Monday, January 25, 2010

A note to my readers

I've noticed that a link to my blog has made it into right-wing political circles. To the readers of Free Republic, go away. You are just like the Republicans in Washington and want nothing else than to disrupt my agenda. I'm not an elected official, I write this as a hobby. I would prefer not to raise my blood pressure on you guys. I already had enough threats from the other side at my congressman's town hell meeting, and I certainly do not need them online.

I welcome an open and honest debate with you, but when you leave comments like "fuck off" they WILL be deleted.

I welcome the opportunity to have an honest poll, but I did not start this blog for a bunch of teabagging nutjobs to read. You guys have a whole channel on TV, you guys have blogs like Drudge, RedState, etc. I don't infiltrate your blogs, websites, etc and I would expect that you extend that courtesy to me.

Thank you.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

President Obama's First Year-- part 1

One year ago, there was a great deal of hope in this country, as President Obama took the oath of office with more than one million people standing outside watching on a cold winter day. I was not among those people, but I was there in spirit as I watched it with a campaign group at a hotel (and I was warm). It was really a magical day all around, and my spirit was lifted greatly by President Obama. Since I anticipate this post to be very long, I am instead making it a two part series.

I consider myself fiercely progressive, but I am also a realist. I realized that President Obama is not as progressive as I am when I voted for him in the primary in February 2008. My original choice for president was Dennis Kucinich, later John Edwards, who both dropped out of the primary before I had the chance to vote (in retrospect, I am glad that Edwards dropped out when he did because his affair would have ensured us a John McCain presidency.) Does the Democratic Party represent me 100%? No. However their platform aligns with my values much more than the Republican Party does, and therefore I am a Democrat. I’m loyal to my party because I do not want to see Republicans gain power again (they just did in New Jersey and I’m afraid for my state now.) There is one major issue I have with my party though, and that is the elected officials’ inability to locate and use their spines and stand up to the Republicans on issues that matter to their constituents. (There are a few notable exceptions like Alan Grayson on the federal level and Loretta Weinberg on the state level).

With all that background out of the way, if I were going to grade President Obama’s performance in his first year, I would give him a C+. If I was polled by a pollster tomorrow and asked whether or not I approve of President Obama’s job performance, I would say yes, but that yes is marginal. Most of my criticism of President Obama is about the people he chooses to surround himself with and not the President himself. This is a man who ran on a ‘change you can believe in’ campaign slogan and campaigned on hope. A year later, I am not seeing much hope. My theory for the reasons for this is the staff and cabinet that President Obama chose to surround himself with, particularly three people—Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, and Economic Advisor Larry Summers. They represent the corporate wing of the Democratic Party, and not the populist wing.

However President Obama and his corporatist cabinet are not playing to the progressive base. I wrote about Emanuel before (and it won’t be the last time I write about him--- firing him would be a gift to his base, and could excite the party again) and his ties to the health care industry (his brother). This is perhaps why President Obama broke a campaign promise of allowing the government to negotiate prices with the pharmaceutical industry for cheaper drugs for seniors. At the beginning of the health care debate, the insurance industry had a seat at the table yet single-payer advocates did not. That has Emanuel’s hands all over it.
President Obama ran on the platform of change, meaning changing the way that corporations rule Washington. He was on the campaign trail for almost two years saying that lobbyists’ power will be severely limited in his administration. Instead things are worse. The Baucus healthcare bill that passed the Senate Finance Committee was practically written by health insurance industry lobbyists. The American people are divided about the health care bill. One major media network that shall remain nameless has spread outright lies about the bill. They claim that it means the government will take over the healthcare process, and it’s downright false. There’s not even a choice of a public option anymore because the insurance industry bought off “centrist Democrats” like Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman.

The healthcare issue will either make or break President Obama. Both sides realize it which is why the right is fighting it tooth and nail. However because he’s caved so far to the right (compromising on a public option, drug price negotiations, and mandates), the base is abandoning him. As I write this, the Democrats are on the verge of losing Ted Kennedy’s seat in what many call the most liberal state in the union to a teabagger. Just as in New Jersey in November, the party and candidates are not preaching to the choir.

