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Gay marriage backers explain why they lost Proposition 8

November 20, 2008 |  7:20 pm

gay marriage backers

There's been a lot of outrage from the No on Proposition 8 camp since California voters approved a ban on gay marriage. But until now, there has been less soul searching about what went wrong. But Terry Leftgoff, founder of the Gay and Lesbian Business Assn. of Santa Barbara, has a thoughtful piece on WeHo News looking at how the opposition to Proposition 8 fell short. It did, he says, on several levels: A mixed message, failing to respond to attacks from Yes on 8 forces, little black and Latino outreach. A snippet:

The No on 8 campaign began by allowing the Yes on 8 proponents to define the debate and it was never able to recover. This violated the first rule of political campaigns, which is to never let your opponent define you first. After a near fatal slow start, every emotional attack ad from Yes on 8 received a tepid intellectual response from No on 8. This violated another rule of political campaigns, which is to quickly respond in equal kind to an attack so it is not allowed to penetrate the public mind. Instead of running a diverse multi-message campaign of persuasion, the media message was emotionless, monotone and uncompelling. In short, the media messages failed to move or even educate voters about the issue and instead appealed to a single abstract principle -- equality -- that was not sufficiently persuasive or connected to the content of the proposition.

Ben Ehrenreich, writing in The Advocate, looks at whether No on 8 could have been run better. Lorri Jean of the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center told him apathy was a problem:

Jean and others at the helm of the No on 8 campaign say they had a hard time awakening equivalent enthusiasm in the LGBT community, particularly because of the steady stream of polls showing Proposition 8 trailing by as much as 17 and 14 percentage points. “It was difficult raising money because of those polls,” Kors says, adding that the campaign’s internal numbers never reflected such comfortable margins of victory. “If we could have found a way to energize our community faster, we could have competed with them,” Jean says. “We experienced enormous complacency in our community until we finally put out the word that we were going down.”

-- Shelby Grad