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'Vote no' a wrap for Woodbury man

Woodbury resident Richard Herod III stands next to his vehicle with decals displaying his opposition to the now-failed marriage amendment.

Richard Herod III never considered himself a political activist.

Not until he was told to remove a "vote no" yard sign from the yard of his Woodbury townhome. He said he felt backed into a corner, so he reacted.

"Sometimes getting your voice out there is more important than being everyone's friend," Herod said.

The townhome association order - which was later overturned - spurred a sea change in him that led to an effort to spread his opposition to the Minnesota ballot measure that sought to amend the state's Constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman.

In response to the order, Herod protested by having his car splashed with decals reading "Vote No - Don't Limit the Freedom to Marry." The effort kicked off a movement among other "vote no" supporters that led to more than 300 vehicles being wrapped in similar decals.

Last week, Herod, an openly gay man, and other opponents of the amendment celebrated the defeat of the amendment, which made Minnesota the first of 30 states to turn down such an effort.

"I'm thrilled," Herod said. "It's exciting to think popular opinion is swaying toward marriage equality.

"This amendment being struck down simply states that over half of Minnesota believes that gays and lesbians shouldn't be written out of the Constitution as it relates to their rights."

'About basic human rights'

Herod, who has lived in his St. John's Bay neighborhood townhouse since 2002, said he was told in September to take down his "vote no" sign. He immediately went out and got his blue Mitsubishi Evo wrapped in the decals and left it parked in his driveway for two weeks in protest of the law.

"I thought to myself, 'If I can't have a sign in my yard, how can I get my message out there?'" Herod said.

A call seeking comment from Gittleman Management, the group that runs the St. John's Bay association, was not returned.

Herod eventually learned of a Minnesota statute that bars municipalities from regulating noncommercial signs during election seasons. St. John's Bay townhome association officials later allowed him to display his sign.

"This was just me," he said. "I felt like I had to get my message out to my neighborhood."

But by then, a new movement was already under way.

The decaled car got the attention Herod had hoped after he posted photos of it on Facebook. After that, people began contacting him to learn how they could take part in what he said is now known as "car campaigning."

Before he knew it, "vote no" supporters were waiting by his car outside his gym hoping to get involved.

"People connected with my story," Herod said.

Next, he and his "vote no" comrades took to the roads for rallies around the state, including Duluth.

At that event, he and others wrapped vehicles in "vote no" stickers in return for a donation to the "vote no" campaign.

"The goal of this is to spark conversations, so people understand what this is all about," Herod told the Duluth News Tribune. "It isn't about whether you agree with homosexuality. It's about basic human rights."

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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