EQCA Mum on Melanie Shelby
Posted by Roobs on September 8, 2010
Equality California offers no comment on alleged relationship with former Prop 8 supporter and current Oakland City Council candidate, Melanie Shelby.
For some time I have been trying to research Melanie Shelby, candidate for Oakland City Council. Since moving to Los Angeles to puruse my graduate education, I admit I have fallen behind. But I haven’t forgotten.
Before I moved out of the Bay Area, I sent a request for clarification to the Melanie Shelby campaign regarding her August 4th press release following the initial verdict in the Proposition 8 trial. I also sent a request to Equality California asking them to comment on the relationship Melanie Shelby continually says she has with them.
I first received a response from the Shelby Campaign in what one other Oakland blogger described as “psychotic”. You can read the Shelby Campaign’s really bad, though entertaining, response as well as my rebuttal by clicking here. It really is a great example of what a bad communications team can do for a candidate. But that was just one side.
For the past few weeks, I have been trying different avenues to get a response from someone inside Equality California – California’s primary same-sex marriage advocacy group. For a few weeks I have talked to individuals (off the record) and sent emails. Unfortunately, all my requests have been unfulfilled and, as I said, my conversations with the few I have reached have been off the record.
I say unfulfilled because they did not go unanswered. I first recieved a response from Raja Vaishalee stating she would be out of the office but would pass along my request to a colleague for follow up. I never received a response. Through a different channel, I sent another email to Andrea Shorter at EQCA. She too was away from the office but sent a reply saying she would “respond/explain” later. Explain?
Nevertheless, the last response of any kind I received from EQCA was about three weeks ago. Therefore, I believe it is safe to say that Equality California offers no comment on an alleged relationship with former Prop 8 supporter and current Oakland CIty Council candidate, Melanie Shelby.
I find EQCA’s lack of response both disappointing and curious. It’s disappointing because, well, I would have really appreciated a response to a question I feel is entirely legitimate, despite the inappropriate objections of the Shelby Campaign. But it is curious is to why someone in the EQCA office, specifically Andrea Shorter, to say that this was something that she would “explain” later. What needs to be explained?
First off, I like EQCA. I think they do good work for the LGBT community and I will say people should stop and take time to visit their website and support them. Having said that, what are you guys doing over there?
Melanie Shelby voted for Prop 8. This is fact whether the Shelby campaign wants to talk about it anymore or not. If she didn’t want to talk about it she, frankly, shouldn’t have told everyone. But she did. Now she cannot expect that her vote on one of the state’s most controversial and high profile social referendums would not be scrutinized. Further, Equality California should be aware of the interest that would have come along with such candidate baggage.
As for my “off the record” conversations, I can say that basic staff members of EQCA don’t really know who Melanie Shelby is. They’ve never heard of her and have done know staff-level work on anything that bares her name. So what does this mean? Does this prove that EQCA and Melanie Shelby have no relationship with one another? Is Shelby just throwing out a name of a well-known LGBT advocacy group for “Castro Street Cred”? Because I haven’t heard from anyone in a higher position, I can’t really say. But the outlook isn’t great for the Shelby campaign.
Now, Equality California has done nothing wrong, let’s just get that out there. Whether you like, love or hate Melanie Shelby for her past position on same-sex marriage, Equality California is in the businesses of working with all kinds of groups to advance it’s own cause. It is not necessarily good nor is it necessarily bad. It simply is. But what harm could come from them telling me, “Yes, we are working with Melanie Shelby” or “No, we don’t know who this person is.”? None of these statements really come back to hurt EQCA and the few ways I can see it hurting them, in my personal opinion, is rather mild.
African Americans and the LGBT Community
I’ve talked to more than one person about my research into Shelby’s campaign. Some are very supportive of my critical look at her past positions and unwillingness to candidly debate them. And outside of Sean Dugar who wrote the response on behalf of the Shelby Campaign, I have not met anyone who outright thinks I am doing anything wrong. But that does not mean that some haven’t urged caution.
About two or three individuals I have spoken to have cautioned me regarding this specific issue of Shelby and same-sex marriage. They believe that it may have a negative affect on the relationship between the African American community, specifically in Oakland, and the LGBT community. This is because LGBT advocacy groups, like EQCA, have been targeting African American communities in the hopes of gaining support for same-sex marriage where there previously was very little in the 2008 No on 8 campaign. They also say that Melanie Shelby represents part of that. While they too cannot confirm any relationship Shelby has with EQCA or name any LGBT advocates she has worked with to advance LGBT causes, they think a African American woman who once voted for Prop 8 but now is willing to help advance same-sex marriage would benefit the LGBT movement. And by me going after her as I have done thus far (which in my opinion has been rather light compared to other bloggers I know given the same opportunity), it may hurt that ability of groups like EQCA to go into conservative African American communities to ask for support.
I completely understand these people’s concerns and sympathize greatly. It is not something that is lost on me as I continue to research. However, I dispute it’s affects because if it was true, both the Shelby Campaign and Equality California would simply have responded to my requests.
If Melanie Shelby has been working with LGBT activists and Equality California, why not just come out and say it? Why not announce to the whole community “I am working with this person, this person, this person to advance same-sex marriage and all LGBT issues!” That would be great and, frankly, would kind of put a stop to all my questions. Same goes for EQCA. Just say “Yes we know her.” or “No, we don’t know her” and that’s that. But the fact of the matter is they haven’t which leads me and many others in the LGBT community to question the validity of Shelby’s statements and claims. She’s either claiming a relationship where there is none or is purposely hiding her support, which begs new questions entirely. It is ridiculous how simple my questions are for the amount of stonewalling is going on.
The Audacity to Ask
As I continue to say, these are legitimate questions for anyone running for office in Oakland. Your stance on LGBT issues is not some small issue but a large one. Oakland with the third largest LGBT population the country. Not state. Not region. Country. If Melanie Shelby thought she could tell everyone that she voted for Prop 8 and then expect to run for Oakland City Council without answering for and explaining that vote, then frankly, that’s her fault, not mine or anyone else who has the audacity to ask. It is frankly, a communications team failure. If Melanie Shelby was lying about her relationship with EQCA or LGBT advocacy, than any communications team worth their salt would have told her to never advertise it. If it was true, then the same team would have told her to just respond with a positive and upbeat message. Only a bad communications team would direct the campaign to behave as it has done thus far.
As for EQCA, I still find myself curious. The reasons why they wouldn’t respond are more odd than they are complicated. It is my hope that someone in the EQCA office will help to settle this ongoing issue and help Oakland chose a candidate that best represents their interests and their values.
Roobs is a former resident of Berkeley, CA and now lives in Los Angeles, CA pursuing graduate study. The views expressed in this blog are solely that of the author and is not the official response or position of any candidate or candidate’s committee.