All posts by MadProfessah

Barbara Boxer In WeHo Today at 2pm For Phonebank Flashmob!

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer who is in a tightening re-election race with failed former Hewlett-Packard CEO Republican Carly Fiorina that could decide who controls the upper house of Congress will be in West Hollywood today at 2pm for a Phone Bank Flashmob.

Yesterday Fiorina was hospitalized with an infection yesterday and still has not returned to the campaign trail but the National Republican Senatorial Committee has bought another $3 million of television ads supporting her.

Boxer is a strong supporter of LGBT equality and last week released a list of LGBT community leaders supporting her (that includes MadProfessah).

With even Meg Whitman endorsing Jerry Brown for Governor, the Senate race is the most important race in the State we must focus on. Come out today to meet Boxer at 2pm at Plummer Park and make some calls to friends and family urging them to vote for Barbara Boxer today!

CA-GOV: Brown Leads All Republican Hopefuls, Newsom Trails All

California political junkies are buzzing about the new Rasmussen poll which shows former Governor and current Attorney General Jerry Brown handily leading all the major Republican gubernatorial contenders (Meg Whitman, Steve Poizner and Tom Campbell) while Brown's rival for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination trailing the same three possible Republicans. Here's the data:

Brown (D) 44%, Whitman (R) 35%
Brown (D) 45%, Poizner (R) 32%
Brown (D) 44%, Campbell (R) 34%
Whitman (R) 41%, Newsom (D) 36%
Poizner (R) 40%, Newsom (D) 36%
Campbell (R) 42%, Newsom (D) 36%

This is definitely NOT very good news for the Governor Gavin movement. That's too bad, because MadProfesah has been leaning towards Newsom, especially since Gerry Brown hasn't announced whether he wants the job (again) yet, and acting as attorney general, Brown was responsible for the devastatingly incompetent presentation by an Assistant Attorney General during the Proposition 8 California Supreme Court oral argument.

UPDATE by Dave: I would say that this poll is fairly meaningless. I’m guessing Rasmussen pushed leaners hard to get any kind of opinion. I don’t think anyone has really engaged on this race, and anyone thinking it will remain static isn’t being honest. This is more of a reflection of name ID, for good and ill, than anything else.

Sheila Kuehl’s Analysis Of the Prop 8 Decision

One of the smartest people in politics, gay or straight, is former California State Senator Sheila James Kuehl, the first openly LGBT person ever elected to the California Legislature. She sent out this brilliant analysis of the California Supreme Court Prop 8 ruling in Strauss v. Horton yesterday. Kuehl is thought to be running for Zev Yaroslavsky’s Los Angeles County Supervisor seat in 2014 (!) when he is termed out and the 3rd District Seat is open.

Read the analysis, in its entirety, below the fold.

The Opinion

Today, the California Supreme Court ruled on the validity of Proposition 8, the measure adopted by California voters last November to add a new section 7.5 to Article I of the California Constitution, as follows: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California”.

The measure was challenged by a coalition of organizations and individuals who favor the ability of same-sex couples to marry on three bases:

1.  That the measure adopted by the voters 52% to 48% was not a simple amendment to the state Constitution, which may be adopted by a majority vote, but, rather, a revision to the Constitution, which may not.  The Constitution may only be changed in one of these two ways, and, if the change is actually a revision to the Constitution, it must either be passed by a two-thirds vote of each house of the state Legislature and put to a vote of the people, or proposed through a constitutional convention and put to a vote.

2.  The second challenge theorized that Prop 8 violated the separation of powers principle because it abrogated a previous Supreme Court decision which held that, under Equal Protection and Due Process principles, same sex couples had the same right to marry in California as opposite sex couples.

3.  The Attorney General advanced a different theory: that the “inalienable” right articulated by the Court in the Marriage Cases could not be abrogated by a majority vote unless there was a compelling state interest in doing so.

The Court rejected all three, holding that they were required to find that the Constitution could be amended by a majority of voters in any election, even if the amendment abrogated a fundamental right previously articulated by the Court.

How Could They Say That?

The Court set out the legal principle that distinguishes an amendment from a revision: That it must change the basic governmental plan or framework of the Constitution.  In deciding whether Prop 8 did, indeed, change the Constitution at such a basic level, the Court decided it did not, and, also, that it did not “entirely repeal or abrogate” the rights articulated in the Marriage Cases.

This is where the Court seriously lost its way.

Marriage is Just A Word….Not

Here’s what the majority opinion said, which I think is not only seriously in error, but a cowardly about-face from their language in the Marriage Cases, which is reprinted in the next section.

First: today’s decision:

“In analyzing the constitutional challenges presently before us, we first explain that the provision added to the California Constitution by Proposition 8, when considered in light of the majority opinion in the Marriage Cases, supra, 43 Cal.4th 757 (which preceded the adoption of Proposition 8), properly must be understood as having a considerably narrower scope and more limited effect than suggested by petitioners in the cases before us.  Contrary to petitioners’ assertion, Proposition 8 does not entirely repeal or abrogate the aspect of a same-sex couple’s state constitutional right of privacy and due process that was analyzed in the majority opinion in the Marriage Cases – that is, the constitutional right of same-sex couples to “choose one’s life partner and enter with that person into a committed, officially recognized, and protected family relationship that enjoys all of the constitutionally based incidents of marriage”  (Marriage Cases, supra, 43 Cal.4th at p. 829).  Nor does Proposition 8 fundamentally alter the meaning and substance of state constitutional equal protection principles as articulated in that opinion.  Instead, the measure carves out a narrow and limited exception to these state constitutional rights, reserving the official designation of the term “marriage” for the union of opposite-sex couples as a matter of state constitutional law, but leaving undisturbed all of the other extremely significant substantive aspects of a same-sex couple’s state constitutional right to establish an officially recognized and protected family relationship and the guarantee of equal protection of the laws.”

In other words….what’s the big deal about the word “marriage”?

As it turns out, quite a bit.  Here’s what the same Court said about it in the Marriage Cases:

First, it set out the principle it quotes in the new opinion:

“In responding to the Attorney General’s argument, the majority opinion stated that “[w]e have no occasion in this case to determine whether the state constitutional right to marry necessarily affords all couples the constitutional right to require the state to designate their official family relationship a ‘marriage,’ ” because “[w]hether or not the name ‘marriage,’ in the abstract, is considered a core element of the state constitutional right to marry, one of the core elements of this fundamental right is the right of same-sex couples to have their official family relationship accorded the same dignity, respect, and stature as that accorded to all other officially recognized family relationships.

But, then, the Court answers its own question as to the importance of the word Marriage:

“The current statutes – by drawing a distinction between the name assigned to the family relationship available to opposite-sex couples and the name assigned to the family relationship available to same-sex couples, and by reserving the historic and highly respected designation of marriage exclusively to opposite-sex couples while offering same-sex couples only the new and unfamiliar designation of domestic partnership _ pose a serious risk of denying the official family relationship of same-sex couples the equal dignity and respect that is a core element of the constitutional right to marry.”

