Equality California
Equality California Launches ‘The Breakthrough Conversation' Project to Build Support for LGBT Equality and Marriage, Opts Not to Return to Ballot on Marriage in 2012

October 5, 2011

CONTACT: Rebekah Orr, Equality California 
PHONE: 415-498-0847 EMAIL: rebekah@eqca.org

Equality California Launches ‘The Breakthrough Conversation' Project to Build Support for LGBT Equality and Marriage, Opts Not to Return to Ballot on Marriage in 2012

(San Francisco) Equality California announced today that it is launching a new public education project, “The Breakthrough Conversation,” designed to overcome the psychological, cultural and emotional triggers around lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and kids that continue to impede securing full equality, including the freedom to marry.  While it pursues this essential work, Equality California said it will not lead an effort to return to the ballot in 2012 to repeal Proposition 8.

“For decades, opponents of equality have used prejudicial and dehumanizing myths about LGBT people being a harm to kids and families as a weapon against us in the legislature, in the courts and at the ballot,” said Equality California Executive Director Roland Palencia. “We have to address this wrong to effectively have this 'Breakthrough Conversation' in the public sphere and confront major societal barriers that prevent us from securing full and lasting equality, including marriage.” 

“The Breakthrough Conversation” will include new, cutting-edge research, media tools and intensive trainings across the state to equip LGBT people and allies to talk to friends, neighbors and relatives and address concerns in a direct, honest and engaging ways. Equality California will work with other leading and diverse LGBT organizations in the state, including the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, Our Family Coalition, API Equality, California Faith for Equality, the Jordan/Rustin Coalition, Latino Equality Alliance, Honor Fund and many others to implement the project.

“We know that it’s essential that we engage our fellow Californians where they are on the issues, whether their feelings are influenced by their faith, where their family comes from or by the campaigns of misinformation and scare tactics continually waged by opponents of equality,” Palencia said. 

“Equality California's 'Breakthrough Conversation' project has the potential to be a real game-changer for the marriage equality movement,” said Matt Foreman, Director of Gay and Immigrant Rights programs at the Haas, Jr. Fund, which is supporting the effort. “It’s no secret we need to demolish the ugly ‘harms kids/schools’ mantra once and for all and this will go a long way by  developing new, sophisticated tools, trainings and tactics.” 

Equality California said that while public opinion on marriage for same-sex couples has increased since Proposition 8 passed in 2008, support continues to hover near 50 percent—indicating more work must be done before asking voters to overturn Proposition 8 through what would inevitably be  a very expensive and difficult campaign. In addition, the Perry v. Brown legal challenge to Proposition 8 has provided hope that the freedom to marry can be restored in California and create a legal precedent to protect marriage without the potential risks and expense of a multi-million dollar campaign in these very trying economic times. 

"With a challenge to Prop 8’s discrimination now before the courts, Freedom to Marry supports Equality California’s decision to forego a ballot campaign in 2012,” said Evan Wolfson, founder and President of Freedom to Marry. ”Freedom to Marry will continue to work with Equality California and our many other partners to engage Californians in the crucial conversations necessary to grow the pro-marriage majority and permanently restore the freedom to marry in California as soon as possible."

“We share the pain, frustration and discrimination that California same-sex couples and their families experience every day because they are denied the freedom to marry,” Palencia said. “Today, we are recommitting ourselves to doing the hard work of changing hearts and minds to be ready to change that reality should the courts fail to do their job.” 

Over the coming year, Equality California intends to restructure the staffing of the organization to focus its work in those areas that provide maximum impact. In addition to our public education efforts around marriage equality and the core “Breakthrough Conversation,” EQCA will continue to serve as the “community's legislative lobbyist” to close any inequality gaps in existing California law; protect the FAIR Education Act through electoral activism if necessary; implement existing laws to reform institutions that impact the daily lives of LGBT people; and support pro-equality candidates and legislators to protect existing legislative gains and to advance full equality. As part of this work, EQCA has recently hired a new Field Manager for the San Francisco Bay Area and is working to hire a Deputy and Political Director who will provide significant strategic direction to put these efforts to work on the ground across the state.

Equality California (EQCA) is the largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights advocacy organization in California. Over the past decade, Equality California has strategically moved California from a state with extremely limited legal protections for LGBT individuals to a state with some of the most comprehensive civil rights protections in the nation. Equality California has passed more than 80 pieces of legislation and continues to advance equality through legislative advocacy, electoral work, public education and community empowerment. www.eqca.org

Equality California Institute educates LGBT people and the public at large about issues impacting the LGBT community and its allies. Since 2005, the Institute has helped lead a statewide coalition working to advance marriage equality and the LGBT Health and Human Services Network and Equality Alliance.