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An Early Start on Repealing Prop. 8 in 2010

(SAN DIEGO) LGBT organizations and non-profit coalitions across California are busy preparing to repeal Proposition 8 in next year’s election after a devastating and narrow defeat in November of 2008.

Their collective efforts have resulted in the creation of a new group Ð Restore Equality 2010. Their mission is to unite Californians in the campaign to restore marriage equality in 2010 through grassroots activism, signature gathering, outreach, education, and dialogue.
Since its creation this past August 29, Restore Equality 2010 has been aggressively implementing The Davis Plan, a communication and decision-making structure chosen to support the grassroots activists involved in the signature gathering campaign required to place a proposition on the ballot.

Board member Misha Houser feels the NO on 8 campaign did not do a good job helping to enable its grassroots organizers. “Restore Equality 2010 will ensure that does not happen again by providing access and resources for the upcoming campaign,” she said.

Restore Equality 2010 has divided California into ten regions, each with their own representative. San Diego’s regional office is already well established and by November 5, all of the regional offices will be operational.

In order to get the constitutional amendment initiative on the November 2010 ballot, the state requires petition circulators gather 694,354 valid signatures within a 150-day period.

As the signature gathering efforts get underway, the regional representatives will support community organizers at the local level. They will also serve on Restore Equality 2010’s statewide advisory panel, alongside 15 Affinity Council Representatives (i.e. faith, cultural and ethnic, labor and straight allies) and eight equality organizations.

One such organization is Love Honor Cherish (LHC).

Formed in May of 2008 specifically to help defeat Prop 8, LHC continues to focus its efforts on speaking the truth about marriage and presenting the diversity of LGBT people and their families. A strong emphasis is placed on empowering and inspiring the community through education.

LHC drafted a blueprint for equality titled: How We Will Restore the Right to Marry in 2010. This 25 page document outlines five guiding principles, a detailed campaign timeline and three goals: get the initiative on the ballot, motivate the base voters early, and win at the ballot box.

This blueprint also includes information regarding necessary resources and benchmark targets, allowing those participating in the campaign to ascertain forward movement in their efforts.

True to their timeline, on September 24 LHC submitted the proposed legal text for the ballot measure to the State Attorney General’s office.

The measure, if passed by the voters, will amend the State Constitution to recognize that marriage is between only two persons and shall not be restricted on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, gender, sexual orientation or religion.

Co-founder and Executive Director of LHC John Henning, is confident in the group’s efforts. “ [I feel that] by the one year anniversary of Prop 8’s passage, activists will already be on the streets with the petition,” he said.

By focusing on education, LHC hopes to disarm many of the misconceptions that plagued the Prop 8 campaign in 2008 - especially those concerning the rights of religious organizations.

LHC also emphasizes the need for activists to be well informed on the issues. For this reason, their website www.lovehonorcherish.org has a comprehensive and user-friendly learning platform. Adds Henning, “ [Our website] is a very useful resource but because LHC operates in Los Angeles and doesn’t have organizers outside southern California, we recommend visiting the Restore Equality 2010 website.”

Houser joked that Restore Equality 2010 is kind of the super-activist party. “They are able to connect people with organizers in all areas throughout California and within their communities. “

Think of it as your go-to guide for when the urge to get involved strikes.

While both organizations admit that more volunteers (and/or funds) are necessary for a victory in 2010, they are currently directing their energy and focus on the getting the issue on the ballot. Any donations made to either of the organizations will strictly help to fund the signature gathering process.

Henning, who believes Prop 8 passed because many in the LGBT community didn’t think it would and got complacent, feels confidence levels have changed. “There is a great energy level now. There are hundreds of people in California working and spending a lot of their time on marriage equality. That was not true when Prop 8 was running.”

Like Houser, he is optimistic that once the petition form is out, people will be even more energized -and the movement towards marriage equality will regain momentum.

For now, however, the future roles of Restore Equality 2010 and LHC remain fluid and will be defined by the campaign’s progress as it shifts from signature gathering, to advertising and generating voter turnout.

The Restore Equality 2010 website can be found at www.restoreequality2010.com