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National Groups Join Fight to Secure Marriage Equality in Washington State

by Shaun Knittel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Sep 21, 2012

The pro marriage equality campaign to Approve Referendum 74 in Washington State is picking up speed with help pouring in from out of state, corporate endorsements and donations being made at record levels, and marriage equality TV ads airing on broadcast and cable networks statewide.

Governor Christine Gregoire, (D-WA) signed marriage equality into law in February, but opponents of the law gathered enough signatures to refer the issue to voters. On November 6, Washingtonians will be asked to vote for or against Referendum 74. A yes vote is in favor of maintaining marriage equality in the northwestern state, whereas a no vote signifies opposition to same-sex marriage.

On September 12, Washington United for Marriage (WUM), the coalition fighting to maintain marriage equality in Washington State, released its first TV 30-second spot in support of Referendum 74 and features two parents with three daughters (one of who is a lesbian).

"We're very humbled and proud to be part of the campaign to make sure marriage can be legal for all three of our daughters in the state of Washington," said Robin Boehler, who appears in the video with her husband Stephen.

The television spot is the first to appear on TV screens in Washington following WUM's $5 million advertising buy, which the organization announced in August.

Protect Marriage Washington, the opposition to marriage equality in WA State, has set aside 1.5 million in television time for the fall campaign to mount a much anticipated media blitz.

Proposition 8, the controversial California ballot initiative that rolled back same-sex marriage, passed by a 52-48 percent margin in 2008, came from a late unanticipated media blitz with roots in the Mormon and Catholic churches, and featured a TV spot in which a little girl is taught about gay marriage in her school.

The Preserve Marriage Washington TV time has been reserved by Mission Public Affairs, a Sacramento-based firm headed by Frank Schubert. Schubert masterminded the anti-Prop 8 campaign as well as the 2009 campaign that defeated marriage equality in Maine.

But this is 2012, and Washington is not California or Maine. Anti-gay marriage forces have a difficult task ahead of them if they are going to convince the more than 50 percent of the Washington populace who support the freedom to marry, to reject R-74.

Last-Minute Support Pours in From Progressive Organizations

With less than 50 days to go in the campaign, help has been pouring in from out of state. Courage Campaign, a leading national progressive organization with more than 750,000 members nationwide, have invested money, staff and volunteers to help Washington United for Marriage ensure marriage equality wins in Washington this November.

"Our mission is simple: we will not rest until equality is the law of the land," said Courage Campaign Founder and Chair Rick Jacobs. "This is the civil rights issue of our time and we will be investing major resources in Washington to ensure the historic act of the governor is not overturned. We could not be more thrilled to join with Washington United for Marriage to ensure equality is protected in Washington State."

Washington took the top spot over Maine, Maryland and Minnesota in a nationwide survey in which Courage Campaign members decided where to invest in marriage equality. Courage Campaign is a member-driven organization, according to officials, "members are regularly consulted concerning resources and direction."

Washington United for Marriage will receive a $5,000 direct PAC contribution plus a commitment to raise a minimum of $20,000 in small donations online from Courage Campaign’s national membership, for a total of at least $25,000 in direct contributions.

In addition, Washington United for Marriage received a total of 50,000 member-to-voter contacts before the election and a commitment to mobilize nationwide volunteers to take action, including travel to get out the vote, as the campaign proceeds.

Courage Campaign Director of Online Programs Adam Bink said that his online staff will also be "loaned" on a part-time basis to assist the campaign with online mobilization through Election Day. Lastly, the campaign will be invited to a fall benefit fundraiser hosted by Courage Campaign’s Founder and Chair, Rick Jacobs, at his Los Angeles home.

"We’re grateful to the Courage Campaign and its members for deciding to invest big in Washington state and our battle to defend our marriage equality law," said Washington United for Marriage Campaign Manager Zach Silk. "Between their robust membership and their campaign staff support, we’re delighted to get a fresh infusion of talent and those all-important campaign dollars as we head into the thick of this election season."

In addition to leading the fight to repeal California’s Prop 8, Courage Campaign has been an active advocate for equality nationwide for years, mobilizing members to call for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. Courage Campaign also hosts Prop 8 Trial Tracker, a popular blog that tracks court cases around equality nationwide.

Freedom to Marry, the campaign to win marriage equality nationwide, has invested more than $3 million in this year’s marriage battles, including more than $700,000 in Washington.

United for Marriage Moves Washington to Victory

Freedom to Marry has teamed up with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund to form United for Marriage, a national effort to recruit volunteers for the state campaigns.

According to an official statement from United for Marriage, the campaign will use two programs to harness the growing support for marriage for same-sex couples nationwide into concrete, on-the-ground action.

Volunteer Vacation has volunteers committing a week to one of the state campaigns, and is recruiting now. Drive for Marriage, to be unveiled later, will place volunteers in states near them for a weekend.

"There’s no doubt in our minds that this year is a turning point," said United for Marriage National Campaign Director Jay Cash. "Americans overwhelmingly want to stop shutting same-sex couples out of marriage. We know that the best antidotes to the inevitable anti-gay attacks are real stories about why marriage matters to same-sex couples and their families. Through this effort, we’ll significantly grow the numbers of people who can tell their stories in these four states."

With support from Travel for Change, the campaign will recruit and screen volunteers, organize housing and travel and provide online training run by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund. State campaigns will train volunteers for specific tasks on their arrival.

"Winning at the ballot will take away our opponents’ last talking point, and with sufficient numbers of volunteers we can make it happen," Cash said. "We are putting out the call to supporters, both gay and non-gay, who stand for freedom and equality for all to join us in making the case."

United for Marriage officials say they believe 2012 is a crucial chapter in securing marriage for all loving couples, citing numerous court and legislative victories in recent years and recent polls showing that a majority of Americans now support the freedom to marry.

In addition, a new social media campaign, The Four, is working for equality in four states where voters face marriage-related questions on November 6. The campaign is active on the Web, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, Google Plus and more.

Brian Ellner, one of the initiative’s founders and long-time gay rights advocate who helped spearhead the successful New York effort for marriage last year says The Four is, "Facebook and Twitter meets Rock the Vote for marriage equality." He said The Four is working to "energize young pro-equality voters in the Google age."

The effort is collaboration between leaders in social media and LGBT rights. With supporters contributing photos, videos and graphics for The Four to create and distribute sharable social media content to motivate voters, especially in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington State.

"The idea behind The Four is to promote marriage equality in the most creative and exciting ways and to remind supporters through social media sharing, especially young people, to get out and vote," said Jeremy Heimans, a co-founder of the campaign and a CEO of Purpose.

If Washingtonians approve Referendum 74, the state would be the first in the country to affirm gay and lesbian rights at the ballot box.

Shaun Knittel is an openly gay journalist and public affairs specialist living in Seattle. His work as a photographer, columnist, and reporter has appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the Pacific Northwest. In addition to writing for EDGE, Knittel is the current Associate Editor for Seattle Gay News.


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