Tomorrow is the Southern Maine Pride celebration here in beautiful Portland, Maine. I'll be there with some other Maine Kossacks to take part in celebrating our LGBT identities.
I have never been more proud to be an out gay man, and I have never been more proud to be a gay Mainer. This year is a critical year for LGBT rights and marriage equality here in our state. In the fall, our fellow citizens will vote--for the second time in three years--on whether or not LGBT citizens of Maine have equal rights to those enjoyed by straight people surrounding marriage. Now I don't like this idea of voting on people's civil rights--this is something I feel must be dealt with by the courts--but it's the option we have this year. The bigots are already complaining about the ballot language because it is too straight forward--they want to confuse it with "religious freedom" language even though the bill would not impact the rights of religious institutions to refuse to marry LGBT persons. But all that aside, I believe we are going to win this fight in Maine this November and when we do, will knock down one of the bigots' favorite talking points: that equality has never passed when put to the vote of the people.
Let me tell you what I'm doing to support the effort to return Maine to a marriage equality state, (that's right: we had it before we didn't), because if you live in a state with a referendum on LGBT rights coming up this Fall, you may consider helping in the very unconventional way I'm going to be doing it.
More over the Pride Cloud...
Back in 2009, I canvassed for marriage rights in Maine, in the very, very conservative county where my island home is. I was prepared to get out the canvassing shoes again this fall until I met an activist from Mainers United for Marriage named Ian at Netroots Nation. At one of the caucuses, Ian talked a little about volunteer opportunities in Maine and one way to lend a hand struck me as a truly great way to do my part: hosting a volunteer from away in my home. Now I don't like all this money and effort "from away" in this fight but since the NOM, the Roman Catholic and Mormon Churches are doing it, we have to fight back. Activists from other states want to come to Maine to help, and I'll be here to welcome them. So I spoke to Ian after the caucus and gave him my email address. By the time I got back from Netroots Nation, I had an email in my box from Ian thanking me for my offer and networking me with the volunteer coordinator. (Note: good activists pounce on good opportunities to involve other good activists!).
I have extra room in the condo. Aside from traveling Kossacks and my uncle once or twice a year and my parents from time to time, my spare room and super-comfy couch go unused most of the year. So I thought "hey, I could host a couple of volunteers from away". So that's what I am going to do this time around to do my part in the fight for equality.
I encourage any of you who live in a state where there's a referendum this year to get in touch with marriage equality advocacy groups in your state and see if they have a similar program where you can volunteer to host a canvasser or volunteer. I know it will be a rewarding experience. It's an unconventional way to help, but Ian tells me that they are desperate for volunteers here in Maine to house campaign workers. I'll bet organizers in your state would tell you the same.
No matter what you do, LGBT or straight ally, do something to help advance the rights of LGBT folks in your state this year. Giving money is always great, but hand-on volunteering is always appreciated and sorely needed.
It was really great to get to network with Ian and others from Maine, Minnesota, Washington State and Maryland at Netroots Nation, and I was happy to find a volunteer option for me where I knew I would be making a huge difference in winning this important fight in a state which I love even more than my native Massachusetts (because I was conceived here? I don't know) and which has always felt like home to me.
Here's some links to get you started:
What are you doing for equality in your state? Please share it with everyone!
Happy Pride Month to all.
11:16 AM PT: UPDATE: If you contact a volunteer coordinator by email, let them know you blog at Daily Kos and where they can find the diary you'll write about it. I let Mainers United know where I blog and under what name so they can track those of us helping to promote volunteerism for their organization.