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 UniteTheFight.com.
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 UniteTheFight.com'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.