Marriage Equality Campaigns Reveal Their Secret Strategy | Jive in the [415] Blog | Gay LGBT News Political Commentary

November 26, 2012

Marriage Equality Campaigns Reveal Their Secret Strategy

State of Maine in Red and Blue by

Their New Approach A Prescription For Success In 4 States

Washington, D.C. -- Sharon Groves, the Director of the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) religion and faith program, contributed an article to the “Other Voices” column in The Washington Post last week. “Other Voices” features a guest writer who doesn’t have a bully pulpit to express their thoughts and opinion, related to faith or religious issues confronting  society today.

Sharon wrote about marriage equality, and the same-sex marriage victories at the ballot box in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington state. In Marriage equality campaigns: The difference faith makes, Sharon discussed a different campaign strategy that was deployed by the campaigns in all four states, that secured victory on November 6th, 2012.

We know that the most vocal opponents of equality and civil rights protections for the LGBT community are evangelical Christians, Catholics and Mormons. The Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) were the biggest contributors to the 2008 anti-gay marriage campaign for proposition 8 in California. Religious organizations contributed to the anti-gay marriage movements in all four states this year.

In spite of the habitual demonizing rhetoric directed toward the LGBT community by faith based organizations, many marriage equality proponents felt that a “civil rights” argument would never defeat a “faith based” argument. So gay marriage proponents turned the tables on their religious opponents, and sought out religious leaders and clergymen and women who supported marriage equality in each state, and they partnered with them in the campaign to win marriage equality. This was a new approach, that no one had tried before.

Sharon writes:
The Rev. Marvin Ellison, president of the Religious Coalition Against Discrimination, a multi-faith coalition working in Maine, observed, “The 2009 campaign was basically a secular campaign. When RCAD showed up [in 2009], the campaign was grateful but did not know what to do with us. This time around the campaign understood from the beginning that religion would be a decisive factor.” This sentiment was felt across all four states.  

In all four states, we also saw an increase in pro-equality Roman Catholic organizing. Following a model established in Maine, a loose federation of Catholics for Marriage Equality emerged in all four states and in bold, yet theologically sound ways gave permission to Catholics to follow their conscience even if it meant going against the bishops. In Minnesota, a priest in favor of marriage equality cited Pope Benedict on the limitations of ecclesiastical authority, “Over the pope . . . . stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority.” Using conscience as their touchstone, Washington State mobilized thousand of Catholics and raised money to run a powerful ad in major newspapers across the state showcasing Catholic support. Similar impressive efforts occurred in all three other states.

Hundreds of top level religious leaders were trained to provide a pro-faith, pro-equality message. By empowering and amplifying these faith leaders, we chipped away at the religious right’s singular claim to the religious response to this issue.

The tremendous success of faith communities’ organizing in the four states this election showcase the promise of faith organizing which, like the proverbial mustard seed, just needs watering to thrive. The gifts of people of faith in this work are only beginning to emerge, the fruits of our labors will be even more plentiful as the roots of our commitment deepen and expand. The best is yet to come.
This is a stunning revelation, and it’s a calculated move to reveal this "secret" because in any future campaigns the anti-gay forces will have to determine how to counter a faith based campaign that is promoting marriage equality, together with a civil rights campaign.

Evangelicals will find it difficult to manage a campaign on two different fronts simultaneously, especially with diminished resources. They will never have a 32 - 0 record again, and I can’t see them racking up wins or keeping together their previous coalitions.

When Sharon and her campaign colleagues decided to reveal this information, they were sending a message to our opponents that these wins weren't a fluke. They hit upon a successful formula that actually wins campaigns, and that means the best is yet to come!

straight talk in a queer world.        
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