This is a cross-post from California-based journalist Karen Ocamb of LGBTPOV. She brings perspective on the role of Frank Schubert in the Prop 8 fight. He’s the hired gun brought in to sell Amendment One.
Almost four years later and LGBT Californians are still hurting over Prop 8, the 2008 voter-passed constitutional amendment that stripped same sex couples of their fundamental right to marry. So far, two federal courts have agreed that Prop 8 is unconstitutional in Perry v. Brown, a lawsuit conceived of by American Foundation for Equal Rights co-founders Chad Griffin and straight actor/director Rob Reiner. The pair previously teamed up to successfully fight Big Tobacco on behalf of their early childhood development First 5 California initiative.
Now Griffin, who helped on the No on Prop 8 campaign, is facing political nemesis and Prop 8 mastermind Frank Schubert – who used to represent Big Tobacco – in the battle over Amendment One in North Carolina in the May 8 election. Two weeks ago, on April 3, Schubert left his major Sacramento-based consulting firm because his antigay work on Prop 8 was hurting business. “The reality is that it’s very difficult for a public affairs professional to serve both corporate clients and work on the conservative side of social issues that challenge popular culture,” Schubert said in a statement.
Now Schubert’s in North Carolina, teaming up with the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage to pass Amendment One – an initiative that would make heterosexual marriage the ONLY legally recognized relationship in the state. And unlike the made-up “consequences” Schubert created to get Prop 8 passed – if Amendment One passes, it would have a slew of very real consequences – including stripping healthcare rights from kids.
Here’s a just-released web-based primer from the Coalition to Protect All North Carolina Families on the real consequences if Amendment One passes on May 8:
Think that was just a campaign piece? The arguments convinced North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue:
LA-based Chad Griffin – who will be heading to the Human Rights Campaign as the national organization’s President in June – is working as a media consultant with the Protect All North Carolina Families campaign and has produced a couple of powerful TV spots that the campaign hopes to get up on air next week. BUT they need money for statewide targeted ad buys.
Those emotional non-partisan TV ads produced by Chad Griffin and his business partner Mark Armour – and the data provided by pollster Celinda Lake about how this campaign is winnable if the electorate is educated about the real harms the initiative would do – prompted straight philanthropist Todd Stiefel to launch an online dollar-for-dollar matching challenge up to $100,000 through the campaign’s website and ActBlue.
Additionally, Stiefel is challenging LGBT donors to step up to the plate, as well. Here’s the email letter he issued on Monday:
Subject: We stepped up.
My name is Todd Stiefel. My wife, Diana, and I have a passionate belief that our country would be better off if we put people above politics. Families in North Carolina matter far more than a divisive constitutional amendment such as Amendment One, and that is why we are now offering a $1 for $1 match up to $100,000 to the campaign.
The campaign to defeat the amendment only has three more weeks to get out the word about the harms that North Carolina would face if Amendment One passes on May 8. That is why we are stepping up now to give to the campaign. We hope that you can join us.
The momentum against Amendment One has grown substantially in recent weeks. Former GOP Gubernatorial nominee Richard Vinroot, Justice Bob Orr, John Hood and other conservatives have advocated against it in recent weeks. Governor Bev Perdue came out passionately against it last week in a powerful video, and the next morning Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers condemned the amendment as well.
But all of this momentum does not matter if the campaign does not have a fully funded television, radio and direct mail campaign. Will you donate $25, $50, $100, $250 or $500 today to make sure that the people of North Carolina hear the truth about the amendment? Diana and I will match every dollar that you give, doubling the impact of your gift, up to $100,000.
This campaign has been largely funded by people just like you. Now, in this critical stretch, we must step up once again.
The ads that the campaign have produced are truly powerful. The message that they carry forth about the harms to children, families and unmarried women must be heard. While this amendment directly impacts gay and lesbian families, it is so poorly written that straight families, unmarried women, and children are collateral damage of this harmful amendment. This amendment does not help anyone; it only harms. Diana and I were so inspired by the message that we decided to step up and we hope that you will join us.