It is a distinction that makes an enormous difference and, therefore, should be seen as a revision to the state’s Equal Protection and Due Process requirements.

By hanging its decision that Prop 8 was an amendment and not a revision on the slim and dishonest statement that same sex couples are not denied legal rights by denying them the “word” marriage, the Court errs.

Justice Moreno, in Dissent

Bless his heart and his mind. Here is what he says:

The question before us is not whether the language inserted into the California Constitution by Proposition 8 discriminates against same-sex couples and denies them equal protection of the law; we already decided in the Marriage Cases that it does.  The question before us today is whether such a change to one of the core values upon which our state Constitution is founded can be accomplished by amending the Constitution through an initiative measure placed upon the ballot by the signatures of 8 percent of the number of persons who voted in the last gubernatorial election and passed by a simple majority of the voters.  (Cal. Const., art. II, § 8.)  Or is this limitation on the scope of the equal protection clause to deny the full protection of the law to a minority group based upon a suspect classification such a fundamental change that it can only be accomplished by revising the California Constitution, either through a constitutional convention or by a measure passed by a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature and approved by the voters?  (Cal. Const., art. XVIII.)

For reasons elaborated below, I conclude that requiring discrimination against a minority group on the basis of a suspect classification strikes at the core of the promise of equality that underlies our California Constitution and thus “represents such a drastic and far-reaching change in the nature and operation of our governmental structure that it must be considered a ‘revision’ of the state Constitution rather than a mere ‘amendment’ thereof.”  (Amador Valley Joint Union High Sch. Dist. v. State Bd. of Equalization (1978) 22 Cal.3d 208, 221 (Amador Valley).)  The rule the majority crafts today not only allows same-sex couples to be stripped of the right to marry that this court recognized in the Marriage Cases, it places at risk the state constitutional rights of all disfavored minorities.  It weakens the status of our state Constitution as a bulwark of fundamental rights for minorities protected from the will of the majority. I therefore dissent.”

Me, too.

New Field Poll Shows Prop 8 Re-Do 48% YES, 47% NO, 5% UNDECIDED

Tuesday's Daily Roundup by the Capitol Weekly reports on a new poll which shows a closely divided electorate on the question of whether marriage equality should be allowed in California:

"Voters in California are sharply divided on same-sex marriage, and an amendment to overturn Prop. 8 would depend largely on campaigning and voter turnout, according to a Field Poll to be released today," writes the Chron's Leslie Fulbright.

"The poll of 761 registered voters shows 48 percent in favor of a constitutional amendment to allow same-sex marriages, with 47 percent opposing and 5 percent undecided.

"The California Supreme Court is currently considering challenges to Prop. 8, the initiative passed by voters in November that banned same-sex marriage. Proponents say that if the court doesn't side with them, they will work on a measure to overturn the ban."

Though views on same-sex marriage vary greatly according to age, geography, political party and religious preference, the numbers overall are almost equally split."'

Opinions haven't changed much since November,' said Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo of the election where 52 percent of voters approved Prop. 8. 'The closeness of the divide suggests it would depend on the quality of the campaigning and voter turnout.'" Dan Walters reads the poll and writes: "It could be argued that gay rights groups had their best shot in 2008 as they sought to defeat Proposition 8 and allow an earlier Supreme Court decision, validating same-sex marriage, to stand. It was an extremely high-turnout presidential election in which Democrats dominated from the White House down."

It's likely that 2010's voter turnout will be millions of voters smaller and somewhat less liberal than the 2008 electorate, although it's not certain yet whether a pro-gay marriage measure would be on the June primary ballot, whose turnout would be even lower, or on the November general election ballot."

If the Supreme Court were to uphold Proposition 8 and gay rights groups were to seek a 2010 measure, only to lose again, their cause could be stalled for many years."

So, what do you think? If the California Supreme Court does not overturn Proposition 8, should we try and repeal it in 2010 or 2012? MadProfessah votes for going forward on November 2010. I seriously question Dan Walters' views on this topic since he has been so wrong before.

There are some other interesting facts in the crosstabs of the poll:

According to the poll, Democrats favor same-sex marriage by 63 percent and 32 percent oppose. Republicans are 70 percent opposed and 24 percent in favor. In the San Francisco Bay Area, those polled are 64 percent in favor and 31 percent opposed. In Los Angeles County, 55 percent favor and 40 percent oppose. Voters aged 18 to 39 favor gay marriage by 55 percent while those 65 or older are 58 percent opposed, according to the poll.

CA-32: Judy Chu Explains To API LGBTs Why She Thinks She’ll Win

Judy Chu, John PerezOn Sunday, I attended an event in at the home a gay couple named Curtis Chin and Jeff Kim at a loft in downtown Los Angeles which brought together Asian American LGBTs and their allies to support Judy Chu’s run for the 32nd Congressional District seat. The event was attended by the first LGBT person of color to be elected to the California Legislature, John Pérez who introduced the current member of the State Board of Equalization to the assembled crowd of about 75 attendees. Other people in attendance were Cary Davidson, Board President of Equality California, Vincent Wong and Andrew Ogilvie (Board Members of The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force), Marshall Wong and Doreena Wong (Board Co-Chairs of API Equality Los Angeles) and Rita Gonzalez (Board President of Bienestar).

When she spoke, Judy Chu gave a number of reasons why she expects to win the race, the first was Experience. She has been representing different portions of the 32nd district for 23 years, having been elected 9 different times in School Board, City Council, Assembly and state Board of Equalization races. The second reason was Money. She said that her goal was to raise $750,000 and has so far raised $425,000 and Governor Schwarzenegger has until Tuesday to announce when the Special Election will occur (which is likely to coincide with the statewide special election already set for Tuesday May 19th). The third was Endorsements, especially Labor. She has been endorsed by all three assemblymembers who represent portions of the 32nd Congressional District: (Chu’s husband)  Mike Eng (49th AD), Kevin de Leon (45th AD where MadProfessah lives and serves as an elected representative on the Democratic State Central Committee) and Ed Hernandez (57th AD).

In addition, she said that she has been endorsed by all 7 of the 7 police officers associations in the district as well as 75 elected officials who represent portions of the 32nd CD while “her opponent” has only 10 elected officials. In addition, Chu has been endorsed by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which has identified 40, 000 union households in the district. In a 15% turnout election, it probably takes less than 20,000 votes to win the Democratic primary, which is tantamount to winning the election in such a Democratic-leaning CD.

Chu never actually mentioned Gil Cedillo by name until she was asked by an audience member how many other people were running and then she explained that there are 5 other people running but characterized her and State Senator Cedillo as the two “major candidates” in the race. She invited people to her campaign kick-off event on Saturday March 14th.

The 32nd Congressional District contains 10 separate cities: El Monte, South El Monte, West Covina, Azusa, Covina, Rosemead, Baldwin Park, Monterey Park, Duarte and Irwindale. It is estimated to be 60% Latino and 20% Asian. However, it looks like ths CA-32 race is going to be hard-fought but not as racially divisive as the CA-37 race was in summer 2007 between African Americans (Laura Richardson) and Latinos (Jenny Oropeza) over the the late Juanita Millender McDonald’s seat that was won by Richardson.

