Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lobbying for My Right to Love

It's an odd idea that one would have to go to the state legislature and lobby for the right to love. But that's what me, my partner, and countless other people of the LGBT community and our straight allies had to do this week. We had to go to our lawmakers and tell them our stories of denied promotions, of fear of losing our children, of our inability to secure our futures with our partners.

All because of who we love.

Many legislators were busy in committees and not able to speak to us. Some were rushing to get to their meetings and wanted the pitch in 15-seconds or less. At least one that I met with, Rep. Faye Culp, had succumbed to the Tallahassee "crud" which is only exacerbated by the pollen blanketing my fair city at the moment. To her credit, she still gave a group of us non-constituent lobbyists the time to say hello to her, and thank her for her co-sponsorship on the bill to end Florida's ban on letting gays be adoptive parents.

Oh, yeah: Faye Culp is a Republican. And her eyes sparkled with emotion when I thanked her for her efforts as a Republican to stand up for our rights, noting that I grew up in a Republican family... and my mother (still a registered Republican) loves me very much. The statement seem to make an impression on her, and I encouraged her to help educate her colleagues and maybe bring a few more along with her on the ride.

For me, this was an odd experience. To start with, I loathe the Capitol Building. It is a place that holds many memories for me as a reporter for Florida Public Radio. Twelve years of chasing politicians, listening to debates on matters of true life and death and realizing that many of the people doing the debating couldn't care less for the real human consequences of their actions, and having to stifle my own outrage at the whole mess because I had to remain "objective"... I am surprised I was willing to go back in to talk to anybody. But November's election results with gay people getting our clocks cleaned across the country told me I could not remain silent any more. Now that I don't have to report on the legislature, I am free to petition my government and demand that it do justly by me and my people.

But I was scared. Not sweaty-palmed scared. But a type of scared that comes with knowing the place too well, and the potential of people being rude in their dealings with me. And wondering how they would react to seeing me again, but this time unarmed with the microphone that served as my "weapon of mass media instruction." I kept tucked in my pocket the Episcopal church's insert from Sunday's service. And, just as a means of giving myself a booster shot as we moved to the next office visit, I pulled it out and read the last line from the passage taken from First Corinthians:

For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom,
and God's weakness is stronger than human strength.

This helped me to keep everything in perspective, and reminded me again of what my mother used to always tell us during political campaigns: "Politicians are people just like you. They put their pants on one leg at a time."

I ran into many politicians who recognized me by my distinctive flat top hairstyle. And this helped because it gave me the "in" to start discussing the talking points on Equality Florida's legislative agenda. In Senator Tony Hill's office, his legislative assistant made it clear that she had already talked to Equality Florida volunteer lobbyists twice this week, and there were other people waiting to see the Senator. I still gave her my card and the talking points sheet, and added the important factoid about me: I was a reporter staring at him on the other side of a window on a winter's night in 2000 when he and then-Senator Kendrick Meek sat down in the Lt. Governor's office and refused to leave to protest King Jeb!'s assault on affirmative action. I got his story and his grievance out to a statewide... hell, a national audience. The implied message: I have done right by him. Now I want him to do right by me. Her eyes indicated that there was a glimmer of understanding.

So, with the actual strolling the halls behind me, the next thing to do is wait. And watch. And send follow up notes.

And if the state legislature fails to act on the bills this session... it's time to turn up the heat another notch on the pot. Because I'm not going away. And neither is my love.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For those who read this, my daughter has done it right. She used her head, her heart and talked from the place she knows best, the truth as she knows it so well. When you talk to legislators, state, local, national, you tell your story and do it effrectively as she did in both instances. Good for her!! She is right, "politicians put their pants on one leg at a time."