Friday, September 02, 2011

BAR Blames the Community for
EQCA/Leno's Failure on History Act

(Roland Palencia at a cocktail party in San Francisco. Credit: Lydia Gonzalez.)

From when I first heard about SB 48, the gay education bill introduced by out gay Sen. Mark Leno and pushed by Equality California, the absence of LGBT community engagement and mobilization was impossible to ignore. IMO, it was business as usual for Leno and EQCA, and I complained that it was just like their disastrous No on 8 campaign.

In March, I blogged about anti-gay forces attending a hearing on SB 48 in Sacramento and then-leader of EQCA Geoff Kors was shocked our opponents were present, while there was no gay presence in the audience. An email from Kors at the time begged for money, for unexplained purposes.

Not content with the lack of engagement from Leno and EQCA, I blogged about their lack of community mobilization and compared it to the heavy push being made by our political adversaries.

When another hearing was scheduled in April, the Traditional Values Coalition alerted their members in advance of it and mobilized them to jam the phone lines of senate judiciary committee members. Of course, EQCA made no similar effort with its members.

Once the bill passed both legislative chambers, opponents were flooding Gov. Jerry Brown with letters, emails and phone calls urging him to veto SB 48. Since Leno and EQCA were using the No on 8 playbook and not pushing gays to lobby Brown, veteran gay newsman Rex Wockner employed his circle of contacts to contact the governor.

Wockner's push was cited in an excellent essay by Timothy Kincaid at Box Turtle Bulletin, constructively pointing out the many failure of EQCA and its new executive director, Roland Palencia, to address some longstanding deficiencies at the advocacy group and its still-contentious, tattered relationship with large portions of the gay grassroots.

In short, there is plenty of evidence that Leno and EQCA were not trying new methods of democratic engagement, as the gay education bill snaked its way through the legislative process and conservatives proposed a ballot proposition to rescind it.

Regular town halls with gays and allies across the state, or any public meetings, or proof that Leno and EQCA were ready show us new leadership and engagement tactics? No.

Talking only to Democratic Party pals, liberal advocacy groups and leaders, at closed-door meetings and invitation-only conference calls? Yes. When Palencia started his tenure, and the ballot measure was seriously gathering momentum, did EQCA restrict his public appearnaces only to cocktail receptions and high-priced galas? Yes.

What about Leno, who's never held a single town hall in decades as a career Democratic politician, pushing for debates with the conservatives up and down the state or staging his own public forums in his district and with allied colleagues in Southern California? No such luck.

California Gay Inc business as usual for many months on SB 48, so why did Bay Area Reporter editor Cynthia Laird this week label the at-large LGBT community apathetic over the recall effort? She wrote:

One of the problems for the coalition is apathy within the LGBT community over this issue. It was hard to get folks to call Governor Jerry Brown's office when he was deciding whether to sign the bill, while reports circulated that the right wing had ramped up its effort with calls urging Brown to veto the measure. So it seems that EQCA and its partners need to energize their base by telling LGBTs why it's important to stop this referendum. At least the Perkins video [produced by EQCA rebutting the lies of the Family Research Council] is a good start.

When the No on 8 playbook is again the guiding light for Leno and EQCA, and there is no fresh air circulating in the smokey backrooms where the liberal/progressive invitation-only coalition is hatching their lame plans, it is wrong to blame the victims of failed Gay Inc leadership.

I wonder if Laird goes easy on EQCA because they helped her partner get elected to a judgeship in the East Bay, or if having Palencia drop by her office for an editorial meeting and returning her staff's calls and emails influences her soft approach to the abysmal state of California's official gay leaders.

A mediocre EQCA video, yawn, is just one more signal that Leno and EQCA need a proverbial good swift kick in the butt. After months of non-engagement and no mobilization, it's going to take a hell of a lot more than a video to overcome lousy leadership.

Other than a new executive director, nothing of much substance has changed at this advocacy organization.

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