"THIS IS LESS about this blame game we've been seeing in the media, and more what's it going to take for us to work together," Basic Rights Oregon's executive director, Jeana Frazzini, told a packed room of gay rights activists on November 19.
Just over two weeks since California voters decided to yank away marriage equality from same-sex couples by approving Proposition 8—and just days after a thousand people gathered in the South Park Blocks to protest Prop 8's passage—Frazzini and two people who'd worked on the campaign in California held a brainstorming session with representatives of groups from the Democratic Party of Oregon to the Q Center. On the agenda? What to make of numbers that indicated overwhelming support for Prop 8 in communities of color, and how to keep the movement going in Oregon.
In a crowded conference room at the Jupiter Hotel, Thalia Zepatos and Trystan Reese talked about the ground fight in California, including a lengthy education campaign called "Let California Ring," to introduce the idea of same-sex marriage in diverse communities.
"We really need to start earlier and get these conversations going earlier," Zepatos explained. "Often we don't really take advantage of the quiet time to prepare for this huge storm we know is going to come."
Though it's harder to raise money when it's "not an emergency," the earliest efforts to push for same-sex marriage were crucial, Zepatos said. "These conversations started in a much more calm, rational way."
Reese talked about one-on-one conversations that happened "in Sacramento, Fresno, Orange County," when Prop 8 was still in the signature-gathering phase; he and other workers urged people to "decline to sign" the petitions. "It was extremely difficult work," he said. "It was also extremely rewarding."
When Prop 8 did qualify for the ballot right after the California Supreme Court cleared the way for same-sex marriage, Reese says they had just "117 days to save marriage for same-sex couples in California."
Zepatos also cleared up the "outright misinformation" that stemmed from a CNN exit poll, which indicated that 70 percent of African Americans voted in favor of revoking same-sex marriage. "It was closer to 56 percent on the yes side in the African American community," she said, on a measure that passed with 52 percent support.
If Oregon wants to achieve marriage equality, Frazzini told the crowd, the conversations around marriage equality can't wait until there's a measure on the ballot down the road—they have to start today. "It's time to get seriously engaged, and engaged for the long haul."