Monday, May 10, 2010

Why Congratulatory Resolutions Matter

Every other year the Texas Legislature has 140 days to handle all of the business of the state. During this time thousands of different bills are considered, each and everyone with the potential to substantially change the lives of Texans.

Yet, every other year, during these 140 whirlwind days, Texas lawmakers take the time to pass hundreds of resolutions that celebrate the lives of everyday Texans and Texas institutions. These “congratulatory resolutions” have no power, and don’t effect anything. They are just a way for lawmakers to say thank you to the folks back home and create an official state record of what is important to us as a state.

So it should come to no surprise to anyone that Queer people and organizations are hardly, if ever, recognized.

During the last legislative session in 2009, the Texas House passed 1 resolution that even recognized the existence of LGBT people (HR 750 by Rep. Cohen, mourning the loss of John Paul Barnich of Houston); by comparison the house passed 62 resolutions congratulating Eagle Scouts and 263 resolutions celebrating Baptist Churches.

(On the Senate side we have 1 queer resolution (SR 312 by Sen. Ellis); 24 Eagle Scout and 34 Baptist church resolutions)

Why is this? Are there simply 43 times the number of Eagle Scouts in Texas as queer people of merit? Somehow I doubt it. There are two reasons why Texas lawmakers, some of whom are supportive of the queer community, don’t choose to recognize us with congratulatory resolutions.

1. They don’t know us
2. We don’t ask for them

Think about it, do you know who your State Representative and Senator are? Have you met them? Finding out who they are is easy, go to the Texas House and Senate websites and put in your address. Meeting them is just as easy. Contact your reps offices and ask to be put on their e-mail lists, friend them on Facebook, follow them on twitter. Elected officials attend and host dozens of community events every month. These are events in your community and are often only attended by a couple of dozen people. They provide an excellent opportunity to meet the people who make important decisions about your life (and to meet other civic minded people in your community).

You can also visit your elected officials in their offices. It’s as simple as calling and asking for an appointment. You can go to talk about any issue in the community that matters to you (TIP: bring a plate of cookies, the underpaid aides that work in the office will love you and remember you).

(Getting to know your elected officials is important for other reasons as well. I attended the ‘Project Equality’ training conducted by Equality Texas this weekend (this is an excellent training; you can visit their website to find out if there is a training in your area coming up). One of the things they told us is that there are Texas House members who have told Equality Texas “I don’t have any gay people in my district”. If there are elected officials who think that it is our fault as a community for not introducing ourselves.)

Now that you’ve gotten to know your elected officials, ask them to recognize your community. Is there a queer person in your area you admire who has an important birthday coming up next year? A couple with a ‘big’ anniversary? 463 straight couples had their anniversaries recognized last year, why shouldn’t we? What about an organization that has started a new program that makes a difference in the community? E-mail or call your representative or senator and ask them to recognize your community next legislative session.

You’ll be asked for a short bio (keep it to under 500 words and be sure use the words Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and/or Transgender), and they may have a few questions for you.

There is no reason why the queer community shouldn’t be as celebrated by the State of Texas as anyone else. We just need to ask for it.

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