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The Los Angeles Times has become an important conduit for informing the public about LGBT activity. While information from its own LGBT advocates and sources is disseminated widely among LGBT folk, the Times isn’t just “preaching to the choir.”

Flawed Same Sex Marriage Poll

Two cases in point were featured on May 29, 2015. The first was a front page, column one article titled “LGBT lobbying success detailed, dashed.” While the title doesn’t tell all, the article covered the story of a 1,000 strong volunteer campaign aiming to “...push back against prejudice (against marriage equality), house by house.”

Unfortunately, the campaign was not even remotely as successful as its leaders announced. In fact, it was discovered that those running the program—the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Leadership Lab under the direction of Michael LaCour—had out-and-out lied about important basic facts gleaned from the study as well as the operation of the poll, its structure and its conclusions.

The second article was a page A6 placement of a human interest story by David Zucchino titled, “Love makes its way to first openly gay Navy Seal.” This catchy-titled article chronicled the real-life drama of Brett Jones, a member of one of America’s most elite fighting units—Navy Seals—while hiding the fact that he was gay.

Brett inadvertently outed himself by leaving a “I love you” phone message for his lover, Jason White, which, as he was saying it, was overheard by a fellow sailor. The sailor “turned him in,” which, in 2002, a time before the discriminatory policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was lifted, resulted in him being the target of “an investigation designed to dishonorably discharge him.”

The article then went on to tell of Brett and Jason being ostracized by the small Alabama town of Toney (pop. 13,000). They had moved there to be together and raise their 13-year old son, Ethan, a child from Jason’s marriage. Though forming a family unit and indulging in community life, when Brett and Jason attend Ethan’s school baseball games, Zucchino writes that, “...coaches and other parents (would) barely speak to them. There are loud whispers and hard stares. No one will sit with them.” Further, according to Zucchino, “parents of Ethan's friends refuse to allow them to spend the night in the house Brett and Jason built...”

And, for me, this is where the two articles converge.

The Center’s Leadership Lab poll protocol was to train volunteers to cold-knock on doors in precincts which had voted for Prop 8, the California ballot proposition and state constitutional amendment which passed in 2008 banning same-sex marriage. They were to engage the occupants on their attitudes about gay people and gay marriage. Pollster LaCour skewered the data which emerged from these encounters and went on to publish a false report that claimed “...honest conversation and open minds could bring people together,” i.e., people who voted to ban same-sex marriage were converted by meeting with “open and honest” nice gay men and lesbians and became gay marriage supporters! Flawed pollster, flawed poll, flawed idea.

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Many of us have experienced Jehovah Witnesses or Mormon Missionaries ringing our door bell and beginning their spiel on the superiority of their religious beliefs, with bibles and religious tracts in hand. Religion is a personally held belief. A short at-the-door conversation with strangers won’t change beliefs. However, these two religious groups continue to go door-to-door to further their own personal salvation. They are practicing their earthly mission to carry the message. For them, if someone sees the light and begins following in their footsteps that would be icing on the cake!

What would happen if undocumented workers began going door-to-door in California precincts where a majority voted for Prop 187, the 1994 ballot initiative to establish a state-run citizenship screening system to prohibit illegal aliens from using health care, public education, and other services in the State of California? Would the unsuspecting occupant relish the chance to have an “honest conversation” about amnesty? Is the outcome a foregone conclusion? Does it have to be studied? Do funds have to be spent to train a 1,000 volunteers to “...push back against prejudice, house by house?”

When we talk about beliefs—some of which are formed by the Bible where it says in a couple of places, seized upon by conservatives that homosexuality is wrong—can that belief system be changed by strangers at my door?

Further, how about sending young black couples to Toney, Alabama, where Brett and Jason live, to go door-to-door and engage the occupants in an honest conversation on the need for unfettered access to the voting booth?

When we talk about beliefs—some of which are formed by the Bible where it says in a couple of places, seized upon by conservatives that homosexuality is wrong—can that belief system be changed by strangers at my door? I think Mr. LaCour had to ‘tweak” a lot of data to prove his point!

Here we have evidence of a Navy SEAL, who has served his country with honor, trying to live the American Dream, having to move from the home that be built for his family to a nearby larger city (Huntsville) in order to live in peace and safety. Obviously, none of his example of honesty or background changed attitudes, let alone beliefs, in Toney, Alabama.

In Los Angeles the LGBT Center’s Leadership Lab, LaCour’s co-author, Columbia University political scientist Donald Green, wrote, “I am deeply embarrassed by this turn of events and apologize...” And, despite all of this, a sister project by the LA Leadership Lab, to take place in Miami is still in the works and workers are “eager to embrace the opportunity to have our work measured...”

It’s a shame that the integrity of this project has been shattered. However, that doesn’t change what I perceive to be the wrong-headedness of the concept.

I’m not sure if this equates, but looking at this from a married couple’s viewpoint, how would couples react if they were interviewed at their front door about making divorce illegal? Divorce is very personal, it has morality and religion at its base and is practiced by about 50% of married couples. Would minds be changed to make it illegal to divorce?

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Anybody want to start a referendum?

Carl Matthes