Author: has written 427 posts for this blog.

Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

66 Responses

  1. murphy
    murphy December 13, 2008 at 3:55 pm |

    Well, to be fair, if gay people weren’t so icky we wouldn’t be having this problem. Kidding, kidding.

    To me, the idea that Yes on Prop 8 ran a good or “obamaesqe” campaign is laughable. They ran a dishonest, bigoted campaign that targeted minority faith communities in horrifically appropriative ways. They lied when they said churches would be sued if they didn’t perform same-sex marriages, they lied when they said Obama supported Prop 8…. they just flat-out lied. Although this is pure conjecture, I’d venture that the lies had far more to do with their success than any sort of advanced racial justice ally-building or grassroots efforts.

  2. Dropping By
    Dropping By December 13, 2008 at 3:58 pm |

    No one is being denied the right to be married, but “marriage” means in California — due to Prop 8 — what it means everywhere else that the people have had the opportunity to weigh in, a man and a woman.

    I think you’re also missing the point that the “No on Prop 8″ forces running a “crappy” campaign means that they spent millions of dollars trying to persuade people that they had a case, and they failed. In a democratic system, running a crappy campaign is fatal for one’s position, as it should be.

  3. John K.
    John K. December 13, 2008 at 4:00 pm |

    We shouldn’t even be needing to run ANY fucking campaign!

  4. murphy
    murphy December 13, 2008 at 4:31 pm |

    Cara — I wonder, actually, if a better comparison would be to Bush’s 2000 and 2004 grassroots campaigns that focused on churches as organizing vehicles and relied on similar distortions to make their case.

    That said, I do agree with most of what you said and don’t mean to harp on a single adjective.

    Prop 8 is going to send ripples through marriage activism for a long time. I think we need to make sure to learn the correct lessons, realize that we’re always fighting as the underdog regardless of the polls, and move on to the next fight.

  5. Neil the Ethical Werewolf
    Neil the Ethical Werewolf December 13, 2008 at 4:45 pm |

    I don’t know if I’d say the article blames gay people for the loss of their rights — a lot of the article is blaming the failure of the campaign on particular strategic mistakes, and not any supposed pathology of gay people.

    Maybe a lot of the people in position to make those mistakes were gay (I don’t know what the actual gay person : straight ally ratio in the No on 8 campaign was). But gayness is more or less incidental to the strategic blunders involved.

    Now, regarding the fact that ‘cocksucker’ should not be an insult, we’re firmly in agreement.

  6. speakHer
    speakHer December 13, 2008 at 5:12 pm |

    I agree that no one should have to beg for their rights, but this is our reality, and it’s been this way all through history. the majority didn’t just wake up one day and “decide” not to be as racist or sexist–we had to freaking work and sometimes die for it.

    second, I also agree that the article was condescending to gays. the blame game is never cool. but, they do have a point. I go to school in Florida, and while my campus was crowded with Obama campaigners, posters, stickers, etc., I only saw one “vote no for amendment 2″ campaigner all semester, and she handed out fliers for one day right before the election. one day! and I almost voted yes by accident because the wording was so damn confusing.

    my point is that these observations, even if the RS one was a tad patronizing, should teach us something. you need money to get shit done. you need good campaigning and effective advertising. and even though achieving equality shouldn’t have to depend on these things, sometimes it does.

  7. tql
    tql December 13, 2008 at 7:40 pm |

    i understanding your frustation about gays having to “beg for their rights”. but, prop 8 was a ballot initiative, and as such, those opposing it needed to run a good campaign and convince people to vote their way. it sucks, but that is the reality. and sadly, they didn’t run a good campaign and lessons can be learned for 2010, when surely more ballot measures will pop up.

  8. Jared
    Jared December 13, 2008 at 8:04 pm |

    And the oppressor is always to blame for the oppression they commit.

    Jill, nobody denies that. I don’t really get your point. What’s wrong with blaming a poorly-run campaign for that campaign’s loss?

  9. napthia9
    napthia9 December 13, 2008 at 8:22 pm |

    Pinning the blame on the gay rights groups might be a less offensive exercise if the author of the article ever got more specific than “the No side.” Um, hello, using general labels like that feels an awful lot like blaming everyone who went No on Prop 8, not just the people who managed the campaign aspects. That’s not very helpful because I’d definitely like to know who and what were responsible for some of these mess-ups.

  10. shah8
    shah8 December 13, 2008 at 8:59 pm |

    I, rather strongly, disagree with your take on this article. Moreover, many of the issues expressed in the article are endemic to the reasons why I am not often all that impressed with non-issue specific feminist activism even though I enjoy reading feminist books and blogs.

    I will write a longer response soon.

  11. Jared
    Jared December 13, 2008 at 9:03 pm |

    Sorry, Cara, about that name confusion.

    First of all, blame is not a zero-sum game. Blaming the campaign organizers in no way implies that others shouldn’t be blamed as well.

    As to your general point: EVERY SINGLE ONE of our rights has been fought for at some time in history. Rights of speech, privacy, equal protection, freedom of religion, you name it. All are the products of long, hard-fought battles against those in power. Hell, thousands were killed in a war to end slavery. In short, no rights come cheap. Gay marriage is no exception.

