Monday, March 9, 2009

Change, Coming from the Heartland

During his campaign for the White House, President Obama was often fond of reminding Americans that "change doesn't come from Washington; it comes to Washington." Significant change, he told the country, doesn't usually originate in the halls of Congress, but rises up from the heartland of America, when voters demand their elected leaders do something drastic and change the course of our country and our collective history.

That fundamental lesson, about the power of an effective "community organizer" to usher in change on a national level, may also be a key component of an effective campaign to "turn the corner" on our national debate about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By understanding that change won't necessarily come from the corridors of power in D.C., but may begin with a shift in the thinking of both blue and red state America, we may be able to build the foundations today that will spell victory for our families tomorrow, when we once again face ballot box battles like Proposition 8 in California or a vote on federal hate crimes legislation on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Indeed, making in-roads in places like North Carolina (where lawmakers are moving forward on an anti-marriage amendment), Illinois (where advocates have been putting in long hours and a lot of energy to establish recognition for same-sex couples) and Indiana (where the legislature has blocked an anti-marriage bill, but where allies fear their one-vote victory could someday disappear) can pay significant dividends for families across the country. And even in California, where some smaller communities almost unanimously supported Proposition 8, there is much community organizing left to be done.

And, as columnist Stephanie Salter points out in this morning's Star Tribune in Terre Haute, Indiana, there is a much-needed grassroots movement that is picking up steam in the weeks and months following the passage of Proposition 8 and other anti-equality initiatives in other states. More and more people in America's heartland, she reports, are beginning to reach out to their neighbors, co-workers, community leaders and clergy by establishing a local chapter of PFLAG.

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