Kicking off 2014: Lessons from New Mexico


Written by Frances Kunreuther

Starting a new year calls for optimism and hope.  Here in New York City we are looking forward to the work of our new Mayor, Bill de Blasio who promises to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. But we have also been learning what it takes to fulfill the promise of change through our work in other parts of the country. Take New Mexico, for example.

In the last two months of 2013, New Mexicans generated two positive changes. First, the City of Albuquerque voted down an anti-abortion ballot initiative and then the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that same sex marriage was legal in the state.  Both of these wins were particularly impressive because the state has a conservative republican Governor and is one of the poorest in the country.

What is less visible, however, is how interrelated these two wins are – achieved through impressive on-the-ground, cross-issue alliances that have gone largely unnoticed in the national coverage. This type of deep political work, illustrated in New Mexico’s recent victories, is often obscured in our age of laser-sharp-focus-on-a-single-issue.  But it is evident when you are in New Mexico that these are strong relationships that have been built over many years among a group of activists – many in their early 40s and younger – who see their futures as tied together and have the strength and political savvy to buck the national trends. They meet together regularly, they openly discuss (and do not always agree on) issues such as gender and reproductive justice, racialization, poverty and income inequality, environmental justice, immigrant rights, LGBT rights, only to name a few.  They, and their long-term vision for what is possible, make me hopeful for 2014.

Last year we released At the Crossroads: The Future of the LGBT Movement, where we reported on how activists are looking for a vision that encompasses the common issues we face in working for social change in this country and beyond. LGBT movement leaders were looking to have an impact beyond the scope of marriage equality and were excited about cross-issue alliance building that would lead to even greater LGBT inclusion. In New Mexico, that new vision – one of a united progressive movement that shares values across issues – is becoming more of a reality.

So in the New Year we look forward to telling some of these stories – from New Mexico,Detroit and all the other places where these changes are taking place – and learning how to accelerate and build on these new movement gains.

Let’s make 2014 a really good year for social change!

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