All posts by Charles Sheehan

Alice B Toklas LGBT Dem. Club: LGBT Community Needs a Cohesive Plan

(This appeared in the Sacramento Bee. I’m on the board of Alice, and helped a bit with this. It is an important and valuable proposition. – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

After months of paralysis, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community has been unable to reconcile the different strategic perspectives for repealing Proposition 8.

A consortium of groups, spearheaded by the Courage Campaign, is moving forward with an initiative to repeal Proposition 8 in November 2010. Meanwhile, Equality California, or EQCA, the largest LGBT advocacy organization in the state, has released its plans to repeal Proposition 8 on the November 2012 ballot. Efforts to reconcile have apparently been exhausted.

Make no mistake: We will repeal Proposition 8, but the current situation is untenable. Both factions are working with one hand tied behind their backs. The 2010 proponents are moving ahead with an undeveloped, piecemeal strategy with very little fundraising support or infrastructure. While we commend their energy and commitment, this is an overly risky way of running a campaign when so much is at stake.

Conversely, the very word “EQCA” has become a lightning rod in the discourse surrounding marriage equality. EQCA has been on the ground since the beginning of this year, conducting extensive outreach to communities across the state, particularly minority and religious communities, but it has not done enough to reinvent itself and its mission since the passage of Proposition 8. Nor has it done enough to address the lack of trust with which a large portion of the community, particularly younger, grass-roots activists, views them.

So what are the solutions to this quandary? While the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club decided in July that a slightly longer timetable culminating in a 2012 election is the appropriate strategy, we do feel that there is a lot of middle ground that we are failing to acknowledge. We can, should and must build a bridge to meet in the proverbial middle by creating a governing structure that provides accountability to both camps.

Perhaps our suggestion of a supervising structure will be a difficult pill for both sides to swallow. But think about it – is there any other way? The current situation is untenable. Whether this proposal is the solution or the beginning of the conversation that moves us toward a solution, it is clear that the status quo is completely unacceptable. Accordingly, we propose that a new campaign structure be formed that will govern the longer-term aspects of both the 2010 and 2012 efforts that are compatible.

Campaign structures must be set up to govern both the 2010 and 2012 efforts anyway, and there is no time to lose.

The new organization that we propose will have two distinct branches, both responsive to a central, governing body. One branch will focus on the efforts to repeal Proposition 8 in 2010. The other unit will focus on repealing Proposition 8 in 2012 and presumably will execute the public outreach plan for the 2012 election.

A central governing structure that supervises these operations must reflect the community and be accountable to it. It should conduct and be the repository for the research that is necessary to mount a successful ballot measure. It would coordinate and build upon the political research that the Courage Campaign has begun in support of a 2010 ballot measure and expand that work should a future initiative be necessary.

This central governing structure would also maintain voter databases and voter profiles that both the 2010 and 2012 efforts will inevitably create. This overarching structure would safeguard the data collected and determine what information to release or withhold based on what’s good for the community as a whole.

Finally, each consortium, 2010 and 2012, will be responsible for its own fundraising and executing its plan. However, should either initiative wind up on the ballot, this overarching structure would transform into a single campaign committee to oversee, supervise and manage the campaign. Creation of such a structure will bring consensus and, most importantly, accountability to the divergent paths our community has taken.

The 2010 consortium is a fireball of energy, committed to repealing Proposition 8 now. An overarching structure responsible for research, education and expansion of coalitions within ethnic and religious communities would provide accountability to the community and free both the 2010 and 2012 consortiums to focus on the intense grassroots efforts necessary for the success of a ballot measure.

Regardless of how we proceed, we must establish a structure that will have the trust of the entire community and ensure the integrity of any campaign to win back marriage equality. Whether you believe in 2010 or 2012, we are fighting for the same goals and ideals. We need to mutually co-exist and flourish.

The Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, our nation’s oldest chartered LGBT Democratic organization, urges the LGBT Community to create the structure, supervision and, above all else, accountability needed to move us closer to full equality.

This article was written by Susan Belinda Christian and Charles Sheehan, Co-Chairs of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, based in San Francisco. It was approved by the Club’s Board of Directors. For more information: