A tale of two Lobby Days

Well, not really. But there has been some amusing content on the “Some Families Foundation” blog lately, the first instance of which is an account of their lobby day. This would be the day that their followers “met with legislators from their districts to make their voices heard, fulfilling a portion of their Christian duties in the civil arena by educating themselves and others on Biblical government” and “promoting Godly laws.”

I’m not finding much in our founding documents and associated history about a mandate for “Biblical government,” but there does seem to be a great deal about religious freedom, individual liberties and equal treatment under the law for everyone. And as the folks who attended the People of Faith for Equality in Virginia prayer breakfast might tell you, opinions on what constitute “Godly laws” differ. It’s hard to imagine, for instance, that there’s anything “Godly” (let alone constitutional) about blocking young people who are being bullied because of their gender expression from forming a support network to stand up for themselves. Yet, that’s one of the things that these people who claim to speak for Christians have been peddling for the past few years, with the assistance of their allies in the General Assembly. Until now.

As it happens, no such attempt was made by Virginia legislators this year. The previous patron of this deliberate cruelty to GLBT youth confessed to the media that it had no chance of passing and would be a waste of time.

In fact, for the first time in the four years Equality Virginia has been holding a formal lobby day, all of the legislation being tracked is positive; common sense, pro-fairness and pro-equality. When EV Executive Director Dyana Mason asked the assembled volunteers why we thought there were no anti-gay bills on the list this time, a voice from the crowd sang out “Because they already passed it all?” Excellent comic timing, but not true. With the exception of the so-called “marriage” amendment and its precursor, the bad, the stupid, and the just plain ugly has been defeated. And now it really seems that the tide has turned.

Speaking with various legislators and/or their aides, a very interesting insight began to emerge: Many Virginians, even those one would expect to be highly informed about public policy, are simply unaware that GLBT people do not already have the basic protections from discrimination that other Americans enjoy.

Over and over, I encountered disbelief that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is not already prohibited by Virginia’s Fair Housing Act, for instance. I think the truth is that most people are fair-minded, and just assume that others are the same way. They honestly take for granted that the world is already the way they think it ought to be: Fair and free of unreasonable bias.

This conclusion is also consistent with polling data collected during the campaign against the amendment. That data shows, for example, close to 90% of Virginians agreeing that GLBT people should be protected from employment discrimination. Even more striking: This was true for 80% of respondents who indicated that they would vote FOR the amendment.

Only now that we are free to talk about taking positive steps toward gaining these basic equal rights (and not wasting our time defeating silly, vindictive bills) is the situation becoming clear. Although I think this naive assumption can only be seen as an overall positive thing, it also suggests an explanation for the strange notion of “special rights.” If people believe that equal rights for GLBT people are already codified in law, it’s no wonder that they might be vulnerable to the argument that we are seeking rights above and beyond what everyone else has. Clearly, this is an education issue, and our community is certainly up to that task. All we need to do is tell the truth about our own lives, while our opponents have no recourse but to make up lies. Speaking of which, here is the other amusing item posted by the “Biblical” set; it seems that the gun lobby was in Richmond, and someone claims to have overheard Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw say this in an elevator:

“I see we’re debating a gun bill today. Half the cast of Deliverance is in town!”

Whether or not this actually happened, and the degree to which that day’s lobbyists actually resembled the cast of Deliverance, is unknown; but that’s not the funny part. The funny part is that the Some Families Foundation blogger was deeply, horribly offended that anyone would “stereotype a group [‘all of rural America,’ to be exact] in public.” Can you imagine – spreading negative sterotypes about an entire category of people? This is just awful. Anyone who would do such a terrible thing simply has no credibility at all.

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One Response to A tale of two Lobby Days

  1. Russ says:

    Great post David. Thanks.