  12. Glenn I
    Glenn I December 13, 2008 at 9:04 pm |

    I read similar dumping on the No campaign from Phil Bronstein and Willie Brown, both at SFGate. As with your reaction to the Rolling Stone postmortem I got the feeling from Bronstein & Brown that the success of the Yes campaign was our fault. I know it’s incumbent on me to walk door to door and beg for equal treatment from people who might hate and/or injure me, but it’s not easy to be told I lose my rights because I didn’t try hard enough to convince people not to take them away, please.

  13. Kristen
    Kristen December 13, 2008 at 10:00 pm |

    They snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, and now hundreds of thousands of gay couples are going to pay the price.

    My jaw hit the freaking floor when I read this.

    Gay couples are going to pay the price because gay activists weren’t good enough.

    Really, they’re going to stand by including such a ludicrous statement.

    Let’s try it in another context.

    Blacks are lynched because civil rights activists didn’t convince the Klan to not lynch people.

    Or maybe

    The Holocaust could have been prevented if the Jews had just lobbied a little harder.

    Or perhaps

    A woman will be raped 2 minutes from now because feminists haven’t been able to convince rapists that women are people.

    You see how stupid that is?

    At each and every point it is important to lay the blame only on the assholes who intentionally harm others and not on anyone trying (even in vain) to prevent the harm.

  14. shah8
    shah8 December 13, 2008 at 10:28 pm |

    /me rubs forhead…and begins…

    First of all, the theme here is that

    This has been a constant thorn in post ’70s feminist activism that culminated in the decisive flaws in Senator Clinton’s try for the presidency. The whole struggle for wage equalization in ERA is that brass ring that women’s rights activists have failed to achieve so far. Not to mention rear-guard actions that feminists seems to be fighting against the forces that Susan Faludi describes in Backlash. Class plays a decisive role in preventing gains, from major agencies like Emily’s List and NOW being headed by highly networked upper class women who have a tendency to be pretty pale, to the opposition haveing an easier time targeting specific group’s approval of *their* agenda.

    The key factor in ineffective mobilization against homophobia and misogyny is poor leadership skills. Too many feminists and gay activists just do not believe that they have to participate in the give-and-take of coalition politics. They persist in acting like factional leaders even though they are supposed to be leading a collective effort in some goal like Clinton’s canidacy or No on 8. There are purity tests and priorities on loyalty rather than an emphasis on getting an effective team together to collect a political majority way out there in the world of people who don’t care about feminism or gay rights.

    Capable people are out in the cold, doing bullshit tasks, while incompetent but better connected people makes the crucial decisions who then yap on about “moral victories” after defeat. Maybe it’s news to some people here, but I despise this. I despised Rocky’s “moral victory” over Apollo Creed as well as Senator Clinton’s moral victory, and especially that stupid Log Republican’s “Look, we achieved this big moral victory!”. It’s nothing but Lost Causism in service of things that are less noxious than the Antebellum South.

    Capable people are left in the cold because the great leader tends to not want to get their hands dirty with the necessities of campaigning. One of these necessities tends to be neglected: The ground game. This is a labor intensive process that requires a huge number of bodies to do this well. It requires a huge amount of networking in order to get those bodies. That process tends to demand that leaders make compromises in order to serve the greater good. It also demands that leaders punish valued subordinates who offends other coalition members and otherwise force a simple message out into the public. Feminist and GBLT leaders often will not do this when this is necessary. Clinton would not disavow Geraldine Ferraro while Obama would disavow Samantha Power. Gay (opinion) leaders tends to act as if lesbians, bi, and especially transexual people don’t exist, nor do they think in terms of the families that non-heterosexual people are embedded in, whether that be blood or constructed of friends that may as well be blood.

    I believe this tends to happen in women’s and sexuality movements because these groups suffer from class heterogoeny. The people at the top, with the access to cash and connection tends to care most about the rights that white straight males enjoy and assume that the enhanced privilege would trickle down. They also tend to believe that their cause is righteous (Which, in general, I assume it is) and all they have to do is rationally explain to the target of their choice, whether that be judges or the public. People would then aknowledge the rightness of the claim and grant those rights. I blame it on the Plastic-MLK syndrome, where white people get themselves convinced that MLK didn’t coerce white people into at least partially granting civil rights to minorities. He just asked, eloquently, and we gave it to those people like the generous white people we are!

    Look, the reality is this: Few people truly care about being righteous. Nor do people as a whole care about social justice. Whining about how we shouldn’t even have to ask for these rights is a complete and utter waste of breath. Black people know this, so do chinese and japanese and hispanic people. People who work in union activities also know this intimately. Civil rights struggles are *all* about taking destiny into your own hands and forcing the power structure to acknowledge your desires. That means organizing, organizing, and even more organizing. It means doing networking among social groups that aren’t necessarily involved–people of alternative sexualities working with heterosexual people, feminist women working with men, black people working with jewish people and white people, especially people who are not 100% on your side or pleasant to work with.

    The leaders of GBLT and feminist movements tends to enjoy the safety of their families or connections and often will not fully mobilize into the teeth of struggles, which leave their opponents to pick off particular factions that they shouldn’t. Leaders of unions and racial minorities often tends to be of the same class as the body of the people they proport to represent. Race tends to equal class in the US. These leaders are often *intimately* aware of how urgent problems are with their people, and how much even *slight* gains can help. They will work with anyone, beat down non-team players, and follow through all the way to success or bitter failure. Even in the event of failure, that struggle tends build organizational structure that will help in some future success. It’s about communities and not charismatic leadership. It’s why I have unmitigated respect for Planned Parenthood. They do such a great job of playing the detailed footwork necessary to create a better world.

