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A new Connecticut LGBTQ advocacy group announces its legislative goals

LGBTQ
Joe Amon
/
Connecticut Public
Linda Estabrook, executive director of the Hartford Gay & Lesbian Health Collective, is ready for the rally at Hartford City Hall to celebrate the historic decision from the Supreme Court to extend protections for LGBTQ workers across the nation on June 15, 2020, in Hartford, Conn.

The new LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Connecticut wants to expand suicide prevention programs, get lawmakers to require health insurers to cover fertility treatment for LGBTQIA+ people, and expand access to gender-affirming health care. Connecticut Public Radio's John Henry Smith spoke with Equality Connecticut's executive director, Matt Blinstrubas.

*****

John Henry Smith:

For Connecticut Public Radio, I'm John Henry Smith. This morning at the statehouse, the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Connecticut held an official launch press conference, at which time the group also set its agenda for 2023. Joining us now is Equality Connecticut Executive Director Matt Blinstrubas. Matt, how did your day with the legislators go?

Matt Blinstrubas:

It went really well. I think we were really well received, it was well attended. I think the fact that the LGBT caucus, and especially in the House of Representatives has effectively doubled in size as of November is really exciting. We went from two to four out legislators in the House, which means that our numbers are growing for the first time in a few years.

John Henry Smith:

Matt, why was it important to establish the Equality Connecticut?

Matt Blinstrubas:

You know, I think the nature of the LGBTQ experience is one of change and evolution. And so it stands to reason that the policy needs will change over time. And that there should and ought to be a community-driven organization that has a permanent presence at the Capitol and is ready to work with our elected leaders to help imagine and implement the policies that serve and protect and advance our community.

John Henry Smith:

You talked about the policy needs. What are your most important legislative goals this year?

Matt Blinstrubas:

Well, certainly, I would say first and foremost, preventing anything bad from happening. The ACLU is tracking across the country that there's at least 150 bills, curbing LGBT rights that were introduced in state houses. And we have about six here, I think, give or take. And we want to make sure that none of them see the light of day. So that's very important. We have a couple of bills that we're working on. One is partnering with a national organization called The Trevor Project to ensure robust and responsive programming for mental health for LGBTQ young people, including suicide prevention,

John Henry Smith:

With the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas indicating he thinks gay marriage is ripe for challenge, with Ron DeSantis in Florida signing the so called Don't Say Gay bill and many other legislative attacks on gay rights in this country, how under attack does the LGBTQ community feel right now? Do you think the climate is better or worse here in Connecticut?

Matt Blinstrubas:

Connecticut certainly has been and remains a leader in advancing policy for our community. But we cannot take that for granted. And I think what is heartening is, the more conversations we have at the legislature, the more we discover our elected leaders, in many cases, are really willing to step up and stand behind our community. And that's been really, I think, a powerful message that we've heard in all of our conversations so far.

John Henry Smith:

June is Pride Month. Every year in June, there's a great outpouring for Pride Month and many events scheduled. And then outside of June, it's been pretty well documented across the country that gay gathering places are increasingly disappearing. I don't think there are too many here in the Hartford area. And if I'm not mistaken about that, and I think that's probably a similar situation that you see in many other localities, this decreasing amount of spaces for the LGBT community to get together and build relationships and have a safe space. How much of a crisis is that in the LGBT community?

Matt Blinstrubas:

What you're getting at speaks to the heart and soul of not only why Equality Connecticut formed, but also our core organizing principle, which is building LGBTQ power by facilitating joy. As we were developing, many people were as interested in that isolation that you're describing, not necessarily getting involved in politics or policy or activism. They're like, I just want to meet other queer folks, I feel alone, I feel, you know, we have laws and protections here, but I don't feel a sense of belonging in my daily life. And so we realized that a core part of our mission involves bringing people together, because the heart of the struggle of being LGBTQ is wanting to be with other queer folks to express ourselves and be seen as our authentic selves and to express love for each other. And so we believe that when you create a space where those expressions, and where we're able to truly see each other become possible, that that's how we realize our political power.

John Henry Smith is Connecticut Public’s host of All Things Considered, its flagship afternoon news program. In his 20th year as a professional broadcaster, he’s covered both news and sports.

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