Chapter 8: You’d Think They Had Won

March 7, 2000: Election night. Proposition 22 had just passed by a landslide, banning marriage equality for same-sex couples across California. So why were the gay and lesbian couples at the No on 22 headquarters celebrating?

Campaign Manager Mike Marshall knew from the start that the odds were stacked overwhelmingly against him, but he hadn’t realized just how badly until he was deep in the campaign. (It probably should have been a warning sign that he was the only one who applied for the job to run it.)

In 2000, marriage equality advocates weren’t just out-gunned and out-financed — they barely even existed. Disorganized and exhausted by the AIDS crisis, the LGBT community had zero infrastructure in place to fight for marriage.

But if anyone could change that, it was Mike. He’d come out as gay while working in Eastern Europe for an organization that builds political infrastructure in countries decimated by the collapse of the Soviet Union. If he could help rebuild Romania, how much harder could it be to organize a bunch of California queers?

Mike adopted a strategy that, at the time, sounded nuts: winning the election wasn’t his top priority. Instead, the campaign would provide cover to build statewide infrastructure so that they could run again, and hopefully win, a decade later. 

But explaining the secret plan to an incredulous community wasn’t going to be easy.

Parisian Kevin MacLeod ( 
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