  15. Vico
    Vico December 13, 2008 at 10:37 pm |

    I know Jann Wenner is gay. Does his willingness to publish this crap mean he’s one of those “self-loathing gays”?

  16. murphy
    murphy December 13, 2008 at 11:13 pm |

    EVERY SINGLE ONE of our rights has been fought for at some time in history…no rights come cheap. Gay marriage is no exception.
    Yeah. That’s right. Gay people just haven’t fought long or hard enough to earn our rights.

  17. shah8
    shah8 December 14, 2008 at 12:09 am |


    Your statement is literally true. You know why?

    It takes that long to build the political will and political infrastructure to achieve those desired gains. Before Obama, there was Jesse Jackson, before Jackson, there were the first black mayors of major cities, before them, there was MLK, before MLK, Thurgood Marshall, and then the people of the Harlem Rennaisance, before that, there were the people fighting the good fight in Post Reconstruction and lost all those Supreme Court battles, before that, there was Booker T Washington and DeBois, before then there were your black Reconstruction era congresscritters and mayors, before that there was Frederick Douglass, who is probably the first major native-born leader of the black civil rights movement.

    There were huge fights all along the way and plenty of mistakes. MLK wasn’t some kind of genius who thought up the one true way. He was operating out of a cultural history of struggle that went back at least a hundred years. Women for even longer. GBLT people are no more special and intelligent than any other group. I would much like the process to be shorter, but it never turns out that way. Just a long, stupid, slug fighting through all of the silliest malicious people the earth seems to sprout like weeds.

  18. xay
    xay December 14, 2008 at 12:12 am |

    No, you shouldn’t have to beg for your rights. No one should have to demand their rights or make a case for them. However, that is what every oppressed and marginalized group has had to do since the United States was founded. When gaining your rights comes down to a ballot initiative, you should run a coordinated, targeted campaign. The No on 2 campaign in Florida was invisible and considering how poorly worded that amendment was and its far reaching effects, that was a huge flaw.

    The big civil rights battles for African Americans were won in court (both legal and the court of public opinion), and on battlefields, not on the ballot. I don’t believe that is a coincidence.

  19. Kristin
    Kristin December 14, 2008 at 12:31 am |

    All right, so… Queer female Rolling Stone subscriber and fan of Matt Taibbi here (I know he’s an asshole, but wow… Most brilliant political writing of the campaign season, hands down.). Anyway…

    I had a very different reaction to the article, though on looking back over it, I can see where you’re coming from here. It’s true that we shouldn’t need to fight for our rights, but the fact of the matter is that we do. And as a member of the community, I’m okay with critical examination of the choices that were made throughout the course of this campaign. In any case, I didn’t read this as an article that blamed gays generally for the defeat, but the white, wealthy, (mostly) male power structure that sets the political agenda through the HRC and other big, well-funded organizations. The author touches on the fact that the campaign, though very well-funded, did almost no outreach in working class communities and among people of color. Personally, I’ve got a big problem with that, and, no, it’s not victim-blaming to say so. Coalition-building through outreach is going to be crucial in order for things to change for us. Simply, I think that the people who run the HRC and other organizations are incredibly short-sighted and, yeah, incompetent. Notwithstanding the fact that they don’t give a fuck about the most marginalized members of the community (See: ENDA.).

    That said, I know that there are some problems with the article, and I would have liked to see the Christian Right and Mormon coalition that pushed Prop 8 better explained, ’cause, seriously, we could probably stand to learn something about outreach from the enemy here.

  20. Kristin
    Kristin December 14, 2008 at 12:56 am |

    “And saying “well maybe if they’d just asked the nice straight people a bit more pleadingly” is just another example of the privilege and prejudice.”

    Cara, I don’t see this in the article. I think the article is suggesting something more along the lines of: “Maybe if you’d spoken to people outside your own circle of Nice, Wealthy, White Folk…” As a queer woman, I felt profoundly alienated from the HRC-led campaign. Reasons partly delineated in above comment, which is currently in moderation, but to be brief: their racism, classism, transphobia, and insistence upon presenting (almost) only white, bourgeois, male, “straight-acting” members of the community as our Public Face and reducing the rest of us to Pride Spectacle (who should STFU while there are important political things going on, doncha know.). The racist slurs that were heard at HRC-organized protests after the vote did not do them any favors either. I didn’t see the article as a slap in the face of All LGBTQ People, but as I say above, at the political power structure that set the agenda. And I’m all for slapping them in the face, because I think they fucked us over. Not to mince words or anything…

    Also, y’know… It does annoy me to see allies generalize about things such as… Well, Rolling Stone as a het, straight, male magazine. Sheesh… Maybe I should read more gender-appropriate magazines like Cosmo or Ladies Home Journal instead? Nah… I like Taibbi and the music reviews too much.

  21. Jared
    Jared December 14, 2008 at 1:10 am |

    Yeah. That’s right. Gay people just haven’t fought long or hard enough to earn our rights.

