On Tuesday, three local LGBT activists are flying across the proverbial pond to volunteer for Ireland’s marriage referendum. Trevor Powell, attorney John Keating, and civil rights activist and political blogger Jay Lassiter met while working for Garden State Equality during the New Jersey marriage equality campaign in 2009. They’ve worked on a number of campaigns together since, but now they’re ready to take their teamwork overseas.
The referendum makes Ireland the only nation in the world that’s asking its citizens to vote for marriage equality. If the vote passes this Friday, May 22nd, couples will have the right to marry in a country that currently only recognizes civil unions. I shot Powell, a recent graduate of Temple University, a few questions to see what they have planned for their trip.
Are you going with an organization?
We aren’t affiliated with any organization. This is literally a group of political friends with several years’ experience behind working on LGBT campaigns who decided that this opportunity was too important to turn down.
Why did you decide to do this?
Jay, John, and I decided that, after working several LGBT-related campaigns in the U.S., we should contribute our parts to the marriage equality campaign in Ireland. The three of us worked to turn out the vote in Maine and Maryland in 2012. Those were among the first states in the U.S. to pass marriage equality via the ballot box. We are hoping to take that same success over to Ireland.
Ireland is the first nation in the world to put marriage equality to a country-wide vote, and, if the referendum passes, it will be a watershed movement for the LGBT movement worldwide. Despite the promising poll numbers which indicate 70 percent of Irish voters favor marriage equality, there is still no room for complacency. The actual vote will be much tighter than indicated and turnout, which is key to the success of the campaign, will likely be low. We cannot take the outcome of the referendum for granted, nor can we leave it to other people to expect it to pass.
What will the job actually entail?
The job will entail canvassing neighborhoods, phone-banking, and turning out the vote from students on campuses like the University of Dublin and Trinity College.
What kind of insight can a group of activists from Philly bring to this cause?
The rights of same-sex couples to marry is the civil rights issue of our generation. For the overwhelming majority of millennials, granting same-sex couples the right to marry is a no-brainer. The younger generations need to take their support to the ballot box and be reminded just how pivotal this vote is—not only for Ireland, but for the rest of the world, too. The goal of this campaign is to get equality-minded voters, who are clearly the majority, out to the polls.