Bob Ralphs, No On Hate PAC
Before 1992's widely-publicized Measure 9 in Oregon, right wing Christians
attempted to place similar initiatives on municipal ballots in Portland,
Corvallis, and Springfield, Or.. Corvallis defeated the measure by a 30%
margin, and we lost in Springfield, 55%-45%. In Portland, however, the
backers didn't manage to gather enough signatures to put their
discriminatory proposal up for a vote. Why did Portland pose such a problem
for the Oregon Citizens' Alliance petitioners? Because, in part, wherever
they went, the Bigot Busters would follow.
Bigot busting has two primary objectives: preventing petition signatures,
and providing a gay-positive experience to as many people as possible. An
individual who might have signed a petition earlier can become an ally when
confronted with the truth.
Our presence and effective presentation of the reality behind the rhetoric
of the Christian right can result in the inability of our opponents to
gather enough signatures to put their measures to a vote. Especially in
urban communities where extreme homophobia is unpopular, potential signers
are often too embarrassed to add their names to petitions.
Very often, the rhetoric used by the religious right to encourage people to
sign their petitions succeeds by presenting us as a menace, as evil,
unlawful, distasteful people whose special rights agenda must be stopped.
By participating in bigot busting, our mere presence deflates many of those
arguments. People approaching the petitioners can see some real living,
breathing, walking and talking homosexuals calmly explaining the impact of
right wing initiatives.
What follows is a brief outline of a structure for bigot busting, and some
do's and don'ts. Soundbite answers to common questions and popular
deceptions used by anti-gay campaigns can be found in this Action Kit. We
encourage their use and reproduction.
How to Start
Ideally, one person or organization can devote a phone line and answering
machine to the task of mobilization. This will be the Bigot Busters
Dispatch Line. Messages must be checked frequently (several times a day AT
MIMIMUM). Spread the word that bigotry busting will take place, and solicit
volunteers. Run ads in friendly media with the Bigot Busters Hotline number
featured, and ask individuals to call immediately to report any sightings
of anti-gay petitioners.
As volunteers accumulate, develop bigot buster training. It is critical
that everyone participating understand the importance of following the Do's
and Don'ts, and feels comfortable working within those guidelines.
Become familiar with the areas where petitioners frequently gather.
Churches, being tax-exempt, are almost always off-limits for signature
gathering, so investigate other likely places. Calling the opponents'
campaign and asking where you might find a petition to sign is a quick and
efficient way to track them down. Large grocery stores, malls, professional
sports events, and large outdoor gatherings are likely petition hot spots.
At each site, have one trained, cool-headed Bigot Buster serve as the site
coordinator. Key points are:
It is CRITICAL that everyone be prepared to deal with right wing rhetoric
and be able to discuss our viewpoint calmly. Don't engage in lengthy
discussions about the issues, and don't argue with belligerent petitioners
or signers. All Busters should be trained to give short, effective answers
to the questions that are likely to be asked (see soundbite list). All
bigot busters should be trained in non-violent de-escalation tactics or
other methods of avoiding unnecessary violence and messy confrontations.
- Rapid response: able to gather supplies and people and transport
spontaneously to a petitioning site. (Someone attending a Portland
Trailblazers game saw two OCA petitioners, called the hotline, and three
Busters arrived within minutes to counteract the signature gatherers.)
- Identify several teams of volunteers who will go to preplanned sites
(malls, grocery stores) on evenings or weekends when it is known that
petitioners are out. No one should go alone.
A list of materials you may need are listed below:
The site coordinator has additional responsibilities:
- informational flyers, impact statements, favorable editorials,etc.
- banners or placards work better than picket signs
- first aid kit(someone may stub a toe)
- volunteer sign-up sheets/signature waiver forms for advertisements
- copies of the text of the initiative you are fighting
After a day of bigot busting, it is important to debrief. Bigot busters
should come back together at a designated time and place to return leftover
materials and to debrief. At this point, the coordinator should count
heads; those who chose not to attend debriefing sessions should be
- pick up literature and signs from the bigot busters headquarters,
transport to site
- as team members arrive at site, sign them in and go over bigot busting
guidelines with each
- monitor the action; be prepared to intervene, if necessary, to avoid
- observe the progress the petitioers seem to be making; checking
approximate numbers of signatures at the beginning and end of a
session helps assess the effectiveness of the action
- get names and phone numbers of people who express interest in helping
out with our campaign
- in the event no petitioners are at the site, contact dispatch for
another site or suggestions
- return leftover literature and signs to bigot busters headquarters for
future use, notifying the coordinator if more supplies are needed
- make sure everyone has returned safely from their missions
- be available by phone in case of emergencies
- have more than one legal consultant to contact
- lead debriefing sessions
Allow people to talk about good and bad experiences they had during the
day. Take suggestions for how things could be done better, and take the
time to answer questions that came up during the day. It is important to
maintaining unity and enthusiasm that people be given the chance to give
For more information or to request a complete Fight the Right Action Kit,
call NGLTF at 202-332-6483, TTY 202-332-6219.