California Marriage Equality -- How We Will Win

06/26/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Heartbroken at the ruling according second class citizenship to our LGBT families, relieved that our married friends won't endure forced divorces, it is a sad day for civil rights in California. Yet I believe we will win marriage equality through pride, respect, transparency, and optimism.

Today's California Supreme Court ruling on Prop 8 all but invited marriage equality proponents back to the ballot box. The action upholding both Prop 8 and the18,000 same sex marriages solemnized during a brief window of legality means that individual rights can be taken away by a ballot initiative. It also means that they can be enshrined through the same process. So back to the polls we go.

This ruling comes at a time (7 days after a special election) when California voters suffer from ballot fatigue. We just resoundingly rejected a series of budget measures in the 9th statewide election since the October 2003 gubernatorial recall: (October 2003, primary and general in 2004, special election fall 2005, primary and general 2006, primary and general 2008, special election May 2009). Add in the municipal elections, and we're looking at over a dozen forced marches to the ballot box including two (Props 22 and 8) on same sex marriage.

At a certain point, ballot fatigue becomes voter insurrection. So I can already hear some of you grumbling "why another ballot initiative?" and "how can marriage equality succeed after failing twice in the past?" Fair questions.

WHY? Civil rights is a moral imperative. The courts and the Governor have kicked marriage equality to the voters - so it is up to us to act. Whether you believe, as I do, that these rights are already enshrined in the California Constitution, or as Prop 8 proponents do, that they are subject to the vote of the people, the public has voted twice on this issue and has more of an appetite to do so than on other ballot initiative topics, such as fees and taxes, that we hire legislators to tackle.

HOW? Offer something positive to vote FOR. Rather than drumming up a NO vote - and all the negativity that brings - jump out front with a YES vote. Learn from the past to shape the future. When you get emails and petitions from groups offering a new proposal, and a return trip to the ballot box insist upon these principles: pride, respect, transparency, and optimism.

1. PRIDE. Embrace diversity; don't shy away from it. When presenting the case for marriage equality, showcase the 18,000 families who married between May and November 2008, the thousands more who would like the opportunity to do so, and their loved ones.

2. RESPECT. A statewide campaign needs a statewide dialogue. Unlike the prior 'No" campaigns, this effort must respectfully engage people from all across the political spectrum. and all different faith backgrounds in the freedom to marry discussion. Talking to like-minded people is not enough. Listening to people who disagree and winning them over turns failure into success.
3. TRANSPARENCY. A top-down small cabal no matter how talented is no match for a bottom-up movement. Let a few take the lead as conveners - and let the people weigh in, offer feedback, and share information in real time. That means meeting offline, not just tweeting our thumbs. It means being transparent with the strategy and the money so people can see their commitment at work.

4. OPTIMISM. Since Prop 8 won, many people have seen the changing dynamics not only in California, but in Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont. Millions have borne witness to the joy, stability, and responsibility that comes with marriage equality. Rather than tell people they got it wrong before, highlight people who voted Prop 8 and then evolved on the issue.

That is my view of the how and why we Californians overcome voter fatigue and learn from past campaign defeats. The when is up to us - but I am confident that it will only be a matter of time and effort before marriage equality is the lasting law of the land.