For Arizona, Three’s a Crowd

All eyes are on California’s battle for marriage equality, but two other states also are facing ballot initiatives this November -- and folks in John McCain’s home state are starting to feel ignored.

BY John Gallagher

August 27 2008 12:00 AM ET

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Kate Kendell,
executive director of the San Francisco–based
National Center for Lesbian Rights, agrees. Any state
where marriage equality has been won but is now
threatened “would be at the top of everybody’s
priority list,” she says. “When you add in the
fact that California is a behemoth in terms of
population, it’s naturally going to be where
resources and attention gravitate.”

Furthermore,
Kendell says, success in each state will depend on
grassroots activism, not media coverage or donations from
national gay groups: “They’re going to
be won or lost based on local mobilization.”
(At press time the Human Rights Campaign, for instance, had
given a total of $675,000 to the California and
Florida efforts but nothing to the fight in Arizona.)
She sympathizes with the frustration in Arizona --
“It’s a wonder I have any hair left,”
she says of her worry that folks weren’t acting
quickly enough in her own state. And she is encouraging
NCLR members to donate to Arizona’s Vote No on
Proposition 102 campaign, even if it means they
can’t pay their annual dues to NCLR. (The group is
collecting money solely to be used for California’s
fight.)

If there’s
a silver lining to Arizona’s predicament, though,
it’s this: The national religious right groups
also seem exclusively focused on California. On July
30 evangelical leaders held a conference call to whip
up enthusiasm among pastors at 215 sites across the three
states, but talk was dominated by California’s
Prop. 8, according to an account published online by
People for the American Way. Charles Colson, the
alleged Watergate conspirator–turned–Christian
minister, called the California struggle “the
Armageddon of the culture war.”

In the end, gay
rights activists are hoping for a hat trick, though that
seems unlikely given the odds facing Arizona. But Freedom to
Marry’s Wolfson insists that one victory is
paramount. “Holding California is an outright
win,” he says, whereas in Arizona and Florida
“we will not have advanced -- but simply beaten
back an attack.” It’s the difference, he
says, between rising in the morning and getting out of bed:
“Waking up’s a good thing, but you would
like to have more in your day.”

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