Notes on Amateur Lobbying

Another note about Lobby Week from Brian in Tallahassee:

Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, I participated in Equality Florida's Lobby Week. Equality Florida is a statewide educational advocacy organization working to secure equal rights for people who are routinely discriminated against in Florida: members of what is often called the "lgbt community". My Unitarian Universalist church favors the arrangement "bglt" because its' arbitrary abecedarian sequencing avoids showing what might be seen as an unfair preference of one initial over another. So, "Political Correctness" is a matter of religion to me. It is the way of our people.

It is unclear to me why any legislator would be so disingenuous as to deny that Bisexuals, Gays, Lesbians and Transgendered people are discriminated against in Florida. Florida adoption law, for instance, explicitly forbids homosexuals from adopting. This law was passed in 1977, due in part to the hard work and dedication of Anita Bryant, the famous beauty-pageant runner-up and right-wing anti-gay spokesmodel. 

Here is a picture of Mrs. Bryant, her face covered in banana-cream pie.
Florida is the only state left that forbids adoption by homosexuals. In terms of social progress, this puts Florida behind Alabama, South Carolina, Louisiana, Kentucky, and every other state in the country. But during my Lobby Week activities, I spoke with at least a couple of Florida legislators who looked at me quizzically when I mentioned the idea that anti-gay discrimination might exist in the Sunshine State. One Senator refused to shake my hand when my group left, perhaps believing that I was contagious. But the vast majority of the legislators, even those who clearly and obviously disagreed with our cause, were courteous, personable, and friendly. 

So the way it works at Lobby Day is like this: at 9:00 am we met with Equality Florida's extremely competent, professional staff. We were divided up into groups of about three to five people, given directories and maps of the Capital complex, and each team was assigned a list of legislators to visit, with whom the staff had previously made appointments. Each team assigned roles to play with each visit. There was the Scribe, who took notes for the Visit Report to be turned in at the end of the day. The Bill Expert would deliver our Talking Points to the legislator. An M.C. introduced the team members to the representative or senator, and made the ask at the end for legislative support for our issue. And anyone who had a Personal Story about how the proposed legislation would would be helpful would briefly explain why. 

Each visit lasted less than ten minutes. In the two different groups I was in Tuesday and Wednesday, we kept twelve appointments, and made about ten walk-in visits. Almost every legislator that we had an appointment with was able to keep it, with the main exceptions being those who were tied up in committee meetings or sessions that were running long. With one representative we had to reschedule the meeting four times before we finally were able to meet. And sometimes we were only able to meet with an aide. One of these meetings took place in the aide's tiny cubicle, while an I.T. guy performed some kind of maintenance or repair on her computer. But mostly we were able to speak with the legislators directly, in their offices.

I suppose time will tell how effective our efforts were, but I came away from the experience feeling pretty positive about it. In contrast to the marches and protests that I've participated in, this actually felt like we were doing something that had a chance of working. We got several co-sponsors for our bills. The members of the Florida Legislature now know the faces of more of the people who are affected by affected by their decisions, and have heard their stories. I am overall very impressed by how accessible our legislators are, and how willing they are to listen. And I am looking forward to next week's Citizen Action Day in Tallahassee, where we will be lobbying with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. If you are concerned about Clean Energy, and near-shore drilling in Florida, please go to and sign up for their Lobby Day on Tuesday, March 23. This is the type of political action that really can make a difference!


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