Bringing the Freedom to Marry for All to the National Level

Making marriage equality a reality nationwide with storytelling campaigns.

The freedom to marry is one of the defining civil rights issues of our time, and one that a majority of Americans support. Freedom to Marry, the campaign to win marriage nationwide, is leveraging storytelling to lead the effort to win marriage in more states, grow public support, and create the climate necessary for the Supreme Court to bring the country to national resolution on the issue. It’s a monumental effort. And with the Supreme Court agreeing to rule on marriage equality this summer (possibly bringing the freedom to marry to every state in the US), it’s important more than ever to show that Americans are ready for change.

Jessalyn Kiesa
twitter.com/bsd

Jessalyn Kiesa is a Senior Account Director at Blue State Digital with a passion for sustainability, communication, and technology. She currently leads strategic engagements for some of BSD’s largest clients in the non-profit sector. Jess develops digital platforms, fundraising campaigns and communication strategies, building communities and mobilizing them to act. Jess has worked with Freedom to Marry for over two years, and has also led engagements with National Audubon Society, The Rockefeller Foundation, and Trout Unlimited.

For the last five years, Freedom to Marry and Blue State Digital have worked together to build the organization’s digital storytelling capacity and presence to mobilize a community of supporters ready to take action to achieve ambitious goals. We launched a series of powerful campaigns over paid media, social media, and email, using storytelling and clear calls to action to rally supporters behind critical legislative, ballot, and public opinion battles.

Since 2009, Freedom to Marry has grown its supporter base by more than 3,000% and increased donations substantially. The organization has played a leading role in winning marriage in 37 states and the District of Columbia while reshaping the national conversation around this issue. With each campaign, Freedom to Marry wins the hearts and minds of more supporters, giving the organization critical grassroots power to make the freedom to marry a reality nationwide.

Here are a few of the campaigns that focused on storytelling to drive social impact:

ASKING OBAMA TO SAY “I DO”

In March 2011, Freedom to Marry utilized the power of narrative in an open letter send to President Obama asking him to publicly support the freedom to marry. They enlisted celebrity signers including entertainment, business and political leaders to generate buzz in the press and on social media, which attracted more than 122,000 Americans to add their names to the letter. The campaign ended on May 9, 2012, when President Obama became the first sitting president to publicly voice support for the freedom to marry.

ENLISTING LGBT SOLDIERS TO BATTLE DOMA

In 2012, Freedom to Marry partnered with OutServe-SLDN on a multimedia storytelling campaign to shine a spotlight on how the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) harmed military families. To inspire people to get involved, we created seven videos, including the Webby-winning “Same Skin,” in which two soldiers revealed their battle scars but not whether they were gay or straight, underscoring that it is service, not sexual orientation, that distinguishes our armed forces. President Obama cited DOMA’s impact on service members when voicing his support for the freedom to marry in May 2012.

MAKING THE CASE TO THE SUPREME COURT

In 2013, we helped build momentum for marriage as the U.S. Supreme Court considered cases regarding DOMA and Proposition 8. The “Right Side of History” campaign included a specially designed Tumblr that armed Freedom to Marry supporters with smart and sharable graphics that helped them add their story to the broader campaign to make the case that America was ready for marriage nationwide. The “I’m One of Them” graphic alone resulted in 3.5 million impressions on Facebook.

RALLYING SOUTHERNERS FOR THE FREEDOM TO MARRY

Marriage equality in Alabama has been influx these past few weeks when a federal judge struck down the state’s marriage ban. With the national spotlight now on Alabama, Blue State Digital and Freedom to Marry quickly deployed one of our most effective storytelling tools: video. We filmed an online video in Birmingham called Who We Are as Southerners, telling the story of Chi and Jessica Peoples and their 7-year-old daughter, Nailah. It’s personal and provocative.

The online video and its subsequent 30-second TV spot have helped garner interest and support among key constituents:

  • Media has covered the TV spot extensively, ranging from the New York Times and LGBQT Nation to local outlets ranging from AL.com to WFSA News in Montgomery.

  • We’ve seen gains in awareness from our target audiences, with more than 150,000 video views and counting.

  • Supporters from Southern states accounted for a higher percentage of Freedom to Marry donations than ever before during our year-end online fundraising campaign (an increase of 44% from 2013).

A NATIONAL RESOLUTION

On April 28th, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in several marriage legal cases. This spring, BSD and Freedom to Marry will continue our work to demonstrate that all of America is ready for the freedom to marry. This historic moment is exactly what so many people—from the families who fought for their marriages, to the legal teams and organizations who have shepherded these cases—have been working toward for over a decade. We’re proud to continue the fight and to harness the power of digital to bring a national resolution to this issue.

Cross-posted with permission from Blue State Digital.

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