Over the past few months, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network has been making a bold move to gain support for the Military Readiness Enhancement Act (HR 1283) that would repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
SLDN has been working on a nation-wide effort to get local governments to pass resolutions requesting adoption of this federal legislation to show the overwhelming support for lifting the discriminatory ban. They are contacting local organizations and municipal leaders to show legislators that their districts support them signing on to co-sponsor HR 1283.
So far, 13 municipalities have passed resolutions around the country, including cities in Miami, FL this week. In fact, four cities in Florida alone have passed the resolutions, including my home city of Oakland Park, FL, led by my husband (and Bilerico Florida contributor) Commissioner Anthony Niedwiecki. Other cities around the country include: St Louis, Portland, San Francisco, Atlanta, Tuscon, LA, New York, and many others.
This move to show the huge support for repealing DADT (and giving skittish legislators a reason to sign on the legislation) is perhaps a great lesson on how to push national pro-LGBT legislation.
We all know the natural state of legislators is overly cautious inertia. They tend to lag decades behind the public on many issues. By moving on a grassroots, in their home district level, we can perhaps give them the political cover they think they need.
Do I wish they would just do the right thing and move our legislation? Absolutely. But the reality of the basic conservative nature of politicians makes moves like this something we should be seriously looking at as a movement.
Having worked with SLDN when they came to my husband asking to pass this resolution, I can see the absolute value of this tactic. They came to us with all the information needed to convince not just allies, but also people who might be more close-minded to LGBT issues. They provided the guidance, then tapped local leaders and organizations, who have relationships with law-makers, to do the ground work.
Imagine how much more powerful our lobbying days would be if we could walk in with resolutions from the cities in a legislator's district, which represents money, support, and votes to them. The ground up effect could be astounding for not just DADT, but also and inclusive ENDA, repealing DOMA, and other LGBT important legislation.
So kudos to the national push from SLDN and all the local organizations who are doing everything in their sphere of influence to make change. Let's all learn the lesson and use it as we move forward.
Contact Servicemebers Legal Defense Network if you'd like to help pass a resolution supporting HR 1283 in your area.