What's crushing is the little conversations with undecided voters you have, where they suddenly see your side of it so clearly, and you know you don't have the time, energy, or money to have that conversation with everyone. But you wish to hell you did.
I was working the phonebank last night and got to the name of a woman in her 70s. Yeah... shit. These people usually can't hear over the phone anyway, and half the time, they're against us. But I called her because I had to. Her husband answered, I asked for her (we only talk to people with good voting records) and when I asked for her opinion on the marriage amendment she said she'd heard about it but didn't really understand all the deals... was it to legalize gay marriage? Make it illegal? What's this about unintended consequences? When I started to explain she yelled at her husband... "Get on the phone, there's a young lady who wants to tell us about the amendment!" I read them the text. I told them about why we didn't want it on the constitution, why it was unnecessary. I told them that there should be nothing wrong with a civil union, because it's just a legal contract, and why should we restrict legal contracts between two consenting adults just because they're different? The stock arguments. But the couple listened, and they asked questions, and I talked with them for a good 20 minutes, and in the end the woman said, "You know what? I don't think we need that amendment!"
How many couples will we not get to?
Then I went to a party tonight for a coworker who's moving away, and late at night one of The Wives stopped me on the way out the door and said, "Too bad you're leaving, I heard you knew about that marriage amendment. I've just seen ads from the 'vote yes' side, but they don't seem to ring with me." I quit leaving, and told her about how many rights and benefits of marriage there really were, and how same-sex couples wouldn't be allowed to have those benefits because this society we live in doesn't approve of their relationship. She was like, "Yeah, well, there were some people who didn't approve when my husband and I got married, but it didn't concern them. We could make them stay out of it though."
We talked a while longer and then she told me, "I've wanted for so long to have an intelligent, adult conversation about this. Thank you."
Yeah. A Kansas housewife, probably registered as a republican (we're all republicans here), knew deep inside that something wasn't right with the judgemental message of the amendment proponents, but there was no one to assure her that she was doing the right thing. Everywhere there are yard signs... "Vote YES! Protect Marriage!" The other side has money.
What do we have? Voices. I can win almost any debate on this, provided the person doesn't completely hate homosexuality or find gays outright repulsive. The legal arguments are there. The religious arguments are there. I'm trained, rehersed, and at this point can debate the issue in my sleep. But that voice is all I have.
And that's what's heartbreaking about fighting this amendment in Kansas. Losing the amendment isn't it. Knowing that there are people out there who need to hear our voice... that's it. The other side knew this. That's why they rushed it to the polls. They knew that time was our greatest ally, and their worst enemy. Get the people worked up, flash pictures of gay men tounging each other, and check off an agenda item.
Maybe that's why I want to stay here, and be a progressive voice in this state. There's the story of the man on the beach, throwing stranded starfish into the ocean, and someone asks him, "There are millions of these things on the beach. What difference does this make?" He threw another one in and said, "It makes a difference to that one."
It makes a difference to someone.