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    November 12, 2008

    Where to aim 'Second Stonewall' anger?

    Posted by: Chris

    Mormonprop8protest It's been absolutely inspiring to watch the groundswell of daily -- sometimes hourly -- street protests throughout California since the passage of Proposition 8 last week. So much for the cynicism about Obama-mania on Election Night eclipsing the gay marriage defeats.

    Rex Wockner and Andy Towle have done a fantastic job of chroncling it all, and Rexo offers this prescient analysis:

    Maybe Stonewall was Activism 1.0, ACT UP was Activism 2.0, the failed corporate activism of HRC and No On Prop 8 was Activism 3.0, and now we are witnessing Activism 4.0 being born.

    It's virtually impossible to know you're experiencing history in the making when you're right in the middle of it. But our present generation with their SMS texting and their Twittering (aka "tweeting") and their Facebooking are mad as hell over this, and it's lookin' to me like they're not going to take it anymore.

    I sense the power could be shifting, from the suit-and-tie professional activists with their offices, their access, their press releases and their catered receptions, to the grassroots.

    For the sake of the movement, I hope Rex is right. The focus-group dominated, hide-the-gays, Democrat-coopted approach taken by the Human Rights Campaign has been proven bankrupt once again. And it's clear from the HRC's radio silence about the Prop 8 protests that they have no idea what to do with gays who are energized enough to take to the streets.

    Gw200h258_2 Our so-called "leaders" at HRC and the Task Force aren't alone in their blank-face reaction to the week-long "Second Stonewall" protests in California, which will culminate in a National Day of Protest this Saturday. It's easy enough to see why the Beltway Boys are confounded by it all:

    • The protests are grassroots, from the ground up, and the HRC (Activism 3.0) model is top-down, controlled by strategists wedded to focus group data.
    • Because the anger and emotion is real, it's often misdirected, and D.C.-types can't associate themselves with protests that don't toe the line of political correctness.
    • The focus of the protests is marriage and relationship recognition, which is not on "the gay agenda" that HRC et al have already acquiesced to: hate crimes in '09, ENDA in '10, and maybe -- just maybe -- federal D.P. benefits and repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell in '11-'12.
    • Some of the protest anger is directed at HRC itself, and its top-down cohorts at Equality California, which ran a lackluster No on 8 campaign that refused to allow gay couples to be seen, much less make the case for their own equality.

    To see just out of step the D.C. gay groups are with their supposed constituents, consider that the only real response so far to seven consecutive days of gay activism in the streets is to scold protesters about who they shouldn't be angry at.

    Remarkably, the "Events" and "Take Action" links on HRC's website still list only the upcoming fund-raisers for the organization itself. It's unconscionable that a group that claims to be leading a movement is not at the very least leveraging its resources to get out the word for those who want to participate in the protests. Instead, HRC's only response to eight consecutive days of street protests has been to praise a memo from People For the American Way that calls activists to task for blaming minority voters.

    Daughterprop8protest In similar fashion, those on the crunchy Gay Left at the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force have been almost a caricature of themselves, ignoring the power of the protests to conclude what we really need is, you guessed it, to "get thee to an anti-racism training! Let’s learn how attending to our own internalized racism can bring new awareness to our work with colleagues of color." Yes, that's an actual quote. Could the Task Force be more calcified and paleo-liberal?

    Those on the gay right, for their part, are warning the protesters not to blame the Mormon and Catholic Churches, despite their obvious leading role in funding the devious Yes on 8 campaign. Conservative gay law professor Dale Carpenter warned that it's bad politics -- and risks proving Yes on 8's claims about the threat to religious freedom -- to protest outside Mormon temples.

    Carpenter's criticism is somewhat ironic, coming just weeks after he claimed he was quitting the gay rights movement. He's fundamentally wrong, in my view, to suggest that protesting the critical organizational role in Yes on 8 played by the church. In fact, he turns logic on its head to suggest the protests threaten religious freedom.

    Prop8protest1 The First Amendment guarantees the Mormons' right to preach against gay marriage and refuse to perform them in their own churches. The real threat here is to the Establishment Clause, since the leadership of the Mormon, Catholic and conservative Jewish faiths have provided most of the muscle to enshrine into the California Constitution their own religious beliefs, at the expense of fundamental rights recognized by the state's highest court.

    Carpenter argues that a better strategy for the protests would be to borrow a page from the black civil rights movement, and hold sit-ins in marriage license bureaus. Not only would such a strategy fail to make full use of the spectacular number of gays and allies energized to action, it's also misplaced. The government is not to blame here.

