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Prop 8: Same-Sex Marriage and Coalition Building
Prop 8 demos— photo by Ellen Shub
The California voters passed Prop 8 by 52 to 48 percent. It was a costly campaign on both sides—the pro-forces spent $35.8 million and the LGBT activists $37.6 million—and the fallout is still being felt. Some gay activists are arguing that the national LGBT groups did not do enough work and made a series of mistakes that led to the proposition passing, including relying on too many expensive ads featuring heterosexual celebrities. Other activists, and especially reporters, pointed to the African American vote. According to CNN exit polls, 70 percent of African American voters supported the Proposition—not that much of a surprise since Black churches, for the most part, supported the proposition. But to understand this number we also have to take into consideration that these were probably older voters, since voters of all races, ethnicities, and incomes under the age of 35 were against Prop 8.
The situation was also complicated by the fact that the New York Times and other news outlets suggested that the large turnout for Obama mobilized an African American constituency that did not regularly vote and whose liberal views on a number of issues did not include support for same-sex marriage. In the last days of the campaign the group Protect-Marriage.com distributed flyers with a photograph of Barack Obama quoting him as being against same-sex marriage, which was true. But Obama had also stated that he was against state-wide referendums to decide the issue and was specifically against Prop 8. This was further complicated by the fact that organizing by national and local LGBT groups did not include special or extensive outreach to African American voters, a serious flaw in the mostly-white LGBT national movement groups.
The bottom line is that from the very beginning of the same-sex marriage movement there have been a series of organizing blunders that have brought us to this crossroads. The movement has never felt that it needed to do much outreach to wider populations about same-sex marriage. They relied on judicial and legislative rules to make same-sex marriage a reality. As a result, these state-wide referendums passed very easily. Another blunder was the constant recitation that the fight for same-sex marriage was exactly like the fight for interracial marriage that was won by Loving v. Virginia—an essentially false comparison that must have been difficult for many African Americans to hear and was not useful in trying to present the question of same-sex marriage (a moral issue for many people) in a civil rights context. But this points to an even larger problem: that the overwhelmingly white LGBT rights movement has never really attempted to form coalitions with groups that may have been willing to be supportive.
For years a popular slogan and banner at gay pride rally and parades was "Gay Straight/Black White/Same Struggle/Same Fight." A nice piece of rhetoric that does not take into consideration the hard work of discussing differences and coalition building. Since the mid-1970s, the more mainstream gay rights movements have rejected the wide vision of coalition building that had been articulated by the Gay Liberation movement. That decision has been the cause of many missed opportunities in the last decades.
Perhaps the main lesson is that it is perfectly possible for many people to articulate a liberal politics (and vote for Obama) and hold various opinions on a number of topics—the presumption that a vote for Obama meant a vote for same-sex marriage was simply not true. The culture wars are still with us and the incredible energy that propelled Obama to the White House is as prone to the idiosyncrasies of a wide range of personal, moral, ethical, and cultural sentiments and claims as any other moment in history. The fighting and recriminations about Prop 8 are going to continue for some time, but until the LGBT movement can begin to understand the complexities of real coalition building and what that may actually mean, we will be stuck in the same series of cycles.
Michael Bronski is a journalist, cultural critic, and political commentator. He has been a visiting professor in Women's and Gender Studies and Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College since 1999.
Z Magazine Archive
HUMAN RIGHTS - The U.S. Human Rights Network will celebrate its 10th anniversary with the Advancing Human Rights 2013 Conference, December 6-8, in Atlanta, GA.
Contact: 250 Georgia Avenue SE, Suite 330, Atlanta, GA 30312; firstname.lastname@example.org; http:// www.ushrnetwork.org/.
AFRICAN/SOCIALIST - The Sixth Congress of the African People’s Socialist Party USA will be held December 7-11, in St. Petersburg, FL.
Contact: 1245 18th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33705; 727- 821-6620; info@aps puhuru.org; http://asiuhuru.org/.
SCHOOLS - The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) will host a workshop on the DSC “Model Code on Education and Dignity: Presenting A Human Rights Framework for Schools” at the Mid-Hudson Region NY State Leadership Summit on School Justice Partnerships, December 11 in White Plains, NY.
Contact: http://www.dignityin schools.org/.
