Today was lobbying day with the HRC Clergy Call. We started out with a little lobby training, then each state was assigned an HRC staff person. We all went to the press conference, and then off to the lobbying visits with our staffer.
The press conference was at a beautiful spot with the Capitol in the background. It was, unfortunately, extremely hot and sunny. The press conference offered no shade, and few of us had worn hats. Only one seemed to have brought sunscreen, but as she was a UU she offered me some. (I'm sure she would have happily offered to any denomination, but it was a small tube, so I was grateful to get some.) We put up umbrellas, but were told it would ruin the pictures. Since most of the cameras were pointed at the speakers, and we were not behind the speakers but seated in front of them, I opted after a while to go back into the shade. Clergy can be long-winded at these sorts of things, after all.
Once I was happily back in the shade, I was much more attentive. And they were wonderful speakers. The press conference started off with a Buddhist invocation from the Hawaii delegation. Joe Solmonese of the HRC spoke. Several heads of various denominations spoke, as well. Unfortunately UUA President Peter Morales was unable to attend. He had flown out the day before and had dinner with the UU group gathered there at the UUA Washington Advocacy Office, but he got sick somehow and was unable to be with us for the press conference. His piece was ably picked up by Taquiena Boston, Director of Multicultural Growth and Witness.
After the press conference ended, my HRC staffer, Tim Mahoney, came to find me. There were supposed to be three of us lobbying for Michigan, but one UU colleague had things come up and was unable to make it. The second Michigan person, a non-UU from the Detroit area, had checked into Clergy Call the previous day, but never showed up for the lobbying. So Tim cancelled the visits with their congressmen, and he and I went to visit Senator Levin, Senator Stabenow, and Congressman Walberg, after a lunch in the cafe of one of the Senate buildings.
Two years ago when I went to the HRC Clergy Call I was surprised to learn that you usually don't get to meet with your representatives. This year I was prepared for that. Our schedule said that we would see staffers at my senators' offices, and perhaps meet with Rep. Walberg if his schedule permitted. It was a very busy day on Capitol Hill, so we didn't see Rep. Walberg, either.
It was a very friendly visit at Sen. Levin's office with a staff person who was extremely knowledgeable on LGBT issues. Sen. Levin is co-sponsoring ENDA, one of the pieces of legislation we were there to talk about, as is Sen. Stabenow. Sen. Stabenow's legislative aide who met with us was very courteous and asked good questions, and that was also a good meeting. After those two meetings, we dropped off packets at three other congressmen's offices on our way to see Rep. Walberg's staff. At Walberg's office I stressed the anti-bullying legislation that we were there to talk about. The staff member agreed that certainly no child ever deserved to be bullied, and so I talked about how children of LGBT parents, children who are LGBT, and children who are perceived to be LGBT are particular targets of bullying. I talked about how no matter how one felt about LGBT issues, nobody could believe those children deserved violence against them for what they were, or what they were perceived to be. And I talked about the high suicide rate of LGBT youth, as a direct result of the years of discrimination they face. It was a cordial meeting where we talked about values and the importance of protecting our children.
I have to brag a little and say that after each meeting Tim Mahoney, who was wonderful and helpful, told me that I did a great job and hit all the points that we were hoping for out of the event. And I am thankful for all the people who gave me their stories to take with me to Capitol Hill. I shared those stories with the staff members I visited with, and stressed their importance, that these letters represent real people in Michigan with stories about how things affect them.
So, after that I skipped the HRC Closing Reception back at their offices, an opted for one cab ride rather than two, and headed back to where I'm staying with a Methodist colleague. I've got sore feet, but high hopes.