CA-32: Local Ethnic Political Fault Lines Revealed

(A tangled web being woven in CA-32, with discrete sets of competing interests. – promoted by David Dayen)

A little bird told me that Labor Secretary-designee U.S. Representative Hilda Solis would love to endorse Judy Chu to replace her in Congress representing the 32nd District but the Obama Administration has told her that Cabinet secretaries can not get involved in the political fight to replace them. State Senator Gil Cedillo is the only other declared candidate in the potential special election, after Gloria Romero dropped out of the race, endorsing Cedillo, and announced her intention to run for State Superintendent of Education in 2010. Romero also later endorsed Los Angeles Unified School District Board President Monica Garcia for her 24th District State Senate seat.

Capitol Weekly has an article in the Thursday January 22 edition on Solis’ confirmation process that also mentions some intriguing details on the intricate positioning that other politicians are doing to fill in the holes in the Southern California political power structure as one of their own is elevated in Washington.

More beneath the fold…

On Thursday morning, both the Service Employees International Union and and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor endorsed Chu.

There have been tensions between Romero and Maria-Elena Durazo, head of the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. But Capitol sources say Romero decided to focus on the superintendent’s race after consulting with former Sen. Richard Polanco, among others.

The potential Congressional showdown has also divided the Capitol’s Latino Caucus, of which Cedillo is chair. Cedillo has tangled with Assemblyman John Perez, D-Los Angeles, and has even threatened to challenge Perez for his Assembly seat in 2010.

Perez is the cousin of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Villaraigosa is said to be leaning toward endorsing Chu, though his office did not return calls seeking comment.

Cedillo and Villlaraigosa were once close political allies, with Villariagosa using his clout to help Cedillo’s election to the Assembly in a 1997 pecial election. But tensions between the two childhood friends quickly grew, and eventually boiled over after Villaraigosa’s failed race for Los Angeles mayor in 2001. Villaraigosa threatened to run against Cedillo for Senate after his 2001 defeat, and the rift has never healed between the two. Cedillo stuck with Hahn when Villarigosa eventually defeated Hahn in 2005.


If Chu is to win the seat, she will have to earn some Latino support. The 32nd Congressional District is about 62 percent Latino. Asians make up about 20 percent of the district population. Latinos make up about half of the district’s voter registration. Asians comprise about 13 percent of registered voters.


Chu has already secured the endorsement of Assemblyman Ed Hernandez, D-El Monte, who has his eyes on Romero’s senate seat in 2010. Chu and her husband, Assemblyman Mike Eng, D-Los Angeles, — two of Hernandez’s top potential rivals — are said to be backing Hernandez for the Senate seat.


Romero’s exit from the congressional race sets up a 2010 showdown between Romero and Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, for state superintendent. The current superintendent, Jack O’Connell is being pushed out by term limits, and has announced his intention to run for governor in 2010.

Got all that? On one side you have John Perez, Antonio Villaraigosa, Ed Hernandez and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor with Chu versus Romero and Polanco with Cedillo in a 62% Latino district. I presume L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina (who previously rejected a run for the seat herself) will be on the side of Romero/Polanco/Cedillo, but only time will tell.

SD-24: Romero Endorses Monica Garcia As Her Successor

 Some news was made at the 45th Assembly District elections on Sunday January 11th where MadProfessah was elected to the California Democratic State Central Committee. State Senator Gloria Romero who last week announced that she would not run for Hilda Solis’ soon-to-be-vacant seat in the 31st Congressional district was present at Arco Iris  Restaurant in Highland Park and while there she endorsed current LA Unified School District Board President Monica Garcia as her immediate successor to the 24th State Senate district. This must have been something of a surprise to Assemblymember Kevin De León, whose chief of staff was in the room and running the DSCC elections. De León is termed out in 2012, but surely he was hoping to be promoted to the upper chamber and would have considered running for the 24th District seat in 2010.

Since I live in both AD-45 and SD-24 as well as Garcia’s Los Angeles school district (#2) I will be keeping close tabs on this race.

Monica Garcia has a lesbian sister and was very outspoken in her opposition to Proposition 8. I know that she is very close to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and has been seen as his strongest surrogate on the school board. De León is also a favorite of the Mayor’s, and is often described as “the BFF” of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez.

On That Prop 8 Equality Summit Media Access Kerfuffle…

So there has been quite a tempest in a teapot brewing over the reports that the Equality Summit set for January 24th at the Los Angeles Convention Center to discuss how to obtain marriage equality in California will not be completely open to the media.

People on LGBT blogs have been howling that this is just another example of the NO ON PROP 8 folks trying to be “secretive” and keep out the netroots and community-based activists.

All the major LGBT blogs Joe.My.God, Pam’s House Blend, TowleRoad ran with the story which was clearly fueled by longtime lesbian activist Robin Tyler who was unhappy when the vote on whether to not have a strategic planning summit open to the media had gone against her wishes and resigned in protest.

As someone who is on the call and is still on the Planning Committee for the Equality Summit let me tell you the real deal. Only one blog got it right and it isn’t one that you would expect…

Most LGBT bloggers were critical of the Summit organizers, but Queerty dug deeper and got to the facts of the situation. In a “Queerty Exclusive” they actually talked to Anne Marks the Equality Summit organizer and Andrea Shorter one of the Equality Summit Executive Committee co-chairs:

Shorter tell us she is “appreciative of what people like Robin Tyler has done for the community” and she acknowledges that the No on 8 campaign had a reputation for being a “closed door campaign,” but says of Tyler’s decision to resign, “You can’t have it both ways.”

You can’t complain about transparency and openness and reaching out to as many different groups as possible and then circumvent the process that’s working to make those very things happen. We can continue to stay stuck in a pattern that suggest that nobody can trust anybody or we can move forward and certainly learn from the mistakes of the No on 8 campaign, but this is meant to be a serious and honest discussion with community leaders and groups about winning marriage equality. Are we more concerned with how to move forward or are we going to stay stuck?

Shorter says that while no decision regarding press access has been made, the question is not an all-or-nothing proposition, saying:

We want to be transparent, but we don’t want to be stupid about it.

You’re going to have a bunch of equal right activists, some of them neophytes, meeting an talking for the first time and the question is, “Do we want to be operating in a fishbowl? Are we going to have CNN, MSNBC standing there at every plenary and meeting session?”

The point is we all want marriage equality and we have to have honest discussions to do that.

We asked whether gay media outlets with a vested interest in the issue should be allowed to attend, even if only in an off-the-record position (only a question, and not something Queerty agreed to sign on to). Shorter laughed: “Like I said, we haven’t had this discussion yet, but what’s funny is that there’s also the argument that reporter’s journalistic integrity and objectiveness mean that they can’t really be considered part of the community.”


And since Queerty is not an objective news source, here’s our two cents:

We were as critical of the failed No on 8 campaign as anyone. In fact, if you look at our coverage since last year’s election it’s safe to say Queerty is probably the No on 8 campaign’s biggest critic (it’s a toss-up between us and the L.A. Weekly, really). We stand by those criticisms and will continue to explore why that campaign failed so that the same mistakes are not repeated.

