Task Force in full swing in Maine and Minnesota

The Task Force is busy on the ground in Maine working with Mainers United for Marriage and the Maine Freedom to Marry Coalition on winning the campaign to restore marriage equality in that state. Pro-LGBT activists were successful in placing the “Act to Allow Marriage Licenses for Same-Sex Couples and Protect Religious Freedom” on the general election ballot in November. It is the first time a proactive marriage equality initiative has been voted on at the ballot box.

The Task Force has deep roots in Maine that stretch back more than a decade with side-by-side work to train leaders and provide staff and financial support for the ultimately successful effort to pass and defend the state’s non-discrimination law and the work to build public opinion to a majority of support for marriage equality for same-sex couples.

We had a chance to speak to Tema Katz, a volunteer with the campaign who shared with us what it has been to be part of this historic campaign. She’s a rising sophomore at Bard College, is not going back in the fall. It’s not that college life is boring for Katz; she is the co-head of the Queer-Straight Alliance, a citizen-science fellow, the co-coordinator of a local high school’s LGBT group, and working to promote an on-campus survey about inclusion and community.

Why is she not going back to all these interesting and juicy opportunities? “I am from a liberal part of Massachusetts and I attended an accepting high school. I have never experienced direct homophobia. And I know a lot of people who have. When I think about staying here, I imagine the young people who are following this campaign, many who may be in hard and crappy situations. If we legalize marriage for same sex couples in Maine, especially through a referendum, that sends a message that there are people in your state who care about you.”

Tema is not alone; three other interns announced this week that they are giving up their fall plans to work on restoring marriage equality in Maine. There’s no doubt about it. Something special and wonderful is afoot in Maine. From Kennebunk to Augusta, across Portland and up to Bangor and into the County, the people of Maine are working every day to win Marriage in November.

As of today, the Task Force has two organizers living full time in Portland as well as the support of three other Academy staff who make regular visits. Every day, we are meeting church goers, AFL-CIO members, college students, Republicans and neighbors who volunteer, facilitate training, march in parades, and make phone calls to change the hearts and minds of their fellow Mainers.

For more information on how to get involved in Maine, go here.

The Task Force is also on the ground in Minnesota, partnering with Minnesotans United For All Families, helping with the campaign to defeat an anti-marriage equality amendment. Our faith team has been an integral part of this effort.

Our faith director, the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, has been working since May 2011 by co-creating a working group of ministers, lay leaders and congregants who work statewide to inspire, motivate and activate people of faith. Protestant Christians are sitting with Catholics, Buddhists, Pagans, Quakers, Unitarian Universalists, Mormons and others to offer trainings and coaching on how to have effective conversations with people you know. These 1-to-1 conversations have rolled out first in congregations and involve faith-based reasons for supporting LGBT people and defeating the amendment.

Our field organizer Kathleen Campisano, who has been traveling to Minnesota since Spring of 2011, has recently relocated full-time through November to Rochester where she’ll be directing the organizing efforts for all of Southern Minnesota. Kathleen will be putting into practice lessons learned through the work of the Task Force’s Faith Partner Organizing Project and building on her experience working with people of faith to move them to action on political justice campaigns where the work in the Rochester and Southern Minnesota will have a particular emphasis on working in faith communities. She is also supporting organizers in skills needed to build large, diverse teams of volunteers necessary to talk to enough voters to defeat the amendment in November.

Sarah E. Reece, the director of the Task Force’s Academy for Leadership and Action, has been invited to join the board for Minnesotans United for All Families where she joins the Task Force’s Rev. Rebecca Voelkel who also sits on the campaign board. In their capacity, they will continue to support the campaign by working with other board members, community members and national partners to leverage the support needed to win on Election Day.

For more information on how to get involved, visit here.