8.07.2010

The "just to be safe" argument. And then: The Ask.

I've been watching the marriagetrial.com reading of the Proposition 8 ruling, while also sort of reading along in the official pdf. If you're too lazy to read all 136 pages (although it's double spaced and a fair amount of it is just citations, so it's really more like 60) there are some great summaries at the Bilerico Project and Blogging LA (thanks to Heather for that second link).

Anyway, I was tweeting a couple of my favorite quotes from the decision, and someone responded on Twitter: "Fuck the other half of CA, and dumb bigots." Of course I understand the frustration behind this statement, but I want to be sure to make one thing very clear.

The seven million people who voted for Proposition 8 are not the enemy in this fight. I know this may be hard to believe, but it's true. Watch this ad, even if you've seen it before:



This is the kind of message that voters saw over and over and over again in the six weeks leading up to the 2008 election. It was two full weeks before the No on 8 campaign came up with any response to the message that allowing gay marriage meant the unthinkable would happen -- kids would be taught the shocking truth that gay people exist and sometimes they fall in love and want to get married. I know. Shocking. (Waiting this long was the single biggest mistake made by the No on 8 campaign, according to The Prop 8 Report, something I've been meaning to blog about since it was released last week, about a day before the trial decision came out. Worst timing ever.)

So for two weeks, many people were faced with the following set of facts, or perceived facts:
  1. If I vote no on Prop 8, my children might be taught something I don't want them to know, and at a very young age!
  2. This is backed up by a very official person with a law degree who is much smarter than I am, as well as by actual facts.
  3. I don't know of any negative consequences if I vote yes on Prop 8.
There is only one rational conclusion that can be drawn from these three facts, or even from just #1 and #3: Vote yes on Prop 8! Even if you think the threat to children is unlikely or insignificant, there's no downside to voting yes. It's a win-win. Many of the voters I talk to as a volunteer with Vote For Equality (more on this in a moment) tell me that they're not sure how they feel about gay marriage, or they have no strong feelings one way or the other. Yes, I'm sure many of them are against gay marriage, and just don't want to say so to my face. But I believe that a significant number of them are truly undecided or indifferent. And yet, of the 13.7 million Californians who voted that day, less than two and a half percent were unable to decide, and didn't cast a vote one way or the other on Prop 8. If you don't see the harm in voting yes, why would you ever vote no, just to be safe, just in case those scary ads about harming children are true?

I bring this up for two reasons, First of all, as I said, we need to remember that the 7 million "yes" voters are not the enemy in this fight. Call me naive, but I think the majority of them aren't actually that offended by the idea of a couple of guys making a promise to each other, eating some cake, drinking some wine, signing a piece of paper, and one of them getting to use the other's health insurance. They were just misled and tricked into changing the definition of marriage. It's not their fault. Really.

Secondly, we can convince people that "fact" #3 is not true, because, of course, it's not. Yes, we can rebut the other two facts as well, but if we can show people what marriage means to actual real-life gay and lesbian Californians and their families, then we can win next time. This is one of the central arguments made by the plaintiffs in the prop 8 trial: By denying marriage to a couple, you are sending them a clear message that their relationship is inferior to other people's relationships.

That is what I've been doing with Vote For Equality for the last few months: Having open, honest conversations with voters, both on the phone, and at their front door, explaining to them why I believe we ought to extend marriage benefits--not the separate but equal classification of "domestic partners", but marriage--to all committed long-term relationships. More importantly, Vote For Equality has devoted itself to something we almost never did during the No on 8 campaign: listening to the voters and finding out what their concerns are. Check it out!



We won't always change someone's mind, like Jay did in this video, but with every conversation we have, we'll find out more about that person -- their thoughts about this issue, any ideas they have that are factually incorrect, and any questions they have about same-sex marriage, that we might be able to answer for them. It's a lot of fun, and I believe that if we vote on this again, in California or elsewhere, and we win, it will be largely because of this kind of work. If you volunteered with the No on 8 campaign, and you were frustrated with how ineffective our tactics were, I promise you this is different. We've learned from our mistakes, and we're continuing to improve our approach.

(And if you were at any of the No on 8 actions, you know what's next -- The Ask)

One of the next major events coming up is a phonebank on August 24, where we have phone conversations much like the in-person conversation in that video you just watched. It also happens to be the day before my birthday, and seeing all of you, my huge following of blog readers (okay, so there are like four of you, but still), at the phonebank, would be a pretty awesome birthday present. I know it might seem scary to just call up a stranger and ask them how they feel about gay marriage, but once you get into it, you'd be surprised how much people are willing to talk about it.

If you have any friends or family who might someday want to marry a person of the same sex, please come to this phonebank, for them. I'm sure you know at least one, and if not, then come to this phonebank for me -- for my birthday. There might even be free food! And no using band as an excuse, TMB people. If you leave right after practice, you'll get there on time, even with traffic.

The details:
Vote For Equality voter persuasion phonebank
August 24th, 6:30pm-9:30pm
1125 N. McCadden Place,
Los Angeles, CA 90038


I want to conclude this blog post with a quote from an unlikely source. As they are a project of NOM, you can imagine I don't agree with much of what comes from the Ruth Institute, but they're 100% right about one thing, and it nicely sums up why the work Vote For Equality is doing is so important, and why we can't just sit around waiting for court decisions:
As with other issues, what will decide the “same-sex marriage” controversy in the long run are the attitudes that prevail in society at large, not this or that judicial decision, ballot measure, or piece of legislation.
P.S. I really think if you give it a chance, you'll enjoy this phonebank, or find other VFE actions that suit you better. But if you really don't want to do this, or can't make it on that day, or find that you have more spare money than spare time (hey, it's possible!), then you can also make a donation to Vote For Equality, and that would also make a huge difference. Thanks!

2 comments:

Jaxon said...

Well, I'm glad I helped prompt this discussion... even if it was a drunk misguided comment >_<

Chrispy said...

That's a great way to think about it... I really have thought of it as this direct, oppositional conflict, but then I do occasionally bump into those folks that just haven't figured it out for themselves yet.

I'll be there. Any plans for transportation?