Over the past couple of years, I and a few other perceptive “culture war” geeks have noticed the obvious, considerable, and growing fractures that exist within the “pro-family” movement. Despite suspect alliances that dip into extremism still being perceptible to those who know where to look (and/or have the wherewithal to do so), there are clear divides on the other side — schisms between the more “on-message” politicos and the more shoot-from-the-hip voices of discrimination, which become even more evident whenever a state marriage debate approaches a ballot.
One of the most major recent examples was the Maine Question One campaign. Anybody who knew anything about the state knew that Mike Heath has been the most vocal and visible anti-LGBT activist for years on end. On the same year that marriage ultimately passed and then went to the ballot (2009), Tony Perkins and a host of other folks who would go on to steer the “Yes on One” campaign toasted Heath at a big banquet thingie. But then just a few months later, when the ballot campaign went full steam and the need to seem mainstream earned a newfound premium, something weird happened. All of a sudden, Mike Heath was nowhere to be found. Not in campaign releases. Not speaking for the campaign in the media. Not at official campaign rallies, alongside his longtime colleagues. Nowhere. It was as if Schubert Flint Public Affairs — the firm that most always drives the look and feel of these kinds of state campaigns — paid him off or something.
It was patently obvious why Heath disappeared: It was because he is from the Peter LaBarbera, Scott Lively, Matt Barber, et al., school of advocacy. Heath is loose-lipped and known to say nutty, personally hostile things, often referencing Satan, spiritual wars, and the kinds of things that don’t make good ad copy. For a campaign that needs the cherished voters in the “movable middle,” loosed-lipped and nutty just doesn’t work. Personally hostile certainly doesn’t work. So bye bye, man who says what’s on his mind; hello, team that’s willing to stay “on-message.”
It’s a shift that’s mimicked the overall trajectory of the professional anti-LGBT. Even with groups like the Family Research Council, which is still rife with incendiary rhetoric, there’s been a noticeable drift. If you search back on the Wayback Machine, you will see that FRC, at the turn of the millennium, was stacked with many voices who are now considered on the extreme end. Peter LaBarbera, Robert Knight, and a number of “ex-gays” were all on staff, and they routinely played host to folks who made no bones about their pure disgust at homosexuality itself. Nowadays, FRC messages it all just a little more carefully — and makes its outreach efforts to certain voices much less apparent — which has led to the organization being rewarded with greater GOP prominence.
Okay, so why all of this opining on this subject in the here and now? Well, because MassResistance, an SPLC-designated “hate group” that most anyone would put on the extreme end of the gay debate, has just posted a very interesting article about why they think the “pro-family” side lost in the Maryland legislative debate on marriage. And as is often true in this weird and wacky debate of ours, the more hostile group is proving to be the most honest about what is really going on over on the opposition’s side:
Here’s our analysis of why our side lost:
1) The pro-family establishment adopted a strategy based on fear. We were told (by multiple sources) that the leaders of Maryland’s pro-family establishment were “warned” by legislators that last year a key Senator changed his vote to support gay “marriage” because of the “hateful rhetoric” from our side that he heard. “You need to police your people,” pro-family leaders were told. So they aggressively ordered everyone to be polite, reasonable and not “extreme” sounding in any way.
Unfortunately, that’s the oldest trick in the book. The homosexual lobby and their allies use that ploy all over the country to get pro-family leaders to soften their message into mush — and we subsequently lose. It certainly worked this time.
2) The pro-family establishment took tight control of the entire lobbying process. They had already established contacts with the churches, major pro-family legislators, and activists. They made it clear that they were running the entire effort. They took control of who would lobby, what the role of churches would be, who would testify and in what order, who would talk to politicians, and most importantly what the message would be. One activist said they were told at a meeting by the leadership, “Put your trust in us. We want to win. Yes, we’re trying to muzzle you.” Another activist was told, “You need to leave lobbying to the professionals.”
