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]