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Interview with Dorothy Award Honoree Betty Gallo

If you don’t know the name Betty Gallo, you should. For nearly four decades she has worked to educate lawmakers and push for important additions and changes to law, including being involved in some major battles on behalf of the LGBT community.  From adoption rights to same-sex marriage, she’s helped guide the way to make Connecticut one of the most friendly states to the LGBT community. She’s also fought for changes to law in other areas, including the repeal of the death penalty and drug reforms.  Former Center Co-President Tom Donato returns with an interview to share for this week’s honoree spotlight:

 

  1. You have worked as a lobbyist for nearly 40 years; what is the most important thing you have learned in that time?

That a small number of committed, thoughtful people can change the world. (Margaret Mead) I have seen that happen over and over in Connecticut; well, at least, we have changed Connecticut. A great example is all of the work of the LGBT community with the passage of “gay rights,” same sex adoption, civil unions, marriage for same sex couples and transgender civil rights.

 

  1. From your unique perspective, what is the most pressing issue facing the LGBT community in Connecticut today?

We are so lucky (that) most of the issues facing the LGBT community today have been addressed in Connecticut. I worry that the community will become complacent and an issue will arise and we won’t be in a position to respond.

 

  1. What do you enjoy the most about your job?

Winning. I am so blessed that amazing organizations and people have allowed me to be their advocate at the Capitol. I have been part of victories that include, in addition to the LGBT issues I talked about above, the first needle exchange legislation as well as the legislation legalizing the purchase of needles without a prescription, last year’s anti-gun violence legislation, repeal of the death penalty, drug reform, funding for AIDS services and prevention, affordable housing programs for low income people, etc. It has been an honor.

 

  1. You have undoubtedly inspired many people in and around Connecticut; who or what inspires you?

I was raised in a small town in North Carolina that was totally segregated. As the civil rights movement unfolded, I was horrified that people, especially people in power in government, schools, churches, would not speak out against the terrible injustice of segregation. Also I was told by a nun once that I was too empathic. Empathy and injustice inspire me.

 

  1. Three words that come to mind when you think of social media.

Double Edge Sword

 

  1. Who will Play Betty Gallo in the movie of your life?

Ellen Page as the young Betty and Holly Hunter as the adult Betty.

 

  1. What does it mean to be a feminist in 2014?

I think it means what it has always meant: to fight to ensure that women have the resources and opportunities to make the decisions about their lives that are best for them and their families. The difference in 2014 is sexism is many times not as overt as it was when I was growing up. I worry it will be like the frog and the hot water. If you put the frog in a pot of cool water and slowly turn up the heat he doesn’t jump out before it is too late. I worry that the rights people fought so hard for will not be there for my granddaughter.

 

  1. Why does the word “lobbyist” inspire such varied reactions in people?

The press around “lobbyists” is largely about Congressional lobbyists for big money interests; lobbyists who use money to influence the governmental process and who have done things that are unethical and illegal to get legislation passed. People for the most part don’t know that there are lobbyists for the things they care about. I believe most of the registered lobbyists in CT are really good people who work hard for their clients.

 

  1. Tell us something about yourself that would probably surprise us!

I went to all girls Catholic boarding schools (St. Genevieve of the Pines in Asheville, North Carolina and Georgetown Visitation in DC) and Catholic University for two years.

 

  1. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Lobbying the CT General Assembly to eliminate the overly broad religious exemptions in the gay rights, marriage and transgender civil rights legislation.

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Tom

January 26, 2014 9:06 am Reply

So impressed with Betty’s accomplishments. A quick interview isn’t enough time to convey all that she’s done for the community. Her Dorothy Award honor is well-deserved.

John D. Allen

January 26, 2014 9:52 am Reply

Betty’s work has not only had a profound impact on Connecticut life over the past generation, but she continues to inspire the next socially responsible generation. What a treasure we have in her!