Change.org Fights for LGBT Rights in Mass.
When Gov. Deval Patrick signed an executive order in February to ban discrimination against transgender state employees, LGBT activists knew fully that Congress would continue to deny this oft-ignored group the rights they deserve. And even though the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act has been reintroduced on Capitol Hill, it has little chance of passage in this Congress.
Enter Change.org editor Mike Jones, who for the past three years has helped people organize petitions on the grassroots campaign website. His goal? To achieve equality for LGBT people around the world.
As one of the biggest platforms available to LGBT activists, Change.org has arguably revolutionized the LGBT rights movement for the 21st century. The Web site helps people organize online petitions against an organization or an individual who is perpetuating anti-LGBT policies or statements. With each petition signature, a letter is sent to the party asking for a change.
Instead of sending hundreds of letters to an indifferent CEO, however, Change.org targets public relations personnel and other people.
"We really try to find people who will notice the emails coming in and will want to respond because they’re concerned about bad press or what customers will think of them," said Jones.
Following Patrick’s executive order, Jones believes Change.org can help spur the passage of a bill that would bar employment discrimination against trans Bay Staters. According to his "Urge Massachusetts Lawmakers to Pass Transgender Equal Rights Bill" petition, 76 percent of these employees in the state have reportedly suffered harassment in the workplace.
784 people had signed the petition as of May 11, and Jones only needs 216 more signatures to reach his goal of 1,000.
While this project might not be finished, Jones has plenty of other successes to which he can point.
He launched a petition with Ask Thy Neighbor in April 2010 that asked Clear Channel to fire popular Boston radio talk show host Dawson McAllister after he referred listeners to an "ex-gay" group. Within 24 hours, the host dropped all links to anti-gay groups on his Web site.
Change.org earlier this month also hired Joe Mirabella as its new organizer.
Mirabella, who is based in Seattle, is currently focused on fighting homophobia in sports. A San Francisco Giants fan launched a petition that asks the entire baseball team to make a video for the It Gets Better project. It would be the first clip from a professional sports team on the anti-bullying Web site.
"I get to wake up every morning and [help] the LGBT community achieve equality," said Mirabella. "I feel incredibly lucky to dedicate my time to this important cause every day."
While Mirabella might not work out of Boston, his influence in sports is sure to have a major impact on one of America’s most devoted fan bases. Perhaps the Rex Sox or the Pats will soon make their own videos?