Arizona HRC Members Meet with Rep. Jeff Flake
August 17, 2011
The following post comes from HRC Board of Governors member Kathy Young:
HRC members and supporters met with Congressman Jeff Flake (AZ-R) in his Mesa office earlier this week. At the meeting was HRC Board of Governor Kathy Young, HRC Steering Committee member Kathy Marvel, HRC members Kimberly Barnes and Russ Gunther, and supporter William Babin.
In 2007 Rep. Flake surprised his caucus by voting for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Last year he also voted to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. In a time when you don’t see many Republicans breaking from their party, Rep. Flake is willing to put his principles ahead of his party. This makes meeting with him even more vital – it’s the sharing of personal stories that makes the difference.
The meeting began by focusing on ENDA. While the Congressman voted for it in the past, it was not the version that included gender identity. Kimberly, a transgender woman, did an amazing job of sharing her personal story with the Congressman. Rep. Flake was very open and honest in the meeting and stated he had never met a transgender person. He agreed to have us provide additional information (regarding any potential increase in lawsuits due to the new protections) that would counter what has been told to him about the legislation and is causing him not to be supportive.
Another powerful moment was during the discussion of the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA). Kathy Marvel informed the Congressman that just that weekend she had married her partner of 35 years in New York. As she showed him the Marriage License she said, “Unfortunately, if something happens to one of us this doesn’t help the other spouse from getting the social security benefits or any of the other federal protections. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) blocks that.” Rep. Flake stated clearly that he supports DOMA. However, he also feels that marriage should be a state issue. This opened the door for more discussion on how the RFMA allows just that. Each state can decide who is allowed to marry and the Federal government stays out of it completely.
The most powerful part of the meeting was at the end. William, a straight ally, addressed the Congressman. He said, “I can’t speak to these issues the way the others can. In fact, I didn’t even know some of the ways the discrimination is occurring until this meeting. This is eye-opening. Things that I take for granted this community worries about every day. I came because I support equality. I am your constituent and I would like you to make the discrimination stop.”
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