Find your power
After a defeat for marriage equality, GLBT groups are ready to take the fight to the roots—the grassroots, that is
It may be hard to keep the players in the political fight for full equality—well, not really “straight,” but understood—without a score card. Here’s a short list of some of the groups working to end discrimination against gays and lesbians. Most of these organizations will have representatives at the Rainbow Festival. Take advantage of the opportunity to gather information and sign up to help out.
The issue with the highest profile in the GLBT community right now is marriage equality, given the brief window of legal gay marriages in California that was closed with the passage of Proposition 8 in November of 2008. The California Supreme Court upheld Prop. 8, and so the options are to repeal it at the ballot box, or hope that a lawsuit challenging Prop. 8 on the grounds that it violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, currently headed for the U.S. Supreme Court, is decided in favor of marriage equality.
There are distinctions between the groups working for marriage equality. Following a recent polling of their membership, Equality California (www.eqca.org) has decided to wait to attempt a repeal of Prop. 8. This group is working on starting conversations with those who voted for Prop. 8 but might consider changing their minds about marriage equality; on building coalitions with communities of faith; and on raising the public profile of gays and lesbians who are married. All this is with the goal of building a strong base from which to put the repeal of Prop. 8 on the ballot in the next general election in 2012.
Meanwhile, EQCA continues to work on other issues affecting GLBT Californians, including discrimination (whether in the workplace, in public accommodations, in education or in the marketplace); addressing the needs of both GLBT seniors and youth, who are often especially vulnerable to both discrimination and anti-gay violence; and addressing discrimination against transgender persons.
While the Courage Campaign (www.couragecampaign.org) and EQCA agree on overturning Prop. 8 at the ballot box, members of the Courage Campaign decided to opt for an earlier attempt at the ballot. The group is currently working to put a measure repealing Prop. 8 on the 2010 ballot, having raised more than $135,000 in just a few days for that effort. The group is also assisting GLBT groups in Maine, who are fighting a ballot measure similar to Prop. 8 which is designed to overturn the marriage-equality law passed by the Maine state Legislature.
A progressive action group, the Courage Campaign selects issues based on the input of its membership, and so enters into a number of campaigns—including the current campaign for health-care reform—that are not specifically gay issues. Its more than 700,000 members include people of all sexual orientations who share a commitment to equality and progressive politics.
Working strictly on the issue of marriage, Marriage Equality USA (www.marriageequality.org) has chapters in nine states, including California. The Sacramento County chapter of MEUSA has been involved in the “Get Engaged” tour and is active in working to overturn Prop. 8 and to assist in other states where marriage equality is embattled.
Yes on Gay Marriage (www.yesongaymarriage.com), a national group with its headquarters in Sacramento, is another group concerned specifically with marriage equality. Its energy is, according to national field director Barry Wyatt, directed toward a repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. The current state-by-state strategy is steadily moving toward marriage equality, but true equality will be impeded as long as DOMA is the law of the land, according to Wyatt. “Thanks to DOMA, you still can’t get their marriage rights with Social Security benefits,” said Wyatt. “You still have issues around federal death benefits, inheritance taxes and those sorts of survivorship issues. You still have tax issues at the federal level. And on and on.”
So the aim of Yes on Gay Marriage is to lobby Congress to overturn the law, opening the way for full marriage equality at the federal level.
On a local level, one of the most active of the political groups is Equality Action Now (www.equalityactionnow.org). Formed in the aftermath of the passage of Prop. 8, Equality Action Now has been remarkably effective at getting crowds of marriage-equality and gay-rights supporters out for rallies, protests, marches and actions. The group has also started subgroups with particular interests, such as a community-service committee that has held a number of food drives to assist local pantries and food banks. The goal is to move beyond protesting to building bridges in the community and enlisting allies who are willing to join in whenever equality is threatened.
You can gather more information by stopping by these groups’ vendor booths at the Rainbow Festival or visiting their Web sites.
What’s going on
Repeal Prop. 8. There are several groups moving forward with ballot measures to repeal Proposition 8. The first of these, headed up by the Courage Campaign, will put the repeal on the 2010 ballot. The second of these, headed up by Equality California, will put the repeal on the 2012 ballot.
Assist the marriage-equality fight in Maine. Marriage Equality USA is asking for help in Maine, where the state Legislature passed a law guaranteeing marriage equality last spring. A ballot measure overturning the law and enshrining discrimination into Maine’s constitution is on the ballot in November, and the campaign for Maine’s ballot Measure 1 (which would do the same thing there that Prop. 8 did here) is being run by many of the same people who ran the Prop. 8 campaign. For information on how to help, contact Marriage Equality USA or Maine Freedom to Marry (www.mainefreedomtomarry.com).
Repeal DOMA. Yes on Gay Marriage is coordinating efforts for a legislative repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. This will make equality at the federal level a real possibility.