President Obama claims to want to do things in a bipartisan manner. However in this political environment, one party is all about spreading lies and the other one tries to reach across the aisle, and waters down legislation that the other party would not vote for anyways. Yes it is true that IL Senator Obama said at the 2004 DNC that there are no red states and blue states, just the United States. Very good speech, but we’re more divided than we ever were, and as much as I wish he would be the one to unite the country, instead he’s brought out the Glenn Becks of the world who insight violence.

Unless President Obama goes on a progressive kick, his party is in trouble come November. If we want to win come November, we need to focus on putting people back to work. And FAST. Americans voted for change in 2008, not the corporate bullshit that we’re being fed. They want change, and it has to be done NOW.

A Call to Move Forward

Tomorrow is a dark day for the state of New Jersey. We're about to go from a good progressive governor to one that (in my opinion) wants to bring us back to the Stone Age. To be honest, I am scared for the people of New Jersey. However I know that we will move forward, just as we as a country did after eight years of George W. Bush in the White House. And if he is not effective in moving New Jersey forward, then the progressive grassroots will grow in opposition to him just as we did nationally during the Bush administration.

However it's a call for us progressives to move forward despite where the state government is headed. The Democrats still have a majority in both houses in Trenton and maintain a voter registration advantage in the state of New Jersey. I also don't think that Christie's election means a political shift in New Jersey either. Right now there's a very anti-incumbent attitude throughout the country, and I think that a non-incumbent Democrat with name recognition and the right campaign could have won this election. I have that candidate in mind for 2013 already, and did so before the election (Newark mayor Cory Booker.)

Do I worry about some of the things that Chris Christie will do as governor? Absolutely. Republicans have different priorities than Democrats do. I worry about how Christie will influence the public schools in New Jersey. I worry about Christie easing some of the regulations on businesses. I worry about Christie's socially conservative agenda because his values do not reflect those of New Jersey. As a recent transplant to New Jersey, I do not fully understand the ins and outs of how Trenton works (although I am learning). I am not sure how much the governor can do without the legislature's approval (marriage equality however is not one of them as we learned the hard way.) I am hoping that Christie alone cannot do that much damage.
According to the poll posted The Outspoken Liberal, my own blog, voters narrowly thought that the Democrats in Trenton should work with Chris Christie instead of fighting him. From the beginning, I tended to disagree with my readers there because what bipartisanship entailed in Washington in the last year has been Democrats bending over backwards for Republicans who won't vote for the legislation (watered-down or not) anyways. The Democrats have been willing to work with the Republicans, but in turn they stick their fingers in their ears and start singing. I don't want bipartisanship in Trenton to be like that. A big part of me wants the Democrats in Trenton to give Chris Christie a taste of what the Republicans in Washington did to President Obama.

I think that the Democrats can both work with and fight Christie at the same time. The key is to pick battles wisely. There are several issues in New Jersey that both parties will agree on (such as ending the corruption that is so rampant in New Jersey, fixing budget gaps, lowering property taxes, etc) and several that the parties will disagree on (social issues, the proper role of government's regulatory powers, etc.) Politics is supposed to be about compromise (although lately it seems the compromise has been in one direction). Most people who run for office do so because they want to make their municipality/county/state/country a better place to live and work. How they accomplish or plan to accomplish the common goal is what separates Democrats from Republicans, liberals/progressives from conservatives, etc.

To Chris Christie-I am probably one of your most outspoken opponents and am in no way a voter you would even think of targeting. However I am not going to go all Rush Limbaugh on you and wish failure on you before you take office. I sincerely do wish you luck because New Jersey does need leadership. Throughout my own blog I have called you a lot of bad names, and I really want you to prove me wrong. To Jon Corzine-thank you for serving the people of New Jersey. I hope that you continue to be a progressive voice for New Jersey in your post-political career. You have a unique opportunity to make New Jersey a much better place for progressives everywhere because there are many great progressive causes here. I hope that you find one and sincerely get behind it and help with some much-needed funds. I'll miss you as a governor.

To readers of The Outspoken Liberal , this will be my last blog post here covering state issues. I will continue to discuss state politics (they interest me a great deal, and I hope to one day work in state politics myself) only I will be using Blue Jersey as the forum to do so. As I have done in the past, I will post links to my Blue Jersey on The Outspoken Liberal. Since many of the readers of The Outspoken Liberal do not live in New Jersey, I will use it to discuss issues that matter everywhere, such as health care and the economy.

Friday, January 15, 2010

lessons from 5 years of political activism

This was posted by the Democratic Underground user crispini, who gave me permission to repost in on my blog. Thanks crispini because I feel that my readers and I can learn from this post and your experience. Now as my readers may or may not know, I was not paying attention to politics at all prior to 2004. I voted, but because my parents insisted on it. In 2004, I saw Michael Moore’s movie Fahrenheit 9/11 and it woke me up. After coming home from that movie, I donated $20 to the Kerry campaign. That was the extent of my involvement back then, but I paid attention in the midterms, although did not seriously get involved until moving to New Jersey.

Since I became involved, I’ve worked on two campaigns (Obama and Corzine with all the Democratic candidates down the ticket) and am working on at least two in 2010.
I’m glad to see others getting involved, and crispini tells a great story of five years of involvement. Let crispini’s story be an inspiration for us all.

Well, fellow Deaniacs, it's been five years, more or less, since we cowboyed up and got involved. I'd like to hear from you about what you've been doing and what your experiences have been since you've "answered the call" to get involved. Here's a little bit from me.

I wasn't a really super involved Deaniac -- although I supported him, I didn't travel for the primaries or anything like that, and by the time my primary rolled around, the race was pretty much over. However, I attended Democracy Fest that year and that's where I really date my political training and inspiration from. I will never forget listening to Howard stand up and tell us all, "If you only vote, then you get a D. You have to get out there and give money, give your time, and get involved. Work for a candidate or run for office yourself." Since then, I am proud to say that I have done my done my bit to get out there and tug on the rope.

I walked and knocked doors for Kerry in our county's grass-roots effort. We printed our own literature and our own signs because there was no campaign presence. I later stood up in front of our county's Executive Committee when I ran for precinct chair. There was a contested election, and I won because of the work I'd put in. Later, we had some absolutely hair-raising Executive Committee meetings over the county chair position, and that's where I learned exactly how ugly local politics could get -- there was some serious high drama, involving bullhorns and shouting and mad people, not to mention a heaping helping of behind-the-scenes intrigue. Nevertheless I stuck around. I continued to work my precinct, work for candidates and I even served as a campaign director for a state house candidate. I was also a delegate to our state party's convention, twice, and I was there when the Deaniacs tried to elect our candidate in for the state party chair. We failed, but we had some real impact on what the guy who got elected finally did when he got in, at least I think so. Oh, and then there was the 2008 primary. In order to keep the peace with my neighbors I kept my presidential preference to myself, and was able to pull off a pretty flawless precinct convention -- we had 400 people there, and I got the whole thing wrapped up in two hours. And more... there's been so much more... local zoning... the state legislature... I've had an up-close and personal view of the way the sausage gets made, and it's been a pretty crazy ride.

And here's what I learned.

Change is Harder Than You Think

Elections are pivot points, and when something dramatic happens like electing the first African-American president, or, as we did in 2004, electing a sheriff who is not only a Democrat, but also female and gay and Hispanic, it feels like a big break, like a dramatic thing, like you can see the fault lines of history moving in a sudden earthquake and pow, everything is different now and we're on the other side of history. But what you DON'T see ... at least if you're not involved in the campaign on an intimate level ... is exactly how many thousands and thousands and thousands of hours went into that change. Behind that change was a million boring meetings, a million frustrating phone calls, a million knocks on someone's door, a million flyers and a million one-on-one conversations.

And presidential elections are the EXCITING ones. Sometimes being involved feels like a life sentence to some godawful conference room in the sky. Local school board elections -- SNORE! Local zoning meetings with your city council person or plan commissioner -- BIG YAWN! But those are even MORE important than presidential elections, because nobody votes in those elections, and very few people get involved in local politics, so it's a economical way to use your time-- you can have a big impact on your town with your time. Nevertheless, this is not exciting, big-picture stuff like a presidential race is, and it's very hard to raise money or awareness when you're involved at this level.

Sometimes trying to get things done feels like Sisyphus trying to roll that ever-lovin' stone up the hill -- over and over and over again. It's boring, it's exhausting, it's frustrating, it's annoying, and sometimes it's just plain hard. It's harder to get anything done than I ever thought it would be. The universe does not instantly yield to what you want to happen. You have to push. And push. And push. And sometimes it doesn't happen anyway. You are disappointed because you didn't get the zoning change, or the bill through, or the candidate elected. And then you just pick yourself up and start over again.

Keep Going Anyway

This lesson came at exactly the right time -- early in my political involvement, a friend of mine went to see Tom Hayden speak. She came back with the following story. He told the group that he understands how frustrating in can be to be involved in the political process. We, the grassroots, get out there and lead, on the issues, with the candidates, with everything -- as much as we can. We have something we want to get through and we push and we push and we push, and at each step it gets watered down and compromised, and we get frustrated and want to quit. But it's important that we see that as a victory. When we get something adopted and it's not perfect, and it's not what we wanted, and we're angry and upset because we know that we wanted so much MORE -- we have to realize that if it hadn't been for our efforts at the grassroots, it would not have gotten adopted in the first place.

I've thought of this a lot myself in the recent HCR debate. You just have to get as much as you can and when it's done, you congratulate yourself for getting that much -- even though it's not what you want, you have to pat the team on the back for getting as much as you could -- and then you go back to the drawing board and make a plan to get MORE.

Volunteers are Paid in the Currency of the Heart

There are exactly two paid employees in our local county party. Many county parties don't even have that. Everything else-- EVERYTHING else -- is done by volunteer involvement. People are doing the work on the nights, weekends, and whenever they have a little extra time to do things. It amazes me that anything at all gets done. After all, it's work -- it's not exactly fun to plan meetings, call people, do data entry, or all the other million things that need to happen.

And you can't treat volunteers like a bunch of employees. You have to gently herd them in the right direction. You have to encourage people, not tell them to do stuff. If something needs to get done, and nobody wants to do it -- guess what -- it probably doesn't get done! And people get busy. Balls get dropped, things get forgotten, things don't get followed up on, and there are no consequences. It's a mess, and it can't be cut through with a big pair of scissors -- it has to be patiently untangled as best you can.

Furthermore, politics attracts every nutball on the planet. Seriously. Forgetful people, conspiracy theorists, touchy ex-Republicans, people who talk a lot about everything under the sun, people who have very odd ideas about how to get things done -- and they ALL have an opinion, and they're ALL going to show up at your committee meeting and have ideas they want to talk about. And you can only steer the meeting in the most general way -- you can't rule with an iron fist -- because after all, nobody here is getting paid money. They are getting paid in the currency of the heart -- the camaraderie, the companionship, the opportunity to express themselves and be heard, the opportunity to make a difference. And you have to understand that.

But what it means is that it's about 10 times harder to get anything done, because it's all getting done by volunteers, and by mostly odd ones at that. And I include myself in that group. :D

"Twenty Years Ago, I Was You."

We Deaniacs came in like a house on fire. We were going to take over the party structure. We became precinct chairs. We volunteered for committees. We even ran someone for our state party chair. We were HERE, damnit, and we were going to Make A Difference. We had DFA, and we we were going to take over the party!

Well, five years later the "class of Dean" is still around and we're still involved -- precinct chairs, serving on committees, and working on campaigns. We definitely know the ropes now. We're a little older and a little wiser and we know exactly how hard it is to get things done. We don't have quite the fervor we did five years ago, and we're a bit more world-weary. Some of us have gotten frustrated or distracted with life and disappeared. Nevertheless we're trying. DFA is still around, but our local organization doesn't have regular meetings -- we round up a group and hold a weekend training every year or so, and we still have DFA stickers on our cars, but most of us have gotten involved with campaigns or other party activities and we don't feel the need to hold other meetings.

So. At a primary night party last year, I found myself chatting with one longtime party activist. This was a guy that has been involved with local party politics. He's been around for 20 years. He knows everyone. He is pretty clearly a part of the "establishment." We Deaniacs have often identified him as "The Man," i.e. a member of the conventional way that the party does business. Nevertheless he's a nice guy and he and I are on friendly terms.

We toasted the candidate who was winning that night, and then he looked at me and he said, "You know, I know you guys look at me and you think I'm this old party hack. Well I've been around for awhile. But let me tell you something. Twenty years ago, I was you."

And I thought to myself, is that's what happening to us Deaniacs? We're getting assimilated?

And now there's a new class of kids on the block-- the Obama activists. It's interesting to watch. Some of them are becoming precinct chairs, joining committees, and otherwise putting their shoulder to the wheel. One faction thought about running someone against the county chair, but they did not get a lot of encouragement from other Obama folks or from the regular party activists -- she's pretty solid, and their potential candidate was pretty lightweight, so that didn't get far. Some of them even have their own organization -- of course, others are going off to work on campaigns.

It's an open secret that they have a plan to take over the party. When one of them told me that, I laughed and told her, "Go right ahead."

And I wonder if that's just the way it happens. The new kids come in full of enthusiasm, stick around, and get assimilated. Change is made, but slowly, and organically. And it's all about getting your butt in the chair and doing your best to make change, and keeping on even when you lose. That's what I've learned over the last five years.

Anything else? Let's hear from the rest of you Deaniacs out there.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

politicizing disaster

As anyone who does not live under a rock already knows, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere was hit by a devastating earthquake yesterday. Times of disaster in the past have been where people put aside their partisan differences and did all they could for those who lost everything they had. In this country, Hurricane Katrina and 9/11 come to mind. Most of the United States is devastated by the news in Haiti, and many are doing all in their power to help. However at least two Americans used this disaster as an opportunity to politicize it, and show their true colors—their names are Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson. Now that a precedent is set, how long before other crazy fright-wingers come out of the woodwork with such statements (Glenn Beckkk I’m talking about you)?

El Rushbo is not a friend of President Obama and will do all in his power to bring him down. This is not a surprise to anyone. He’s also an incredibly racist man and his racism has shown since the election of President Obama. He makes this no secret. But today Rush took his racism to a whole new level. Courtesy of Media Matters, here are a few gems from Limbaugh’s show today:

“I want you to remember it took [Obama] three days -- three days -- to respond to the Christmas Day Fruit of Kaboom bomber. Three days. And when he came out after those three days, he was clearly irritated that he had to do it. He didn't want to do it. He comes out here in less than 24 hours to speak about Haiti.
Oh, this is what he lives for. He lives for serving those in misery. Now don't misunderstand here, folks. See, this is -- I wonder -- I don't have the whole press conference, but I wonder: Did he apologize for America before acknowledging we are the only people on Earth that can possibly help them out down there in any significant way? “

“That place, Haiti, has been run by dictators and communists. And how long is it gonna be, how long is it gonna be before we hear Obama and the left in this country say that what we really need to do is reinstate the communist Aristide to the leadership position down there to coordinate putting the country back together? The Haitian economy is entirely dependent on foreign aid. They produce nothing -- zilch, zero, nada.”

