Thursday, November 05, 2009

Maine: Gayja Vu All Over Again x31

The Urban Dictionary has two entries for "gayjavu" and two more for "gay ja vu," and I will soon submit a fifth entry, spelled "gayja vu" because the ones already listed don't sum up my definition of the phrase.

To me, gayja vu is when you have the same gay leaders and advocacy groups, with the same political thinking, waging the same tired campaign over a gay marriage ballot proposition, producing the same losing result. On Tuesday night in Maine, we witnessed a superb example of gayja vu. It was the 31st time the gay community has lost one of these electoral battles. That's some gayja vu losing streak.

We will easily see the 32nd instance of gay marriage losing when put up to vote, if we allow the people who've created the losses to continue, without a challenge to them and their way of operating. I'm not sure how to do this exactly, but let me give you an example of a looming loss, if we don't radically rethink how we wage the battles over the initiatives.

In mid October, the Let California Ring project of Equality California, the lead organization in the Prop 8 fight last year, announced they were launching a new phase of their existence. It was exclusively, and uncritically, heralded at

What was so new about Let California Ring? Not much really. Like the No on 8 campaign, it has an executive committee, self-appointed without public input, and the usual suspects are running the show. From's report, quoting Marc Solomon of Equality California:

"The people who have stayed on is Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry; Matt Foreman of HAAS Jr. Fund and former Executive Director of the Task Force and Empire State Pride Agenda; Thalia Zepatos, consultant of the National Collaborative, and Shannon Minter [of NCLR]," Marc informed.

"New folks are me, Marc Solomon; Louis Lopez, founder of Honor PAC, who in my opinion, is the most sophisticated Latino LGBT organization that I’ve run across; Karin Wang, who's on the board of API Equality LA; Ron Buckmire, who chairs the Jordan Rustin Coalition; Rev. Madison Schockley, an amazing supporter, who is an African American United Church of Christ minister in N. County San Diego; Kathy Schwamberger, Vice Chair of EQCA Institute Board; and Roger Doughty, Executive Director of the Horizons Foundation out of San Francisco."

No word on how these folks were self-selected, what exactly qualifies them for the executive committee, other than Marc Solomon likes them, or if they'll hold public meetings, something the Prop 8 governing bodies never bothered with. On behalf of all of us, the committee will in the next few years try to move people of color communities and voters to support gay marriage in California, and the effort is expected to cost $15 million.

Sure, the committee members are good people and they only want what is best for the larger LGBT community, but the way they, both at their individual non-profits, and collectively on projects such as Prop 8, have shown they operate is that they're insular, non-transparent and committed to organizing behind closed doors.

And that has directly contributed to why we lose these initiative campaigns, and suffer other setbacks politically.

One name on the new executive committee has a long history as a paid consultant to quite a few initiatives, Thalia Zepatos, longtime director of NGLTF's training department, before moving on to another consulting gig. She's been involved in these (losing) campaigns since 1988 in Oregon, when voters rejected employment protections for state workers.

I single out Zepatos here because I think she is representative of part of the problem here, which is we have an entrenched circle of consultants who made part- or full-time careers either in ballot fights, or at Gay Inc. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it ain't helping the rest of us win ballot props.

If she and the others on the executive committee had track records of successes, I probably wouldn't care, but, Zepatos and the others, despite their law degrees and years of working on (failed) campaigns, have racked up 31 losses. I see no reason to think, if left to their own devices, that some important changes, benefiting the community, will happen.

Can't we find a way to force new thinking and people into creating better and winning strategies? Must we accept that the only way to organize on gay or marriage propositions is to have the same leadership circle, with the same ivory tower thinking?

We could start with Equality California and Let California Ring holding regular, public community meetings, that are streamed on the web, and actually engaging more of the state's community. I'm sick of "community" groups making structure and personnel decisions out of public view, then announcing some supposedly great new development as a done deal.

Looking at the Let California Ring executive committee members and its structure, sends one loud message: The crisis in California's gay community of losing Prop 8 went to waste. As currently constituted, this executive committee is all-but-guaranteed to deliver the LGBT community more gayja vu at the ballot box.


