Special Thanks
Special Thanks

EQCAI's Marriage Work

Find out more about what we've learned about messaging from our field campaign and about our new initiatives for 2010 (below).

Then, let us know what it's going to take to build more support for marriage. Attend a one-hour online webinar this Thursday, join us at an in-person roundtable briefing in Los Angeles, Riverside, or San Francisco, or take a few minutes to fill out a form.

On this page:


Our marriage educational work is guided by the following principles.

Learn more about EQCAI's field campaign in depth (.pdf) >

  • We focus relentlessly on surpassing 50 percent support for marriage equality among Californians. 
  • Our locally-based field program, which we carry out in partnership with many organizations, offers a powerful opportunity for person-to-person education and persuasion, as well as for community-based coalition building.   
  • Given recent slower gains in public opinion on marriage equality, we need out-of-the-box thinking and innovative techniques to identify the most persuasive messaging, messengers, and delivery mechanisms targeted to the right audiences. 
  • In order to be most cost-efficient, we are rigorously testing the effectiveness of every aspect of our work prior to building it to scale. 
  • In a state that is majority people of color, we are building effective partnerships and programs to move people of color to support marriage equality and grow independent leadership within LGBT people of color communities. 
  • We are working—in close partnership with California Faith for Equality—to  enlist mainstream denomination clergy leaders to serve as spokespeople, and mobilize progressive churches to take action in our field efforts. 
  • With intense media focus on marriage equality in California, we are utilizing  every opportunity to generate positive and persuasive stories.
  • At every opportunity, we are highlighting our greatest “weapon” in this struggle—the more than 18,000 same-sex couples that are legally married in California.  

The Heart of our Efforts— Our Field program

At the heart of our work is our on-the-ground field effort focused on face-to-face conversations to move Californians who do not yet support the freedom to marry. We have field staff working in 10 field offices across California—two in Los Angeles; and one each in Orange County, San Diego, the Inland Empire, Fresno, Sacramento, the Coachella Valley, Silicon Valley; and the San Francisco Bay Area.  The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has generousbly contributed two field leaders to the effort.

Our program brings together best practices in citizen contact and persuasion. It draws from a sophisticated canvass model developed by the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, and also integrates canvassing approaches used by MassEquality and the Task Force. 

Volunteers are trained to listen carefully to people’s reasons for not supporting marriage equality and ask questions to get beneath their surface reasons. They are trained to personalize the issue—talk about why marriage equality is important to them. They record every conversation, and those are tracked in a sophisticated database. Every week, the canvass is revised based on what we learn at the door.  

Our program has been fully operational since the summer of 2009, and we’ve now had over 160 canvasses. We now have had enough conversations to evaluate trends and patterns including which groups move the most and which messages are most effective.  Early findings include the following:

  • Overall, 25 percent of people who are undecided or who oppose marriage equality will, after an in-depth conversation, shift to either support marriage equality, or be undecided (if they were opposed). We are testing the degree to which those shifts in position hold over time. 

  • Communities of color have shown the greatest movement—29 percent of African-Americans and 30 percent of Latinos. Anecdotally, members of both groups point to the fact that few people on our side have talked to them about the issue. 

  • The vast majority of people to whom we speak—80 percent—point to religion as the reason they oppose marriage equality. We’re trying out different approaches for having conversations with those who state that religion is their primary reason for opposition and have made some real headway. Another key component of the field effort is to identify supporters of marriage equality and encourage them to register to vote (or become permanent vote-by-mail voters), contribute, and/or volunteer. Trained volunteers, as well as paid canvassers, are ubiquitous at pride celebrations, festivals, locations with heavy foot traffic—any place where there is a concentration of supporters.

Another key component of the field effort is to identify supporters of marriage equality and encourage them to register to vote (or become permanent vote-by-mail voters), contribute, and/or volunteer. Trained volunteers, as well as paid canvassers, are ubiquitous at pride celebrations, festivals, locations with heavy foot traffic—any place where there is a concentration of supporters. 

In 2009, we had an aggregate of more than 500,000 conversations with Californians through our field program, and we will have at least that number in 2010. 

In the process of doing this work, we are building a cadre of volunteer leaders who are themselves able to train new volunteers, lead canvasses, and share their stories with large audiences and the media. We are also strengthening our relationships with key allies in state elected office, organized labor, immigrant rights work, civil rights work, the environmental movement, as well as with other elected officials, progressive clergy, civic leaders, and the local media.   

This work is only possible because of our amazing volunteers. We need you to go door-to-door, work at phonebanks, recruit new volunteers at pride festivals around the state, and more. This is the hard work of equality, and we simply cannot do it without you! Sign up to volunteer and we promise, we’ll put you to work in a way that best utilizes your skills.

