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Big Prop 8-Related Summit Will Limit Media Access

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Guestbloggertext and photos by Rex Wockner

A Jan. 24 summit in Los Angeles to strategize about "winning back marriage rights" in California will be only partially open to media -- a decision that has led to the resignation of one member of the organizing committee and to complaints from California gay media figures.

The Equality Summit apparently will bring together some 150 activists to organize and strategize in the wake of the passage of Proposition 8, the Nov. 4 ballot measure with which voters amended the state constitution to re-ban same-sex marriage.

EsBut according to summit coordinator Anne Marks of Equality California, "the planning committee decided that at some portions of the summit where sensitive strategy discussions were to take place, it could only be advantageous to our opposition if those discussions and plans were made public, so limiting press, or making these sessions off-the-record, would make sense."

That decision isn't sitting well with some folks, especially given that the failed No on 8 campaign, in which Equality California was the biggest force, has been widely criticized for its insularity.

"I resigned from the planning committee of the Equality Summit because I felt that the press should be allowed into the entire conference," said longtime activist Robin Tyler (above, left), who was a plaintiff in the California same-sex marriage case and, with her partner, Diane Olson, half of the first same-sex couple to marry in Southern California after the state Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage took effect June 16.

Continued, AFTER THE JUMP...

"This issue was discussed on a telephone call last week, and by a majority vote, the organizing committee decided not to let the press into the entire conference," Tyler said in a Dec. 30 e-mail to reporters. "After the call, I ... felt very uncomfortable with this decision. I asked for it to be brought up again, as I think total media access is an extremely important issue. When I was told that the newly elected 'Executive Committee' had decided not to bring the issue up again, I resigned. ... It felt like the same old 'secretive' process that had happened during the No on 8 campaign."

In e-mails that circulated among the 53 members of the Equality Summit Planning Committee, which were forwarded to a reporter, a few other committee members also have expressed concerns about the media decision.

The committee includes people that the e-mails labeled as being from "ACLU of San Diego/Imperial Valley; And Marriage for All; Change to Win; CAP PAC; Coalition for Equal Rights; API Equality-LA; Barbara Jordan/Bayard Rustin Coalition; The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry; San Diego LGBT Community Center; Gay And Lesbian Alliance of the Central Coast; Democracy For Change; Stonewall Dem Central CA Coast; Congregation Kol Ami; American Institute of Bisexuality; Parents, Families and Friends of Gays and Lesbians National; Sacramento Gay and Lesbian Center; Marriage Equality USA; Progressive Jewish Alliance; CHIRLA; National Gay & Lesbian Task Force; Family Equality Council; California Faith for Equality; Coachella Valley Marriage Equality Coalition; National Center for Lesbian Rights; Orange County Equality Coalition; Salinas Valley Equality; Lambda Legal; L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center; HONOR PAC; Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club; Human Rights Campaign; Out & Equal Workplace Advocates; Spectrum LGBT Center; COLAGE; Vote for Equality; San Francisco LGBT Community Center; The Equality Campaign; Christopher Street West Association/LA Pride; Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom; ACLU of Northern California; PFLAG; Pride at Work, AFL-CIO; Love Honor Cherish; (and) Equality Action NOW!"

OcambAmong the reporters hoping to attend the full summit is Karen Ocamb, news editor of the Los Angeles gay magazines Frontiers and IN Los Angeles.

"Responsible journalists have a long history of respecting legitimate requests to go off the record when discussions turn to strategy or issues of a politically sensitive nature," Ocamb said. "LGBT journalists ... represent the thousands of individuals who contributed to and volunteered for the No on Prop 8 campaign and if people are going to be asked to be engaged again, they have a right to know what happened, who will lead them, and (to have) at least a sense of what's coming next. And at this stage, that can only happen through us."

After some discussion, this California-based reporter also informed summit organizers that he believed the gathering should be fully open to the press, given that the No on 8 campaign has been harshly criticized for its closed style and that people attending the summit will talk to reporters afterward anyway, possibly leading to news stories that might not be as accurate as ones that would be produced if reporters were present.

Prop 8, which took effect Nov. 5, is being challenged as unconstitutional before the California Supreme Court. A ruling is expected in June.

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Comments

  1. What year are these "leaders" living in? People will be emailing the details of sessions as they are happening. Or are they planning on confiscating all blackberries and iphones at the door? These sessions need to be open. And I know they're gonna ask me for money again, and I know I'll give it again, but they make it really hard to give to a campaign that's being run in secret. I don't know where my donations went in last years losing campaign. I don't yet know if I'll be as generous this time around.

    Posted by: wisebear | Jan 5, 2009 1:53:58 PM


  2. I agree that all of these sessions need to be open and transparent. Yes, the religious right is looking to find what our new arguments are going to be so that they can craft shady messages that counter ours. Getting our stories and messages out there in a transparent way will directly counter their approach. We need to think completely differently about how we do our organizing.