    I know you mean that sarcastically but think about it for a minute. Social and cultural attitudes tend to change slowly, over generations. People, by and large, are conservative (with a small “c”). 25 years ago, homosexuality did not have nearly the public face is has today. 25 years from now, another generation will have grown up more openly-gay public figures, teachers, role-models. Social change is rarely quick. It’s frustrating but that’s how it is.

  22. Dipole Moment
    Dipole Moment December 14, 2008 at 3:06 am |

    Jared: You seem to attribute moral agency to one side, while treating the other as simply a formless inertia with no will of its own. “That’s how it is” could justify virtually anything given the right circumstances (and indeed, often has.)

    This view also implies that society will either progress slowly forward or not, when reaction has also succeeded in the past, and in the case of gays the examples of this are sadly numerous. While it is certainly heartening that today’s young people are amenable to gay rights, other generations will inevitably follow on after them, and the tendency of the young to position themselves at the forefront of trends might someday cut the other way were society to take an intolerant turn. The understandable fear is that P8 could mark the start of a backlash that leads to a rolling back of the gains made in CT and MA, and perhaps even extending beyond into other countries in the U.S. sphere.

    While there is nothing wrong with constructive criticism, trying to drive the point home by dismissing the active role played by the opposition is utterly tasteless. Groups like FoF are not “conservative”, they are unapologetic hatemongers and they are dangerous.

  23. Kristin
    Kristin December 14, 2008 at 10:06 am |

    “Kristin, I read RS, too. I have had a subscription since I remember. But the fact remains that I, and you, are not their target audience, which is the language I used above. Their advertising tells us as much. So do the covers, on which a woman virtually cannot appear without stripping down and looking hawt. And as a reader a lot of fucking things piss me off about RS. Including their privilege, which they display on a regular basis, and the ways in which they so often write directly to their target audience. And I like a lot of things about Taibbi’s writing too. Which is particularly why I wish he wasn’t’ such an asshole and could refrain from being a misogynist and homophobe for a single, entire article.”

    Cara: Yes, agreed.

  24. Kristin
    Kristin December 14, 2008 at 10:14 am |

    “And yet again, to everyone, I am not opposed to discussing how the No on 8 Campaign fucked up. I am opposed to erasing the sins of those who are actually responsible for Prop 8’s passing as we do so, who are the people who petitioned to have it on the ballot, raised millions and millions of dollars in funding to back their hatred, and stoked people’s bigoted fears with lies that wouldn’t have worked if that prejudice wasn’t already so deeply embedded in people.”

    As am I, though I still didn’t read this particular article as “vicitm-blaming” as you suggested in the OP. As a possible move toward erasure, yes, and that was my major problem with the article. That is, in the same line as “don’t blame the blacks,” it says, “don’t blame the Mormons.” And I think the Mormons and Evangelicals certainly do share quite a lot of the blame, along with the yes voters themselves. That they’re written off in the same line as the racism that has entrenched the campaign fall-out is troubling. Obviously, it’s horribly problematic to suggest that the African-American community did this, but not so much wrt the Religious Right.

  25. Phrone
    Phrone December 14, 2008 at 10:42 am |

    I can see both sides of this argument, and I appreciate Cara’s work in making me see a facet of the debate I hadn’t seen before. :)

    That being said, I think the passage of Prop 8 profoundly shook up a lot of LGBT activists and now they’re looking to see what happened. Obviously, homophobia played a HUGE role in it, but I think they already know this and it’s not like you can learn a huge lot from it. (Besides the fact that, even in a very Democratic state, it’s still an important influence.) So I think people are looking into other factors, and, as you said, blaming the campaign is way better than blaming a certain race. (Or a certain religion – maybe the Mormon church, as an institution, was involved, but that doesn’t mean you should blame Mormons, which is what I’ve seen some people do.)

  26. I’m late, I’m late: Critiquing No on 8 « Problem Chylde

    […] leave a comment » No on Proposition 8 failed strategically as a political campaign, and Rolling Stone is the first mainstream publication to make the obvious argument obvious.  Logically it makes much more sense to take the political leadership behind the campaign to task than blaming the California black community for a debunked, flawed exit poll analysis that still gets tacitly promoted as a viable possibility.  And contrary to the instincts of straight white allies, it really isn’t homophobic to point to this loss as part political and organizational failure. […]

  27. shah8
    shah8 December 14, 2008 at 11:07 am |

    There are many things you can do with the sentiment of blaming the adversary for being an adversary–all of them unpleasant.

    This is an adversarial system, and it was constructed this way as a means of discovering social truth which then leads to a lasting social consensus. I’m sorry, but yes, you *do* have to prove things that might seem obvious, such as We Love Our Moms or Everybody Diserves Dignity.

    I am even less sympathetic in the sense that everyone knew there *was* an adversary. It was “No on 8″, not “Yes on 8″. Reading the article also made me pissed off and write the long rant above because the errors described within were largely the same as the troubles that former Senator Clinton had. With a little blame the black people cherry on top. I am *not* unsympathetic to Taibibi’s caustic attitude–not when the leadership for “No on 8″ did so much that was wrong, perversely out of the attitude that they don’t have to prove shit to anyone because “their message is righteous, and God will see to it!”. The utter lack of empathy towards people who aren’t like the leadership shone through in that article. Arrogance needed to be punctured.

  28. Peter
    Peter December 14, 2008 at 11:44 am |

    Its stupid to blame gays or blacks.

