Tomorrow should prove a very interesting, and in some cases disturbing, Election Day. Despite the endless barrage of media coverage of some of the country's craziest, most misinformed, hypocritical and hate-spewing candidates, there are some very exciting, ground-breaking things happening to advance a truly progressive agenda and I want to tell you about one of them -- Fight Back New York.
In December 2009, the New York State Senate proved beyond a doubt how outmoded, outdated and out-of-touch they were with their constituents when they voted against my right -- and the rights of hundreds of thousands of other gay New Yorkers -- to marry the person they love. I didn't want to let them get away with that.
The good news was that every single New York State Senator who voted against our rights would be up for reelection this Nov. BINGO!
There were a lot of New Yorkers who were ready to Fight Back. And so in early 2010, Fight Back New York was formed. We are a PAC with one purpose: kicking out of office the most virulent anti-gay senators. I got involved with Fight Back New York, because I was ready to stop letting my elected officials get away with voting against equality and justice.
Last spring, we set our sights on our first homophobe, a gem of a legislator named Hiram Monserrate, who had been kicked out of the Senate by his colleagues after being convicted of assaulting his girlfriend with a broken bottle. You see, a fun coincidence is that most of these anti-equality Senators are often pretty bad on other basic humanitarian issues as well, and there's a wealth of information that their constituents need to know about them.
Monserrate was running in a special election for his former seat, and Fight Back New York came in with a vengeance. We raised, and then spent a considerable amount of money. We sent out more than 95,000 pieces of mail to targeted voters in the district, explaining why Monserrate was the wrong choice. And when we won in a landslide, we sent a strong message to Albany: our famously complacent NY Senators could no longer consider it politically expedient to vote against our basic civil rights. Because when they did so (they learned), there are consequences.
Since that first race back in March, and our subsequent victory in the September primaries when we defeated another proudly anti-equality Senator from Buffalo (perhaps he and Carl Paladino spent time together in the local anti-gay bar), I'm told that we have come within a stone's throw of the votes needed to pass marriage equality in New York.
Now, I'm no insider lobbyist, but in addition to winning "yes" votes by defeating certain senators, I'm willing to bet that a lot of those remaining have gone back to revisit their conscience and their "no" votes on marriage equality and have "changed their mind" on the issue as they watch their fellow senators drop. And we don't bear them a grudge -- we welcome their change of heart (and vote). We have now set our sights on more candidates whose fate will be determined and (we hope) sealed tomorrow.
While I have great hope and confidence in tomorrow's election, our campaign has already changed politics as usual. Our elected officials in Albany know we mean business. And the significant role we've played in the New York Senate races sends a strong message to those running for office across the country. If we can Fight Back in New York, we can Fight Back anywhere. Long gone are the days where politicians took heat for voting in favor of equality. Now the opposite is true. As we've seen in this campaign season alone, anti-gay stances these days are a liability. We're taking names, and we're going after them.
We are well on our way to winning marriage equality in New York State, and beyond. That said, this fight will not be over for a while. For those of you who are like me and are looking for the inspiring and hopeful campaigns amongst the refuse of this election cycle, please go to FightBackPac.com and read about the work we are doing. (And check out our celebrity videos featuring Jesse Tyler Ferguson from Modern Family, Rosie Perez, Alec Baldwin, Whoopi Goldberg, and me!) And if you can, please make a donation. It's not too late to help us push anti-equality senators out of office. We're sending a message to legislators that until they come around on this issue -- their seat is at risk. Join our inspiring efforts. Because it's not just about New York, it's about changing the way elected officials in every state view their gay constituents: you can't vote against our rights and expect to get away with it. At the very least, it's great therapy, and at the most, you'll help shepherd in a new era of civil rights for LGBT New Yorkers, and create a model for winning significant change for the LGBT community in the political sphere. We're fighting back, and the impact will go far beyond New York. Join us. Vote for equality at the ballot box tomorrow. Fight back!