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Join the Impact

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Equality Can’t Afford to Take a Vacation!

Posted by willow On August - 7 - 2009

Willow Witte, who authored this post, co-founded Join The Impact with Amy Balliett last November. She currently serves as JTI’s Executive Director and has since moved to Washington, DC. Email her at willow@jointheimpact.com or find her on twitter @wonderwillow.

For months many of us have been contacting our Senators and Representatives in Washington, DC urging them to support key pieces of legislation. While phone calls, emails, petitions and letters have been imperative to our efforts to get positive legislation passed, they are relayed to our legislators, through their staff, as numbers for or against an issue. We must continue these contacts, but they do not tell out stories.

August presents an unique opportunity. In August all of our Senators and Representatives will be at home, in their districts, giving us just the opportunity we need to gain their full support and send them back to the House and Senate Floor armed to fight on our behalf- and know what they are voting against if they choose not to support us.

The most effective tool we have is our stories. Discussing how discrimination affects us and our loved ones every day is most effective, and most powerful, in person.

Join The Impact and Equality Across America are joining together for an August campaign called Change Comes Home. The campaign is focused on encouraging grassroots story telling in the offices of our legislators because they are the ones who will design and VOTE on the bills we need for full equality.
It’s a simple campaign in which you need to:

1.    Schedule in-district visits with your Representatives

2.    Meet with the other folks you’re working with ahead of time to prep for your meeting

3.    Have a one-on-one talk with your legislators on the day you’ve scheduled

If you’ve never met with your legislators before, don’t worry! It just takes passion for civil rights and a willingness to speak up for them. We’re providing an informational toolkit found here including a sample letter to send to request your visit, resources on ENDA, DADT, DOMA and other guidelines & information to help make your visit as successful as possible.

Get your toolkit now to get started by clicking here!

Don’t lose this chance to have your voice heard in Congress. You have the power to make change.

Let’s show our legislators that when we say “full federal equality for the entire LGBTQI community in all matters governed by civil law- Now!” We mean it!

Schedule your visits TODAY!

What is Equality Across America?
Have you heard of the National Equality March happening in DC in October? Many people that have organized previously with Join The Impact have already begun organizing to get their district represented at the march. Equality Across America is a network of decentralized organizers growing out of the march to continue the work for full equality in all 435 Congressional districts- as a unified movement. Learn more at http://equalityacrossamerica.org/about

Fairness Works – The American Dream In

Posted by admin On July - 1 - 2009

Fairness does work.  Unfortunately millions are not protected from unfair job termination because of sexual orientation or gender identity.  Join the Impact hopes to change the landscape by helping pass three important pieces of legislation, the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), and the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).

The American Dream is a fundamental promise to each and every citizen that they have the opportunity to advance beyond their current condition to a better life rich with opportunity. The Dream is an ideal our country continues to strive for but does not always fulfill.  For some gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people the Dream is challenged by workplace discrimination and early termination based solely on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Yesterday,  June 30, Lt. Dan Choi who has worked bravely for his country as a mission critical soldier with Arabic language skills, was fired because he publicly acknowledged he is gay. This injustice must end now! We have to fight to end institutionalized discrimination and homophobia, and education is part of that fight.

It is time for America to wake up, to learn, and to urge Congress to end decades of discrimination right now!

Here’s how YOU can help.  A committee of Join the Impact volunteers developed a set of tools for you to use to teach your friends, families, and neighbors about ENDA, EFCA, and the repeal of DADT.  These tools will help you explain workforce discrimination, its impact on our culture, our military, and our families. Knowledge is power, and together we will focus our power on our Representatives during the August recess.

To learn more and to sign-up to host a Fairness Works American Dream-In, simply go to http://jointheimpact.wetpaint.com/ to sign up. You can also help spread the word on facebook!

Still haven’t set up your in-district visits to help pass ENDA? Find out how here http://bit.ly/10Ot47

Your help is vital to the success of this program.  Please volunteer, so together we can make an impact!

Act NOW to support ENDA!

Posted by admin On June - 24 - 2009

Representative Barney Frank, joined by Reps. Tammy Baldwin and Jared Polis and at least 100 cosponsors, introduced a Federal Inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination (ENDA) bill today.  ENDA will add sexual orientation and gender identity to pre-existing employment non-discrimination laws. ENDA is such a common sense idea that most people believe it is already illegal to fire someone for being Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or Transgender.  While there are already 12 states and 100 localities that protect 40 percent of the population, millions are still at risk.

Can you imagine what it would be like to be approached by your boss and fired for who you were born to be? What would you do? How would you protect yourself and your family?  Many can not without ENDA. THIS CAN’T CONTINUE! This is wrong. This is un-American. We must put an end to it.

