Certain unalienable rights

...among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The sensation was very similar to the rush I get the moment a protest march surges forward. I turned onto State Street and drove up the hill to our newly renovated capitol building. It was right after work and so the sun was beginning to set behind the western mountains and the lights of the capitol rotunda were just peeking through the gray sky. I've been to the capitol many, many times, but something about last night felt particularly electric.

To the surprise of no one who knows me (or doesn't know me but has tooled around this blog) I'm a political junkie addicted to community organizing. In my world absolutely everything, at its core, is political. I've signed more than my fair share of petitions and I make it a point to frequently harass my elected official with letters and emails; but I've never roamed the halls of the capitol and cornered Representative So-and-So to shake their hand and chat about House Bill ##. In other words, my lobbying is rarely a tete e tete affair. When I received an invitation from Equality Utah to participate in a Citizen Lobbyist training, I jumped at the chance.

Within the upcoming 45-day legislative session will I actually take a day off work to roam the halls of the capitol and corner Senators? Maybe, maybe not, but that's not the point. The point is that I'm now better informed about the local government lobbying process and I have even more tools and skills to communicate effectively, whether in person or not. The beautiful thing about my neighborhood is that all my elected officials are liberal democrats and my house rep is an openly gay woman. I, fortunately, don't have to waste my breath convincing my local reps to support liberal social causes. But the work that needs to be done outside my liberal SLC bubble? Monumental.

All of that aside, the other reason I attended the training is that now I'm specifically better informed about the bills impacting Utah's LGBT Community. I'm really tired of people asking me, "But...aren't you Mormon?" Precisely why, as a matter of fact and doctrinally speaking, I was in attendance last night. I'm also really tired of people asking me, "But...aren't you straight?" To both I reply, "And?" I have a difficult time painting the LGBT acronym into a corner. What impacts the LGBT community impacts me. By similar extension, what impacts the immigrant community impacts me. What impacts the working poor impacts me. It's not about being gay or straight, native-born or newly-arrived, rich or poor. It's about being human. It's about sharing this world with people I consider to be my brothers and sisters. It's about respecting the right of every. single. person. to be alive, free, and happy. Where have we heard that before? Oh that's right...in the founding documents of this country. The Christian Right (which is neither) should really stop waving that delicate parchment around.

Salt Lake City is a fantastically blue island of liberal misfits floating adrift in a sea of the reddest red. There are three openly gay representatives (two in the house and one in the senate) in the Utah legislature and that puts Utah among the top three states in the nation for openly gay reps. Four years ago Amendment 3 passed, banning gay marriage and civil unions in the state of Utah. At the time there were eight pro-actively anti-gay bills being rammed through the political pipe line. Because of the work of Equality Utah, concerned citizens, and a handful of other community organizations, this year there are no (as of right now) anti-gay bills in the pipeline. Furthermore...there are seven bills that, if passed, will benefit the LGBT community. Which is to say, these bills will benefit all of us by honoring families, respecting a child's right to grow up in a loving home, creating fair work places, standing up to domestic/dating violence and school bullies, and making us more compassionate human beings.

Side note: Major kudos to the elected officials who took two hours out of their very busy schedules to attend the training, teach us and demystify the legislative process, and let us practice our new skills. That, my friends, is what our representative democracy should look like.
Senator Gene Davis
Senator Scott McCoy
Representative Jackie Biskupski
Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck
Representative Christine Johnson
Representative David Litvack
Representative Roz McGee
Representative Carol Spackman-Moss

ISBN ### Where is our Lincoln?

Baklava with friends