“Yes, I think in the Haiti earthquake, ladies and gentlemen -- in the words of Rahm Emanuel, we have another crisis simply too good to waste. This will play right into Obama's hands -- humanitarian, compassionate. They'll use this to burnish their -- shall we say -- credibility with the black community, in the both light-skinned and dark-skinned black community, in this country. It's made-to-order for 'em. That's why he couldn't wait to get out there. Could not wait to get out there.”

And the final Limbaugh gem, a conversation with a caller

LIMBAUGH: Would you trust the money's gonna go to Haiti?
LIMBAUGH: But would you trust that your name is gonna end up on the mailing list for the Obama people to start asking you for campaign donations for him and other causes?
CALLER: Absolutely.
LIMBAUGH: Absolutely right.
CALLER: That's the point.
LIMBAUGH: Besides, we've already donated to Haiti. It's called the U.S. income tax.

And that brings me to my second creep of the day—good old Pat Robertson, who with the other hate-mongering Christian “minister, ” the late Jerry Falwell, blamed gays, abortionists, feminists, and the ACLU for 9/11. Here are his words (talking with co-host Kristi). These quotes are again courtesy of Media Matters.

“And, you know, Kristi, something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, "We will serve you if you will get us free from the French." True story. And so, the devil said, "OK, it's a deal."

And they kicked the French out. You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other. Desperately poor. That island of Hispaniola is one island. It's cut down the middle. On the one side is Haiti; on the other side is the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, et cetera. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island. They need to have and we need to pray for them a great turning to God. And out of this tragedy, I'm optimistic something good may come. But right now, we're helping the suffering people, and the suffering is unimaginable.”

I am at a loss for words here.

If any of you want to do something that these two incredibly wealthy men can't do any donate some money to Doctors Without Borders, who was in Haiti providing health care to the citizens before the earthquake, and is continuing to help out.

Friday, January 8, 2010

And the hypocrite of the decade goes to......

This is cross posted at my diary at Blue Jersey. If you prefer, you can read it over there at

I headed to Trenton today for the fourth time in with the faint hope of witnessing history. Instead I witnessed a community denied the basic civil right of marriage. Throughout the campaign for marriage equality, I also learned where the pockets of the LGBT population are. By using logic and common sense, one would think that the senator who admits that his district is "the gayest in the state" would vote in favor of allowing his LGBT constituents to marry. But clearly logic does not exist in Senator Sean Kean's (R-Monmouth) mind.

In the last five years, the city of Asbury Park has made a miraculous comeback. For the first time in over a generation people want to move to and visit Asbury Park. People are no longer afraid of walking down the streets of Asbury. One group of people is largely (and correctly) credited with Asbury Park's comeback. And Bruce Springsteen has nothing to do with this group. The group is the gay and lesbian community, who invested in Asbury Park's comeback. Now the city has a boardwalk with many new businesses, hotels, restaurants, and entertainment. The gay community is as essential to Asbury Park's comeback as water is to an aquarium. Unfortunately the one person that Asbury Park counted on to be an ally in Trenton just threw the community where he works (in his non-government job) and his constituents under the bus. Today, Senator Kean, you threw your friends who own a restaurant in Ocean Grove, and helped you celebrate being elected, under the bus. I hope that they have the dignity to no longer call you their friend.

Today, Senator Kean, I am ashamed to call myself your constituent. I first contacted you Senator about the issue of marriage equality over a year ago, when I realized it could be on New Jersey's radar. I received a letter in response completely flipping my view and thanking me for "supporting traditional marriage" and was absolutely disgusted. (On a side note, can anyone in a traditional marriage who's marriage was negatively affected by someone else's same sex marriage please contact me.) As a legislator, you are welcome to disagree with me on an issue, but you have an obligation to listen to my opinion because ultimately you represent me. You did not listen to my opinion and instead flipped it, and that Senator is unacceptable behavior. I thought you would be a complete long shot on the issue when I first volunteered at Garden State Equality, and was pleasantly surprised to see you on the fence. However today on the senate floor, I saw more flip-flops from you than I see on a summer day on the beach. You had our hopes up and then let us down.

