Tag Archives: Question One

“Yes on 1” Set to Attack Diverse Families

Using the same right-wing consultants that passed Proposition 8 in California, the “Yes on 1” campaign in Maine is once again trying to scare voters into believing gay marriage will be “taught” in public schools.  But supporters of marriage equality this time have effectively re-framed the issue, arguing that schools should be “safe havens” for all Maine families – and that opponents want the children of gay parents to “feel ashamed.”  Faced with more savvy adversaries than what they had last year, “Yes on 1” now plans to attack an award-winning film schools have been using for years (and was screened at the Clinton White House) that teaches respect for all families – beyond the children of gay couples to include mixed-race families and adopted children.  If they want to re-play the Prop 8 game, it won’t work.  Yesterday, President Obama issued a proclamation honoring families “from all walks of life” – including those raised by same-sex couples.

Last year, Prop 8 went from being 17 points behind in the polls to winning on Election Day – because campaign manager Frank Schubert used two very effective tactics.  First, the specter of gay marriage being “taught” in public schools scared enough parents into believing it would change their lives.  Second, the campaign selectively quoted Barack Obama to make voters believe he supported Prop 8 – when in fact the opposite was true.  The latter was very effective in getting African-Americans to vote to repeal marriage equality.

As I explained in a prior article, how “No on 8” responded to the schools argument only fell into the opposition’s trap.  Gay marriage supporters simply denied the charge, but all it took was for one class to attend their lesbian teacher’s wedding (which the SF Chronicle shamefully treated as front page news) for the voters to believe it was true.  This time, however, the “No on 1” campaign has flipped the issue around – arguing that what schools actually teach is respect for all Maine families, which will not change regardless of Question 1’s outcome.

Now, “Yes on 1” is preparing to attack That’s a Family! – a 35-minute educational film that teachers use in class to explain that families are diverse, but what’s important is that they love each other.  Produced in 2000, the documentary profiles a bi-racial family, the son of a single mom, an adopted child, kids with divorced parents and the children of gay and lesbian couples.  The American Library Association called it “enlightening without being didactic,” and the film received many awards and was shown at the White House.

Apparently, a Fifth Grade class in Portland showed the film – and now Frank Schubert thinks that Maine voters can get scared into voting for Question 1.  Of course, if classes are already showing it without gay marriage being legal yet in Maine – isn’t it proof that marriage equality won’t change what’s being taught in classes?  Same-sex couples will not stop having families if Question 1 passes, and schools will still have to teach kids the reality that not all families fit the image of a heterosexual couple with biological children.

Moreover, for “Yes on 1” to attack That’s a Family! suggests that public schools should not be teaching respect and understanding of all Maine families.  If anything, they are telling kids who don’t have a mother and a father that they should be made to believe their family is lesser.  Are we going to encourage the kids of gay parents to get bullied on the playground, or will we give them the dignity of knowing their families are equal?

Like in California, Barack Obama is popular in Maine – a recent poll there shows him more popular than both Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.  And if “Yes on 1” starts to attack a film that celebrates the diversity of loving families, Frank Schubert may have taken the campaign into another trap – with this time, the President being used against them.

Yesterday, President Obama issued a White House Proclamation in honor of “Family Day” that specifically acknowledged same-sex couples, which began with the following statement:

Our family provides one of the strongest influences on our lives.  American families from every walk of life have taught us time and again that children raised in loving, caring homes have the ability to reject negative behaviors and reach their highest potential. Whether children are raised by two parents, a single parent, grandparents, a same-sex couple, or a guardian, families encourage us to do our best and enable us to accomplish great things.

Last year, Frank Schubert took selective quotes from Barack Obama where he said he personally believes marriage is between “a man and a woman” – in order to make voters in a deep blue state falsely believe he endorsed Proposition 8.  That move was successful because our side never used the fact that Obama opposed Prop 8 – allowing such a false conclusion to go unchallenged.  When we finally tried to counter it, it was too late.

