No on 8 Leaders Scramble to Save Face Amidst Revelations of Month-Long Vacations, Minority Leaders Ignored and Incompetence

UPDATED. Tonight’s “virtual town hall meeting” by gay and lesbian leaders (you can join in at 6pm PST here) is shaping up to be the No on 8 Campaign’s Waterloo.

The gay and lesbian community is reassessing their efforts in light of a flurry of reports that question No on 8’s tactics and commitment and the decision to hold the discussion, as well as the closed off nature of its format, are a tacit admission that the gay community is demanding answers from their leaders.

The Advocate has published a searing new report (see, we say nice things from time to time), revealing that over the summer Lori L. Jean of the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center went on vacation for a month and Geoff Kors of Equality California left for two and a half weeks. In a self-published QnA released last night, Jean puts the blame on the community by saying:

“I think all of us believe that if the No on 8 campaign had as much money as the Yes forces had AS EARLY as they had it, it would have made a significant difference.”


But rather than campaigning and working to raise money, Jean was on vacation. No on 8 leaders have routinely blamed the loss on a lack of funds due to the gay community’s apathy, but this is naive. The first step in any good political campaign is to motivate your base, something No on 8 leaders failed to do.

“When is the time to finger point?” says Michael Weinstein, founder of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “After we lose again?

In addition LGBT leaders from the black & latino community are hopping mad they were never included in the No on 8 campaign. Jeffrey King, executive director of In The Meantime Men’s Group, a South Los Angeles outreach organization for gay black men told the LA Weekly:

“We told them what should be done. We told them what they shouldn’t do – and they did what they wanted to do. This clearly is not the time to call black folks out and say we were to blame. There was not enough outreach. Period.”

Richard Zaldivar, former City Council Aide, director The Wall Las Memorias Project, who successfully led a grassroots effort to build the first publicly funded AIDS Memorial in East Los Angeles was told by No on 8 staffers that the Latino vote “wasn’t a priority.”

“I drove by the [Our Lady of the Angeles] cathedral on Sunday and I saw young people protesting. But they need to hold the gay and lesbian leadership accountable as much as the Mormon Church and the Catholic Church…If Latinos were playing such an important role in the presidential campaign what was the No on 8 strategy?”

Your editor questioned the Prop. 8 campaign before the election, particularly the lack of a get out the vote effort. The campaign focused on television ads and phone-banking and actively discouraged grassroots efforts to do one-on-one canvassing across the state, even mocking the Yes on 8 campaign’s door to door operation. We weren’t the only ones. Rick Jacobs, executive director of The Courage Campaign, a progressive netroots activist group was flummoxed. He explained his frustration to the LA Weekly:

He asked campaign insiders to explain their plans. “I was told they were blanketing [black and Latino] neighborhoods with door [knob] hangers.” Such passive electioneering, “shows a colossal lack of understanding for what is needed to win an election.”

Some are already calling tonight’s virtual town hall a dog and pony show– not only is the event hosted by one of the No on 8 campaign leaders, it’s being done in a virtual setting that allows No on 8 leaders complete control over the environment and the questions asked.

Queerty contacted the moderator of the panel, Karen Ocamb, a writer for Los Angeles’ IN Magazine and asked her if she had direct access to the questions being submitted, if she was selecting which questions would be asked and why she agreed to moderate a panel that is neither independent or open. She replied:

“I have access to and will have complete control over the questions. I have already looked at a number of the questions sent to the TownHallModerator account and actually most of them so far are legal.  I intend to review all of them – but since there are so many guests and so many questions, I’ll probably use one or two as representative of a category – with perhaps a follow up…

I agreed to moderate the panel BECAUSE I’m a journalist. Anyone else, I suspect, would be considered a stake-holder in some way and therefore throw the whole thing into question.  My intention is to moderate and ask the questions the people want asked. There are still A LOT of questions that will not be answered until that independent analysis is completed – and I don’t know how much of that we’ll be able to see. But I’ll keep pushing for it. “

Queerty has also submitted all the questions posed by our commenters in our first posting about the meeting.

The argument that looking at how the No on 8 campaign failed will divide us seems sophomoric in light of the fact that it’s now clear that the community was never united in this effort, partly because the No on 8 campaign rebuffed efforts by leaders not within their circle.

The gay community should be looking to the future, but it also must assess if it wants to go forward with the leaders who failed, or if it’s time to look to new solutions– and new voices to lead the way.