    All churches are closed and hierarchical in nature. The only way to take on this kind of an organization is to be leaderless, open, and change social norms and culture. We need to bring a little chaos into the mix. We need to have multiple strategies and conversations so that we are "fighting" this fight on so many fronts that the right has no way of toppling our civil and human rights. This is not just a fight for gay marriage. This is a culture war about our acceptance as human beings.

    Too many times in history have the queers been the ones behind the scenes helping support a plethora of other issues that intersect our own (abolition, woman's suffrage, civil rights, etc.). We need to be out in front, taking risks, and making waves. This will surely lead to an increase of violence and hatred from people who are not ready for us to be out, loud, and proud. It will also show that we are not afraid. Hiding behind closed doors shows our fear, intimidation, and hopelessness. In essence, we are reverting to the closet without anyone needing to ask us to.

    Posted by: Guttersnipe | Jan 5, 2009 2:14:32 PM


  3. Part of the problem with having completely open sessions may be that while Prop 8 primarily involved a political campaign, in which case, yes, the more press the more noise the more openness the better, the anti-Prop 8 movement now involves ongoing Supreme Court litigation of extreme relevance to the public interest. Such litigation typically involves a highly coordinated strategizing effort among various petitioners and amicus brief contributors to devide the arguing and rebut the opposing briefs with clever and original legal argument whose force would be deminished if made available to the opposition prior to those arguments' submission to the courts. I can easily see how the anti-Prop 8 campaign may have failed because its law school-educated leaders ran ads using language better suited to a court of law than vote-grabbing 30 second spots, but now that they actually are running a lawsuit, I'd give them a bit more deference.

    Posted by: Ender | Jan 5, 2009 2:24:58 PM


  4. It seems odd that they would announce this conference only to point out that it's a closed event. Why not just keep it a relatively private event from the start? Those in the know will be aware of it. Or are they just trying to get pats on the back for "doing something"?

    The No on 8 campaign was very poorly run. I'd like to see other organizations spring up to overturn the November vote, because if the same people are running this campaign, it gives me very little hope.

    Posted by: Paul R | Jan 5, 2009 2:38:16 PM


  5. Great! This is being organized and coordinated by the very people, Equality California, who screwed up Props 22 and 8. I have zero confidence in this so-called "summit." The future of our community cannot be trusted to EQCA.

    Posted by: Wuzzy | Jan 5, 2009 3:06:52 PM


  6. Organize and strategize? I sincerely HATE to quote "Dr." Phil (I feel dirty already), but,

    "How is that working for you?"

    Fuck "planning to strategy" - If you can offer something better than decades of holding signs in public and chanting, writing letters, emailing and clicking, donating millions of dollars, marching and singing, being "visible", being "active", being "vocal", begging and pleading, grunting and whining, HAVING TO MAKE THE CASE, appealing, beseeching, imploring, I'D LOVE TO HEAR IT!

    I say TAX PROTEST until we ARE equal.
    [equality tax protest]

    Posted by: John Bisceglia | Jan 5, 2009 3:12:05 PM


  7. Fuck these bithches.

    Posted by: Derek Washington | Jan 5, 2009 6:19:35 PM


  8. Looking at that photo, I'm surprised to learn that William F. Buckley is no longer dead.

    Posted by: Jerr | Jan 5, 2009 7:11:11 PM


  9. Yes.

    Because we really should run our campaign for "freedom" and "equality" like a Dick Cheney energy meeting. They just don't want any critics there to point out how royally they screwed up the Prop. 8 campaign.

    Posted by: John in CA | Jan 5, 2009 7:50:35 PM


  10. Mr. Bisceglia --
    Maybe I missed it but I didn't see what was missing from the Prop 8 campaign, a solid boots on the ground, grassroots voter ID/GOTV operation of the sort that worked in the campaigns against Briggs. I was told, by the way, in the early days of the campaign by its chief and several other key national figures who were on the conference call that it was "too difficult in a big state like California" but that they wanted our money for their media campaign which they assured all was polling very well. My wife and I decided to support whatever grassroots work was happening against Prop 8 instead, which we did.

    Posted by: Marla Stevens | Jan 5, 2009 9:58:33 PM


  11. Marla, please call me John; Mr. B. makes me sound 10000% more important than I am! :-)

    As a human being and an American, I am sickened that we A-L-L-O-W-E-D a "Prop 8 campaign" (i.e. - a chance for a majority to vote away a minority's family rights....and their children's rights), aside from the psychological damage that national groups like the American Psychological Association has already documented. This kind of "democracy" should NEVER be allowed! It is child abuse.

    Add to that this ridiculous state-by-state excuse to make Marriage Equality crawl on it's belly for the next 30 years, instead of confronting the Federal Government who is RESPONSIBLE for offering Equal Protection Under the Law to ALL of it's citizenry.

