Originally Posted on April 19, 2007
I went to the Just Fair Lobby Day at the State Capitol.
What's the big deal? Every year, Outfront Minnesota schedules an entire day for its GLBT citizens to talk to their representatives in the state legislature. The program is capped with a noon rally in front of the steps of the State Capitol in St. Paul. This is a golden opportunity for GLBT citizens to participate in direct democracy as facilitated by the statewide GLBT advocacy organization.
Given what I heard about last year's event, it was not the huge turnout I imagined. Outfront Minnesota were hoping to match the same number of participants as last year. The main reason for the lower turnout points to this year's slate of legislation was more proactive towards the GLBT community rather than the stridency of last year's Marriage Amendment bill.
In my district, 50 people originally signed up to meet with State Senator Patricia Torres Ray (DFL-62). Only less than half of that met with her. The same result happened with our meeting with Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-62A) met with him as well. Historically, the 62nd legislative district usually has the highest turnout on previous GLBT lobby days.
Why was there a low turnout? Was it the nice weather? C’mon, would you rather have a noon rally in front of the State Capitol in crappy weather?
My answer is simple: complacency. The same complacency that our community fell into under the Clinton Administration in the 1990’s is creeping back into the GLBT voters of the state of Minnesota. After our efforts to defeat the Marriage Amendment bill in the legislature, we went to the polls and brought a DFL majority in both houses. However, with 85 DFL members in the House, it is not enough to override any veto by second term Governor Tim Pawlenty. However, Rep. Davnie mentioned that on some of the GLBT legislation, not all of the DFL caucus can be counted to support them on the House floor.
As for my experience at Lobby Day, I’m glad I went. I got to meet two of the nicest and most supportive legislators to ever represent me in my voting life. Rep. Davnie is very dynamic and one hell of a fighter. When we met him outside the House chambers, he noticed that one of his Republican rivals was meeting with his GLBT constituents a few yards away. He couldn’t believe it. "I know we’ll be fighting tonight inside the House," he said.
Not only was I extremely pleased with Rep. Davnie, I was completely impressed with Sen. Torres Ray's genuine support of our community. She laid down a huge stack of postcards in front of our group of people supporting the four bills being debated in the legislature. Torres Ray also received a huge number of e-mails supporting the proactive legisliation, in which she co-authored two of the bills. She was absolutely proud of the tremendous support she received from our community in her district. I never met a legislator who truly cared about e-mails.
After a few years of living in Minnesota, I can honestly say that I feel connected to my home state. For all the years of living in California, Virginia and Wisconsin, never before have I had the chance to talk with my state legislators and hear what they had to say without the podiums, speechwriters and the extra spin. Today, I feel confident that my voice is heard loud and clear by both Rep. Davnie and Sen. Torres Ray.
For those of you who feel cynical about our government, find the closest place to reach it. Whether it it your municipal, county or state, know who represents you and find out how they feel about issues that pertain to your daily lives. If they agree with you and feel passionate about your views, feel confident that they listened to your concerns. However, if you find that the representative has an agenda that does not mesh your ideals, let them know that they will hear from you and hope that someday, they will listen and vote accordingly.
This is what democracy is all about.
Lastly, get involved in your community. Know that you are available to help. If not to organize, but to send messages airing your views on matters pertaining to your ideals. By continuing to do this, we shall never slip into complacency again.
If my mother was still alive, she would've been happy that I met my legislators today regardless of how she felt about the issues I came to discuss with them. If it weren't for her, I would be as complacent as those who skipped out on Lobby Day today. Well, her and the late Los Angeles City Councilman Donald Lorenzen...and the picture of my brother and I in our Cub Scouts uniform in a piece of his campaign literature.
All in a good cause, I suppose.
You can see my photos from today's Lobby Day here.