Help me help pass a bill from afar!
July 3, 2012 8:37 PM   Subscribe

Woah! A state senate bill, coming up for a vote next week in a state other than mine, would set a unique precedent that's extremely important for my family. Tell me everything I can do to help this bill from afar.

I'm a private citizen living in Pennsylvania, with no special connections or expertise in politics.

The bill in question is California's SB 1476, which would not change the legal definition of parent but would lift the limit of only two legal parents per child. It "passed in the Senate in late May and is scheduled to be considered by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on July 9."

I'll contact the office of Mark Leno, the state senator who introduced the bill, and ask him what help we can offer. And of course I'll do what I can to spread the word to people in CA, asking them to write lawmakers in support of this bill before the 9th.

- Will I be able to donate money, time, or expertise (tech / media / social media) to this cause in any way?

- Would Sen. Leno have any use for a testimonial about how vital this bill would be, from a three-parent family not living in CA?

- Would the people voting on this bill care about letters from out of state, or just reject them?

All thoughts welcome!
posted by kalapierson to Law & Government (12 answers total)
Would the people voting on this bill care about letters from out of state, or just reject them?

I doubt this would be helpful. You're not a member of their constituency, so your opinion doesn't really matter to them (at least, not in terms of their need to get reelected).
posted by axiom at 9:01 PM on July 3, 2012

Might help to network with others in your situation and find California families who can share their stories. Usually they don't care at all unless you live in their district.
posted by manicure12 at 9:03 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Why do you say that this law would set a unique precedent? The article you linked to claims that a similar law is already in place in your own state.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:20 PM on July 3, 2012

Best answer: Yes, you can support this bill! It's harder to do from outside the state, but don't let that stop you.

You can contribute to Sen. Leno (he's my senator and I've worked with him and his office on legislation in the past and I give him money) or to the organizations working on the bill. You can contact people in your networks in California and ask them to contact their Assemblymembers to vote for the bill. You can write a letter about why the bill is important and send it to Sen. Leno's office. You can send that letter to every member of the state Assembly if you want, but they honestly aren't going to care as much about a letter from someone not in their district. Leno's office will be best able to use it if they can. You can write an op-ed or a letter to the editor and try to get it published in a paper in CA.

The co-sponsors of this bill (the organizations doing the advocacy work to get it passed) are the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Children's Advocacy Institute. NCLR press release. I would recommend contacting Leno's office first, then NCLR and CAI, and asking them each how you can help. They may have action alerts you can sign up for, or other info that you can send to CA Assemblymembers.

I spend a lot of time on the CA legislative process for my job and am happy to answer other questions about it if you have them.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:47 PM on July 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: mr_roboto, good observation -- a NY lawyer (I've moved here from NY) who specializes in queer family law didn't think the PA law was as directly applicable as this. I haven't yet read the actual language of either the CA bill yet or the PA law -- need to do homework of my own on this.
posted by kalapierson at 9:50 PM on July 3, 2012

Best answer: Leginfo in the CA web site for tracking legislation. Type in the bill # and you can subscribe to it ("Track Bill") and get emails sent every time the bill gets voted on or there's some other change. It also has the legislative analyses and history of the bill.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:54 PM on July 3, 2012

In case it's useful information: it may actually be possible for a person who is a genetic chimera to have more than two biological parents.
posted by XMLicious at 6:27 AM on July 4, 2012

Response by poster: Luckily, in this bill (as in existing law), biological relationships aren't necessary; a non-bio parent can be declared a parent if in the opinion of the judge s/he is effectively the child's parent. The difference between this and existing law is that a third parent could join two already existing parents with no one needing to give up any rights.
posted by kalapierson at 9:33 AM on July 4, 2012

Oh, yes, I realize that; I mean that as a supporting point for the bill, whether or not opponents might think that social parents should "count" and despite the "Traditional Values Coalition" guy in the article claiming that this is all about teh gay, I would think that there's a need for legal recognition of more than two parents with full rights simply if it's biologically possible.

And similarly, though people seem to be objecting that the bill doesn't place a limit on the number of parents a child can have, if there's no biological limit to the number of parents a person who is a chimera can have...
posted by XMLicious at 10:04 AM on July 4, 2012

Best answer: I work for an advocacy group in California, though not on legislative work myself. gingerbeer's advice is right. It looks like the bill is in Assembly Appropriations now.

A first step would be to get on any action alert network those organizations have, particularly if you can get on whatever list they're alerting about this bill's progress. (If NCLR is only alerting CA residents, I hate to recommend this, but you might give a CA zip code.) Then ask those working on the bills how you can help. The legislature goes on recess next week, so the people working on the bill will have a bit more time unless they immediately go on vacation.

They'll know whose votes are key, and which kinds of stories will be most helpful. For instance, letters to the editors or op-eds might be useful, but should you send your letter to the LA Times, the Sacramento Bee, the Riverside Press-Enterprise, or...? If you have friends in California, particularly if they're in key Assembly districts, you could draft a letter for them to send to their Assemblymember, or later, to the Governor: "I'm writing to you to let you know what a bill like this would mean for [my niece / one of my good friends]..."

If the bill doesn't succeed this session, don't despair. Many bills take more than one year to finally pass and be signed. A donation or thank you letter to the advocacy groups and/or Leno's office could encourage them to try again next year. Tell your story and include quotable quotes that these organizations could use in fundraising or testimony.

If you have additional time, you might also send a very respectful version of your letter to nonpartisan-sounding organizations who are giving ambivalent or discouraging media quotes, e.g., the Association of Certified Family Law Specialists (quote) and the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute (quote). (Do not waste your time with groups that are ideologically opposed.) These groups don't really care about your opinion; they care about the practical implications for their mission and those they serve. Being disrespectful would be counterproductive and help solidify their opposition. But there's a small chance that a respectful and emotionally persuasive letter might encourage them to shift from "it's not perfect now, so we oppose" to "we could support it if amendments resolved our objections" or from "this bill sounds pointless and flawed" to "this bill sounds useful, so we hope legislators resolve its few flaws." Your letter might sound like: "I respect your organization's professional opinion. I am writing to share what a bill like this could mean for people like me, and to ask you to use your expertise to help a bill like this succeed now or in the future."
posted by slidell at 1:52 PM on July 4, 2012

Let me add that sharing the details of your story with anyone besides Leno and the bill's advocates -- so, with the media, legislators, or other organizations -- may be counterproductive if it could be confused with some of the "frightening" scenarios that the opposition is giving. It is likely to be useful if it's similar to some of the example scenarios that Leno cites in the news stories. If you're not sure, you might keep your letters general and save the details for the bill's advocates.
posted by slidell at 2:11 PM on July 4, 2012

Response by poster: Good point. Families like mine have been missing from the lists of scenarios in the articles because usually a judge isn't involved until there's an issue (breakup/death/incapacitation). We're simply three people in one relationship who've raised our son since his birth as three equal parents. We have wills and living wills stating this, and 100% family support, but of course our ideal would be law that lets us affirm a legal relationship between the child and each of his three parents. Same-sex dyads where one person is the bio parent often can do a second-parent adoption; what we need would be the equivalent of a third-parent adoption.
posted by kalapierson at 1:26 AM on July 6, 2012

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