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Making LGBT Great: Michael Crawford

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Working toward achieving marriage equality is a significant way to improve the lives of the LGBT community. The community recently celebrated four historic victories at the ballot box and is a Supreme Court decision away from adding California to the list of states that recognize marriage equality. For the past several years Michael Crawford has been a nationally recognized activist who has played a significant role in this fight for marriage equality by producing innovative online campaigns and promoting inclusivity in messaging.

He currently works as Director of Online Programs at Freedom to Marry where he manages the organization's websites, email program, online fundraising and social media presence. He has wide-ranging experience in political advocacy, new media and grassroots organizing. He was a leading strategist for the successful campaign to win freedom to marry in Washington, D.C., with a focus on public education, community outreach and communications strategy. He was co-founder and co-chair of D.C. for Marriage, a grassroots group that engaged in thousands of conversations with D.C. residents about gay people and marriage, with a particular focus on building support in the African-American community. Michael served as Associate Field Director at Human Rights Campaign, where he specialized in developing field and legislative strategies to advance pro-LGBT legislation at the state and federal levels and building support for endorsed candidates. He was also an organizer of the 2000 Millennium March on Washington for LGBT Equal Rights, which brought together more than 750,000 advocates for LGBT equality.

Christopher: What personal or professional accomplishment are you most proud of?

Michael: I am most proud of the work I am doing on marriage. I truly believe that the winning of marriage nationwide will have a transformative effect on the LGBT community and the larger American culture. As I say that, I am under no illusion that winning marriage will be easy, or that marriage is the only issue critical to the LGBT community.

I was one of the leaders of the successful campaign for the freedom to marry in Washington, DC., helped to develop and implement digital strategies to win marriage in New York and marriage ballot states where we have recently won and led Freedom to Marry's online advocacy campaigns to encourage President Obama to publicly support marriage and the Democratic Party to add the freedom to marry to its platform. For me, the best part of that work is seeing amazing couples that are now able to marry, in part because of my work.

Of course, there is much more to do, and I am grateful to be a part of a much larger movement to win marriage and full LGBT equality.

Christopher: What do you think is the greatest challenge facing the LGBT community?

Michael: I think the greatest challenge for the LGBT community is also our greatest opportunity. How do we build a mass movement big enough in scope and broad enough in range to help us achieve our legislative and policy goals and shift the U.S. culture so that no one ever has to feel that they can't accomplish their dreams because of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression?

We've made progress on a range of issues in a fairly short amount of time in comparison to other civil rights movements. Of course, a big part of that is because the LGBT movement was built on the learnings of other civil rights movements, including the black civil rights movement and the women's movement. However, we have yet to create a broad enough movement that fully includes LGBT people of color, young people, people of faith and straight allies.

We have huge opportunities for better understanding the breathtaking diversity of the LGBT community, and for creating spaces where allies can join the movement and feel at home.

Christopher: What two or three things can individuals do to help make LGBT great?

Michael: Come out as LGBT. If you are LGBT and are in a position where coming out does not jeopardize your health, you should come out. No more hiding or passing or making claims that it's just a small, "private" part of who you are. By remaining closeted, you are hindering our progress as a movement and saying that you think being LGBT is something to be ashamed of.

Come out as an ally. We need the support of straight allies more than we sometimes care to admit. If you love your LGBT friends and family, it is critical that you come out as a straight person who supports LGBT equality.

Donate to an LGBT organization. Roughly 4 percent of LGBT people donate to the organizations that are working day in and out to make our lives better. We should donate to them on a regular basis no matter how small the donation may be. Organizations working on behalf of LGBT youth are great groups to donate to.

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As a leader in the fight for marriage equality, Michael Crawford is truly someone who is making LGBT great.

This is part of a series of profiles of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight individuals who are working to improve the lives of LGBT residents and their thoughts on how to make LGBT great. To find out more about the Making LGBT Great project, please visit Facebook.com/makeLGBTgreat.