Just about everyone agrees: gays can win more support for civil equality by partering with ally-communities. This is a nice-sounding idea, particularly in the San Francisco bubble. But what does it mean -- and is there a point at which collaborating stops being beneficial?

The reason we bring this up is because there was a CHARMING little skirmish on the local Protest8sf Google Group this week. The group was doing some coordination for last weekend's pro-life protests when one member expressed some skepticism: the connection between gays and abortion is a little murky, rhetorically speaking, he argued. (We're paraphrasing.) Isn't this just confusing our message? Doesn't it look totally baffling to have a protest sign that veers fro abortions to gay marriage to immigrant rights?

Lively admonishments ensued. The people behind the pro-life protests are the same people behind prop 8 (we're paraphrasing again); so it doesn't matter if we're talking about abortion or gay marriage, we just have to demonstrate against them, no matter what they're doing.

The problem here is that everyone's arguing over two different points. Point one is, "should the cause of gay equality take advantage of its inherent overlap with many other causes and communities, and if so, which ones?" And point two is, "when communicating with the public, should we limit ourselves to one message at a time?" (There's a third point raised here that's too fraught for us even to address right now, despite our strong feelings on the subject: "can protesting be counterproductive?")

The answer to point two is easy: yes. Don't hurt the public's brains with a hodgepodge of conditions and connections. By all means, try different tactics; but don't try them all at once or you'll never be able to figure out which one is successful.

But point one is more elusive. Yes, obviously activists should share resources. But with whom, and how? Obviously gays need to work on cooperating with religious folks, old folks, Republicans, and minorities. Those are the people who were misinformed, whose partnership must be won. But what about causes like abortion, or labor, or affirmative action, or gun control, or the Campus Socialists -- is there a real benefit to joining those similarly liberal causes? Do these causes have anything to contribute to each other, aside from sharing mailing lists? Do they even mailing lists?

By defending Planned Parenthood, are we getting closer to gay marriage? If we donate to Greenpeace, will they help us fight discrimination? By protesting on behalf of Palestinians, are we working to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell? Or should we be protesting on behalf of Israel? Uh oh, murky murky murky.

What do you think?