The campaign has offered to show the television ads first to anyone who donates to the campaign this week. They will go on the air soon and every dollar that you give this week will go directly to increasing the ad buy. It is fair to say that every dollar that you give will go directly towards defeating the amendment.
On May 8 we North Carolinians will decide if they want the state to treat people equally or if we want to write discrimination into the constitution of our state. We must choose to place people, especially children, above politics by voting against the amendment.
Please stand with us.
Diana and Todd Stiefel
For LGBT Californians, the battle over Amendment One in North Carolina has an almost grudge-match quality with both Griffin and Schubert going head to head.
But circumstances are now very different. In 2008 in California, the No on Prop 8 campaign was primarily Democratic. Thanks in large part to Griffin’s bringing together Republican heavy-weight Ted Olson with his Bush v Gore Supreme Court opponent David Boies, Republicans have started turning against the divisive antigay politics of the old 2004 Karl Rove. And, as Schubert found out – being divisive is not good for business.Protect All NC Families has the solid backing of a number of CEOs and prominent Republicans. As the indefatigablePam Spaulding of Pam’s House Blend reported,
the CEO of Duke Energy, Jim Rogers, took the opportunity as a keynote speaker at a business forum to take questions and he was asked about the amendment by Taylor Batten of the Charlotte Observer’s O-pinion blog. Rogers took the plunge:
Rogers hesitated, but then couldn’t stop himself from telling the crowd of 200 or so how he felt.
If North Carolinians put the gay marriage ban into the state constitution, Rogers said, “You’re sending a message to the world that we’re not inclusive.”
Rogers emphasized that he was sharing his personal view and was not speaking on behalf of Duke Energy. He said “I believe we’re all children of God,” and that it’s wrong to pass measures that discriminate against individuals.
“If this passes, we’re going to look back 20 years from now, or 10 years, and think of it like Jim Crow laws” that discriminated against African-Americans. North Carolina is competing with the world for business, he said, and “we have to be inclusive and open.”
That was also a message pressed home by former Charlotte Mayors Harvey Gantt and Richard Vinroot:
But this is still the South where the religious vote will prove critical. Catholic-based of organizations such as NOM and extremist Christian evangelicals will work to rally older religious voters to come out to vote May 8 with only congressional and statewide offices on the ballot alongside Amendment One. But NOM has taken a national drubbing with the release of internal memos spelling out their explicitly divisive strategy to pit Latinos and African Americans against gays. Here’s a sample:
“The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks—two key Democratic constituencies. Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage, develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots…”
“The Latino vote in America is a key swing vote, and will be so even more so in the future, both because of demographic growth and inherent uncertainty: Will the process of assimilation to the dominant Anglo culture lead Hispanics to abandon traditional family values? We must interrupt this process of assimilation by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity – a symbol of resistance to inappropriate assimilation.”
Both the NAACP and the National Council of La Raza have blasted NOM for their divisive strategy. Nonetheless, perhaps emboldened by the former candidacy of Frank Schubert’s favorite Republican candidate – Catholic Rick Santorum (who opposes contraception) – Religious Right extremists in NC are now making a stand in a rally that sounds like Lou Engle’s TheCall against Prop 8. Jeremy Hooper at Good As You reports that there is a convention scheduled this weekend for “The Christian Party of America” in Raleigh.
Hooper reports that “the official campaign trying to stop civil marriage equality in the Tar Heel State is ACTUALLY GOING TO USE THIS EVENT AS A CAMPAIGN RALLY! Not only are two of the [antigay] campaign’s most visible figures, Mark Creech and Patrick Wooden, scheduled to speak at the event—Vote For Marriage NC head Tami Fitzgerald is also on the bill.”
Creech is director of the Christian Action League. As Hooper reports:
This is truly unreal. Everyday this campaign is proving how little it cares about church/state separation, religious freedom and diversity, and the true nature of the civil marriage institution that they are forcing into state debate, and how much the campaign heads want to force us all to live under their personally-held religious mandates. That may always be an undercurrent of state marriage campaigns—but it’s never been so naked, this theocratic view.
