Friday, December 11, 2009

thoughts from Trenton

Even though the marriage equality bill in Trenton has been put on hold for the time being (tick tick tick, the clock's winding down otherwise we have to wait at least 4 years), I still spent the day yesterday in Trenton lobbying for marriage equality. It was a different experience than last week because I was healthy enough to make it through the day and realize the impact my visit to Trenton had.

Garden State Equality has been nothing short of amazing when it comes to organizing. Last week we filled every hearing room in the statehouse. They organized everyone by dressing them all in GSE t-shirts and buttons (more on that later). Their planning is nothing short of amazing, and I really admire their skills. We arrived in Trenton around 8:00 for a day filled with GSE events and to lobby our senators. We were given name tags with our name and city, as well as tags that just had the district on it. People could look at us and easily tell where we came to Trenton from. Because the vote was put on hold, our numbers were much smaller than they were in the past.

Yesterday the Senate caucuses had their party meetings. Since I live in a district represented by a Republican in Trenton, I was in the hallways at the Republican chamber of the statehouse. It's probably the only time I will ever be in any Republican chamber. Senator Bill Baroni was the lone Republican hero who voted for the bill in committee on Monday. He received a standing ovation when he walked out of the closed conference room, and it was his birthday, so he received warm birthday issues from GSE volunteers and staffers. He was very friendly and approachable, and listened to his heart and did the right thing, instead of looking at his party's platform.

I was able to tag along to another volunteer's conversation with my senator, Sean Kean. Senator Kean was a very nice and approachable guy, and is trying to keep an open mind about marriage equality, even though his religious beliefs are anti marriage equality. I was able to tell him that as a straight person (probably one of the only ones there) that it's important to me that everyone has the same right to marry that I do. Another promise that i wrote in a letter to Senator Kean (that I was not able to tell him in person) is that if he votes yes on this bill, I will not only vote Republican for the first time in my life, but also donate money to his campaign. For a lifelong Democrat, that is a huge promise.

My final reflection of the day came after all the lobbying was done, and I was enjoying pizza with a bunch of GSE supporters. I was probably the only straight in the room, and I did not mind it one bit. Everyone was super nice, and a real pleasure to be around. It dawned on me that their very livelihood is at stake, and could live or die depending on this bill. Would their relationships finally be seen as equal in the eyes of the state? They want nothing special, just the same treatment that I receive as a straight woman. And I want nothing more than for everyone to be able to get married.

Would I have organized these lobby days differently? In some ways absolutely. But overall I think that they've been effective if the senators are anything like I am. To be able to put a face to a unjust situation is often the most effective ways to change the world and achieve justice. I hope that over the last few weeks, our senators and assembly members in Trenton consider the hundreds of faces in the crowd, just like the group I had pizza with, when they are voting for marriage equality.

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