Gay advocates seek help from straight friends for marriage rights

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The setting was intimate, the hors d'oeuvres simple and the hostess barefoot, but the house party Gabby Seagrave and LaDonna Silva held for a dozen friends and co-workers was hardly a spontaneous affair.

Over wine and cheese last week, guests signed a form signaling their support for same-sex marriage.

In the couple's family room, they took a quiz on marriage laws and watched a television commercial that could have been for diamond rings, but asked, 'What if you couldn't marry the person you loved?'

Such house parties and ad campaigns are just two ways in which gay rights activists are courting sympathetic heterosexuals. They hope these 'straight allies' can help persuade a majority of Americans to back their causes.

Bridget Goin, one of the non-gay invitees to Silva and Seagrave's party, was moved enough by night's end to pledge $20 a month to the gay rights group that helped the domestic partners plan the gathering.

Goin also offered to host a similar reception at her house.

'If I have the privilege, maybe I'm the one who has the power to do something about it,' said Goin, who is in her second marriage.

Though the campaign's messages are often aimed at heterosexuals who have a personal connection with someone who is gay, the initiatives have a purely practical side.

'There are a lot more straight people than LGBT people,' said Jody Huckaby, executive director of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

Huckaby said a straight person has a better chance of convincing someone who may be on the fence on an issue like same-sex marriage than a gay advocate to whom the target of the appeal cannot as easily relate.

'It's important that those of us who work for equality realize the decision makers are the neighbors next door who will be voting in the next election, who will be talking in their faith communities about their stances on homosexuality,' he said.