That's how I joined No on 8, the historic fight to save gay marriage in California, which later became part of the fight to create marriage equality across the nation. It will remain, until my dying day, one of the proudest moments of my life.
The day of the interview I was a total mess. I got the address of the campaign office wrong and was about ten minutes late. I was seized with a sudden panic when I walked in the office that I would be perceived as an interloper in someone else's struggle. After all, I was privileged enough as a straight person to go out and marry the next rando dude I found on the street and have it be perfectly legal and recognized by all authorities. What would these organizers, for whom this battle was very real and very personal, think of some straight girl "slummin' it" in the gay marriage movement, with so little personally at stake for her?
Despite my passionate feelings about the subject, I almost didn't take the job. It paid less than half of my previous job for significantly more time commitment, and I just wasn't sure if I could make it work. My boyfriend at the time, with whom I am still very close, reminded me that an ethical opportunity is worth more than a little spending money. He encouraged me to go for it, and for changing my mind I am forever grateful to him. He's one of the first people I talked to when the ruling came down today, and he's just as happy as I am.
My fears about being aloof at No on 8 were, naturally, completely unfounded. The welcome I received and the near-daily thanks I was given simply for being a straight ally were, to say the very least, deeply humbling and honoring. My friends and colleagues reminded me that no movement succeeds without the help of allies, and I came to understand that I wasn't just fighting for someone else's rights. I was fighting for human rights.
The three months I committed to No on 8 were, to make a gross understatement, hectic and wonderful. I worked about 10-12 hours a day, six days a week. I was somehow designated to answer all generic emails from the campaign website for the entire state, which led to some epic reading and sometimes had me questioning whether our supporters were more detrimental than our detractors! I still have saved somewhere a 23-page sci-fi novella depicting the dystopian near-future after the passage of Prop 8, with Schwarzenegger's Death Squads actively hunting California's marriage equality supporters. Sure, the author could have spent her time, say, phone-banking, or collecting donations, or raising awareness, but no, clearly the muses of Jr. High Creative Writing class are harsh mistresses. I guess I should just be thankful that, despite the (temporary!) passage of Prop 8, Schwarzenegger kept his Death Squads on ice.
The actual election was, to use a horrible cliche, a rollercoaster of emotions. I was overjoyed to see an African-American president not only in my lifetime, but before the age of 30! In California, Prop 2 passed with flying colors, guaranteeing a slightly less miserable life for "food animals" in the state's farms. But Prop 8 was too close to call, and it wasn't looking good. By morning it became clear that the scare tactics, lies, and outright bigotry perpetrated by the Prop 8 campaign had eked out a narrow, 4-point victory. The day after the election (which was also my 29th birthday), I sat in a large circle with a group of people who had, over the past 90 days, become my second family, as we consoled each other over our common loss. This was far beyond some theoretical ideal for the majority of the campaign workers. For most of them, their fellow citizens had been given the opportunity to vote on their most basic of human dignities- and what's worse, their fellow citizens chose to treat my friends as less than equal. Less than human, even. It was the most bitter of defeats, because it was personal.
Although I was completely wiped out by the campaign, many of my colleagues continued to fight, joined by those who had heretofore felt secure and compliant before the wake-up call of Prop 8's passage. My family dispersed across America and the globe, to New Jersey, Iowa, New York, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and beyond, to prevent a repeat of California's tragedy. Here at home, lawsuits were filed and the long trek towards today's historic announcement began.
Although today is, without a doubt, one of the happiest moments of my life, I have to say with enormous regret that there is someone who played an enormous role in all of this who is not here to enjoy her victory. Hannah LeBlanc, who was the San Francisco campaign manager, died in a car accident only last month. Hannah (who was Hannah Johnson when I knew her) was a marvel and a force to be reckoned with- to this day I still don't know how she accomplished what she did and managed to sleep and eat in the 24 hours a day that she had. She coordinated a massive staff of dozens of campaigners and volunteers around an incredibly emotional topic and did it all with remarkable aplomb, amiability, and charm. Hannah, who, like me, was "straight but not narrow," met her future husband, Matt, at No on 8. Love begets love- how beautiful and poetic is that? Hannah was one of the people who, in the face of defeat, simply packed up and moved on to the next battle, in New Jersey. Today, I am thinking of Hannah, and the dozens just like her, who were instrumental in marriage equality but had to leave us before our final victory dance. I know that wherever they are now, they know, and they're happy today, too.
Edit: I'm thrilled to say that the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has started Hannah's Fund, a scholarship project for straight allies doing incredible work towards LGBTQ rights.
One more Edit! I forgot I had this picture of the original No on 8 San Francisco crew. Don't even try to find me, you won't recognize me!