3) A weak, compromising message was mandated. Pro-family activists were ordered to be polite, reasonable, and not “extreme” or “anti-gay.” No “Bible thumping” either, they were told. The message was to be that the word “marriage” was special and must not be re-defined at any cost. This implied that civil unions and domestic partnerships would be acceptable as long as the word “marriage” was not changed. As a result, many pro-family people — even clergymen — testified that civil unions would be a reasonable compromise. The secondary message was that every child needs a mother and father, but that was undermined by not opposing homosexual civil unions or domestic partnerships.
Aggressive pro-family groups were excluded. Groups like Protect Marriage Maryland which were willing to take the same uncompromising stand that was successful last year were blackballed. The message even got out to the politicians, many of whom shunned and avoided the non-establishment pro-family people. (Very familiar to us at MassResistance!) In addition, the use of ex-gays and others was strongly discouraged.
But what happened in Maryland is unfortunately a the latest instance of what’s been going on across the country. This kind of foolish and cowardly strategy has started to dominate the pro-family movement.
I find this shift fascinating. On the pro-equality side of things, we know that LGBT acceptance is dependent on the number of people who are willing to stand up, be seen, be heard, and be counted, as we know that people who know us are less likely to go against us. But on the other side, candor is becoming Kryptonite. Heck, even admitting you want to ban marriage for same-sex couples is becoming off limits. It’s getting to where the only ones allowed to speak against LGBT rights are those who don’t have the fortitude to admit that this is what they are actually doing! You can protest — just don’t protest.
It’s good, in terms of where we are headed in the world, since it shows the dwindling palatability of overt aggression. But at the same time it’s frustrating for those of us who want the other side to admit and take ownership of the undeniable motivations that fuel their movement. These are the voices and sentiments that fueled this debate for decades. That the “mainstream” executives at Discrimination Inc. are now trying so hard to push that foundation aside? It’s kinda, sorta bullshit. I’m actually on Team MassResistance on this one, extremely limited point.
Just this morning, we hit our fundraising goal of 35 new monthly donors (and then some!) to sustain Prop8TrialTracker.com for another year and help cover writing expenses, technical expenses, site improvements and more.
I can’t emphasize enough how important it was to meet our goal so we can continue to remain the #1 site on the web for coverage of the trial and keep this community going, as well as bring you news, analysis and action alerts on other court cases and marriage equality.
THANK YOU to the 37 (and counting) people who stepped up in a big way to contribute as little as $10 a month to keep what we do here going for another year (as well as those who have given in the past). If you didn’t give, please consider doing so — the more people we have who step up, the less we have to make fundraising asks. And if you can’t be a monthly donor for whatever reason, please consider saying “thank you” in the comments to those who just stepped up to do so. Out of the thousands and thousands of people who visit here every day, it really is less than 1% who chip in to help the site function, and we owe a debt of gratitude to you all. We’ll pick the winner of tickets to see the “8” play shortly. Also, a big thanks to all the people who wrote a piece on why it’s so important to give (in no particular order): Greg in SLC, Jacob Combs, Mark & Robert Mead-Brewer, NCLR’s Shannon Minter & Chris Stoll, GLAD’s Carisa Cunningham, AnonyGrl, AFER’s Matt Baume, and Courage’s Rick Jacobs.
One other thing I’ll just say, which is that I really do think this morning’s news on the Field Poll showing 59% of Californians support same-sex marriage is, in part, due to what we all do here. Whether you think 59% is an outlier or not, it is without a doubt that the numbers have moved our way. It’s because we’re shining a light on the trial. It’s because of the number of people who Google “Prop 8 trial” to find out what the news is all about when a court decision is handed down, and end up here. It’s because we’re sharing stories like that of Ed and Derence, and putting their story on the front page of the Los Angeles Times. It’s because of the conversations you’re having with family, friends and colleagues about the trial and marriage equality in general. While the legal folks do their part on the inside, we’re doing our part on the outside to shine a light on the trial, the stories, and this movement. Oh, and by, the way, showing up (check out the rally photo in this morning’s LA Times piece on the new poll — it may look familiar!). The folks who step up to help fund this site help make all of that possible. And that’s why it’s so important to keep reading, chipping in, commenting, and sharing.
