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Monday, October 22, 2007

Lloydletta's Nooz Interviews Laura Smidzik from Project 515

You used to be ED of Rainbow Families. Did your experience there encourage you to take on the challenge of helping to start a new organization with a more specific mission?

In my work with Rainbow Families, I often saw the struggles that Minnesota families encounter without any support or protection from state laws – protection these couples would receive automatically if they could get married. So when I learned there were Minnesotans seeking to ensure all Minnesota couples are treated equally by the law, I felt it was important to get involved.

The Lavender article discusses a lobbying component. When is your organization planning to hire a lobbyist? Will you be hiring both a Democratic and Republican lobbyist (a Republican lobbyist will be essential for working with the Governor).

Currently, Project 515 is focused on informing Minnesotans about the discrimination found in so many state statutes and how it hurts Minnesota families. We may seek help from lobbyists early in 2008 to help us continue the discussion about how we can ensure equal treatment for all Minnesotans during the legislative session.

Why a new organization - why not work within OutFront Minnesota?

Project 515 has two main and focused objectives: Public education and advocacy. Before any action is taken, Project 515 believes Minnesotans must first be informed about the at least 515 Minnesota laws that discriminate against same-sex committed couples and their families.

It’s time for all of us to consider what kind of state we want to live in. When the time is right, we’ll work closely with OutFront Minnesota and other GLBT groups and allies to advocate for equal treatment for same-sex committed couples under the law.

What is your timeline for accomplishing these goals?

A statewide poll conducted in 2006 shows that 8 out of 10 Minnesotans said they believe government should not treat people differently because of their sexual orientation. There are at least 515 Minnesota laws that discriminate against same sex couples and their families. It will take time to fully secure equal rights, but we believe this is the right time to begin to change the debate. We know Minnesotans believe in fairness.