Overturning Proposition 8: In 2010 or 2012?


Proposition 8, last year's successful ballot initiative overturning

the existing right of gays to marry in California, was largely financed

by out-of-state money and represented a resounding defeat for the cause

of same-sex marriage here. Precisely, however, when Prop 8 opponents

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finished licking their wounds and began gearing up to place their own

counter-initiative on next year's ballot, fissures are appearing everywhere within the home team.

A June L.A. Times poll

of registered voters showed blacks to be decisively opposed to gay

marriage, renewing anxiety among same-sex marriage forces about the

attitudes of nonwhites toward the issue. Then the American Foundation for Equal Rights accused

the Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the ACLU

of trying to horn in on its federal lawsuit to overturn Prop 8, and

rebuffed the three groups' offer to participate in the suit.

About this same time in early July, Jasmyne Cannick, a prominent Los Angeles African American lesbian blogger, complained about gay whites coming into the black community to round up anti-Prop 8 ballot support through African American proxies.

"Equality California," Cannick wrote, "one of those predominately white gay marriage

groups that screwed up royally on Proposition 8, is opening up an

office in Inglewood and beginning canvassing and mobilizing efforts in

the area, including Baldwin Hills. Although, I seriously doubt they'll

be canvassing in the Jungles, they're more interested in the voters at

the top of the hill, if you know what I am saying."

If

this weren't enough, the national office of the Southern Christian

Leadership Conference took steps to remove the Rev. Eric P. Lee as

president of the group's Los Angeles chapter because of his highly

visible opposition to Prop 8.  The Rev. Lee is also a member of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, a Los Angeles group often allied with union organizing campaigns, especially in efforts to organize L.A. security guards.

This was followed on July 13 by "Prepare to Prevail," a statement

from black, Latino and Asian gay groups in Los Angeles that said they

were not willing to prematurely rush into a 2010 same-sex marriage

campaign. Wealthy anti-Prop 8 donor David Bohnett was quoted by the New York Times as saying, "The only thing worse than losing in 2008 would be to lose again in 2010."

Similarly describing this new, cautious attitude, an L.A. Times piece

quoted Jim Key, from the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, who "worried that

a 2010 political campaign might tap the same donors that service

organizations rely on to fund HIV care, services for homeless youths

and other programs at a time when, because of the economy, those

programs are needed the most."

The reasons for this caution are harsh and undeniable. An enormous

amount of money must be raised within about 16 months of a November,

2010 election, and polling figures do not suggest a groundswell of new

support for gay marriage among Californians. (The 2008 campaign cost

both sides $83 million, with slightly more than half being raised by

anti-Prop 8 forces.)  There are also fears that a hastily devised

campaign could, if defeated, really set back the cause of gay marriage,

whereas a carefully crafted and organized effort aimed at the 2012

election might have a better chance of success. (Then again, all those

African Americans who came out to vote for Barack Obama last year will

be back in 2012 to re-elect him, so such a campaign will have to be

extremely effective.)

The L.A. Times piece described Ron Buckmire, president of the

black gay Jordan/Rustin Coalition, wearily recounting one long day of

canvassing in South L.A. that got only 50 residents to claim their

support for a new initiative.

"We have to move 300,000 voters," a resigned Buckmire was quoted as

saying. "You do the math." The statement was all the more poignant

because Buckmire heads the group Jasmyne Cannick accused of

carpetbagging -- and which helped draft "Prepare to Prevail."


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