The fight to pass Act 1 | Arkansas Blog

The fight to pass Act 1

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The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, has issued a detailed report on Act 1, the successful 2008 intiative aimed at keeping gay people from being foster and adoptive parents. It was recently struck down in court and the decision will be appealed.

One conclusion: Religion was at the heart of the battle and the failure of progressive faith groups to counter the grassroots efforts of conservative churches was a key to passage.

To see this elemental aspect of human rights and equality as separate from essential religious truths is to distort the essence of the issue, especially for people of faith. Religion and faith are embedded in the struggles of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people for equality and justice. They are inherent in the battle to form families and to parent with dignity.

Not to claim religion as intrinsic to this struggle is to miss the mark and allow opponents to monopolize the moral high ground. A progressive minister who worked against the ballot initiative banning same-sex adoption in Arkansas said, “Religion is hijacked bywhomever you allow to hijack it. Without a counter-argument, they win.”


This report offers a cautionary tale for faith communities and advocates, along with lessons that are relevant to states considering similar measures. The report is a reminder that grassroots mobilization of faith communities is crucial in these struggles, that messages must be targeted to key communities with messengers from within those communities—and that in battles so steeped in issues of morality, the cost of minimizing moral parameters is high.

There's much more: a detailed history, a look at the fracture on strategy among opponents and details on post-election polling that tended to support the theory that voters were confused about the question (lending further credence to the pre-election UA poll that showed a majority opposed restrictions on adoption).

In short, Act 1 was beatable, but it won. Lessons to take away, according to the Center, for similar fights:

• Mobilize early
• Resolve tensions between campaign pragmatists and movement idealists
• Build a strong infrastructure with extensive grassroots outreach
• Develop specific faith messages and messengers for different faith traditions
• Challenge antigay rhetoric
• Don’t write off certain geographic areas or faith communities as unwinnable
• Tackle religious issues head-on
• Frame the narrative and keep your opponent on the defensive
• Humanize the issue

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