Grindr joins with Courage in marriage equality project
by David Duran
Grindr, the all-male geosocial app, is branching out. No longer content just to be used by gay and bi men seeking a hook-up, the company has joined forces with the Courage Campaign in a new Grindr for Equality project that will petition the Democratic National Committee to help fund efforts to support marriage equality in various ballot fights this year.
With more than 3 million users, the project hopes to raise awareness for LGBT issues and spark interest among Grindr users, who may not be as politically active.
The Courage Campaign empowers more than 750,000 grassroots and netroots activists to push for progressive change and full equality in California and across the country. As a leading multi-issue advocacy organization, Courage Campaign's work is supported by thousands of small donations.
"Grindr for Equality is looking to continue our involvement in the political process by tapping into our engaged community in order to update them on GLBT issues on a local, national, and international scale," said Grindr founder and CEO, Joel Simkhai.
Currently, the Courage Campaign is working to make sure the DNC helps to fight for equal marriage rights on the ballot in 2012. In 2008, the DNC chipped in $25,000 in the unsuccessful effort to defeat Proposition 8, California's same-sex marriage ban.
"It seems like a natural fit for us, since Grindr for Equality used our location-based technology to help overturn Proposition 8 in 2010 and our goal is to continue to raise awareness for GLBT issues and spur action across the globe," added Simkhai, who was referring to the site's work in getting users to send messages linking to petitions.
Ultimately, a federal judge in August 2010 ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional in a federal lawsuit; an appeals court in early February upheld that decision. The case is now headed to another appeal before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Grindr for Equality plans to use its vast network across the country to mobilize the LGBT community and help raise awareness about the DNC's extra funds, which they would like to see put toward marriage equality. Voters in North Carolina and Minnesota will face constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage. In Washington state, opponents of marriage equality announced plans to file for a ballot referendum on the law signed in February that legalizes same-sex marriage. A similar effort may be launched in Maryland, where a marriage equality bill is expected to be signed this week by Governor Martin O'Malley.
"We plan to utilize our national reach and mobilize Grindr users to sign a pro-marriage equality petition, which will be delivered to the DNC Chairwoman and Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz," said Simkhai.
Rick Jacobs, the founder and chair of the Courage Campaign, believes Grindr offers a unique mechanism by which to reach the community and it offers a way to quickly engage them.
"As with most of the American population, most gay people are not politicized. It's the old Harvey Milkism: if everyone comes out, we win everything," said Jacobs.
Jacobs believes it is time for the DNC to get more involved, especially since it's an election year.
"Those of us who want to assure that the president wins re-election want to find every means possible to get out the vote. Having the DNC support these efforts will help us with turnout for the presidential election and make clear that Democrats are fundamentally different than Republicans," he said.
Although President Barack Obama does not support marriage equality, he did come out against Prop 8 in 2008 and the administration has stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act in several federal court cases.
Jacobs is a part of the LGBT community who believes that Democrats are generally better for gays than Republicans and that Obama is an incomparably better ally for the LGBT movement versus the other potential Republican candidates.
"It's time to fund Democratic allies who fund Democrats," said Jacobs.
Grindr is currently looking for on-the-ground activists all over the world that can send updates on gay rights issues in their respective area. They have already received more than 3,700 responses since its inception. Simkhai told the Bay Area Reporter, "We're hoping that users will provide submissions that can be used to broadcast targeted messages across specific areas and mobilize users to sign a petition, attend a rally, or contact a lawmaker to continue to create a presence for the GLBT community."
So far, the plan has proven to work with some of the initiatives. Grindr for Equality sent a national broadcast message welcoming in-the-closet service members to Grindr with a link to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network's contribution page, with more than 5,000 user click-throughs after the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
Grindr for Equality's largest effort was more than 57,000 clicks to a petition denouncing St. Petersburg, Russia's ban on gay propaganda, which would effectively silence the LGBT community in Russia's second most populated city.
Grindr's push for equality has mostly been welcomed by its users. Users are prompted to click a link for more information on topics when they initially sign in to the app. The user is given a choice if they want to learn more about the topic or just continue on to the app.
"I think it's great that for those of us who are interested in knowing more about what we can do to fight for our equality, we now have direct access to petitions and links via Grindr," said Christopher Darrens, a Grindr user.
Darrens, 32, doesn't think there is any problem with putting the issues out on the table for all Grindr users even if the main focus of the meeting site is not intended for political awareness.
For more information on the current petition from the Courage Campaign asking the DNC to contribute towards marriage equality, visit http://www.couragecampaign.org/DNCMarriageEquality