The annual National Conference of State Legislators Legislative Summit brings together state senators and representatives from across the country to discuss the most pressing state issues of the day. But, while more than 450 bills having a direct impact on the LGBT community were introduced in 2009 and more than 300 already introduced this year, a substantive discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity were notably absent from the official agenda. HRC worked to highlight the importance of LGBT inclusion by providing a booth dedicated to state successes and failures on our issues. We also hosted a reception along with Gill Action and the Victory Fund for LGBT and allied state legislators. By covering broad problems such as interstate recognition of same-sex marriages [pdf] and relationships as well as targeted discussions such as lack of inclusive anti-bullying provisions [pdf] and hate crimes laws [pdf], state legislators were drawn in to discussions of how they can introduce or support efforts to pass bills specific to their state.
Many state legislators told stories of personally supporting the LGBT community but decried a lack of support from their constituents. Your state legislators need to hear from you! Passing state legislation is equally important to passing federal legislation. Often state legislation can cover issues inaccessible by federal laws or fill in gaps. Under the federal hate crimes law, the Department of Justice can only prosecute crimes where there is a federal nexus. States must pass their own inclusive hate crimes laws to ensure adequate protection. By reaching out to state legislators, pressure can be created to pass a wide range of critical legislation.