Just as the invention of the VCR made life much easier for movie buffs, so the Internet has proven to be manna from heaven for political junkies. The voting records of elected officials and the full texts of bills under consideration by legislatures--insider information that was available until recently only to those who made a trek to the library or the nearest state capitol--is now quickly obtained in cyberspace. And since the results of the midterm elections this month will influence everything from the length of President Clinton's impeachment inquiry to the future of gay-related legislation, there's no time like the present to educate yourself about what exactly the women and men who serve in our elected bodies have planned for us.
A good place to start surfing is at the site for the non-partisan Project Vote Smart (www.vote-smart.org/), where political types can research information about any one of over 13,000 elected officials and candidates nationwide. Simply enter your ZIP code and you'll pull up the biographies, voting records, and positions taken on key issues for the legislators who represent you at both the state and federal levels. At this site you can also track the status of congressional legislation and read the texts or summaries of bills. In addition, the Congressional Quarterly-sponsored "Vote Watch" site (www.pathfinder.com/CQ/) offers roll call votes for recent bills considered by both bodies of the U.S. Congress.
At "Gay Vote 98" (www.gayvote.com/), a site co-sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, similar information is available--but with a slant of particular interest to queer voters. Here you can read the latest gay-related political news, look at a list of the political action committees that have contributed to each Congressional candidate, and study the approval ratings assigned to those candidates by both the Human Rights Campaign and the Christian Coalition.
To enter the world of partisan queer politics, visit the site of the Log Cabin Republicans (www.lcr.org), who offer a link to a "legislative action center" and who boast of a claim few would dispute: that theirs is "the nation's largest gay and lesbian Republican organization." On the other side of the aisle, the newly formed National Stonewall Democratic Federation (www.stonewalldemocrats.org/) lists its candidate endorsements and displays photos of a smiling House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt at the organization's inaugural bash last summer.
If it's photos of an openly gay politician you want, Rep. Barney Frank's website (www.house.gov/frank/) contains pics both of him and of his now ex-partner Herb Moses. Closer to home, lesbian candidate Tammy Baldwin (www.tammybaldwin.com) is running for a U.S. House seat from Wisconsin this year. And although there are no openly gay or lesbian candidates from Minnesota running for national office, you still have plenty of reasons to get out there and vote on Nov. 3.