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Your Handy Activist To-Do List

Your Handy Activist To-Do List


Because you don't want to wait idly for a court decision or congressional vote to decide on your rights, we asked five leading LGBT activists for their suggestions on what you can do personally to end your second-class status.

Talk to 10 foes of marriage equalityBegin speaking with people who are not "like-minded," says Amy Balliett, co-organizer of's nationwide day of rallies. For the next 10 months, pick one person who opposes equal marriage rights. "Speak with him or her as much as possible over a month -- every day, if you can," Balliett says. "Always have an honest, respectful debate with them. This is how I got my mom to vote for Barack Obama. You'll plant a seed of change."

Send a postcard to President-elect ObamaBuy a postcard picturing your town and mail it to the presidential transition office, says Matt Flanders, cofounder of the new grassroots campaign Civil Rights Front. "We really need to make sure Obama knows that we were listening when he made certain statements and promises" to gay voters, says Flanders, who provides step-by-step directions at Flanders recommends writing: "Please ask Congress to repeal DOMA! All Americans should have the right to marry. Thank you in advance for advocating for the civil rights of your LGBT citizens." The most influential element, Flanders believes, is your handwritten signature.

Build public support for the California supreme court to overturn Proposition 8Write letters to the editor and talk in churches and schools about Civics 101 -- that the Founding Fathers intended for federal and state constitutions and courts to protect everyone equally, including minorities. "Proposition 8 put the rights of a minority group up for a popular vote," says Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "If Proposition 8 is allowed to stand, who knows who or what will be next in California?"

Lobby lawmakers in states on the brink of marriage equality"We need you to help sway legislators and work with organizations to get us over the threshold," says Evan Wolfson, author of Why Marriage Matters and executive director of the group Freedom to Marry. For example, if the New Jersey legislature passes a law recognizing gay marriage, Gov. Jon Corzine has said that he would sign it. And New York governor David Paterson has directed his state's agencies to revise policies so they recognize same-sex marriages performed in Massachusetts and Connecticut. "Linking up with groups like Garden State Equality and taking their specific action-steps is a great way people can help," Wolfson says.

Offer your help to senior citizensVolunteer at a local retirement home and wear a T-shirt that identifies you as gay while volunteering, says Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black. "My theory is, once they know us, they'll stop voting against us," he says. "I think the people who vote against us have a lot of preconceptions of what gay people are." Don't volunteer and simply preach, says Black, who is an organizer of the Seven Weeks to Equality campaign. "Do outreach to help fix up their homes, to entertain them, to help take care of them. A dozen people going into a senior citizens' home twice a month is going to make quite a difference," he says. "What's important is to make yourself visible. How can we expect them to help in our cause unless we help in their cause as well?"

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Todd Henneman