Marriage Equality USA has launched a new project – the National Equality Action Team (NEAT). According to MEUSA Program Manager Tracy Hollister, the new project was conceived by the organization’s executive director, Brian Silva. Chaired by Marriage Equality USA, NEAT is envisioned as a vehicle for national, state, local, and grassroots organizations, as well as individual organizers, to mobilize out-of-state marriage equality supporters in states with active marriage campaigns. These actions are done in coordination with, and with the support of, the local state campaigns. “Thousands of Americans who passionately support the cause of marriage equality find themselves living in a state without an active campaign and their passion lies dormant,” says Holister. NEAT now provides the opportunity for these advocates to connect with and support organizations in states like New Jersey and Illinois that have ongoing campaigns for marriage equality. Silva adds, “NEAT is a continuation of our work in winning campaigns in Minnesota, Maine, Maryland, Washington, Rhode Island, and Delaware.” In 2012, MEUSA mobilized many local, state, and national organizations to support the victorious efforts in those states and paved the way for the formation of NEAT. NEAT organizations are asked to support ongoing campaigns by recruiting volunteers from their own ranks and beyond via at-home phone banks, in-person phone banks such as those in New York City and Raleigh, and through canvassing – knocking on doors. These volunteers are then enlisted to support any ongoing marriage equality campaign as devised and run by the state-based organization. NEAT member benefits include e-mail alerts with details on how marriage equality supporters can get involved, resources to participate in campaigns, training for those who want to organize local events, such as phone banks, and the opportunity to be part of the national effort to win marriage equality nationwide. Christine Allen, MEUSA’s IT director, sums up the NEAT project as follows – “The National Equality Action Team epitomizes MEUSA’s commitment to working in cooperative coalition. Forget struggling in isolation or reinventing the wheel for the four hundredth time! It makes so much more sense for a variety of organizations and individuals to pool our resources, our brains, our experiences, and to enjoy each other’s company while accomplishing needed work. The other thing that is unique about NEAT is that it makes it possible for people to do remote phone banking from home. Do you have any idea how important that is to LGBT/allied folks who may not have a local community? Or, to people who are unable to get out of their homes to events and actions? Or to busy folks who are juggling full-time jobs and parenting? NEAT provides a way for everyone to get involved – people who are often not included can contribute and be a part of creating history.” The almost 50 NEAT coalition members include faith-based groups like Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Bethesda, Maryland, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh, North Carolina, and the United Church of Christ; national and local chapters of LGBTQ organizations such as PFLAG, GLAAD, and HRC; and political groups like the Log Cabin Republicans, the Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens, and Lambda Independent Democrats – Brooklyn. “NEAT integrates MEUSA’s whole vision of empowering all advocates of marriage equality with its own mission of recruiting advocates to execute specific actions in ongoing campaigns,” says Hollister. Adds Silva, "This puts us on the path toward winning full marriage equality in all 50 states." Visit the National Equality Action Team website to learn more and to sign up to help bring marriage equality to all fifty states.
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