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July 14, 2009

TO BALLOT OR NOT TO BALLOT

Immediately after Proposition 8 was passed in California, many gay activists and GLBT groups vowed to take the issue back to the ballot in 2010. Emotions were intense and determination to overcome the homophobia that Prop 8 represented where at an all time high.

It was the shock and anger over Prop 8's success that spawned a whole new activist movement throughout the country. It galvanized the GLBT community and our supporters into an energetic cohesiveness not seen since the early 70's.

In fact, the stunning victories in Vermont and Iowa were, I'm sure, due in large part to the determination and tireless campaigning of a lot of those "new" activists as well as the change of hearts and minds that the Prop 8 fiasco inspired.

Now, the effects of the national financial meltdown and the virtual bankruptcy of California has caused a number of the GLBT leaders to rethink the feasibility of a 2010 target date. Trying to mount an expensive and manpower intensive campaign at a time when so many people and businesses have had their finances and their lives thrown into a tailspin just doesn't seem logical. Not only would it be harder to raise the millions of dollars necessary but it would also be harder to get any kind of substantial time commitment from people who are already intensely focused on either finding new jobs or keeping the ones they have.

According to a story run in the Los Angeles Times today:

"Going back to the ballot . . . in 2010 would be rushed and risky," read a joint statement issued Monday by three gay-rights groups and signed by more than two dozen other groups and individuals. "We should proceed with a costly, demanding, and high-stakes electoral campaign of this sort only when we are confident we can win."

Jim Key, spokesman for the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, also worried that a 2010 political campaign might tap the same donors that service organizations rely on to fund HIV care, services for homeless youths and other programs at a time when, because of the economy, those programs are needed the most.

Of course the emotions and anger over Prop 8 are still running very high and not everyone agrees with delaying a ballot measure until 2012.

"There is a majority of the community . . . that favors going forward in 2010," said John Henning, executive director of the pro-same-sex-marriage group Love Honor Cherish. "The fact that some favor waiting should mean only one thing: They can wait, if they need to wait, but we are going to go ahead."

Marc Solomon, marriage director for Equality California, one of the state's biggest gay-rights groups said that they initially believed that 2010 was the right time to go back to the ballot. But that they "also made it very clear we will only move forward if we have a clear road map to victory. . . . The last thing we want to do is go back to the ballot and lose."

Solomon said that they were in the process of seeking advice from political consultants and polling experts and would make their position public later this month.

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