What's New

Speakers' Bureau
Let California Ring—with the leadership of GLAAD, PFLAG and LGBT family organizations—is launching a Speakers’ Bureau. There is no better way to demonstrate that marriage equality is working in California and that the scare tactics of our opponents are untrue than by introducing Californians to the more than 18,000 married same-sex couples, their parents, their children, and those LGBT people who aspire to marry. 

We have just begun training speakers and are scheduling trainings throughout the state.   EQCAI field organizers, coalition partners, and others will identify venues, and speakers  will be dispatched to places of worship; social clubs; chambers of commerce; etc.—any place where we can get an audience. We plan to dispatch speakers to at least 200 speaking events around the state this year.    If you are interested in becoming a speaker in your community, or if you have a venue for a speaker, please email Andrea Shorter at andrea[at]eqca[dot]org.

Building Support in Communities of Color
Another of the Let California Ring committees, the Field Projects Committee, is designing pilot projects in communities of color to move people of color in support of marriage equality. The projects will target a discrete geographic area and will use multiple, culturally appropriate channels to engage residents which may include targeted, paid media; news stories; community events; leader activation; and on-the-ground organizing efforts in neighborhoods. The goal will be to get people to talk to others in their circles about the issue.

EQCA’s field work is focused on moving people in communities of color. In Los Angeles, a full 80 percent of the field work is with LGBT people of color.

Key to this work, and critical as an end in itself, is having strong, effective and independent people of color LGBT organizations. Several of these organizations play key leadership roles in Let California Ring.     

Building Support in Communities of Faith

Equality California Institute is working closely with California Faith for Equality to: 

  • Ensure that Californians do not view marriage equality as a threat to their religious freedom.   The Religious Freedom Civil Marriage Bill, introduced this legislative session by Equality California, Senator Mark Leno, and the California Council of Churches Action League, clarifies the difference between civil and religious marriage and spells out that no clergy can be compelled to perform a same-sex marriage.  

  • Activate progressive houses of worship. Work with clergy to speak from the pulpit about the moral imperative of the Golden Rule—treating one’s neighbors, including same-sex couples, as oneself; and activating supporters to volunteer in the field efforts. 

  • Encourage conversations in mainstream Christian denominations.  In congregations that are more closely divided, work with pastors to facilitate respectful conversations on the issue. 

  • Develop cadre of senior-level mainstream clergy for “quick response”   Ensure that, whenever religious leaders speak to the media in opposition to marriage equality, our side responds with an equally respected clergy leader. 

Building Coalitions
EQCAI is building effective, mutually-supportive coalitions to advance our marriage equality work and to support our partners in their struggles for equality. In addition to managing the Let California Ring marriage education coalition and participating in local coalitions throughout the state (such as the OutWest coalition in Los Angeles), EQCAI is undertaking three major efforts with partners:

  • Organized labor. EQCAI is pulling together a labor advisory steering committee to develop strategies for educating rank-and-field union members on marriage equality.   We will then pilot educational programs with three labor entities and evaluate the success of the effort. If you have an interest in helping out and learning more, and particularly if you are a union member, email Andrea Shorter at andrea[at]eqca[dot]org.
  • African-American leaders. EQCAI is developing a network of African-American community leaders and parents of LGBT people throughout the state to serve as spokespeople in support of marriage equality. If you have an interest in helping out and learning more, email Andrea Shorter at andrea[at]eqca[dot]org.

  • Southern California Progressive Coalition. Convened by the PowerPAC Foundation, EQCAI is working in partnership with Mobilize the Immigrant Vote, the California Alliance and other social and economic justice organizations in Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego Counties to develop areas for common action, with a focus on building civically-engaged citizens on the ground. 

Harvey Milk Day
Saturday, May 22 will be an historic day, as we celebrate the first Harvey Milk Harvey Milk Day, thanks to the actions of thousands of EQCA supporters who helped pass the Mark Leno-authored bill into law.

How would Harvey have wanted us to celebrate his day? With a Statewide Day of Action! We’re going door-to-door across the state talking to people about marriage and equality for LGBT Californians. We’ll be joined by local elected officials, celebrities, coalition partners in organized labor and civil rights, and elsewhere. 

Help make the first Harvey Milk Day the largest LGBT day of action in California history!


2011 and Beyond

In 2011 and 2012, we will build on all the work described above, replicating and enhancing those tactics that demonstrate the most measurable effectiveness. The effectiveness of our field efforts will continue to improve, as we develop a greater number of trained volunteers and consistently update our “pitch” at the door and on the telephone. Our messaging work will have been refined to the point where we will want to develop and test television advertisements, again measuring rigorously for effectiveness and movement. And we will seek to expand pilots in communities of color, replicating those which proved most effective.