There have been plenty of “year in review” pieces posted already so I won’t go back into it. The only numbers I’ll mention are 4 million (actually, closer to 5 now) and 150,000, which are approximately the number of pageviews and comments here at Prop8TrialTracker.com. And, for the 2nd year in a row, we’re the #1 result on Google for the Prop 8 trial. Thanks to everyone for making it so!
As for New Year’s, I’m just hanging out with some friends here in town — wherever there’s champagne.
What are your best memories of 2011, and your plans for the holiday?
Over at Salon.com, Linda Hirshman posts her meta assessment of why LGBT equality came so far in 2011 and the prior years: people starting making a moral case for equality, and the rest of America started accepting it. See what you think of her take:
Same sex marriage is a classic example of what political scientists call “morality politics”: “a fundamental, first-principled conflict with the values embodied in some aspect of a morality policy.” In a lot of politics, Americans are willing to hold their noses and tolerate people they disapprove of or to change their positions based on evidence from the material world. But in morality politics, voters have their first principles and don’t want compromise-inclined elites confusing them with stuff like social science data about harm.
So issues of morality politics surface disproportionately in the context of direct democracy. Hawaii voters overturned their Supreme Court’s decision recognizing same sex marriage in a referendum while the ink was still wet on the decision. The Hawaii decision generated a federal law refusing to recognize any such rogue development, and a similar decision from Massachusetts in 2003 was met with a tsunami of state referendums forbidding such shenanigans in their states in 2004. Gay marriage activists were not going to win that battle by arguing that anything between consenting adults in private is nobody’s business.
How did they do it? They did it – and this is the lesson that the gay revolution holds for any progressive movement – not by asking for “tolerance.” They didn’t ask people to accept gay marriage by holding their moral noses. Rather, they set out to change change people’s minds about what is moral.
Moral relationships are not about what sexual positions or organs are involved, the movement argued, no matter what the Bible said (or didn’t say) and no matter what Queen Victoria thought. Against the impermeable wall of religious sexual morality, the gay marriage movement fired the armament of other measures of morality. Sexual relationships are about relationships. What is the content of a moral relationship with another human being?
The gay marriage movement told the stories of its courtships, invoking the ancient Platonic idea of love as the recognition of the goodness in the other person.
Genora Dancel and Ninia Baehr, the original plaintiffs in the Hawaii case, had a nine-hour first date. They told the stories of their caring, invoking the morality of the strong helping the weak and making a world you yourself would want to live in.
Ron Wallen, 77 years old, told a panel of the U.S. Senate, which was considering repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, about his four years in hell nursing his partner of 58 years through fatal leukemia. “And as rotten as those four years were,” Wallen testified, “they were made ever so much easier because we had each other for comfort and love.” Slowly, story by story, the gay marriage movement began to remake the conversation about morality.
It was an uphill battle. For too long in America the subject of morality has been collapsed into sexual morality. For most of Western history, morality had richer content. Morality meant proper conduct regarding wealth, just as one example. In the Old Testament, people were taught to leave some of their harvest behind in the fields as charity. The Greek virtues included the virtue of “temperance,” “liberality” and “magnificence” – all counseling moderation in the relationship to money and physical pleasure. The Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant asked his followers to imagine they were living in a world in which everyone behaved as they did. The English utilitarians, horrified by the inequalities of the first Industrial Revolution, suggested that the millionaire’s millionth dollar did not mean as much to him as the same dollar meant to a poor man.
But as inequality rose, moral debates about economic justice fell until only sex was left as a subject for moral conversation. Worse, in response to the sexual revolution of the ’60s, moral sex was defined by a snapshot of the 19th century Protestant, monogamous, heterosexual, reproductive family. Same-sex sex was the definition of the immoral. Except for those uppity women wanting to abort their “babies,” it dominated the field. With the arrival of religious activists into U.S. politics in the ’70s, this religiously defined sexual morality was promoted as a proper subject for politics.
Gay activists reversed this trend. Asserting their claim to marriage, gay activists told the predominantly straight world that there are more ways to think about morality than the Evangelical Christian morality of Victorian sexuality. And they were persuasive. When conservative lawyer Ted Olson, former solicitor general under President Bush, explained why he sued to establish gay marriage as a constitutional right, he invoked the essentials of the activists’ argument: “We believe that a conservative value is stable relationships and stable community and loving individuals coming together and forming a basis that is a building block of our society, which includes marriage.”
In this, as in so many things, the gay community were early adopters of the only strategy that beats the resurgent religious right: fight morality with morality. Once the category of morality was opened, every kind of debate became possible — and so did victory. It arrived in 2011.
It’s been another great year at Prop8TrialTracker.com, with great comments, great traffic, and a stellar community of vibrant discussion and action. And it’s been another exciting year in the trial, too.
P8TT, which is sponsored by the Courage Campaign Institute, has always been a labor of love. It’s never been something that really pays for itself in terms of how much time we spend on it. That’s why we need your support to keep it going. Consider:
Jacob, our writing intern, and I blog each day, every day, 365 days a year so you can have fresh and interesting content to read. That costs time, a lot of it, for both of us.
Rick, Arisha, Ana and others drop what they are doing to buy a flight or get in their car to go to the courthouse in San Francisco and sit for hours at a time typing away transcripts of the hearings in the Prop 8 trial. That costs money (for travel) and time.
We aren’t just the same old site anymore — we’ve made improvements. Starting in the middle of 2011, we were finally able to bring on a full-time technical team to respond to site glitches and bugs, including when you have log-in or commenting problems. We did so because we believe the #1 site on the web with for covering the trial, with thousands and thousands of visitors each month, deserves a top-flight team. According to the recent user survey, 93% of you rated their performance at an 8/10 or above, so it looks like they’re doing a good job. That costs money for their retainer.
Also starting in 2011, we now have Quick Hits for the first time, so users like you can post content that is just as visible as what’s post in the main section on the front page. We now have a second daily writer, Jacob Combs, to help with coverage of the trials — and he’s doing it without pay (your contribution will help so we can change that). We also have a set of community guidelines to clear up confusion on what the rules of the road are in the comments. We also now have a “where things stand with the Prop 8 trial” to meet the #1 most requested new feature here: an easy-to-understand, one-stop-shopping place to find out what’s going on with the trial. We just permanently linked to it in the banner at the very top of the site so you and new people here can always find it. All of that costs time and money for tech development and writing.
Not to forget, while our mission has and always will remain the Prop 8 trial, we’ve expanded to cover the DOMA trials, repeal of DOMA in Congress, marriage equality fights around the states, National Organization for Marriage and their goings-on, and other issues. All of that costs time.
Lastly, we’re doing our very best to bring you the best coverage of the Prop 8 trial. With the help of you in the comments, we cover every motion, every hearing, every brief. We get exclusive takes on the latest developments from LGBT equality’s legal minds like NCLR’s Shannon Minter and Chris Stoll, along with Lambda Legal’s Jon Davidson, and post it here. We track down the latest developments on Prop 8, whether it’s a poll, a report, a new boycott, a new play, a new lawsuit borne out of the trial. It’s what makes us the #1 search result for “Prop 8 trial” on Google, and we want to keep it that way, but all of that costs time, too.
If those reasons weren’t good enough, I have a few more to try on for size (and tell you why this is timely):
All contributions made to Courage Campaign Institute, the sponsor of P8TT, before the ball drops on the night of December 31st will count as tax deductions come April.
All donors who contribute before the ball drop are entered into our drawing for one brand new iPad 2 (so you can read the blog on the road!) and one of three $100 gift certificates to a 100% pro-equality business, as rated by HRC’s Corporate Equality Index. That could go towards a flight on United Airlines, a new pair of Levi’s jeans, a stay at a Kimpton hotel, a bunch of new books or a Nook from Barnes & Noble — there are close to 200 different businesses for you to spend where you like. So you have four chances to win a prize.
Polling is an inherently inexact science (as any of the conflicting polls claiming to predict the results of next week’s Iowa GOP caucus demonstrate), but a new poll by the California League of Conservation Voters Education Fund shows a strong majority of independent voters in California (60 percent, to be exact) in support of legalizing marriage for gay and lesbian couples.
Perhaps more significantly, a full 44 percent strongly support marriage equality, while only 30 percent oppose it. Independent voters make up around 20 percent of the state’s electorate. In 2009, a poll of independent voters conducted by over 30 California organizations, including the Courage Campaign, showed 49 percent opposed and 33 percent opposed.
The new poll, conducted by the firm Tulchin Research, comes a little over a month after a November poll conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP) which showed 43 percent support for marriage equality, with another 35 percent supporting civil unions and only 21 percent against legal recognition of gay couples’ relationships. In February, PPP found 51 percent in support of marriage equality and 40 percent opposed.
History shows, however, that the answers people give pollsters can be different from the way they pull the level in the privacy of the voting booth. In May of 2008, the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle published the results of two conflicting polls only five days apart: the LA Times poll found Prop 8 polling 54 percent in favor and 35 percent against, while the SF Chronicle cited a Field poll showing Californians supported marriage equality by a 51-42 margin.
As we all know, Prop 8 did pass in 2008, 52 to 48 percent. What do you think? Is this new poll the sign of a true shift in public opinion?
We need your help for one last push over the finish line in the Pepsi: Refresh Everything contest (and I promise to make this the last reminder before the contest ends when the ball drops on New Year’s Eve!). We’ve dropped to 7th and we need one last push to get over the finish line (the top ten win).
If we win, Pepsi writes us a check for $50,000 to help run Camp Courage trainings for LGBT youth. No strings attached. We won in June and we’re gunning for one more win. This is the last month of the contest ever.
So please vote. Vote with Facebook, vote with a Pepsi profile, and vote by text message (text the number “110852″, our voting code, to the phone number “73774″). You can vote three times per day, once with each method, today, tomorrow and on New Year’s Eve. If we finish in the top ten when the ball drops, we win (and more importantly, kids win). It takes less time than it took to read this post.
Thanks again for your help for LGBT youth and our communities.
Just a funny Prop 8-related holiday tale I had to share.
I was home over Thanksgiving and discussing gifts for my niece with my sister, and she asked if I knew of any good books to introduce the concept of same-sex marriage to kids old enough to consider it. I thought for a moment and then realized, why, yes I do.
This ad, and another version of it in Maine, ran during Prop 8 and was credited with turning much of the tide in favor of the Yes side. The book King & King subsequently became famous. So what better way to introduce the concept than to use the widely-praised book many teachers use in Massachusetts schools?
So my thanks to the Wirthlins for telling me of this wonderful award-winning book, which my niece just received from her uncle as a Chanukah gift. My sister reports she read through it, and the ending (where a prince marries a prince) without batting an eye. I also hope that when she is old enough to see bullying of gay kids in her school, she’ll know better than to let it happen because of the respect she has for all people.
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