View from the left—Hope after Houston, how LGBT activists can turn defeat into victory

Ikeita Cantu holds a sign supporting same sex marriage in front of the Supreme Court before the court hears arguments about gay marriage in Washington April 28, 2015. The nine justices of the Supreme Court began on Tuesday to hear arguments on whether the

We have been here before. The loss on the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) Tuesday night was a déjà vu moment for LGBT Americans nationwide. We watched an eerily similar scenario unfold in California on election night in 2008 as a group of committed anti-gay activists pushed through Proposition 8, a measure that took away same-sex marriage rights that had already been granted by the state’s Supreme Court.
But it’s not over in Houston, just like it wasn’t over after Proposition 8. In fact, Prop 8 was just the beginning of a stretch that saw more gains for LGBT equality at the federal level than in the entire century preceding it.

As I wrote in my recently released book, which chronicles the activism that swept the nation after Prop 8: “A sleeping giant had been poked one too many times … Denying gays basic human rights wasn’t acceptable to a

mass of people anymore. Even if they weren’t the majority, they were paying attention, they were hungry to get involved, and they wanted their voices to be heard. It was just a matter of finding a way to parlay that energy into a sustainable force for change.”

Those activists did just that. They got involved, they protested, they caused a stir in California, then marched on Washington, and eventually took their grievances straight to the president himself. Along the way, “don’t ask, don’t tell” was overturned, the Defense of Marriage Act was gutted, and marriage equality became the law of the land.

If Houston feels like a familiar failure in leadership by LGBT advocacy groups who raised a lot of money and then ran a top-down campaign that failed to heed the warnings of activists on the ground, now is the time to recreate the playbook from post-Prop 8 California.

Let’s head below the fold to find out how.

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