Does “Yes on 1” really want to go after families of all walks of life?  Because if so, the President’s own words will come back to bite them hard.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Paul Hogarth is the Managing Editor of Beyond Chron, San Francisco’s Alternative Online Daily, where this piece was first published.  He is leaving this weekend to go to Maine for 10 days, where he will volunteer for the “No on 1” campaign.  Marriage equality supporters can help send more volunteers to Maine in October by donating money and airline miles at www.travelforchange.org.

Maine Campaign Heats Up; “No on 1” Fights Back

“Yes on 1” – the Maine campaign to repeal marriage equality – aired its first San Francisco produced ad this week, which was kind of a dud.  It was like the first “Yes on 8” ad in California – minus the Gavin Newsom footage.  Within 24 hours, the “No on 1” campaign aired a strong rebuttal – in contrast to the 12 days it took “No on 8” to respond.  Rather than simply deny the “gay marriage in public schools” charge, the ad accused outsiders of harming kids – and that schools protect “all Maine families,” allowing our side to stay on the offensive.  With 53 days to go before the election, a new poll today shows Question 1 narrowly ahead by 48-46.  Supporters of marriage equality should realize that every effort will make a difference – and that we now have an opportunity to finally defeat anti-gay bigotry at the ballot box.

Proposition 8 passed last year, because the “No on 8” campaign spent its time reacting to the opposition’s attacks – even though we’ve seen the right make the very same attacks on gay marriage in state after state.  There was no excuse for supporters of marriage equality to not have a pre-emptive strategy before the opponents launched their ads, or to be prepared with a response that kept us on message.  Instead, we saw “No on 8” flailing throughout the campaign – as attacks began to resonate with swing voters.

Probably the most effective attack we heard was that gay marriage would be “taught” in public schools.  But it took “No on 8” twelve days to respond to that charge on the air.  When they did, they had an ad with State Superintendent Jack O’Connell – a politician that most voters are not familiar with – who simply said it wasn’t true.  All it took was for one class of 1st Graders to attend their lesbian teacher’s wedding (which the SF Chronicle shamefully treated as “front-page news”) for swing voters to believe that it was our side that was lying to them.

My sister was a First Grade teacher for many years, and she made a really good point to me after Proposition 8 passed.  Gay marriage may not be “taught” in public schools, but teachers do explain to kids that families are different.  Some kids have a mom and dad, some kids have only a mom, some kids may have two sets of moms and dads because the parents are divorced, some families have foster children, and – yes – some kids have two moms or two dads.  You don’t have to use the word “gay” or go into any more detail, she explained, because it’s not about “gay marriage” – it’s about respecting diverse families.  In other words, by simply denying its existence the “No on 8” campaign fell in a trap.

Now, the “Yes on 1” campaign in Maine has launched the same attack – but we are ready.  Less than 24 hours after the opposition’s San Francisco-produced ad hit the airwaves, “No on 1” had their own rebuttal.  The ad effectively countered the schools attack for two reasons.  First, they had a real teacher (Sherri Gould, who was named Maine’s “Teacher of the Year” in 2005), as opposed to a politician.  Second, it framed the issue around protecting “all families” – and Ms. Gould said that in her classroom, “we teach respect and Maine values.”  This allowed the “No on 1” campaign to stay on message pro-actively – rather than just reacting to lies.

Will that be enough to win?  A new poll that will be released today by Research 2000 (commissioned by Daily Kos) shows Question 1 narrowly ahead by a 2-point margin.  This makes the race a statistical dead heat, so anything can happen over the next 53 days.  Only about 500,000 people are expected to vote in Maine, which makes an intensive field campaign that reaches every voter eminently winnable.  Marriage equality supporters – especially Californians who are determined not to see another Prop 8 happen – must come to Maine, and be part of an historic campaign that protects marriage equality, and stops the right’s momentum.

