[Editor's Note: Veteran LGBT activist and environmentally-friendly entrepreneur Diane Abbitt has helped lead campaigns against anti-LGBT ballot initiatives since Prop 6. She was the first female co-president of the Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles (MECLA), a founding member of Access Now for Gay & Lesbian Equality (A.N.G.L.E.), AIDS Project Los Angeles and Life AIDS Lobby, and has served as the president of Equality California. (Photo: Abbitt (right) at the Los Angeles Equality Awards August 1, with partner Bernadette.)]
Like many of you, I've been fighting to win back marriage equality since the day it was lost. We must not wait to win our rights back. The California Supreme Court's devastating decision means that we must put the freedom to marry before the voters once more. This is no light matter; no one's rights should be put up for a popular vote.
Our community has lost to anti-marriage ballot campaigns in every state where we've faced them. This is why we have never before chosen to place a pro-marriage initiative on the ballot at the state level. But this is the path before us, and with a carefully planned campaign, we can and will prevail.
As a lifelong LGBT activist, I believe 2012 is the right time to go.
I've joined our community in fighting against anti-LGBT ballot campaigns for decades. These vile attacks, which are nothing new in California, have ranged from attempts to fire lesbian and gay teachers, to overturning important civil rights and protections, to quarantining HIV-positive Californians in internment camps. They have all had the same intent: to harm and silence us by exploiting voters' most base fears. And they have always acted on their timeline, not ours.
We have a remarkable opportunity to fight this fight on our own terms. By selecting the year when the largest number of supportive voters will turn out, running an aggressive get-out-the-vote effort and working hard on the ground between now and then to win new supporters, we can win by a margin that will make it much harder for an anti-LGBT ballot campaign to undo what we've won. In 2010, the odds are heavily stacked against a win. In 2012, we can enjoy a strong victory that will last.
One thing I've learned over the years is the importance of coalitions. Our coalition was a lot smaller in the past. We still had our disagreements, but we came together to fight for what was right, and we relied on our partners from other movements, too. Listening to one another is essential. Going forward, we must be united.
Another important lesson is that change happens; there is hope! The freedom to marry used to be a far-off dream. To see a time when almost half of our state supports our equality is long overdue, but it's also nothing short of astonishing when you consider where we came from.
Marriage equality got on the California state ballot just a little too soon. That was on purpose. The strategy of anti-LGBT forces worked, but not for long. Every day that marriage equality lies out of our reach, our state's Constitution remains tarnished, and real damage is done to California families. We must win marriage back as soon as we can, and that is in 2012.