We reject efforts to dilute our resources and divert our attention with haphazard drives before then. We urge that the next campaign for marriage equality be truly inclusive and focused on the empowerment of communities of color.
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One theme in common between the Latino civil rights movement and the fight for LGBT rights is the payoff from prudence and solidarity in electoral politics. We are stronger when we build our movements, gather our resources, and stand together with allies to achieve important goals at the ballot box. The same holds true in the struggle to win back marriage equality in California.
Rather than a mad dash back to the airwaves to persuade an electorate upset by the economy and poised to deal us another setback, we need to mount a diverse, broad-based, and effective campaign to move voters and win a sustainable victory for equality in 2012.
For many Latinos in California, the memory of Election Night is a mixture of triumph and frustration. We saw a presidential candidate committed to civil rights and health care, indeed, a person of color himself and a community organizer who would go on to appoint the first Latina ever to the U.S. Supreme Court, elected President.
But we also saw the passage of the discriminatory Proposition 8. It eliminated the right to marry for committed same-sex couples in California. The measure overturned a key part of a state supreme court ruling that itself stood on the shoulders of an earlier victory by a Latina plaintiff that lifted a ban on interracial marriages. Perhaps most painful of all for LGBT Latinos, we saw Proposition 8 approved not only in Orange County but even in, yes, Los Angeles County on its way to statewide passage.
Unlike Proposition 8 in 2008, any upcoming campaign to regain marriage equality would be one of choice, not one of necessity in fending off an attack from religious-right foes. The timing is ours to determine. And we should proceed with the costly, demanding, and high-stakes electoral campaign that will be required when we have assembled a winning recipe. That time is 2012.
We have much work to do before we proceed to the ballot. The foremost fact is that we still do not command majority support for marriage equality from California voters, mustering less than 50 percent support in recent surveys. Going back to the ballot to remove the voter-imposed ban on same-sex marriage from the state constitution will require a “yes” vote on a statewide constitutional amendment. Winning “yes” votes is harder than no votes, and it requires starting off with a strong majority of support. Charging ahead without having achieved such a standard is rash, to say the least. To do so in 2010 indeed would be rushed and risky.
Additional evidence makes clear that focusing on 2012 sets us on a winning path. The 2008 campaign against Prop 8 failed the solidarity test. It did not adequately reach non-English-speaking voters and did not engage or empower allied groups poised to communicate with millions. The Yes-on-8 campaign, in taking its victory laps, bragged about the many tongues into which it translated its materials and the diverse congregations whom it mobilized. This lapse will take time to overcome. The next campaign to win back marriage equality needs to learn from past mistakes by investing in communications capacity to achieve cultural competency as well as fluency in persuading immigrant, people-of-color, and non-English-speaking communities to support marriage equality. Most of all, bona fide solidarity between LGBT leaders and people of color organizations and communities that will translate into “yes” votes for marriage equality requires time to build.
We also know we need to gather resources to wage a winning campaign. In a down economy, many LGBT and Latino Californians—and many who are both LGBT and Latino—face challenges in finding money to pay basic bills, much less campaign contributions. The same holds true for political donors big and small. In three years time, even while supporting important educational work aimed at moving voters toward marriage equality, we need to solicit and save funds for an expensive statewide campaign. 2010 is no time for squandering money on a losing drive that promises to win back marriage but doesn’t deliver or sets us back further. It’s time to build our network of donors and devote precious resources to measurable progress in educating and moving voters on marriage equality. Our prudence and planning will pay dividends when we need to pony up for a costly campaign before a statewide audience in 2012.
Time is on our side in California. Another important piece of evidence is that with more time, until 2012, we gain more “yes” votes for marriage equality. The demographics of opinion on marriage equality indicate that natural changes in the state electorate, with new and younger voters replacing older voters, contributes over time to increased support for marriage equality. In weighing the options of presenting a ballot measure on statewide ballots either next year or in 2012, the latter portends a much greater capacity by marriage equality supporters to leverage and benefit from the natural shift in voter opinion. For this reason also, 2012 is a winner.
Evidence and data should guide political strategy, not impatience or other emotions. Running and winning a statewide ballot-measure for a “yes” vote on marriage equality depends not on haste, but on preparation. Expanding public support and developing the infrastructure to mobilize our communities should be our top priorities. We endorse a strategy that engages in the hard work of identifying the partnerships, commitments, and resources to launch necessary public education campaigns and sets the foundation for a solid and winning campaign in 2012. And we urge every leader, organization, and coalition committed to equality in California to support this path to victory.