With Gay Marriage Close to Passing, Advocates Push for One More Vote
By Meredith Hoffman
From online campaigns to on-the-street canvassing, activists are hoping to generate enough grassroots support to sway the final vote in the state Senate to create a majority and assure passage of the bill.
"We need you now!" read the subject of Wednesday's Facebook message from the coalition New Yorkers United for Marriage.
The coalition — including groups Freedom to Marry, the Human Rights Campaign, Empire State Pride Agenda, Log Cabin Republicans and Marriage Equality New York — has held phone bank nights the past six weeks in Midtown, where locals have volunteered after work calling state legislators.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Lance Bass took part in a phone bank Wednesday night at the coalition's West 42nd Street location.
The NYUM phone bank kicked off at the beginning of May, with Chelsea Clinton joining about 50 other volunteers. With more than 150 phone bank locations in the New York area, the HRC estimates nearly 15,000 calls made to state lawmakers. In addition, about 47,000 postcards have been mailed in favor of marriage equality.
Canvassers have also been out in New York's neighborhoods, particularly Chelsea, Hell's Kitchen, and Park Slope, Brooklyn.
"They've been primarily asking people for funding because we're running TV ads, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on this campaign. We have field organizers working on the ground to raise the dollars that pay for that support," said Mark Solomon, National Director of Freedom to Marry.
"We're focusing on making our case in as many ways as possible."
The field organizers also do "stop and dials," stopping people on the street and asking them to call their senator on the spot with their cell phones. The HRC estimates that nearly 10,000 stop-and-dials have been made.
Marty Rouse, the Human Rights Campaign's national field director, described other efforts on a recent NYUM blog post.
"Field organizers with clip boards and postcards in-hand have talked to voters at shopping centers, on Main Streets, on college campuses, at farmers' markets, festivals and beaches, in places of worship, in nightclubs, on train platforms and on doorsteps," he wrote.
"It is this person-to-person conversation that is having an impact."
The campaign is strong, but the bill's success is due to a national climate of tolerance, said Kevin Nix, Human Rights Campaign spokesperson.
"Progress has been made in the past two years," said Nix. "Congress repealed Don't Ask Don't Tell last year and public support for marriage is at records high nationally and in New York — with 58 percent of New Yorkers supporting it. We have the momentum."
For Solomon, who's been working on this campaign the past seven years, it's time such a bill passes.
"I'm gay, and I'm not married. It's really important for gays to be supported by our society and government," said Solomon, a Greenwich Village resident. "I'm hopeful, but it's not done until it's done."