    Gays and blacks didn’t put the amendment on the ballot, nor were they out there collecting signatures to put it on the ballot.

    Maybe the anti-8 people ran an ineffective campaign. I have no idea. I do know from living in california that the pro-8 people must have had an enormous advantage in funding (presumably, mostly from the Mormon Church). I must have seen ten pro-9 ads to every one anti-8 ads. And the pro-8 ads were manipulative and full of falsehoods.

    Its not rocket science why 8 won. They had more money, they lied more, they told falsehoods to advance their agenda.

    And california’s initiative process sucks. In what world is a two-thirds majority required to raise a tax, but a tiny minority, 50% plus one, can dictate equality and civil rights to fellow citizens.

    This isn’t the fault of gays or blacks. Money, lies, and the procedural idiocy of the initiative process were what caused this.

  29. Kristin
    Kristin December 14, 2008 at 12:29 pm |

    Cara: Yeah, I think Taibbi would have been both (1) more offensive since he’s given to using homophobic and sexist language kind of all the time and (2) a little more focused on the Religious Right because they’re one of his favorite topics… I think he’s got a book coming out about the Christian Right as well (if it’s not already out…).

  30. Kristin
    Kristin December 14, 2008 at 12:35 pm |

    “Its not rocket science why 8 won. They had more money, they lied more, they told falsehoods to advance their agenda.”

    Actually, Peter, they did not have more money for the entire duration of the campaign (and not at the end, as the article shows). I found the article helpful simply because, living on the opposite coast, I didn’t really understand quite how financial constraints operated throughout the campaign.

    I just *really* don’t see the article as quite such a facile claim that teh gays caused this. I saw it as more of an insider’s look at what went wrong, and WHY–and it had a lot to do with the exclusionary politics of mainstream groups like the HRC. Despite the (I think) misleading title, and although I can understand how one might come away with a different reading,

  31. shah8
    shah8 December 14, 2008 at 12:35 pm |

    I really like ProblemChylde’s essay linked to at 40, even though the snowflakes thing is murder on my ADD.

  32. Kristin
    Kristin December 14, 2008 at 12:41 pm |

    “Its not rocket science why 8 won. They had more money, they lied more, they told falsehoods to advance their agenda.”

    Actually, Peter, they did not have more money for the entire duration of the campaign (and not at the end, as the article shows). I found the article helpful simply because, living on the opposite coast, I didn’t really understand quite how financial constraints operated throughout the campaign.

    I just *really* don’t see the article as quite such a facile claim that teh gays caused this. I saw it as more of an insider’s look at what went wrong, and WHY–and it had a lot to do with the exclusionary politics of mainstream groups like the HRC. I definitely don’t see anyone on this thread arguing that our community caused the bill to pass, and, welll… Despite the (I think) misleading title, and although I can understand how one might come away with a different reading, I really don’t see interpret the article as suggesting so either.

    Also, I mean… I dunno… I just don’t share the same feelings of outrage, ’cause, I mean… It’s Rolling Stone? I don’t have terribly high expectations when it comes to their overall grasp of, say, multiple forms of oppression. That said, I was relieved that I actually learned something from the article about the inner workings of the campaign, etc. Not that no one else should be outraged, but meh. I’m not nearly as concerned by this article as I was by the “Is Gay the New Black?” title that y’all posted on recently from the Advocate.

  33. Kristin
    Kristin December 14, 2008 at 12:41 pm |

    Gah, sorry about the double post.

  34. Kristin
    Kristin December 14, 2008 at 12:45 pm |

    shah8: Yes, I think ProblemChylde’s post on this is fantastic.

  35. murphy
    murphy December 14, 2008 at 1:09 pm |

    Shah8 and Jared:

    I did mean it sarcastically. And I meant that way it because the struggle for gay rights has been going on for quite some time. There’s a strange current of thought in progressive communities that gay rights only equals the struggle for marriage and that it only began in 1980. That’s not true.

    The Netherlands was the first European country to decriminalize sodomy in 1811. In 1867, the first openly gay person spoke against sodomy laws in Germany. Before then, although gay acts and gay relationships existed, the idea of a gay person the way we conceive of one today would have been anachronistic. Because of struggle, laws against sodomy were passed and repealed and passed and repealed in countries ranging from Europe to the Americas throughout the 1800s.

    There was a strong push for gay emancipation in Germany in the 20s which formed the base for a lot of subsequent gay activism in the US. (And also, incidentally, led the Nazi party to target homosexuals and deport an unknown number of them to concentration camps.) The first known gay rights group in the US started in 1924. Gays organized the Mattachine Society in 1951 to fight a federal law barring gays from jobs in the federal government; the Daughters of Bilitis started in 1956.

    Sodomy laws were upheld by the US Supreme court in 1986 only to be struck down, finally, in 2002.

    Gay struggle and gay history itself is different because it is often hidden. But it is not some babe in the woods when it comes to the fight for rights. I know that change will come. I know that things will be different in a generation. The reason I know this is because we’re finally winning battles that have been fought for hundreds of years.

  36. shah8
    shah8 December 14, 2008 at 1:51 pm |

    I appreciate what you have to say, murphy, and accept your rebuke, however mildly it is intended.