That said, the Equality Summit is an important and useful thing. From all appearances so far, any group wanting to take part is welcome – that’s inclusiveness. As much as we’re advocates for journalistic access, inviting all media to all sessions would turn the summit into a press conference, not a strategy session. Do you really want Sean Hannity attending the Equality Summit? (Or a roving Bill O’Reilly producer ready to ambush?) Of course not, but if don’t want them, you must agree, then, that some decisions regarding press access need to be made – and by all accounts the planning committee of the Equality Summit will do so, but haven’t yet.

Anne Marks tells us that right now, the planning process is just restarting from the holiday break and that there should be an agenda by next Monday. Before branding the planners of the Equality Summit an evil, power-mongering, hermetic cabal, why don’t we give them a chance to act first?

The gay blogger kangaroo court yesterday sentenced the Equality Summit before it’s even had a chance to commit a crime. We know you all want a piece of the Prop. 8 action, but try to get both sides of the story before rushing to judgment.

And there, ya go, folks! That’s journalism.

“Can’t we all just get along?”

Prop 8 Postmortem From Super-Volunteer (with Recommendations)

I am re-posting this diary for Bruce Hahne (a NO ON 8 “super-volunteer”) who posted it on Daily Kos earlier today. It deserves to get much wider attention. I like the fact that it not only includes criticisms of the NO ON PROP 8 campaign from an insider but also recommendations on what to do in the next anti-gay ballot measure campaign. I asked Bruce for permission to re-post it to Calitics and he gave it freely.

The post is (VERY LONG) and divided in two parts:  

PART I: Problems with the no-on-8 campaign


PART II: Recommendations


PART I: Problems with the no-on-8 campaign

1. Reliance on focus groups, and the search for magic words

The no-on-8 campaign was focus-group driven and went searching for “magic words” to say to voters rather than following the hearts-and-minds strategy that the marriage equality movement, and the PFLAGs of the world, have been using successfully for years.  From the very first volunteer recruiting meeting that I attended, paid staff made it extremely clear that the campaign had used focus groups to determine a messaging strategy, and that the campaign intended to stick by this messaging strategy.  We were also informed that Dewey Square had been retained by the campaign as the consulting firm, and that Dewey Square “had never lost one of these ballot measure campaigns”.  In September and October, the campaign treated this factoid as sufficient to rebut any and all strategic questions about the campaign itself.

This is the second time that I’ve participated in a stop-the-anti-marriage-ballot measure effort that was “focus-group driven” (the first time was California Proposition 22 back in 2000, which had identical language).  I’ve since resolved that I will not participate in any future pro-LGBT ballot measure effort whose messaging is “focus-group-driven”.  I’ve been burned twice by this approach — I’m not going to be burned a third time.

The focus group approach resulted in a negative-language campaign which made no attempt to persuade voters to vote FOR equal marriage, but instead unsuccessfully attempted to attach a few key words such as “unfair” and “wrong” to the ballot measure.  Specifically, the key messaging of the phone script that thousands of volunteer no-on-8 phone bankers read on the phone was this text:  “Regardless of what you think about marriage, it’s wrong to take away fundamental rights.”  More on what I think about this message later below.

2. Same-sex married couples were invisible

The campaign failed to use the most valuable asset available to the campaign, which was the thousands of already-married California same-sex couples.  This strategic failure appears to be the consequence of the “focus group” strategy which resulted in a conclusion that “the voters just aren’t ready to vote FOR marriage equality.”.  Such an attitude strikes me as an insult to California’s majority-Democratic voting base, and to me fails even a rudimentary sanity check.  Since even the California legislature was willing, twice, to vote for full equal marriage, the voters can handle the same.  I wanted to see a campaign that asked the voters to vote FOR marriage equality.

The campaign could have got newly-married lesbian couple Mitzi and Fritzi and their darling 2-year-old baby Carla on the TV.  Cut an ad where the couple lovingly holding the baby looks into the camera and says “please don’t take our marriage away!”  Closing message: “protect marriage for all California families.  Vote NO on proposition 8.”  Strategically this is a much stronger position to be in.  Look at the messaging that results from this type of ad:

– The language and framing of “protection” and “protection of children” are seized as a no-on-8 value rather than a yes-on-8 value.  To be pro-LGBT is to protect people, to vote no is to protect people.

– Message: No-on-8 is protecting poor innocent women.

– Message: No-on-8 is protecting babies  (Yes, I’m quite willing to use children in ads if the parents consent)

– Message: Yes-on-8 are heartless bastards who want to hurt Mitzi, Fritzi, and poor little baby Carla.

Instead, in October the no-on-8 campaign suddenly found yes-on-8 playing the usual “homosexuals are out to get your children at school!” card (a strategy which should have been NO surprise), and by that point it was too late to reverse the media frame.

3. Refusal to advocate for yes-on-equality

The no-on-8 campaign refused to take a “yes on equal marriage” stance, again insisting that focus groups said that this wouldn’t sell.  Well guess what, those focus groups sure didn’t produce a message that sold — it’s time to try something new.  I will no longer volunteer for a marriage campaign that refuses to take a “yes on equal marriage” stance.

4. Nearly content-free web site

The web site was awful.  As in, really awful.  As in, “there wasn’t any serious persuasive or well-reasoned content there at all” awful.  I didn’t even realize this problem until an acquaintance, who had clearly been doing some research about the “yes” and “no” arguments, asked me the traditional question of “aren’t domestic partnerships equivalent and sufficient?”  This is the “isn’t separate but equal sufficient?” question, and it’s a very common question from people who are actively thinking about the issue — possible “persuadables”.  I went looking for the official response to this question on the no-on-8 site, blithely assuming that there would surely be an extensive equal-marriage FAQ document somewhere in there, and was stunned to find NOTHING, no basic issues FAQ at all.  There was a basic “fact vs. fiction” document which mostly rebutted anti-LGBT claims about proposition 8, but nothing to answer the obvious questions that persuadables have when they start to seriously think about marriage and LGBT people.

I had to head over to PFLAG to get a well-written response about “why we need marriage equality and not just domestic partnerships [DP]”.  The no-on-8 campaign’s failure to adopt a YES-on-marriage-equality position meant that strategically, the campaign wasn’t willing to put up content that responded to basic and common questions like this.

A related question that also came my way, from a strong ally, was: “what rights, exactly, does prop 8 eliminate?”  The answer actually appears to be “technically, NONE at this time from a California civil perspective” because California domestic partnership already extends ALL California marriage rights to domestic partners, and the federal government doesn’t recognize either status.  A more nuanced approach is necessary to explain why domestic partnership isn’t enough, and that nuance requires going the yes-on-equal-marriage messaging route.  The no-on-8 ballot argument as printed in the California Voter Information Guide claims that there are “nine real differences between marriage and domestic partnerships” but fails to identify what these are, nor does the web site ever bother to tell us.

