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Issue Advocacy

Issue Advocacy

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Guidebook on how to work with your elected officials for legislative change. Written for LGBT issues in Pennsylvania, but applicable to other issues anywhere.
Guidebook on how to work with your elected officials for legislative change. Written for LGBT issues in Pennsylvania, but applicable to other issues anywhere.

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Published by: Thomas Equality Waters on Jan 14, 2011
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1
HOW AVERAGECITIZENS CANCHANGEGOVERNMENTACTION
Working With Your Elected Officials
Thomas Watershttp://thomascwaters.com Creative Commons License/Copyright, 2009, 2010, 2011
 
2
PREFACE
This booklet was organized and written after I had been to one too many activist sessions,where the organizers talked about the need for people to go meet with their legislators,yet, they had no instructions on how to do that exactly. If you look around the web, thereare a number of resources out there, but not everyone wants to research and learn how todo something before what might, for many, seem intimidating and difficult. In myexperience, many people at trainings say that yes, they want to go and meet with their elected official, but few follow through and do it. So I decided to create this manual withthe hopes that it provides enough information and motivation for you to reach out and begin to work with your elected official.Also, I had written a large number of blog posts on this subject, as well as details aboutLGBT legislation such as non-discrimination protections, and hate crimes legislation, andfelt I could repurpose that content in an easy to download format such as this booklet.Additionally, I had begun to meet with a number of elected officials, and I also spokewith many others who had had such meetings, and I was able to begin to determine whatworked and what didn’t.In every advocacy training session I attended, it was inevitable that the statement would be made, “ There is just too much information that you won’t be able to get all of it inthis training.” Every time I heard that, I knew why few people follow through andactually meet with their elected officials. The goals for meeting were being over shadowed by some unreachable idea of having
the perfect meeting 
. But there is no suchthing, and these trainings may keep people from getting engaged, rather than get themmotivated. So, I wrote this guide to articulate the real purpose of meeting with your elected official, and provide all of the tools you need to have a truly successful meeting.A perfect meeting may be impossible, but the truly successful meeting is somethingeveryone can accomplish.While this guide was first intended for use in Pennsylvania, surrounding LGBT issuessuch as non-discrimination and hate crimes legislation, the steps outlined here areapplicable to every state, and any type of issue. However, meeting with your electedofficial isn’t about issues really. It is about creating a real and ongoing relationship between you and that official, so that he or she knows who you are, what’s important toyou, and how legislation has a direct impact on you and those around you.
 
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PARTICIPATING IN DEMOCRACY
It is easy to think that participating in democracy is simply about voting. Voting is probably the most important, specific action that we can do to participate in democracy.But it is only the beginning. Our government is run by officials elected to represent us.We can just assume that they will do that, or we can be active participants in the daily lifeand actions of our government by making sure that elected officials represent each andevery one of us. How do we do that? By developing and maintaining relationships withour elected officials! This is not a relationship that requires a lot of time and energy.Remember, each of us is just one of many constituents, so our elected officials’ time,energy, and resources can only be spread so far.Most people cast their ballots and then sit back and let government do whatever it willdo. You have the ability to change that–to participate at a level that can make adifference, especially when it comes to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer (GLBTQ) issues!While some officials may be well versed in the issues that impact the GLBTQcommunities, many are not. You can play a role by helping them know what is importantto you and why. Elected officials tend to react and let their decisions be dictated bywhoever has the loudest voices. They are more likely to be persuaded for or against anissue by an apparent wave of support or opposition
unless they know that there areconstituents who feel differently
!Who are your elected officials? These may range from city council members to county or state level officials as well as your representatives and senators at the federal level. All of the information provided in this guidebook is applicable to all levels of government;however, it is primarily geared towards working with officials at the state level. At thatlevel, there is more legislation that has the potential to impact the real lives of more people. Not all activists will agree with that. They may feel that work at the Federal levelis most important. These ideas apply there as well, however, at the Federal level, your elected officials may not be as available to you and many other factors may influencetheir actions, so the State level may be where the greatest successes can take place.

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