“I’m kind of a rabble rouser, I guess,” Jennifer Jewel Thomas said, and gave a quick laugh.
We had just finished an interview at about why , the group fighting to defeat a constitutional amendment in this state that would ban same-sex marriage. She recalled a lesbian friend and fellow Linden Hills resident, impressed by this straight woman’s activism, turning to her one day and asking “Jennie, why do you care so much?”
“We don’t have any immediate family members who are gay, as far as I know,” she explained. “We don’t have that personal connection, but we just think it’s the right thing to do.”
Then, she said something that shocked me a little, given the three-inch-wide, red-and-purple “I Support Marriage Equality” button on her winter coat.
“I actually don’t spend much of my time on the marriage amendment,” she said. “So I give money instead.”
Her real work, she said, is in fighting for a better, more open democracy.
“When I was in high school and complaining about something in the school, my dad told me ‘Well, if you don’t like it, get involved and run for student council,’” she said. “I suppose I’ve been involved (in activism) since then, in some senses.”
In the 2004 presidential election, she got very involved in the Howard Dean campaign, because she wanted an anti-war candidate to face off against President George W. Bush. Dean’s loss to Sen. John Kerry in the Democratic primary, then Kerry’s loss to Bush in the general election, changed her worldview. It was no longer good enough to work on issues. In Thomas’ eyes, voter ignorance and ballot tampering were the real problems, threatening to corrupt American democracy.
She plunged in up to her elbows, raising money for a group called Citizens for Election Integrity. Working through her church—Uptown’s First Universalist—she also came to head up the Voting Rights section of another group called the Minnesota Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Alliance.
“I think if we have an informed electorate, and they’re allowed to vote, and we count the votes accurately, sanity will prevail,” she said.