’No on 8’ Heads Justify Their Losing Campaign
As an early step toward addressing the effects of Proposition 8, the anti-gay ballot initiative that amended the California state constitution and stripped the existing right to marry from gay and lesbian families earlier this month, the No on 8 campaign hosted a Virtual Town Hall meeting to discuss strategy and examine the ways in which the battle to preserve marriage equality failed.
In the wake of voter approval of the marriage ban, the No on 8 campaign has seen its advertising and its leadership criticized. A blog covering the meeting posted at Queerty providing a "play-by-play" account that started with a critique of the way the meeting was set up for computer users, with "Windows users who download proprietary software" able to join in while others were instructed to use phones.
Wrote Queerty, which was using a Mac, about this development, "For a campaign that’s been accused of being out of touch and needlessly hermetic, this is--seriously, we’re speechless."
Queerty managed to join the conversation somewhat late. No on 8 leaders were present for the meeting, including Geoff Kors, Lori L. Jean, Shannon Minter, John A. P?rez, Rev. Eric Lee and Steve Smith.
Queerty’s question to the leaders of the No on 8 campaign was, "Who composes the independent evaluation board?
"Will the No on 8 campaign commit tonight to making the findings of the independent evaluation of the No on 8 campaign public?
"If not, what reassurances will it give the public that they ought to support the same leaders again in future campaigns?"
Reported Queerty, "Lori Jean says she doesn’t know who will be on the board and that she doesn’t think releasing the results of the board ’would be wise’. Moderator Karen Ocambs’s following up now."
The Queerty report continued, "Karen asks a good follow-up about possibly releasing a redacted version of the report that doesn’t reveal future strategy recommendations and Lori basically says that she’d be open to releasing anything that didn’t make the No on 8 campaign look bad. Which is silly and stupid."
The Queerty blow-by-blow continued, saying that one person, thought to be Steve Smith, regarded the failure of the campaign as hinging on not having reached crucial demographics.
"We should have spent more money aimed at women, especially at the end," that individual opined.
Geoff Kors offered the opinion that the No on 8 campaign lost because of the way that Yes on 8 played on the fears of voters concerning their children. Yes on 8 claimed that unless marriage rights were rescinded, schoolchildren would be forced to learn about gay marriage in the classroom starting as early as kindergarten.
Although school system authorities publicly responded that this claim was not true, an outing of second graders to the wedding of their lesbian teacher made headlines and proved to be a ready-made example for the Yes on 8 campaign’s claims.
Geoff Kors characterize the Yes on 8 strategy as one of "[Marriage Equality] will turn your kids gay," and termed that strategy "the number one reason" for the success of the measure.
Rev. Lee followed up, saying that No on 8 had failed to reach out to black pastors and "traditional civil rights groups," criticisms that have widely been leveled at the No on 8 campaign.
The Queerty article continued, "Why didn’t the No on 8 campaign hitch their wagon to Barack Obama’s Train-O-Hope and get a bunch of African American leaders to list their opposition to Prop. 8? Rev. Lee basically says, ’Beats me, would have been a great idea.’"
Geoff Kors noted that pro-Proposition 8 organizations fraudulently indicated to voters that Barack Obama was in favor of Proposition 8, and added that Obama’s highly nuanced position of being against marriage equality, but also being against Proposition 8, was "too confusing" for many voters to parse.
Money factored into the loss as well, with Kors explaining that, "Everyone anticipated this would be a 10-15 million dollar campaign," only for the battle to surge into a highly expensive contest, with the Yes on 8 side receiving $40 million for their cause--fully half of which came from Mormons nationwide, after being instructed by the church leadership to support the anti-family measure.
Smith pointed out that the early financial lead the flood of money into the Yes on 8 side’s coffers translated into support for the measure from voters who cast their votes early.
Queerty reported on the No on 8 group’s explanation of how their campaign was organized personnel-wise, with "Committees upon committees" being "the short answer," Queerty wrote.
"It was a two-tiered structure," Queerty quoted Lori Jean.
"We needed everybody to raise money and organize their communities."
