NGLTF Steps Up State Organizing Efforts
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications
With the unveiling of a new project for the strategic development and passage of pro-gay state legislation, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) today announced its increased commitment to supporting state and local organizing. The Task Force also outlined stepped-up organizing work for the coming months. The announcements come on the heels of Equality Begins at Home, one of the most important and successful organizing initiatives in the history of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) movement.
"Equality Begins at Home was just the beginning," said NGLTF executive director Kerry Lobel. "The Task Force believes fundamentally that our quest for equality depends on our movement's ability to organize effectively at the state and local level. Equality Begins at Home raised the bar for the Task Force in terms of supporting state organizing and building the capacity of our state and local movements. We will meet this challenge with continued innovative projects and campaigns and the dedication of substantial resources — both time and money."
The Task Force's latest undertaking is the Legislative Lawyering Project. The project will provide high-level technical assistance and training to state and local activists on a wide range of policy and legislative issues. Legal expertise will complement the work of the field staff that works closely on legislative issues with the Federation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Statewide Political Organizations. The project will develop model legislation, talking points on critical issues, and a clearinghouse of policy analyses. The priority issues for the project are civil rights, family, health, and hate crimes. The project will also support communities combating anti-GLBT legislation and policies.
Highly respected attorney and activist Chai Feldblum, director of the Federal Legislation Clinic at the Georgetown University School of Law, will serve as a consultant to the project. In addition, the Task Force has added a legislative lawyer staff position for the project, and law clerks and interns will provide additional staffing. The Task Force political director Rebecca Isaacs will direct the Legislative Lawyering Project, which will be closely paired with NGLTF's new federal advocacy project, which is focused on federal legislation and policies. The Task Force recently created a federal policy advocate staff position for lobbying Congress and federal agencies.
"The time is right for bold new programs that support both state and federal work," said Isaacs. "This exciting venture will pair unparalleled legal and advocacy practitioner Chai Feldblum with NGLTF field and legal staff to bolster the work of state activists and coordinate state and federal legislative efforts."
In addition to the Legislative Lawyering Project, the following NGLTF activities support state and local activists in their organizing efforts:
- The Federation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Statewide Political Organizations — The Task Force has again committed full-time organizer Dan Hawes to support the work of the Federation, manage the semi-annual meetings, and provide a scholarship travel fund for the meetings.
- New England organizing — New England regional field organizer Sue Hyde will continue to provide critical assistance to state and local organizations in New England.
- Field Director — To better coordinate all its field organizing programs, the Task Force recently appointed deputy political director Betsy Gressler to also serve as field director.
- Fundraising for State Groups — The Task Force is partnering with a number of state groups in joint membership campaigns, in which all funds collected will go to state partners.
- The Youth Leadership Institute — This annual intensive week long skills building session is the country's premier GLBT youth training program. Upon completion of the institute, graduates will work with the Task Force and the Federation on legislative issues in their home states. Graduates of 1998's institute organized youth actions for Equality Begins at Home. Applications for 1999 are available at http://www.ngltf.org/yli.
- State legislative tracking — The Task Force will continue to monitor and report on activities in the state legislatures with regular legislative updates. In addition, the Task Force will produce the annual legislative report "Capital Gains and Losses" at the end of the year.
- Creating Change Conference — NGLTF will convene the largest annual political gathering of the GLBT movement. This year's conference, in Oakland, California, November 10 – 14 will offer more intensive organizing and skills-building workshops and institutes than ever.
- Leadership Training Initiative — The Task Force's Policy Institute recently implemented a new initiative dedicated to designing and implementing a series of innovative training interventions to address serious electoral weaknesses in GLBT communities across the country. The goal of these interventions is to develop electoral organizing models that can be replicated for years to come. The Task Force Policy Institute has hired noted trainer Dave Fleischer to direct the project. Texas, Washington, Florida, New York, and California are among the states with which Fleischer will work.
Equality Begins at Home, coordinated in partnership with the Federation, was the largest single investment in state organizing ever made by the Task Force. With more than 350 events in one week's time, Equality Begins at Home sparked what some consider to have been the most concentrated political activity in the history of the GLBT movement. NGLTF provided grants of $5,000 to each state for their EBAH organizing efforts - the first time that a national organization ever made funds available to political organizations in every state. In addition, the Task Force hired four individuals specifically for Equality Begins at Home. These included the national coordinator for overall organizing efforts, a southern field organizer, a part-time development officer to provide fundraising assistance to states, and a part-time organizing assistant. Additionally, three Task Force field organizers, the field director, and the communications director worked primarily on Equality Begins at Home.
The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movementís premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.
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