Online extra: Wedding Bell Blues: EQCA ED steps down
by Seth Hemmelgarn
After barely three months on the job, Equality California Executive Director Roland Palencia announced Monday that he is stepping down, effective Friday, October 14.
The news came just a week after the EQCA board voted not to return to the ballot in 2012 with an initiative to overturn Proposition 8, the state's same-sex marriage ban.
A news released sent out Monday evening stated that the organization plans to announce a transition plan by the end of this week.
Palencia, 53, was hired in May to replace Geoff Kors, EQCA's longtime executive director who resigned in late March. Palencia started the job in early July.
It is unclear whether the board's vote not to return to the ballot next year was related to Palencia's sudden decision to resign. In a conference call October 6, Palencia declined to reveal how the EQCA board had voted on returning to the ballot, saying he could not disclose the vote. He acknowledged that there had been a difference of opinion on the board over the issue.
The Bay Area Reporter will have more on the personnel changes at EQCA in Thursday's paper.
North Carolina, Minnesota face marriage ban fights
Meanwhile, North Carolina and Minnesota are both facing efforts in 2012 to specifically restrict marriages to straight couples.
The North Carolina proposal doesn't stop there, though. If it passes, it will impact even non-LGBT couples.
LGBTs in the two states say people in California can help by talking to friends and family members who live in the two smaller states about marriage equality.
The North Carolina proposal, known as Senate Bill 514, will go before that state's voters in May.
Alex Miller, interim executive director of Equality North Carolina, said SB 514 would ban legal recognition of same-sex marriages, as well as civil unions and domestic partnerships – even for straight couples.
"It is indiscriminate in its discrimination," Miller said.
He said that North Carolina is the only Southern state that doesn't yet have a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Such a change "would be devastatingly harmful to our state," he said.
Miller said "all the big name hate groups," including the National Organization for Marriage, would be pooling their resources to support the amendment. The national anti-gay organization was one of the key groups that supported California's Prop 8 in 2008. A call to the National Organization for Marriage on Monday, October 10 was not returned.
Miller is particularly worried about the impact the "hateful messages" that will be broadcast statewide will have on LGBT youth. He said people in North Carolina tend to be religious, so it will be hurtful when young people hear that they're "abominations" and that "God hates them," he said.
The vote on the amendment is set for May 8, which is also when North Carolina's presidential primary is scheduled.
Miller said if the contest for the GOP nomination is at least close to being settled by that time, "I would say we have a good chance of defeating it" if equality advocates can get supporters to the polls. That's because if the GOP's pick is clear, "really there is not going to be much bringing [Republicans] out to the polls."
Matt Comer, editor of QNotes, an LGBT community paper based in Charlotte, North Carolina, said he's "optimistic" about the bill being defeated.
"I think the biggest challenge right now is getting the campaign against the amendment up and running," Comer said. He said many people are "anxious" to get started.
The anti-gay proposal's broad reach could help Equality North Carolina assemble a diverse coalition as it helps shape the campaign against the measure. ENC is planning to work with groups ranging from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to libertarian organizations, Miller said.
He said the plans and budget for the yet-to-be named campaign are still being developed.
Miller asks that Californians contact friends and family in North Carolina to talk about the effort. Those interested can also visit http://www.equalitync.org. Financial contributions of any size are welcome, he said.
In November 2012, Minnesota voters also will have a chance to vote on whether same-sex couples can get married in their state.
Senate File 1308 would restrict the definition of marriage in Minnesota's constitution to one man and one woman.
"We're confident that in Minnesota we have the kind of organization, the broad coalition needed to defeat this thing at the ballot box," said Richard Carlbom, the campaign manager for Minnesotans United for All Families.
Carlbom, who just started in his job two weeks ago, said he's started fundraising. He said the expectation so far is that each side in the marriage fight will need to raise $4 million to $6 million. Like Miller in North Carolina, Carlbom said pro-equality Minnesotans are up against the National Organization for Marriage.
People in California can help by sending money and talking to friends and family in Minnesota about the anti-gay measure, he said.
"The way we're going to win is by talking to friends and neighbors" about "why we should not restrict marriage in Minnesota for people who are in love and committed to each other," he said.
Stuart Gaffney, national media director for the Oakland-based Marriage Equality USA, said chapters are gathering personal stories from people who would be affected by the proposed amendments.
"We are especially encouraging couples in North Carolina who may lose relationship recognition to share those stories," Gaffney said.
Love Honor Cherish plans to proceed with Prop 8 repeal effort
The Los Angeles-based group Love Honor Cherish will try to repeal Prop 8 at the ballot box in 2012 despite EQCA, the largest LGBT group in the state, coming out against such a move last week.
Love Honor Cherish was part of a campaign to repeal the same-sex marriage ban in 2010, but the coalition failed to gather the signatures needed to put its proposal on the ballot. EQCA opted not to try to undo the anti-gay measure that year, as well.
Lester Aponte, Love Honor Cherish's outreach director, said, "We simply do not believe in sitting on our hands while our rights are being decided."
California voters passed Prop 8 in November 2008, amending the state's constitution to ban same-sex marriages.
As in 2010, the Love Honor Cherish-backed proposal is to strike the phrase "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California" and add, "Marriage is between only two persons and shall not be restricted on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or religion."
In announcing their decision last week, EQCA cited costs and the Perry v. Brown federal lawsuit, among other factors. The court case seeks to overturn Prop 8 and could eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
But Aponte and others don't want to wait for the lawsuit to play out.
"We have a commitment to our members and to the community to do everything we can to repeal Prop 8," Aponte said Monday, October 10. Aponte said they're submitting ballot language to the attorney general's office "in the next few days."
He said that "obviously," EQCA deciding not to lead the effort is a "hindrance."
However, he said he doesn't believe the lobbying organization "will simply sit it out." He added that his group is "in discussion with every grassroots organization in the state of California" about their effort, although that doesn't include EQCA. Nobody's committed to helping them, he said.
Aponte doesn't think the fight over Prop 8 would cost as much in 2012 as it did in 2008, when both sides raised almost $45 million apiece. This time, equality advocates should only have to raise about $20 million, he said. That's because of lessons learned from three years ago, including getting an earlier start on buying advertising time, Aponte said.
Asked where that money would come from, he said, "We don't know yet. We will be fundraising and we will be talking with everybody in the community."
Aponte said his group would begin circulating petitions in early next spring.
EQCA spokeswoman Rebekah Orr said she couldn't picture the organization totally dismissing helping Love Honor Cherish.
However, she said, "I think we would need to know more about Love Honor Cherish's plans." Plus, "I don't know when there's one organization leading an effort that it really is up to us to decide what role we would play," Orr said.
"Certainly, our organization has resources to bring to bear, and I think that's important," but EQCA hasn't talked to the smaller nonprofit about their plans, she said.
Asked whether EQCA would contribute funds or help Love Honor Cherish raise money, Orr said, "I don't see a scenario where we, at this time, would rule out that possibility."
Love Honor Cherish plans to meet with supporters tonight (Tuesday, October 11) in Los Angeles to talk about its plans.
Wedding Bell Blues is an online column looking at various issues related to the marriage equality fight in California and elsewhere. Please send column ideas or tips to Seth Hemmelgarn at or call (415) 861-5019. Wedding Bell Blues appears every other Tuesday.
Cynthia Laird contributed to this report.