Wrote Queerty, "The big committee then elected the Executive Committee: Oscar de la O, Bienestar; Maya Harris, ACLU of Northern California; Delores Jacobs, San Diego LGBT Community Center; Lorri L. Jean, L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center; Kate Kendell, National Center for Lesbian Rights; Geoff Kors, Equality California and Andy Wong of Chinese for Affirmative Action."
Reported Queerty, "Lori Jean then states that you could basically buy your way into the Executive Committee with a big donation."
Added Queerty, "So, the EC [Equality California] became really unwieldy and the paid consultants complained that they needed a smaller, more nimble body to work with and so a ’mini-EC’ was created. Get all that?"
In terms of outreach to voters, questions arose as to why the No on 8 campaign did not have a presence at large cultural events such as the West Hollywood Carnivale.
Said Jean, "I don’t know what happened at the West Hollywood Halloween thing--given that was in the last few days of the campaign."
While the No on 8 campaign focused their efforts on metropolitan areas, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, and San Diego, "they hoped that rural LGBT orgs would handle" more rural areas of the state, Queerty reported.
Wrote Queerty, "Who ran the field operation? Through mid-Sept it was the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and then later Basic Rights Oregon and Marriage Collaborative."
Quoting Smith as saying, "While it is frustrating in the community, tactically it was the right thing to do, making all those phone calls... It was by far the biggest field campaign in the state that wasn’t a presidential campaign," Queerty sniped, "Except tactically, you lost, so no, that’s just not true."
Added Queerty, "Karen mentions that many volunteers felt the campaign was a disorganized mess, so Smith uses this as an opportunity to mention that the proposition wording was confusing.
"As to the ’mechanics’ of the field operation, nobody is taking responsibility for it! Smith says, ’that’s a problem we ought to figure out and clean up... It made sense to do it on the phone, to focus on undecided voters and not focus on voters within the community,’" Queerty continued.
Queerty reported on M-t-F transgendered No on 8 leader Shannon Minter’s comments, with Minter saying,"The reason we’ve won in courts is because of groups like Equality California."
Wrote Queerty, Minter than spent "a minute or two talking about how great the No on 8 groups are.
"He’s talking about the upcoming California Supreme Court battle, but mainly he keeps talking about how awesome LGBT rights groups are," Queerty reported.
As for the court challenge to the anti-gay amendment that the California Supreme Court has agreed to hear, "The case will be about whether a ’bare majority’ has the right to strip a minority of basic civil rights."
That led, reported Queerty, to "More legal questions--Are the folks who got married before Prop. 8 passed safe?
"Shannon says, yes....aaaaaaaaaaand very very very slowly gets around to the fact that that’s actually one of the questions that will be decided by the California Supreme Court when it hears the Prop. 8 case.
"But he says that the ’law on that is very, very strong.’ He also says if you have any problems, you should contact... Lambda Legal or the ACLU."
Added Minter, "We are in a fight for our lives. That’s no hyperbole...We’re going to have to fight for it and fight for it very hard."
The discussion turned to boycotts, which have been proposed as a means to dissuade churches and other groups from pursuing new challenges to minority rights in the wake of Proposition 8’s precedent-setting repeal of existing rights.
Queerty quoted Rev. Lee as saying, "I’m not sure a boycott would be effective.
"I think we need to educate more...particularly clergy."
Lee went on to advise that a GLBT presence to educate people at forums, particularly black forums, and through black publications, would be more constructive than the proposed boycotts against corporate sponsors of Proposition 8 or the state of Utah, seat of the Mormon church.
"Is there any money left over from the campaign?" wrote Queerty. "Nobody knows right now.
"Your email addresses are going to go to all the No on 8 campaign groups and to donors over $100,000 (they get to use it as a one-time shot)," Queerty reported.
Should the challenge scheduled to be heard by the state’s Supreme Court fail, the next step would be to repeal the anti-gay amendment; that, said Jean, might take several election cycles. 2010, said Jean, "may be too soon."
Added Queerty, "Lori Jean’s also making this really annoying argument that we should not pursue a ballot initiative until after the Supreme Court decision is done, because it might give the Supreme Court cause to ’punt’ their decision and then points out that, ’we never win’ in ballot initiatives or votes.
"So basically, there’s no chance to win at the polls so we better just leave it to the courts."