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What Did We Learn and Why is Courage Here?

Background

By Rick Jacobs

The morning was consumed with our side trying to show that SF and by extension all jurisdictions will be better off if same-sex marriage is legal. Dr. Egan did a very good job of demonstrating that from a statistical perspective, although I was a bit disappointed that he did not know more about the basis of the Williams Institute studies. (Again, the Williams Institute as a unique center at UCLA that deals with LGBT issues and the law and does other academic studies around LGBT issues. Its executive director is a super-smart lawyer name Brad Sears. Check them out here.)

The Prop. 8 side did a pretty good job of trying to impeach his data, trying to show that there are not enough data to draw the conclusions he does, such as that if everyone could marry, we’d be healthier and more productive. However, taken in the context of the previous four days, it’s clear that the level of discrimination that hangs in society has and does damage gay and lesbian people. It’s insidious and perpetual. Therefore, while Prop. 8 picked away at pieces of the data trying to show that Dr. Egan could not know if same sex marriage would decrease opposite sex marriage, doing everything he could to keep the studies and statistics on bullying of apparently homosexual kids out of this trial, the mosaic from a distance is clear. The pattern is indiscernible up close, but you sure can see it. Perpetual discrimination has damaged us. Marriage equality is the lifting of that weight.

My partner (not roommate, not lover, not business partner) Shaun Kadlec made a really great point last night. He is much younger than I am and much smarter. He said that he grew up thinking that the space shuttle was really neat, but no big deal. He grew up with the knowledge that man had been on the moon. No big deal. But he has come to learn how to use the Internet. The next generation will never question or even imagine life without the Internet.

Now, imagine the generation that grows up knowing that gays and lesbians marry and have families. They don’t “partner.” They don’t “skulk.” They are not less than because, as Dr. Cott said on Monday and Tuesday, this highly prestigious institution of marriage is available to all equally.

One other point: Many of you may be new to the Courage Campaign. We have been around for four years. I founded it here in California in late 2005 as an extension of my having chaired Howard Dean’s presidential campaign in California. Every four years, California exports labor and capital for presidential elections; we did so in a huge way for Obama and have done so reliably since 1992, the last time we were a “battleground” state. (Clinton v. Bush v. Perot)

This state has the greatest potential of any in the country to lead and transform our nation in every way. We have seen that more often in the negative since 1978 when Grover Norquist’s wet dream began to come true with the passage of Prop. 13 in this state. That began the so-called taxpayers revolution that undercut government, gutted education and programs for those who most need government. The result 32 years later is that California has gone from number one in education to number 47 or so.

The initiative process is a huge part of the problem. It not only has helped to destroy our state economically, but it has taken rights from people on three occasions, the most recent of which is Prop. 8. (The other two were in 1964 when voters here passed an initiative that overrode the equal housing act, but the courts threw that out. Then in 1992, this state voted that undocumented people could have no access to state services, ie. schools and hospitals. The courts threw that out. Obviously, the courts have maintained Prop. 8, so here we are.)

I write this now because Courage Campaign, which is more than 700,000 strong in California and across the country, is member driven and is a fundamental piece of the progressive movement. We believe that LGBT rights will be gained fully as part of that movement and that our rights are fully integrated with those who have suffered and will suffer even more this year because of the California budget and governance disaster. That’s why Courage leads on issues around budget reform and in this coming year, pending member surveys, on matters ranging from taxing oil companies in this state to pay for higher education to holding right wing folks accountable.

How, you might ask, does this all fit with our enthusiastic support for Ted Olson in this trial? Well, as I’ve said, I’ve known him for twenty-five years. He’s conservative in the classic sense. He’s not reactionary. And he’s very smart. So progress comes in various forms, but all that we do is linked to that movement that will make our state and country great again, but only with your engagement, with your support.

When the AP and others identify us as a “gay rights organization,” that diminishes all of us. That implies, first of all, that gay rights are separate from other people’s rights. And that’s what this trial is all about. We’re all on trial here because of the ability of the right wing to balkanize us, to say, “that’s a Latino rights organization” or “that’s a gay rights organization.” What they don’t want to see is that mosaic of America of which we are all part. We are a progressive, multi-issue, member driven organization. Our members are very interested in LGBT rights, so here we are. And our members are interested in a society that provides social justice and equal access.

