On Tuesday I had the privilege of volunteering for Marylanders for Marriage Equality’s “Yes on Question 6” campaign. It was a day full of frustration but also excitement. I spent seven hours at Bells Mill Elementary School in Potomac talking to voters about why they should vote for equality.
Some of the voters I talked to were outright bigoted.
One man voting against Question 6 asked me if I was gay, and when I responded affirmatively, told me “that’s fine, but you’re not the same.” One can only assume he meant not the same “as straight people.” Another woman, a volunteer for the anti-Question 6 campaign, was friendly, but her arguments were stale and cold. As people passed by, she told them “voting against 6 isn’t about discrimination; it’s about protecting the sanctity of marriage.”
I could barely hold my tongue, but I wanted to make the best impression on voters possible.
I stuck to the positive message that voting for Question 6 was voting for equality. I brushed off my earlier run-ins with prejudiced people, as much as they had pained me, and focused on the hearts and minds of people on our side or who were undecided.
I think of the difference I made when talking to an elderly gentleman. Easily in his 70s or 80s, he was not who you would typically think of as a supporter of marriage equality. And yet when he came out of the polling station, he looked me in the eye and said, “Thank you for reminding me to vote for gay marriage. It’s just the sensible thing to do.”
Every experience like that reminded me why I was there volunteering and how each and every vote counts.
Perhaps the most moving experience of the night came from someone even more unexpected. A middle aged man and woman pulled up to the school in a big, expensive luxury car. They came out of the car and I immediately asked them to vote for equality. The woman asked, “Does this have anything to do with Obama?”
I responded by saying, “This is separate from the Obama campaign and is a bipartisan issue.”
She looked over our literature while the anti-6 volunteer tried to talk her ear off about how this would force people to recognize gay marriages. The voter saw the picture of Michelle Obama on the top of our literature, ripped it off, and said: “I don’t want to have anything to do with her or Barack Obama,” and then turning to the anti-6 volunteer she continued: “But my son is gay and I want him to have equal rights with everyone else.”
This incident gave me hope. Even before I knew the results, I knew that we were winning over hearts and minds. How powerful is it that this woman’s son decided to come out of the closet and that that one act turned an ardent Republican into marriage equality supporter?
If we didn’t win the fight today, I thought, then we would win it tomorrow.
As the results rolled in, I couldn’t help but feel pride. As anxiety turned to joy when the Washington Post called it for Question 6, I couldn’t help but notice the sky-high level of support (2-1) in Montgomery County that put it over the edge.
I’m prouder than ever to be a Marylander and am grateful to you, my neighbors, for supporting my right to be free in the Free State.