Join the Impact is a proud member of the United ENDA Coalition.  Together we have come up with several actions you can do RIGHT NOW:

Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and have them connect you to your Representative (based on your zip code). Tell them:

I am a constituent and I would like you to please tell Representative _______ that I would like him/her to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. ENDA would ban discrimination against all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the workplace. Can you tell me whether or not Representative _______  will support  the bill?

Send a message to Laura Hart with United ENDA with a report of your representative’s response.

Once you make your call, follow up with an e-mail, or even better a physical letter.  You can find contact info here: https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

Finally, follow up your calls and letters with visits to your representatives during their August recess.  Join the Impact will be rolling out tools in the near future for you to use during your meeting to discuss ENDA and other important goals.  In the mean time call now to make your appointments.

Your personal stories are your most powerful tool.  Have you ever been fired for being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender?  Please share your stories in the comments section below. Don’t stop there; write a letter to the editor, write a blog, tweet, Facebook, make a you tube video, or even stand on a soap box with a bull horn during lunch. Do anything and everything you can to tell your story.

We need your help and we need it now.  Call your reps and make a stand for equality today!

Equality is now. Demand it!

Posted by admin On June - 17 - 2009

The following Op-Ed was written by Joe Mirabella. Joe Mirabella is a volunteer for Join the Impact as the Washington State Community Organizer.  Mirabella is a full time writer and content developer. He is engaged to marry his partner of 5 1/2 years in their home state of Iowa.

UPDATE 4:12 PM PST: Transcript of the President’s comments during the signing ceremony.

UPDATE 3:34 PM PST: The President signed a more lasting executive order and renewed his commitment to over turn DOMA. Our voices are making an impact.  Keep it up. For up to the minute blogging of the signing ceremony visit the Law Dork 2.0.

The President announced plans to sign a memorandum to grant Federal Employees in Same-Sex relationships access to some domestic partnership rights. This announcement came on the heals of last week’s release of the Department of Justice memo comparing same-sex relationships to incestuous and pedophile relationships among other outrageous and highly injurious claims. The 50 page brief was a stab in the back and the President is quickly trying to recover from it. However, instead of introducing meaningful and lasting legislation that will impact the entire country, the President’s memorandum is weak and temporary. When he leaves office the memorandum will lapse leaving those protected by this symbolic measure with nothing but a legal and fiduciary mess.

And let’s not forget, domestic partnership benefits like health care are taxed unfairly. Same-sex couples must claim benefits like health care as income. Opposite sex couples do not. Domestic partnerships are just one more glaring example that separate is never equal. But this may be a moot point since the President is likely to stop short of offering health care and retirement benefits because of DOMA.

Some have suggested we should applaud the move. Chris Geidner from Law Dork, 2.0 wrote:

Yes, we want and deserve more, much more — including all those campaign promises the President Obama gave to us. But, in the midst of the turmoil of all the legal debacles of the past week — and regardless of why Obama chose to take this action now — let’s stop and be strategic for a minute to realize how we can harness the power of this memorandum to move forward the causes of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and DOMA and passing ENDA. In each case, this can be used to advance those missions:

  • As John Aravosis pointed out, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would keep military service members from accepting the benefits — even if they are eligible under the memorandum. The obvious unfairness of that can be used to urge Congress to take quick action.
  • As for DOMA, the reality of a quarter-million folks in D.C. being eligible for benefits tomorrow that they weren’t today will be a powerful everyday sign of the need for a less anachronistic federal policy on marriage equality. This action is living proof of how wrong the DOJ brief filed in Smelt v. United States truly is.
  • ENDA becomes a common-sense step under the same logic as above. If the federal government is granting its lesbian and gay employees partner benefits, it seems obvious that an employer should never be able to fire an LGBT employee based on that fact alone.

Geidner made some very excellent points, but this memorandum must be leveraged at the grass roots level. Last Friday when the DOJ memo was released it unleashed a firestorm of criticism from bloggers like David Badash, Andrew Sullivan, and others. Editorial boards like the New York Times decried the memo as “a bad call.” But most importantly citizens throughout this country said, “No!” Twitter and Facebook were alive with messages to @barackobama and @whitehouse protesting the memo and its insulting language. The President clearly heard our message, but he did not go far enough.

We must not be placated by this disingenuous move. The HRC and others were very clear, and very correct to demand the President to introduce legislation now to repeal DOMA, to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and to protect all gay, lesbian, transgendered and bisexual citizens in their employment through the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA).

The administration told the Advocate there is not enough votes to pass ENDA or even the very symbolic and highly over due hate crimes legislation. Politicians have not heard us. We must be relentless. We must be unforgettable. We must be loud and clear that their jobs are on the line. Simply, if the Democrats do not start taking action and supporting the people that funded their campaigns, that volunteered their time, that gave them their vote, they are going to lose us and likely their jobs. We are the swing vote. We have enormous power.

