Back to News & Commentary

Getting Rid of Prop. 8

Matt Coles,
Former Deputy Legal Director and Director of Center for Equality
Share This Page
July 14, 2009

The LGBT Project and the ACLU’s three California affiliates (Northern, Southern and San Diego-Imperial) wrote to our allies on Monday suggesting that we ought to reframe the conversation about getting rid of Prop. 8.

Our letter says that the debate about 2010 vs. 2012 misses a crucial point: with the voters of California where they are today, either election would be a tougher challenge than 2008 was. That’s largely because voters who were conflicted before the vote on Proposition 8, and at least potentially winnable, committed when they voted last November. People who’ve made up their minds and acted are much harder to move. And, in-depth polls make clear, most Californians have made up their minds, so much so that to win, we’ll now have to change the minds of people who voted against us.

Rather than analyzing the demographics of coming elections, we say, we should be concentrating on how to change the minds of enough voters to get a majority on our side before going back to the polls. We need to talk to close friends and family about our lives and relationships and why this fight matters. We need every ally we can get, because we are also going to have to have a dialogue with all the conflicted voters we lost in 2008. These are especially tricky conversations because people rarely change their mind if they are feeling under attack. We need to convince them that our relationships deserve the respect and dignity of marriage. An election is the place to defend a majority, not build one, especially when we need to change minds to win.

The critical thing now, we say in the letter, is to set benchmarks for ourselves, and decide to go back to the ballot when we’ve met them. In addition to majority support for marriage, we say that we should set goals for community engagement, to show that we have the volunteer commitment we’ll need for a campaign, and for fundraising, including commitments from larger funders and demonstrated grassroots commitment to support a campaign.

We believe strongly that we should go back to the voters just as soon as we’ve done what we need to do to make it likely that we’ll win. Not a moment later—or sooner.

Learn More About the Issues on This Page