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L.A. Gay Center
Responds to Prop. 8 Criticism

L.A. Gay Center
Responds to Prop. 8 Criticism


In the December 16 edition of The Advocate, writer Ben Ehrenreich analyzed the differing opinions of why Prop. 8 passed at the polls in his article, "Anatomy of a Failed Campaign." Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center chief public affairs officer Jim Key responds to the criticisms raised by that article.

One might get the impression from the Advocate's article, "Anatomy of a Failed Campaign," that the effort to defeat Proposition 8 was run out of a small room with five chairs filled by a cabal of gay and lesbian leaders who started meeting a few weeks before the November election, blissfully unaware of the magnitude of the challenge they faced. The story paints a picture of leaders "inexperienced" at political campaigns, who sought no outside counsel, professional or amateur, and who didn't take the challenge seriously until it was too late.

This may be a compelling narrative, but unfortunately, it is utterly incorrect and disregards the facts.

The No on 8 campaign was led by a Campaign Committee of LGBT and allied organizations -- a committee that grew to exceed 100 members. In turn, that committee empowered an Executive Committee of leaders from more than 15 state and national groups, including the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, API Equality, Bienestar, the California Teachers Association, and the Service Employees International Union as well as Dennis Herrera, the San Francisco city attorney, among others.

Throughout the six month No on 8 campaign, both the Campaign Committee and the Executive Committee met weekly, while in the final weeks a smaller "mini-executive committee" met daily. The campaign not only put together by far the largest field operation ever assembled for an antigay ballot initiative, by Election Day it had raised more than six times the largest amount ever been raised in such a fight.

Moreover, the article fails to mention the campaign's senior professional consultants, who were integrally involved. They included Steve Smith, the senior consultant, who has run multiple successful California ballot measure campaigns; Celinda Lake, who has done voter research on LGBT issues across the country for more than 15 years; Maggie Linden (media), a senior vice president at Ogilvy Worldwide; and Kimberly Ray (finance), who has led fundraising on multiple campaigns from the Presidential level on down.

Organizing efforts began long before the official No on 8 campaign had been launched: the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, the Task Force, EQCA, NCLR, HRC, and other organizations began to organize and build coalitions nearly four years ago. By July of 2008, when the LDS Church began to build its organizing machine, thousands of volunteers who had been mobilized five months earlier in the "decline to sign" campaign had already been in the field, educating and identifying supportive voters.

A myth seems to have to taken hold that campaign leaders were lulled into complacency by early polls that showed the proposition failing by wide margins. On the contrary; campaign leaders always knew this was an uphill battle, both because our community has never won an antimarriage ballot measure and because of the results of internal polling.

From the very beginning, the campaign's internal polls showed an evenly split electorate (40% on each side) with 20% undecided. They consistently showed the initiative passing, sometimes by significant margins. Yet external polls, widely reported by the press, showed the no vote artificially high. This seemed to contribute to complacency among prospective campaign donors, causing an August and September stall in No on 8 fund-raising efforts -- all while the Yes on 8 fund-raising soared.

There are legitimate questions to be raised about the advertising campaign, but two points are central here: First, the lack of early fund-raising success had a detrimental effect on the ability to set the tone for the campaign and combat the opposition's early ads. Second, ads that focus on what is deemed important to one group tend to have adverse or unintended effects on other groups. The ads were targeted -- based on extensive research -- to persuadable "undecideds," and this ultimately was where the election would be won or lost.

The outcome of the election is a source of anger, frustration and sadness to everyone who cares about equality -- in California and throughout the world -- and to none so much as those who spent months and months working to defeat the initiative.

We are hopeful that the California supreme court will act courageously to ensure that a very small margin of voters does not deny equal rights under the law to a targeted minority community. In the meantime, an objective in-depth analysis of all aspects of the campaign (led by a professional firm external to the campaign organization) will be conducted in the near future. We hope this analysis will lead to a constructive discussion about the failures and successes of the campaign, and, more important, lay the groundwork for a successful effort to overturn Proposition 8 should the courts fail to do so in the coming months.

Click here to read The Advocate article "Anatomy of a Failed Campaign."

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