    Clearly the judicial branch isn't to blame, having vindicated the marriage rights of gay and bisexual Californians. The California Legislature twice passed gay marriage laws, so their hands are clean. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed both bills, but he opposed Prop 8 and since its passage has called on the state supreme court to once again declare gay marriage the law of the land.

    No, the Mormon temples are as good a location to protest as any, in my book.

    H At some point, of course, these protests will die down and all these newly-minted activists will be looking for where to invest their energy. Neither HRC nor the Task Force has ever been about actual activism -- members are typically encouraged only to donate money and write emails and letters -- so it's my hope that the Join the Impact infrastructure will take on a life of its own.

    Perhaps this new generation of gay activists can take the fight to Washington and demand the Democrats in control of Congress and the White House do more than the absolute minimum for GLBT Americans.

    (All photos except lesbian couple are by Fergal O'Doherty via Rex Wockner's blog)

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    Comments

    1. Fergal O'Doherty on Nov 12, 2008 9:45:50 PM:

      Hi Chris, I never thought, last Saturday, when Rexy asked me to take some photos of the demo that they'd receive such great coverage. It's an honor. I'm a fan and I blush. I'll be taking more photos of the upcoming demo in San Diego this Saturday.
      Fergal O'Doherty

    1. Diana J on Nov 12, 2008 10:49:11 PM:

      Thanks for posting this. I had been really dismayed at what appeared to be a lack of engagement by the large queer advocacy organizations. Now I am reconsidering my initial reaction. Maybe this is exactly the way it needs to happen.

    1. Strict Scrutiny on Nov 12, 2008 11:42:31 PM:

      Great post, Chris. You are dead on.

      The focus-group dominated, hide-the-gays, Democrat-coopted approach taken by the Human Rights Campaign has been proven bankrupt once again.

      Absolutely true. The pathetic, milktoast No on 8 campaign, run by EQCA and NCLR got us nothing. Many people here in CA are now, and were during the campaign, furious that the TV ads from No on 8 were so tepid.

      This past Monday, 11/10, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting of the Sacramento Stonewall Democrats -- the featured speaker was Steve Smith, the chief strategist for No on 8. He gave a talk about why the campaign failed.

      He confirmed, and arrogantly defended, his "focus-group, hide-the-gays" approach to TV ad campaign. Evidently, the higher ups were very concerned about alienating middle of the road straight couples, so they figured it was best to keep images of newly married gay couples under wraps.

      It wasn't until the final week before the campaign that the No campaign knew they were in serious trouble and decided to "get risky" by airing a more strident ad featuring images of the Lovings and talking about discrimination in the history of our state.

      Smith and the NO campaign were totally driven by focus group data and declined to use provocative words like "discrimination" because those words didn't test well with prospective voters.

      Worst of all, in the face of defeat, he defended the campaigns decisions tactics and merely suggested they should have gotten on the air sooner. Take home message: We will ge the same campaign of "hide the gays" when there is a new ballot initiative to legalize same-sex marriage in 4-6 years.

      We need to get the word out that the dopes who ran this campaign must be replaced. More importantly, we need organization, NOW. There are a number of campaigns popping up to protest and fight for a repeal of Prop 8, but I don't see any coordination between the groups. We must get everyone together and on the same page so that we can move forward effectively.

      No, the Mormon temples are as good a location to protest as any, in my book.

      Amen. The Mormon church and its adherants were the largest contributors to Prop 8. They are a perfectly legitimate target for protests.

    1. Lucrece on Nov 13, 2008 12:41:22 AM:

      I know you like to bash quite a bit on NCLR and others, but remember that it was the kickass performance by the NCLR attorney that nailed the case in the SCOCA.

    1. North Dallas Thirty on Nov 13, 2008 12:44:24 AM:

      And of course, the Mormon temples have the advantage, unlike the Catholic churches, the black evangelical churches, and the conservative Jewish synagogues, of being representative of a group that isn't considered a necessary part of the Democrat Party coalition.

      After all, it would be racist for you to protest in front of black churches, it would be anti-Semitic for you to protest in front of synagogues, and it would be...uh.....something....for you to protest in front of Catholic ones. Better to pick on the Mormons, because you don't think anyone likes them or cares about them, and they tend to vote Republican anyway.

      Keep up the good work. Really.


    1. Lucrece on Nov 13, 2008 1:06:36 AM:

      Um, Catholics are token Republicans last I checked; why do you lump them with Democrats?

      Nobody messes with the Catholics unless it's a child molestation trial/ gay priest scandal, apparently.

    1. Strict Scrutiny on Nov 13, 2008 1:47:13 AM:

      I know you like to bash quite a bit on NCLR and others, but remember that it was the kickass performance by the NCLR attorney that nailed the case in the SCOCA.

