A Mixed Bag of Successes and Missed Opportunities in Fresno

As I woke up yesterday morning and scanned the morning headlines, one thing jumped out at me: there were lots of stories about the Fresno counter-protests against marriage equality. Take this one from the LA Times:

In Fresno, about 3,000 demonstrators — the same number who turned out the day before on the other side — were told not to accept being called bigots because they support traditional marriage.

“We know we’ve been called hate-mongers. That’s not what we are,” said Jim Franklin, pastor of Cornerstone Church, just after the rally.

“We are people who believe in our values.”

With all of the wonderful planning and hard work that went into MITM4E, it is disappointing to see this kind of story in the media.  But one of the more frustrating aspects was that it didn’t have to be this way.  In many ways, we are inflicting our own wounds.  We must think about the language and images that we present. Demonizing our opponents might feel good, but it doesn’t actually help us get to our goals.  Calling people bad names validates the right-wing worldview that we are somehow out to get them.

The fact is that a large majority of marriage advocates aren’t holding signs comparing pastors to outrageous historical villains.  If we are going to win a YES campaign, we are going to need to run a positive campaign with messages that focus on the benefit to the state of marriage equality.

Unfortunately, the timing of Meet in the Middle for Equality gave the opponents a boost. They were able to hold their rally on Sunday, grab the media who was already in town for the Saturday rally, and get the media coverage on a better news day, Monday.  It’s unfortunate, but the timing favored those who oppose marriage equality.  See also: San Diego U-T, AP via Google, CBS-Fresno. On the flip side, there were some great press hits, like this one in E!, and this one from the Chronicle.

I’m not trying to say that the event wasn’t successful. I think the concept of meeting in one place to discuss our issues and to work for true marriage equality is a solid one.  My point is that we need to be reaching out as much as possible, rather than picking fights.

The key thing is that while rallies are nice and important in mobilizing our friends, the hard work is still yet to come. If we want to win, we have to do it through the hard field work that we really lacked last summer. That means knocking on doors and making personal contacts, perhaps through the Courage Campaign’s Equality Teams. That means making the phone calls, and talking to your friends, neighbors, acquaintances, that guy you see on the train who gets really emotional about his bejeweled games, and well, maybe your family too. Despite all the hoopla and the hype of big rallies with celebrities and inspiring messages, it’s the one-on-one that gets us the votes. The organizing angle was stressed at MITM4E, but as we proceed towards an initiative, we cannot let that get lost in the shuffle.

2 thoughts on “A Mixed Bag of Successes and Missed Opportunities in Fresno”

  1. I had a friend who volunteered on election day and who told me (proudly) about their demonstrations near polling places, and how they had a measuring tape that had to be taken out a few times to show they were legal. I appreciated her enthusiasm, but it seemed to me that if people felt they were electioneering, that they made no friends that day by insisting on the letter of the law rather than respectfully moving back.

    People are, for whatever reason, afraid of Teh Gayz. Show them there’s nothing to fear.

  2. I get all of the local Fresno-Merced news stations and, for some odd reason, I also get KTVU (which is somewhere in the bay area). On Saturday my local news gave more favorable coverage to the pastor at Cornerstone church, who was organizing the Sunday rally in Fresno. I didn’t bother to watch the news on Sunday. However, it seems that KTVU gave more favorable coverage of the supports of same-sex marriage. I guess the local news is supposed to be a reflection of our area, weather it’s the San Joaquin Valley or the Bay Area.

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