Let’s unleash a firestorm on the switchboards of congress today, tomorrow, and every day. (202)224-3121 Let’s follow up our calls with hand written letters. Let’s follow up those letters with visits to their offices. Let’s follow up those visits with a march on Washington in October. Let’s learn from civil rights movements of the past and participate in acts of civil disobedience. Dan Savage from the Stranger proposed one possible idea at the link.*

Friends, if we do no not seize this brief moment in history before the next Presidential election cycle begins in 2010, you can bet our issues will be ignored by anyone who has the power to make the change they were so proud to represent in 2008.

Now is your time. Now is your moment. Equality is now. Demand it!

*(Note: Please consult an attorney before engaging in any acts of civil disobedience that could result in arrest.  Join the Impact is not specifically endorsing Savage’s plan, but simply pointing it out as an example).

Beyond California

Posted by amy On March - 9 - 2009

Prop 8 is a huge fight that we have going on when it comes to equal rights for members of the LGBTQ community.  When JTI began, we called for everyone around the nation (and the world) to unite as one voice for equal rights.  We explained that Proposition 8 is much more than California’s problem.  If Prop 8 is not repealed, it sets a precedent that the majority can vote on the rights of the minority.  As argued on Thursday, it states that people who are NOT affected by a lack of rights, can choose to keep those rights from a suspect class.  This is appalling.  California is a HUGE battleground right now which we will all continue to be a part of.  Beyond California, there are many many issues at stake that we all need to support and take actions on.

  • Only 13 states have laws protecting LGBTQ citizens from employment discrimination based on sexual or gender identity.
  • There are 7 more states that protect LGB citizens, but do not protect Transgendered citizens from employment discrimination.  Soon we will all come together to support a federal ENDA law that secures equal protections in the work space.
  • Throughout the country, families are at risk of deportation because we can not legally sponsor our partner to become a citizen of the US.  The Uniting American Families Act has been reintroduced to Congress, and we encourage you to call your representative and ask that they support this act and support our families!
  • In the state of Washington (my current home) a Domestic Partnership Expansion Bill has been introduced and will hit the Senate and House this week.  This bill will give Washington LGBTQ citizens protections under the law at a state-wide level that are equal to the state-wide protections of marriage. Those who oppose same-sex civil protections are stating that this law (which again uses the semantics of Domestic Partnership) is seeking to redefine the word marriage, even though we are not.  They are taking action and we need to respond by educating our representatives on the realities of this bill and how it will help us.
  • In the state of Hawaii, another battle surges as our LGBTQ brothers and sisters fight for Civil Unions.  The opposition has come out in full force and Hawaii needs you!  If you are from Hawaii or know someone who is, please contact your representative (or ask your friend to) and ask that they support HB444.
  • HB2234 is going to the House floor for a vote in Illinois.  This same-sex civil union bill does not grant all of the state-wide rights of marriage, but it does grant some very important protections.  Please take action by contacting your representative (if in Illinois) and asking that they support this bill.
  • Here’s a great state by state breakdown on LGBTQ adoption rights.  Clearly we have work to do.  With an average of 500,000 children needing families every year, only 50,000 get adopted.  In a country where so many go without family, why do we have to fight to provide safety, shelter, and parental care?
  • Despite the evolutions in the field of science, we still live in a country where gay and bisexual men cannot donate blood.  This ban on blood donations began with the AIDS crisis and a fear that blood donations would be tainted with the disease.  According to the CDC, the incidence of AIDS is lowering in gay and bisexual men and raising in the heterosexual community.  Yet this ban does not extend to members of the heterosexual community.  A JTI member and amazing organizer for many great grassroots groups has worked hard on this front with her program called the Right to Save.  She is calling for national actions on May 16th 2009 to send a message to the FDA that this policy is discriminatory.
  • These are just a FEW of the many battles brewing in this EQUAL RIGHTS MOVEMENT.  Add more in the comments and let’s organize together to work toward winning these battles and our equal protections under the law.

Hours Away: America’s New President

Posted by amy On January - 19 - 2009

Tomorrow marks an amazing moment in the history of America that I am honored to witness. I still remember what everyone, including myself, was saying a year ago: America is not ready for an African American president. Now look where America is only one year later. In less than a year, we emerged from the overwhelming idea that America was not ready and took to the polls to prove that we were and we are!

I spent my evening talking with someone about laws governed by society. This conversation was about Same-Sex Civil Marriage. The person I was speaking with stated that Civil Marriage for same-sex couples will not happen because society is not ready. So where do you want us to be in a year? Will society be ready for Same-Sex Civil Marriage? What about a gender-identity inclusive Federal ENDA law? The passage of the Matthew Shepard Act? National adoption rights for LGBTQI couples? These are just a few opportunities in front of us. Help us decide, and then help us make it a reality. Share your ideas to make an IMPACT here.

Look how far our country has come in one year!  What will your IMPACT be to get us to the next level?  I can’t wait to see where we are next year, with the help of amazing people like you!