQCA has been "reinvigorating" grassroots coalition building since Prop. 8 was passed in 2008, although many activists in California would dispute that claim -- read L.A. Weekly's cover story "Mission Drift at Gay Inc."

It should also be noted that EQCA drastically scaled back a grassroots outreach campaign this past fall due to a lack of money.

Love Honor Cherish, an L.A.-based gay rights group, handed out fliers promoting a 2012 ballot measure: "The Time Is Now," screamed a headline, "Enough Waiting On Our Rights."

And on it went.

Shorter asked for a show of hands to see if the audience thought 2012 was a good idea. A little less than a third were undecided, and the rest were evenly split between opposing and supporting going back to the ballot.

So what's going on here?

As we reported in April, some gay rights insiders think Equality California is looking for a hot topic to keep themselves relevant and worthy of millions of dollars of annual donations.

It may sound crass, but EQCA honchos have proven over the years that they rarely, if ever, make a move without carefully considering what their organization gets in return.

Others wonder exactly where EQCA or anyone else is going to get the more than $40 million needed to run such a campaign.

Still others question if those millions could be better spent elsewhere, such as the American Foundation for Equal Rights -- which is leading the effort to overturn Proposition 8 in the federal courts -- AIDS non-profits, gay youth programs, gay senior programs, and the list goes on.

The 2012 election in November is only about 16 months away.

President Barack Obama, who has millions at his disposal and will probably have no competition during the primary season, already announced his re-election campaign in April.

The pro-gay marriage ballot measure camp, who will need to organize a far better field operations effort than in 2008, will have fierce opponents, and will have to raise tens of millions of dollars, are still talking about things.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at

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