Why the Prop 8 Protests Matter

From today's Beyond Chron.

I didn't join the street protests against Proposition 8 right after it passed.  My gut reaction was: "where were all these people when we had the chance to defeat it?" But "No on 8" ran a terrible campaign that would not have effectively used more volunteers, and it's possible that many had tried to get involved.  Now the state Supreme Court will decide what to do about Prop 8, and City Attorney Dennis Herrera has put on a strong case to have it overruled.  But that doesn't mean the Court will do the right thing; even the best legal arguments can lose.  A mass movement of peaceful protest is crucial at building the political momentum to attain marriage equality - which can convince the Court it's okay to overturn the "will of the voters." Social movements rely too much on lawyers and politicians to make progress - without effectively using the masses of people who want to help.  Now people are angry, and this weekend we saw mass protests across the country.  It's now time for everyday people to get involved.

As Barbara Ehrenreich once argued, Roe v. Wade didn't just happen because a majority of Supreme Court justices decided women have the right to choose.  It was after a mass movement worked hard for many years to make that politically possible.  While we like to believe the best legal arguments always win in Court, judges are - at the end of the day - politically connected lawyers who wear robes.  As much as Dennis Herrera's lawsuit is well written and legally sound, it's still a leap of faith for the state Supreme Court to override a popular majority in the last election.  And citizen action - if done effectively - can go a long way to give them the political courage to do the right thing.

Public outrage at Prop 8's passage has not just been a few angry protests in the Castro, or righteous indignation at churches.  People who never thought of themselves as "activists" have suddenly been spurred into action - and they're using the same tools the Obama campaign used to win the presidency.  For example, my friend Trent started a Facebook group called "Californians Ready to Repeal Prop 8." He expected a few hundred people to join, but in less than a week the group had over 200,000 members.  Efforts are afoot to collect signatures for a statewide proposition - in 2010, or sooner if we have a special election.

This viral activism is in stark contrast to the "No on 8" campaign - where people relied on political leaders who failed us in waging a statewide effort.  My first involvement with "No on 8" was in July, right after the San Francisco Pride parade.  The campaign had just collected thousands of postcards at Pride, and our task was to call these people and recruit them to volunteer.  But a lot of people come to SF Pride from across the state, and all the volunteer activities were in San Francisco.  It was a lot to ask someone who lives in Monterey or Santa Rosa to come table at a Farmer's Market in San Francisco for a day.

I asked the campaign why they couldn't just get people to do "No on 8" activities in their own communities.  They didn't have to wait until the campaign could afford to open offices in other parts of the state.  Online groups like MoveOn have perfected the model of using the Internet to connect like-minded activists to each other - and get them to meet in "offline" locations to push their political cause.  My suggestion was ignored.  Now we see spontaneous efforts - organized online via social networks, without any "leaders" - to lay the groundwork for a future Proposition campaign to restore marriage equality.

November 15th was a massive "Day of Protest" against Prop 8, and we predictably had a huge rally in San Francisco.  But we also had nearly 2000 people in Sacramento, a whopping 12,000 in Los Angeles, 5000 in San Diego, 2500 in Santa Rosa, and over 1000 in Downtown Ventura.  And it wasn't just a statewide action - 12,000 took to the streets in Seattle, 5000 in Boston, thousands in Chicago, 1000 in Albuquerque and even a rally in Peoria.  Prop 8 hit a nerve felt past California's boundaries: during a presidential election that gave millions hope, one of our bluest states voted to take away peoples' fundamental rights.  People are upset, and want to get involved.

Now Prop 8's fate is in the hands of our state Supreme Court - who must decide if the greater good (equal protection under law) is worth telling 52% of California voters they can't eliminate marriage rights.  Peaceful protests can give judge the resolve to do the right thing.  Unlike George W. Bush - who said he didn't "listen to focus groups" after 2 million people across the world marched against the Iraq War on a single day - I believe that our justices will take these protests seriously.  Which is why they matter so much.

Tags: activist strategies, California, Marriage Equality, Prop 8, prop 8 protests, protests, repeal Prop 8, same-sex marriage, state Supreme Court (all tags)

Comments

26 Comments

Re: Why the Prop 8 Protests Matter

When 48% starts telling 52% what they can and cannot do tyranny starts.

by dtaylor2 2008-11-17 08:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Why the Prop 8 Protests Matter


When 52% vote to create a violation of their state Constitution, that is abrogation of constitutional democracy.  You can pick whether the 52% voted for anarchy or tyranny.

Justice is trivial when a majority favor the just outcome.  When only a minority favor the just outcome, the majority is simply injust.

by killjoy 2008-11-17 09:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Why the Prop 8 Protests Matter

huh? so you're saying that the vote to discriminate against GLBT citizens by amending a constitution designed to protect minorities against the tyranny of the majority should stand?

by swissffun 2008-11-17 12:18PM | 0 recs
Apparently so...

I guess dtaylor2 also thinks it's OK to allow discrimination against brown eyed people so long as the blue eyed majority votes for it.

by atdleft 2008-11-17 12:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Apparently so...

Ha!

Have you ever heard of Jane Elliott, the Iowa primary school teacher who created the Blue Eye/Brown Eye exercise?

by psychodrew 2008-11-17 02:37PM | 0 recs
Yes....

My mom even videotaped the Oprah special with Jane Elliott when I was a little kid! I'm glad I'm not the only one here who remembers that discrimination can start with something as small as eye color. I just wonder when my mom will fully realize that.

by atdleft 2008-11-17 03:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Why the Prop 8 Protests Matter

d, c'mon.  It's a big tent party.  And religulousness pervailed, not the constitution.

by ChitownDenny 2008-11-17 12:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Why the Prop 8 Protests Matter

Back in 1967, 30% told 70% that they could and could not do - because nine of those 30% happened to sit on the Supreme Court of the United States.

