Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Oh, What a Night!


I must confess I didn’t believe what occurred on the night of November 6, 2012 would ever happen.  Marriage equality failed all 32 times it had been decided through state ballots, and I didn’t get that warm and fuzzy feeling that this time it would break that skein. 
I did not have confidence early on in Marylanders for Marriage Equality—the organization with a diverse array of coalition partners who assumed the lead to defend the Civil Marriage Protection Act against a referendum by opponents who amassed three times the number of signatures needed to place a minority’s rights up for a popular vote.  This organization appeared too guarded, too evasive and too elusive for my taste as I am a “severe” proponent of transparency.  More on them later.
With this effort affording gays and lesbians perhaps the one last shot at marriage equality in Maryland in a generation, I believed that nothing should be left on the field.  I was particularly disappointed by the squeamishness of some elected officials who had built-in persuadable constituencies and multiple platforms and tools available to vociferously laud the virtues of equality and fairness.

These politicians—especially Democrats—had all the cover they needed.  President Obama went public with his support following Vice President Biden.  Former President Bill Clinton did likewise.  The Democratic Party installed marriage equality as part of the Party’s platform.

The President, in particular, had much more to lose as he took on this political risk.  A pronouncement in support of same-sex marriage could have hurt him with conservative Democrats in swing states.  But he had the guts to do it, proving once again what a true leader he is and offered a blueprint as to how to become one.  He was astutely aware that  this issue was trending positively across the nation.
Governor O’Malley championed the cause following years of uncertainty as to how equality should be achieved.  He, too, was a true leader during this fight, persuading wavering legislators to help pass the bill and then traveling around the country to raise needed funds for the battle ahead.

Instead, these other elected officials were quiet supporters but supporters nonetheless.  To use a baseball analogy, it’s akin to a batter needing to hit a two-run homer to win the game but wound up with a double, putting runners on second and third, and leaving the potential heroics to the next guy.
Well, that “next guy” came through.

First, Marylanders for Marriage Equality raised nearly three times the amount of money than the opponents.  They developed a sophisticated strategy for executing a potent ground game using nuts and bolts grass roots efforts as well as solid use of social media.  They oversaw a superb ad campaign that mostly featured religious leaders and straight individuals to validate the cause.  They enlisted the public support from celebrities as well to win the hearts and minds of voters regardless of sexual orientation, political party, race, age, gender, religion or ethnic background.    
Their efforts were bolstered by all the volunteers in and out of the campaign’s organization who knocked on doors, engaged strangers, family members, neighbors and co-workers, participated in phone banks, contributed funds and developed innovative methods for getting the message out.

I began to feel more confident on Election Day as I worked the polls at Clarksville Middle School.  Not only were voters pronouncing their support for Question 6 but did so with intensity and enthusiasm.  Sure, there were opponents—some of them even rude.  But the overwhelming majority appeared to be on our side, and it gave me hope that perhaps later that night there would be cause for celebration.

That momentous night, when the voters re-elected President Barack Obama, the most pro-LGBT president ever, we were creating another headline.  For the first time in U.S, history, Maryland, Maine and Washington succeeded via the ballot to legalize same-sex marriage.  Minnesota beat back an anti-gay constitutional amendment.  Moreover, seven LGBT candidates were elected to Congress, including for the first time, an openly lesbian person, Tammy Baldwin, who was elected to the U.S. Senate.
In Maryland proponents of marriage equality defeated the forces who would deny the legal, economic and social benefits that marriage equality would confer by a 52-48 margin. 

I thank everybody who helped make this historic struggle in Maryland a reality.  I especially thank Governor Martin O’Malley for his leadership in the battle along with all the legislators who supported and voted for the Civil Marriage Protection Act.  The gay and lesbian members of the legislature were particularly effective in their efforts.  And a special thank-you goes to Sen. Allan Kittleman, a Republican, for his vociferous and unyielding support for marriage equality.
I thank Josh Levin, campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality and his team, for ultimately getting the job done. I thank the coalition partners, such as, HRC, NAACP, SEIU, ACLU, Equality Maryland and PFLAG as well as leading clergy for their superb work and commitment. 

I thank all the volunteers and contributors who walked that extra mile.

I thank all those who began this fight and laid the groundwork for success.
And most of all, I thank you, the voters, for coming out to vote and making November 6, 2012 a historic milestone in the history of LGBT rights.

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