Friday, February 1, 2013

Lobby Season

It's that time of the year again: lobby season! Two years ago, I lobbied for the first time in my life, and it was such an eye-opening experience, to say the least. Going in, I had no idea what to expect or what I would take away from my time at the Texas State Capitol. By the end of the day, I could honestly say that I had learned so much in terms of negotiating with representatives, establishing networks with other activists, and learning about the bills that Equality Texas was bringing attention to and why they were important.

Now I'm excited about gearing up for another few rounds of lobbying at the Texas State Capitol. There are already 4 pieces of legislation, all of which are pro-LGBTQ, that are getting attention thanks to Equality Texas. 2 bills, one a House bill and the other the Senate version of it, focus on eliminating discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression for people applying for any form of insurance as well as targeting discrimination that includes "charging a different rate, or limiting coverage in amount, extent or kind because of bias or prejudice." One bill attempts to amend the Health and Safety Code to be more inclusive of parents in same-gender relationships who seek to adopt. The current policy dictates that only parents of the "opposite" gender can legally adopt which is problematic since children with parents in a same-gender relationship have a significantly harder time legitimizing their parents' relationship and the fact that they are their adopted parents. From my understanding, the policy was revised on May 21, 1997 to introduce the mandate of having parents of "opposite" genders being eligible to legally adopt and, in effect, further marginalized gay and lesbian parents. This bill would simply revert the policy back to its original text which did not include the previously mentioned mandate. And finally, the Texas version of ENDA is, once again, being introduced in another attempt to propel it further than it's been before.

At this point, I'm very optimistic about the outlook of this legislative session, seeing as how there are already 4 pro-LGBTQ bills up for consideration. Last session, I was disappointed that some of the bills I advocated for weren't passed, but I never regret participating with Equality Texas in the Lobby Day. I got to meet so many enthusiastic activists and I learned so much about lobbying that day. This time around, I feel slightly less nervous about returning to the battle arena, so to speak, since I know more of what to expect and can help other hopeful lobbyists learn the fundamentals about lobbying. I still have so much to learn, but I hope that I'll be able to pass off what I've learned onto others. And I feel that it's important that queer activists and other individuals who are politically minded know about the impact that these bills can have on the community and what kind of lasting effect they can instill. Now, I know it's not always possible for some community members to become politically involved for whatever reason, but for those who are privileged enough to partake in lobbying, I feel that it's a very fulfilling skill to learn because I think that lobbying is a method of showing lawmakers that their constituents do pay attention to legislation and will openly advocate for their rights. Overall, I'm excited to return to the lobby scene and hope that others will partake in the festivities. Hopefully, this session will be a good one for queer rights!

No comments:

Post a Comment