Ron Buckmire said...

1) It's called "Let California Ring" not "Let Freedom Ring"

2) Thalia Zepatos is probably the person in the country who has been involved in the highest number of winning campaigns against anti-gay ballot measures in the country. The LGBT community has not won very many of these, but if you look at the ones that we have won, she has been there.

3) It's completely insane to insinuate that Thalia has been involved in all 31 of our community's losses (who has that much time??). And even if she was associated with many of them, you have no evidence that there's a causal relationship between Thalia's presence and the LGBT community losing a ballot measure.

Talk about "blaming the victim"! Are you going to go after Jesse Connolly of Maine, since he has now been involved with two losing campaigns and two winning campaigns there?

What is your alternative? Have people who have never been involved with an anti-gay campaign at all run the next one?

If you can't get basic facts right, why should anyone read or listen to what you have to say?

If you'd like to start a group that operates under the principles and practices that you advocate have at it, and good luck.

I really don't see how it is helpful to jump up and down and say "Those people over there are not doing it the way I think it should be done" instead of just going ahead and doing it your way, and prove that your way is better through direct competition and persuasion through results.

Unknown said...

hi ron,

you're right about the name of the project and i've corrected the references to 'let california ring.'

if you don't like what i have to say, and you've made that clear in the past, you can visit other blogs and avoid mine. no one is forcing you to come here.

re: thalia. i believe she and lots of other gay inc folks are part of the problem. clearly, you disagree and you're on the LCR exec committee with her, so you two can collaborate, and maybe find success for once.

re: me starting a new group. ain't gonna happen. it's enough to be a blogger and critic over gay inc and what i don't like about it. the solution to what critics have to say is not telling them go form another org. i believe the solution would be for new blood to be on the LCR exec committee. maybe even a few open meetings?

i'm a critic of gay inc, i don't like how decisions about CA gay marriage and other gay issues are being made. get used to it.

Unknown said...

by the way, ron, speaking of getting basic facts wrong, the NYT did so today in an HIV story. happens to the best of us. you'll probably ask why should we take the times seriously if they can't basic facts, like titles and names, right. from the online times correction:

A previous version of the article had the incorrect title for Dr. Grant Colfax. He is the director of H.I.V. prevention and research in the Department of Public Health, not the director of the H.I.V. section. A previous version also misstated the given name of the chief executive of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. He is Mark Cloutier, not Michael.

Unknown said...

Hi Michael,

In the paragraph which begins, "I single out Zepatos...," I think there is a word missing from the last sentence and it might be "us."


Van in San Diego

Unknown said...

hey van,

another oops on my part. thanks for pointing it out. i've corrected the post.

The Poetry of Barry G. Wick said...

I'm voting for Evan Wolfson to stay on any committee he wants to stay on...self-selected or not...he's been a voice of calm, reason, and when others would like to "slay the dragon" he's the one who says "feed the dragon honey." So we lose in 31 what. Count the victories...not just here but also abroad. Then tell me if you'd like the world to be the way it was 60 years ago. If Evan is on the committee, then he's with people he thinks ought to be on that committee. I don't think he'd join anything without there being a good reason to do so...or a good reason to be with the people on that committee. Let them win their little 31 states' elections and votes...let them face the Supremes one day to hear how they've denied equal treatment.
We've opened our arms to religious bigots for years only to have them cut off and stuffed down our throats and up our asses. In the end, when the world will judge what country was free and guaranteed equality to all its citizens, we know the United States won't be in the top ten. It's a police state. It's a fascist oligarchy. It's a horror to the rest of the world. But we, the homosexuals of the United States, didn't make it that way. And we won't be like THEY are. We may be obligated to defend well we should...but it is the Mormons and the Catholics who hold on to the old world, to the old ways; they have failed to see the truth of the new world. Evan Wolfson has been correct and logical on all counts every time I've ever talked to him or heard him speak. He stays on any committee who will have his genius. And well he should.