I have another piece of good news out of all of this: because we met our fundraising goal, we’re able to bring on a third writer to the Prop8TrialTracker.com writing team to help expand our coverage! We’re offering a blogging internship, compensation commensurate with experience. The full description is below. While the position is open to all, I can’t emphasize enough how wonderful it would be to have “one of our own” be that person, and if not that, then someone you know and can recommend. Jacob Combs came to us as someone who has been reading the site from the beginning. Whether you are seeking to “learn the ropes” or just want to start writing on the site during the week, please consider applying and/or passing the position on to people you think would be good. E-mail it to friends. Post on social media. Consider applying yourself! And of course, as always, guest posts as the interest strikes you are always welcome.
Thanks again, and please find the writing position in the extended entry.
Like this post and others like it? You can chip in here so P8TT can keep going with a sustainable source of funding. We’re only two donors shy of our goal to help pushing the movement forward! We hit our goal! Thanks to everyone! Onward to keep pushing for more good news like this.
By Adam Bink
Big news in the Field Poll today: 59% of Californians support same-sex marriage. If accurate, that is dramatic movement from previous polls, including 7 points from the last Field poll in 2010, and dramatic movement from the poll Equality California shopped around last year during its town halls on whether to go to the ballot to repeal Prop 8.
The survey also showed remarkable movement among critical demographics — in 2008, 64% of Catholics supported Prop 8. In today’s poll, 51% of Catholics support same-sex marriage. There is similar movement among “non-whites” and other groups.
Whether or not you believe the Field poll’s findings are as wide a swing as they show, this, an opinion from the Field Poll’s Director, is for sure:
DiCamillo attributed this spike in support in part to a series of court rulings in favor of same-sex marriage. This month, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco declared California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Should the Supreme Court decide to review the matter, it probably won’t happen until 2013.
Two federal courts, including one this month in San Francisco, have declared the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and woman, unconstitutional. In recent weeks, state legislators in Washington and Maryland have approved laws to make same-sex marriage legal in their states.
Below is a statement from Courage Campaign’s Rick Jacobs.
Same-sex Marriage Field Poll in California Shows “The Writing is on the Wall”
“This Poll is a Caution to the Right Wing That Leads the Republican Party Today,”
Says Courage Campaign’s Rick Jacobs
Los Angeles — A new Field Poll released today shows that support for same-sex marriage in California has increased dramatically with 59% of residents favoring same-sex unions to 34% who do not — a now-25% gap since Prop 8. The poll showed that the largest increase in approval since 2010 came from middle-aged voters, nonpartisans and Republicans. Other significant gains in support come from Catholics, Latinos and older voters.
Poll Director Mark DiCamillo was quoted in a news story as saying, “This is real change.”
“With 59% of Californians now in favor of marriage equality, including nearly half of those over 60, the writing is on the wall,” said Rick Jacobs, chair and founder of the Courage Campaign, a progressive, online, grassroots organization with more than 750,000 members nationwide. “The public clearly believes that gay and lesbian couples are no different than their straight counterparts. We love, have families and build community as do all caring people.
This poll is a caution to the right wing that leads the Republican Party today. Even as Romney, Santorum and Gingrich fight to be king of the anti-gay hill, the winner may discover he’s king of an ant hill.”
Jacobs said the poll shows the effect that the Prop 8 Trial has had on public opinion. Two federal courts have recently ruled that Prop 8 is unconstitutional, citing important Supreme Court precedent. With the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on the ropes in courts across the land, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” a relic of the past and six states plus the District of Columbia having legalized marriage equality (and Maryland set to join them tomorrow), the Supreme Court would be out of the American mainstream if it overruled the California federal courts.
Courage Campaign’s Prop 8 Trial Tracker, the #1 Google search result for “Prop 8 Trial,” brought the Prop 8 Trial into the lives of people all over the world. Courage Campaign’s Testimony story project helped the public see the faces of same-sex marriage like Ed and Derence, whose story made it in front of hundreds of thousands of Californians when it was featured on the cover of the Los Angeles Times. Along with colleagues in the movement, Courage Campaign intends to continue and expand that work so that marriage and full equality for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, could be won.
