Sunday, February 20, 2005

Welcome! If you're hanging out at the Democracy for America blog, you've found one of the strongholds of DFA! The posts are great, and the comments -- well, on a good day, anyway -- are thought-provoking (you know about clicking on "comments" below each post to read the comments, right?). You can "lurk" for a while before you post, or submit a comment the first time you read the weblog. Either way, you're likely to find it habit-forming. (REMINDER: Democracy for America is a grassroots organization that depends on us actually leaving our computers periodically and TAKING ACTION. Temper your blog time with work in the world, please. Start from wherever you are and take your next step to support political engagement and change in this great country. Then report back here and let us know how it's going.)

You may find that folks are not responding directly to your posts unless you ask for specific information (and sometimes not even then), but please don't feel neglected. It's par for the course -- there are a lot of voices in the "room" -- conversation of any sort takes some doing. If you have a question, e.g. "How can I get absentee ballot applications to distribute at my voter registration table on Saturday?" go ahead and ask it, even if you're a little nervous it might be a dumb question. People here are incredibly generous, and lots of questions and problems have been successfully resolved via dedicated blog responders. Meanwhile, to get up to speed, read as many of the blogforamerica entries as you have time for, and see also this stuff:

If you want to quote something at length, the best strategy is to post an excerpt and then give folks the link, either by including it in your post, or by creating a clickable link to it by entering the web address or url in the box provided in the "post comment" section of the blog. This is how folks turn their names into links to their recommended sites.

Questions about this blog (like, what is it, how does it work?): What Is a Blog (Thanks for listening, campaign staff!)

Wondering what to do about posts from nonsensical naysayers or people who seem to be trying to pick a fight (termed "trolls," as distinguished from people with genuine questions)? Conventional wisdom here (as stated succinctly by ET in KC back in November of 2003) is first, "ignore them if you don't think they are interested in true conversation. Second, respond to their post WITHOUT MENTIONING THEM BY NAME, but with the facts and no emotion." Third, if they're really driving you to distraction, surf on over and make a contribution to a worthy cause, say, Democracy for America? Or something else you think will drive that particular troll crazy. Then c'mon back to the blog and let people know that your money is where your heart is, still WITHOUT mentioning the troll by name.

I've tried to include some of the most commonly referenced sites in the sidebar at left; please let me know (see suggestion box at top left) if you have suggestions for additions or other questions you think I should address here for the benefit of other blog citizens.

There is a lot of work to be done, and we could use your help! Have you attended a Meetup yet? Have you gotten some of your friends to tag along?


W00T! is an exclamation of excitement, popular w/ bloggers, origin uncertain
BTW = by the way
IMO = in my opinion
A,AA,IISVGTBHAF = David A. Stevenson's DFA sign-off... "And, as always, it is so very good to be here among friends."
Freeper = a denizen of The Free Republic (click at your own risk; pretty nasty stuff)
IMNSHO = in my not so humble opinion
LOL = laughing out loud
POTUS = President of the United States
RIF = Resistance Is Futile (ask a Trekkie for more details)
ROFLMAO = Rolling on the floor, laughing my a** off
WTF? = What the *@#~?

Saturday, January 10, 2004

A Bird's Eye View of NJ Legislative History
January 10, 2004

Domestic partnership legislation has been working its way through the NJ legislature for months. It passed in the Assembly by one vote on December 11th. It squeaked out of committees and made it to the Senate for a vote yesterday. In order to pass, it needed 21 yes votes. It got 23.

There had not been a lot of press coverage about the bill. Maybe it's because interested people in New Jersey are more focused on the legal challenge for marriage equality, similar to the recent case in Massachusetts, which is simultaneously working its way through the court system and would provide a fuller complement of rights and protections. In some ways it seemed that both supporters and decriers of the legislative measure had decided that we'd done all the talking we needed to do, and that more public foment wasn't going to change anyone's mind. Just hold the vote quietly and get it over with.

But members and supporters of New Jersey's gay and lesbian community have been following the bill closely, and some of us made our way to the Statehouse yesterday to watch history unfold.

Visitors -- many of them first-timers -- were ushered to the second-floor gallery, which looks directly down on the bowl of the legislative chamber. Senators trickled in and took their seats, stopping to chat with each other informally on the way. The session started at 2:00pm with the Leader going through a slew of "consent agenda" items at breakneck speed. Up in the gallery, political organizers from the gay and lesbian community handed out "YES! 2820" stickers to anyone willing to wear one. By 2:30pm, the vast majority of folks crammed into the second-floor gallery were clearly identified as supporters of the domestic partnership legislation. Strangers spoke quietly to their neighbors, wondering what they'd heard about this Senator or that one; everyone waited anxiously for S2820 to be called. I passed out Howard Dean's "Common Sense" brochures to some interested folks, and my friend Heidi and I tried to keep our toddlers from throwing their toys at the heads of the nice gay men in front of us. A couple of bored policemen appeared. (The kids wanted to know if they had cars with sirens on them.) Print and television journalists hovered around the edges of the still-growing crowd.

Finally, around 3:30pm, the Speaker called the chamber to order to consider bill S2820 and asked if any Senator wanted to speak to the matter at hand. The gallery took a collective breath. Five Senators asked for time, and then, one after the other, they all spoke in favor of the bill.

(If you live in NJ, and your Senator is Barbara Buono, John Adler, Byron Baer, Raymond Lesniak, or Robert Martin, you've got yourself a good one.)

No one on the floor spoke against the bill. For weeks, we've been reading anti-gay letters to the editor in our morning paper here, and no one in the media was predicting an easy victory. You could see and feel the bill's supporters steeling themselves for what felt like an inevitable attack. But it never came. Afterwards, there were a few folks from those creepy so-called "pro-family" organizations who talked to reporters, and some legislative types who expressed concerns about potential costs (which I like to call the "we're all for equality, as long as it doesn't cost us anything" position), but that was pretty much it.

After the second set of positive floor remarks, the 100-plus supporters in the gallery burst into spontaneous cheering and applause. The Speaker gavelled us down into silence and gently asked us to be quiet while the bill was still being debated.

The vote itself was tallied on a giant electronic scoreboard that was hung roughly at eye-level with the gallery. Having watched many of the afternoon's earlier votes pass with 35 yeas and no nays, it was nervewracking to watch the votes tick up in both categories for this vote. At the end of the vote, the tally was 23 yeas, 9 nays, and a bunch of absentions (which don't show up anywhere on the scoreboard). Gov. McGreevey has promised to sign the measure quickly, and when he does, New Jersey gay and lesbian couples will have rights to medical visitation and decisions, some inheritance rights, health coverage if they work for a state agency (including the state's public colleges and universities), access to the state pension plan, and changes to the NJ tax code to reflect domestic partnership status. New Jersey will be the fifth state to recognize domestic partnerships, joining California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Vermont.

The yes tally hit 21, then 22, then 23. The woman on the floor of the Senate who had been reading out the business of the day grinned up at us, reflecting back our joy. We cheered and hugged each other and jumped around. A few people cried quietly. Then everyone took out their cellphones and started making calls. Honey, you'll never guess what we just got...

Monday, January 05, 2004

Thanks, Renee, for helping me figure out how to make the links active!

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Sometimes this site loads like a dream, sometimes it doesn't. Apologies if you're getting old, outdated content... send me an email via the Suggestion Box (top left), and rest assured that I am working like crazy to get things running properly again.

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