Thursday, May 01, 2008

Why We Need MassEquality

In case anyone was in doubt over how effective a strong lobbying organization like MassEquality is in this day and age, here's a portion of an email I got from them tonight.

Great news from the State House! Just a little while ago, the Massachusetts House approved several amendments to increase funding for programs supporting LGBT youth, seniors, victims of domestic violence and those living with HIV/AIDS:
  • Funding for the LGBT Aging Project, which provides services and support for our seniors, increased by $20,000 to $80,000, a 33% increase over last year's funding.
  • Department of Public health funding for school safety for LGBT youth was increased by $100,000 to $450,000, a 28.5% increase over last year's funding.
  • Funding to support LGBT victims of domestic violence was increased by $100,000 to $350,000, a 40% increase over last year's funding.
And an additional $500,000 was included to help reduce disparities in HIV/AIDS funding.
For anyone who was wondering, "Gee, what's MassEquality going to do now?" I hope this answers the question. The nuts and bolts of why a MassEquality is necessary, going from here on out, will be budget battles. Like anything in life, advancing GLBT equality and causes takes money - money that's in the public's best interest to spend. However, even when times are good, it can be challenging to convince legislators that we need to do a better job protecting GLBT kids from being bullied at school. It can take a little political courage to get them to invest the money in HIV/AIDS prevention to help stem off that virus from making an even bigger comeback. These common-sense proposals aren't always easy to pass, or fund, and that's why there will always be a need for a MassEquality-type organization.

Some people thought the battle was over after marriage equality was protected. Most, of course, realize that there are other, tougher legislative battles ahead - many of those battles represent the kind of causes that will again bring forth headlines in the papers. There are members of the GLBT community who are legally being discriminated at work or in finding housing, simply because they're transgender. There's an awful set of laws from 1913 which prevents out of state couples from enjoying equal rights here.

There are things that need to be fixed desperately - and, because of the dedication of all kinds of groups, including MassEquality, they can't be tucked away, at least for long. The big picture items are screaming for change and no force on Beacon Hill can stop that kind of momentum, they can only be slowed down. MassEquality is also working on this issue, and will certainly help advance it, but eventually these items will get passed. Even when we win those battles, we'll still need a MassEquality, even if only to make sure Beacon Hill never screws around with funding incredibly important programs, nor stops investing in preventing bullying, AIDS and other core GLBT causes.

Thankfully, we have a strong GLBT lobby on Beacon Hill making sure regular budget items, the kinds of things that impact lives everyday but often go unnoticed, won't ever be swept under the rug unnoticed by those who would otherwise lack the political courage to do the right thing, as happens in so many other states. We may not win every fight, but we'll certainly make sure the state is giving GLBT people - for the first time ever - it's fair share of political capital. So thanks to MassEquality for a job well done this year, and thanks to all the thousands of people in this state who have used it in order to take part in our ever-important movement. It's truly MassEquality members that make it strong.

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