That’s why the “No on 1” campaign is urging supporters to take a week of vacation time in October (when the Maine fall colors are in their full glory) – and come volunteer.  And because flying from California can be expensive and challenging, local Obama activists who helped send volunteers to the swing states last year have launched “Travel for Change” – where supporters can donate money and/or airline miles to send a volunteer to Maine.  No Californian who wants to go to Maine should feel deterred by the expense of a trip – just plan to go for at least a week.

Last year, many of us did not do enough to defeat Prop 8.  For sure, a lot of people were distracted by the Presidential race.  But the truth is “No on 8” did an awful job giving volunteers useful stuff to do – like standing at a street corner in the Castro.  I tried to help, but ended up working on other campaigns because “No on 8” was making us do inane stuff that someone like myself – who has over a decade of campaign experience – could tell was pointless.  When I volunteered for David Chiu in San Francisco – or went to Wisconsin to help Obama – the campaigns were organized enough to put volunteers to good use.

Having talked with the “No on 1” campaign in Maine, I am confident that out-of-state volunteers will be put to work – placed in local field offices to execute an intelligent strategy.  Now, people in California need to start making their volunteer vacation plans.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Paul Hogarth will be in Maine October 3-13, and will offer daily dispatches for Beyond Chron readers (where this piece was first published.)

Maine Next Battleground for Marriage Equality

In just 77 days, Maine voters can set the national agenda for marriage equality.  The state legislature passed same-sex marriage earlier this year, but now the right has collected enough signatures to put a referendum (“Question One”) on the November 2009 ballot – and has hired the same political consultants who successfully passed Proposition 8.  Supporters of marriage equality, however, are determined not to repeat the same mistakes we made in California – and will run an inclusive field campaign with a pro-active and pre-emptive message that (with the right resources) can bring about victory.  It does not cost a lot to win campaigns in Maine (only $3 million), and voter turnout is expected to only be about 500,000 people.  In other words, the campaign is winnable – but has not yet received the national attention it deserves.  While Californians are divided on whether to repeal Prop 8 in 2010 or 2012, they can set aside their differences by helping us win in Maine.  If we prevail on November 3rd, it will be easier to take our rights back in California.

The fight for marriage equality has made crucial progress in the past six months – from a court victory in Iowa to legislative victories in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.  The American Taliban is scared of the inevitable trend toward justice, and views the upcoming Maine referendum as “ground zero” in this battle.  Groups like the National Organization for Marriage have already thrown massive resources into Maine, and are taking it seriously.  “The side that cares more will win,” said “No on 1” field director Monique Hoeflinger.

The LGBT community is aware that whenever marriage rights have been on the ballot, bigotry has prevailed.  Arizona rejected an anti-gay marriage amendment in 2006, but it threatened both marriage and domestic partnerships – and the campaign to defeat it focused on the latter.  Two years later, the right put another measure in Arizona that only banned marriage – and it passed by a 13-point margin.  In other words, winning a campaign in Maine at the ballot box will change the conversation – and help us repeal Proposition 8.

Everyone knows that defeating Prop 8 was winnable, but our side ran an awful campaign that – like Michael Dukakis – blew a seventeen-point lead.  It had a reactive message that did not anticipate or preempt attacks from the other side, failed to run an adequate field campaign that included California’s diverse constituencies, and suffered from an early complacency that led to its downfall.  But after meeting some leaders from Maine’s No on One campaign at the Netroots Nation conference in Pittsburgh last week, I am confident they have learned from our mistakes.

A Grassroots Campaign that is Proactive and Preemptive

Unlike in California, where gays and lesbians won marriage rights at the Supreme Court, in Maine the legislature and Governor passed it into law – less than three months ago.  It took an intense grassroots lobbying campaign to make this happen, and now the same Mainers who fought for their marriage rights are ready to defend them at the ballot box.  

