Thoughts: Ron Goldberg

RE: No on 8: Stand Together

First, be very skeptical of the statistics that are being promoted regarding who voted for what and by what percentages. Exit poll numbers are always dodgy. While they use "random samples" of voters, the term does not mean the same thing as it does during regular polling. These polls are far less scientific and the results are not weighted as carefully. They are more along the lines of Stephen Joseph's AIDS estimates: in the end, they don't add up. In addition, they can be manipulated so as to fulfill a pre-determined storyline. (See 2004 and the "values voters.")

Second, I would strongly suggest that whatever is being organized should not be about pitting LGBT against "people of color," regardless of how we may think those communities may have voted. Frankly, I think age is probably a better indicator of how people voted than color or ethnicity, but strangely I haven't heard the same level of anger directed at old people. In any case, we need to be VERY CAREFUL about our rhetoric on this point. Squaring off against communities of color may create a nice segment for FOX, but it will not get us one second closer to legalized marriage. Besides, the real targets are not the people who voted against us, but the people who organized against us. We need to determine how we want to deal with them, and more importantly, how do we get what we want.  

Targets and tactics. This is not AIDS, where our job was to raise awareness and/or put pressure on people or institutions that could take immediate action. If people are looking for a demo to express anger, I'd say go for massive demos at the various marriage bureaus in cities throughout California (or, if you're really ambitious, throughout the country).  Have pickets outside, sit-ins inside, and close them down for a day. Have couples line up and wait to be issued marriage licenses, and then refuse to leave. Creates photo ops, engenders sympathy, registers everyone's anger/disappointment. And if you're still looking for a "revenge" strategy, I'd check into the tax-exempt status of the Mormon Church. Then, once we have our "anger" out of the way, maybe we can begin to strategize.

Lastly (maybe), while I would encourage your friend - who I don't think I remember, but then again, there were so many Michaels! - to train the next generation of activists and to perhaps even organize another gay activist group, I feel compelled to set the record straight (or gayly forward) about Stop the Church.

For starters, the "insiders" were never a splinter group. They were members of an affinity group and a core part of the demonstration from the beginning. That's not to say that Tom and Michael and a few others didn't "act up" on their own and change the nature of the planned demonstration, but even if it all went according to Hoyle, we were never going to have the support of the general public for this action, nor were our issues ever going to be presented fairly or sympathetically by the press. One of the reasons I was not a supporter of the action (though I did marshal) was that I never thought it made sense tactically to hit the Cardinal where he was strongest; where he had the greatest legitimacy and would engender the most sympathy. The storyline of "attacking" the church was going to trump any other story or issue we wanted to put out there, period. That said, while we certainly got a lot of bad press immediately afterwards, it's an arguable point whether the action didn't strengthen our hand in the long run. Certainly it raised our profile (for good and bad), and while it may have changed our reputation and the nature of some of our press coverage, it only rarely proved an impediment to achieving our goals.

And finally, "Silence = Death" has no meaning as regards the marriage issue. They are trying to diminish us, yes; to discriminate against us, yes; to make us second class citizens, yes. But if I don't get married, or don't stand up for my right to get married, I don't die. It's like calling everyone a Nazi; it cheapens and dilutes the meaning of the original. Please tell your friend to find some other mantra. (Though I highly endorse using "ACT UP! Fight Back! Fight Hate!")

Random last thoughts (and cliches): 

Eyes on the prize. Is it more important to yell at The Church (or, in this case, the "black church") or to win over the hearts and minds of its congregants? 

Perhaps a better example of "talking truth to power" would be telling Mayor Newsom that, while we appreciate his enthusiasm, the cause might be better served if he would occasionally shut his pie hole and step away from the spotlight. (The same might have also been said to Larry, back in the day.)

We lost this battle but we're winning the war, The influence of the church is waning and the tide of history - not to mention the next generation - is with us. This is not 1987.

So don't use tactics from the last war to fight the next battle. Figure out the next step (and a couple of the steps after that) and then figure out how to fight smarter.

I started this about two hours ago. Guess I still have the fervor - or is that fever? - if not the energy. Time for bed. Feel free to share this or not, as you think appropriate.

-Ron Goldberg, ACT UP Founding Member
11/08/2008


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