Queer Town: The Subtle Lessons of the Equality Summit
On Saturday, January 24, Equality California and other major gay organizations hosted an event called the Equality Summit at the Los Angeles Convention Center in downtown L.A.. Since these groups, many of which were heavily involved in the "No on 8" campaign, never held a live, in-person town hall meeting in Los Angeles, the summit was one way to finally open up discussions about past failures and future strategies to the public.
L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center CEO Lorri Jean
Photo by Timothy Norris
Judging from the morning panel session, as well as such blog and newspaper reports as Queerty.com and the San Francisco Chronicle, many gays still aren't happy with their leaders -- particularly with Equality California's Geoff Kors and the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center's Lorri Jean -- both of whom sat on the "No on 8" executive committee, which ran the unsuccessful show to defeat Proposition 8. Yet lingering resentment was not the confab's major theme.
In a nutshell, three things struck me as more important than an anger that won't go away.
First, Lorri Jean, for whatever reason, will never say the "No on 8" campaign is partly responsible for the devastating November defeat. (Geoff Kors has also been a bit tight-lipped, but at least, on Saturday, he said he made a mistake by not being more involved in the political strategy of the campaign.)
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Second, the refusal of "No on 8" leaders to take ownership of their mistakes has now become a hindrance -- many people desperately want them to 'fess up, while others want to move forward. As a result, there's a festering split among gay-rights activists that's now taking people's eyes off the ball of repealing Proposition 8.
Third, it's time to realize that since Jean, Kors and company will not make that grand, public statement that the "No on 8" campaign screwed up, the rest of us need to move forward with the work that lies ahead -- with or without gay institutions such as the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center or Equality California.
On Sunday, Rick Jacobs, Torie Osborn, and other gay leaders did just that, with a training session for new activists in West Hollywood called Camp Courage. Jacobs even told me a few weeks ago that he and others have no plans to ask for permission or guidance from any of the major gay organizations that normally run things. He's not against them, mind you, but he's also not going to be hindered by the inner power struggles that often plague those outfits.
One of the reasons I always hoped the "No on 8" campaign would come clean is that it would signal to me and many others that the campaign understands it made mistakes and its leaders won't repeat them. This is important. The same gay groups behind the anti-Proposition 8 effort are now angling to be at the front of the pack in the repeal movement, and, like other gays and lesbians, I want to win my legal right back to marry the man I love. I don't want any screw-ups this time around.
But the confession isn't coming, and, to me, it seems time to stop trying to pry it out of Jean, Kors, and the rest. I'd still like to know where and how they spent over $40 million but, for the most part, I'm moving on. For the sake of the gay rights movement, it may be good for other people to do the same, but with one caveat -- never forget the actions, or inactions, of our supposed leaders when the fat was in the fire. It showed exactly what kind of leaders they actually are, and probably what they will continue to be.
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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