When Kim called to tell me that we had word from Albany that State Senators Addabbo, Huntley, and Kruger were switching their 2009 “No” votes to “Yes”es on marriage equality, I couldn’t believe it. Then she told me that it was going to come to a vote, and the Governor’s office actually thought it had a decent chance of passing — and that was when I knew that all of the hard work we had put into fighting for marriage equality was worth it. MYDers have put a huge amount of time and energy into making this historic moment possible. Here’s the story:
Marriage equality has been a signature MYD issue since 2009. Our legislative action project, New Yorkers for Marriage Equality, put us on the map in New York’s online organizing space by sending thousands of supportive letters to State Senators.
The behind-the-scenes story is that it was a labor of love, pulled together over a single, sleepless weekend by a handful of dedicated MYD volunteers (notably former MYD President Al Benninghoff, then-Creative Director Chas Danner, and then-Social Media guru Julie Blitzer) who felt passionately that New York should be on the forefront of this issue.
After launching the campaign with nearly 30 co-sponsors, we got an incredible lucky break when our Communications Director Beth Totman pitched the link to Perez Hilton — resulting in a huge spike of activity on the site as tens of thousands of visitors clicked through to send their letters and tell their friends. We got media coverage from Ben Smith at Politico and Michael Connery at Future Majority and released a video (lovingly crafted by another volunteer, Shannon Manning) to support the campaign. Julie ended up talking about it on CNN. We hand-delivered thousands of letters to Albany with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
Sadly, the bill died in the State Senate when the entire Republican caucus and a handful of Democrats (boo hiss!) voted against it. To say that we were devastated is an understatement. But we (and 400,000+ other people who saw the video) also didn’t give up — State Senator Diane Savino’s amazing speech from the floor made sure of that:
But we took that anger and channeled it into something productive in 2010: namely, removing two anti-ME State Senators from office. MYDers canvassed and phonebanked for Tony Avella in Queens and David Carlucci in Rockland in the elections last year, helping to flip both of these seats to fantastic reformers who were on the right side of this critical issue.
And now, 2011. In January, we hear that a campaign is being put together by our friends at Human Rights Campaign, Marriage Equality New York, Empire State Pride Agenda. HRC’s organizers come and chat with us at our January general meeting and talk strategy. We launch our LGBT Issues Committee.
As momentum around the campaign grew, we relaunched New Yorkers for Marriage Equality and fed updates to the campaign’s nearly 20,000 Facebook supporters. We phonebanked at SEIU using their awesomely futuristic predictive-dialing system. We canvassed in Queens to collect signed postcards from State Senator Addabbo’s constituents. And for all of those cynics out there who say that grassroots activism doesn’t matter, I say, you’re just wrong:
“Queens Sen. Joseph Addabbo explained his change of heart yesterday by saying he was following the will of his constituents. Of the 6,015 calls to his office in recent months, 4,839 favored marriage equality.”
And after so many phone calls and postcards and emails sent over the past six months, today, finally, the State Senate passed marriage equality. We won.
Thank you to each and every one of you who took time out of your busy days to stand up for what you believe in. Marriage equality has been voted the most important issue to MYD members three years in a row — and your hard work, combined with the power of thousands of other New Yorkers fighting for what they knew was right — truly made a difference.
So how should we celebrate? There’s only one way to do this particular victory justice: March with us at Pride! Section 4, 39th St. between 5th and 6th Ave. (map) Email Kim ([email protected]) to RSVP.
Thank you for all that you do.