29 October 2009

(This post was actually written by the fine folks at the Courage Campaign website (thanks to a post by Lesbian Dad, who saw a reminder from hekebolos at DailyKos ):

Progressives are closer than ever to a victory on health care reform. As 2009 comes to a close, we’ve moved forward on other issues. But what’s looming up ahead could be a disappointment.

On Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009- less than a week away- there will be critical votes on on LGBT equality in three states: Washington State, Maine, and Michigan. With so much attention devoted to other issues in the political realm, bloggers have banded together to ensure we don’t forget the ones with a firm deadline next week.

For that reason, we’ve [The Courage Campaign] joined with these three campaigns to put together a summary of who, what, and how. If you haven’t heard of these campaigns, and/or haven’t done anything yet to support them, please consider helping out. If you are a blogger please feel free to grab this content whole cloth and use it for your blog posts. Scroll down to the bottom to grab the formatted HTML to drop into a post.

Last year, as Obama and Democrats were winning across the country, we lost marriage equality in California. It was a bittersweet victory. Pitch in to make sure 2009 isn’t a bittersweet year. Take action to support LGBT equality TODAY.


Who we are: Approve Referendum 71 is the campaign to preserve domestic partnerships in Washington State. By voting to approve, voters retain the domestic partnership laws that were passed during this year's legislative session, including using sick leave to care for a partner, adoption rights, insurance rights, and more.

What we need: We need phone bankers to get our supporters out to vote. Washington is an all mail-in ballot state, and we need to ensure our supporters put their ballots in the mail. Also, youth turnout is a critical component of our campaign, and youth turnout historically drops in off-year elections. So we need a lot of help to turn them out.

How you do it: Sign up here to make remote calls for Approve 71. We'll then contact you for a training, and you can make GOTV calls.


Who we are: The No On 1/Protect Maine Equality campaign is working to protect Maine's recently-passed law legalizing marriage equality for same-sex couples. Our opponents have put the issue on the ballot for Nov 3, 2009. Because of Maine's early voting election laws, people are already voting at the polls, so we need help immediately to turn out our side at the polls.

What we need: We need you to devote a few hours to Call for Equality. Call for Equality is a virtual phonebank set up so that you can call Maine voters wherever you are. Much of Maine is rural, where canvassing isn't effective, so we need to reach these voters- along with other supporters- by phone. All you need is a phone and internet connection. No experience required! We'll provide the training, and all you need is a a few hours to help get a win in Maine.

How you do it: Click here to sign up for a training and your shift. There are lots of times available for your convenience.

Kalamazoo, MI:

Goal Thermometer

Who We Are: The Yes on Ordinance 1856 / One Kalamazoo campaign is working in Michigan to support the City Commission of Kalamazoo's twice approved ordinance for housing, employment, and public accommodation protections for gay and transgender residents. Opponents forced a public referendum on the ordinance so dedicated local volunteers, led by former Stonewall Democrats Executive Director Jon Hoadley, are working to ensure voters say YES to fairness and equality and keep Ordinance 1856.

Why The Urgency: In the final weeks, the opposition has gone all out with aggressive disinformation and misleading red herrings to try to defeat the ordinance. This includes signs that say "No to Discrimination" (even though voting No actually supports continued discrimination of GLBT residents), transphobic door hangers and fliers, and now radio ads that falsely suggest that criminal behavior will become legal when this simply isn't true. The Yes on Ordinance 1856 supporters are better organized but many voters who want to vote for gay and transgender people are getting confused by the opposition.

How To Help:

1) Help the One Kalamazoo campaign raise a final $10,000 specifically dedicated to fight back against the lies on the local TV and radio airwaves and fully fund the campaign's final field and GOTV efforts.

Give here: http://www.actblue.com/page/3-2-1-countdown

2) If you live nearby and can physically volunteer in Kalamazoo sign up here. If you know anyone that lives in Kalamazoo, use the One Kalamazoo campaign's online canvass tool to remind those voters that they need to vote on November 3rd and vote YES on Ordinance 1856 to support equality for gay and transgender people.

