A risky proposition: the Prop. 8 debate continues

People love to blame Equality California for losing the gay marriage battle in California last year. But amidst the finger-pointing, the gay-rights group seems to have gotten one thing right: Voters aren't ready to repeal the ban on same-sex marriage in 2010.

Equality California had said all along that it would not support a 2010 campaign to repeal Proposition 8, the ban on gay marriage. Meanwhile, members of the Los Angeles–based Courage Campaign, another group working toward marriage equality, in May voted overwhelmingly to forge ahead with a 2010 campaign, further deepening the rift between the two organizations.

But recently, the Courage Campaign changed course when chairman Rick Jacobs announced that 2010 was not the time to ask voters to repeal the ban, conceding that "we don't see all the elements in place" for victory. The group based its decision on a study it conducted that confirmed that there wasn't enough money or support to win a repeal next year.

"It was an inevitable decision," says former state Senator Carole Migden, a past president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club. "The community forces have balked at committing large sums of money unless a winnable strategy is shown."

It seems winnable strategies have been derailed by internal power struggles in the various groups; there's been a lot of second-guessing and overanalyzing about how the No on Proposition 8 campaign was conducted, Migden says.

The Courage Campaign's latest decision hasn't stopped a smaller coalition, Restore Equality 2010, from splintering off. The group is continuing to gather signatures to place a repeal on the 2010 ballot.

"Most of us want to make sure all the stars are aligned," Migden says, "but some of us will engage in a squabble for power." But she says it's time for the two powerhouses, Equality California and the Courage Campaign, to merge their assets — money, people, and prestige — and shape a strong, winning campaign for 2012: "They are both mighty."

Just like all married couples, the organizations will have to learn to work together. And it looks like they will have the next three years to do it.

 
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