On the very same day that The New York Times reported on 11 state constitutional amendment ballot battles on November 2 over the issue of gay marriage and concluded that gay advocates are “pour[ing] money and resources into a last stand in Oregon,” Gay City News reporter Andrew Miller joined a tele-press conference hosted by Michigan activists fighting the ballot measure there who pointed to a Gallup poll showing their side in the lead.
It suddenly occurred to us that there might be a serious gap between the national discussion about the marriage amendments and what local advocates are seeing and hearing on the ground.
It’s not exactly clear how this came to pass.
The Times article quotes both David Fleischer from the National Gay and Lesbian Task (NGLTF) and Seth Kilbourn from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), individuals responsible for field organizing at the nation’s two largest queer organizations. Neither man specifically made the statement that was the central premise of The Times story—that Oregon presented the only opportunity for a victory by advocates of same-sex marriage on November 2, but apparently each came very close.
Fleischer said, “We are going to lose a whole lot of them this year,” and was later paraphrased as “conceding” that Oregon might be the only victory. Kilbourn was quoted saying, “We’re feeling good about Oregon,” and “All of them are going to be uphill battles, but we are cautiously optimistic about Oregon.”
Those quotes and paraphrases, in tandem with the information that the vast majority of the money given by both groups to fight such amendments has gone to Oregon—$500,000 from NGLTF and almost $150,000 from HRC—left the clear impression that those two national organizations believe that victory is possible only in Oregon.
Which may be true. But the Michigan activists, part of the Coalition for a Fair Michigan, have at least one major poll supporting their faith, and it seems clear that the battle there needs to be joined.
It’s too late—and not fair anyway—to second guess the strategic decisions made months ago by national groups looking at data then available on where resources could best be mustered to counter the scourge of right-wing reaction to same-sex marriage. Oregon is certainly a worthy battleground, and hopefully the laudable investments made there will pay off.
But the national groups must provide leadership to ensure that advocates fighting for marriage and gay equality in each state have every opportunity to access the resources needed to do the job on the ground. In particular, states such as Michigan, where recent soundings indicate hope for success, deserve the strong support of the gay and lesbian community nationwide.
The New York Times story may well have cast an indelible national perception about how the amendment battles are shaking out. In that context, it was discouraging to learn that the Michigan conference call was joined only by Between the Lines, a weekly gay newspaper in that state, and Gay City News, among all the queer media outlets in this nation.
As with John Kerry’s effort to unseat George W. Bush, time is short in our current round of battles over same-sex marriage amendments. If we truly believe that this year’s is the most important election in our lifetime, we are surely not going to limit our defense of same-sex marriage equality to Oregon alone.
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