Representatives from the Human Rights Campaign visited the College Avenue campus on Thursday afternoon to garner signatures for their lobbying efforts.
Members of the Campaign’s Manhattan office came to Rutgers to sign people up for the national organization’s efforts to lobby against certain state-level legislation, which targets members of the LGBT community, said Field Manager Benjamin Marchiony.
“The main focus of the Human Rights Campaign at the moment is combating state-level LGBT legislation,” said the junior from George Washington University. “For example, Alabama is trying to make it harder for LGBT people to adopt children.”
According to al.com, the Alabama Senate Health Committee voted in February to advance a bill that would let adoption agencies refuse same-sex couples from adopting based on the organization’s religion.
A related House committee also voted to advance a bill with similar objectives, according to the article. Neither bill has been voted on by their respective full legislative body.
South Dakota did pass similar legislation, which was signed into law by their governor this past March, according to U.S. News and World Report. The Mount Rushmore State can also prevent divorced people from adopting, in addition to same-sex couples.
Earlier this week, North Carolina lawmakers introduced a bill that would declare same-sex marriages invalid, according to the Washington Post. While this bill will not come up for a vote, its purpose was to declare same-sex marriages “null and void in the State of North Carolina.”
Oklahoma and Texas are also named by the U.S. News article as states with or considering legislation which may target members of the LGBT community. Many of these bills are based on religion – if passed, groups or organizations would be able to reject people on religious grounds.
One of Oklahoma’s pending bills would also allow adoption agencies to refuse to work with same-sex couples, while another would allow private business or individuals to refuse to be part of same-sex weddings based on religious grounds.
The Human Rights Campaign is one of the largest LGBT civil rights advocacy groups in America, having originally been founded in 1980.
Marchiony said signing people up to join the Human Rights Campaign gives the group more power when they speak to legislators.
“We’re here to sign people up so we can lobby on their behalf in Congress,” he said. “So basically we want to make sure we have enough power to lobby on people’s behalf.”
The greater the number of signatures, the more likely it is the campaign can convince legislators to oppose these state-level bills, he said.
Even conservatives might be convinced to oppose bills discriminating against LGBT people if the campaign can prove it has a sufficient level of support, Marchiony said.
“The larger the list of people’s names who support the organization, who have proven that they want to get involved, the more power we have to make it so that members of Congress, even Republican members of Congress, can support our legislation,” he said.
Students who want to join or work with the Human Rights Campaign can sign up to volunteer, he said.
There are no restrictions on who can join the organization.
“It’s a national organization,” Marchiony said. “I applied and basically our office is based in Manhattan, so it’s pretty great. I meet a lot of interesting people.”
Students and other people can volunteer to work within New Jersey, he said. Much of what people do involves simply just contacting legislators to share their views.
“There are a lot of volunteer opportunities with the Human Rights Campaign, to do local grassroots activism,” he said. “Calling your member of Congress is one of the most important aspects of democracy.”
Nikhilesh De is a correspondent for The Daily Targum. He is a School of Arts and Sciences senior. Follow him on Twitter @nikhileshde for more.