It’s Time to Pass the Equality Act: Advocacy Toolkit
It’s Time to Pass the Equality Act: Advocacy Toolkit
- Researching Your Senator
- Forming Your Group
- Getting a Meeting
- Preparing for Your Meeting
- After Your Meeting
- Additional Advocacy for the Equality Act
The purpose of this toolkit is to help you to request a meeting with your Senators to advocate for passage of the Equality Act.
What is the Equality Act?
The Equality Act amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other civil rights laws to establish explicit federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people in housing, employment, public education, credit, public spaces, jury service, and all federally funded programs. For the first time in history, this legislation will also prohibit discrimination against women in public spaces and federal programs, and racial and religious discrimination in public spaces.
In June of 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County, Ga. that Title VII, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in employment, includes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. In early 2021, President Biden issued Executive Orders directing the Department of Education to apply these same protections in education settings under Title IX, a decision that is supported by the analysis conducted by the Department of Justice. Yet today only 17 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have laws that clearly protect students from discrimination based on both their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Under the Equality Act, LGBTQ+ students and educators in every state and territory of the U.S. will have nondiscrimination protections that will be difficult for a future Administration and courts to overturn.
The Equality Act was already passed by the U.S. House of Representatives for the second time in the Spring of 2021. Now, we must mobilize to ensure that it is passed in the Senate and signed into law.
GLSEN is committed to making sure that LGBTQ+ students are able to learn and thrive in K-12 learning communities that are affirming of their identities and are freed from anti-LGBTQ+ based barriers to those students’ ability to learn and thrive. The Civil Rights Principles for Safe, Healthy, and Inclusive Schools is a call for the federal government and all education policymakers to ensure that all students, including LGBTQ+ students, are actually afforded the liberating school climates that they deserve. It is for these reasons that GLSEN has endorsed the Civil Rights School Climate Principles and calls on policymakers to adopt the following recommendations.
Before getting a meeting with your Senator, you have to make sure you are reaching out to the right legislator and you have to make sure you know where they stand on LGBTQ+ rights, so that you can plan for a productive meeting.
How can you find out who your Senators are?
Visit https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm. If you select your state from the drop down menu, you will get the contact information for both Senators who represent your state.
How can you find out where your Senator stands on equality for LGBTQ+ communities?
The webpage https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/393/cosponsors lists every Senator who already co-sponsors the Equality Act. By co-sponsoring the bill, they have signalled their formal support for the Equality Act, and are committed to voting in favor of the bill when that time comes. If your Senator is not listed on this page, it means that they are not yet a co-sponsor.
What if your Senator already supports the Equality Act?
It is still important to try to get a meeting about the Equality Act with Senators who have already co-sponsored the bill. Often constituents seek meetings to push legislators to take a stance that they have not taken, but it is also valuable to thank legislators for making the Equality Act a priority and standing up for LGBTQ+ students, educators, and the broader community. It is important to share with them why the Equality Act matters to you and any informative resources (see p. 5 below) that will help bolster their support and use the best available data points in their advocacy for the bill. This is also a chance to urge your Senator to support other legislation that affirms and protects LGBTQ+ students, such as the Safe Schools Improvement Act.
What if your Senator is opposed to the Equality Act?
Meeting with Senators who are publicly opposed to the Equality Act may feel intimidating, but it is deeply impactful. Senators represent everyone in their districts, not just those with whom they agree. Meeting with an opposing Senator is an opportunity to share your perspective on why this bill is so important. Stories about the lived experiences of students are particularly helpful in making the case for the Equality Act. Sometimes this can shift the way a legislator understands an issue, possibly impacting their vote now or planting a seed for future support on another issue. Finally, these meetings can be helpful for your own organizing. You may learn helpful details about your Senator’s thinking on the bill that can inform GLSEN’s advocacy. The emotional and mental well-being of those in your meeting group, especially youth, is the top priority. Only consider one of these meetings if everyone decides they are willing to hear the opposition’s perspective and are able to both prepare for and debrief the experience.
Why meet with your Senator (or their staff) as a group?