On Election Day last November, marriage equality advocates stood outside polling places in Maine with pledge cards for the legislative campaign.  By the time the legislature voted six months later, they had identified 50,000 registered voters who support gay marriage – but what’s interesting is where most of them came from.  Lobbying efforts come down to persuading “swing” legislators, and most of them don’t represent liberal communities.  Most of the 50,000 identified supporters live in “swing” parts of the state, giving the campaign an advantage to make inroads in places that will decide this election.

Compare this with the “No on 8” field campaign in California, which focused almost entirely on gay neighborhoods in San Francisco and Los Angeles – while ceding the rest of the state to opponents.  Mobilizing your base is important (especially in a low-turnout election), but a winning campaign needs to have a visible presence in every part of the state.

“No on 8” also ran a reactive campaign that spent too much time responding to lies that the opposition hurled at us.  It was inexcusable to not anticipate the “gay-marriage-will-be-taught-in-public-schools” line, because it’s only been used as an attack from the right in every state that had a marriage amendment.  The “No on 1” effort has already planned a TV ad when the other side makes this argument.  And unlike in California, where we put a politician on the air (State Superintendent of Public Schools Jack O’Connell) to say it’s not true, the Maine campaign will counter that message with teachers and families.

People of faith have been part of the coalition for years – and are framing support for gay marriage in moral terms.  On the day after the California Supreme Court ruled for marriage equality, they had five press conferences throughout Maine lauding the decision.  This pro-active show of force actually put the religious right on the defensive.  If this is how they plan to run the “No on 1” campaign, it’s an effort worth giving your money to.

Not a Lot of Resources Required

At Netroots Nation, the “No on 1” campaign said they needed about $3 million to win a statewide campaign in Maine (“we’re a cheap date,” they said.)  All of us Californians laughed, because we spent $40 million last year only to have our marriage rights taken away.  But it’s not just how much money a campaign spends, but whether they use their resources wisely – and when the money comes in.  “No on 8” ultimately outspent the opposition, but too much of the funds came in late in the game – when there was a tangible fear of losing.  In Maine, it’s important to send a contribution before Labor Day – so the campaign can hire enough field directors that requires weeks of hard work.

Mainers have a “live-and-let-live” approach, but they don’t like outsiders trying to buy the election process.  Most of the “No on 1” money has come from Maine residents, in small contributions from supporters of the legislative campaign to pass marriage equality.  The opposition has already raised $343,000 – and all but $2,000 from four big donors: $160,000 from the New Jersey-based National Organization for Marriage, $100,000 from the Roman Catholic diocese of Portland, $50,000 from the Knights of Columbus and $31,000 from Focus on the Family Maine.  No sign yet if the Mormons are sending in their millions from Utah, but when they do I hope to see more creative YouTube spots like this one.

Finally, the “No on 1” campaign is inviting volunteers to come “vacation” in Maine – where they will put you up in the homes of supporters.  Help is especially needed during the first week of October, when early absentee ballots get mailed out.  Volunteers should go to the campaign website, and let them know when they plan to visit the state.  This will be a campaign mostly run by Maine residents, but unpaid assistance from those passionate for marriage equality are welcome.

In California, gay marriage supporters who plan to repeal Prop 8 at the ballot box are deeply divided between doing it in 2010 – or in 2012.  Equality California has endorsed 2012, in part because their donors do not feel confident winning in 2010 is possible.  But grass-roots supporters at the Courage Campaign want to try next year.  It’s a stupid internecine fight that threatens to hurt the LGBT community, when we should all be working together.

I’m undecided about 2010 or 2012, and am willing to be persuaded either way.  But there’s one thing I know for sure – defending marriage equality in Maine in 2009 will make it easier to repeal Prop 8, regardless of what year it gets on the ballot.  Californians who believe in marriage equality have a moral responsibility to help out the Maine effort.  Depending on my vacation schedule and budget, I plan to fly out there in a few weeks.

Paul Hogarth is the Managing Editor of Beyond Chron, San Francisco’s Alternative Online Daily, where this piece was first published.