Contact voters: http://www.onekalamazoo.com/tellfriends2

25 October 2009

Love Ya Bunches and Scholastic Book Fairs Near You

Yesterday on Facebook I started seeing friends link to this petition asking Scholastic to stop censoring gay-friendly books. (Scholastic, for folks not in the US or not parenting kids in school, is a a publisher/distribution company that promotes children's books via book fairs at schools and catalogs; when parents purchase books through the catalogs, classroom teachers earn credits that they can spend on more books for their classroom library.) This petition has arisen because of a controversy about Lauren Myracle’s new book Luv Ya Bunches. Luv Ya Bunches, the first in a planned four-book series, is about the friendships that form among a group of girls with nothing, apparently, in common besides the fact that they're all named after flowers. But over the course of a new school year, their social circles collide and friendships form. And one of the girls has two moms.

Scholastic asked Myralce to change the character's family structure to a one mom, one dad family so that they could feature Luv Ya Bunches at book fairs. Myracle did make some other small changes to the book in response to Scholastic's concerns, but she refused to change the character's family. So Scholastic--while it is offering the book in its catalog--will not offer Luv Ya Bunches at book fairs. For a fuller version of the story, see a fine School Library Journal piece on it, and for a cool video of Myracle talking about the book, see Dana's post at Mombian.

Scholastic says it’s not censorship because there are lots of books they don’t offer at book fairs; they pick and choose based on many factors--they run a business, after all, and it seems sadly reasonable that from a business perspective, they want to avoid potential controversy. But then, from a social change perspective, why are we assuming that the very fact of two-mom families is likely to cause controversy?

So, what to do? I heard a bit from a librarian friend today and she offers a few practical suggestions. We can sign the online petition to Scholastic, of course, but I'm a little skeptical that online petitions do a lot to actually change anyone's mind (Politica, who studies such things, tells me that the political science literature suggests that politicians respond more to contacts that are clearly individualized, like hand-written letters, and less to things that are easy to click on and clearly organized by someone else).

But more importantly, we can work with our local book fairs to make the book available. Turns out that the people who organize book fairs can request that particular titles be shipped. So if your school has Scholastic book fairs, contact the librarian or parent who organizes the book fairs and ask them to order Luv Ya Bunches for the book fair.

Why is this important? Book fairs are chances for children to browse book displays and decide, on their own, what books they're interested in. Book displays offer a chance for students to look at books and think "Hey! I'd like to read that." And they offer a chance for students to look at many different books--and perhaps see themselves in a book, perhaps see someone very different from themselves in a book. If Luv Ya Bunches or other books with characters with gay/lesbian parents aren't available at book fairs, then children won't have the chance to make their own choices about reading about families like mine. And if Scholastic successfully keeps books like Luv Ya Bunches out of book fairs, it's contributing to a world view that says two-mom families, or two-dad families, are controversial in and of themselves, or distasteful on face.

So: when you attend your school's book fair (usually there's a parent afternoon or night), ask for Luv Ya Bunches. Before the fair, ask the librarian or book fair coordinator to ask the Scholastic book fair rep to include Luv Ya Bunches in the books that get shipped for your fair. Ask your friends to do the same.

And of course, if you see the book at a book fair: buy it. Buy two, and gift one to a friend.

I've not been impressed by the Scholastic book catalogs that Curious Girl has been bringing home for the past few years. For every bundle of Caldecott award winners or Jan Brett or Judy Schachner book they offer, they seem to have 20 books based on commerical tie ins, or bundled with cheap plastic crap. But Curious Girl loves looking through the Scholastic catalogs the same way I remember loving them when I was a kid (and were they so filled with crap 40 years ago? perhaps my mother felt the same way...). And CG loves the book fairs (even if her book preferences seem to be driven by what covers sparkle or have necklaces attached or have something to do with High School Musical). Books on display can be thrilling. So do your part to get Luv Ya Bunches to a book fair near you. Students at your school probably already know kids with gay or lesbian parents--it doesn't take books to inform children about the social reality that surrounds them. So let's help Scholastic figure out that a book like Luv Ya Bunches makes kids and parents happy, not mad.

And if you've still got a little energy for doing good for gay rights: help the folks in Maine with the No On One effort (voting No one One will allow the marriage equality law to go into effect) or help folks in Washington State protect domestic partner benefits (by approving Ref. 71).