I Love the Smell of Co-option in the Morning

This morning I got an email titled "Historic Partnership for Ohio."

Well, that sounded exciting. And it was coming from Equality Ohio, so I knew it wasn't about a bunch of teabagging groups with the word "liberty" in their names coming together to defend their guns!

I then read this interesting message:

Today, Equality Ohio, the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force announce a powerful statewide coalition to win full equality in Ohio.

Why? Because we know these simple truths:
Ohioans must be free to live without fear of discrimination at home, at work and in our communities
Ohio students must be free to go to school without the threat of harassment or violence
Ohio couples, including same-sex couples, must have the freedom to marry the person they love
Can we do this? Yes. But not without your help. Sign our petition and share it.

This LGBT coalition brings together the best strategic thinkers from across the country. And we are uniting the best tactical teams available anywhere.

We will not act prematurely.
We will not be distracted.
We are relentless.
We won't stop until full equality is won.

This is Our Equality. Our Ohio.

Hmmmm. If you have been following what we've written in the last year about FreedomOhio and the drive to put marriage equality on the ballot, you know that the big LGBT organizations have been dragging their feet.

The movement in Ohio was started by a handful of grassroots organizers who have been building a movement of other grassroots organizers. At many points along the way, they have been discouraged by the big boys, some of whom have cautioned them that now is not the time.

In fact, only a month or so ago, I got an email from the Human Rights Campaign, soliciting donations for their marriage equality priority states. Ohio was not among them. I have heard from insiders that such groups are looking for "sure things," states where they feel that they have a very high likelihood of success and perhaps won't have to work so hard to change hearts and minds.

But hearts and minds are changing fast on this issue. They're not waiting on the Human Rights Campaign or anyone else for the right time. I'm glad they are on board, but they are not leading the effort. In fact, I'm wondering what they mean by "We will not act prematurely." Is that some kind of signal or hidden message?

But perhaps these groups, like the Columbus Dispatch which ran an article this weekend about how it's likely that marriage equality will be on the ballot in November, sense the inevitability of this ballot push. And if it happens, they don't want to be shoved out of the spotlight when credit is being doled out — especially if the ballot issue is successful.

One thing that bothers me is the part about "sign our petition and share it." (I deliberately left out the link.) To promote an online "show of support" petition at the same time that circulators are going around with real-world petitions to get marriage equality on the ballot is distracting, confusing, and possibly even counterproductive.

On many occasions when I've been a volunteer petition circulator, I've had someone tell me "Oh, I already signed that online." You have to explain to them that online petitions have no legal force and that getting an issue on the ballot requires actual signatures on hard copies. But if someone just says "I already signed that" without adding "online," you have no way of knowing that, and you've lost the opportunity to get a valid signature from a real voter.

So if you'd like to move the effort forward, don't wait for the big guys. You can go to FreedomOhio's website and sign up to volunteer. Get a petition and get your friends and family to sign. Go here to learn more: https://freedomohio.com/

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