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Running the perfect play to win equality

By Sarah E. Reece, Organizing & Training Project Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund

Never in a million years did I think that my elementary, middle and high school basketball “career” would prepare me in so many ways for my life as an organizer. My nickname back then was “Lil’ Bit.” Today, I prefer “Mr. Campaign Manager, Sir.”

For the last 35 days I’ve had the great pleasure of serving — in my capacity as project director at the Task Force — as the regional organizing coordinator for the Equality for All Campaign in San Diego. Basketball metaphors abound. I have what one might call the “Dream Team” of staff organizers and volunteers. Our team is made up of folks who’ve been on the front lines of the freedom to marry for years, as well as folks who have never done anything like this — campaign, LGBT, marriage — before. And, like a well-run team, folks — staff and volunteers alike — take on their tasks, run their “plays,” and execute the myriad complex components of this campaign with finesse, hard work and phenomenal attention to detail.

During the week we practice our tactics — defending turf, deflecting paid signature-gatherers, gathering pledges of support for the freedom to marry, recruiting more volunteers, scouting prospective retail sites, etc. On the weekends, we execute brilliant strategies to staff the highest traffic retail locations across San Diego County so that we’re stopping maximal numbers of shoppers from signing the Limits on Marriage initiative petitions. We’ve already trained hundreds of volunteers how to educate the public about their right not to sign the Limits on Marriage petition. And in doing so, in just 35 days we’ve identified more than 10,000 new supporters — folks who’ve affirmed their support for the freedom to marry for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people AND who’ve promised not to sign the initiative that would forever ban same-sex marriage.

We’ve also prioritized quality over quantity, meaning that we wanted to hit sites where we’d get to go head to head with the paid signature-gatherers in more conservative turf rather than friendlier sites without opposition present. Last weekend, we deployed five bilingual teams to Chula Vista, a predominantly Spanish-speaking suburb of San Diego that’s about eight miles south of the city. We caught a break because our weekday scouting hadn’t shown very many paid signature-gatherers down there, however we just had a feeling. And the gut paid off. Instead of staffing our “home base” turf, the majority of paid signature-gatherers we encountered this weekend went south.

Having face-to-face conversations with shoppers in places like Chula Vista means we’re building a base of supporters from communities who may not have ever had a conversation with a stranger about LGBT people. It means that if we have to face the Limits on Marriage initiative on the November ballot, or any other issue concerning the LGBT community, we now have a list of supporters who we can call and turnout to vote for fairness at the ballot box.

Like any team of hot-shots who take pride in their performance, some of our best pledge gatherers were slightly bummed because this tougher turf meant fewer gathered pledges, much fewer than if they had been deployed on our home turf, like IKEA. But, like any good team getting ready for the finals, you play the stronger teams so your team has strength and stamina to make it all the way.

San Diego is going all the way. We’re working feverishly to build a big enough and strong enough volunteer team to educate enough San Diegans about the Limits on Marriage petition so that hopefully, enough of them choose not to sign it.

And, in the meantime, we’re building a powerful list of new supporters to stand with us into the future. Just like a winning basketball team needs a deep enough bench with fresh legs, we need more volunteers joining our team. The opposition may have enough money power to pay for more signatures. The only way we’ll beat them is with more people power. With just three weeks until the signature-gathering deadline, we need you to suit-up and join the team.

To get your name on the roster, give us a call at 619.692.2077, ext. 206 or e-mail us at StopThePetitionSD@gmail.com. To join another Equality for All team outside San Diego, visit www.EqualityforAll.com.