  37. J
    J December 14, 2008 at 3:00 pm |

    I agree with pretty much everything that Kristin has said here. No one should have to fight for their rights, but as other people have pointed out, that’s what other oppressed groups have done (and can we please stop referring to the civil rights movement in the past tense, as if the battle is won?), and continue to do. The article seems very much targeted at the people in charge of the campaign, and I just don’t get how pointing out those mistakes is “victim-blaming”, or how it erases the wrongness of the yes campaign. Despite the stupid headline, the article is pretty critical of the Mormon church, while also making some very valid points about the no campaign.

  38. Kristen R
    Kristen R December 14, 2008 at 6:06 pm |

    Yet another Kristen… Sorry, for the humongous post, but here’s my take, as someone who did a ton of volunteering for no on 8.

    Yes, there were problems with the campaign. The two things that pissed me off at the time were the fact that we weren’t going door-to-door and the horrible first ads they put out. I wrote them an angry letter about how suck-tastic their ads were (as I assume a lot of us did), and almost immediately they put out much tougher, much better ones. I’d say that problem was solved. Was it too late? Maybe. But I’m inclined to believe that there was just no way our ads could have been as strong as the opposition’s without resorting to their dishonest tactics. “OMG your kids are going to be taught how to be gay in school” will probably always garner more attention and reaction than the truth.

    I asked why we weren’t going door-to-door and I never got a straight answer. “That’s just what they decided.” I hate the telephone and I would have much rather talked to people face-to-face. I think it’s more convincing, and I think that tactic could have been much more effective used by us than it was used by the enemy. “Hi, I’m gay, please look me in the eye and face what a Yes on 8 vote means” is a stronger statement than “hi, I’m Generic Person with yes on 8, don’t you want to protect marriage?” As it was, we didn’t door-to-door at all, so they won on that front.

    Re: grassroots organizing. Here’s where I do blame a lot of the gay community. This is just from my personal experience, but when someone approached me to volunteer for no on 8, I was like, “hell yeah! sign me up! i’ll bring friends!” When I was in the same position trying to recruit volunteers, people were very reluctant to help out, either with their time or their money. I am using the no on 4 campaign, which i also volunteered heavily for, as a basis for comparison. I think, especially earlier on, a lot of people looked at the early poll numbers and became complacent. I know a lot of people, gays and allies, who later told me that they were shocked it passed; they didn’t think it would even be close. So I don’t think that was the campaign’s fault. As for where we were looking, it was pride events, gay bars (where they found me), and farmer’s markets, as well as targeted call lists. Just some info I’m throwing out there – read into that whatever you will. When they were just in the voter outreach phase, it was nothing but targeted call lists. I don’t know how they target those things, but the people I was calling seemed to be pretty diverse.

    All of that said, the phone banks were still literally overflowing with people near the end. I think once the numbers started to shift, people got their butts into gear. Perhaps, too late. Perhaps it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. We can’t say.

    As for the protests afterward, I attended many, many of those in LA, none of them were organized by HRC (or anyone, really), and I never heard a single racial slur, or even anyone say a single thing about black voters. That was in the media, not in the streets. People were pissed at the Mormons and they were pissed at CA voters as a whole. And the LAPD riot cops. Fuck them.

    I think the article is way too hard on the campaign. What I saw was the opposition spreading horrible lies effectively. That’s easy to do. Fighting those lies is not, and we were struggling to keep up. The Yes campaign also had a lot more people on their side, and I’m talking about people who really, really care about the issue, not just voters – there are many, many groups (and people) out there dedicated to hating on the gays, including most churches, far more than there are gay rights groups. They had a bigger base to draw from, and more allies to reach out to. And while plenty of straight allies were happy to vote No on 8, I didn’t see hardly any of them giving their time to the campaign. It’s just hard to care as viscerally about it when it’s not affecting you (or you really hate gays, apparently, but I’ll never understand that). So I’m really not sure what other groups or organizations they could have reached out to for help… the feminist organizations were busy with 4, and a lot of the general liberal people and organizations were busy with Obama. People are being, far, far too hard on No on 8.

    As for blame, that rests squarely on the shoulders on the people who voted Yes, the people who spread lies to get people to vote Yes, and the people who supported that effort. No on 8 worked incredibly hard and it’s insulting to suggest otherwise. We had the uphill battle, no matter what the early poll numbers said. No on 8 knew that the whole time, even though RS apparently didn’t. Even when we were riding high, No on 8’s message was to not get too comfortable. They knew what was coming. We just didn’t have enough to keep up with a nasty, well-funded campaign of lies. There were definitely things No on 8 could have done better, but I’m not ready to say that it was that campaign’s fault the numbers moved the way they did.

    But here’s my main problem with focusing on what No on 8 did wrong… it’s like kicking a broken dog when it’s down. I remember the emotional state I was in after 8 passed… I have never felt worse in my entire life. It felt worse than when Bush won re-election, it felt worse than when my first gf cheated on me and left me, it felt worse than when my father became an alcoholic and abandoned us. To then hear in the media the “No on 8 fucked up” story, which, sadly, quickly became the standard response to the “it’s the black people’s fault” story, hurt so much. I just couldn’t listen to it; it felt like being punched in the face. It’s terrible victim-blaming, just like saying it’s a woman’s fault she got raped for going out alone at night. Sure, if she *hadn’t* gone out alone at night, she probably wouldn’t have been raped. There were things she could have done differently. But that does NOT mean that it was her fault she got raped. It’s the rapist’s fault, 100%. And it’s the homophobes’ fault, 100%.

