Step One: Find your representative. While Congress is usually in session from early January until late September, lawmakers frequently return home to their districts to meet with constituents and discuss important issues. Contact your representatives’ in-district office to find out when they may be able to arrange an in-person meeting with the lawmaker, or a meeting with a staff member if the lawmaker is unavailable. Here's how:
- Visit the PFLAG Action Center and type in your zip code.
- Click on your congressperson’s page to find contact information for their in-district and Washington, D.C. offices.
- A note on State Representatives and Senators: State legislatures have varying sessions, with some being a year-long process and others presenting a very short window of opportunity to influence legislation. For more information on your state’s legislative calendar, visit Project Vote Smart online at www.votesmart.org.
Step Two: Make the call! Once you’ve found your representative via the PFLAG Action Center, call their local office, explain that you would like to meet with the legislator, and why. Be sure to say that you live in the lawmaker’s district so that you will receive priority on the lawmaker’s calendar. Be prepared to submit an official request for your meeting, either by fax or e-mail. Keep in mind that you may not receive a meeting with your lawmaker, but may instead be scheduled to speak with staff members. Staff members make critical decisions and advise your congressperson on important issues. Take the meeting seriously and keep in mind that staffers are the “eyes and ears” of your representative.
Step Three: Do your homework. Before meeting with your legislator, you should:
- Identify three or four PFLAG members who can attend the meeting;
- Set an agenda that maps out which topics you will discuss and who will cover which topics;
- Plan on spending 15 to 30 minutes on each topic; and be sure to research your lawmaker’s record on LGBT issues: which measures did he or she support? How did he or she vote on issues such as on civil rights, judicial nominees and privacy? Then, use that information to shape the message you deliver during your meeting. For example, if your representative is a former teacher, consider focusing on safe schools issues and tell stories about issues your children face in school.
- Take family photos with you to your meeting. Pictures, coupled with your personal stories, help put a real face on what can sometimes be abstract issues for legislators.
Step Four: Make the visit! Always be sure to show up on time for your appointment, and be neatly dressed. One person should thank the staff or representative for granting the meeting and for their positive votes and/or support on issues in the past. To make your visit as productive as possible, remember to:
- Select one person to be the primary spokesperson for your group.
- Make your “ask” (using the issue briefs in this guide) at the beginning.
- Stick to your agenda.
- Keep returning to your central point, even if the representative or staffer tries to divert the conversation to a different topic.
- Personalize your story and localize issues – relate what you are asking for to a personal experience and a local need.
- Ask questions!
- Acknowledge that the representative may not be ready to commit to your position yet, but also ask that they keep an open mind or remain neutral . . . and be clear that you want to continue the relationship and dialogue with them.
- End on a positive note, and return to a “feel good” talking point that leaves a positive impression and shows appreciation to the representative or their staff for meeting with you.
Step Five: Follow-up & follow through! Send a thank you note after your meeting, restating any agreements and reiterating your requests. And, if you’ve promised additional information for the lawmaker, be sure to include that along with your note. Offer to be a resource for the representative. Remember to complete a visit report and return it to your PFLAG Field & Policy Coordinator.