June is LGBTQ Pride month, and we're proud to work with nonprofits across the country promoting equality and inclusion. That's why our EveryAction Hero this month is the Equality Federation, the movement-builder and strategic partner to state-based organizations advocating for LGBTQ people.
We sat down with Mark Snyder, Director of Communications for Equality Federation, to talk about the inspiring work they do.
"What kind of work does Equality Federation do?"
Mark Snyder: Equality Federation is the strategic partner to the state-based equality movement. We partner with groups from Equality Florida to Equality California (and everywhere in between), providing support in a wide variety of ways ranging from leadership development, technological support, to providing them with the latest tested messaging and communication strategies to use in their campaigns.
Equality Federation has been around in one form or another since 1997. Right now, we have more staff than we’ve ever had before, which I’d say is a small but mighty team.
One of the things that makes Equality Federation really cool is that all our staff work from home remotely. We’re a dispersed organization, with staff members in New York, DC, Oklahoma, and San Francisco. We work in every part of the country, and are proud to partner with around 40 state-based equality organizations. [Find a full list of EF partners here.]
"June is Pride month - What aspect of your work are you most proud of?"
MS: I think we’re living in the best of times and the worst of times. We have more visibility for the LGBTQ community than ever, but our opposition is also more organized and strategic than ever. This year alone, we have tracked and are currently tracking over 200 bills across the country, the majority of which are anti-LGBTQ. But in terms of pride, I'd say we’re very proud to have worked with Freedom Oklahoma to defeat 27 anti-LGBTQ bills in that state.
Unfortunately, as many people have seen, we’ve had setbacks for equality in Houston, and in North Carolina, as well other places, but there’s still a lot of hope. The Department of Justice has deemed North Carolina’s harsh anti-LGBTQ law to be in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the silver lining of all of this has been a renewed strengthening of our partnerships.
One of the things that makes me proud to work with Equality Federation is that we’re a trusted partner on the national and state levels, we maintain great relationships with state-based equality groups, and the work we accomplish together is better because of that.
"What are some benefits that Equality Federation provides to groups?"
MS: We bring organizations together to learn from each other. Sometimes our opposition is introducing similar bills in several different states, so we bring our state-based groups together to learn and strategize, gathering our leaders to learn from each other.
Equality Federation is able to track what’s going on nationally and see if there are opportunities for one group to learn from another, and see if there are ways we can facilitate learning together or joining together in coalitions.
"How are online organizing, technology, and the digital space important to your work?"
MS: They're hugely important. One of the really cool things that Equality Federation does is provide the tools and technology for our state-based partners to be able to target voters with tested messaging. We pride ourselves in being able to help our partners target the right people at the right time with the right message. We use technology to do that. We also provide our members with guidance and advice around the latest best practices in terms of online fundraising, organizing, and social media.
One of my favorite things that I do also relies on technology - I use Google Hangouts and GoToMeeting to train transgender people to share their stories using the latest messaging. We work to give them the tools and resources to elevate their voices in the media and to testify at their local statehouse. So, its been really amazing to connect transgender people from around the country in virtual trainings and have them share their stories and practice via video conferencing.
Equality Federation uses EveryAction - especially advocacy forms and petitions, online donations, and targeted email - for pretty much everything. We’re thrilled with the technology and are really appreciative of the responsive tech support team at EveryAction.
"What are you building in 2016?"
MS: Our work is far from finished. A lot of people don’t realize that there are still 33 states that lack complete non-discrimination protection under state law. So that means many of our partners are working to pass comprehensive non-discrimination protection, and Equality Federation is really proud to continue to work with them on those efforts. And, clearly we still need comprehensive non-discrimination protection at the national level as well.
For more on the legislation we’re tracking and to find out what you can do to support defeating bad bills or passing the good ones, check out the interactive map in our Legislative Action Center and click on a state or locality to see what’s happening in that area.