A final thought on the R-71 case that the Supreme Court will be hearing in a couple of months.
What are the R-71 organizers really so afraid of? This. As she was covering the Prop. 8 case, Margaret Talbot looked to see what other kinds of organizing is going on.
In door-to-door canvassing, same-sex-marriage advocates are having those conversations out loud. Marc Solomon, who directs the marriage initiative for Equality California, told me, “It’s important for more people to see that we’re not some abstraction. We’re not necessarily the gays in West Hollywood or the Castro but the gays around the corner in Bakersfield or Fresno—maybe the couple you’ve seen walking their dog or watering their lawn. People change their minds on this issue with personal conversation, especially with people who are local.
In short, they’re going out of their way to smash the stereotypes that anti-gay marriage forces depend on: gays as the couple down the street rather than the scary leather daddy or the drag queen in San Francisco. And they’re targeting areas where Prop. 8 won big:
Since June, Equality California has been sending canvassers to communities that voted for Proposition 8, and reports that it is persuading nearly a quarter of the people its volunteers meet. The weekend before Thanksgiving, I went out with a team of canvassers in Orange County, an area that, with its history as a headquarters for the aerospace industry and as a destination for whites fleeing Los Angeles, tends to be conservative.
To be sure, plenty of people they speak with are adamant about their beliefs, even hostile. But in some cases, you can see an element of doubt creep in. Perhaps not enough to elicit a change right then and there, but enough to make room for a little more thought.
And thought is precisely what the anti-same-sex-marriage side cannot afford. People are far more likely to switch from opposing gay marriage to supporting it than they are to go the other way. Same-sex marriage opponents are fighting a rearguard action here. Support for their position has slipped away at an incredible rate over the last ten years.
They cannot afford to have their supporters even talking to regular gays and lesbians. They cannot afford for them to even know that they exist in their communities or even their families, because exposure to gay and lesbian people is proven to change minds. And this petition gives them the key to do just that.
That is the real fear behind the R-71 court case, not harassment or violence or any illegal activity. They know they’re losing the argument.