ANARCHIST/BOOKFAIR - The Humboldt Anarchist Book Fair will be held December 14, in Eureka, CA.
Contact: humboldtgrassroots @riseup.net; http://humbold tanarchist bookfair.wordpress. com/.
CLIMATE - The World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities is hosting a follow-up event to the 2012 Rio de Janeiro symposium. The gathering will be held in Qatar on January 28-30, 2014.
Contact: http://environment.tufts. edu/.
LABOR - The United Association for Labor Education (UALE) will host Organizing for Power: A New Labor Movement for the New Working Class in Los Angeles, March 26-29. Proposals are due December 15.
Contact: LAWCHA, 226 Carr Building (East Campus), Box 90719, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0719;lawcha @duke. edu; http://lawcha.org/.
MEDIA FELLOWSHIP - The Media Mobilizing Project is seeking applicants for the first annual Movement Media Fellowship Program. The Fellow will work with MMP to produce the spring season of Media Mobilizing Project TV. MMPTV is a news and talk show that tells the stories of local communities organizing to win human rights and build a movement to end poverty.
Contact: 4233 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104; 215-821- 9632; milena@media mobilizing.org; http://www.media mobilizing.org/.
RACE - The 7th Facing Race: A National Conference will be held in Dallas, TX November 13-15, 2014. Organizers, educators, artists, funders and everyone interested in racial equity is invited to exchange best practices and learn about innovative models and successful organizing initiatives. Proposals must be submitted by January 24, 2014.
Contact: Race Forward, 32 Broadway, Suite 1801, New York, NY 10004; 212-513-7925; media @raceforward.org; http://race forward.org/.
VETERANS - They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars - The Untold Story, by Ann Jones, is about the journey of veterans from the moment of being wounded in rural Afghanistan to their return home.
Contact: Haymarket Books, PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-583-7884; http://www.haymarketbooks.org/.
LIBYA - Destroying Libya and World Order: The Three-Decade U.S. Campaign to Terminate the Qaddafi Revolution, by Francis A. Boyle, is a history and critique of American foreign policy from Reagan to Obama.
Contact: Clarity Press, Inc., Ste. 469, 3277 Roswell Rd. NE, Atlanta, GE 30305; 404-647-6501; email@example.com; http://www. claritypress.com/.
CHILDREN - Fannie and Freddie by Becky Z. Dernbach is about two bumbling villains who gamble away the savings of the people of Homeville.
Contact: fannieandfreddiebook @gmail.com; http://fannieand freddie.org/.
PROTEST/COMIC - Fight the Power!: A Visual History of Protest Among English Speaking Peoples, by Sean Michael Wilson and Benjamin Dickson is a graphic narrative that explains how people have fought against oppression.
Contact: Seven Stories Press, 140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013; 212-226-8760; info@ sevenstories.com; http://www. sevenstories.com.
CHILDREN - Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is the true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history.
Contact: http://www.harpercollins childrens.com/Kids/.
FESTIVAL - The 2014 Queer Women of Color Film Festival will be held June 13-15 in San Francisco. The festival is currently accepting submissions until December 31.
Contact: QWOCMAP, 59 Cook Street, San Francisco, CA 94118-3310; 415-752-0868; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.qwocmap.org/.
IRAQ/REFUGEES - Ten years after the U.S.-led war in Iraq, thousands of displaced Iraqi refugees are still facing a crisis in the United States. The Lost Dream follows Nazar and Salam who had to flee Iraq in order to avoid threats by Al- Qaeda-affiliated groups and Iraqi insurgents that consider them “traitors” for supporting U.S. forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Contact: Typecast Films, 888- 591-3456; info@type castfilms. com; http://type castfilms.com/.
HUMAN RIGHTS - Lyrical Revolt! III will be held December 4 in Syracuse, NY. The event will feature hip-hop musician Anhel whose album Young, Gifted, and Brown was just released. The event is sponsored by ANSWER Syracuse, Liberation News, and SyracuseHip Hop.com. Performers and artists are encouraged to send submissions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.answercoalition.org/syracuse/.
FOLK - Musician Painless Parker has released his album Music for miscreants, malcontents and misanthropes featuring “Fuck Yeah, the Working Class.”
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://painlessparkermusic.com/.
COMEDY - Political comedian Lee Camp’s new album Pepper Spray the Tears Away has been released.