Out Against the Right: An Organizing Handbook for Queer Activists and Grassroots Organizers
For lesbian activists and grassroots organizers fighting the Christian Right.

Campaign Models and the Lesbian/Gay Movement

When the New York Avengers went to Lewiston, Maine in 1993, there was already a "mainstream campaign" in place fighting against the right wing attempt to repeal an existing lesbian and gay anti-discrimination bill. In fact, the reason we went there was to provide more "hands" for that group -- to support the campaign in any way we could. But, as the time passed, we became unhappy and frustrated by their strategy and tactics. And we weren't the only ones. Many local community members let us know they were as fed up as we were. Some of them were experienced grassroots direct-action activists who were given no voice in the campaign; others were new to organizing but recognized that there had to be alternative ways to running a campaign. Though we encountered many problems working with the "mainstream campaign", two events in particular led to our splitting off and joining with these local activists to create a visible, out, alternative direct-action voice to the fight:

  1. we volunteered to do a 20,000 piece mailing for the "mainstream campaign", only to find when we arrived at their storefront that they had placed paper over the large plate glass windows so that the press and the townspeople could not see us -- visible dykes -- helping them.
  2. the "mainstream campaign" was unwilling to canvass or do literature drops in a low-income Franco-American section of town because, in their words, "these people don't vote". This area was being targeted by the right wing, was the most densely populated area of the city, had a history of union organizing, and some of the local lesbian and gay men we knew had grown up there.

Our experience with the mainstream campaign in Idaho was similar, although this time we decided from the beginning to work independently of them. Both experiences forced us to explore the structure and strategy of such campaigns and come up with a detailed analysis of how they affect both the vote and, more importantly, lesbian and gay communities. In this section of the handbook, we share this analysis and explain why we believe that the "mainstream campaign" model is inadequate for fighting anti-lesbian and gay initiatives. We also discuss how you can manage your relationships with other anti-initiative groups in your area, not all of which need be problematic. Finally, the last part of this section describes why and how you can do both community research and research on the Christian Right. These will give you the information with which to develop your own strategy and tactics and to make your approach more likely to be successful. They will also help you to counter the pressure you may get from the "mainstream campaign" because you will be well informed and prepared for sometimes heated discussions.

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