Saturday, February 19, 2011

Straight Firm Searches for
New Gay Leader at EQCA

The last time Geoff Kors and his colleagues at Equality California hired a firm of heterosexuals to carry out work for them, and by extension all of the state's gay community, was in 2008. During the disastrous $45 million No on 8 campaign to retain gay marriage, EQCA used the services of Dewey Square, a Sacramento-based political consultancy run by straight people.

What did Dewey Square and its main straight consultant to the No on 8 effort, Steve Smith, do for us? Among their lame decisions were the TV spots that didn't talk about or feature gay couples, the failure to use a letter from candidate Barack Obama opposed to the measure, and they refused to debate the Yes on 8 side.

Now, Kors and EQCA have retained the services of the executive search firm Morris and Berger to locate a new executive director, and guess what? It's a company run by heterosexuals and a straight person, Karin Berger Stellar, pictured, is in charge of the search. This means, yet again, a number of crucial decisions affecting the California gay community are being made by straight folks.

Oh, and just like the straight people at Dewey Square, their counterparts at Morris and Berger are not holding any public meetings to democratically engage the community. Why should Morris and Berger listen to average gays at town halls, get a sense of what we want from our next statewide leader, who will soon be speaking on behalf of all of us? Because the community deserves transparency in how our official leaders are chosen.

There is so much wrong with this corporate/professional approach to gay advocacy, starting with how disempowering and disenfranchising it is for the community at-large. Keeping the decision-making process behind tightly closed doors, allowing heterosexuals to have a bigger say than ordinary gays, and then one day announcing who our new statewide leader is incredibly unhealthy for the gay body politic.

Putting aside for a moment the heterosexual angle of the search firm, even if it were run by homosexuals, we would still have to address the lack of democracy at EQCA. Other than pricey galas beyond the reach of many average gays, there are no public forums put on by the group, allowing more of us to set our state's gay agenda.

By no stretch of the imagination can EQCA be defined as democratic, small d, and truly representative of the full economic and political diversity of the Golden State's gays.

One member of EQCA's board recently climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, but like the rest of the board, can't find her way to the San Francisco gay community center for regular public engagement with the community. Upon her return from Africa, the board member held, what else?, a fundraiser.

When Morris and Berger, and the folks at EQCA who hired them, soon enough deliver the news about who will be California's designated leaders and spokesperson, it will be done without any voting having taken place among the rank and file. Only the A-gays on EQCA's board and its rich donors will have been permitted a say in choosing our new leader.

The rest of us will just have to swallow the latest autocratic maneuvers of what is supposed to be our community group at the state level. This is no way to run a movement.

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