Sen. Jim Debakis is getting a reputation for not only reaching across the aisle, but for building understanding on hot-button issues through respectful (i.e. non-threatening) face-to-faces between lawmakers and concerned constitutencies. (Being charming, of Mormon roots and openly gay doesn't hurt.)
Debakis and Sen. Steve Urquhart brought 300 LGBT rights activists together with more than a dozen lawmakers and the Lt. Governor recently to share stories of discrimination based on sexual orientation.
It didn't change much, of course—HB100, which would ban such discrimination, is still DOA. But the "conversation" turned gays, transsexuals, other queer Utahns and their families into flesh-and-blood for the legislators who dared to attend.
"Seven or eight Republicans showed up for it," says Urquhart. "That's a real good start and it reverberated—a lot more lawmakers heard the stories."
Now Debakis and Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Holiday, have set up an venue for a dozen constituents—who face catastrophe if Medicaid is not expanded by the state—to meet with lawmakers. (Let's see if House Speaker Becky Lockheart shows up.)
It's 6:15-7:30 p.m., this evening (Thursday, 3/6), Capitol Room 445. For more information, call: 801-815-3533