Equality Texas seeking participants in Feb. 17 Faith Advocacy Day

Daniel-Williams

Daniel Williams

Tammye Nash  |  Managing Editor

The first of three advocacy days hosted by Equality Texas during the 84th Texas Legislature is less than a month away, and Daniel Williams, the LGBT lobby group’s legislative specialist, this week encouraged LGBT people of faith from across the state to register to participate.

Equality Texas’ Faith Advocacy Day is Tuesday, Feb. 17. It will include a short morning session on how to navigate the Capitol and most effectively communicate with lawmakers, followed by lunch.

Participants will be divided into teams, with each team assigned to specific legislators. After lunch, the teams will spend the afternoon visiting their assigned lawmakers.

Family Advocacy Day will be March 23 and Freedom Advocacy Day will be April 13.

Williams explained that while the different dates have different themes, those coming to lobby elected officials all three days will address Equality Texas’ full legislative agenda — they will just do so “through a different lens for each day.”

“People [in general] think of LGBT people as kind of free radicals,” Williams said. “They don’t think of us as people with jobs, people with families, people of faith who attend church. We have to draw those connections for them, and do it very clearly.

“The LGBT community includes people of faith, and those people use their faith to inform their actions and their decisions in all parts of their lives,” Williams continued. “I am a person of faith, and my faith teaches me to treat others they way I want to be treated. So when I think about addressing discrimination or bullying in the schools, I think about making sure those children are treated the way I would want to be treated.”

Williams said Equality Texas is asking those who want to participate in Faith Advocacy Day register in advance at EqualityFederation.SalsaLabs.com so that the organization can put together packets of constituent-matched materials and assign each participant to a team.

Each team will have a leader who has participated in previous lobby days and is familiar with the process. Teams leaders can then help their team members lobby in the most effective and efficient manner, he said. Each team will be focused on a specific issue on the organization’s legislative agenda.

This year for the first time, Equality Texas is asking those registering for Faith Advocacy Day to pay a $5 donation to help offset the cost of the materials, the staff time and other expenses the organization incurs in sponsoring the lobby days.

“But,” Williams stressed, “we don’t want that $5 donation to keep people who really want to participate from being able to do so. We do have scholarships available, and anyone who has a question or a need can contact us.”

Williams said that in years past, so many people have turned out to participate in Equality Texas lobby days that some people didn’t have the chance to fully participate. This year, by separating efforts into three different days with three different focuses, Equality Texas hopes to maximize its efforts, giving more LGBT community members the chance to interact with more lawmakers.

Participants can also choose the day that best fits their passion — faith, family or freedom.

Williams said Equality Texas has a wide-ranging legislative agenda this year that includes marriage equality and speaking out against anti-equality bills such as Rep. Cecil Bell’s House Bill 623, which would punish state employees who comply with any future court order requiring Texas to recognize the freedom to marry.

Other issues include ensuring that LGBT people are protected from discrimination in the workplace, in housing, in public accommodations, in public schools, in state contracts and across the spectrum of daily life and business in the state. Equality Texas is also supporting efforts to allow both parents’ names to be on supplemental birth certificates in adoptions, regardless of the parents’ genders; efforts to equalize the “Romeo and Juliet” laws that govern consensual sexual contact between minors and older teens, making the rules the same for same-sex couples as they are for opposite-sex couples; and efforts to make it easier for transgender individuals to have their gender markers changed as necessary on officials documents, among others.
For more information on Faith Advocacy Day, call Equality Texas at 512-474-5475 or email DanielWilliams@EqualityTexas.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 23, 2015.