WASHINGTON - State and national leaders of organizations advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality met this week to hear from their colleagues and outside experts about the lessons learned from the fall elections and how to better prepare for the upcoming ballot campaigns. The meeting focused on how to turn the ongoing attacks against LGBT families into opportunities to move forward toward the goal of marriage equality for all Americans.
Twenty-one states are currently considering changes to their state constitutions that would single out same-sex couples to deny them and their children the security and protection of legal marriage. A few of these amendments are expected to be defeated in the state legislatures, but many will be sent to the voters for ratification in 2005 and 2006.
"Next year, Wisconsin citizens will likely need to decide whether all families, or only some families, will be protected by our state constitution," said Christopher Ott, executive director of Action Wisconsin, the state's LGBT advocacy organization. "This meeting allowed us to share some of our work to date in preparing for this fight and to hear from other states about what has and hasn't worked for them."
Participants at the meeting discussed best practices and strategies for combating the misinformation and prejudice that drives these ballot measures and techniques that effectively educate voters about their LGBT neighbors. Topics of discussion at the meeting included:
ﾴBuilding existing state group capacity to move forward after a ballot fight
ﾴEffective research and message development
ﾴNew techniques for identifying and activating voters
ﾴBest online and offline fund-raising practices
Despite the passage of anti-gay constitutional amendments in 13 states in 2004, leaders attending the meeting voiced a common belief that justice will ultimately prevail for LGBT Americans.
"This meeting has been a terrific opportunity to share our experiences from last year and talk about how we can all support each other moving forward," said Roey Thorpe, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon, where an anti-gay constitutional amendment was adopted by voters last November. "Tough as it was last November, we will ultimately change the hearts and minds of the American people by telling our stories about love, commitment and family."
The Washington meeting was organized and hosted by the Equality Federation, Freedom to Marry, the Human Rights Campaign and National Gay & Lesbian Task Force.
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