Growing the grass roots

Coming back from a slump in the 1990s, the 32-year-old National Gay and Lesbian Task Force aims to take the lead in aiding local organizing. In a time of “terrible trouble,” NGLTF is in it for the long haul



NGLTF has been
involved in its share of victories on the local level,
including a recent success in Topeka, Kan., where voters
narrowly defeated an antigay ordinance. But the group
acknowledges the uphill state-by-state battle still to
come. “We have to do better in terms of the
scale of the assistance that we are able to offer to other
states,” Foreman says. “The challenge
now, the largest challenge, is how to do the
organizing that’s needed on the scale that’s
required to win a statewide contest.”

To that end, the
group will focus on strengthening GLBT political
organizing in five states over several years, beginning with
Maryland and Kentucky, giving organizations in each
state renewable grants of about $100,000 over two
years as well as technical assistance and staff.
Foreman says NGLTF will work intensively with state
organizations to help accelerate their growth. The
other three states for this program have yet to be

we’re hoping to do is focus real resources on one
place this fall where this is on the ballot and test
various messages and strategies,” says Foreman.
“Then we’ll see which combination of messages
and field work and telephone contacts and direct mail
works the best so we actually have empirical data to
share with donors. A lot of people say we can’t
win, so why bother? This will show them.

reality is, our state organizations still need much more
money and community support across the board,”
he continues. “Everywhere our organizations are
really outgunned. The fact that they have done as well
as they have given the resources they have is nothing less
than miraculous.”

Adds Fleischer:
“We will look for the first opportunity where a state
is threatened and willing to prepare far enough in
advance. Every campaign we are engaged in, we are
going into it with a self-critical eye as to what will
allow us to be more useful to the community with each coming

Former NGLTF
executive director Virginia Apuzzo says some perspective is
needed when facing today’s daunting political
challenges. She was one of the early members of the
organization when it was launched in New York City and
remembers when activists were focused on having
homosexuality declassified as a mental disorder by the
American Psychiatric Association.

“We were
just trying to survive,” she says. “The young
people don’t realize that while you’re
living your life, you’re making history. Many
of us, we didn’t see home run, we saw trying to get
on base.”

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