Article and Photos by: Nigel Medhurst
Equality California (EQCA) celebrated the opening of their Fresno office in their “Win Marriage Back: Make it Real” campaign. The band “The In Flight Nymphs,” DJ Ms. Soul Flower, and Heinz performed, along with an auction of Chelsey Ramirez’ artwork. The event was covered by the press and greeted by different LGBT organizations although the primary audience was the residents of the Central Valley.
Scotti Maldonado and Vanessa Lopez, are the EQCA’s Fresno Regional Field Managers. Lopez said the office will serve as a home base for volunteers to phone-bank and canvas. The office will help sustain visibility of the fight to renew the right to same-sex marriages. Fresno played a significant role in the passage of the anti-marriage proposal with 70% voting in favor of it. Nurturing a grass-roots movement in the Central Valley is crucial to the success of legalizing same-sex marriage. “Who better to fight for the right to marry in the Central Valley than the people from the Central Valley,” an EQCA volunteer, Katrina, said.
The office also provides a conference room for other LGBT groups to meet. Zoyer Zyndel, the Chair of the Fresno Transgender organization, commented, “If it wasn’t for the gay parade and the LGBT’s I wouldn’t even have realized I was transgender.” He explained the importance of a meeting place because “finding another transgender person who is comfortable being out is like finding a unicorn.” It wasn’t until Zyndel discovered and joined a group at Fresno City College that he became more knowledgeable and was able to gain the strength to address his identity concerns.
Many other first-time visitors were on hand. Lopez said, “ I saw a lot of new faces.” The media was well represented by Fox, Univision, El Sol, Newslink, and McSweeney’s. Nick Greene from McSweeneys, a San Francisco based publication, has been writing a story about the canvassing in the Central Valley. He observed about Fresno, “It’s pretty conservative and reminds me a lot of back home in Michigan although there is no equality office opening up in Michigan.”
Michigan, like 30 other states, including California, has voted to ban same-sex marriages.
This is what it all comes back to and why the director of EQCA, Marc Solomon, was in Fresno throughout the celebration. “EQCA is making a commitment to the Central Valley by having organizers and opening an office, but we need the help of the Central Valley. This door-to-door campaign will only succeed if people are willing to take it on and do the work. I know we can win, but we need people to roll up their sleeves and get engaged. We’re here to make it easy for people to volunteer.”
There are are plans to return to the ballots but a strong grass-roots movement needs to be in place first. Solomon believes same-sex marriage will be legalized in California,“It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”
If you are interested in phone-banking or canvassing, contact: