Someone I love very much called me on the phone about my blog post yesterday. He felt I had spent too much time suggesting that people be nice when writing letters or calling their legislator. To him, this equated with “rolling over and playing dead,” and I’ve been thinking about this interaction ever since.

My general premise is this: We have a number of elected officials where some are supportive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people, some are not supportive, and some are outright negative towards LGBTQ folks. At the local, regional, and state level, the best way to influence legislation (what these elected officials do) is by direct interaction with them. By interacting, I don’t mean a single interaction, but rather if the legislator knows you, they are more likely to really hear you, and your opinion can affect their thinking and action. This may also be true at the federal level, but my focus is on changing our government and the laws created, and the easiest place to do that is locally, regionally, and at the state level.

And I’m not alone in thinking that. At the recent PA Progressive Summit, Dalyin Leach (D-Montgomery) Tony Payton (D-Philadelphia) and Babette Josephs (D- Philadelphia) gave a session called “Lobbying from the Legislator’s Point of View,” and they basically said the same thing. Legislators at the state level, while they do represent a large number of people, are still accessible enough and interactions with them can make a difference.

I had never met in person, any of these legislators before, but I had spoken on the phone with both Daylin Leach and Babette Josephs, and both remembered my name! Both could recall why we had spoken. This amazed the heck out of me. I figured that they come in contact with so many people, why would they remember me? Not true. Interacting with state legislators can make a difference. Daylin referred to this as building a relationship with your legislator.

So, when there is a piece of legislation that will impact you as a constituent, do you have a relationship developed with your elected official? This makes perfect sense to me! Everyday, every elected official’s time is wanted by many people who want him/her to listen to them. If the legislator knows you, they are more likely to hear what you have to say. If you have no relationship developed,  how do you want to start that relationship?  How do you get started at building a good relationship? With courtesy. Do you want to be remembered as that person who screamed , or the person who had a valid point? Imagine if you met someone for the first time, and the first thing that person did was yell at you. the next time, you came in contact with that person- what would you do? You would probably put up the defenses and get ready to be yelled at again. It is hard for two people to hear each other, in this type of situation. This is why I stressed being nice and showing courtesy.

Do you have a relationship with your state senator and representative? Now is the perfect time to get it started or to utilize it to have your voice heard. It is a way that you can impact what happens with PA SB 707. This is legislation that would amend the PA constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman, writing discrimination against GLBTQ’s into the constitution. If you missed my post yesterday, check it out, and then, today, call or write a letter to your senator, and ask them not to support SB 707.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Hi Tom, It has taken me a few days, but I wanted to respond to this. I agree. I think there is a way to be respectful and strong in one's beliefs at the same time. Being polite and friendly does not prevent us from also holding our ground and standing up strong for what we believe in. And like you, I would argue that building these relationships is important. Thanks! H

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