Group aims to put Prop. 8 repeal on 2010 ballot

When California voters passed Proposition 8 last week, most veteran California political watchers opined that we hadn't seen the last on this issue-and they were right.

A group called the Courage Campaign said they have begun a bid to go back to the ballot in 2010 with an initiative that would repeal Prop. 8. This initiative, which passed by a 4.6 percent margin, revoked the right to marriage the same sex couple had won in a May California Supreme Court decision.

Working with CREDO mobile, which bills itself as a socially-responsible wireless provider, they have put up an online petition for those supporting a repeal. As of Wednesday afternoon, over 100,000 people had signed on, said the Campaign's founder Rick Jacobs. He said new signatures were coming in at 1,000 per hour.  

"What we're really doing is trying to serve as a catalyst for this movement," Jacobs said.

He characterized his group as being near the beginning of a two-year process. The Courage Campaign itself is tiny, two paid full-time employees, Jacobs working full-time for free, and several part-time and freelance workers. But he said they are starting out with a pair of partners that could prove integral to the effort.

One is the United Healthcare Workers West (UHWW), a division of the Service Employees International Union. The UHWW, which gave $100,000 to Equality California's No on 8 campaign, has indicated it would put in money in order to get a repeal on the ballot. The group has also given $1,000 to the Courage Campaign.  

"The passage of Prop. 8 was a blot on what otherwise was an extraordinary day for progressive change in America," said UHWW spokesman Paul Kumar. "It's something many of us are committed to help overturning as quickly as we can."

The other is the Reverend Eric Lee, the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Los Angles. Lee has pledged to lead an outreach effort in the African-American community. Exit polls showed the black voters, who came out in record numbers to vote for president-elect Barack Obama, voted 70 percent in favor of Prop. 8. Black women, who attend church as very high levels according to surveys, gave the measure 75 percent support.

"I don't think that the black community has seen this as human rights issue, or as a civil right issue," Lee said. "The perception in the African-American community is that homosexuality is more of a choice than a [matter of] birth."

The national Southern Christian Leadership Conference, based in Georgia, was founded by the Rev. Martin Luther King, whom Lee argues would have opposed Prop. 8. Lee said he had not gotten any pushback so far from members of the organization. He went on to characterize himself as someone who might be able to speak to African-Americans and religious voters in a way the No on 8 campaign may have been lacking.

"There is a tendency to take the Scriptures so legalistically that you kill the spirit of the word," Lee said. He went on to cite Leviticus, the Book of the Bible most-often cited as a condemnation of homosexuality. "You're not supposed to eat meat from animals with cloven hooves. There are many things were not supposed to do, but we do and you don't seen the condemnation of it."

The Courage Campaign made waves late in the election season with a commercial called "Home Invasion." It showed a pair of Mormon missionaries barging into a lesbian couple's home, taking their rings and tearing up their marriage license. It was roundly condemned by the Yes on 8 campaign and religious groups.

Jacobs said the ad was produced for less than $1,000, with the writers, actors and crew all donating their time. This included Bridget McManus, a lesbian actress well-known in the gay community for her standup comedy and her show on the gay-themed Logo cable network, "Brunch with Bridget." He noted that it was the only ad on either side that featured "actual gay people."

The Courage Campaign was part of the No on 8 campaign run by Equality California, but said the EC is not currently involved in this repeal effort. The No campaign has come under criticism for failing to anticipate that the Yes side would use images of children so effectively, and for not putting gay married couples in their ads.

"I have to give this camping enormous credit," Jacobs said of No on 8. "They raised a record amount of money, an enormous amount of money. That's not an easy thing to do."

But he added that it was run as a "top-down" media campaign. The repeal campaign, Jacobs said, is being designed as a "grassroots and netroots" effort. In a way, he said, they'll be taking their cue from the Yes on 8 campaign.
"The problem was, the other side ran a better media campaign, and had thousands and thousands of people, typically through churches, who they were organizing," Jacobs said. He added, "This is about engagement with people."

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