    But as one commenter (Thomas) on JOE.MY.GOD remarked to others who were busy being clever and bitchy..."A liberal gay is basically a conservative gay who has been abused, mugged or bashed. I, personally, cannot wait another moment for your conversion." Only someone who has had a leg chewed off by a Great White Shark will be screaming at the swimmers on the beach to STOP SWIMMING IMMEDIATELY!!! Others at the beach will simply trust the lifeguards, not swim out too far, and create propositions to limit the swimming radius in the water. Seems safe. Until they feel the sharp teeth sawing through their arm...oops...too late. And no, I'm not self-absorbed....I am thinking (and documenting) countless Q stories that are horrific. My biggest gripe with the whole "debate" nationally is that NO ONE is mentioning the SUFFERING that results when 1,138 rights are denied, the heart-breaking stories of:

    Laurel Hester & Stacie Andree,
    Lois Marrero & Mickie,
    Tim Coco & “Junior” Oliveira,
    Sam "the rancher" in Oklahoma....etc.

    NO ONE. These laws are DEEMED ESSENTIAL by hets for their families. Why? They PREVENT horrible suffering.

    Posted by: John Bisceglia | Jan 5, 2009 10:59:46 PM


  12. A clarification about the groups listed as part of the planning/organizing for the summit: Don't assume anything. I know several of the groups listed have agreed to no more of a level of participation beyond mere observation. Being on the list of participants cannot be accurately construed to mean endorsement of anything summit-related.

    Posted by: Marla Stevens | Jan 5, 2009 11:13:55 PM


  13. John, I think all of us who care enough to engage on this are important and, as the work needed to be done is monumental, there is importance enough to go around without anyone sensing that it's the least bit zero sum in nature. So, please, bask to your heart's content.

    As I'm in agreement with the AG that this is about fundamental rights and thus never should have been up for a vote to begin with, I'd like to posit that "allowed" is technically incorrect in the manner of a crime victim never being responsible for the crime, however stupidly s/he acted that made the commission of the crime easier.

    That said, we clearly made it easier to victimize us in many ways so predictable that we should be ashamed of ourselves -- and a thorough post-mortem and regrouping correcting the structural and cognitive/strategic failings would be very valuable and, at this point, also looking less and less likely to be produced by this summit.

    But I do not see the same level of ego-preserving, CYA-ing, apologia-based avoidance driving the overall strategy on the issue of civil marriage equality and wonder what, beyond understandable but here-to-fore proven unsound impatience, is driving your call to change it to a nationally focused one.

    With the caveat that, legislatively, I've noticed over the years in our national leadership a near-fatal inability to conduct a proper count which then underpins even worse strategic planning, I've noticed less of that in our legal national leadership and found, instead, for instance, that the combo of LLDEF, New England's GLAAD, and Freedom To Marry, with key input from a few wise individuals in law school professorships and making the revolving door organizational employee rounds, have a pretty good plan mapped out that is constantly updated as changes in court personnel and the greater political winds happen and which is as speedy as those circumstances we still have too limited an input upon will allow. In other words, the lack of speed is not the will of or in control of our strategists, it is a reality they are doing their best to find the best path through.

    And no one I know is ignoring the federal but the court route there is limited already and, given the preponderance of district and appeals court justices unfavorable to our cause that are the cumulative effect of many years of Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Bush I & II, not likely to get better soon, despite any opportunities Obama may have.

    That leaves us with DOMA repeal and we're at bare bones foundational work there -- with lots of attritional replacement necessary before we get to a majority, much less the supermajority necessary for cloture in the Senate. But we can multi-task and I, for one, have been encouraging laying that groundwork now, while we simultaneously build support through state-by-state work -- which is, after all, a complementary effort to the federal one.

    I commend your work of documenting the stories. I know first-hand what an essential and humanizing component they are to the fight -- along with all the other traditional tools you listed before as well as the basics of voter education/ID/GOTV and the many wonderful new opportunities for making positive change presented by new technologies and changes in voter expectation and demographics created by the likes of the Obama campaign.

    It's very much a case of having a very big toolbox to use on a job that has need of many of those tools selected wisely and often used many at a time -- which takes clarity of vision and purpose to manage which is aided, as you pointed out, by never losing sight of the human suffering that grows with every moment the injustice continues.

    My wife and I have our own personal tales of suffering as a result of non-recognition of our civil marriage and we are angry beyond measure about it all -- and impatient, too. But we use all that to fuel a sober, highly disciplined fight with staying power -- one that is always at the top of the complex heap of our lives and always in our hearts and on our lips -- and we are careful to spend the bulk of the time we spend on it NOT preaching to the choir but reaching out to people we've yet to have reached. We encourage others to join us and to document their efforts in ways that can be used to the bolster legislative and electoral battles yet to come.

    Posted by: Marla Stevens | Jan 6, 2009 2:08:05 AM


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