5. Botched ballot measure argument text

The no-on-8 ballot arguments as submitted to the official California general election guide look like a right-wing lunatic rant, plus they make severe communications errors.  Per the structure of California’s printed election guides in the ballot measure section, the “yes” side gets the first set of text, then the “no” side gets a rebuttal.  Next, the “no” side gets a section to argue its case for “no”, followed by a closing rebuttal from the “yes” side.

As I write this, I have a copy of my November 2008 California election guide in front of me.

Here is the first paragraph of the “yes” argument.  This is the first paragraph that the reader saw (assuming that anybody actually reads these election guides — this year’s guide was 144 pages long) about proposition 8:

“Proposition 8 is simple and straightforward.  It contains the same 14 words that were previously approved in 2000 by over 61% of California voters: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

That’s easy for the reader to understand, and it’s probably persuasive to a significant number of people.  “Oh, this is simple and it’s just reaffirming what we’ve already done anyway.  Sounds good to me.”

Next, here’s the initial text of the no-on-8 rebuttal to the above “yes” text.  All capital letters are in the original:

“Don’t be tricked by scare tactics. – PROP 8 DOESN’T HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH SCHOOLS


The no-on-8 rebuttal text goes on like this with its INSANELY HEAVY USE of CAPITAL LETTERS which makes the rebuttal look like a RIGHT-WING CRACKPOT RANT because people who RANDOMLY MASH DOWN THE CAPS LOCK KEY inevitably look like INTERNET CRAZIES as I’m demonstrating RIGHT NOW in this PARAGRAPH!!!  The no-on-8 rebuttal text is literally about 50% all-caps.

The contrast is striking.  The “yes” argument leads with a simple argument in normal text, inviting the reader to join in agreement.  The no-on-8 rebuttal, by contrast, is as if somebody pointed a bullhorn in your face, pulled an argument about schools out of the middle of nowhere (though it is in fact buried in the “yes” text), and started screaming at you.

Note also how the no-on-8 rebuttal begins by repeating a right-wing talking point (“the gays are out to get your children at school!”) and then denying it.  This approach to doing rebuttals is a classic framing mistake.  You can’t defeat an opponent’s frame by simply repeating it and then denying it, because the repetition itself simply reinforces the frame.  Every LGBT supporter who hasn’t already done so needs, desperately, to read George Lakoff’s Don’t Think of an Elephant!, which is an introduction to framing and messaging for progressives, written by an expert in cognitive science (Lakoff).  Or for a web-based crash course, you can go right now to


As Lakoff has mentioned in similar trainings, Nixon said “I am not a crook” and people said “oh, crook?  Nixon’s a crook”.

Similarly, as Robert Bray, former director of the SPIN project (, noted in a framing training that I took several years ago, if you get up in front of a crowd and say:

“Child molestation?  Child molestation??  This has NOTHING to do with child molestation!!”

Well guess what, yes it does, because you just said it three times.  Congratulations, you lose.

For everybody who contributed to that horrible no-on-8 rebuttal, I hereby require you to go read George Lakoff and stop writing any ballot measure arguments until you’ve written “I WILL NOT REPEAT RIGHT-WING FRAMES” 1000 times on the chalkboard right along with Bart Simpson.

This goes for you too, Geoff Kors (Kors is Executive Director of Equality California, — every damn time you go on Fox “News” and repeat the right-wing term “tax relief”, you’re playing into right-wing frames that help to elect right-wing Republicans to office. I stopped donating to EQCA (though I did donate specifically to the campaign) because you have a history of going on Fox echoing right-wing language while thinking you’re helping LGBT people.  The Lakoff crash-course web framing training has a discussion of how the frame “tax relief” is destructive to the progressive cause.

6. Fundamental flaws in the no-on-8 phone script and messaging

I disagree with the fundamental approach of the “regardless of what you think about marriage, it’s wrong to deny people rights…” phone script.  This attempt at magic words, which again was probably focus-group driven, is what I’d call “preemptive surrender on our core issue”.  The unwritten preamble that’s IMPLIED by the “regardless…” sentence is:

“[We acknowledge that same-sex marriage is sinful, sick, and dirty, but] regardless of what you think about marriage…”

The Rolling Stone no-on-8 postmortem whose URL I listed earlier agrees with this critique, and refers to this tactic as “affirm[ing] the homophobia of the swing voters it was courting.”

The no-on-8 phone script refused to take a positive stance on marriage but instead conceded that territory to the anti-gay side, leaving no-on-8 to attempt the much weaker magic-word-association game of “unfair” and “wrong”.  I say: bull hockey.  This homophobic phone script sucks.  The best defense is a good offense: we need to GO ON THE OFFENSE (he said, resorting to the caps-lock-key mashing that he had so recently mocked) and claim marriage as our own.  It’s the LGBT community and allies who are protecting marriage and making it better, not yes-on-8.  Same-sex marriage is beautiful — say it!  Say it again!  Here, I’ll do it for you — “Same-sex marriage is beautiful!” Because the more we say that, the more we make it true for everybody.  Focus groups won’t tell you that because we haven’t made it enough of a reality for the focus group participants yet.  The more we refuse to say “same-sex marriage is beautiful”, the more we concede the moral terrain to our opposition.

As with the ballot measure rebuttal, the “regardless of what you think…” language feels like it’s written by people who don’t understand the basic cognitive science issues that Lakoff covers in his books.  If you say “regardless of what you think about marriage”, or equivalently, if you say “it’s not about marriage, it’s actually about X”, you’ve already got people thinking about marriage.  It’s too late to tell them that it’s NOT about marriage, because it IS now about marriage, because you just said “marriage”.  So what thought processes are taking place in the mind of a likely voter?  Probably something like this:

“Well hmm, as long as this person on the phone has brought up the topic of what I think about marriage, what do I think?  Well, I think that marriage is between a man and a woman.  That makes sense.”

I’ll speculate that this phone script may have been focus-group tested to swing a few percentage points of voters, but I’m not buying it.  On a strategic level, it’s a fail.  Pro-LGBT ballot measure campaigns need to get rid of the inside-the-beltway bean-counting tactics and start advocating for marriage equality.

Here’s the message I want to see:  “We believe that ALL California families deserve the freedom to marry, and the protections that marriage provides.  Marriage makes families healthy, protects children, and makes our society stronger.  As Californians, let’s make California a safe, healthy place for ALL families.  Vote NO on 8.”  Note how here I’m seizing language right out of Lakoff’s nurturing-parent worldview: “protection”, “healthy”, “strong society”, “safety”.  This is a winning frame for our side.

7. Failure to anticipate and preempt yes-on-8 messaging.  

This complaint has been covered in other written venues so it probably doesn’t need much reiteration here.  You know for a fact that yes-on-8 is going to use the “they’re after the children!” argument, so for God’s sake hit them first on that and take away their ability to use it.  You also know they’re going to use the “churches will be forced to marry gays!” argument, so defuse or reframe before those words even get out of their mouths.