  39. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte December 14, 2008 at 6:49 pm |

    How about if they’d presented it a little more strongly as, “This is unfair, but if you want to win, you have to fight.” It strikes me as a matter of tone that’s bothering you, not the actual content. It sucks that people have to fight to win. But since that’s the ugly reality, we do need to be willing to criticize fighting style.

  40. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte December 14, 2008 at 6:52 pm |

    And of course, they need to blame the Mormons. What’s frustrating is seeing the courage that we needed to see coming out now. If our side had been on board with boycotting people who gave money and picketing their businesses, that would have helped. Prop 8: The Musical prior to the election would have helped. Bothering to put gay people in the ads so that people saw this as a human issue would have helped. Basically, if we’d seen the post-Prop 8 courage beforehand, it would have made a huge difference.

  41. Bene
    Bene December 14, 2008 at 7:10 pm |

    It’s terrible victim-blaming, just like saying it’s a woman’s fault she got raped for going out alone at night. Sure, if she *hadn’t* gone out alone at night, she probably wouldn’t have been raped. There were things she could have done differently. But that does NOT mean that it was her fault she got raped. It’s the rapist’s fault, 100%. And it’s the homophobes’ fault, 100%.

    Yes, this.

  42. Larry G
    Larry G December 14, 2008 at 7:45 pm |

    The criticism of the No on 8 campaign was first voiced by gay activists. The anti-8 TV commercials were vague in the extreme, feel-good stuff about everyone’s rights, as if it would automatically alienate voters to say out loud that the issue at hand was about gay people.

  43. murphy
    murphy December 14, 2008 at 8:34 pm |

    Couple things:

    1) The tagline is ridiculous and completely mis-representative of the article’s point. In fact, the argument appears to be that the Mormons are political wizards who have completely changed the initiative campaign game, not that Prop 8 was criminally negligent.

    2) My major problem with the article isn’t its tone, but its condescension. It makes it sound like the 19 point drop in opposition to marriage equality just appeared out of the ether and had nothing to do with gay activism before Prop 8.

    3) I think the conversation “who do we blame for the results” is very different than “what can we do differently next time.” I see very little recognition that LGBT rights activists are operating on the edge of traditional political campaigning. The fact is, we didn’t KNOW what techniques would be effective because we’d NEVER won a state-wide initiative for marriage rights before. Conservatives know this, which is why they push amendments when they’re beaten in the courts. Actually, I’d venture that majority-vote campaigns for minority rights have a pretty poor track record and that we honestly haven’t put our finger on what works to get majority communities invested in minority rights.

  44. justSaying
    justSaying December 14, 2008 at 9:50 pm |

    Before Obama, there was Jesse Jackson, before Jackson, there were the first black mayors of major cities, before them, there was MLK, before MLK, Thurgood Marshall, and then the people of the Harlem Rennaisance, before that, there were the people fighting the good fight in Post Reconstruction and lost all those Supreme Court battles, before that, there was Booker T Washington and DeBois,

    No Sojourner Truth, no Harriet Tubman, no Mary Bethune, no Rosa Parks, no women at all. This is how women are disappeared from history, one comment at a time. Only the men did the important stuff.

    And on feministe. This is very very sad.

  45. transgenmom
    transgenmom December 14, 2008 at 10:26 pm |

    There’s a difference between fault and responsibility. It is not the opponents fault that prop 8 passed, but it was their responsibility and they failed at that responsibility.

  46. shah8
    shah8 December 15, 2008 at 1:30 am |


    I was thinking about this process in terms of factional leadership and how people decided to achieve goals. Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth were not relevant players in the overall movement in terms of strategy. Mary Bethune is. I did not know of her, and she is not mentioned in any of the books I have read (though I have read no books *directly* about the political struggle during FDR’s era). Anyways, the fact that if you start from a period earlier than the early 70s, the faces of black people who decided how, who, what, and when on topics like lawsuits or public actions like boycotts–the people who could speak large numbers of colored folks–were mostly if not almost all male. After the early 70s, the black equal rights movement has fractured somewhat, so it’s hard to say who’s in charge of what. Even now, you see someone like Cornel West being the representative political figure, and not Lani Guineer even though she is a materially more active figure.

  47. Jen in Ohio
    Jen in Ohio December 15, 2008 at 8:54 am |

    Kristen R says:
    December 14th, 2008 at 6:06 pm – Edit

    Thank you, for all of that. For every word, for every action. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  48. marilove
    marilove December 15, 2008 at 10:18 am |

    “Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth were not relevant players in the overall movement in terms of strategy.”

    WHUT? Are you kidding me? Rosa Parks was not a relevant player?!

    “Even now, you see someone like Cornel West being the representative political figure, and not Lani Guineer even though she is a materially more active figure.”

    …And have you ever considered why this is? Your attitude is one reason of many.

  49. shah8
    shah8 December 15, 2008 at 11:21 am |

    Topic, people…

    If I were talking about the major political parties and presidencies, I would not have given a list any more friendly to feminism. That Black parties were just as sexist as their white counterparts, more or less, is stipulated. I was not talking about people who acted on their own behalf, nor was I talking about people who were a critical part of the machinery.

