Friday, August 14, 2009

Introducing The Equality Agenda

By Toni Broaddus, Equality Federation Executive Director

In its September cover story on President Obama’s progress on gay rights issues, the Advocate notes that

“Groups like the Equality Federation…have organized grassroots work that’s delivered unprecedented progress with staggering speed toward the goal of marriage equality…”

We are pleased to be noticed. But even when we don’t get in the big stories, you can bet we are working to knit together the strongest and most strategic network of professional organizers that the lgbt equal rights movement has ever seen.

We are not leaving our equality up to chance. State leaders have an agenda – we call it The Equality Agenda. It’s a state by state plan for how we can achieve the most victories and create the strongest possible momentum for achieving equal rights.

Stay tuned over the next year and we’ll share that Agenda with you. We’ll alert you to opportunities to make a real difference in the communities and on the issues you care about.

So, let’s get this Agenda started with some key state strategies and campaigns.

In Maine, volunteers are hard at work to prove that this movement can and will successfully defend marriage equality. A victory in Maine is critical not only to protect the rights of that state’s families, but also to provide the momentum for success in New Jersey and New York in the next year. We have not yet won marriage at the ballot box, and this is our chance to do it.

To win, we need your help. Donate whatever you can to the campaign now. Today. Whether you can give $10 or $10,000 dollars, do it here now. Early money wins campaigns. Your money will help win this campaign.

Maybe you were thinking about going to DC to meet up with other activists on the Mall. My advice? If you want a life-changing experience, go immerse yourself in a campaign for a week. Make phone calls, knock on doors, help with community meetings, stand on corners with campaign signs. You can do this in October in Maine. It’s called Volunteer Vacation and it’s one of the best things you’ll ever be glad you did. Plus you get fall in New England… what could be better? Sign up!

In California, winning back the right to marry is going to take longer – there are a lot more voters that we have to persuade and we have to do it through one-on-one conversations. Equality California spent the past several months talking to lgbt community members and groups, POC community members and groups, pollsters, seasoned campaign consultants, and donors. What they heard convinced EQCA to recommend that our community wait until 2012 to go back to the people for a vote on marriage equality.

Read the EQCA Report. This is one of the most thoughtful strategic documents that I have seen in this movement. It is certainly unprecedented in that it is a strategy openly shared with the community for discussion and debate. The evidence is in the report, check it out.

But as we always say at the Federation, marriage is not our only priority. We need to defend a Kalamazoo ordinance that bans discrimination against gay and transgender people. We need to put an end to this attempt by the intolerance wing of the Republican party that seeks to derail equality by sensationalizing the lives of the transgender members of our community. We have to draw a line in Kalamazoo.

So many ways to get involved! Isn’t it exciting?

But wait, there’s more. The Equality Agenda is a road map to what we can do over the next three years: twenty states will be working to pass nondiscrimination laws, including several states that will finally include gender identity in existing laws; twenty-one states will be working on legislation that protects LGBT youth and educates the public about the very real harms of bullying and harassment in our public schools; seventeen states are working to pass relationship recognition laws that protect our families and fourteen will be defending their state’s citizens from attacks on our families.

We have work to do at the federal level, too. Have you talked to your own representatives in Congress about the hate crimes bill, ENDA, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, DOMA or the Uniting All Families Act? All of these bills are part of The Equality Agenda. Sign up for Equality Federation Action Alerts and we’ll let you know when an email to your federal representatives will make a difference and help move us one step closer to equality.

Don’t forget – August is the time of year when our Senators and Representatives come home to our communities and meet with the people they work for. You are a constituent – call up your representative’s office and schedule an appointment. Take your friends and neighbors – let your electeds know what you expect of them. Tell them your story.

Aren’t sure who represents you? Click here to find out. Don’t be shy – speak your mind to someone who has the power to vote for your equality.

And while you are breathlessly waiting for the next installment of The Equality Agenda, find out what’s going on in your own state. I’ll bet there are opportunities to volunteer, to give, to speak out, to participate. Your state equality group needs you – the Federation can help you get connected. read on