As far as action-steps a few broad outlines are clear:
1) Much better minority outreach. The specifics are for each organization to figure out. I am grappling with this, as are many organizational leaders. We can do a better job and we must.
2) Test a marriage campaign in a state and do the polar opposite of what we have done in the past. In other words, use real GLBT people to have a real conversation with the people. Do it in a state where we will lose - so we can experiment without the pressure of blowing a victory. But, take a poll before the campaign and after the campaign to see how effective the approach is. Was progress made? Right now, we keep doing the same poll/focus group tested campaigns. Perhaps this will prove most effective in the end. But, we won't know until we test a new way. Isn't it time?
3) Direct action must be a component added to every organization. This will bolster - not replace - the insiders. To continue to have only lobbyists who are not backed by legions of people is a strategic mistake. I know some of you are "message" control freaks and just terrified of direct action - as it may go against the poll-tested talking points. But, guess what, in the Internet age, you lost exclusive control of your message 15 years ago. Indeed, Andrew Sullivan, Dan Savage, Hilary Rosen, Rachel Maddow, Ellen, Rosie and Elton John - among others - all are gay and have huge national platforms (and this does not even count others like me, Signorile, Andy Towle, Rex Wockner, Bil Browning, Mike Rogers, Pam Spaulding, John Aravosis etc.) and can dominate a news cycle on gay issues at any given time. Thus, the age of organizations exercising strict message control is gone. done. finito. This is why direct action can strengthen your cause, not weaken it. Accept this reality and adjust.
4) We have to give America a civics/history lesson. a) People don't understand that the courts are there to protect minorities from mob rule - tyranny of the majority. b) People buy the line that anti-gay churches are just voting their values. Voting values is only to ensure that a religious group can practice their beliefs and live their values. It does not allow them to force other people to live by the rules of their church - effectively making everyone members - against their will.
5) We must do a better job making people understand the difference between civil and religious marriage. It must be hammered home. Until people get this simple point - we will have trouble.
6) Finally, there is a misconception that those who are protesting are some dumb mob who go home and do nothing after the screaming dies down. While this may be true of many, even a majority, a sizable minority of protesters will become energized and propel the movement forward. My own activism began after I saw a Save the Children billboard in Fort Lauderdale during a campaign in the late 80's. I then went to a rally and decided to dedicate myself to the movement. Many of us have a similar story.
So, far from providing a venue for a bunch of people yapping, these protests are energizing those who will eventually replace us and lead the movement. The passions stirred at these events do not stop when the protesters leave. Individuals will take this energy to the workplace, to universities, to the op-ed pages, to blogs, to their family dinner at Thanksgiving this year. Many more people will now come out over the holidays as a result of what is going on. They drew strength to do so from the massive crowds.
So, let's give these people who stood out in the lousy weather a little more credit. The action we are now discussing is already in motion in a thousand different ways that are not included in any memo or action plan we may write.
Excellent, I agree completely. I especially like 3, 4 and 5.
Civics lessons yes! I hear a lot of people saying "that's fair", "that's democracy", "it's what the people wanted", "it should be up to the states", etc. when describing these constitutional amendments. I hear gay people saying this, not just straights! That's bullshit, we don't live in a simple democracy by majority (mob) rule.
We do need short, to-the-point phrases to whip out on occasion, because that's the culture we live in: attention deficit and anti-intellectual at worst, and over-saturated with conflicting media messages at best. Everyone who wants to make a difference needs to be armed with an arsenal of catchy phrases.
"If we decided everything by majority rule, interracial marriage would still be illegal."
(you can replace interracial marriage with pretty much any minority rights issue)
"That's why we have a Constitution and Bill of Rights - to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority."
("Tyranny of the majority" is a great phrase that has popped up again and again in U.S. history)
"What minority are we voting against next time?"
(here it's fun to replace a specific minority - "so can we outlaw Mormon marriages next?")
And my favorite, being that I'm from northern Wisconsin:
"So can we put gun rights up for a vote?"
(The pro-gun rights advocate will immediately cry out "2ND AMENDMENT!!" They'll make your point for you - that we are NOT just a simple democracy, that we have a Constitution and some things should not be up for a vote.)
We need talking points because they can catch on, the problem is sticking to a set of poll-tested points. All too often it seems like the mentality of mainstream gay rights organizations is to put a polite face forward, in an effort to get the straight people to like us or something. Maybe they'll take pity on us and give us our rights out of sympathy...??
Screw that, I'm not interested in whether people like me or not. I want the truth to be made public, I want the electorate to be at least somewhat informed when they make decisions that affect other people's lives, and I want our government to uphold the Constitution. Just stick to the points that are true and relevant, stop worrying about offending stupid people!
The mainstream organizations need to take a lesson from the protesters out on the streets. In the protest pictures I see homemade signs that are more clever, more catchy, more emotionally honest and even more factually accurate than almost anything made by a mainstream gay rights organization. The "Victim of H8" images are particularly striking. Actually before these protests began and before Prop 8 passed, I thought to myself how fortunate it was that the proposition was numbered "8", all too easy to rhyme with "hate". How fucking perfect! That's exactly the kind of thing that catches on in our billboard/bumper sticker culture. No on 8 should have jumped on that.
When I watch ads made by No on 8 and other gay rights organizations, I feel like I'm watching an infomercial, something fake. When I look at the protesters around the nation, I see real human beings who are angry and hurting as a result of social injustice.
I just hope the mainstream movement has the sense to incorporate the passion and poignancy being expressed at the protest marches into their own efforts.
posted by Eshto, at
11/18/2008 1:36 PM
Where was HRC's leadership in California? Where were they when it came to the "T" in LGBTQ? Come to think of it - I've stopped giving to the HRC over a year ago and many of my friends have written them off long before I did.
There are a good many citizens (and Republican Leaders for that matter) that apparently never took Civics nor did they take History -- else they would understand that in America a citizen must distinguish between the rights of all people in a secular system versus their own personal religious beliefs.
Here is my favorite analogy:: How many Southern Baptist ministers would get behind a Proposition, put forth by Orthodox Jews, that would ban the sale of Pork products -- because the bible (old testament) clearly highlights eating pork as a sin. First of all, both groups believe the bible and in the concept of sin - but I doubt many Southern Baptists would be willing to give up their bacon and fat back - and would consider such a proposal absurd -- but to a strict Orthodox Jew they take this very seriously. I guess if Orthodox Judaism was the majority Religion in this country - we could expect to give up bacon, ham, and pork rinds.
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