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Rifts over campaign strategy and personality clashes have divided Cleveland Families Count, which seeks to preserve the registry. Part of that group has left and is forming a second campaign that is yet unnamed.
The registry, passed by city council on December 8 and signed two days later by Mayor Frank Jackson, was immediately attacked by anti-gay ministers and lay people. They began collecting petition signatures to force the measure onto the ballot, where they hope voters will repeal it.
Cleveland Families Count, formed in December, now is composed mainly of the people that lobbied city council last year to pass the registry.
The group forming the second campaign says that the lobby group did not anticipate the backlash and was unprepared for it.
Their second criticism is that Cleveland Families Count insisted on putting resources and energy into an attempt to negotiate the anti-registry effort away, halting the campaign and wasting time.
The negotiations, in a pair of January meetings
with the Call and Post editorial board
and the board of the NAACP, were not successful.
Rev. C. Jay Matthews of
The initiative to repeal the registry is likely to be on the ballot in September or November.
The measure, similar to ones in
The last time a city ballot initiative was
Other anti-gay groups are joining Matthews’ campaign, which is called the Cleveland Coalition of Churches.
The American Family Foundation was the latest
to weigh in with a January 30 rally at
Matthews’ church to train campaign volunteers.
Cleveland Families Count is now comprised of Equality Ohio director Lynne Bowman, Cleveland LGBT Center director Sue Doerfer, Cleveland Stonewall Democrats president Keli Zehnder, civil rights attorney Leslye Huff, TransFamily director Jacob Nash, activist and campaign strategist John Farina, African American LGBT journalist Sherry Bowman and People of All Colors Together co-chair Kevin Calhoun, with Mike Schuenemeyer of the United Church of Christ’s National LGBT Office and Brian Royer, Northeast Ohio Field Director for America Votes.
“The split is divisive and disruptive,” said Doerfer. “It’s bad for the LGBT community. It makes us look like we don’t know what we’re doing.”
“It’s a personality problem, mostly it is,” Doerfer said, stressing that the rift is over strategy, not goals.
The other group is comprised partly of people
who were involved in Heights Families for Equality,
the group that organized the 2003 initiative
to create the
David Caldwell, who led the
“We have a group of people with lobbying experience,
and a group of people with campaign experience,”
The campaign tactic in contention is canvassing neighborhoods to identify supportive voters and more campaign volunteers, and also to raise funds, and how much this should be done in relation to other campaign methods.
The only two successful pro-LGBT campaigns
“This community needs a better campaign than
they know how to run,” said
“It still needs done,”
As soon as Matthews announced his intent to repeal the registry, Caldwell and others started canvassing and organizing phone banks. Volunteer turnout was reportedly strong and growing.
The tension between the groups started heating
up when Bowman and Doerfer
moved the location of a December 21 canvass
after LGBT faith leaders in the meeting of Cleveland
Families Count expressed concerns that canvassing
the Sunday before Christmas was not a good idea.
“We compromised and ended up canvassing in Jay
Westbrook’s ward around the
A January 18 canvass was canceled with the hope that suspending the campaign would make it easier for NAACP chair George Forbes to convince Matthews to call off the petitioners.
Doerfer canceled a third canvass, which was to be in a predominately black neighborhood on February 8, due to lack of volunteers.
Doerfer said her
group agrees with the need to canvass, but said
Doerfer said Cleveland Families Count is planning a rally May 7 to celebrate the registry’s opening.
Caldwell and Doerfer describe a February 4 meeting to reconcile the factions differently. What’s clear is that there are differences over how much time should be spent on each campaign activity and who should decide how resources are allocated.
So far, according to Doerfer, the group has between $2,000 and $2,500.
Doerfer acknowledged that the Cleveland Families Count campaign could be the smaller of the two efforts.
“The goal is to protect the registry,” Doerfer said. “If they can do it without assistance, that’s awesome.”
“No Cleveland LGBT group has voters as its
Cleveland Families Count can be contacted through www.clevelandfamiliescount.org.
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