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January 14, 2005

Toni Broaddus takes helm of state groups federation

San Francisco--�We need to bring organizations together to talk more about the LGBT movement and less about building organizations,� said Toni Broaddus, on her appointment January 5 to direct the Equality Federation.

Broaddus is the first director of the organization, which is made up of 39 statewide organizations in 30 states, not including Ohio. It has increased its activity due to shifts in power and anti-gay action from the national level to the states.

The federation began with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force as its fiscal agent in 1997, then spun off and became its own organization in 2001. It also changed its name from the former Federation of Statewide Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Advocacy Organizations.

NGLTF and the federation together launched the 1999 Equality Begins at Home project, which Ohioans were involved in. It included a Statehouse rally in March of that year.

Help with nuts and bolts

The federation hopes to facilitate LGBT political organizing in each state by overcoming obstacles such as lack of resources and training.

According to Equality Federation�s printed materials, �State organizing remains severely under-researched, under-resourced and understaffed. Only a handful of [LGBT] statewide groups have annual budgets over $100,000� and most lack �basic organizational infrastructure such as a phone line, fax machine, and a computer.�

The materials also acknowledge that these �problems are even more exacerbated in rural states where low population densities and distances between population centers create poor communication and a feeling of isolation.�

Ohio has no federation member organization, though Ohioans for Growth and Equality has a link on its web site, www.federationlgbt.org.

Broaddus said she wanted every state to have an organization listed on the site �so there would be a resource� for people to goto. She has been trying to contact OGE to see if they are interested in membership.

The federation has been funded by a grant from the Gill Foundation and done projects with gifts from NGLTF, the Human Rights Campaign, the Victory Fund, and Freedom to Marry. Dues are 0.4% of the member organization�s annual budget, capped at $1,000.

Move from lobbies to local organizing

Broaddus said that in order for organizations to qualify, they must have a strong desire to do more community organizing and education.

�These groups often begin as lobbyists,� said Broaddus, �but must grow into local organizing and doing mainstream public education.�

Part of Broaddus� responsibility will be raising money for the federation, and she says affiliated groups must also focus on doing that.

�Compared to the religious right, we are so under-funded,� said Broaddus, adding that what money is raised is not going to the right places.

�Our battles are not federal,� said Broaddus, �yet our fundraising is organized that way.�

Broaddus agrees with NGLTF organizing and training director Dave Fleischer, who has said that state anti-marriage amendments are �a $40 million problem� that will require state organizations and campaigns over the next two years.

�LGBT people do not give money at the same rate as other communities,� said Broaddus, �and that needs to change.�

She said part of the federation�s strategy is to teach state organizations to go after new donors and �expand the pool� of available money for political activity.

Concentrating on building a base of many smaller donors and expanding fundraising beyond the known LGBT givers into the broader progressive communities will be key, according to Broaddus.

Once money is raised, she hopes the federation will be able to help state organizations spend it more efficiently by facilitating peer support and increasing their purchasing and technology capability through the economies of scale.

�The federation will also act as an advocate for state organizations nationally,� said Broaddus.

Building a stronger, more successful movement around achieving equality will result in stronger organizations, not the other way around, she noted.

�[The movement] needs to respect expertise of state leaders, and we have not always done that well,� said Broaddus, �We need to get past the personalities and listen� to what is happening and �support the work in the states.�

Oklahoma in the closety days

Broaddus began organizing in Oklahoma in the mid-1980s and co-founded the Oklahoma Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus.

�What I learned from that has stayed with me,� said Broaddus, adding that was around the time of the Supreme Court�s 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick decision allowing states to have laws against gay sex.

�There could be nothing on the outside of mailings to identify where they came from, and we had to write sample letters so people could oppose bad legislation without coming out to their representatives,� said Broaddus.

Broaddus also worked in California running the day-to-day operations of the �No on Knight� campaign in 2000.

That initiative, also known as Proposition 22, gave California its law prohibiting same-sex marriages. At the time, it was primarily funded by the Mormon church in Utah. It is now being challenged in California courts.

�In California, people were much more open. There was no need to hide,� said Broaddus. �It was okay to come out and tell your legislator you are gay.�

Broaddus also boasts having done street theater activism in Boston before returning to California to become the first program director of the state organization Equality California.

Broaddus served as a member of the board of the Equality federation before becoming its director.

Kentucky Fairness Alliance director Andrea Hildebran co-chairs that board with Equality North Carolina director Ian Palmquist.

Broaddus lives in San Francisco with her partner of twelve years, Janice Wells, and will operate the federation from there. She said she expects to open an office in Washington, D.C. in the future.

 

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