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Notes from This Weekend's 'Equality Summit' in Los Angeles


GuestbloggerBRAD WILLIS

Brad Willis is a Los Angeles-based GLBT Activist
Images by Rex Wockner.

The Equality Summit, hosted by Equality California, was attended by what appeared to be 300-400 people. The day consisted of plenary sessions as well as breakout sessions. During the plenary sessions, executives of the 'No On 8' campaign, leaders in the marriage equality movement and various political consultants who had been hired to run the 'No On 8' campaign discussed disparate aspects of the failed operation.

Summit_2In general, the crowd was supportive of the speakers, at one point giving them a standing ovation for their efforts to defeat Proposition 8. However, there were a few heated moments in which activists in the crowd complained that grass roots organizations and activists were being ignored by 'No On 8' Executive Committee members, even in this Equality Summit. The crowd was given a chance to query, or in some cases interrogate, the 'No On 8' Executive Committee members by writing their questions down on index cards which were then read by Karen Ocamb, news editor for IN Los Angeles magazine and answered by Executive Committee members.

Some of the highlights of the presentations by the panel were a rehash of the Matt Foreman article posted by Towleroad last week titled Californiaʼs Proposition 8--Ours To Lose? Nope. It Was Always An Uphill Climb.

Kors_jeanGeoff Kors, Executive Committee member of 'No On 8', stated that the 'No On 8' campaign worked with social psychologists who interviewed people opposed to marriage equality even though they supported housing and employment rights for GLBT people. What they found was that ʻrights argumentsʼ did not appeal to this group of people when emotional appeals did. This resulted in the ʻGarden Weddingʼ ad which tests showed was highly successful in changing peopleʼs opinion to favor marriage equality. Kors said that the "biggest mistake is that we turned everything over to political consultants."

Chad Griffin, a political consultant with Griffin/Shockey, said that no private poll ever showed that our side was winning Proposition 8. In fact, four weeks prior to the vote, private polling showed our side was losing by 17 points. Many of the panel members, including Kors and Lorri Jean stated that they had wanted to release this information to alert the GLBT community that we were in danger of losing Prop 8, but paid political consultants advised them not to release that data for fear it would strengthen the 'Yes On 8' campaign.

EqsummitSome of the most interesting information was presented by San Francisco pollster David Binder, who found that political ideology was the factor that was most predictive of a vote to support Proposition 8. Binder found 'yes' votes among 22% of liberals, 51% of moderates and a whopping 81% of conservatives. The next most important factor was religiosity. Voters who attend worship services once per week or more supported Proposition 8 at a rate of 70%, while those who attended worship services less frequently voted for Proposition only 36% of the time. Sadly, polling showed the outcome of Prop 8 prior to the vote was more important to supporters of the measure than it was to those opposed to it. More of David Binderʼs research can be found on Equality California's blog. (Here is his Powerpoint presentation)

In the afternoon, the group was surprised by the appearance of Los Angelesʼ telegenic mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa who said “We all have equality not only under the law but also in the eyes of God. Iʼm going to stand with you every step along the way, not because it is popular, but because it is the right thing to do. With marriage equality we will finally stamp out the last frontier of bigotry.”

Other notable politicians in attendance were San Francisco City Supervisor Bevan Dufty, Tom Ammiano and Mark Leno who are both Members of the California State Assembly from the 13th District, and California State Senator from the 24th District, Gloria Romero.

Some video from the summit, AFTER THE JUMP...

No on 8: 'We messed up' [rex wockner]
Angry Crowd At The Equality Summit [pam's house blend]
More Questions Than Answers at Gay Marriage Equality Summit [queerty]
Equality Summit or: GayCon 2009 [los angeles metblogs]
The Subtle Lessons of the Equality Summit [la weekly]

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  1. Thing that stands out to me immediately: all the people on the dais are white. Why should "minorities" (who are actually the majority in California) support us when we continue to be perceived, with good reason, as a movement for and about middle-class white people? Why does the white gay and lesbian community refuse to confront our own racism?

