Thanks to the help of the Human Rights Campaign, I recently lobbied on Capitol Hill for the second time on behalf of the LGBT community. I cannot express to you what an honor it is to do this each fall and spring!
A dozen folks from Texas and I lobbied our House representatives and Senators on a number of issues which affect the everyday lives of our GLBT community and the security of our country. Counting our Texas contingent and the other contingents from other states, this was the biggest turn out HRC has ever had for Lobby Day! There were 164 people from around the country on The Hill, raising awareness and eliminating fear as we each asked for consideration on various bills and legislature pending in Congress or might be in the near future.
Even though we called on eight of our Texas representatives, I would only describe two of them as gay-friendly. During this trip, I had an awakening as I discovered that when a representative is not for your cause, you may be meeting with a “new to the scene” intern or staffer. In contrast, our two representatives who support equal rights for the GLBT met with us in person.
This is when I get angry about politics. Why wouldn’t a Representative or Senator not for the cause being brought before them meet in person to learn more from those who are asking? Logically it makes sense to learn more about that which you know the least. But I forget…….this is politics — so divided down party lines. Sometimes it all seems so canned!
Nonetheless, it is a powerful experience to walk the halls of Congress and visit the congressional offices. I know I am making a difference! Isn’t this what we all want to do? I love going in as a straight mom with my gay and lesbian friends and other straight allies to point out to our legislators that the proposed bills and amendments need to be reviewed for the ways in which lives can be changed and be acceptable to our nation at large before they vote on issues which may have larger ramifications than they realize. Our country was founded on the premise that all are equal. At this point in time all are not equal before the law in this country.
During our trip, we discussed ten HRC supported bills current on the docket for the 109th Congress, including the Hate Crimes bill which passed in the House and is now pending in the Senate. It is past time for this to be made law.
One shocking thing I learned is how many competent interpreters–300 linguists, 54 of whom specialized in Arabic–we have lost in our military due to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the US military. Over 10,000 men and women have been discharged simply for being gay, lesbian, or bisexual. This has cost us as tax payers at least $200 million! Other countries have made discharging gays and lesbians illegal in their countries. Again, why is the US so backward?
One issue close to my heart is the possible Marriage Protection Amendment which will come up in the Senate for a vote the week of June 5, 2006. I am still reeling from the passage of an amendent to our Texas Constitution which prohibits any marriage or anything like marriage in our great state. These are all mean spirited and unnecessary laws. There are many ways to allow equal rights for GLBT couples even if you save the M word for a man and a woman, but these laws are more about preventing equal rights ever for “umarried couples” or “groups”. I am offended that our legislators group my daughter’s union in with legal rights for bigamists. All I know, and I keep repeating, is that my straight son and lesbian daughter live in two different Americas! This is wrong!
You can find these and other HRC supported bills at their web site.
I close with a quote sent to me by a friend today:
“On Wednesday, March 1st, 2006, in Annapolis at a hearing on the proposed Constitutional Amendment to prohibit gay marriage, Jamie Raskin, professor of law at American University, was requested to testify.
At the end of his testimony, Republican Senator Nancy Jacobs said: ‘Mr.
Raskin, my Bible says marriage is only between a man and a woman. What do you have to say about that?’
Raskin replied: ‘Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.’
The room erupted into applause.”