And what about the Catholics? It appears that some are having their own crisis of conscience over how their
Church leaders treat LGBT youth. The AP reported April 7 that:
A day before Easter, the head of New York’s Roman Catholic archdiocese faced a challenge to his stance on gay rights: the resignation of a church charity board member who says he’s “had enough” of the cardinal’s attitude.
Joseph Amodeo told The Associated Press on Saturday that he quit the junior board of the city’s Catholic Charities after Cardinal Timothy Dolan failed to respond to a “call for help” for homeless youths who are not heterosexual.
“As someone who believes in the message of love enshrined in the teachings of Christ, I find it disheartening that a man of God would refuse to extend a pastoral arm” to such youths, Amodeo said in his letter to the charitable organization last Tuesday.
On Monday, April 16, Amodeo launched a Change.org petition calling on Cardinal Dolan to meet with LGBT youth. He also wrote about the conflict in a Huffington Post piece entitled “The Pulpit vs. The Pews: A Call to Action for All Catholics:
A little over eight years ago, I came out as a gay man to my family and friends. Amid this revelation, I continued to practice my faith as a Roman Catholic. It was at this time in my life that I came to witness the overwhelming support that Catholics have for LGBT people. In my role as a religion teacher, a priest once informed me that a parent had expressed concern over having a gay man teach religious education. The priest called a meeting of the parish on a weeknight and asked that anyone who had concerns related to my teaching should speak up publicly. The night of the meeting, I entered a packed Church and slowly made my way to a pew where I sat next to my father. As the meeting began, one-by-one congregants rose and expressed their real concern: why this was even an issue. The reality is that my experience from nearly a decade ago is representative of the vast majority of Roman Catholics. We live in a Church that is called to welcome and affirm people’s humanity and identity without exception. It was in reflecting on this faith experience that I had such a difficult time reconciling Cardinal Dolan’s comments with the Catholic faith that I live and experience every day.
Wonder how NOM and Schubert are going to spin this data from the Public Religion Research Institutein March 2011 indicating many Catholics support LGBT relationships and think orientation cannot be changed:
- Catholics are more supportive of legal recognitions of same-sex relationships than members of any other Christian tradition and Americans overall. Nearly three-quarters of Catholics favor either allowing gay and lesbian people to marry (43%) or allowing them to form civil unions (31%). Only 22% of Catholics say there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple’s relationship.
- When same-sex marriage is defined explicitly as a civil marriage, support is dramatically higher among Catholics. If marriage for gay couples is defined as a civil marriage “like you get at city hall,” Catholic support for allowing gay couples to marry increases by 28 points, from 43% to 71%. A similar pattern exists in the general population, but the Catholic increase is more pronounced.
- Beyond the issue of same-sex marriage, Catholic support for rights for gays and lesbian people is strong and slightly higher than the general public. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Catholics favor laws that would protect gay and lesbian people against discrimination in the workplace; 63% of Catholics favor allowing gay and lesbian people to serve openly in the military; and 6-in-10 (60%) Catholics favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt children.
- Compared to the general church-going public, Catholics are significantly less likely to hear about the issue of homosexuality from their clergy, but those who do are much more likely to hear negative messages. Only about 1-in-4 (27%) Catholics who attend church services regularly say their clergy speak about the issue of homosexuality, but nearly two-thirds (63%) of this group say the messages they hear are negative.
- Compared to other religious groups, Catholics are significantly more likely to give their church poor marks for how it is handling the issue of homosexuality. Less than 4-in-10 (39%) Catholics give their own church top marks (a grade of either an A or a B) on its handling of the issue of homosexuality.
- Seven-in-ten Catholics say that messages from America’s places of worship contribute a lot (33%) or a little (37%) to higher rates of suicide among gay and lesbian youth.
- Catholics overwhelmingly reject the idea that sexual orientation can be changed.Nearly 7-in-10 (69%) Catholics disagree that homosexual orientation can be changed; less than 1-in-4 (23%) believe that it can be changed.
- A majority of Catholics (56%) believe that sexual relations between two adults of the same gender is not a sin. Among the general population, less than half (46%) believe it is not a sin (PRRI, Religion & Politics Tracking Survey, October 2010).