    Posted by: mark | Jan 26, 2009 1:34:03 PM

  2. Invocations at this event? No pun intended, but jesus christ. This was an event to devise political strategy, and not one that necessarily even needed to be held until the CA Supreme Court issues its ruling on Prop 8 in a few months. I realize that political strategy can involve religion, but still.

    One thing few people have discussed is the participation of gay men relative to lesbians in this fight. Six of the eight "leaders" on that stage are women. I'd like to see data on whether lesbians care more about marriage, gay men care less, etc. Obviously families of either type care the most. So many people on this site have criticized their gay friends for not caring, and that usually implied gay men.

    I think that issue needs more attention: do a lot of gay men just not care about marriage rights? If they're not in a long-term relationship, my guess is that many don't. And I know a lot of gay men who don't want relationships. But please, no one toss out that unfounded claim that half of CA registered gays didn't vote on Prop 8.

    The conference acknowledged that turning the entire campaign over to political consultants was a mistake. Duh.

    Posted by: Paul R | Jan 26, 2009 1:37:50 PM

  3. There's NOTHING surprising here, except for the 17 points behind poll and their confession that they now believe they shouldn't have accepted all the advice of "politicians"—tho I see nothing that explains by what criteria THEY hired those political advisors nor why they were STILL listening to them at that point.

    Right wingers and religious fools oppose marriage equality more than "liberals" and those with a lesser need to suck at religion's teat??? Well, duh!

    OF COURSE Antonio Villaraigosa was there—he wants to stand with us all the way to the governor's mansion. Same reason Jerry Brown did a 180, but at least Villaraigosa didn't need to. And if one more person says Brown was just doing his job as AG I shall hunt you down and slap the stupidity out of you. By that definition he's NOT doing his job now.

    And spare us the rancid racism rant! Ya think they were asking for three pieces of ID at the door? There aren't more blacks up there because more blacks don't WANT to be up there.

    Did anyone ask Lorrie Jean why she took a month's vacation during the middle of the battle?

    Posted by: Leland Frances | Jan 26, 2009 2:16:00 PM

  4. Leland, I understand your cynicism, and it is totally warranted given your examples, but we should also be thankful we have some politicians who stand with us.

    Posted by: | Jan 26, 2009 2:19:24 PM

  5. Andy, Mark Leno is a state senator (13th District).

    Posted by: Kyle | Jan 26, 2009 2:33:48 PM

  6. Leland: exactly how do you KNOW that "more blacks don't want WANT to be up there?" Is this because of your extensive experience of being black? I'm African American and I don't presume to be able to speak for all black people-- let alone the 6% of California's population that is African American. Without asking the organizers, I don't think any of us can say with any certainty why the panel is not more diverse. I do, however, find it interesting that you accuse someone of ranting about racism and then spew out a stereotype.

    Posted by: Brandon | Jan 26, 2009 2:39:57 PM

  7. The "stereotype" was Mark's, Brandon wherein the absence or disproportionate number of people of color at the meeting ipso facto [in his "mind"] proves that the whites there and the white gay community as a whole is racist.

    If either you or he has evidence that people of color are being prevented from participating in/leading the groups represented, please share with us.

    Posted by: Leland Frances | Jan 26, 2009 2:50:08 PM

  8. Thanks Mark - That was my first thought too! Blinded by the whiteness.

    We as a community will continue to struggle if we do not become more inclusive and open to others. I continue to be shamed and disgusted by the lack of diversity in the vast majority of GLBT orgs - leadership, staff and members.

    As a partner to a man of color - I need to see change on a massive scale. He deserves it, I deserve it and my community deserves it.

    Enough with the ethnic fetishism and let's open our eyes, hearts and efforts to others who are our brothers and sisters!

    Posted by: itsbiffy | Jan 26, 2009 3:01:09 PM

  9. Mark, i was about to say the exact same thing.

    Posted by: Pekemo | Jan 26, 2009 3:01:41 PM

  10. Leland: yes, Mark did make a leap in logic. He went from something very specific and I think very important, i.e., a concern the the gay & lesbian community may be PERCEIVED as a middle-class, whites community only, to concluding that the lack of people of color was due to race prejudice.

