Online Extra: Wedding Bell Blues: Interim Love Honor CherishED confident in undoing marriage ban
A former Equality California staffer has joined Love Honor Cherish to help the smaller organization push for repeal of Proposition 8 in 2012.
Eric Harrison, 34, was let go from EQCA in October. Last week he was named Love Honor Cherish’s interim executive director.
In an interview, Harrison said he’s confident in repealing the state’s same-sex marriage ban. However, he couldn’t offer many reasons for that except for unnamed donors he believes will step forward, and LGBTs’ growing presence on TV.
EQCA, the statewide LGBT lobbying group, decided against a 2012 bid to undo Prop 8, which voters passed in 2008.
Love Honor Cherish, which is based in Los Angeles, filed a proposed repeal initiative with the attorney general’s office October 21. It expects to have title and summary on the proposal by Friday, December 15.
Harrison was EQCA’s statewide development director from September 2009 until he was laid off two months ago as part of the larger organization’s “restructuring.” His first day with Love Honor Cherish was Monday, November 28.
“Basically what I’m doing is assessing the landscape of a massive fundraising campaign, and what that would look like,” he said. Repeal advocates need over $1 million within six weeks, he said. Paid signature gatherers will be key to getting enough signatures for the initiative to make it to the ballot next November.
When he’s talked to people who could contribute $25,000 or more, “Everyone is confident we’d win at the ballot in November 2012, but everyone’s waiting to see who’s going to go first. … That’s the biggest challenge,” Harrison said.
Harrison didn’t have an estimate on how much Prop 8 opponents would need to raise for repeal, and he couldn’t say exactly where that money would come from.
“I hope someone will step up and write a check to make history in California,” he said, adding that he and Love Honor Cherish board Chair Tom Watson have “a lot of relationships” with potential allies.
“It’s going to take significant resources to collect signatures,” Harrison said. “Everyone knows that.”
Even though Harrison acknowledged repeal efforts would be costly, he doesn’t agree that undoing Prop 8 will cost a minimum of $40 million. That’s about what each side raised in the battle over same-sex marriage in California three years ago.
“I think we’ve changed so much,” he said. He added, “We’re in an era of Glee and Modern Family.” Both popular TV shows feature gay characters.
While he seemed to be sure of the work he’s undertaken, Harrison also left some room for doubt.
Asked about the possibility of not proceeding to a signature gathering campaign after December 15, he said, “I’m just assessing the landscape of what is going to happen after mid-December. At this point, Love Honor Cherish has not taken a position on that.”
Harrison, who’s openly gay, single, and lives in Los Angeles, had an annual salary of $105,000 at EQCA. He said he’s making a similar amount at Love Honor Cherish.
Watson said in a statement, “We’re bringing Eric on to build up our organization, to expand our work for marriage equality, and to reignite our movement.”
On a mission
Harrison said he had “passionately” raised money to try to repeal Prop 8 while at Equality California, and “that’s not a mission I want to abandon.” He said he was “disappointed” when EQCA’s board decided in early October not to go back to the ballot in 2012.
“The senior staff of EQCA, we were unanimously in favor of going back to the ballot,” he said. (Roland Palencia, who was briefly Equality California’s executive director, resigned shortly after the board’s decision, citing personal reasons.)
If Love Honor Cherish wants to succeed in 2012, it will need to gather 504,760 valid signatures within five months after it starts circulating petitions.
Love Honor Cherish failed to get enough signatures to get a similar measure on the ballot last year. In that attempt, the organization relied on volunteer signature gatherers. Harrison said paid signature collectors would “absolutely” be needed.
He couldn’t point to any specific polling data that favor repeal in 2012, but said they’re hoping to get polling data from Equality California.
EQCA spokeswoman Rebekah Orr would only say the idea of her organization sharing the numbers is “something that’s under discussion.”
Harrison indicated there’s no specific end date for his time at Love Honor Cherish.
“I’m staying as long as they’ll have me at this point,” he said.