By John Hanley
With marriage equality laws potentially being passed in Alabama, a lot of LGBTQ Louisianians and their supporters are hopeful for similar changes in Louisiana. However, the messy politics in Alabama and the South’s seemingly unmovable values are an ominous representation of how difficult the effort will be to pass similar laws in Louisiana. Regardless, LGBTQ people are ready to put forth the effort, and have been spreading information through various outlets, such as this past Saturday’s mini-workshop hosted by Equality Louisiana.
The workshop, held in LSU’s Barnes & Noble, gathered different LGBT groups and individuals along with others in the community to discuss ways to work on legislation and awareness. The meeting discussed different upcoming LGBTQ events, upcoming LGBTQ-related legislation, what individuals can do to help, and how to talk about LGBT issues.
“It is important as a statewide organization that we build strong relationships, hear from the various experiences of the LGBT community, and empower our community members with the knowledge and skills necessary to make our state a better place to live, learn, and work,” said Rachel Berard, an event organizer for EQLA.
This workshop was part of a series of events called Community Connect that has been visiting nine cities a year for three years. It is sponsored by a range of LGBTQ groups, including Capital City Alliance, Baton Rouge Pride Fest, Qroma, and Spectrum.
Dave Samuels, a representative of the Capital City Alliance who attended the event, said that workshops like this one and organizations like EQLA are very important for pursuing legal changes.
“[This] event is a crucial means of educating the public about legislative measures that directly impact their lives and relationships,” he said. “It is important for people to know what the legislature is considering, and how they can help play a role in the legislative process.”
Samuels says EQLA was actually conceived out of the Capital City Alliance, and that the two organizations work strongly together. The workshop was a means to get legal information to other local organizations and create a stronger coalition.
“We share EQLA’s vision of a more equal and fair Louisiana [and] we are deeply committed to EQLA’s role coordinating a statewide coalition of LGBT organizations and individuals,” said Samuels. Bernard added that building this coalition makes conquering legislation a less daunting task for individuals that want to make a change.
“It can be challenging to advocate for yourself and for your needs without the right support and resources,” she said. “Our hope is that people [left the workshop] feeling more connected to our community and empowered to make change in the political process.”
Corinne Green, an attendee of the workshop, says EQLA achieved its goal. She came to the event in an effort to get more involved and left feeling more informed and connected.
“This seemed like another opportunity for me to come in and find other places that I can help out right now,” she said. “I want to put my energy into something.”
She wants to make sure Louisiana is not held back by the issue of marriage equality because she knows there will be a lot of work to do even if federal or state laws change to allow same-sex marriage. She wants to help organizations continue to work toward LGBTQ equality in areas like housing and work discrimination.
“I would like to see [Louisiana] handle getting marriage equality better than Alabama and some other places where they’ve had so much trouble with it,” she said. “It would be not just embarrassing for the state to struggle with that, but I think it would be a pretty big setback in terms of working on these other things that we still need like employment protections and housing protections.”
The workshop addressed these same issues, discussing upcoming legislation and how to support or oppose it. The people present at the workshop have plenty of plans to get their ideals through to legislators, and are ready to work with people like Green to put those plans into action.