    But, YOU also made an assumption/stereotype that black people aren't there because they don't "WANT" to be there. I find it interesting that you've asked me if I have "evidence that people of color are being prevented from participating in/leading the groups represented" when I ALREADY STATED: "Without asking the organizers, I don't think any of us can say with any certainty why the panel is not more diverse."

    What you've done is to try to sidestep the fact that you made a blanket assumption about black people that is as objectionable as making blanket assumptions about gay white people. I don't understand why you simply didn't challenge Mark's conclusion without resorting to stereotyping.

    Posted by: Brandon | Jan 26, 2009 3:07:51 PM

  11. KYLE is exactly right. Mark Leno is a California State Senator from the 13th District. The error is mine, not Andy's. Apologies to all (including Andy!). And thank you, KYLE for the correction.

    By the way, I highly encourage everyone to check out the last video with the picture of the African American woman in the purple dress. Her name is Eva Paterson and she is a straight attorney who is sympathetic to our cause. She is also hilarious! The video opens with footage of Tom Ammiano cracking jokes and then, after a loooooong introduction, segues into Paterson's speech regarding the African American community and the challenges faced by the marriage equality movement in that community.

    Posted by: Brad Willis | Jan 26, 2009 3:09:00 PM

  12. The problem is that the first thing I noticed was the sea of white faces before I even read the post.

    Secondly, after I read the post all I came away with was the (high priced?) focus group testing and surveys. Couldn't anyone here have told them the same stuff? I could have.

    These "leaders" are from the past. They must be replaced. I think every city has the same old leadership in position and it's going to have to change.

    If Obama taight us anything it is that the entrenched powers are sometimes yesterday's news. They need fresh faces and new ideas.

    And a lot less focus grouping. Maybe they should all take their next vacations at AIDS clinics and community organizations in the suburbs and inner city. How about spending some time amongst the troops in the field?

    Posted by: Derek Washington | Jan 26, 2009 3:16:45 PM

  13. Paul, re the women vs men issue:

    In Vermont and I think most other places where there have been civil unions or marriage equality, roughly twice as many women get married as men. This is why I'm always amused when the opposition harps on the threat of gay male sex in their discussions. Twice as many women as men are getting married, and lesbians are never mentioned.

    (so much for the insidious liberal bisexual double standard and those hot lesbian babes!)

    Posted by: Kevinvt | Jan 26, 2009 3:54:23 PM

  14. To answer your question (Mark) it is because white gay men are NO less arrogant that str8 white men.Just like str8 white men,gay white perceive white to be right and believe everyone else is wrong due to their skin tone or nationality.Thats why they bullshit and link blacks to why prop 8 actually came to pass.Sounds like a bunch of ill-informed white fags to me.

    Posted by: DJ | Jan 26, 2009 4:07:56 PM

  15. And that's a problem? Look, there are problems with racism and ethnic-religious bigotry, too (e.g., antisemitism), but it's ridiculous to suggest that, for instance, a minority in a minority would get more than two per cent of twelve per cent representation (if that excluding the following). And when you include the historical and current black homophobia which distorts the representation even further, you'll get a significantly lower numbers. SO please, while it's true that racism and bigotry is a problem in lgbt advocacy groups and leadership positions, let's not pretend that it's the only reason, or even the most significant reason. People who care get noticed.

    Posted by: TANK | Jan 26, 2009 4:11:53 PM

  16. ANYBODY that is out in L.A. is an activist.

    Kors and Lorri Jean prove the overall incompetence of the entire committee and crappy consultants they hired with that ridiculous wedding spot and their response to the 17 point deficit with the polling... anybody with any common sense knows that when you're down in politics YOU SHOUT IT OUT to energize your base!


    Posted by: David B. | Jan 26, 2009 4:21:23 PM

  17. I blame them.

    They can't say people weren't waiting to help. I tried calling and emailing them weeks before election time telling them I was ready to help out with spanish-speaking outreach.

    They never contacted me back.

    Inempt. Poor organization. Not proactive - simply reactive.

    Posted by: FunMe | Jan 26, 2009 5:27:59 PM

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