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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Minnesota campaign aims to raise marriage equality awareness
by Tyler Gillespie
2012-08-08

This article shared 3405 times since Wed Aug 8, 2012
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The Great Minnesota Outing is an online video campaign to increase LGBT visibility and raise awareness about the upcoming same-sex marriage amendment vote in the state Nov. 6.

The proposed amendment states "only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota."

The Great Minnesota Outing comes from "statistics showing that people who know a LGBT person are more likely to support gay rights, but many people do not know that they already know a gay or lesbian Minnesotan," as stated in the press release.

The viral strategy of The Great Minnesota Outing is an effort to inform Minnesotans to vote against the amendment and show communities how many people would be affected by the marriage ban.

"The idea was initially a sort-of personal 'letter to the editor' letting people from my hometown know that this [amendment] affects me," founder Jon Staff, a commercial and social entrepreneur originally from Bemidji, told Windy City Times. "The 21st-century version of the 'letter to the editor' is YouTube."

In the campaign, LGBT Minnesotans record their stories and upload a video, effectively outing themselves to their neighbors.

"The most impactful thing that I could do isn't really time or money, it's just tell people that this affects me personally, it isn't just about people in Minneapolis, it's about people in every town across the state," said Staff.

The Great Minnesota Outing website allows visitors to search by zip code, helping people find LGBT Minnesotans that are close to them. The customized search enables people to have a more personalized experience with the community.

"As a gay person, your parents are sort-of the pinnacle—once you come out to your parents you think you've kind-of done it all, but in fact there are a whole bunch of other people," said Staff. "It's important for people to remember that this is really about your neighbors and your family members, whether you know it or not."

The videos follow a simple format—the participant tells why they love living in Minnesota and go on to say why marriage equality is important to them. The video participants are instructed to end their submission by saying "for my benefit and the benefit of Minnesotans like me, please vote NO on Nov. 6."

Along with asking for submissions, some of the videos were shot at different events, mainly Twin Cities Pride. The focus is a digital campaign and the website has already received many video submissions by Minnesotans.

"I've been here in the Twin Cities in Minneapolis for almost 10 years, and I am gay," says "Jules" in a video. "There's so much that I love about Minnesota—I love the people that are here, having the parks system, the outdoors, the ability to be out and open, and the four seasons. [Marriage equality] matters because we're all one in this world and for all of us to be able to have a partner should be a rite of passage for anybody."

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the current U.S. states that issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples are Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York and the District of Columbia.

Civil unions giving state-level spousal rights to same-sex couples are granted in Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

Viral videos such as Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" campaign and others have started to change the way people talk about LGBT issues. Now, helping someone get more informed and exposed to a subject can be as easy as sending a link or updating a Facebook message.

"We try to communicate to [our participants] that [submitting a video] is great, but that is the first step. The second step is what we're trying to do with social media; the way that we are communicating with our participants is that you have to continue that conversation," said Staff. "We're trying to make sure that the website and the videos make an appeal for marriage and that's done by recording the video but it's also done by posting it online and sharing it with friends… hopefully one of their friends will bring it up or [they'll] bring it up and it can continue the conversation however they can before November."

Along with the viral video campaign, The Great Minnesota Outing also spearheads a mentorship program, offers volunteer opportunities, and directs website goers to LGBT resources.

"So far we've had a lot of super positive feedback—I had an English teacher write to me and say 'thank you for sharing this story, it will make a difference… We're really encouraging people to share their stories on the website."

For more information about The Great Minnesota Outing or to help share participant's videos, visit www.greatminnesotaouting.com .


This article shared 3405 times since Wed Aug 8, 2012
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