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As the House LGBT Equality Caucus readies itself for an aggressive legislative agenda, a group of lobbyists has organized Q Street, an association devoted to establishing a network of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender lobbyists and those working for LGBT equality.
The group the first of its kind is hosting its first reception on Capitol Hill in the Longworth Cafeteria from 6 to 8 tonight in honor of the year-old Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus.
The event has more than 25 K Streeters as financial sponsors, including Jason Knapp of the Entertainment Software Association, David Black of Union Pacific, David Carlin of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, and Steve Elmendorf of Elmendorf Strategies.
Pete Leon of Dow Lohnes Government Strategies, Pfizer Inc., Alan Roth of the U.S. Telecom Association, Mo Goff of the American Council of Life Insurers and the Raben Group are also listed as contributors to the event.
Its a group of lobbyists from the LGBT community coming to the Hill in honor of the Hills greatest advocates for equality, said Q Street President Mat Young, who lobbies for the American Institute of CPAs.
Similar organizations for Senate and House staffers have been around for years.
While LGBT lobbyists and those who support their causes have met informally for years, putting together an association of downtown advocates took longer.
There are more and more openly gay and transgender staffers on the Hill, and as those people have moved into the lobbying world, its been more possible to be out in the business world, said David Stacy, a lobbyist at Human Rights Campaign.
Members of Q Street said the group is forming as LGBT issues are coming to the fore.
Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), co-chairs of the Equality Caucus, have signaled that they will attempt to pass a hate crimes bill and push for a more expansive employment nondiscrimination bill that also covers transgender people.
They are very helpful because they help strategize and may be people who know other Members of Congress, Frank said.
Because many lobbyists worked on the Hill and raise money for Members, when they talk about LGBT issues it tends to make an impact, according to Frank.
We get some pretty good free lobbying talent for us, Frank said.
Still, Q Streets main function is networking and sharing information about LGBT issues in Congress.
The networking is invaluable because in this town its all about who you know and building relationships, said Victor Castillo, secretary of the Lesbian & Gay Congressional Staff Association and an aide to Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.). Its made for better relationships, which can only help both sides of the community.
The group, which has more than 200 people on its e-mail list, hosts monthly luncheons where LGBT advocates give legislative updates.
For lobbyists who arent in the trenches advocating on LGBT issues, the lunches are an opportunity to get a sense of whats going on on the Hill, according to Michael Torra of the Raben Group.
It gives us a sense of where we can help in informal ways, Torra said.
Young, who helped rally Q Street to organize itself, is no stranger to LGBT groups. He was also instrumental in starting the Gay, Lesbian and Allies Senate Staff Caucus.
Young, a former director of economic policy for Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and Lynden Armstrong, an aide to then-Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), created the Senate staffer group as Congress was debating a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in 2004.
Q Street formally organized itself this fall, introducing bylaws and electing a five-member steering committee. Jack Jacobson of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck is the secretary.
Julie Kruse of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Jerry Golden of Baker Botts and Kevin Cain of the National Health Council are the three at-large members of the committee.
Q Streets members do not pay dues and do not have to be LGBT. It is nonpartisan and as an organization does not lobby Capitol Hill.
The common denominator is that we are all interested in networking within our community and seeing LGBT issues advance, Young said.