County Fairs and Fairness Vermont’s passage of “civil union” legislation, which provides gay and lesbian couples most rights and protections afforded straight married couples, didn’t just happen. Credit goes to groups like the
Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force
, which has worked for five years to change hearts and minds in the state. Even before Vermont’s Supreme Court forced legislators to address equity issues, says task force board member
, “We talked to anybody who would listen–Chamber of Commerce meetings, clubs, schools.” Even county fairs were targeted. “We always have a big booth at the fair–with photos of couples, everything.” The fieldwork paid off; by the time this spring’s legislative votes approached, the task force had supporters in every Vermont county. One convert was Vermont State Senator
, who said meetings with the task force helped shape her stance. “I am happy that Vermonters have led the way,” she said in voting for the measure, adding that she was only sorry the legislature wasn’t going all the way–by voting to allow same-gender marriages. This unabashed advocate for gay and lesbian rights is a Chittenden County Republican, a veteran of eighteen years in the legislature and twenty-eight years of marriage. Vermont activists continue to push for same-gender marriage rights and hope to export their take-it-to-the-people approach: “Vermont is definitely not the only place this kind of effort can work,” Lashman says.
Seder Solidarity “The first work strike took place 5,000 years ago, when the Hebrew people walked out of Egypt,” declared Temple Kol Tikvah Rabbi
as he observed a Passover Seder with striking LA janitors. The strikers, mostly Latino Catholics, joined the traditional Seder meal in front of a building being struck by
Service Employees International Union Local 1877
. Jacobs and other religious leaders were later arrested after committing civil disobedience to support the strikers. A settlement was reached on Easter and workers ratified it the next day.
Wrestling Ventura When the Minnesota State Senate voted to limit access to abortion, reproductive rights supporters had their work cut out for them. The law mandated a twenty-four-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions, required clinics to tell women in graphic detail about abortion procedures and provide information about alternatives, and included up to $10,000 fines for doctors who disobeyed. Similar legislation had already passed in twelve other states. Only Governor Jesse Ventura’s veto stood between the bill and passage, but Ventura’s staff had helped craft a version of the plan so the chances that he would block it didn’t look good. Minnesota’s