Chris Burke is a 31-year-old straight guy who'd never been inside the new nightclub Q before walking in last night to register voters and spread the word about approving Referendum 74. Burke used to be a hydrogeologist, now works in advertising as a web developer, and he's donating his free time to the gay-marriage issue because: "It's fundamental that people should have equal rights. My best friend is queer and the idea that I can get married and she can't is just upsetting." So where was this queer friend of his? Why wasn't she out volunteering, too? There was an awkward pause. "I'm going to make her volunteer. And I can get people at work to volunteer, too."
It was Burke's first night volunteering. After reading this Slog post earlier in the week, he joined this Facebook group, which is meeting up at Lobby at 7 pm every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and then going on a bar-hop together. About half a dozen volunteers did the bar hop last night, including another straight guy, Waseem Quraishi, 28, a programmer at a tech startup. Burke and Quraishi had never met before. And obviously, as straight guys, they have nothing to gain if gay marriage becomes legal—they just think it's the right thing to do. Cuz they are just awesome dudes.
Anyway, after a couple drinks at Lobby, Burke walked into Q and gamely started talking with... well, let's see, what's the nice way of putting this? An unenthusiastic homosexual person. Sitting at the bar. I couldn't make out what they were saying, but it was pretty amazing watching a straight guy try to talk a gay guy into giving a shit about gay marriage. After a valiant attempt to engage with the guy—who wasn't even registered to vote!—Burke walked away, without success. "That was difficult," Burke said. "He wants to vote but he's not interested in dealing with it right now."
Then Burke walked up to a guy who said he'd just moved here from the East Coast six months ago. This guy didn't think he was registered to vote. But he also didn't know if he could register: "Do I have to have a Washington license?" he asked.
This stumped the volunteers for half a second, but Burke rolled with it: "Why don't we take down your information just in case?" he said. And good thing he did. You don't need a Washington license to vote; you just need to be a legal resident of the state and you need to be registered to vote. "So, what's your name?" Burke said, and happily took down the guy's name and address and other information while this lucky dude stood there drinking a vodka cranberry and dictating his information.
If you don't have a Washington State license/state ID #, you can provide the last four digits of your social security number instead. When Burke got to that part of the form, he said, "Want to write it down and I won't look?"
"I don't have any money, so I don't care."
"I could hold your drink," Burke said, handing him the clipboard to fill in the SSN and the signature.
"OK. Don't slip me anything," the guy said. He probably didn't realize he was talking to a straight guy.
Burke mentioned that the gay marriage initiative was called Referendum 74, and that to support marriage equality he should vote "approve."
"Duh, really?" the guy said sarcastically.
"Well, it's confusing the way it's worded," Burke said.
"Yeah," the guy said, sincerely this time. "OK, so approve? I've been worried about it. You should get my partner too." The guy pointed at his boyfriend across the bar, who'd moved with him from the East Coast and was also not registered to vote.
Then Burke encouraged the guy to volunteer to register voters or even do some phone-banking, but the guy declined, saying, "I'm just not very outgoing and talkative."
"Neither am I!" Burke said. "This is taking lots of drinks. Well, it's so nice to meet you." As he walked away, Burke said, "I was just in a bike accident and my hand's still fucked up. So holding a clipboard is kind of hard." Then he looked at the lights and the dance floor and said, "I can't believe this place is in my neighborhood. This is so not Seattle."
A little while later, the volunteers moved to R-Place, and then to the Baltic Room for a ElektroPOP, a queer night with drag performances and lube wrestling. I asked Burke for his impression of the show, and he said, "Good fun. And maybe just a bit sexually suggestive. Just a bit." I asked Burke what it was like watching two guys wrestling in lube, as a straight guy. "I'm not really about definitions. I'm a vegetarian but I would never describe myself that way. We're people. We should be able to do whatever the fuck we want. That's what freedom is."
I asked Quraishi, that other straight guy, what he thought of the lube wrestling spectacle, and he said, "I was honestly talking to a lady, so I didn't see much. But from what I saw it looked very difficult. I like how everybody's so lively, you know?"
The group meets up again tonight for their bar crawl starting at Lobby at 7 pm. Those straight girls I met at Pony earlier in the week will be joining tonight. You should join in, too. Gay guys, gay gals, straight guys, straight gals—anyone who gives a shit. Now is the time. It's fun. It's important. You'll meet people. There are only three more days to register to vote—the deadline for voter registration is October 8—and only about a week left before millions of dollars of negative ads about gay marriage start flooding the airwaves. As Ed Murray put it when he visited The Stranger's offices earlier today, California's gay-marriage initiative was 11 points ahead in the polls and then lost by 8 points on Election Day. If we want to be the first state ever to pass gay marriage by popular vote, it's going to take a helluva lot more work.