Being Political Without Politics
At the end of 2009, GLAAD launched two new Leadership Councils in Boston and Washington, D.C., adding to the existing five Councils located in Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, South Florida and San Francisco. Leadership Councils play an important role in their respective communities, relaying local stories to GLAAD which, in turn, are amplified on a national level.
As the political hub of the country, Washington, D.C. is the place where the bricks and mortar of politics are made. But not everything is focused on the creation of new laws and policies. The D.C. Leadership Council is working to build a coalition of supporters who, especially with the recent nuptials by gay and lesbian couples in the District, share the belief that the court of public opinion is just as important as a court of law.
“The media has the power to educate people and normalize issues that to some may seem foreign - or it can reinforce stereotypes and make people invisible,” states D.C. Leadership Council Co-Chair Jessica Katz. Such was the case when the Leadership Council championed the story of Jonathan Howard & Gregory Jones, a D.C. couple vying for the top prize in Crate & Barrel’s “Ultimate Wedding Contest”, who were subjected to hateful blog attacks. Sitting at Jessica’s dining room table, Jonathan & Gregory almost dropped out of the contest out of fear for their safety, but in the end they decided to persevere with the support of GLAAD’s Leadership Council. By raising the visibility of their story through the media and GLAAD’s Facebook and Twitter account, GLAAD and the Council shed light on the need for further understanding and acceptance of gay and lesbian couples. The result? Jonathan and Gregory finished second in the first round of the contest!
Jessica became involved with GLAAD after a long history of support of full equality for LGBT people. As a straight woman, the 1993 March on Washington became a keystone moment in her advocacy for LGBT rights. “I witnessed so many people that were forced to go back home to places where they couldn’t hold hands in the street or do the same things that I could. It made me want to get involved,” stated Jessica. And so Jessica asked herself how she could help and the one thing she came back to was growing understanding and acceptance of the LGBT community. According to Jessica, the most important thing is to “gain visibility by standing up and telling your story. Because even though it’s not the creation of a new law or mandate, all we have to do is look at the media’s role in marriage equality to know that amplifying your voice is a political step.”
If you would like more information about getting involved with the D.C. Leadership Council or another existing Council or want to know where the next Leadership Council will be forming please call GLAAD Senior Director, Juan Barajas at (323) 679-3032 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.