My trip to Minnesota with Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry
November 05, 2012
This weekend, I had the privilege of spending time in the Twin Cities with two members of the Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry eadership Committee - Margaret Hoover and Madeline Koch. We went to support Minnesotans United for All Families to show that Young Conservatives oppose the Minnesota constitutional amendment and to urge all Minnesotans to vote NO tomorrow. It was a very successful trip, and the reception we received was phenomenal.
Margaret and I arrived in Minneapolis Saturday mid-day and were picked up by our host Patrick Connolly, who has been working with the campaign on Republican outreach, and Minnesotan native Madeline, who has been an outspoken supporter of the freedom to marry since testifying before the MN Senate last year. We went "straight" to the NO campaign headquarters in St. Paul and were greeted by Minnesotans United's Campaign Manager Richard Carlbom, Freedom to Marry's Director of Public Engagement Thalia Zepatos, and over a hundred volunteers working the phones. The campaign had over 1,500 volunteers for the last weekend and was way more overwhelmed by the volume of support and number of volunteers than the search for volunteers!
In addition to the number of people in the rooms, I was struck by two other things. First, I was impressed by the incredible variety of supporters: There were kids and grandparents, women and men, gay people and straight people, Democrats and Republicanss - all working to defeat this horrendous constitutional amendment. It was a true representation of the people of the great state of Minnesota.
I was also deeply moved by the colorful hearts that lined the walls of the headquarters. Each volunteer is given a heart to express why voting NO on the constitutional amendment is important to her or him. The walls are lined with hearts from kids, LGBT people, straight allies - moms, dads, partners, grandparents, neighbors, friends - everyone who has walked through the doors - with messages of love, commitment and support. It generates so much love and makes the space truly inspiring.
Richard, Margaret and Madeline spoke to the volunteers gathering to start the 2:30 phone banking shift. In his remarks, Richard talked about Freedom to Marry and our great Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry program. He thanked us for showing a strong commitment for reaching out to everyone and how this movement is made up of all political ideologues. He then introduced Madeline and CNN Commentator/and great granddaughter of President Hoover - Margaret.
In all the speeches Madeline and Margaret made during the course of the day (four in total), I was completely impressed with their commitment, compassion and quite frankly, brilliance. These are two remarkable young Republicans - straight women - who totally get it and are totally on message. I stood watching the faces of people as they spoke, and you could see them go from disbelief to astonishment to love and support in the matter of a few moments. The M's hit it out of the ballpark. After they spoke, they too received the training and then got on the phones and made calls. They both thoroughly enjoyed talking to "real Minnesotans" and telling their own personal stories and why they opposed the amendment.
After about 90 minutes, we said goodbye to the wonderful people of St. Paul and drove to the offices in Minneapolis. First stop was the campaign's "swag shop," which has raised over $1 million for the campaign. I bought two "Vote NO" rings to share with my partner of 29 years, and Margaret bought a shirt she then wore the rest of the day. We toured the gigantic campaign headquarters, talking to people as we went, speaking to two different groups of volunteers, and then doing more phone banking. For a while, we were followed around by reporters from NPR and the local gay paper, who were working on Election Day stories. Once again, Margaret and Madeline did an amazing job talking about how the amendment is a fundamental threat to freedom, voicing their strong opposition to the constitutional amendment and urging a NO vote.
Later in the afternoon, we headed over to a reception in their honor at the famous Minneapolis Irish Pub, the Local Pub. It was packed with folks coming to meet Margaret and see Madeline! It was the last fundraising event for Minnesotans United for All Families, and I loved the fact that it was for two young conservatives. That says so much to the all-inclusiveness of this campaign and for the freedom to marry! It was a great event, and once again, Madeline and Margaret did a fabulous job speaking and working the rooms. I especially enjoyed meeting the grandson of Oral Roberts who attended. Randy is a proud gay man who came to meet Margaret and support our efforts to defeat the constitutional amendment. How crazy it was to stand between the grandson of Oral Roberts and the great granddaughter of Herbert Hoover at a Freedom to Marry-inspired event!
All in all, it was a great - albeit short - trip to Minnesota and I know that Margaret's visit inspired many volunteers and helped to build the momentum that the campaign has set in motion. It also inspired me as I watched these two young women. As an older liberal democrat, it's clear we will win the freedom to marry because of the support of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. With all of us fighting together, we will win - not just in Minnesota but in Maine, Maryland and Washington - and across the U.S.
Onward to victory!
Read more about Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry HERE, and follow our Election Day Live Blog, which we'll start up tomorrow, HERE.