Courage Campaign Withdraws Support for 2010 Marriage Equality Ballot Effort

Courage Campaign, California's largest grassroots LGBT organization fighting for a 2010 repeal of Proposition 8, the state's gay marriage ban, announced a withdraw of its support for the 2010 campaign. Spokespeople for Courage Campaign said more research and outreach is needed in order to claim a victory for marriage equality, despite being one of the first organizations to lend support to the effort in May of this year.

It a press release the organization stated:

The Courage Campaign, in partnership with Lambda Legal, has recently concluded the first phase of extensive and groundbreaking research about public beliefs and concerns about marriage and homosexuality. It confirmed that attitudes are shifting steadily toward equal treatment of same-sex couples, and that conversations among family members and other close relationships inevitably speed the process. The statement released today is concurrent with a Lambda Legal statement.

"For months, we have laid out the criteria for moving forward. Like the Obama Campaign, we understand that we need a combination of powerful and clear research that informs an expertly run campaign, an unstoppable movement that harnesses the new energy we have seen since the passage of Prop. 8 and the connections through personal stories and outreach in order to win at the ballot box," said Rick Jacobs, the Courage Campaign founder and Chair. "We are taking the lessons learned from last year's Prop. 8 campaign, the campaigns in Maine and other states to understand the fundamental work that must be done before moving forward in California. We also must come together as a community to create a broad coalition and governance structure, put in place a strong manager and secure the resources to win. Right now, the pieces are not all in place to do so confidently."

The recently concluded research validated the lasting effect of the work already being done in the successful Camp Courage training program and by 44 Courage Equality Teams organizing across the state in 23 counties. These grassroots efforts are building support for marriage equality by training Californians to tap into their community's resources to start a conversation and connect the movement for equality to their own lives and their own experiences, along with the broader progressive agenda.

Jacobs hailed the work being done in the field by grassroots activists, saying, "We must build our ultimate victory from the lessons of our recent disappointments," continued Jacobs. "We know that we can change hearts and minds through real conversations with our friends, family, co-workers and neighbors. This takes time and has to be built to scale -- so we can't delay. When we go back to the ballot, we must be strong, clear and embracing."

Without Courage Campaign's participation in the 2010 initiative, Love Honor Cherish (LHC), another LGBT grassroots group, is now the leader of the 2010 campaign. LHC launched a signature gathering campaign for the ballot initiative began recently, and will reverse the damage from Prop 8 should it pass. A statewide coalition of grassroots organizations and activist representatives throughout California -Restore Equality 2010 - is supporting the signature drive.

John Henning, co-founder of LHC, responded to Courage Campaign's announcement in an email to Unite the Fight:

We respect Courage Campaign’s decision not to participate in the campaign to restore marriage equality in 2010. Every organization must focus its attention and resources on its most important priorities, and for the Courage Campaign those priorities include numerous progressive causes other than securing same-sex marriage rights.

Meanwhile, we invite individual members of Courage, 80 percent of whom voted to support returning to the ballot in 2010, to join the Sign For Equality campaign. You will join thousands of people across California who have made this campaign their highest priority, and who are busy gathering signatures now.

The largest LGBT advocacy group for the state, Equality California, will continue to focus efforts on the re-launch of Let California Ring, its educational campaign which also aims to take marriage equality back to the ballot, but not until 2012.

In the meantime, Courage Campaign will still host its Camp Courage workshops across the state, in addition to recently launching its own educational campaign called Courageous Conversations, encouraging the LGBT community, and allies, to discuss marriage equality with friends and families, especially during the holidays, using their own "story of self," a tool participants learn at Camp Courage.

Boo Jarchow, SheWired

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