Senator Kean, after admitting that you represent "the gayest district in the state" why on earth would you vote against your constituents? On the senate floor today, you mentioned that this issue impacts "only a minority." But Senator, do you realize that more than the minority care about marriage equality? I've been fighting for marriage equality since June, and this is an issue that has no impact on me whatsoever. I'm a straight woman who is perpetually single. I take my right to marry for granted. But there are several people who have been in committed relationships for years that would love to get married, but New Jersey is keeping them from doing so even if their religion allows it.

Do you not realize that the gay community is very politically active? You do realize that your vote today possibly cost you any political future, including your senate seat. And don't think that your district is always Republican either, as President Obama carried the district in 2008. The fight has just begun, and this will be the first of many articles I write on the political future of Sean Kean. As a progressive community (gay and straight), we now have to mobilize. We need to find a candidate who can defeat Sean Kean, and make him regret his vote on marriage equality. If there was ever a call to action, this is it. As soon as I hear any news on a potential challenger to Sean Kean, I will update the Blue Jersey community and my readers at The Outspoken Liberal

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How to pass marriage equality in New Jersey

The New Jersey Senate is going to vote on marriage equality tomorrow. Everyone (gay, straight, New Jersey resident or not) can email the following message to the entire senate (all you need to do is copy and paste the email addresses and message and sign your name),,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Dear Senators:

When New Jersey passed its civil unions law in 2006, New Jerseyans thought it would mean equality for our state's gay and lesbian couples. But three years later, we have learned that only marriage equality can protect the legal and civil rights of all New Jersey's families.

That's why I'm writing you today. I want to urge you to support legislation guaranteeing the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry, before it's too late.

We're not yet certain of all of Governor-elect Chris Christie's positions, but we're sure of one thing: he will veto legislation for equal marriage for lesbian and gay couples. Governor Corzine has just weeks to sign marriage into law, which he swore to do. Your vote for equal rights has never mattered more.

A state commission found last year that gay and lesbian families suffer because civil unions are not equal to marriages. Same-sex couples routinely face discrimination in health care, taxes, education, and virtually every aspect of their lives because people are confused by the meaning of the alien term "civil union," and corporations and hospitals reject the term as unequal and meaningless as to marriage itself, which provides them cover for continued discrimination.

Civil unions establish the rights of gay couples on paper, but they deny lesbian and gay couples those rights in practice. THEY ARE NOT EQUAL, NOR ARE THEY EVEN "SEPARATE BUT EQUAL."

Marriage equality would also do more than legally protect the civil rights of gay and lesbian couples -- it would boost the finances of an economically battered New Jersey. People would flock to our state for weddings, while others would choose to move to New Jersey, knowing they can live their lives in the security and legal protection that only a marriage can provide.

It's time that all couples and families in New Jersey are treated as equal. We're counting on you to do the right thing by voting for equal civil rights and protections.

Thank you for your time.

Your Name

Please please send this email. It's just the right thing to do to let ALL couples marry here in the state of New Jersey.

Monday, January 4, 2010

another day in trenton

Through the second half of 2009 and into the early days of 2010, I’ve been working hard at making marriage equality in New Jersey a reality. As the clock winds down, I spent yet another day in Trenton lobbying for marriage equality. As a straight woman, I have no dog in this fight, but I think that everyone should have the same right to get married that I enjoy (and take for granted as I’m pushing 30 and show no signs of getting married anytime soon). This issue does not affect me in any way, shape, or form, but I still think it’s important enough to go to Trenton to lobby the legislature for marriage equality. However as time goes on, I am growing increasingly pessimistic about marriage equality passing in New Jersey this year.

