Advocating for Equality at Lobby Days 2019
As I raced through the crowded halls of the Florida Capitol building, attempting to find the office of a senator from South Florida, bewilderment crept over me. What was I doing here? I had never visited the Capitol, let alone spoken to a legislator face to face. When I merged with my group of fellow citizen lobbyists, I could finally catch my breath. Although we were relative strangers, plucked from across the state, representing many different identities, I knew that as fierce advocates of the LGBTQ community, we were united under the banner of Equality Florida. A wave of relief swept over me as we finally met the senator, and shared our unique experiences as LGBTQ citizens in the state of Florida.
This year, as an Field and Advocacy intern, I was provided the opportunity to join Equality Florida at Lobby Days in Tallahassee. The primary focus of this event is for LGBTQ and allied citizen lobbyists to visit the Capitol, and have one-on-one meetings with state representatives and senators, advocating for (and against) certain house and senate bills that will impact the LGBTQ community. Lobby Days is a particularly effective event because the people most affected by potential legislation have the chance to share their insights and realities to politicians who ultimately make major decisions.
I am immensely grateful for this experience in both a political and personal sense. In the current political climate, it is vital that lawmakers attempt understand the lives of their constituents and how to best serve them. The powerful stories shared by Equality Florida’s citizen lobbyists, will without a doubt, linger in the minds of politicians during this legislative session. While a majority of the meetings I attended were uplifting, a number were disheartening. I knew before attending Lobby Days that not every politician would be receptive, and that this type of work was important. But, until I began lobbying, I did not understand the urgency of this work. I am proud to say that I was part of a team that influenced multiple representatives and senators to support the Florida Competitive Workforce Act (HB 485/SB 430) and ban on conversion therapy (HB 109/SB 84), and to oppose the preemption of local regulation (HB 3/SB 1748).
Legislators were not the only people who gained new outlooks and perspectives at Lobby Days. As I previously mentioned, citizen lobbyists with Equality Florida came from all across the state, and also came from many different cultural, religious, economic, and generational backgrounds. Though we may have had similar experiences in our lives, the conversations shared at Lobby Days sparked meaningful thought about how our varied identities intersect and how we can best advocate for our personal communities, and for other communities. I left Tallahassee feeling a deeper sense of community engagement and understanding, and a renewed urge to use my voice to better advocate for full equality in the Sunshine State.
Josephine Donald is a field intern at Equality Florida and recent graduate of the University of Florida. During her time at UF, she studied history and completed research related gender, sexuality, and political movements.