California Marriage Equality Initiative Fizzling Early?

It’s pre-election season in California! Monday, California’s second-most prominent gay marriage advocate, the Courage Campaign, backed away from its previous support of a 2010 repeal of Proposition 8 via press release:

The Courage Campaign today called for more research and time to change hearts and minds before returning to the ballot[...]
Said Rick Jacobs, the Courage Campaign founder and Chair, “We are taking the lessons learned from last year’s Prop. 8 campaign, the campaigns in Maine and other states to understand the fundamental work that must be done before moving forward in California. We also must come together as a community to create a broad coalition and governance structure, put in place a strong manager and secure the resources to win. Right now, the pieces are not all in place to do so confidently.”

What does this mean? It means that without Courage’s support, signature-gathering is more likely to fail. Without explicitly stating that Courage has shifted to support a 2012 ballot initiative instead of 2010, the release implies the cessation of funding and publicity for current signature-gathering efforts to put marriage equality back on the California ballot in 2010. The tertiary organization still deploying signature-gathering teams, Love Honor Cherish, pledges to “march on” despite Courage’s decision. This task may be too great for the organization; California’s initiative process requires that a Constitutional Amendment initiative gather 694,354 signatures in 150 days. Human error and unverifiable signatures render the true number of necessary signatures closer to 1 million. Unlike the proponents of Proposition 8 in 2007, the 2010 equality coalition lacks the luxury of signature-gathering in closely-affiliated conservative religious communities. And with a due date of April 16 for the 1 million signatures, the Courage Campaign’s comment about the repeal’s contingency on a broad coalition rings true.
Yet, this abrupt pullout from the 2010 coalition comes after Courage’s widely-publicized break from the 2012-supporting organization, Equality California, early this fall. After posturing themselves as “sticking up for the little queer organizations,” against the Big, Bad Equality California, the part of me bitterly stuck under a bus wants to ask – was the 2010 coalition not “broad enough” for Courage once they arrived? The grass didn’t turn out to be quite as green?
I assume good intent from Courage; resources are spread thin among the marriage equality organizations and there is little doubt that their decision was heavily calculated. Still, though my allegiances lie not with a year, but with organizations who recognize that equality should not be decided by popular vote, I’m disheartened by the decision. Regardless of preference for 2010 or 2012, the canvassing and door-knocking inherent to each campaign would necessarily aid the other in starting conversations about equality across California.
Related: California Marriage Equality Groups risk Rights for Petty Rivalry

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  • Toongrrl

    I can’t wait to see the beauty of blue back in my state.

  • Hyper

    This is good news. I would have loved to see marriage equality pass next year, but I think the chances are a lot better in 2012, especially if the movement is working in coordination and the voters aren’t exhausted by three straight elections featuring the issue.
    Still, it’s hard not to be disappointed when thinking of the same-sex couples that will experience real hardship over the next three years because they lack the benefits of legal marriage.