Maine Marriage Matters

A straight Latina from the San Gabriel Valley takes the fight for same-sex marriage to Maine

Waking up on November 5, 2008, the day after Proposition 8 swept up the majority of the Californian vote, was far from a quotidian routine for LGBT people. While the rest of the nation celebrated with jubilant pride the election of our first African-American President, here in California, many wept out of anger and dismay. Yet LGBTs were not alone in their disappointment. Arianne Garcia, a San Gabriel community activist, shared equally uneasy emotions. “That day, I thought, while our country grew by leaps and bounds overnight, we somehow managed to take a step background in California,” says Arianne. Our shared struggles have long united the Latino and immigrant communities, and in a similar fashion, Prop 8 polarized both sides the fight for marriage rights for same-sex couples and helped reinvigorate the LGBT justice movement.

“I felt a bit impotent because I was tied-up in my then job as a field organizer. I wish I had the time and the resources to do more against Prop 8.”

A year later, Arianne Garcia did just that: more. Now a field manager for Equality California’s educational campaign, “Win Marriage Back: Make It Real,” Arianne has taken the fight for civil rights to the streets of East Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley. Working toward increasing support for the right for same-sex couples to marry, she works with local community leaders and organizations like Honor PAC and the Latino Equality Alliance in ensuring that we win the next ballot initiative on the freedom to marry.

“We need to make sure that we have enough support to win the next election on the right for same-sex couples to marry. In preparing ourselves, we have to also learn how to effectively address the false information propagated by our opponents.”

On October 10, looking to enrich her experience in the fight LGBT civil rights, Arianne took the fight for marriage equality to Maine. It was Protect Maine Equality’s volunteer vacation program that provided her the opportunity to get involved in the “No on 1” campaign in Maine. Currently, Maine voters are faced with a similar ballot initiative Californians tackled last year, and will vote on whether or not they will approve “Question 1” which seeks to take away the marriage rights from same-sex couples.

“I went to Maine because I recognized that Maine is just one piece in the huge picture, it is a significant step to achieving full equality in California and the rest of the nation.”

Nationwide, political pundits have compared Maine’s Question 1 to California’s Proposition 8, referencing the messaging and political tactics used on each state’s campaigns. But Mainers are not Californians. The New England state’s seemingly homogenous population of 1.3 million can at best be seen as a close cousin of Californian’s eclectic melting pot of 33.8 million. It is this stark population contrast that attracted and yet made Arianne nervous about volunteering in Maine’s “No on 1” campaign.

“Not only was it cold in Maine, but there were distinctive difference between Maine and California. Mainers, for example, never lock their doors which is something we are not use to in California. They trust each other very much, and value close relationships with their neighbors.”

While Arianne was initially worried about being able to connect to Mainers, her apprehension dwindled once having conversations with potential voters.

“My first day there, we did some phone banking to do volunteer recruitment. People were giving great approval and appreciation for our involvement, though they also gave excuses as to why they can’t more involve. One woman I tried to recruit kept saying she was already doing her part in her own way and she felt very confident and comfortable that we were going to win. Toward the end of our conversation, and I said, ‘this is exactly why I came from California, because last year we lived through the same thing you’re living here. People were saying the exact same, they said we were okay, and that we would win the right to marry. But that’s not what happened.’

After long and awkward silent moment, the women in Maine signed up for a volunteer shift. While California and Maine are on separate coasts, Arianne believes “it is important that we, as Latinos, make a contribution to the larger picture. The momentum we gain from finally winning a ballot initiative on this issue will help us in winning a similar campaign in California.”

On Election Day, November 3, 2009, Latinos in California can get involved in the GOTV (get out the vote) efforts through remote phone banks that will take place in Equality California offices as well as other hosted by coalition partners like Vote for Equality in Los Angeles until polls close in Maine. Arianne explains “the more phone calls we make in California, results in less calls they have to make in Maine, and the bigger impact they can make on the ground.”

By Jorge Amaro