by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
'They are slowly, meticulously growing their army. We have one month to match them,' Zach Silk, campaign manager for Washington United for Marriage - the statewide campaign to protect Washington state's marriage equality law - told Seattle Gay News.
The most important thing that can be done in this phase of the campaign for marriage equality in Washington state is build a statewide movement.
'We believe that we need to match our opponents name for name and dollar for dollar,' said Silk. 'The Pledge to Approve [Referendum 74] campaign is the easiest way to connect people with the campaign.'
'We started with 4,000 supporters in January,' said Silk. 'Thanks to the pledge campaign, we now have 53,000 supporters.'
'This is exactly the kind of movement-building that will give us the resources we need to win in November,' he said.
Silk is talking about Washington United's Pledge to Protect campaign: a month-long drive to get 120,577 people to sign a pledge to approve Referendum 74.
Why 120,577 signers? Because that's how many signatures opponents of marriage equality need to turn in to the secretary of state by the first week of June to place the referendum on the November ballot.
'Make no mistake, they WILL get those signatures,' Silk said in a May 1 email to supporters of marriage equality. 'And that means they will have found 120,577 people to support their cause. If we want to defeat them in November, we can't afford to fall behind. We have to match them name for name.'
To take the pledge, go to Washington United's official website, www.washingtonunitedformarriage.org.
Opponents of marriage equality are rumored to have a $1 million war chest.
'We have had an excellent response to our fundraising asks,' said Silk. 'And it's not just about supporters, volunteers, and money. It's about voters.'
'We will make sure that every supporter is registered to vote and we will put them into our get-out-the-vote operation to make sure these committed supporters cast their ballots,' he said.
THE POWER OF DIGITAL ACTIVISM
Silk tells SGN the campaign is taking full advantage of the power of digital activism to 'spread the word and engage our supporters.'
'For years my mantra has been, 'talk to your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers about why marriage matters.' And I have urged people to do this in personal terms by sharing stories about themselves and loved ones rather than getting wonky,' Josh Friedes, an official with Equal Rights Washington, said. 'Now we need to do even more.'
Friedes has worked toward marriage equality for over a decade and currently serves as marriage equality director at ERW. He was the campaign manager for the successful Approve Referendum 71 campaign in 2009.
'With so many people now supporting marriage equality, we need to engage them in the process of talking to friends and family so when, through conversation, you identify a fellow marriage equality supporter, it's vital that you ask them to talk to their friends and family,' he told SGN. 'This will really help us reach out into suburbs and more rural areas. And it's great when we can build our lists so we can stay in contact with marriage equality supporters. That's why I carry Approve 74 postcards in my computer bag and keep some in my glove compartment in my car. This way I can conclude personal conversations with the signing of a postcard so that the campaign can follow up.'
'One thing that fascinates me is how communication has changed,' he said. 'I call it 'cross-platform activism.' We use email, Facebook and Twitter, websites, and online videos to engage people in offline advocacy. It's important that we maximize our online activism and it's important that we also step away from our computer screens and smartphones and engage in traditional forms of education and campaigning.'
'We communicate the message of talking to friends and family via Facebook posts, for example, and we hear back that people are having these conversations at parties, backyard BBQs, and at social hours at church and synagogue,' said Friedes. 'We let people know that Pledge to Approve 74 postcards are available via email and so many people request cards or download them from the website and then go to farmers markets or collect them at colleges or houses of worship or some other venue.'
'It's really surprising how much physical activism starts through virtual communication,' he pointed out. 'Still, I believe it's important for people to attend local community organizing meetings and other events. Developing a sense of community strengthens a campaign and facilitates sharing of information. At a community meeting, you may meet another person who is willing to collect postcards at your local farmers market, but only if they have someone else to go with them, and this can both increase how much you enjoy the activity and double the number of cards collected.'
'I was recently asked to give a talk at Highline Community College about Approve 74 and the entire planning process was done through email and texts,' said Friedes. 'Similarly an advocate, with whom I had worked before, was giving a talk at Edmonds Community College and everything was done online and we simply dropped off materials at his doorstep late at night while he was sleeping so he would have materials to provide interested students.'
'When I first started doing campaign work we would be on the phone so much and usually meet to plan out a presentation,' he said. 'Things have changed.'
Still, Silk points out that digital activism is only a small part of the work the campaign is doing every day to talk to voters about the importance of defending marriage equality.
'We have a talented field operation that works with volunteers every day to talk to voters on the phone, at the door and at events throughout the state,' he told SGN.
You can find a schedule of volunteer events on their website at washingtonunitedformarriage.org/events.
'We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of volunteer energy,' said Silk. 'It is incredible.'
'Our staff reaches out to new volunteers every night to get them engaged, but we know that we need more staff to increase our response times and give people easier access to volunteer opportunities,' he said. 'The good news: we are busy hiring outreach and field staff. We'll triple our field and outreach team by June 1.'
Days later, on June 6, opponents of marriage equality are expected to turn in the required amount of signatures needed to qualify Referendum 74 for the November ballot. Voters who wish to keep the state's current marriage equality law - which allows same-sex couples in committed and loving relationships to be legally married - must vote to APPROVE.
WASHINGTON UNITED/ERW GALA FOR MARRIAGE EQUALITY
Washington United for Marriage and Equal Rights Washington announced this week the 'Get Engaged and Defend Marriage Equality' gala scheduled for June 9 at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center (corner of 8th Ave. and Pike St.).
'At this annual gala, we will celebrate the passage of the marriage equality bill in the legislature, and more importantly, will prepare for the challenge to defend the law when it goes to the voters in November,' said officials.
'These efforts won't be easy and we have a tough fight ahead of us,' they continued. 'The gala takes place three days after the referendum becomes official. We need you to be a part of this so we can show the opposition how strong, united, and engaged we are to defend marriage equality in Washington state.'
'Join the growing list of sponsors and table captains to ensure our kick-off is a huge success,' they urged. 'Most importantly, get engaged. Spread the word. Invite your friends. Be part of a historic campaign. You won't want to miss this.'
There are a few different ways people can help make the gala a giant success. To sign up to be a table captain or sponsor, contact email@example.com. To donate auction items, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Ticket and event information is available at www.washingtonunitedformarriage.org/gala.
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