Monday, January 25, 2010

The wrong battle in Oakland?

Maybe I'm just not radical enough.  No one believes in equality more than I do; I dedicate my whole blog to it.  But I'm actually having a hard time with how some Oakland residents are pursuing equality.

Let me start by saying I have absolutely no affection or sympathy for Lorenzo Hoopes  (left).  I don't care if he's 96 years old.  I don't care that he has served on the Paramount Theater Board of Directors for 20 years.

I do care that he donated money to the Prop 8 campaign.  I do care that he supports an institution, the Mormon Church, that did everything in its power to keep same-sex couples from marrying.

But I must say that I feel uneasy that opponents of Prop 8 (of which, of course, I am one) have lobbied the mayor of Oakland to stop Hoopes' appointment to another term on the Paramount Theater Board because of his opposition to same-sex marriage and the donation he made to Prop 8 supporters.  And the mayor has put the nomination on hold.

Hoopes exercised his free speech in a way that I personally find abhorrent.  But that speech is guaranteed.  And once the state of California put the issue of gay marriage on the ballot, that people would donate money to Prop 8 should have been expected.   Thus far no one has proved that his anti-equality stance has affected his performance on the board.  (I'd feel differently if that were so.)

And remember: our President is against same-sex marriage.

There's also a public relations war going on.  I think heavy handed tactics to keep Hoopes off the board will backfire.  Because the fact is, the man is 96.  The man has been on the board for 20 years.  Gay marriage foes are brilliant in the PR war.  Creating an image of this man as a victim of "activists" would be a piece of cake.  And it would redirect the focus away from the real issue, something else Prop 8 supporters do so well.

We have more important things to do.  In San Francisco, a trial is underway to prove Prop 8 unconstitutional.  In Iowa and New Hampshire, anti-equality folks are gearing up to bring the issue to the ballot box.  The election of Scott Brown has called into question just what can be accomplished for LGBT people this year.

We should focus our energies on bigger things than keeping a man who unfortunately voted the way a majority of Californians did -- no matter how vehemently we disagree with him -- from serving on a city board.


  1. Speech is indeed guaranteed. Our speech, which we've used to petition our government for redress of grievances, is also guaranteed. Our grievance is that he's a bigot. The redress we seek is his exclusion from a priviliged volunteer position where he represents out city.

    We want one guy kicked off a board. He wants millions of people to be unable to marry the people they love. In what alternate universe do we become the bad guys?

    Lastly, the only reason to worry about a backlash is if you don't understand that Hoopes losing his post is the first step. I aim to inspire other gay rights activists in other cities that are gay friendly to do the same thing we're doing in Oakland, and multiple variations of the same.

    Anyone who says that the LGBT community deserves separate-but-equal status should have a hard time keeping their head above water in a public post.

    Why? Well, the Mormons succumbed to public pressure and gave up polygamy in the late 1890s. They succumbed to public pressure and gave up treating black people as subhuman in the late 1970s. By the late 2010s, I expect we can teach them to stop treating gay people as subhuman.

    Power works in interesting ways. The religious right wants power, and sooner or later, when their views become a liability to getting power, they change their views. The Pentacostals decided they wanted womens suffrage, but only when they realized that they could use it to ban alcohol! These groups tend to lie and say that what really changed their minds was divine word delivered to one of their leaders, but whatever. If they change, they change.

    Got it? Their lust for power in fact empowers us to push them to the center. In Oakland, we're at the forefront of pushing homophobia off the cliff into the realm of the lunatic fringe. And it's fitting that the Bay Area, known for it's tolerance, is where this is getting started.

    So no. Backlash schmacklash. We stick to our guns. We outlast. We win. In 30 years anyone who worked against us will find themselves embarrassed, and dodging questions from their teenage grand children about which side they were on back in this day.

  2. Thanks for the detailed and reasoned response. I'm glad another voice presented a different side of this issue, especially from someone who is directly involved in the situation out in Oakland so that readers can have two perspectives.

  3. FYI, I wanted to sign that post but I screwed up with the interface.

    Max Allstadt

  4. Thanks for letting me know you are! Usually anonymous posts are hostile and filled with name-calling, not at all like your wise post.