Archive for the ‘advocacy’ Category
120 AtMPers emailed Congress last week, asking that the stimulus bill include domestic partners in its expansion of Cobra affordability. On Monday I called Senator Sue Collin’s office (because she has expressed support for domestic partners and because she had a high-profile role in the stimulus compromise). Her staff said that there were already 500 amendments proposed so there is no chance that they could squeeze in an amendment guaranteeing Cobra for domestic partners. But, we’ve started the conversation.
Although we didn’t win Cobra guarantees for domestic partners, we did raise awareness about yet another example of marital status discrimination, and we strengthened some alliances and made new contacts in Washington. This is a good example of AtMP’s increased focus on advocacy. Some members have asked whether this is lobbying, whether it’s allowed, and whether they could be personally targetted as donors they way people were in the aftermath of Prop 8.
Yes, it’s lobbying; yes, it’s allowed. AtMP’s tax status is 501c3, and we have filed the proper forms with the IRS so we’re allowed to use up to 20% of our cash expenses telling decision makers how to vote on specific legislation, and we’re allowed to use up to 5% of our cash expenses urging people to tell their lawmakers how to vote.
No, our donors do not have to be identified if they don’t want to be. Anyone can donate anonymously. We list non-anonymous donors in our annual reports, which we mail to the donors and post online. But we do not send a list of donors to the IRS or any state regulator.
I asked the Alliance for Justice how to explain what happened with Prop 8; their response is so helpful that I’m quoting it entirely (with permission):
The reason this issue can get a little confusing is that there are two completely separate laws working here. The federal tax law that governs your 501(c)(3) status (and limits how much you can lobby under the 501(h) election) is different from the California campaign finance laws that require disclosure of some donors to ballot measure committees.
Under federal tax law, your work on ballot measures is treated as lobbying, and all you have to worry about is staying within your lobbying limits. California campaign finance law (California’s Political Reform Act) requires disclosure of campaign contributions and expenditures in connection with state and local elections, including ballot measure elections. Even though you as a 501(c)(3) are staying within your lobbying limits, you still also have to comply with the California disclosure laws if you engage in certain activities around ballot measures. You can see various campaign disclosure manuals that apply to different types of ballot measure committees on the California Fair Political Practices Commission website: http://www.fppc.ca.gov/index.html?id=505#cam.
The reason that the Prop 8 donors are being disclosed has to do with California’s campaign disclosure laws; these donors were solicited by nonprofits that had become ballot measure committees, but not all nonprofits that work on ballot measures automatically become ballot measure committees. You have to do certain things and raise money a certain way in order to be classified as a ballot measure committee. I’m being very general right now, because these laws can get pretty complicated.
Today AtMP is helping Virginians advocate for recognition of family diversity in school curricula. This campaign was initiated by just one member – she keeps an eye on state government, emailed me with a ‘heads up’ last month and called me yesterday to make it urgent. Meanwhile, volunteers in New York are planning a campaign for better hospital rights. Go grassroots activists!
Embodying the spirit of service that is invoked for Martin Luther King’s birthday and Barack Obama’s inauguration, AtMP’s board of directors spent this weekend at a strategic planning retreat in Washington DC.
Although most board members had to return to their far-flung home towns (including Albany, Boulder, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, and San Francisco), I am staying in DC for the inauguration. Today I attended “Driving Change: the role of activists during the Obama administration,” an Inaugural Event produced by the Alliance for Justice. Eli Pariser, Van Jones, JoDee Winterhof and Nan Aron spoke to an audience of several hundred community organizers. A couple of my key take-aways:
- at a time when the economy and war are likely to make the public fearful and reactionary, we must remind people about their shared experiences to encourage them to work together.
- politicians (like courts) rarely go out on a limb for culture change. Rather, they step into safe spaces that have been created by trends of public opinion. In other words, we should expect our leaders to follow, not lead. The job of activists and organizers is to create and give voice to public support for the policies we want politicians to enact.
Our 2009 legislative agenda is starting to take shape. A key step is to identify Representatives and Senators who are likely to be receptive to our message about increasing fairness for singles and non-marital relationships in health care, taxes etc.
A recent NY Times article makes the unmarried Sanchez sisters of California sound like potential allies in the House.
Senator Sue Collins of Maine is interested in making domestic partner benefits available regardless of age or gender.
Representative Pete Stark has spoken out against using welfare funds to promote marriage.
AtMP is looking for constituents of these officials who would help us present our agenda to them.
Which additional congressmembers we should prioritize?
Reporters are asking if AtMP will file an amicus brief with the CA supreme court – the short answer is ‘no.’ The reason is that we don’t have lawyers on staff nor money to hire legal consultants. But if we did, we would seriously consider the suggestions of AtMP member Joe D. He says CA could fulfill its constitutional requirement for Equal Protection by merging marriage and civil union and calling them “civil union.”
What’s the best way to respond to marriage discrimination? Are you ready to divorce in protest? How could a test case get to the U.S. Supreme Court? Should government recognition of relationships drop the word marriage? People everywhere are bursting with ideas. This is an opportunity to capture ideas, bounce them around, improve them and create an action community. Read the rest of this entry »
Outrage over California’s Proposition 8 is sparking new interest in the decade-long grassroots movement to boycott marriage. AtMP’s mailbox is full of creative ideas and personal pleas from around the country:
- Jeff and his wife are thinking of getting divorced in protest.
- Joe has drafted a litigation proposal aiming for CA to stop licensing any marriages and offer all couples civil unions instead.
- Debanuj sees bitter irony in the absence of outrage over marriage discrimination ballots in Arkansas, Arizona and Florida, or over other votes that strip even more fundamental rights from people whether gay or not, married or not.
- Catherine says “As a gay Californian, it feels so good to have the support of so many of our straight neighbors.”