On Monday, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen officially certified the anti-gay marriage ballot measure. If passed, the initiative would overturn last month's California Supreme Court ruling–which legalized same sex marriage–and insert one sentence into the state constitution. It would read, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
Voters will now have the final say on gay marriage in November. Gay rights activists have already been gearing up for the fight, particularly the coalition group Equality For All. So far, the umbrella organization touts big time gay and civil rights credentials, with the Human Rights Campaign, the ACLU, Lambda Legal, the LA Gay & Lesbian Center, the California NAACP, and others joining forces to do battle. Labor unions and groups of that ilk are glaringly absent from the Equality For All roster.
Over the years, gay activists have lost nearly every fight to stop gay marriage bans. One of the few successes happened in Arizona in 2006, where a gay Republican and former Army lieutenant, Steve May, led a victorious battle against a same sex marriage ban. At the time, pundits pointed out that May ran a tightly organized campaign that sought broad support, ranging from socially moderate Republicans to liberal Democrats. In this increasingly post-partisan climate, which has helped the politically astute Senator Barack Obama defeat two Clintons, Equality For All honchos should probably seek some pointers from Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe…and track down Steve May's phone number.
Right now, Equality For All seems to be rolling out a decidedly partisan message. On its web site, for example, the coalition repeatedly cites “extremists” and the “right-wing” as the enemy. (The Human Rights Campaign also sends out emails seeking donations with references to “our right-wing opponents.”) These are political buzz words that will undoubtedly turn off Republican voters, much in the same way Democrats see red whenever Republicans disparagingly say “liberal,” and the gays cannot afford to needlessly offend anyone–no matter what the current polls say. In addition, such heated rhetoric may make it harder for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to hit the campaign trail and reach out to his fellow Republicans, and Independents could be turned off by what appears to be more partisan bickering.
All in all, the fiery language suggests political amateurs or the politically tone deaf are currently running the show for the gays. Even worse, veterans of past gay marriage defeats may be at the helm. It'll be interesting to see who will the lead the charge against the ballot measure, and how they will handle it. In the meantime, gays should remember the immortal words, somewhat paraphrased, of the late, great Freddie Mercury: This is no time for losers.
Tips? Contact Patrick Range McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org.