One Ringy-Dingy for Equality: My Surprisingly Pleasant Night of Phone Banking

by Admin

Originally published on March 6, 2009, on the DC by Mike B., a TNG reader and frequent commenter.

Photo of Karl Bach, HRC Regional Field Organizer.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a huge fan of phone banking. Nor have I always said the nicestthings to say about the HRC. But being the good secular Jew that I am, nothing works on me like some good old-fashioned guilt.

So I did phone banking to help the gays in Florida for a couple hours Tuesday night, and it was actually one of the more positive activist experiences I've had in a while.

The issue in a nutshell is that a ballot initiative in the city of Gainesville, Florida, could potentially repeal all civil rights protections based on sexual orientation AND gender identity. Plus it would make it illegal to ever add any other minority group to the city's human rights laws. Nutty, I know.

So I rushed through my cardio workout to get to the HRC building by 6 pm yesterday. As I got up to the fourth floor I was met by Karl Bach, a "straight ally(!)" who works in grassroots programs at HRC. According to him I was the 3rd or 4th person to come to phone banking through TNG, and I hope I won't be the last. He mentioned that Tuesday's group was the biggest turnout ever, with people ranging from a straight senior citizen, to bi's, lesbians, gays, queers, and everyone of all genders and colors in between.

And even though they did provide pizza, there were also healthy snacks and water for vain, health-conscious gay men like me. They sure do know their target audience over there. Yet I still went with the pizza...

But the best part -- besides the technologically slick phone-banking system that I didn't have to dial once -- was talking to real people in Florida, many of whom weren't even aware that the right wing was trying to pull this one over on people. On the one hand it was pretty scary knowing that people sympathetic to our cause wouldn't have known to come out and vote against this thing. But on the other hand, it was really rewarding to know that my call motivated someone to come out and vote against this thing.

Oh yeah, you should know that when you do phone banking like this, you're not expected to change anyone's mind. They just want to you identify the voter as a "pro,""con" or "undecided" and move on. It's all a numbers game.

And needless to say, we need numbers. Gainesville's LGB protections have been in place for over 10 years, while gender identity is a new addition. And they could all go away because of some wingnut ballot initiative. This effort is to save existing protections.

Throughout it all, Karl and his HRC colleagues ran things with calm professionalism and good humor, and the time pretty much flew by. Add the energetic and diverse group of people who showed up, and there was a pretty good vibe all evening. I'm going to try and do this again -- they're doing this once a week until the special election on March 24. Check out the particulars here.

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