They sent us to knock doors of Democratic voters, to inform undecided voters about the consequences of the amendment and encourage supporters to turn out. We also had to warn people to turn over the ballot: all the candidates are on page 1, and the amendment is the only thing on page 2. It could be really easy to miss the amendment.
They told us not to focus on gay marriage as a civil rights issue, instead to stress the unintended consequences: the loss of domestic partner benefits for straight couples, the risk to children whose parents aren't married, the damage that could be done to domestic violence laws. I wish that we could have talked more about gay rights -- I wish I lived in a town where I could be confident people would be receptive. But I think they made the right call.
My approach was to start out by saying the amendment is "too broad" and talking about children. If they sounded receptive I would say "I don't think our constitution should be changed to take rights away from people." I talked to several undecided voters, one I think I persuaded for sure. She said she hadn't known what the amendment was about and thanked me for "opening the issue up for [her]." That felt great! A couple of others didn't commit, but said they were going to think it over and sounded like they meant it. We had a flyer to give out (which focused on the harm to children) and they seemed like they really wanted the flyer.
We also talked to a few people who were strongly against the amendment. One has a gay daughter and asked if we could get him a yard sign. One was cagey -- he wouldn't say his position until I told him mine first -- then he talked about discrimination and thanked me for volunteering. One self-identified as a Christian, and sounded like she might be personally against gay marriage, but said she didn't believe it should be in the constitution. She kept saying she didn't think faith should be legislated. She was such a powerful advocate that I encouraged her to talk to her friends, and I hope she talks to everyone in her church!
Of course it wasn't all sunshine. I talked to a couple of people who said they were voting against, but clearly meant "What can I say that will get you off my porch faster." And the other people in our canvas group talked to someone who was strongly for. They said the person talked about the Bible being against homosexuality, and when they brought up the harm to unmarried couples said "You mean people who are shacked up?" Thank you for your time, goodbye!
On the way home my friend S. talked about how much easier the canvas must have been for us than for the volunteers who are gay. How painful must it be to, first of all, face the prospect of the entire state voting on whether you should have rights? And then when you volunteer, you're told to downplay your personal story and how it will affect you, because that might put voters off? I didn't like avoiding gay rights and talking mainly about the impact on unmarried straight people, but at least I wasn't having to pretend like I don't exist. There was a gay couple canvassing in the same neighborhood as us. I hope they didn't run into any Bible thumpers.
The canvas was organized by Protect NC Families. If you're reading this and you live in NC, why not contact them? Their Durham office has volunteer events every day from now until May 8. I think it's mainly phone banking, but I like canvassing better so that's what I'm focusing on.