Courage Campaign is a multi-issue online organizing network that empowers more than 750,000 grassroots and netroots supporters to work for progressive change and full equality in California and across the country. Through a one-of-a-kind online tool called Testimony: Take A Stand, the Courage Campaign is chronicling the sights, sounds and stories of LGBT families and all who wage a daily struggle against discrimination across America. For more information about Testimony, please visit, http://www.couragecampaign.org/Testimony.
This post is part of P8TT’s annual fundraising drive. As of this post, we are only a handful of new donors away from hitting our goal! We just need a few more to sustain us for another year. Please become a Sustaining Member so we can keep this community together to fight the battles ahead (and to enter for a chance to win two tickets to the new “8” play premiere with an all-star cast in Los Angeles!). You can chip in here so P8TT can keep going with a sustainable source of funding.
By Gregory Enke (Greg in SLC)
Adam invited me to write “a few paragraphs” in support of P8TT to assist with the fundraiser. As humans often do, I first considered what I have not liked about P8TT. I thought about the painful transition to the current software configuration and how we lost some P8TT family members. I also thought how some have stopped writing, seemingly in protest or perhaps they no longer feel welcome. I grieve for these losses. But then, I stopped to consider other things….
– I have visited the P8TT site almost EVERY day since Prop 8 passed in California in 2008
– I have posted 620 comments since the new web format became active
– Every time I log on to a computer I go directly to 2 websites: Gmail, then www.prop8trialtracker.com
I was stunned when I realized this! I work full time for a Health Care Organization. I also teach evenings at the local community college. I am married to a wonderful man, have 4 children and 1 grand baby. As a person whose time is much in demand I only spend time on those things that edify me. P8TT meets this criteria in abundant ways:
– The posts are current and relevant
– The comments are from a global community with diverse perspectives
– I have electronically met new wonderful allies and even met some in person!
– I find support and solace here when I grieve and can cheer and celebrate with those who care and are informed!
– I view P8TT commentators as a wonderful resource. It is a comfort to know If I’m in trouble I can come here for advice.
I contributed tithing (10% of my income) to a church for over 3 decades that did not meet my emotional or intellectual needs. I no longer give $ to this church, but I gladly give “tithes” to P8TT as I’m able. Here is a place where I learn, share and feel validated. Here I can question established institutions and persons without threat of excommunication. Here I’ve expanded my awareness of self and of humanity. I’m grateful I stumbled across this site while looking for answers after the devastating passing of Prop8. P8TT continues to be a relevant/viable place to meet and to organize our efforts in the fight for marriage equality.
Another crazy week: Maryland’s legislature passes a marriage bill, a lawsuit widens in New Jersey, the governor of Hawaii comes out for equality, and a huge victory in a federal case against DOMA. Lately we’ve racking up so many wins, it’s getting hard to keep up.
Let’s start with this week’s big news in the Prop 8 case. The Prop 8 Proponents have officially challenged our victory at the Ninth Circuit. Now, the court will have to decide whether to grant them a rehearing or deny it. If they’re denied, the Proponents would probably take the case to the US Supreme Court. Either way, AFER expects its string of victories to continue uninterrupted, and won’t stop until we’ve achieved full federal marriage equality.
And even though our case hasn’t reached its conclusion yet, it’s already having a profound impact across the country. This week, judges in two separate cases handed down major victories for marriage equality, and both rulings heavily cited our recent Ninth Circuit victory.
The second victory this week was in Maryland. Last year the legislature narrowly failed to approve a marriage equality bill, but this time around they’ve given it the green light. It now goes to the governor, who strongly supports the measure. And from there, a likely referendum in the fall. Polling in Maryland is very close, with fifty one percent in favor of equality to forty four percent opposed. That’s about where the Prop 8 campaign was at this time in 2008, so it’s possible that Maryland could lose marriage equality before it even starts.
A new survey in Washington shows similar levels of support, with fifty percent in favor to forty-six percent opposed. We’re closer than ever to marriage in both those states, but we’ve still got lots of work to do to protect our recent victories.
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