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21 Comments Leave a Comment

  • 1. Brian  |  January 14, 2010 at 6:05 am

    Shaun's brilliant – that's something that I had not thought about, and I'm of the generation that was exposed to the internet at a young age through relatively early-adopting parents. (14.4k modems? You betcha.)

    I wholeheartedly agree, and sincerely hope that Prop 8 gets reversed/struck down/what have you.

    Justice Walker seems to be a very smart man, and while I'd normally count being a Libertarian as a black mark on someone (I'm a socialist), it certainly seems to be serving the fight for equality in good stead.

    Much luck and love from here in Canada – it's not just Americans that are watching.

  • 2. Tom  |  January 14, 2010 at 6:05 am

    Well stated Rick and proud to be a part of the Courage Campaign myself. I firmly believe your statement about being known as only a "Gay rights org" sets CC on the wrong playing field. In fact, I no longer refer to the overarching issue of this case as "gay marriage" – I only refer to it as "Marriage Equality" because anyone can oppose Gay Marriage but how can anyone oppose Equality? I refuse to use any term but Marriage Equality and it allows me to frame the issue with my family and friends that is hard to argue with. I know it is a stupid semantics thing but it helps me stay on message without getting sidetracked by religious bigotry.

  • 3. Kenny Contreras  |  January 14, 2010 at 6:05 am

    Thank you all for everything you are doing, have done or will do. It's only time before the next generation will think that it's "No Big Deal"

  • 4. Beau-Robert Metcalfe  |  January 14, 2010 at 6:07 am

    As a member of the next generation, I applaud the efforts of everyone on this site.
    Thank you so much.

  • 5. David Kimble  |  January 14, 2010 at 6:07 am

    Thanks, Rick – I concur completely with you about this issue – when my partner and I lived in Seattle (I lost him to AIDS in 1994) – we often spoke about this not being about special rights, but about equal rights.

  • 6. Brad  |  January 14, 2010 at 6:11 am

    I love your concluding point.

    I saw a Washington Post story today about a ruling regarding gay marriage in DC and a victory for "gay rights activists."

    I wish the Post had more accurately said it was a victory for civil rights.

    One is either in favor of marriage equality or in favor of marriage discrimination.

    Marriage equality isn't a narrow issue of "gay rights activists." It is an issue of civil rights, and "civil rights" appropriately has broad and wide appeal.

  • 7. Kyle  |  January 14, 2010 at 6:16 am

    Rick, you are a hero!

  • 8. Brad  |  January 14, 2010 at 6:18 am

    BRILLIANT, Tom.

    Far right is so effective at framing things. ("Protect marriage." "Pro Life." "Family values.")

    The mainstream of America–which includes progressives and excludes the radical right–needs to choose words that communicate our positive mainstream message.

    "Marriage equality" is great.

    And finding ways to use the far right's words also can be useful. Progressive thinkers strongly believe in family values, protecting children and protecting marriage (NO ON 8 was about protecting our constitutional right to marriage).

  • 9. robert wright 1 of 1  |  January 14, 2010 at 6:22 am

    Sometimes, like in the case of Olsen, you must take your adversaries hand when the become your ally. Our issue of Equality, is not just a left issue, it affects everyone of every political belief. We DO have allies from the right on this, albeit not many vocal ones, but there are gay conservatives, like Andrew Sullivan, who are heard speaking out on this issue. Yes, the majority of those leading the fight ARE left, but our fight should NOT be a partisan one, equality is for everyone, left, right and center.

    I admire the work you have and continue to do.

  • 10. Steffi  |  January 14, 2010 at 6:26 am

    Coming from epidemiology field I don't even know euality but equity cause I learned about the difference of these two terms. equality means being the same and equity means having the same possibilities and rights. So while gays don't want equality with marriage (which would mean they want the same marriage as straights) they want equity meaning same rights and possibilities. it's a small but important difference (which is also important in epidemiology (in the field of health equity) that's why I mentioned the field I'm from) the term eqity (other than equality) also allowes for the fact of people who CHOSE difference. i.e. for those people who WANT to have a different kind of relationship (like in health it also allows for inherent differences and chosen differences like though one has the right and possibility to have access to cancer treatment one choses rather not to.)