I first want to say that I really envy everyone who has come from other states to help out on Garden State Equality’s campaign. Most of you (from in and out of state) that I have met are some of the nicest people in the world. I also envy your dedication to be willing to leave your friends and family to travel to another state to work on a campaign. Is this issue important to me? Absolutely! Is it my top priority? Not at the moment. Unfortunately there are too many issues that affect me personally, such as the economy, healthcare, jobs, and my own safety. I’m in a very unstable situation myself, and I’m willing to do all I can for others once I’m in a more comfortable situation.

Timing is of the essence here. It’s now or we wait another 4 years until Governor Cory Booker (that has a nice ring to it doesn’t it? Please please let this become a reality) will sign the bill into law, or a Supreme Court case at the federal level changes everything (not likely to happen with the current Supreme Court).

My beef with Garden State Equality comes with some of the tactics they use with both their supporters and legislators. I’m a very private person by nature, so I am more offended by some of the tactics than others would be. They’re borderline invasive. Just last week, I was phone banking calling supporters inviting them to come to Trenton today to get a large number of us there. Before anyone from GSE sent out an email, supporters were called upwards of 5 times (if they did not pick up the first time). In the day and age of caller ID (and using peak minutes on incoming calls on most cell phone plans), many people like me do not pick up a call if they do not recognize the number. When that person calls back several times, in my opinion that’s harassment. In fact if I had the choice, I would not have organizations reach me by phone at all. (I don’t even prefer the phone to talk with my friends or family.) I’d rather be reached by other forms of communications such as Facebook, email, Twitter, or even text messages. Just don’t use up my minutes on scripted calls because it drives me crazy.

Another thing I would do differently is the way they handle the lobby days. We were given Garden State Equality t-shirts and told to wear them to the lobby days. That is great for an outdoor rally or a casual event. However when you’re in the statehouse there to sit in legislative hearings and lobby legislators, I personally think you should dress professionally. And yes a button could make a statement, but its better off left out. When you don’t look like you’re on one side of the fence or another, everyone is more likely to take you seriously. It’s just like going to a sporting event wearing neither team’s logo or colors—you’re seen as neutral no matter how you feel inside. You won’t be harassed or judged by fans of either team.

The third thing I would do differently is the way we approach our legislators and staff. Chasing them down in the hallways of the statehouse is unprofessional in my opinion. GSE has already utilized better ways to reach them, such as postcards, handwritten letters, phone calls, and constituent meetings. One thing they did not utilize was the email, which a grassroots group on Facebook has already emerged and is getting supporters to do so. Before the holidays, GSE took a very radical approach and approached the state Senators in their personal lives, which in my opinion is very invasive of their privacy.

The bottom line on marriage equality is this—we either have the votes or we do not. I honestly don’t think we can change any minds in the next two weeks. We won’t know until the bill is brought to the Assembly and Senate floor for a vote though, and that has to be done on Corzine’s watch. If we win marriage equality, that is great, and I will be not only very happy for myself, but for the entire LGBT community. Either way our work won’t go unnoticed.

If we do not win marriage equality, we will come back stronger when we have a chance. We reload for a future campaign. Between now and 2014, when the next governor will take office, the assembly is up for election twice and the senate once. I can only speak for my own county, but if Senators Sean Kean and Jennifer Beck, both Republicans who are leaning towards opposing marriage equality and who represent districts with overwhelming support for marriage equality, that is ammo for their opponent in the 2011 election. Both could easily be defeated by pro-equality candidates (more likely by Democrats than in a Republican primary). Maybe if we make enough of an impact, we could pass a marriage equality bill with a large enough majority to overcome a Christie veto.

There’s an old cliché saying “we won the battle but not the war” I’m starting to look at marriage equality as one battle in a war. Maybe we can't win this battle, but I do believe we can win the war. I do realize that GSE has fought and won several battles in the past (all before I moved to New Jersey). Our battle is an important battle for the war for marriage equality everywhere.