Sunday, November 08, 2009


Gay Ballot Measures Since '72:

102 Losses, 23 Wins

From the NY Times obit after William F. Buckley Jr died:

To the New York City politician Mark Green, he purred: “You’ve been on the show [Firing Line] close to 100 times over the years. Tell me, Mark, have you learned anything yet?”

This amusing anecdote sprang to mind after I compiled a list of all winning and losing ballot propositions over the decades related to gay people. Leave to conservative Buckley to sting an opponent into spirited debate, with a simple question, one that expresses what I want to ask my gay community.

Information from three lists shows gay people have suffered 102 losses and 23 wins since 1972 through the ballot initiative process. The setback in Maine this week became our 102nd loss. That is some string of failures for the sissies. Triple digits losses over forty years, and I ask, have we learned anything yet?

I took data from this list published by a straight University of Kansas professor, Don Haider-Markel, (thank you, so much, Don), and also from this Wikipedia entry on LGBT ballot initiatives, along with info at the Wikipedia entry on gay marriage measures, and tallied up wins and losses.

Last week I was upset when Maine became the 31st gay marriage prop loss, but I didn't know the larger context of all gay-specific props, and it's even more disturbing to have to wrap my head around the total figure of 102 ballot measure losses.

Like a screaming queen at the Stonewall Inn riot and rebellion, I'm fed up with being treated like dirt by the establishment, and the Mr. Nice Gay leadership that produces endless ballot box bashings damaging our collective psyche and community karma.

Let's not forget the high price of the campaigns, sucking up money that could go to better use like housing subsidies for gay/bisexual/lesbian/transgender seniors. How many millions are we talking about? David Mixner has part of the answer:

We have poured over $100,000,000 in the last two years into efforts where Americans feel it is there obligation to vote on our freedom.

One-hundred million in just two years and I shudder to think of the cost to the gay community pocketbook after _decades_ of these ballot props.

How much higher than 102 failures must our losses number climb to before things change? Much higher, with the thinking expressed by a man whose career is working on these losing campaigns. From a recent Washington Post article:

Advocates say there was a partial victory even in Maine, where the vote was closer than it had been in previous campaigns.

"We're hopeful that it's a signal that there is increasing support for gay couples to marry," said Dan Hawes, field director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "Nationally, we're going to continue education efforts to move the needle of public opinion, especially in California."


Sorry, Dan Hawes, and the rest of the Gay Inc folks who have without question helped create 102 setbacks, with so many gay millions down the toilet. It no longer is good enough to change move the needle.

7 comments:

Unknown said...

this came as an email from duncan osborn, veteran NYC gay journalist who writes for gay city news. the views are his own:

Come on, Michael. You look at these stats and you conclude that Gay, Inc. is responsible? The problem is America, my friend.

This nation, admittedly a great nation, tolerated slavery for roughly its first half century of existence and then was willing to live with segregation for another century or more. It took this country more than a century to give women the vote. We were criminals during the 20th century and the last vestige of the criminal legal infrastructure that was deployed against us was ended only in 2003 by Lawrence v. Texas, just six years ago. Even that was contested with a few DAs across the country saying they could still bring sodomy prosecutions against guys who were busted for having sex in public.

As those criminal laws were ended, Congress and a Democratic White House created a new civil infrastructure with DOMA and don't ask, don't tell. Nearly every state responded with their own laws on marriage, adoption or other matters with all of these intended to, pardon me, keep us faggots down.
And look at the totals on those marriage votes. You think that just rightwingers are approving these measures? Bill Clinton isn't the only liberal who isn't above giving us fags a kick or two.

Just as it did with every other social justice movement, this nation will move on our issues when it is forced to move or when it is shamed into moving. The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were passed because America was shamed into passing those laws. This is true elsewhere. The British left India because that nation was shamed into leaving. And the people who led those social movements knew that forcing change required great sacrifices not from the oppressors, but from those who were seeking justice. This is Gay, Inc.'s great failure. It has asked so little of our community.

That Gay, Inc. has made any progress, and it has, is a testament to the hard work of those folks, but look at what the suffragettes, the abolitionists, Gandhi and King required of the participants in the movements that they led. Look at the sacrifices they made. Look at what Thoreau did to oppose the Civil War. Has Gay, Inc. sought anything like that from LGBT folks? Forty years ago LGBT folks risked a great deal in just being out of the closet. Does our movement today require anything akin to what Mattachine, the Daughters of Bilitis, GLF or GAA sought from their members? Not even close.