8. Tactical: people don’t vote after dark in Santa Clara County.  

On election day, the campaign deployed thousands of volunteers to cover polling sites around the state and hand out no-on-8 “palm cards”.  In retrospect this appears to have been a last-ditch hail-Mary attempt to win an additional half a percentage point, or to just make it look like a lot of  volunteers were being mobilized for something constructive, or who knows what.  I had the not-so-fantastic duty, as it turned out, of co-running a “hub site” which was responsible for dispatching volunteers in teams of 2-5 people to slightly over a dozen polling places in the Mountain View, California area.  We had great volunteer turnout, but I don’t think this was an effective ground game or that it persuaded very many voters.  

The no-on-8 campaign appears to have made little to no calculation about vote-by-mail voters and early voters.  In Santa Clara County, vote-by-mail is something like 50% of the vote, perhaps more.  And empirically, we found that almost everybody who does vote physically on election day does so in the morning, not after work.  This put us as co-captains of the election-day hub site into the painful situation of dispatching 50+ volunteers to polling sites after dark (sunset was roughly at 6:00 PM), where as it turned out nobody was voting.  Half of our evening shifts called in to ask if they could be redeployed because they were only seeing 1 voter every 5 minutes, and half of those voters were dropping off sealed absentee ballots which weren’t going to change regardless of how many palm cards we pushed at people (and in the dark??  Come on, what voter wants to have election material pushed at them at 6:30 PM in the dark when they’re just trying to vote and get home?)

9. Tactical: failure to do proper, well-understood election-day get-out-the-vote (GOTV)

So, no-on-8 campaign people: WTF with the election-day GOTV?  When I volunteered for the Jerry McNerney campaign, on election day we did a traditional “aggressive pollcheck-based GOTV”, which works like this:

1. You do GOTV phone calls or door-knocks to all your 1’s and 2’s, which you’ve predetermined from your phone calls in the weeks prior.  For those not versed here in my election jargon: a “1” is a very strong supporter, a “2” is a likely supporter.  Your “1’s” and “2’s” are the people you’re trying to get to the polls.

2. After you’ve finished step 1, it’s now noon, so you send a team to the polling location and look up the posted list of voters who have voted already.  Per California election law, the poll-site staff post this information every few hours and update it.  You work through this posted list and cross off the names of all of your 1’s and 2’s who have voted.

3. Now you do a second round of GOTV phone calls or door-knocks to those who remain on your now-pruned 1’s-and-2’s list.

4. It’s now 4 PM, so you go to the polling location and get the updated list of voters who have voted.  You cross more people off your 1’s and 2’s list.

5. Wash, rinse, repeat until polls close.  You keep phoning 1’s and 2’s who haven’t voted until the polls close or until they vote.

For no-on-8 on election day we had teams covering dozens of key polling locations throughout the state, yet no-on-8 didn’t take the obvious step of having these volunteers get the “voters-who-have-voted so far” information and relay it to whoever was doing the GOTV phone calls.  I don’t understand at all why no-on-8 didn’t do this.  From where I stand, it looks like utter incompetence on the part of the campaign.

10. Insufficient engagement of progressive church allies along their traditional strengths

The no-on-8 campaign could have worked better with its progressive church allies. In September 2008, I offered to campaign staff the possibility of organizing some no-on-8 religious events somewhere around election eve.  I was told in very clear terms, by staff, that “the campaign doesn’t want this” because… wait for it… the FOCUS GROUPS said that it was a bad idea.  In the end, yes-on-8 held a Qualcomm Stadium rally (which apparently sucked badly), and no-on-8 allies independently organized and held several large-scale (for progressive churches) no-on-8 religious services in 3 cities on the same Sunday.  The result, thankfully for the good guys, is that the media reported “religious groups on both sides stage events”. The no-on-8 campaign should be thankful that the churches ignored the focus groups, otherwise the headlines would have said “People of faith hold mass yes-on-8 event” with a picture of some PFOX guy mournfully praying.

To be clear, I had no problem organizing phone banking instead of organizing a religious service, which can be a pain to pull together anyway.  However, when a campaign tells some of its allies that their core competency of “doing religious events and thereby bringing moral credibility to the no-on-8 message” isn’t welcome, it tends to stunt the ability of the allies to help the campaign.

11. Secrecy = Death

In September and on into early October, the campaign actively discouraged me from posting information about phone bank times, days, and locations to the web.  Incredible yet true.  The messaging that I heard from the campaign was “don’t post information about when or where our phone banks are taking place, just leave it to the campaign to communicate this on a week-by-week basis please”.  In the early weeks of the phone banking there was a desperate hunger in the activist community for information about when and where the phone banks were taking place, yet I was actively discouraged from posting information about them on a public blog.  A few weeks later, I heard this message from staff at the phone bank “gee, we just aren’t making our total-call numbers on the phone calls, we don’t understand what the problem is!”  Well, when you actively discourage the progressive community from engaging in precisely the sort of viral advertising and communication that we do best, low volunteer turnout is quite likely to be the result.  A few weeks later, I noted that no-on-8 had finally added a web page at that publicly listed the phone bank locations, dates, and times… in other words, it was doing in October exactly what I had been told not to do in September.  And sure enough, a week later at the phone bank I heard from staff, “we’re doing great on our phone bank numbers, we’re blowing through these call lists!”  And attendance at phone banking had gone way up.

Activists, please take this lesson to heart: a culture of movement secrecy will fail you every time.  I recommend Gene Sharpe’s The Politics of Nonviolent Action for a discussion how a culture of secrecy can stifle a social change movement.  I’ve had to fight this fight in various activist venues over the years, and it still often doesn’t get through.  People can get paranoid — they may want to overcontrol the volunteers, overcontrol the flow information, control who shows up at events; people get paranoid about “outsiders” or “spies” or whatever, and all that fear is contagious.  Fear strangles a movement.  Fear turns off potential allies.  It prevents a movement from taking the steps necessary to succeed.  If you’re refusing to publish information about when your phone banks are happening because you’re “afraid that spies for the other side might show up”, fire yourself and get new leadership, because you’re killing your own justice movement.  I fully support the concept of message discipline, and I strongly oppose the “do-your-own-thingism” which so often pervades progressive activism and demolishes progressive message coherence, but there’s a difference between enforcing messaging discipline, versus telling your volunteers not to share information about where the upcoming phone banks are located.

12. Failure to understand or use internet and web media  

No-on-8 got its clock cleaned in at least two areas by yes-on-8: Youtube videos, and Google Adwords/Adsense.  No-on-8 appears to have been run as a 1990’s campaign that had limited understanding of internet used as new-media communication.  Yes, there was a (wretched) no-on-8 web site, but yes-on-8 knew how to effectively use newer web technologies while no-on-8 apparently didn’t.

12.1: Youtube: yes-on-8 dominated, no-on-8 failed utterly

These particular comments are specific to YouTube, however they apply to any internet video hosting service that supports user-uploaded content for public viewing.

Technical discussion that I was privy to in the final weeks of the campaign revealed that:

— Yes-on-8 videos were consistently ranked in the top 10 when searching on basic keywords such as “california prop 8”

— Yes-on-8 made a concerted effort to get their volunteers to rank up the videos so that they’d always win in Google’s search algorithm.  And of course, video up-ranking is a computer-and-keyboard based task that can be done by armies of people anywhere in the world… such as, shall we say, to pick a completely non-hypothetical example, Utah.

