Preparing to repeal Prop 8

October 8, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO--Forty community activists gathered on September 19 to elect delegates to a statewide committee that will coordinate the effort to get a ballot measure to repeal Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California, on the 2010 state ballot.

The spirit in the room was one of unity with other groups fighting for equality and justice, and the conscious linking up of seemingly diverse campaigns under one overarching civil rights movement umbrella.

The meeting opened with a solidarity statement from police brutality activist Jack Bryson, the father of one of the men who was with Oscar Grant when he was murdered by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle in January. A report on UNITE HERE Local 2's struggle for a just contract followed.

Activists who were involved in the campaign to get College Not Combat--a measure against military recruiting in public schools--on the San Francisco ballot in 2006 shared their experiences. They stressed the importance of building a movement that is independent of the Democratic Party, which is both for military recruiting in schools and against bringing any Repeal Prop 8 measure on the ballot in 2010.

Three delegates were elected to represent the Bay Area: Kat Powell from the local organization One Struggle, One Fight; Ian Hart, who is a member of the Human Rights Campaign; and Eric Ross, a longtime local activist and organizer. These delegates are tasked with organizing signature-gathering hubs locally, while the ballot language is finalized and submitted to the secretary of state.

Jeffrey Taylor and Jo Hoenninger--two local members of the Interim Administrative Group who were elected at the August 29 statewide convention to begin the campaign organizing process--emphasized that the organizational structure is meant to support local efforts to gather the 1 million signatures needed, and to reach out to communities far beyond those reached by the narrow No On Prop 8 campaign, not to control the campaign from the top down.

The meeting wrapped up with a discussion of what supporters of 2010 should say to supporters of 2012, taking into account the fact that if this campaign in 2010 isn't successful, activists must be aware that 2012 is not at all a shoo-in.

The fact is that the Democratic Party will put even more pressure on the movement in three years to not embarrass Barack "I believe marriage is between a man and a woman" Obama during his re-election campaign.

If a 2012 initiative has any chance of succeeding, activists must begin building an independent, grassroots movement now.

This "we must begin now" approach was reflected in the remarks of the day's final speakers: Paul Hogarth delivering a report on the status of the Maine No On 1 campaign, Hope Wood from the Courage Campaign announcing a No On 1 phone banking happening directly after the Town Hall meeting, and Kip Williams on the importance of the National Equality March on October 10-11 and efforts to organize for it in San Francisco.

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