When LGBT folks become willing to take great risks and make great sacrifices again then we will see progress. As long as we think that Will & Grace or Queer Eye for the Straight Guy or incremental advances are enough and that crappy legislation like ENDA actually solves a problem, then we will remain faggots.

woody said...

Perhaps Gay, Inc. should be demanding more sacrifice from LGBTQ folks, and should be thinking more radically outside the box. Perhaps that is exactly what the problem is. Gay, Inc. seems to be just as Will and Grace'd as any other queer today. Shopping bags with blue and gold equal $ign$ do not an activist make. I think Larry Kramer is so right, Straight People do hate us!
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-kramer20mar20,0,4477514.story

elaygee said...

AND, as far as state ballot issue on GLBT rights, our "campaign organizers" always leave out the one thing that Democrats and Republicans do well, physically taking voters to the polls so they can vote. That's why so many right wing religious old farts vote, becuase someone from their church or black armband society goes to their house, takes them by car to the poll, walks them to the line and then takes them home. We need to do that better than they do or we'll never win.

Anonymous said...

As long as "activism" supercedes and supervenes "advocacy," homophiles and transgender will appear to be "victims," rather than fellow travelers in the ship of state that embraces "equality, justice, and liberty, under the rule of law."

Proposition 8, unlike the 1978 Proposition 6, the Briggs Initiative, should illustrate the difference. Prop. 6, according the Field Opinion Poll seven days before the election, was shown to win in a landslide, carrying even Harvey Milk's San Francisco.

But, then two men, the first is named Barry Goldwater, the second is named Ronald Reagan, urged defeat of Proposition 6 on the basis of "equality, justice, and liberty under the rule of law." In seven days, the landslide for Prop. 6 turned into a landslide against Prop. 6, due almost entirely to Ronald Reagan.

Then a former governor and three years preceeding his becoming president, Ronald Reagan was the most trust politician in the nation. That his opinion moved the Field Poll so dramatically is heralded by those who remember, like WaPo's Mark Shields, as nothing less than miraculous. Prop 6 lost even in Briggs' Orange County, and the Field Opinion Poll hails it as the largest swing of popular sentiment it has ever recorded.

If the statisticians are accurate, about 3% of the population is exclusively homophile, which will never amount to the same "minority" status that came to Jews, African Americans, and those of different origins and nationality. In other words, WE cannot win these battles and fights alone -- and as long as "the people are sovereign," I suggest with Harvey Milk we will always be the losers.

At least Harvey, for all his flaws and faults, understood the most urgently needed legal reform was to AMEND the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include "sexual orientation." I have it on good authority that Reagan endorsed the emendation. But WHO speaks to this AMENDMENT? The DNC? Ms Nancy of Romper Room? Joe Solmonese of HRC? Geoff Kors of EQCA.

Harvey Milk and Prof. Sally Gerhardt KNEW Ronald Reagan single-handedly delivered the defeat of Right Wing Republicanism's Proposition 6. Today, even the Left Wing DNC could not mention Question 1, lest it taint its "tain't." In retrospect, homophiles and transgender have achieved more success under the "old style Republicans," than today's hypocritical Democrats. Every political setback occurred under DEMOCRATIC functionaries.

If Bill Clinton got his blow job from another male, things might be different, but to confuse his own philandering, he supported DOMA, after screwing up DADT.

After Obama, I almost have a hard-on for the honest, transparent, and politically-successful Ronald Reagan, who, in the past fifty years, has done more FOR homophiles than Democrats that have ACTED AGAINST us. At least, Reagan had "principles," which is more than I can say for HRC, EQCA, DNC, and Ms. Nancy's Romper Room. When the DECISION counted, we WON because of a former California Republican Governor -- whose single expression moved more mountains than Moses, Jesus, and Mohammet.

Anonymous said...

Maybe somebody can do some sort of meta-analysis to find trends in what makes an initiative go the right way?

Also, please please quit using the phrase, "wrap my head around...." Uff!

woody said...

Thank the goddess we had activists when Reagan was allowing more then 16,000 US citizens to die before he would even mention AIDS.

Anonymous said...

I understand Woody's lament, but from D.C. with calls for quarantine by Right and Left -- after all, Fidel did it -- Reagan's silence was golden. What could he have SAID that was not said by C. Everett Koop, Anthony Faucci, and Bruce Silberman?

Silence is golden, because the fires to immolate gays in quarantine camps died down while the Reagan Administration authorized more funding for HIV-AIDS than Cancer. Sometime, advocacy knows when to listen rather than speak, activism is merely shoot-off the top of one's head and gets us Larry Kramers.