— No-on-8 comments posted in the comments section of yes-on-8 videos would immediately get downrated by an army of yes-on-8 minions, making it impossible to have an open debate or post rebuttals within the Youtube comments section.

— No-on-8 videos were also posted on Youtube, but initially the no-on-8 campaign didn’t even know enough to tag these videos with appropriate keywords so that they’d hit Google searches for basic terms like “proposition 8”.

— Progressive blogs were doing a lot of “look at this horrible yes-on-8 video, it’s really nasty” web linking, which per Google’s ranking algorithm is a vote FOR the video.  This is a general problem that ballot measure campaigns will need to solve in general: simply doing opposition research by PLAYING an opposition video, or by LINKING to an opposition video, actually helps the opposition.  “Number of views of this video” is a tracked value that presumably contributes to the up-ranking of a YouTube video.

— Even after no-on-8 tagged the videos with appropriate keywords, they never made it into the higher-ranked video lists because yes-on-8 had already invested a lot of time up-ranking their own ads.

RESULT: anybody who searched on anything related to proposition 8 on YouTube always got yes-on-8 videos and ads, and never got no-on-8 ads. This is a TOTAL FAIL for no-on-8.  The campaign needed somebody on the staff who understood the tactics of upranking videos and how the comments systems can be gamed for or against you.  Pay one of those evil “search optimization” firms for some consulting time if you have to.

12.2: The Google AdSense yes-on-8 ad bomb.  

“AdSense” is Google’s ad product that allows web site owners to place Google-brokered ads onto their own web sites.  Don’t confuse this with the ads that appear on For example, go to and scroll to the bottom, where you’ll probably see a small “Ads by Google” section.  These are “AdSense” ads.  These ads are relayed to the web site by Google’s ad system and are not pre-selected by the web site owner.

Google AdSense is used by hundreds of thousands of web page owners as a way to make some money as a commission from Google by placing the Google-brokered ads onto their site.

On Monday Nov. 3 and Tuesday Nov. 4, yes-on-8 engaged in a mass advertising bid across all “targeted verticals” available within the Google Adsense program for advertisers.  This yes-on-8 advertising also presumably used Google’s geotargeting system, which allows advertisers to pay only to display their ads to viewers believed to be in a certain section of the country.  Geotargeting saves vast quantities of money by allowing the advertiser to only pay to show the web ads to, say, people who are in California rather than people in Florida.

The result of the mass yes-on-8 ad buy was that for hundreds of thousands of different web sites, anybody in California who looked at one of those web pages saw one or more “yes-on-8” ads.  I’d speculate that yes-on-8 did the same thing with Yahoo ads, however I haven’t researched that.  So it’s likely that for all intents and purposes, anybody in the state of California who used the internet on Monday or Tuesday Nov. 3-4 saw a yes-on-8 ad.  That doesn’t mean that the user clicked on the ad and made it to the yes-on-8 web site, but certainly there would have been a lot of click-throughs.

Since the internet has just this year passed newspapers as people’s primary source of news, this yes-on-8 ad buy probably had a significant impact.

While no-on-8 was doing a certain amount of ad buys — there were very sporadic reports of a no-on-8 ad showing up on certain web pages — there was nothing on the scale of the yes-on-8 ad buy.

Pro-LGBT ballot measure campaigns need to understand the dynamics and impact of the “mass message-bombing” that the right wing is using against us — this was done with yard signs on election eve as well, for example.  I don’t know how effective it is, but obviously the anti-LGBT team believes their money was well-spent, because they went ahead and did it.

12.3 Myspace and Facebook.

I don’t use these social networking systems so I can’t speak to how well no-on-8 exploited them compared to yes-on-8, however given no-on-8’s performance in other areas, I’m not optimistic.

Strategically, the principle that we need to understand is this: the Christian evangelical community has a very long history of rapidly adopting to the use of new media technologies for its communication and expansion use.  Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network was built starting from a tiny UHF station back in the days when nobody knew what “UHF” was, and you had to buy the special UHF loop antenna at Radio Shack to even receive his show.  Prior to that, evangelicals effectively used radio in the early days of that technology.  NEWS FLASH: the Christian Right has learned how to use the internet and all of its modern services.  If you’re not savvy about modern internet media, your campaign is at a severe competitive disadvantage.  For the proposition 8 campaign, yes-on-8 completely outmaneuvered no-on-8 in the internet media space.


PART II: Recommendations

1.  Work proactively, don’t wait until you’re forced to react.  Do pro-LGBT education every year, all the time.

“Peacetime campaigns” appear to be easier than “wartime campaigns”, by which I mean that it appears to be easier to do the right messaging during intervals when there is NOT an anti-LGBT ballot measure coming up.  In my experience, as soon as the LGBT equality movement needs to shift into defend-against-the-ballot-measure mode, all thoughts of long-term messaging and strategy go out the window, and people are in a rush to “mortgage the future on behalf of the present”, as we might say.  So my suggestion is to start doing, or strengthen existing, public visibility and communications actions today, rather than waiting for anti-LGBT groups to put a measure on the ballot.  Start a GSA (gay-straight alliance).  GEt with the local PFLAG and join their speakers’ group, or jumpstart the speakers’ group if they don’t have one that’s active.

2. Tell stories of real same-sex couples.  Aka: “go for the heart, and the head will follow”.

My belief is that all anti-LGBT efforts, rhetoric, and arguments are fundamentally prejudice-based.  Prejudice happens as a part of the built-in human process of category creation: it happens when I put myself into a group called “in-group” or “my tribe”, and I put LGBT people into a different group called “that out-group over there” or “other”.  Once I’ve put the stigmatized group into the category called “other”, I then martial whatever cultural resources or language happen to be available to me to justify my categorization: Bible verses, appeals to history, appeals to “tradition”, appeals to “nature”, etc.  To break through the prejudice requires that we, as LGBT people and allies, humanize the Other.  Doing verse-by-verse rebuttals of Bible verses generally isn’t going to help, because it isn’t the Bible that’s causing the prejudice, it’s the prejudice that causes people to choose to read the Bible in a certain way.  I’ve done the verse-by-verse rebuttal work in the past, and it can be necessary AFTER prejudice reduction has already started, but it’s extremely unlikely to change any minds up front.  As Rev. Peter Gomes has noted (and here I paraphrase), “it is not generally possible to use logic to get somebody out of a position that they didn’t use logic to get into to begin with.”  Start with winning the heart, and then suddenly you’ll find that the Bible part falls into place.

So my suggestion is to seek ongoing ways to humanize and normalize same-sex relationships and marriage (yes, we have to use the M word!) as part of normal, healthy, positive, loving human existence.  This is part of the work that many PFLAG and GSA (gay-straight-alliance) groups have been doing for a while.