That 30% overruling 70% struck down all laws banning interracial marriage.

Are you saying that decision was wrong, and that proponents of interracial marriage should have waited until they had a majority of public opinion on their side?

by mistersite 2008-11-17 12:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Why the Prop 8 Protests Matter

apparently that is oki-dokey with some as long as it's not their minority status you're talking about.  

by swissffun 2008-11-17 12:38PM | 0 recs
When an unconstitutional...

Initiative is allowed to strip people of their inherent rights, tyranny of the (bare) majority sets in. Believe it or not, this is NOT a direct democratic system or an anarchic system. American government and California government were designed to be representative, or constitutional, democracies precisely because our founders did NOT want fundamental rights of certain groups of people voted away whenever a (bare) majority decided to do so.

by atdleft 2008-11-17 12:41PM | 0 recs
Re: Why the Prop 8 Protests Matter

The Supreme Court is there to prevent the 52% from taking rights away from a minority group. I'm sure if the voters were allowed to make the decision, it would be illegal again for blacks and white to marry, or for blacks to marry at all. Sometimes, the minority must be protected from the majority.

by zenful6219 2008-11-17 12:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Why the Prop 8 Protests Matter

If 52% of the MyDD community voted to ban dtaylor2, would we never have to hear from dtaylor2 again?

by fsm 2008-11-17 01:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Why the Prop 8 Protests Matter

Good one!

by Sieglinde 2008-11-17 02:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Why the Prop 8 Protests Matter

your posts remain amazing

by mikeinsf 2008-11-18 12:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Why the Prop 8 Protests Matter

Funny thing, the votes to pass prop 8 came from southern California, not SF.  The volunteers would have been more productive working closer to home.

Obama carried LA County by  1,150,000 votes.  Prop 8 won in LA County.  Orange County and other coastal California places tin the south had similar stories.  Prop 8 ran 200,000 votes ahead of McCain in Orange for example.

by David Kowalski 2008-11-17 01:38PM | 0 recs
Hold on...

This isn't just a "north-south problem". Believe it or not, we fared not so bad in Orange County. Prop 8 won here by almost 16%, outperforming McCain by 12% (he only won by 3.5%, the worst GOP performance since 1964). Meanwhile, Prop 8 won LA County by about 2% (last I checked), outperforming McCain by 40% (Obama won by about 38%). Prop 8 won in heavily Democratic Santa Ana while losing in newly Democratic (never before going blue!) Irvine & Aliso Viejo. Prop 8 lost both in the HUGE city of Los Angeles & the small seaside town of Laguna Beach.

The whole story of Prop 8 is quite complicated. The bad news is that we did not reach voter majority support for marriage equality this month. However, the good news is that we have a strong legal case in court & that we're setting up strong infrastructure to take advantage of good demographic breaks in future elections.

by atdleft 2008-11-17 03:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Why the Prop 8 Protests Matter

Every state that had the option to vote, banned gay marriage. Time to read the writig on the wall.

by dplainview 2008-11-17 02:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Why the Prop 8 Protests Matter

I agree... it's time to read the writing on the wall and realize how foolish the mindset is of the pro-hate crowd - that the rights of the minority should be subject to the will of the majority.

This shouldn't ever come up to a vote.  This shouldn't be negotiable.  LGBT citizens have equal rights, period, and these rights should be recognized by the government, regardless of what "the people" think.

by mistersite 2008-11-17 02:26PM | 0 recs
Which is...

That we need to work as hard as possible to undo the damage in the coming years? And that it's time for some federal leadership as President-Elect Obama has already vowed to repeal DOMA?

by atdleft 2008-11-17 03:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Why the Prop 8 Protests Matter


And when they start passing, what will your next dodge be?

Gay marriage support increased 10% at the polls in 8 years in California.  2% left to go...wanna bet when that is?

by killjoy 2008-11-17 06:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Why the Prop 8 Protests Matter

Every state except two opposes homosexualist marriage. If Obama goes against the tide, there will be a 1994 type revolution in the midterms and he will be defeated in 2012. The folks have spoken.

And this isn't about tolerance. Homosexuals trampled a cross and are barging in churches and disrupting sermons. Homosexuals do not tolerate those with opposing opinions.

by dplainview 2008-11-17 04:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Why the Prop 8 Protests Matter

In about 5 years the homosexualists will force you to marry another man.  If I were you, I would emigrate.  Places like Nigeria and Iran are safest from the homosexualists.  Spread the word!  Emigrate now!
by killjoy 2008-11-17 06:21PM | 0 recs
Re:Homosexualist?

   That's a new word for me. I am a straight guy and nobody wants to force me to marry a man (or a woman for that matter.) WTF is wrong with you? It's all about each person to be true to him or herself--gay or straight or bi, married or single, whatever. Individual freedom. If that's not OK maybe you should emigrate to Utah or somewhere else...

by Zack from the SFV 2008-11-18 01:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Why the Prop 8 Protests Matter

Fascinating.

Tell me more.

by Dreorg 2008-11-18 02:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Why the Prop 8 Protests Matter

*(funniest if read in a Daffy Duck voice)

by Jess81 2008-11-18 03:37AM | 0 recs
CIVIL RIGHTS

Contrary to your statements, the issue here is civil rights, guaranteed under the Constitution.  It's that simple.  No one (majority or not) has the right to take away the rights of others.

This is not an "opinion" issue, it is a civil rights issue.  So, if a majority wanted to bar blue-eyed people from marrying that would be OK?
I think NOT.

by borlov 2008-11-19 12:18PM | 0 recs

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