      Lucrece, if this is a comment directed at me, let me clear the record.

      NCLR did a magnificent job with the marriage cases and has achieved great things for GLBT individuals in this state. I do not deny them this. I have met Kate Kendall and hold her the highest regard.

      However, being a good lawyer and being an effective campaign leader are different. The NCLR people are good lawyers, but they are not the best leaders. They were timid when we needed bold leadership. We need to abandon this dopey notion that showing married gay people will turn the electorate against us.

    1. Lucrece on Nov 13, 2008 1:54:54 AM:

      Fair enough, SS. I do hope you're right. Most of my life, all the reaction I've seen toward two men being even 2 inches apart and only mildly affectionate is "uugh, disgusting".

    1. Charlie on Nov 13, 2008 2:18:19 AM:

      Fair enough, SS. I do hope you're right. Most of my life, all the reaction I've seen toward two men being even 2 inches apart and only mildly affectionate is "uugh, disgusting".

      That very well may be true, Lucrece, but invisibility has never gotten us anywhere. Now it's ok to come out of the closet publicly if you are either a lesbian comedienne or willing to never ever be seen in public behaving romantically with a member of the same sex. It's fine as long as you are a high end fashion designer or exceptionally funny. There is no reason to expect anyone to accept us as we really are if we continue to only play into the stereotypes they've deemed acceptable. What disenfranchised group in this country has ever won their rights by playing by the oppressor's rules? I'm hardly a civil rights scholar, but I'd venture.... none.

    1. Charlie on Nov 13, 2008 2:45:44 AM:

      After all, it would be racist for you to protest in front of black churches, it would be anti-Semitic for you to protest in front of synagogues, and it would be...uh.....something....for you to protest in front of Catholic ones. Better to pick on the Mormons, because you don't think anyone likes them or cares about them, and they tend to vote Republican anyway.

      You left out white evangelical churches. Since they have never ever sided with us on anything, and make up the core of the Republican party now, shouldn't they be the primary target of our ire, by your logic?

      So why then have the Mormons been singled out? My guess is that it has to do with expectation. We expect evangelical churches, both black and white, to preach against us and to be, generally, the source of all anti-gay legislation. They hate us so much it's become like background noise, although we're bothered some by the black evangelical intolerance to us because, as you state, we are allies in other respects. We expect the Catholic church to generally try to pretend we don't exist, especially now that any mention of sexual "deviance" raises the spectre of their own ugly behavior. (I went to Catholic school for twelve years and I can't remember any of my teachers so much as mentioning homosexuality.) But the Mormons, they caught us off guard. Maybe they've been politically active all along and I've never noticed, or the places where I get my news never talk about them, but it's as if they leapt up out of nowhere and rallied behind this cause against us. I knew that they are very intolerant of gays in their own ranks, but I've never known them to care all that much, or to take such action, about what people outside their faith do. As a result, they are a more visible target in their sudden appearance on the horizon. Does this make them the best target? No, probably not.

      The unpleasant outbursts in the links you provided are to be expected. It's called mob mentality and it's never pretty, no matter what the driving force of the mob is. e don't have our Martin Luther King to remind us to behave peacefully, and as has been mentioned countless times here in the past, and quite a bit recently, we have no meaningful leadership whatsoever. So we'll pick the wrong targets at times and behave childishly, as we lash out in anger. It's a byproduct I'm willing to deal with as long as our anger moves us forward and not to eventually tearing ourselves apart.

    1. DavenPA on Nov 13, 2008 9:20:44 AM:

      Great article Chris. This point drives it all home for me:

      The real threat here is to the Establishment Clause, since the leadership of the Mormon, Catholic and conservative Jewish faiths have provided most of the muscle to enshrine into the California Constitution their own religious beliefs, at the expense of fundamental rights recognized by the state's highest court.

      very well said!

    1. Andoni on Nov 13, 2008 9:47:48 AM:

      I saw the new Gus van Sant movie "Milk" last night. This would be instructive for all gay leaders to see how to properly use all this gay energy. In fighting the Prop 6 Briggs initiative (outlawing gay school teachers in CA) they had to choose whether to talk in generalities (and not use the word gay), or let the public see the faces and hear the stories of LG people. They decided on the latter.....and turned the ballot initiative around from 70% against us, into a huge victory.

      Also Harvey Milk knew how to mobilize and use the young energy by putting it into the streets, having rallies, marches, etc to make news and educate the public.

      And he wasn't afraid to have public debates on TV all over the state and spell out exactly what was true and what was a lie and fear tactic.

      Our current leaders would do well to see this film and take some lessons.