    I know it's only a term, a word but I use it :)

    maybe this makes it a little clearer what's the difference: http://www.lita.org/ala/aboutala/offices/oif/ifto

  • 11. Steffi  |  January 14, 2010 at 6:27 am

    first sentence got mixed. it meant to say "I don't even use equality as a term but equity"

  • 12. James O'Neill  |  January 14, 2010 at 6:28 am

    Thank you for the history lesson on the Courage Campaign. I assumed that you guys sprung into existence due the Gay Rights movement similar to Far Wisconsin. It is good to know otherwise.

    Keep up the good work and thank you so very much for the coverage.

  • 13. jsw  |  January 14, 2010 at 6:32 am

    The Prop. 8 side did a pretty good job of trying to impeach his data, trying to show that there are not enough data to draw the conclusions he does, such as that if everyone could marry, we’d be healthier and more productive.

    That's funny, because conservatives typically prescribe marriage as the cure for all social ills suffered by the poor, and if I recall correctly, the Bush administration set aside government funds for marriage promotion. If marriage doesn't have tangible benefits, why has it been so important in that context, but not in this one?

  • 14. Miche Rutledge  |  January 14, 2010 at 6:34 am

    I agree with Mr. Jakob's point. I was reading "Taking Woodstock" by Elliot Tiber last month. He really brought back the shame and self-loathing that was prevalent prior to Stonewall.

    I had forgotten what that was like, but as I read about his experiences I remembered feeling that way as a teen-ager in rural Kansas.

    The generation growing up after the AIDS epidemic come out in a very different world. We changed along with everyone else.

    I believe that AIDS accounts for the change from the 1970s "hedonism" to our community recognizing we needed marriage and the benefits of a stable relationship.

    AIDS was our crucible and when we emerged we were different in our needs and culture. I wish the witnesses yesterday would have brought that point up.

  • 15. Alan  |  January 14, 2010 at 6:50 am

    Rick,

    I and the many other members of Courage Campaign thank you for the wisdom and initiative to begin an organization that truly advances the battle for equal rights and your continued dedication over the years to developing the Campaign into a respectable and formidable organization that stands firmly behind its stated mission and beliefs without yielding to the pressures of outside influences and media that may heap unjust criticism your way.

    Related to your post, and speaking of the media, I believe that the media, whether intentionally or unintentionally, has placed a prejudicial slant on its coverage of this trial from the very beginning by consistently and repeatedly headlining all of its coverage with story lines and headlines that state words to the effect of "the gay marriage trial." By framing the trial in this manner, the media has immediately cast it in a negative light in the eyes of many and labeled it as if though it is a trial of "us" against "them" (them being heterosexual individuals in marriages or able to marry).

    Labeling it as one group pitted against another group obviously causes individuals to take positions and many will take the "traditional" position of status quo. The media would better serve the public and its purported role of neutrality by referring to the trial as the marriage equality trial or something similar to that. When people receive a message that this is about equality rather than "us" against "them," you would find more and more who are less adversarial and more willing to be inclusive. After all, we're talking about equal rights and not one group attempting to encroach upon another's rights or take away another's rights.

    Just food for thought.

    Thanks again.

  • 16. David from Sandy  |  January 14, 2010 at 7:33 am

    Bravo!

  • 17. David from Sandy  |  January 14, 2010 at 7:34 am

    Bigotry?

  • 18. Jack from Edmonds  |  January 14, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    The proportion of commentary to trial transcript has grown with each passing day. The commentary now outweighs the repored fact by at least 10 fold.

    It would be helpful to have more of the trial's actual content and less interpretation.

  • 19. Jack from Edmonds  |  January 14, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    The proportion of commentary to trial transcript has grown with each passing day. The commentary now outweighs the reported fact by at least 10 fold.

    Please note that it would be helpful to have more of the trial's actual content and less interpretation.

  • 20. rick jacobs  |  January 18, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Alan:

    I just read this. I am way behind and want to read all of the comments. They are just fascinating.

    Thanks so much for what you say. We have to get out of these silos. We will.

    Again, thanks.

    Rick.

  • 21. rick jacobs  |  January 18, 2010 at 10:42 am

    Jack:

    Do you still believe this to be true? Let me know, please. We want to get the meat out and then we'll add some potatoes. |

    We have folks writing commentary, but you can skip over that. Brian Leubitz is live blogging tomorrow, but I'll be there and I will add some commentary, but we'll try our best to make this as near a transcript as fleet fingers allow.

    Thanks.

    Rick.

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