Staff Spotlight: Amy Mello Makes the Difficult Seem EasyBy Shane Stahl • March 1, 2018 • 3:31 pm
With more than a decade of experience in the LGBTQ movement, Freedom for All Americans’ Vice President of Public Engagement Amy Mello has been called the “secret weapon” of the work to secure equal treatment for LGBTQ Americans (by former Freedom to Marry National Campaign Director Marc Solomon in his book Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of How Same-Sex Couples Took on the Politicians and Pundits – and Won). Having participated in numerous campaigns, from marriage equality to the current non-discrimination movement, Amy’s work in field operations and public engagement is second to none. We spoke with Amy about her work, her path to Freedom for All Americans, and why no one should face discrimination because of who they are:
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I live in Denver, with my partner Paul and our dog, Daisey Jam Mello. My work on LGBTQ campaigns has brought me to several states. I’ve lived in Rhode Island, California, Maine and Colorado in the last ten years. Before that I worked on reproductive choice in Washington State.
How did you get involved in the movement for LGBTQ non-discrimination?
I remember that my Catholic high school in Fall River, MA had one of the largest anti-equality demonstrations against marriage rights back in 2004. I had been living in Seattle and was just moving home, and, as a supporter, it really motivated me to find out more about the campaign. I felt very lucky to be able to work on the fight for marriage in Massachusetts, and after we won I knew that I wanted to take what I had learned and continue the effort in other states.
Is there a particular moment you’ve experienced in your work that sticks with you? Why?
It’s hard to pick just one. Being in the overflow gallery in the Massachusetts State House at the moment we defeated the amendment that threatened marriage in Massachusetts. I also witnessed the first legal marriage in Connecticut on the day the Court ruled. I was the field director for the marriage equality campaign in Maine, and I will never forget the night Maine became the first state in the country to win marriage at the ballot. The win in Rhode Island was also special to me, because that’s my home state — I was in the RI State House for that vote as well. More recently, I was able to be part of the rally outside the Supreme Court for the Masterpiece Cakeshop case and it was very exciting to be there as the Court was hearing that historic case.
What would you say to people who want to take action for LGBTQ equality? What are simple steps they can take?
There are so many ways to get involved — everyone can do something to make a difference. The strength of the movement is really in the wonderful state and local organizations that are active on the ground, across the country, doing the critical work of connecting supporters with their legislators and encouraging people to share their stories of support. So, I would recommend to anyone to join their state and local organization’s email lists and find ways to support their work. You can also always use our site as a resource. Write a letter to the editor. See if your mayor is part of Mayors Against LGBT Discrimination — if they are, send them a thank you email; if not, ask them to join. We also know that when you share your personal support with people you know, it makes a difference – so talk to your friends, share our posts on Facebook and make sure your friends and family know where you stand.
Why does non-discrimination matter to you?
As an ally in this work, I have been really blessed to get to know LGBTQ and gender non-conforming advocates and volunteers, many of whom have become very close friends. I appreciate that I’ve gotten to see the difference these laws make and the everyday difficulties that exist when we cannot all expect to be treated fairly and with respect at work, in a store or any public place. More specifically, as a person of faith, I feel very called to work that encourages us everyday to live up to the values of dignity and compassion.
Self-care is important in these times when horrible and unpleasant things are said and done regarding LGBTQ rights – what kind of self-care do you practice?
I love travel and hiking – each of the last few years I’ve hiked sections of Europe’s former pilgrimage trails which is a great (and much less expensive) way to see the world.