Leading the Fight

These White Folks Will Decide the Future of California’s Marriage


Just joining the conversation over the future of marriage in California? Were you preoccupied with getting New England on board and missed what’s going on out west? Then read Patrick Range McDonald’s excellent overview of all things activism in LA Weekly, with name drops including Chaz Lowe (Yes on Equality, the only group who met the deadline to put a Prop 8 repeal on the 2010 primary ballot, apparently), Robin McGhee (organizer of Fresno’s Meet in the Middle), Tori Osborn and David Mixner, Rick Jacobs (Courage Campaign), Geoff Kors and Massachusetts-import Marc Solomon (Equality California, which has squared off against Lowe), and Fred Karger (Californians Against Hate, which helped identify the Mormon Church as a big Yes On 8 donor). Putting all those names together means plenty of infighting anecdotes among California’s activists, because many of these folks — despite having the same end goal — don’t get along. But you know what we see when we put all those names together?

The unavoidable reality that the future of same-sex marriage in California is being led by a group of white folks, most of them middle-aged. (We couldn’t find a photo of Yes on Equality’s Lowe; we asked him to send us one.)

That isn’t to say these people are or are not qualified; that’s not a discussion we’re even trying to broach here. But for an effort that’s been so caught up on race — and criticized for being a West Hollywood-ized exclusive group of black tie event-attending veterans — it’s silly to think people of color don’t play a central role in passing marriage equality legislation. One only needs to look at the make up of people who attended Saturday’s Fresno rally to know that’s true.

Notes McDonald (as Queerty has been doing all week): “Those who criticize Equality California and the other mainstream groups that led the ‘No on 8’ effort (including the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Human Rights Campaign and the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center) say these organizations ran an arrogant, ‘nontransparent,’ ‘top-down’ campaign. That campaign, many believe, failed to utilize the passions and talents of a diverse gay community eager to defeat Proposition 8, and utterly missed the need, for example, to address the brewing unease among Latinos and blacks, many of whom voted against gay marriage.”

Lowe says he’s looking to hire a campaign manager in July for Yes On Equality after a grassroots network is firmly in place. Maybe someone who does not look like the others would bring a new voice to the table.

NB: We can already hear the complaints in the comments:

“Why do you always have to make it about race?”
Because it’s an issue worth discussing, especially when certain groups are wholly underrepresented.

“Why do you always have to bash the people leading the fight?”
We’re not doing anything of the sort here, we’re just positing there might be some non-white folks out there worth leading the charge.

“But how come you didn’t mention Person X who is black and is spearheading a pro-marriage campaign?”
Probably because that person isn’t on our radar — yes, some things slip past us! — so let us know about him or her and we’ll update.

“But it’s mostly white people affected by Prop 8.”
Hah! We’re not even gonna touch that one.

(Clockwise from top left: Robin McGehee, Fred Karger, Tori Osborn, Rick Jacobs, Geoff Kors, David Mixner, Marc Soloman)

UPDATE: Equal Roots Coalition co-founder Matt Palazzolo provides this handy list of people of color contributing to the marriage equality battle. Thanks, Matt!

Equal Roots Coalition, which landed a story in the NY Times just one week after it’s conception in November and his since maintained its position at the forefront of Stonewall 2.0. Equal Roots Coalition also co-founded, with Love Honor Cherish, OUTWest, the most extensive & powerful grassroots LGBT coalition in all of California.
Myself – Matt Palazzolo, Asian (24yo) (co-founder of Equal Roots, also head of media communications for Poll 4 Equality Coalition, lead organizer of the Obama Beverly Hilton rally which spawned national press & blogosphere fire)
Mike Ai, Asian (24yo) (co-Founder of Equal Roots, also just became LA Field Director for EQCA)
Danny Segura, Latino (29yo) (Equal Roots Outreach Director, also lead organizer for Camp Courages)

Andrea Shorter, African-American, has proven herself to be quite formidable in the fight for marriage equality.
Vaishalee Raja, Indian, the face of media communication for EQCA

Courage Campaign:
Lisa Powell, African American, co-creator of Camp Courage and, within the Courage Campaign performing the same exact tasks as Torie Osborn. She is a legendary activist within the African-American community and it is ridiculous to put up Torie’s photo and not Lisa’s when they match up so directly.

Liberty Hill Foundation
Vincent Jones, African American, aside from having his hand in every aspect of the movement he is the lead facilitator for the Poll 4 Equality Coalition

Love Honor Cherish
Lester Aponte, Latino, constantly translating all materials, calls, programs for the spanish-speaking community in SoCal

API Equality
Marshall Wong & Doreena Wong (not related), both Asian, spearheaded the most successful marriage equality campaign in a POC community. Their efforts in the API community have HEAVILY informed how the rest of us engage our communities concerning the issue.

Latino Equality Alliance
Eddie Martinez, co-chair, forging new LGBT communications within the LGBT community
Richard Zalvidar – STILL one of the leading LGBT Latino voices in California. He not only works within the Latino community but has been instrumental in creating coalitions with OUTwest and spreading the importance of POC LGBT organizing across California.

Here To Stay
Yardenna Aaron, African-American, one of the largest ties between the youth LGBT movement and the labor movement, constantly providing organizing opportunities and insight

CA Faith for Equality
Kristal Vick, African-American, huge resource in maintaining and creating LGBT Faith communications. One of the most powerful straight allies to come from Stonewall 2.0

San Diego
Sara Beth Brooks — white, but in her 20s — the most prominent activist in San Diego