Latino Equality Alliance Joins EQCA, People of Color, Faith & Family Groups in new "Breakthrough Converstation" 2012 Campaign

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EQCA: No Prop 8 repeal in 2012

Bay Area Reporter | Published 10/06/2011|by Seth Hemmelgarn s.hemmelgarn@ebar.com

Equality California has opted not to pursue a repeal of Proposition 8 in 2012, the statewide lobbying group announced this week.

Instead, it is partnering with other organizations to launch The Breakthrough Conversation, a public education project designed to soften people's views on LGBT issues.

"For decades, opponents of equality have used prejudicial and dehumanizing myths about LGBT people being a harm to kids and families as a weapon against us in the legislature, in the courts and at the ballot," EQCA Executive Director Roland Palencia said in a statement released Wednesday, October 5.

He added that it is time to "confront major societal barriers that prevent us from securing full and lasting equality, including marriage."

The project will include "cutting-edge" research, media tools, and trainings across California to help LGBTs and allies talk to friends, neighbors, and relatives. EQCA's partners will include Gay-Straight Alliance Network, Faith for Equality, Our Family Coalition, and Latino Equality Alliance, among others.

In an interview, Latino Equality Alliance Co-Chair Ari Gutierrez said what's critical about the project is that it focuses on outreach to communities where "we haven't done a lot of work in, in the past," such as communities of faith and color, and family and parent organizations.

California voters passed Prop 8 three years ago, amending the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Since then, many have spoken of the importance of talking to friends and neighbors about LGBT rights, and some have pushed for efforts to repeal the marriage ban.

Meanwhile the federal Perry v. Brown lawsuit seeking to overturn Prop 8 has been making its way through the courts, and could eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

EQCA's board had originally planned to make its Prop 8 repeal decision by the end of September. The nonprofit's former executive director, Geoff Kors, had been a member of the No on Prop 8 campaign's executive committee in 2008. As the only statewide LGBT group, its participation in any repeal effort would be crucial.

Altogether, both sides raised about $90 million during the 2008 marriage fight.

Asked why it took so long for EQCA's board to make its choice against a 2012 repeal effort, Rebekah Orr, a spokeswoman for the organization, said it was "a very hard decision."

"It's very painful to consider that we may have to wait a little longer, and it's also painful to imagine what another loss could to do our state ... and to our movement," she said.

She said public opinion on marriage equality has shifted more in favor of such unions, but "it's just not enough yet to launch an initiative campaign without assuming a tremendous amount of risk."

Orr declined to say what the board's vote had been, referring that question to board member Michael Dunn. Dunn didn't respond to interview requests.

 

Costs

Orr said EQCA estimates that the education campaign would cost close to $1 million.

She said the organization has secured about a third of the money.

Matt Foreman, director of gay and immigrant rights programs at the Haas Jr. Fund, said that so far, Haas's gay and lesbian program has committed $220,000 to the project and they're working to raise more.

He said it's "an incredibly valuable project for advancing marriage equality not just here in California, but across the country."

Orr didn't know where the rest of the money would come from.

"We'll look at a combination of grants, major donors, and grassroots funding support," she said.

The timeline for when there will be tangible signs of the campaign hasn't yet been drafted.

"One of the very first components has to be the research, and we have some sense of what that will look like, but we need do some additional planning," Orr said.

"One of the challenges we have is we don't have all the information we need in order to understand how to effectively move folks on this issue and really disarm our opponents of this weapon," Orr said. "Having access to a lot of that information is a really incredible tool."

She also said, "Clearly, the capacity of all our organizations is going to be significantly impacted by the campaign on the FAIR Education Act."

That act, also known as Senate Bill 48 and signed into law this summer, would require that schools teach about LGBT people's contributions to California's social and economic development, among other things. SB 48's opponents have just under a week to turn in more than 500,000 valid petition signatures to get their referendum on the ballot in 2012. [See related stories, pages 1, 8.]

 

Reluctance

Asked about the possibility of trying to repeal Prop 8 at the ballot box in 2012 before EQCA's decision was announced, many LGBT leaders expressed reluctance.

Lorri Jean, CEO of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, said trying to repeal Prop 8 in 2012 would be "a terrible idea." Jean, who like Kors was on the No on Prop 8 executive committee, said that for one thing, the Perry v. Brown case is "doing pretty well," and it would be better to focus on that.

"Our community is very divided. ... We cannot be a divided community. We have got to be of one mind," she said.

Openly gay Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) expressed similar feelings. He said that before working for repeal in 2012, there should be "strong conviction that the entire community wants to go in that direction, because to be at cross-purposes would not serve us well, and the stakes will be extraordinarily high."