This election could prove to be pivotal to the gay community. But we can win.
With gay marriage on the ballot in four liberal states, there is a distinct possibility we can pull off wins in (I am hoping for) all four of these states. But in order for us to make these wins happen, we have to strategically plan smart, and I mean smart, campaigns. Loosing any, or even possibly all of these states would be a further set-back to group of people still healing from the huge loss that was California’s prop. 8, in 2008.
Today, we focus on Minnesota. There, voters will be asked this November to vote for, or against, the “Minnesota Same-Sex Marriage Amendment.” Voting in favor of this amendment would add an amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage. A no vote would cause no change in state law. Already there is a state statue that bans same-sex marriage, in place since 1997.
Take A Note From Arizona, Minnesota
In 2006, Arizona led a successful campaign to vote down a so-called marriage amendment. It’s the only state, ever, to accomplish such a thing. The exact language of proposition 107 said: “To preserve and protect marriage in this state, only a union between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage by this state or its political subdivisions and no legal status for unmarried persons shall be created or recognized by this state or its political subdivisions that is similar to that of marriage.”
When it comes to ballot issues, language is everything.
During that election, we basically focused on convincing Arizona seniors to vote no on the law since it could affect them. We said not to take away domestic partner benefits from the aging population. They believe us, and voted accordingly.
Fighting for a ballot issue is very different from trying to elect a candidate. With a candidate, you are trying to sell a person, and at the end of the day – voters simply choose the name of the person they like the most. As a candidate, you have to leave a lasting impression, and convince voters to remember your name.
With ballot issues, instead of asking voters to choose the one they like the most, you are having to ask voter’s to agree with you on a key issue. And then you are asking them to act, by voting. Which is a whole different ball game. There are some folks, folks who are very different from me (but apparently there are a ton of them) who do not like to play activist. They do not want to act. They find it is not their place to decide those huge issues. And most importantly, they do not want to be a proponent or opponent to an issue as important as marriage. Folks do not like to vote on ballot issues. They like to blame a politician for the problems they face far too much.
This year Minnesota will need to run a successful “no” campaign. Which is a bitch because when it comes to ballot issues voters are asked to vote yes or no, and studies have shown that they are more likely to vote yes. Yes sounds nicer. And running “yes” campaigns is easier because of it.
A successful campaign in Minnesota will not legalize gay marriage in this state. The only thing a successful campaign there can do is keep a state amendment out of the constitution. It’s a simple goal, but is not easily accomplished. The best way for Minnesota to win this election is to take note of what Arizona did in 2006, and tried to do again in 2008.
Raise Funds – Do Not Be Outspent
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest politically active LGBT organization, just donated one million dollars to the four same-sex marriage bans going on nationally. This is good for Minnesota. They need to raise as many funds as possible, and cannot be outspent. If they are, there might be no hope of them winning. This is a huge problem with campaigns like this. In 2006, Arizona LGBT leaders, like Congressional-candidate Kyrsten Sinema, had two years to raise money. They did a great job at it. Minnesota doesn’t have nearly that much time.
So, they need to double down, and national organizations like the Human Rights Campaign, and folks all over the nation, need to donate.
Own the Media & Polls
Polls in Minnesota suggest the “no” campaign could be ahead by six points, with 49 percent favoring same-sex marriage. But these polls only ask if folks support same-sex marriage, they do not ask if they plan to vote. In elections like this, however, this doesn’t matter. What matters is that they own the message. And with polls like this, they are. They need to keep it up. During the 2006 election, Arizona’s “no” on proposition 107 campaign had what’s called “earned media” – they fought hard for it.
Grassroots is Gold
One of the great things about same-sex marriage activists, is that finally there is some organization to the gay right movement at large. Gay prides, gay bars, alongside a plethora of gay social networks are bringing folks together to knock on doors, attend rallies and donate. Leaders in Minnesota need to organize these activists and get them on foot with fliers and clip-boards in hand. And the best bet would be do what I did in Arizona in 2006 and to contact colleges, where liberal students with a passion to volunteer, are as common as an STD.
Up next, we talk about Washington and Maine preserving the right to marry, and how President Obama can save gay marriage in Washington.