So what kind of message is Frank Schubert sending his own nieces and nephews? The Sacramento Bee noted that Schubert’s sister is a lesbian with a partner with whom she is co-parenting children. In the interview, it sounds as if Schubert’s into that worn-out “love the sinner, hate the sin” axiom. And yet one wonders if Schubert even dared ask his sister’s children how they feel hearing him subliminally suggest that their parents are going to hell because they love each other? The Bee reported:
Schubert, 56, understands the issue in a personal and nuanced way. He has a sister who is the lesbian co-parent of two children. He loves her, her partner and their children, he said. He doesn’t judge her; God is the judge.
“I’m a sinner, like everybody else,” he said. “At the end of the day, I believe there is truth. It may not be popular. But that doesn’t make it any less true.”
Polls show that support for same-sex marriage is increasing. Schubert sees it differently. He leaves next week for North Carolina and Minnesota, states where he will be leading ballot measure campaigns in support of traditional marriage……
He believes the issue is especially powerful in North Carolina, where 70 percent of African Americans oppose same-sex marriage. North Carolina is heavily religious, and he summed up the campaign in six words: “God is the author of marriage.” In Minnesota, where voters are pragmatic, he put out 50 videos talking about all facets of the issue.
Traditional marriage supporters are becoming, if anything, more emotional.
“They’re feeling cornered. They’re feeling as if the elite are turning against them,” Schubert said. “Elites are softening because they don’t want to go against the popular culture.”
Someone else who has “softened” is Schubert and Protect Marriage’s own expert star witness at the federal Prop 8 trial – David Blankenhorn! He and colleague Elizabeth Marquardt, he wrote in the (Raleigh) News & Observer:
[A]s marriage advocates, we oppose the state marriage amendment now being debated in North Carolina. We hope that when North Carolinians go to the polls on May 8 they will defeat this measure. Let us explain.
The proposed amendment states that “marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.” That’s a big mouthful, and it goes well beyond the issue of same-sex marriage.
For one thing, it means that North Carolina could not, now or ever, take any step or devise any policy to extend legal recognition and protection to same-sex couples. No domestic partnership laws. No civil unions. Nothing.
That’s mighty cold. If you disdain gay and lesbian persons, and don’t care whether they and their families remain permanently outside of the protection of our laws, such a policy might be your cup of tea. But it’s not our view, and we doubt that it’s the view of most North Carolinians.
If you want to create a backlash against mother-father marriage – if you want to convince people that the real agenda of marriage advocates is not protecting marriage, but ignoring and ostracizing gay people – then this amendment might be to your liking. But we believe that the cause of marriage is hurt, not helped, by gratuitously linking it to the cause of never under any circumstances helping gay and lesbian couples.”
So what say you to this, Frank Schubert? Your own expert witness opposes Amendment One?
Mighty cold, indeed. Thank heavens we still have freedom from religion – that is, freedom from the imposition of one group’s religious beliefs upon another.
I haven’t seen the ads Chad Griffin and Mark Armour have produced for the Coalition to Protect All Families. But they moved Todd Stiefel enough to put up $100,000 in matching funds to get the ads on the air – a pitch that has already raised $50,000 in 24 hours.
But here’s another thought – from someone who is still covering the Prop 8 fallout in California: what if AFER and HRC and all the marriage equality activists tired of fighting these terrible ballot initiatives helped STOP FRANK SCHUBERT in North Carolina? And how great would it be for incoming HRC President Chad Griffin to have such a win under his belt? I suggest a victory in a Southern red state would feel as good to us as Schubert’s win in California felt to the Religious Right. Stopping Frank Schubert would finally protect all children and families from the real harm of unfairly feeling and being unequal second class citizens. To paraphrase, Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers, we don’t need to wait 10 or 20 years to see that initiatives like Amendment One are just modern day Jim Crow laws. And as the Coalition to Protect All North Carolina Families has shown, this is an opportunity for Republicans and Catholics who once might have sided with Frank Schubert to be on the right side of history by supporting this pro-equality campaign.