    I was talking about political bosses who had substantial sway over a big chunck of the African American population. That there had been very few such women who had even a glimmer of access, and Mary Bethune came in at the edges of such power, judging by the wiki. Women weren’t even allowed to vote until 8/26/1920!

    I find professions of amazement absurd, since it’s tantamount to wishing Henry Clay voted in skirts or that Nat Turner was the 9th president of the United States. Or a closer analogy–to consider the likes of Davy Crockett a figure of political significance. It has nothing to do with the inherent value of people like Tubman, who believe me, I read a number of books about, and everything to do with the fact that she was a woman of action and not an organizing political animal.

  50. notes from the interblags | A Collage of Citations

    […] • Feministe on the Rolling Stone article that blames gay organizing for Prop 8’s passing […]

  51. Doug
    Doug December 18, 2008 at 10:48 am |

    I still say that one reason Prop 8 passed is because too many dykes and fags sat on their butts rather than do something. People told me I was wasting my time when I was making calls and passing out flyers and trying to organize a march. After, I get lots of, “Gee, I guess I should have helped out after all.”

    Some of us were going door-to-door, some of us were making calls, some of us were trying to organize. And queers were the ones telling us we were wasting our time.

  52. But Dude, They’re WRONG
    But Dude, They’re WRONG December 22, 2008 at 8:59 am |

    […] a week old now, but this Feministe post exhibits a type of category error that crops up in other contexts, so I figure it’s still […]

  53. John
    John December 22, 2008 at 10:13 pm |

    A couple of observations from a libertarian (shitty that we seem to love labels, especially liberals, with their infatuation with hyphens)…

    The will-of-the-people and democracy-in-action arguments flouted by the right, and correctly vilified by the left, will be tested in court. That’s how a constitutional democracy works, which we are. Short of a constitutional amendment, Prop 8 will and should be overturned. But, to the strategy side of what happened, what I find utterly appalling by the left is their manifest hypocrisy when it comes employing this same tactic to causes dear to their ideology.

    For example, think of the movement sponsored by the left to require that pharmacists provide birth control even under claims that it violates their religious beliefs. We heard these same will-of-the-people and democracy-in-action arguments flouted by the left when it came to requiring pharmacists to dispense birth control. The regulations were tested in court and compromise was reached based on constitutional grounds, not democratic grounds. What’s truly amazing is that most Americans seem to have such short attention spans, which is why entering politics is a growth industry.

    In any event, marriage is not a civil right in the sense of skin color or some other latent genetic attribute. The No on 8 strategy failed by attempting to equate gay marriage as being a civil rights. Minority groups, rightly, saw this fallacious logic, independent of what they may have been spoon-fed by the Moron church and their money.

    Further, minority groups, and indeed most of the public, were rightfully confused about why a class of people that enjoy all the legal protections and benefits of marriage – civil unions – want to impose their own personal views on tradition that runs back thousands of years. What’s even more interesting is how the liberal faction – the militantly secular faction – is now so keenly interested in what has been, recently at least, a religious ceremony. It’s USA: why not start your own church or religion instead of demanding others to conform to your own views. One wonders who’s really bigoted here?

    If gays want to marry, they should be able to, but change requires patience, nuance, and grand strategy. Choosing the nuclear option, and a sorry attempt at civil rights relativism, set the movement back years. Indeed , the tremendous knackering the gay class took by minorities showed either just how little they understand minorities or how much of a self-inflated sense of civil-rights relativism they attach to gay marriage.

  54. John
    John December 23, 2008 at 12:06 am |

    Since people like you confuse logic with ideology, there’s no hope. Separate but equal applies to latent genetic attributes and predispositions. Using your logic (and I use the definition in the widest sense of the word) we could marry children and legally have sex with animals. Marriage is a social institution, not a latent genetic attribute, and the attempt at equating gay marriage with the civil rights movement was a fatal strategic publicity flaw. But why is this surprising since, after all, it is liberals that also want to position free health care as a basic human right.

    As far as separate but equal and tradition goes, I guess that’s why most women still prefer to use a washroom dedicated to females. Or do you mind taking a piss with a room full of truckers?

  55. MY2CENTS
    MY2CENTS February 26, 2009 at 7:25 am |

    (In reference to the “cocksucker shouldn’t be an insult” comment)
    …but it’s got so much gravity to it! Would you no longer consider it appropriate to say, Glen Beck can eat a dick? And isn’t it funny to think of? I’m really only half joking. While I do think that we can differentiate our speech from others, especially those who are clearly more ignorant than us, if we were to remove all traces of bigotry from our language I don’t think we’d be able to communicate with one another. Rather than sticking to a schtick or “script” I prefer to improvise when I speak; I’ll rarely say the same thing the same way twice. I prefer the David Cross way of discussing bigotry – subverting from within.

    Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but haven’t groups like GLAD always been more concerned about Eminem than George W. Bush? I think that article brought up a very good point, which is that within any group in American culture, responsibility for civil rights rests upon its members more than upon outsiders. Reprioritizing is in order if gay Americans want to be aknowledged in holy matrimony by the state. THAT is what “freedom isn’t free” means, no matter what those chest-thumping jingoistic cocksuckers with the bumper stickers tell you.

Comments are closed.

The commenting period has expired for this post. If you wish to re-open the discussion, please do so in the latest Open Thread.