This is a way to show that there is a broad base of support for the Equality Act. This may also be an opportunity to deepen your community connections: is there a teacher, family, clergy, or organizer you have been wanting to build a relationship with? Do you have a list of folks just waiting to get involved in something? Is there another organizing group that you might be able to partner with? When you extend the invitation, remember that this is a step in building an ongoing reciprocal relationship, consider how you also might support the needs of a new partner.
Contact either your Senator’s DC office or their main District office to request an appointment. Meetings are usually held in virtual format, but some offices may offer the option of an in-person visit. Information to reach Senator’s offices can be found once you find your senator at https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm.
Whether you reach out by phone or email, it is important to communicate a few specifics:
- Introduce yourself and others who are requesting a meeting.
- Clearly identify yourself as a constituent.
- Let staff know you are requesting a meeting about the Equality Act.
- Check messages and emails and be sure to reply to any additional questions staff may have.
- Create a log of contacts (names, titles, email addresses) so that you can refer back to all of the staff with whom you spoke.
For additional support on scheduling and preparing for a meeting contact the Public Policy Office at firstname.lastname@example.org
Take a meeting with a staffer if the Senator is not available
Remember that a meeting with a staffer is not a consolation prize! Staff manage the work of the Office and execute the decisions of the Senator within their areas of responsibility.
Equality Act meeting goals that you want to prepare to achieve
- Ask your Senator to co-sponsor the Equality Act (or if they are already a cosponsor, thank them for doing so).
- Ask your Senator to co-sponsor the Safe Schools Improvement Act if they have not already done so.
- Share stories that connect your asks: why does the Equality Act matter to you.
- Share statistics and data that demonstrate the need for the Equality Act.
Make a plan for the meeting
- Who will lead introductions and help facilitate group participation?
- Who will make which asks?
- Who will share which stories?
- Who will share which state-specific statistics or facts?
- Who can take notes?
- Who can ask for and take a photo?
Tips for Storytelling
- Choose stories that can be told simply and concisely while illustrating primary concerns or statistics.
- Embrace stories that speak to the morals and values that your group wants to highlight.
- Depending on your Senator and your group, consider highlighting support from communities of faith for the Equality Act, such as the Interfaith Alliance’s support of the Equality Act.
- Storytelling is vulnerable work — make sure that the storyteller feels confident and practiced. Ultimately, telling the story should feel more empowering than intimidating.
There are a number of resources that you can review to prepare your talking points and share with your Senator and their staff.
- GLSEN’s Equality Act Fact Sheet.
- GLSEN’s State Snapshots that highlights findings from the 2019 National School Climate Survey.
- GLSEN’s 2019 National School Climate Survey Executive Summary. This can be especially helpful if your state is one of the few that does not have its own state snapshot.
Once the meeting is over, there are a few final steps that your group can take to ensure that your advocacy was as effective as possible.
Take summary notes as soon as you can after the meeting is done, to make sure that you capture all that was said but that may not have been noted down during the conversation.
Email us at email@example.com or fill out our form at www.glsen.org/EqualityActPhoto to let us know how things went! Who did you meet with? How did it go? Did your Senator decide to support the Equality Act or were they already a co-sponsor? Did your group get to take a photo with the Senator or their staff (if so please share it with us)? Anything you need from us to follow-up?
Do not forget to promptly send a thank you email to your Senator or the staffer(s) you met and pass on additional resources that might be helpful in garnering their support for the Equality Act and other legislation that supports LGBTQ+ students!
Meeting with your Senators about the Equality Act is likely the most effective way to gain their support for the bill or thank them for being co-sponsors, but in addition to this strategy, there are three other ways that you can help to make sure the Equality Act Passes.
First, you can call your Senators and leave a message about why you support the Equality Act. You can find the phone number to leave them a message here: https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm.
If the Senator you are calling does not currently sponsor the Equality Act you can use this template phone script:
If the Senator you are contacting is already an Equality Act co-sponsor, you can use the following template to leave them a thank you message:
Second, you can write to your Senators at https://act.glsen.org/a/equalityact, with a customized message about why it is important that they co-sponsor the Equality Act, or thanking them for already having done so.
Finally, you can amplify your impact by sharing this toolkit with others!
For additional information contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.