^^^ I ^M P ^^^ HOUSTON VOICE
When Equality Knocks, gays find supporters
In just over a year,
has found more than
9,000 Houston voters
who say they will vote
in support of gay rights
By DAWN RORIE
Anyone who questions whether one
person can really make a difference may
find the answer by looking at the leadership of Equality Knocks.
Tammi Wallace had no idea what lay in
store for her a little over a year ago when
she sent an e-mail to the Lesbian Gay
Rights Lobby of Texas, asking how she
could get involved. When LGRL expressed
interest in starting a project in Houston
that would identity voters who would be
likely to support gay issues in the voting
booth, Wallace agreed to lead the effort.
With that, Equality Knocks was born.
At first, the project consisted only of
Wallace, her partner, Beth Tudor, and a
small group of dedicated volunteers. The
group worked out of the couple's home.
"My dining room was basically consumed with Equality Knocks stuff,"
Within a month, fifty people had
signed on to help with exit polling in the
2004 primary election. Seeking to identify
people who would vote in favor of gay
civil rights issues such as marriage
equality, volunteers organized block
walks, staffeded phone banks, and set up
tables at various gay events.
By the end of last year, Equality
Knocks had identified 9,000 voters who
said they would support equal rights for
gays and lesbians.
At the beginning of this year,
Christina Gomez stepped into the role of
project director for Equality Knocks.
Citing a proposed federal constitutional
amendment that would ban same-sex
marriage as the catalyst for her initial
volunteer work for the project, Gomez
decided to take on a leadership role within the group after seeing the devastating
losses in the 2004 election.
"That was the push I needed," says
ft MORE INFO
Community Work Day
10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday
Houston GLBT Community Center
3400 Montrose Blvd., Suite 227
When Tammi Wallace asked, "What can I do to help," she found herself leading Equality Knocks. (Photo by
Gomez. Refusing to accept defeat, she realized that "this is our chance to do something about it. We are going to take hold of
this and we are not going to let go."
While identifying fair-minded voters
is an important part of the project.
Equality Knocks also works to fight for
gay civil rights and educate c'tizens
about the importance of those rights.
Over the past year, the hot-button
issue on the Equality Knocks agenda has
been gay marriage. Many citizens,
Wallace says, are not aware of the more
than one thousand rights provided by a
civil marriage, including the right to
visit a sick partner in the hospital.
"Whether you agree or disagree with
gay marriage, "she says, "denying people
basic rights and responsibilities to protect their families is wrong."
Pushing for job equality
Equality Knocks has also been pushing
for employment non-discrimination protections for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals
and transgendered persons, as well as safe
school environments for gay students.
This year is shaping up to be an especially busy one for Equality Knocks. The
group has recently been working to educate voters about House Joint Resolution
6, the proposed marriage amendment to
the Texas Constitution. State
Representatives Martha Wong (R-
Houston) and Jessica Farrar (D-Houston)
are on the committee that has been considering the amendment.
Since Wong has not demonstrated support for gay and lesbian equality issues, volunteers worked tirelessly to encourage her
constituents to contact her and encourage
her to vote against the discriminatory
amendment. It meant walking from door to
door, talking to voters one-on-one.
"It's important that we put a face on
the issue," explains Gomez. Volunteers
are encouraged to share personal stories
to inform voters of the dangers that such
legislation poses to families and children.
In addition to fighting discrimination,
the members of Equality Knocks have
been working on restructuring the organ-
ft Equality Knocks
Founded by: Lesbian Gay Rights Lobby of
Texas and the Houston Gay and Lesbian
Political Caucus (PAC)
Address: 1302 Waugh Drive, PMB 536,
Houston TX 77019-3908
Web site: www.lgrl.org/egoalityknocks
Phone: 713-521-1000, ext. 2
ization itself. Originating as a result of a
coalition between LGRL and the Houston
Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus (PAC),
Equality Knocks has been growing at
such a pace that the leadership has decided to create Equality Houston, a standalone organization that will house the
project and continue its work.
Wallace, who is currently serving on
the board of HGLPC, will serve as president of Equality Houston. The challenge,
she says, lies within the need for
resources: dollars, supplies, and most
"Volunteers are needed in all areas,"
Gomez explains. Every person can add
something to the group, no matter what
their skills or level of involvement.
It was because of the need to reach out
to the community, other organizations,
and potential volunteers that the
Community Work Day was born. Group
leaders and volunteers gather to work on
projects and to meet people and talk one-
on-one with them to find out how they
can get involved.
Gomez stresses that equality will only
be won by people making a personal decision to help bring about change. "Every
voice counts," she insists.
Besides being a positive way to get
involved, volunteering for Equality
Knocks is a good way to make friends.
"You meet so many people doing this."
On Saturday, Equality Knocks and the
Houston Gay and Lesbian Political
Caucus will conduct a Community Work
Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Houston
GLBT Community Center at 3400
Montrose. Anyone interested in learning
more about the work of Equality Knocks
is encouraged to attend.