The onset of Minnesota’s coldest weeks can mean only one thing—the 2008 legislative session is right around the corner. As representatives and senators emerge from their respective corners of the state, Project 515’s legislative plan is well under way.
But first, what is Project 515? We are a newly formed advocacy group with the focused goal of achieving equality for Minnesota’s same-sex couples and their families. Not yet six months old, we’ve raised a significant amount of money, and forged important relationships with community leaders.
Project 515, named after the 515 Minnesota statutes that discriminate against same-sex couples, has two major goals:
First, Project 515 is changing the debate by informing Minnesotans about the 515 state laws that discriminate against same-sex couples and their families. We want everyday Minnesotans to understand that discrimination is pervasive, and runs deeply into virtually every part of people’s lives. Same-sex couples are discriminated against on many different levels, and we will bring these personal stories to life.
Second, we plan to bring about fairness for all by changing our state laws, one at a time if necessary.
Our lobbyist, Jill Sletten, is a respected voice at the Capitol who is eager to carry the message of Project 515.
“Building strong professional relationships with legislators is about more than just knowing them,” Sletten says. “It’s knowing their districts, their constituents, and the issues most important to them.”
Sletten already has begun the process of introducing our state legislators to Project 515’s research. Through these meetings, she is asking them to view this issue in a new light—it’s about fairness and equality for all.
By pointing out the 515 statutes that discriminate against same-sex couples, and the stories of couples affected by these statutes, Sletten is making clear that this issue is not about special rights, but about fairness for Minnesota families.
Sletten will continue to take to our leaders the personal stories of everyday Minnesotans. She will share the story of Tim, a man who was not recognized by the hospital where his partner died. She will describe how Jane was kicked out of her home once the medical expenses of her late partner became too overwhelming. Sletten also will share the story of Lisa and Susan, who were unable to open an account for their daughter at a state-chartered credit union, because the law doesn’t recognize them as a family. None of these situations would have occurred if the relationships involved were heterosexual, married couples.
Luckily, Sletten will not be alone at the Capitol. Project 515 is working in close collaboration with other organizations to advance this important legislative agenda. Many legislators are excited about Project 515’s message.
In addition, we always can count of the voice of Senator Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis). He has been instrumental in defending some of the more egregious attempts at memorializing homophobia and discrimination into our Constitution and state laws
“I’m energized about the approach that Project 515 is bringing to this issue,” Dibble says. “My colleagues need to appreciate that this is a real problem with real impacts on real people.”
Project 515 is prepared for an exciting 2008 legislative session, but we need your help. In addition to financial support, Project 515 is looking for more stories of Minnesotans who have been affected negatively by state laws. If you have been discriminated against solely because you are in a long-term, same-sex relationship, tell us about it.
By showing our legislators the broad impact of such discrimination, we will continue to change the debate around the issue, and help Minnesotans focus on fairness and equality for all.
Although it’s cold outside, the legislative session is just heating up. Project 515 is looking forward to working on your behalf to chip away at those 515 laws.
Help Project 515 work for equality by telling us your story, or by donating your time or money. Go to