    1. Mark on Nov 13, 2008 11:13:44 AM:

      Excellent post Chris. I am planning on being at the march in San Francisco on Saturday. In addition, I think we also need to strike our leaders, both gay and straight, where they will notice. I am pledging no more of my gay money to either HRC or the Democratic party until they get serious about ending DADT and DOMA.

    1. Sean on Nov 13, 2008 11:40:32 AM:

      Great post Chris! This is not a right gay or left gay issue. It is about showing our faces and showing that we care about our role in the greater community. It seems to me that the usual gay organizations across the nation aren't really reacting to anything. HRC and the Equality-related organizations seem fixed on conferences, brunches, and fund-raising and not truly energizing people. Here in Baltimore the Internet is brewing with activism for the National Day of Protest on Saturday Nov 15 130EST. Our movement needs to be shaken up and respectfully tell the rest of America that we matter. We have our opponents and we should not be surprised that they are mainly religious or Republican in nature. But we must remember, there are many in those same organizations that are for us too. Look at SF 49ers quarterback Steve Young - a Brigham Young direct decendent - and his personal defiance of his church elders. The Black Families Alliance in many ways is also supportive of our cause in many areas. We need to focus our anger on results and not each other or our opponents. It is results we crave and frankly our current community leadership isn't providing it. In 2009 EVERY state legislature should have a marriage and/or civil unions bill on its docket. We fight so much over words and an all or nothing strategy and get nothing. Let's face facts and get civil unions or marriage on the books. We seem to forget that every marriage court ruling came out of the observance that civil unions are discriminatory because of its label... but at the same time gay and lesbian families are protected by that very legislation of civil unions. Let's protect families now and then force the issue like New Jersey, Connecticut, and California did later in the labeling of the certificate. We need to protect our families strategically and then force from within the re-labeling. But most important we must show ourselves and make people realize that we aren't a "them" we are the same as they are: families living the American Dream. As Milk says, "Give them hope" by showing up and telling your neighbor your relationship matters too!

    1. Tim C on Nov 13, 2008 12:58:25 PM:

      Here is a start: there will be a marriage equality rally on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol (Washington, DC) beginning at 1:30pm on Saturday, November 15. Click my name for a Facebook link.

    1. anon on Nov 13, 2008 2:32:32 PM:

      Now that the protests have received mainstream media coverage (MSNBC, NPR, etc.), looks like HRC has jumped on the bandwagon! An excerpt from Joe's early weekly message:

      "Now is the time to be constructive with our hurt and disappointment. This weekend, thousands in all 50 states will take to the streets with one common goal in mind—full equality for all—let us not forget that our cause is one of civil respect rooted in justice and fairness. Marchers will call not only for justice for LGBT families, but for an end to all the oppressions that hold our nation back and give the false impression that our differences are more profound than what we have in common. To locate a Join the Impact rally near you, please click here."

    1. Keith on Nov 13, 2008 3:27:33 PM:

      HRC is totally irrelevant in this. Jointheimpact.com deserves the kudos of the year. HRC's idea to pass hate crimes and ENDA in the next 2 years is not worth diddly-doo to me. I'm beyond these two things.

      I am afraid that protesting against the Mormons is going to do more harm than good. I think we would have better luck letting jointheimpact or some other to be established entity do a publicity campaign featuring indepth articles on gay couples. Some media would not carry it. But we might have better luck getting the exposure out than you might think. Let people see gay couples---and understand that really our lives are not tremendously different from theirs. We grocery shop. We work or run our businesses. We deal with taking care of our parents (and in some cases children,too). And we are being hurt by these votes. A good percentage of the people that vote against us would be hard to reach. But there is a segment that is not as cold hearted as the evangelicals, the black churches and Mormons.

      Fundraising to do this outreach? Well if we really felt it would be done instead of going to brunches and b.s., gay people are madder than hell right now and would do whatever we needed to do to in order to move forward.

      Sans fundraising and any intelligent leadership, gay couples should get dressed up in their finest and hold up signs showing how many years they have been together. From a realistic perspective though, I just don't think parading does much to change minds. Not until they turn the water hoses on us.

    1. Tim on Nov 13, 2008 3:38:35 PM:

      Great Post Chris, I didn't even know they were doing a protest march in my city till I followed your links thanks for pull all this info together, and shaming HRC and the GLTF into possibly doing something for, you know, gays!

    1. jimbo on Nov 14, 2008 10:53:02 AM:

      The e-mail I got this week from HRC links to, but does not name the Join the Impact movement. Then the next link they provide of course goes to their mailing list sign-up form. It struck me as disingenuous.

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