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Nearly 50 people gathered in a conference room at Oak Park's Carleton Hotel Wednesday, Sept. 18, to discuss strategies necessary to win their fight for marriage equality.
Gail Moran of Organization for Action (OFA) helped organize Wednesday's town hall meeting and rally. The Oak Park Area Lesbian and Gay Association (OPALGA), as well as Illinois Unites were also invited. The groups talked with supporters about how to get friends, family and local elected officials involved in the cause.
"We do live in a unique place of Oak Park, and we are very fortunate to have elected officials at the state level; you have been with us on this issue and many issues that impact the LGBT community," Village Trustee Ray Johnson said, acknowledging state Sen. Don Harmon (39th) and state Rep. Camille Lilly (78th), who were both present and later spoke.
Later in the evening, Keron Blair, field director for Illinois Unites, presented the organizations initiatives with a preacher's charisma and zeal. Blair encouraged each group to remind themselves of a vision they have for the world and their community.
"It is the vision that grounds us," he said.
That vision, Blair stressed, is not unattainable, because marriage equality is supported by more than half — 51 percent— of people in the state.
"We have to activate those people because to be silent is criminal," Blair said.
Only 29 percent of voters, he noted, say no to marriage equality.
The vision includes organizing volunteers, activists and leaders in every legislative district in the state, and developing a media campaign. These goals are geared toward getting supporters to publicly speak-out about marriage rights.
Phone banks, the Voter Activation Network (VAN) and canvassing are ways Illinois Unites proposes to spread the word. Blair noted that their fundraising efforts are just as critical to the cause because it takes money to keep these initiatives running.
Illinois Unites' funding goal is $2 million, and they anticipate collecting 80 percent of their budget by Oct. 15. The groups plan to march in Springfield on Oct. 22, during the General Assembly's fall veto session.
"The moral arch of the universe bends toward justice," Trustee Johnson said quoted Martin Luther King. "We have to do some heavy lifting to make that happen."