Saturday, June 23, 2012

Marriage Equality Activists Going Above and Beyond



While efforts are underway by Marylanders for Marriage Equality (MfME) to fight the November referendum attempt by opponents of same-sex marriage, some LGBT folks and allies are anxious to get into the fray on their own.  Gerry Fisher, a Life Coach and columnist for Baltimore OUTloud (Getting Unstuck) and his husband David Kimble, have taken steps to help ensure marriage equality becomes law effective January 1.
Gerry Fisher and husband David Kimble
One of the early initiatives was the establishment of a Facebook page called “Marriage Equality Information Exchange-Maryland.” Currently there are over 600 members and is growing steadily.  Fisher and Mike Bernard are administrators of the page.
On this page like-minded individuals can discuss a variety of grass-roots techniques to gain support for the movement.  It is a “closed’ group, meaning that other Facebook users can see the existence of the group and members but not the contents.  The page is intended “to build community, share strategies for marriage-equality signature gathering and other events, post documents and pictures, and to inspire one another.”
Members post related articles and announce events including signature-gathering activities at farmers markets, rallies, festivals, such as Hon Fest, Orioles games and other venues around the state where crowds typically form.  The signatures are part of the strategy by MfME to obtain as many “pledges” as they can for compiling a database, which will be used as a means of communication with voters, fundraising, recruitment of volunteers and get-out-the-vote drives.
“It was our goal to set up an online presence similar to the ones we saw in the Governor Deval Patrick (D-MA) campaign and with MassEquality. Something that connected local activists so that they could organize locally more efficiently,” explains Fisher. “We also hoped that some areas of the state could share ideas and information with other areas of the state, so there'd be a cross-pollination of ideas, across geography and across subgroups.”
Shortly after the creation of the Facebook page, Fisher and Bernard were contacted by MfME. “We quickly agreed on a few concepts: the Facebook page does not speak for the campaign (it's individuals speaking on their own behalf), and that we'd emphasize positive messaging about love, commitment, and family. Based on that agreement, we began a partnership with the campaign.”
Fisher adds, “Mike and I are team leaders for MfME; we're in every-other-day contact with the MfME Director for Baltimore.  We collect signatures for the campaign, and we encourage our membership to participate in MfME volunteer efforts and events.”
However, Gerry Fisher and husband David Kimble are going beyond social media to attract activists.  They are working to hand out stickers, amass signatures and chat with supporters at the Waverly Farmers Market every Saturday from 8 a.m. until Noon.  They are seeking leaders to work the Downtown and Canton farmers markets as well.
In addition, until the election, the couple will be hosting an open house in their Charles Village residence at 2721 Guilford Avenue, Baltimore 21218 every Friday night.
 “The purpose of the ongoing open house is to provide a space for people to meet, get support, have a laugh and vent some steam, get information, talk informally, brainstorm ideas, strategize, announce events, pick up supplies (pledge sheets, stickers), connect across a diverse set of subgroups within the community, and begin the process of ‘having conversations’ that we’ll take with us back out into our daily lives,” explains Fisher.  “Hang out on the porch, hang out inside.  Come, connect, talk, and let’s figure out together how we’re going to reach the people we need to reach to win this referendum.” 
Those who cannot make it to Baltimore, the couple can be contacted through Skype.  Refreshments, such as soda, lemonade and light snacks will be available. BYOB. For more info, contact Gerry at gerryfisher61@comcast.net or 410-949-7888.
Working with MfME is imperative. “This effort is helping the grassroots to find its voice and use it, to get on its feet and move, that will provide the campaign with the foundation from which to organize,” says Fisher. “Without the glue of grassroots participation, it becomes ‘dueling campaign calls,’ and we're vulnerable to losing. If everyone is having the conversations with family, friends, and coworkers, we can't lose. But we've got to nurture, support, and encourage those conversations.”

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