Common Ground Lobbying Continues on Capitol Hill

Even though Equality Utah’s citizen lobbyist training sessions are over for 2009, the gay rights group’s staff are still available to teach Utahns tips for speaking to their legislators about legislation that impacts gay and transgender people.

In fact, they will help you learn what to do on site.

On Jan. 28, Will Carlson, Equality Utah’s Manager of Public Policy, met with members of Northern Utah’s Parents, Friends & Families of Lesbians and Gays as well as a number of gay and transgender people in the Utah Capitol Building’s cafeteria to teach them how to discuss the Common Ground Initiative with their State Senators and Representatives.

The Common Ground Initiative is a set of four bills and one policy change sponsored by Equality Utah that seeks to secure rights for gay and transgender people in areas such as housing and workplace nondiscrimination, wrongful death benefits, and health care parity for same-sex partners. The initiative is so named because it seeks to find ‘common ground” between local gays and the LDS Church, which has stated that it does not oppose these rights for gay couples.

In the hour and a half-long session, Carlson discussed the basics of approaching legislators, including: how to call them off the Senate and House floors to talk, talking points to cover, and how to speak their opinions succinctly, since legislators often do not have much time to talk. PFLAG members and supporters also had the chance to role play speaking with a legislator with Carlson.  They then observed Carlson demonstrating a discussion with openly lesbian Rep. Christine Johnson, D-Salt Lake City, who is running a bill this session that seeks to extend workplace and housing nondiscrimination protections to gay and transgender people.

During the session, Carlson will be at the capitol every day lobbying for the Common Ground Initiative and available to give groups and individuals pointers on lobbying. To set up a time, contact him at [email protected]

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