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Facebook, the future for legislators?

Friday, Mar 28, 2008

* More and more public officials are realizing the value of the social networking site Facebook. Many have used the site to help spread awareness about their campaigns. I remember seeing the “One Million Strong for Barack Obama” group when I was in school. Now candidates of all levels of office are joining in.

However, some are also beginning to notice its potential for advancing their legislative agenda:

The online social networking site is home to a group of young voters who supported a measure in the Illinois House to legalize civil unions between same-sex couples, which some opponents say is a form of gay marriage.

The group, Students for the Illinois Marriage Equality Bill, has attracted more than 8,000 members from across the country and directs members to write or call state representatives to talk to them about the bill.

* Soon after, Rep. Greg Harris contacted the administrator to ask about his group.

“I had no idea there was this much grassroots organizing going on,” said Harris, the rep. who is sponsoring the civil union legislation.

Harris said he is still working with the group to see what type of awareness he can raise through the Web site. For now, he has posted a message on the group page asking members to continue lobbying for the cause and offering his office contact information.

The bill would grant the same legal rights to same-sex couples as it would a married couple, such as hospital visitation, health care choices and funeral options. However, no church or other religious institution would be forced to sanction the union:

“This is not same sex marriage,” Harris said. “This is just basic rights and obligations that the state can afford to give these people.”

* Currently Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey, New Hampshire all allow civil unions and Massachusetts will grant marriage licenses to same sex couples.

Voters in Missouri overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment in 2004 defining marriage as “only between a man and a woman.” Since then, there have been no major efforts by state legislators to legalize civil unions in the state.

Harris said he is unsure of when the civil union bill could get called to a vote before the entire Illinois House. It narrowly passed a House committee last March and then was amended to remove all references to marriage in hopes of attracting further support.

* Sites like Facebook and MySpace, once seen as teeny bopping pastimes, could become an integral part of the future of politics. Discuss.

- Posted by Kevin Fanning        

7 Comments
  1. - wordslinger - Friday, Mar 28, 08 @ 11:21 am:

    No question. New media will only get bigger. It’s incredibly cost effective. Just compare email to traditional direct mail fundraising. With both, you have to build or buy a list. But after that, email costs virtually nothing. No postage, no printing and barriers to contributing are eliminated. All you have to do is click a button and enter your credit card number. No writing checks, affixing a stamp, hitting the mailbox, etc.


  2. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Mar 28, 08 @ 11:32 am:

    Facebook is so yesterday.

    Obama has added “Obama Mobile”. Sign-up for updates and event invites, download screensavers and ringtones.

    Imagine half the cell phones around you ringing with this:

    “Hi, this is Barack Obama, asking you to help change America and answer the call”

    Or a clip from the internet smash hit “Yes, We Can” by will.i.am


  3. - Kevin Fanning - Friday, Mar 28, 08 @ 11:33 am:

    LOL


  4. - Pot calling kettle - Friday, Mar 28, 08 @ 11:50 am:

    All the candidates I have been following this year have Facebook pages, but not much information is provided and I’m not sure how much they are used for organizing.

    I would say the jury is still out as far as a campaign tool for candidates. I think there is a lot more potential for the sites as grass roots organizing tools for certain issues, but again, I think only time will tell.


  5. - Levois - Friday, Mar 28, 08 @ 12:00 pm:

    I heard a city councilman in Atlanta is updating his Facebook profile with information about what he’s doing in his capacity as a member of the city council.


  6. - capitoldem - Saturday, Mar 29, 08 @ 2:41 pm:

    There is a facebook group advancing the support of a Chicago Casino in Springfield that has the support among some young adult users: “I Want To Lose My Money @ A Chicago Casino”


  7. - Capitol Dem - Saturday, Mar 29, 08 @ 6:36 pm:

    I think these social networking sites can be used as a great supplement to classic grass-root movements. For example, there is a Facebook group, “I Want To Lose My Money @ A Chicago Casino”, that supports the advancement of Springfield legislation for a Chicago casino that has the support of some young adult users.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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