Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Putting my money where my mouth is ...

Thirty-five dials.  Five conversations.  Three refusals.  One yes.  One person "moved."

I spent this evening on a phone bank for the Rochester arm of Minnesotans United for All Families, talking to people about the constitutional amendment that's on the ballot in November.  The language of this ballot would be to define marriage in the Minnesota constitution as strictly between one man and one woman.

I have pretty strong opinions about this amendment and am emphatic in my efforts to encourage people to vote "NO" for this amendment.

However, there comes a time when words aren't enough.  I have the wonderful problem of surrounding myself with like-minded people.  And since I work from home, my sphere of influence is limited. 

That's why I found myself on a phone bank tonight.  That's why I found myself reading off of a script and trying to start conversations with people across southeastern Minnesota about marriage and why it's important to me as a straight, married, pregnant lady that my son will grow up in a state that will be the first of 30 states to defeat this amendment. 

For someone who hates talking on the phone - this night was tough.  There was the very sweet lady who is a member of the ELCA and has been torn by the conversations in the church.  She'll vote for the amendment, but recognizes that times will change regardless.  She wished me well on the remainder of my pregnancy.

There was the sarcastic man who talked about how gross and wrong it was for two men or two women to be married.  I thanked him for his time and hung up.

There was one woman who will vote "no" on the marriage amendment, but she really didn't have strong feelings about gay marriage.  (But hey - "no" is AWESOME in this election.)

And then there was the guy who kinda broke my heart.  The conversation started out as the man being 100% for this amendment, 100% against gay marriage.  Gay marriage is a travesty and it goes against God and the Bible.

I was ready to wrap up the call politely and hang up, but I tried another tact that we had discussed in training.

"We're not voting on the Bible," I said.  I explained that I'm secular and that at the end of the day, I cannot debate about morals, God, Bible, whatever. 

"Do you know anyone who is gay?"

"Yes," he said.  "My nephew.  And it breaks my sister's heart.  It breaks the father's heart."  But then he starts telling me about his nephew.  His nephew's partner that's "a great guy."

I told this man about my nephews - I told him about one in particular.  The 16-year-old nephew who was technically my "first" nephew from my brother's first marriage.  And although this boy is taller than me, although he's driving and although he's a star on the basketball court, I still look at him and I can see him as a three-year-old.  And how that drives my nephew absolutely nuts.  But the love that I feel for this kid who is more like a brother to me than anything else. 

My nephew is not gay, but my point was made:  "If someone told me that there was some law that stood between my nephew and his happiness, I can't fathom that," I said. 

Here's how the script ends on these phone conversations ... "now that we've had this conversation, if you had to vote tomorrow, would you vote yes for the marriage amendment or would you vote no."

This man did not know.  It was something he had to think more about. 


There are no clear, decisive victories in phone banks.  I'm not going to call up someone who is morally opposed to gay marriage and expect them to be won over by my dulcet tones and my stunning logic.  It does not work that way.  And as I've struggled with the perception of gay marriage and how it keeps playing out in the political arena, I've made peace with the fact that there are some people that will never see my point of view.  It sucks.  It's frustrating.  I can curse, I can gnash my teeth and rave at my husband (yes, all of these things have happened), but at the end of the day - I have to pick myself up, brush myself off, and move on. 

But there are little victories.  There are people who might change their mind because of something that is said.  The ability to take gay marriage out of the abstract and make it real. 

Sometimes we are the uncles of gay men.  Sometimes there are people that we work with, that we worship with, that we went to school with ...


So - considering that I'm 34 weeks pregnant, extremely uncomfortable, and that I truly hate making phone calls - why in the name of hell would I volunteer for this?  And why would I do it again?

Thirty states around the country have had similar marriage amendments go on their ballots.  Thirty states have passed these amendments.  Minnesota has the opportunity to be the first state to defeat the marriage amendment and all signs show that this is going to be a close and emotional election. 

I want to wake up on November 7th and find out that the marriage amendment failed miserably.  But in the event that it does pass (and I give serious thought about emigrating to Canada), I want to know in my heart that I did everything I could to help defeat this amendment. 

Working a phone bank took me way out of my comfort zone.  I found myself getting strength by listening to this older gentleman named Bob make phone calls across the room from me.  There was something about his raspy voice that made me feel like I wasn't alone and encouraged me to keep dialing. 

This evening was a challenge, but it was a privilege. 

So - my Rochester area friends who read my blog.  Working a phone bank?  Yeah - it's a time commitment and yeah, it's kind of terrifying.  But the Rochester group does a GREAT job training you to work the phones.  We spent an hour talking about the marriage amendment, some of the opposing viewpoints that are encountered, the importance of being kind to yourself when it came to tough phone calls ... the importance of having conversations with people regarding this issue.  While I wasn't 100% prepared for my first phone call and while I have yet to hit my stride, I felt reasonably confident as I made my way down the list of calls I needed to make.

Whether it's phone calling, door knocking, donating money, or just having the conversation with friends - I implore people to get involved.  This is going to be a close election.  See my numbers above - the majority of the people I talked to were for the marriage amendment.  A couple people hadn't really heard about it.  Out of 35 dials, I might have changed the mind of one voter - or at least got him on the road to thinking about the issue on a personal level beyond the abstract. 

You can find information about Minnesotans United for All Families here

As I said tonight on Facebook:  "We can move towards inclusion, tolerance, and love one conversation at a time, friends ..." Until this baby shows up, I'll work the phone banks again ... I do believe that I can make a difference.


Paul said...

I am SO SO proud of you :) Regardless of what happens, the world is a better place because you're in it making a difference, my friend. Real change does happen one person at a time, and one person might pass it on to another person or their next generation of persons. That one person you got to think about it will pay off somewhere down the road.

Karen said...

Way to go, Shelley! And you didn't get to just ONE person ... he will likely talk to a handful of people ... who will talk to another handful of people ... you started the conversation that will (hopefully) make waves! 34 weeks, huh?! Craziness!! You know, I just so happen to LOVE babies! ;) I may just have to come down there and hold that little one of yours soon!

SKM said...

Karen ... YES! :)