New studies say politicians helped, not hurt, by pro-marriage stance

Freedom to Marry releases report to debunk common political thought

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: January 24, 2009 in National News Notes

NEW YORK , N.Y. — Two national marriage equality organizations recently released reports detailing successes and setbacks for the LGBT community and its fight for marriage equality.

Freedom to Marry, based in New York, released a report on the electoral successes of politicians who voiced support for same-sex couples’ right to marry. Marriage Equality USA, based in Oakland, Calif., released a detailed report on the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of grassroots organizing in the 2008 political and electoral battle for California marriage.

Freedom to Marry, launched in 2003 by activist and legal expert Evan Wolfson, says that legislators shouldn’t fear standing up for marriage equality. The organization looked at votes across the nation on issues such as anti-gay marriage amendments and other marriage related legislation. The survey of the votes included those cast in 2005 to the present and shows that legislators who vote to end discrimination in marriage for same-sex couples are consistently re-elected.

“The American people deserve leaders who aren’t afraid to lead,” said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry and author of “Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality and Gay People’s Right to Marry.” “For politicians, standing up for marriage equality is not touching a third-rail, rather, it is a track to re-election — and, happily, the path toward inclusion that America is traveling.”

Freedom to Marry counted 1,100 state legislators who voted for marriage equality and who retained their seats. The legislators were members of the California, New York and Massachusetts legislatures and several other states, including South Carolina, where lawmakers were called on to vote for or against an anti-gay marriage amendment.

“As statehouse sessions begin across the country, legislators should take the findings of this report as proof that there’s no reason to back down from supporting the freedom to marry and opposing anti-gay measures,” said Wolfson. “And those of us outside the legislature should not be afraid to ask our representatives to do the right thing, and should do our part to help them do it, by talking about the injustice of exclusion from marriage and how government should help, not hurt, all families.”

Marriage Equality USA’s report says the California No on Prop. 8 campaign “didn’t utilize the grassroots community to its potential” and was harmed by “political consultants without sufficient accountability or transparency to the larger community.” The group calls their recent report a “constructive examination” of the Prop. 8 campaign. They claim several mistakes first made in the 2000 Prop. 22 campaign, which placed an anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act-type statute in California law, were repeated in the Prop. 8 campaign last year.

Marriage Equality USA added that the Prop. 8 campaign did not successfully utilize effective messengers for marriage equality and failed to feature real LGBT voices and families in the televised advertising campaigns. The group also said the No on Prop. 8 campaign failed to successfully reach out to people of color and “abandoned our LGBTI community and supporters in the Central Valley.”

The organization interviewed and surveyed California citizens for the report. Members of the clergy and parents with gay or lesbian children ranked highest as “effective messengers” for equality. Survey respondents said personal stories from same-sex couples would have been the most effective in building support for equality in their communities.

A marriage equality strategy and planning summit is set to be held in Los Angeles on Jan. 24. Community leaders across the state and nation will gather to discuss future movement toward repealing Prop. 8, if it should be upheld by the California Supreme Court, and other strategies to win back marriage equality in the state.

info: freedomtomarry.org . marriageequality.org

National News briefs

Gay men fired from hotel
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Two gay men have been fired from a hotel due to their sexual orientation. The men claim that a new owner of the former Holiday Inn said he did not want gay men working at his business. In an interview with Out & About Newspaper hotel owner Tarun Surti claimed the employees’ terminations had nothing to do with their sexual orientation. He said they were the result of the nation’s economic difficulties.

David Hill, one of the terminated employees, said he was told by his general manager, Leonard Stoddard, that he was fired based solely on his sexual orientation. Stoddard confirmed the story with local media. Stoddard was also fired.

Hill has filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Department of Labor. He is currently seeking assistance from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Tennessee Equality Project and the Tennessee Labor Board.

Gay man chosen to head bank
WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Barack Obama appointed openly gay Fred Hochberg to be the first openly gay director of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. The bank is the nation’s official export credit agency and assists in exporting U.S. good to other countries. Hochberg was assisted in the nomination process by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund’s Presidential Appointments Project.

Hochberg is a former co-chair of the Human Rights Campaign and currently serves as the dean of the The New School’s Milano School for Management and Urban Policy in New York.

“The chair of the Export-Import Bank of the United States is an important position in President-elect Obama’s economic team,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “Fred is one of the most highly qualified and experienced public servants in our community and the fact that President-elect Obama has tapped him for such an important economic position speaks well for the LGBT community.”

“This is very good news,” added Chuck Wolfe, President and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund. “Fred Hochberg’s talent will serve U.S. companies well. But he will also set an important example as an openly gay person in a top leadership position in the business community.”