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Monday, November 10, 2008

"No on 8" activists: please, please, PLEASE, don't turn this into a holy war

Posted By on Mon, Nov 10, 2008 at 10:19 AM


Attacking churches will only convince religious voters that their churches are under attack.

by Benjamin Wachs

San Francisco blogs are full of talk about how to stick it to Prop 8 supporters: kiss-ins in front of Catholic day care centers; protests at Mormon weddings; Utah ballot measures to ban Mormon marriage, and, of course, street rallies in front of unfriendly churches.

Many people are hurt and angry, so I'd hoped it was all just hot air and that once they blew off steam they’d settle down to run an effective, long-term, campaign. But that was a cold hope. In the past few days we’ve seen numerous large-scale demonstrations around Mormon and evangelical churches, in some cases forcing services to be moved, and sending the clear and unambiguous message: we’re taking this fight to your places of worship.

If getting mad is more important than getting married, then by all means pile on. But turning the marriage equity movement into a religious war is one of the least effective ways possible to win … and as someone who very much wants to see gays get carried over this threshold I beg you, don’t make religious warfare the public face of gay marriage.

The equation for victory in the next round of ballot measures is very simple.


• Convince just 3% of the "Yes on 8" voters to switch their vote to support the right of gays to marry;

• Make the issue seem benign enough that just 5% of "Yes on 8" voters stay home on election day; or,

• Bring in just over 5% more pro-gay-marriage voters without inciting conservative voters to the point that their turnout increases.

That's it. That's all the issue needs to win. It's so … damn … close. You can win this one pretty easily with the right strategy.

But what all of these winning strategies have in common is outreach. Advocates need to help churchgoers understand that letting gays wed isn't a threat to them. Doing so will allow the next marriage-rights campaign to build its voter rolls without building opposition.

That means targeting churches and religious ceremonies may be the most counterproductive thing the movement could possibly do. However cathartic it feels, it will frighten and inflame the very people it needs to calm down. And as 7 years of "homeland security" has proven, the last thing that frightened people worry about are the civil rights of scary people.

That's true no matter how righteous your position may be.

Attacking churches will only convince religious voters that their churches are under attack. Turning Gay Marriage into a holy war will turn fence-sitting moderates into Yes on 8 voters by giving them something real to fear – and you’ll likely lose religious moderates who were with you before. It will serve as fundraising goldmine for Focus on the Family; it will put gay religious voters in an untenable position.

This is a sure path to defeat because you can't win a vote for love by campaigning with hate. It's as simple as this: if the public face of gay marriage is loving people who are deserving of compassion and dignity, it will win.

But if the public face of gay marriage is an in-your-face mob that appears to threaten the institutions most important to many voters, it will never turn this vote's -- very slight -- minority into a majority.

Gay marriage needs that majority to win.

That's the goddamn truth.

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Benjamin Wachs


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