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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Banking on the 'Big Mo'

Courtesy of Jay W Photos
There’s no question that the rainbow gods are smiling on our LGBT community.  They ordered up absolutely glorious weather for the annual Baltimore Pride celebration right before an oppressive heat wave gripped the area.  This may be a sign that things MUST be going well to experience such good fortune.
That’s been the talk—how we have momentum or the “big mo” on our side as we enter the critical months leading up to Election Day when the law to legalize marriages between same-sex couples will be put to the voters by a referendum.  This momentum will hopefully propel us to reach that coveted goal.

There is ample reason for the optimism. 
The president’s complete support for marriage equality could turn out to be a game changer.  In a state where he enjoys widespread popularity, Obama’s revelation could tip the balance our way by convincing those who may not have been saddled by conservative religious dogma to lean towards fairness. The NAACP’s unequivocal endorsement framing marriage equality as a civil rights issue was also huge.  

Moreover, with the Dream Act referendum scheduled to share the ballot in Maryland with same-sex marriage, the National Council of La Raza, the largest Latino civil rights organization in the U.S., announced its support for marriage equality.

Country superstar Carrie Underwood’s backing of same-sex marriage to the chagrin of some of her conservative fans may have appealed to a different demographic altogether.  To that point, don’t dismiss the power of celebrities who, through their visibility and popularity, command a higher level of influence than ordinary folks.  America’s infatuation with celebrities and entertainment in general is embedded in our culture to such an extent that the TV sitcom Will & Grace has rightfully been credited, in part, for the improved attitudes towards gay and lesbians in our society. 
Then there is Mary Cheney, the daughter of the former conservative Republican vice president, who recently married her longtime partner Heather Poe.   This added a sense of “ho-hum” to the hot-button issue of same-sex marriage.

We’re confident of victory,” Josh Levin, campaign director for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, wrote in the June 15 issue of Baltimore OUTloud.  “Any campaign would be thrilled to have the momentum we’ve seen recently.”
Levin has also cited favorable poll results to augment the momentum perception but he quickly pointed out to me that he will not rely on them.  He knows better than to fall into that trap. “They offer a snapshot,” he said.  That recognition of reality presents me with further cause to be optimistic.

Indeed, when marriage equality went before the voters through ballot measures in the past, we have a 0-32 record.  Even in blue-state California and purplish Maine the polls indicated a similar degree of favorability this far out from the election.  Then the garbage came from the opposition with their well-funded air attacks that helped to reverse the outcome. 
A clear difference is that none of those battles had the President of the U.S. publicly on the side of equality.  Therefore, marriage equality advocates in Maryland, Maine (again), Minnesota and Washington State experiencing ballot referenda this November may benefit from that recent level of support.

Another reason for optimism that is fueling momentum is the increased engagement on the part of the LGBT community.  Sure, way too many see politics as a toxin to be avoided at all costs.  That’s a reality in all segments of the population.  But now we’re starting to see more rainbow folks engaged on this issue.  As an example, my colleague at OUTloud, Gerry Fisher, has been on a mission to bring marriage equality to fruition by jump-starting a grass-roots movement through face-to-face contacts with voters and using social media. (See related article in this issue.)
This is crucial for votes, of course.  As important as turnout is to success, the need to recruit volunteers and raise money to counter the lies and scare tactics from the opposition is also critical.  Josh Levin feels that Marylanders for MarriageEquality can get by on $5-7 million.  Others disagree.  Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry, estimates over $10 million would be needed in Maryland to defend the law in a referendum.

Regardless, a heap of cash needs to be raised, and fundraisers have been taking place throughout the state and will continue until November.  How do you get people to reach deep into their pockets?  They need to think they have a good chance of winning; no one wants to contribute to a losing cause.  
Yet, there is a thin line between exuding confidence of a victory and acting like it’s in the bag.  While no one wants to contribute if defeat is likely, the same thinking would apply if it appears a win is a slam-dunk,   That money could be spent on other matters.

Therefore, it behooves the Marylanders for Marriage campaign to maintain an upbeat but cautious posture, leave nothing to chance, and capitalize on the “big mo” that is ostensibly taking place now.

1 comment:

Gerry Fisher said...

Yes. And no. We need a boost in this kind of momentum: getting our supporters to become active volunteers, everyone having two or three personal conversations a week (share a personal story as to why marriage-equality means a lot to you), and doing what you can to register young people, get them excited, and get them to the polls. Let's aim for a lot more "on the ground volunteers" momentum by late August and Labor Day.