Friday, July 4, 2008

3 Simple Rules for Politicians (and others too!)

The Safe Schools Coalition doesn't endorse political candidates because of our 501(c)(3) status, but we do talk to them and educate on the issues that concern us because of our mission statement and the work we do.

I found an excellent article I wanted to share:
I've been around a lot of politicians in my day. Whether City Councilors, County officials, state legislators or Congress members, there are some basic rules that transcend the status of the office when it comes to gay rights.

After spending time at the Indiana Democratic State Convention last weekend hobnobbing with our state's queer-friendly politicos, one thing became crystal clear: More and more politicians are willing to reach out to LGBT voters, but they have no idea what to say.

I thought I'd start an official list of suggestions for politicians on how to interact with our community. Maybe if I offer some assistance more politicians can get a quick grasp of the basics.
Rule #1 - Acknowledge Your Audience

Last weekend's convention really put this first rule squarely in the forefront of my mind. Several politicians stopped by - from the candidates for Governor and Lt. Governor to a local City-County Councilor. Some made a good first impression; others didn't.

Why? Several speakers didn't even bother to use any of the following words:
  • Gay
  • Lesbian
  • Bisexual
  • Transgender
  • Diversity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Or any acronym like LGBT, GLBT, etc
If you are willing to step into a room and ask for our vote, at least have the common courtesy to acknowledge the tie that binds. When a politician speaks in generic code words like "civil rights" or "equality" without so much as mentioning who should be equal, it's just insulting. It shows us that you don't really care about us so much as you care about our votes.

While LGBT rights aren't the only topic our community thinks is important, it is the elephant in the room.

and ...

Rule #3 - Know the Lingo

Nothing will turn off queer voters more than using rightwing talking points in front of a liberal audience or in the media. When speaking to an LGBT group avoid words like:

  • Sexual preference
  • One man and one woman
  • Lifestyle choice
  • Family values
  • Gay marriage
Let's use an example. Polly Politician doesn't think gays and lesbians should be able to get married, but supports civil unions. She is perfect on every other issue. When asked the question, "Do you support gay marriage?" should Polly answer:
  1. I think marriage is between a man and a woman.
  2. I think marriage is a state's rights issue. Each state should decide on their own.
  3. I believe gays and lesbians are entitled to the same benefits and privileges. I know we still have some disagreements over wording, but surely we can work those out as we tackle other problems together.
Which do you think makes the best impression?

While this was written with politicians in mind, these are good rules for others to follow as well - such as teachers, administrators, staff and others who want to be known as allies.

I recommend reading the whole article: 3 Simple Rules for Politicians
Filed by: Bil Browning - The Bilerico Project - June 26, 2008

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