The effort to take the marriage equality battle back to the California ballot in 2010 experienced a major setback Monday when the Courage Campaign announced it was calling for more research and time to change hearts and minds before returning to the ballot to restore marriage for gay and lesbian couples in California. Courage Campaign had previously been in strong support of the effort to repeal Proposition 8 in November 2010. In 2008 California voters narrowly approved a Constitutional amendment that removed the right of same-gender couples to be married in California.
The Courage Campaign, in partnership with Lambda Legal, has recently concluded the first phase of extensive and groundbreaking research about public beliefs and concerns about marriage and homosexuality. It confirmed that attitudes are shifting steadily toward equal treatment of same-sex couples, and that conversations among family members and other close relationships inevitably speed the process. The statement released today is concurrent with a Lambda Legal statement.
“For months, we have laid out the criteria for moving forward. Like the Obama Campaign, we understand that we need a combination of powerful and clear research that informs an expertly run campaign, an unstoppable movement that harnesses the new energy we have seen since the passage of Prop. 8 and the connections through personal stories and outreach in order to win at the ballot box,” said Rick Jacobs, the Courage Campaign founder and Chair. “We are taking the lessons learned from last year’s Prop. 8 campaign, the campaigns in Maine and other states to understand the fundamental work that must be done before moving forward in California. We also must come together as a community to create a broad coalition and governance structure, put in place a strong manager and secure the resources to win. Right now, the pieces are not all in place to do so confidently.”
Many high profile Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender advocacy groups and leaders have since this summer been urging restraint in the drive to repeal Proposition 8. The Courage Campaign's announcement today further validates the arguments of the Prepare to Prevail advocates that it is too early to take the issue back to the voters.
2012 advocates have argued that we need to build strong majority support before placing the issue before voters. Popular support for marriage equality for same-sex couples has not changed since the last election. Today, California voters’ opinions on a constitutional amendment to overturn the voter-imposed elimination of marriage equality remain evenly split, according to all recent polls. In order to seek major investments of time and money from key stakeholders and allies in an affirmative ballot-measure campaign seeking a “yes” vote from voters, seasoned campaign experts advise against proceeding to the ballot without evidence of a strong majority in favor of the measure. Failure to begin with a sizable majority puts sponsors in a more likely position to lose.
The departure of Courage Campaign from the 2010 campaign removes a significant amount of volunteer resources from the signature gathering efforts currently underway to place an initiative on the ballot next November. Without those resources, and absent major donors to fund a paid signature gathering campaign it is looking like we will not see marriage equality on the ballot until 2012.
But that does not mean that advocates of marriage equality can sit on their tails and do nothing for the next few years. There is a lot of education and factual information to share. Everyone who cares about marriage equality needs to get involved now and help Prepare to Prevail in 2012. I suggest that you visit Equality California or Courage Campaign and join in their efforts to restore marriage equality to California.