Storytelling about real, loving same-sex couples that you know is a win here.  Advocates for equal marriage need to have multiple (true!) stories at their disposal that they can share in social contexts.  Tell people about the lesbian couple raising a kid.  Tell them about the gay couple living down the street who do yardwork and go to football games together.

On the public visibility front, in California the yes-on-marriage movement has made efforts at various periodic visibility actions, typically centered on Valentine’s Day and “tax day” (April 30) when tax returns are due.  “Tax day” events try to get people to hold signs at post offices saying “we want the marriage tax” or similar, using various equal-marriage messaging.

3. Know your framing rules

The usual advice about framing applies.  Don’t repeat the arguments or language of the opposition; reframe the debate.  Read your George Lakoff, please.

4. Anticipate the opposition (duh…)

If and when a ballot measure or similar right-wing attack looms large, anticipate the arguments of the opposition and move to defuse them before they’re even articulated.  You know that the anti-gay crowd is going to say “they’re after our children!”, so come up with ways to preemptively blunt that attack.  My postmortem suggestion to the no-on-8 team was to take the “look at these lovely same-sex couples raising their own happy healthy children!” approach.  Argue that equal marriage protects children, equal marriage promotes healthy families.  We need to own (reclaim) all of those good words: “healthy”, “family”, “strong”, “protection”, etc.

Similarly we now know that the anti-gay industry will use the “churches will lose their tax-exempt status, or be forced to conduct same-sex marriages” or whatever pile of lies it morphs into next week, since that argument was very effective for them in California.  The equal-marriage movement will need to find a way to flush that argument — it unfortunately might require addressing it directly, maybe simply with a lot of credible authorities saying “that’s a lie.”  I saw the “we’ll lose our 501c3 tax-exempt status!” stunt pulled on us in a regional church governing body meeting several years ago, and in that case the argument was stomped on when the respected moderator of the assembly spoke from the floor mike and said he had checked with multiple attorneys and that the claim was simply not true. But it required a well-known, trusted authority figure to say it.

5. Campaigns: understand and use internet media

Use of a variety of forms of internet media is now a mandatory part of any ballot measure campaign’s media strategy.  For those who haven’t been watching, in 2008 “the web” surpassed print newspapers in the ranking of Americans’ primary news source.  It’s no longer acceptable to slap a few HTML pages up and call it a web site.  Your campaign’s senior media director must understand the use of social network sites such as MySpace and FaceBook, the use of online campaign-produced and activist-produced videos, viral marketing, and techniques for up-ranking videos and the attack techniques that your opposition can use to downrank you.  You need to know the difference between Google AdWords and Google AdSense, and how to use Google Analytics — with similar knowledge of Yahoo’s advertising offerings.  You need to have a campaign budget for banner ad and keyword-targeted internet ad buys.  You need to know how to build an online activist base and ask them via email to take action, both online and offline.

Because whether you’re appropriately using the internet or not, I guarantee you that the anti-LGBT  movement knows how to use the technology, and will crush you in a demographic space (voters under 29) that ought to be strongly pro-LGBT if you’re not equally savvy.

6. Campaigns: understand ballot-casting patterns and do proper election-day GOTV

When do people vote in your state?  How do people vote in your state?  Does your state have early voting?  Vote-by-mail?  What percentage of people use these voting options?  Which demographic groups use them — your supporters or your non-supporters?  Whom do you need to turn out, how, and when?  These are nuts-and-bolts questions which are critical to any election ground game.  If 50% of the people in a county vote by mail, 20% vote the morning of election day, and 25% vote between noon and 5 PM by dropping off pre-sealed absentee ballots, it’s not an effective use of your volunteer base to attempt in-person voter persuasion on election day at the polls.  Your GOTV efforts need to start whenever people start to receive ballots.  In many states, that’s several weeks prior to election day.

And for the love of Mike, for counties where election-day turnout matters, do a proper phone-call-based GOTV.  Have pre-generated lists of 1’s and 2’s and call them.  Then call them again.  Keep calling them or knocking on their doors until they tell you OK, they’ve voted already.  This approach is old-school, and it still works… if people haven’t already voted by mail, that is.


Despite the enormous pain of the passage of proposition 8, the good news is that despite a badly botched no-on-8 campaign, support for marriage equality in California has shifted from about 40% to about 50% in just 8 years.  The “tipping point” years that we’re in right now are particularly painful, because it’s right when you’re just under 50% support that your opposition throws the most money, the most resources, the most of everything at you.  They know that it’s endgame now — they have to pull out all the stops now to preserve hetero privilege before public opinion shifts permanently in favor of LGBT equality on yet another front.

Proposition 8 will, in the end, go down in flames.  It might happen in 2009, if the California Supreme Court accurately recognizes that when the tyranny of the majority gangs up on a scapegoated minority to deny equal protection, it’s a “revision” of the California constitution rather than a simple constitutional modification.  Or it might not happen for 20 years, when a no-longer-hardcore-right U.S. Supreme Court gets the LGBT version of Loving vs. Virginia and issues a blanket invalidation of all of the residual state anti-marriage laws in those states that haven’t already bothered to repeal them.  Or it might happen via California voter repeal action within the next few years.  We don’t yet know when marriage equality will happen.  What we do know is that the message of the full humanity of LGBT people works, it resonates, it changes hearts and minds.  Now let’s transform our ballot measure messaging from a weak negative into a strong “yes-on-marriage” positive, stop using focus groups, and fix our internet and election-week tactics.  If we can do that, victory for marriage equality will arrive sooner, and much more easily, than we might ever expect.


Bruce Hahne is a sporadic LGBT equality activist, and a former board member of More Light Presbyterians (  He can be reached at hahne at io dot com.  

The opinions I’ve expressed in this essay are mine, i.e. I don’t speak for any organization in which I presently serve, or have served.

Copyright (c) 2008 by Bruce Hahne.  All rights reserved.  Non-commercial, non-profit republication and forwarding of this essay as part of efforts to support LGBT equality is permitted and encouraged.  For all other reuse, please contact the author.  

Will There Be an LGBT Legislative Caucus after November? Yes!

Although there have been reports that the California LGBT Legislative Caucus is in danger of extinction the truth is that in January 2009 it is very likely that it will be as large as ever.

The only current members of the LGBT Caucus who are not termed out are State Senators Christine Kehoe and Carole Migden. However, Migden is facing a tough primary fight which she is very likely to lose.

Here is a table showing the members of the LGBT caucus for the current legislative sessiob and a projection of what the caucus will look like after being sworn in in January 2009.

January 2007                       January 2009
Mark Leno (AD-13)                  Tom Ammiano (AD-13)
John Laird (AD-27)                 John Perez (AD-46)
                                   Chris Cabaldon (AD-8)
State Senate
Christine Kehoe (SD-39)            Christine Kehoe (SD-39)
Carole Migden (SD-3)               Mark Leno (SD-3)
Sheila Kuehl (SD-23)

In addition, there’s the possibility that Laurette Healey may win her primary to replace

Assemblymember Lloyd Levine in the 40th Assembly District and it’s possible that Greg Pettis will win his primary in the 80th district (but it’s unlikely he will win the general election in this Republican-leaning district).