Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Florida AG Asks SCOTUS to Block Marriage Equality

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has asked the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) to prevent same-sex marriages from taking place in that state while state leaders continue fighting the overturning of Florida's ban on same-sex marriage.

Bondi asked for the block on marriages--marriages which could start taking place as early as January 6th when a current stay expires--so that state officials can continue appealing the ruling that overturned Florida's voter-approved ban on the freedom to marry.

If SCOTUS does not act, then the decision upholding overturning the ban, which came from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, would stand, and Florida would become the 36th state where people who are lesbian and gay have the freedom to marry. Meanwhile, some county clerks have stated that they are ready to begin issuing marriage licenses now.

If SCOTUS does act, the marriages would not begin on the 6th, when the current stay ends.

Bondi asked SCOTUS to keep the stay in place until the justices decide which, if any, of the cases they might take up from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is currently the only federal appeals court that has upheld bans on same-sex marriage.

Justice Clarence Thomas
The 6th Circuit Court  has jurisdiction over Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee, and is the first court of the many considering marriage equality cases to uphold the bans. Click here to read detailed information on the Sixth Circuit Court rulings, from our friends at Freedom To Marry.

While SCOTUS' next conference on cases to consider won't be held until January 9th, Bondi's request will go to Justice Clarence Thomas, the justice who oversees the federal courts in Florida...and is also considered to be one of the most conservative voices on the Supreme Court.

Be sure to LIKE us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and sign up to receive email from PFLAG National and stay tuned for updates!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

An Open Letter: From Ferguson to True Freedom

Today we are sharing an open letter that our parent organization, PFLAG National, signed on to along with 46 other LGBTQ organizations, in regards to the recent outcry in our country.

PFLAG was formed by a brave mother who stood up and marched, literally, to fight against violence that affected and endangered her own son, and is recognized in communities across the country as being an organization whose members and supporters speak up, take action, and advocate for change.

Nationally and across the country, PFLAG has an open dialogue with the law enforcement community and has leveraged who we are to educate police, prosecutors, judges—all who are involved in keeping our communities safe on a daily basis.

Our conversations with law enforcement started because we recognized that they needed to be educated about how to serve and protect our loved ones. In many places, this dialogue and education has meant positive change, but we need to do more. We need to make sure our conversations are not just about the LGBTQ community but ALL who are marginalized.

It is important that we stand in solidarity, but we also have an opportunity to move into action, and be a catalyst for change in our hometowns.

PFLAGers everywhere have the opportunity to leverage the unique strength of our mission to listen carefully, respond patiently, and never stop learning as we meet people where they are and build bridges. Here are some actions you can take right now as a PFLAG member or supporter:


  • Offer support in social media and in conversations in your community. Be visible in your solidarity. 
  • Leverage your relationships, if you have them, with your local law enforcement community. Offer to be a bridge of understanding about issues of distrust and disenfranchisement because of potential or subconscious bias. 
  • Ask your community partners what you can do. If you do not already have relationships with people who are part of this outcry now is the time to reach out, introduce yourself, and ask what you can do to support them.
  • Send a letter to the editor or op-ed to your local news outlet, sharing why these issues resonate with you. 
PFLAG’s values are America’s values, and that includes standing in solidarity, asking others how we can help, and leveraging our strong, existing relationships to serve the whole of our community for positive change.

PFLAG has always stood for making the future brighter for the next generation, and that must mean for everyone.

The letter, below:



December 9, 2014

An Open Letter: From Ferguson to True Freedom

Words cannot begin to describe the depth of feeling we all share about the unfolding tragedies in Ferguson and New York City. Words cannot relieve the suffering of Michael Brown and Eric Garner’s loved ones nor can words alone salve the pain nor quell the anger of millions. It’s action we need and we need it now.

As LGBTQ national organizations, we proudly stand in solidarity with the civil rights organizations and local activists — including the actions of an amazing, fierce, brilliant cadre of youth leaders, many of whom are queer identified — in demanding fundamental systemic change that tackles the root causes of racial and economic injustices once and for all. From political accountability for the deaths of Michael and Eric to the immediate passage of federal legislation that completely bans racial profiling across this land to ensuring that local police departments are representative and fair arbiters of safety and protection for everyone and who — through their actions — are continually working to earn the trust, confidence and respect of the entire community.

We too must speak louder than words and take more action — to change more hearts and minds and fight even harder for the policies and practices that make statements such as this one obsolete.

We urge you to:
  • Join the March Against Police Violence in Washington, called by the National Action Network, on Saturday December 13th, 10:30am;
  • Organize and participate in peaceful protests in cities across the nation;
  • Attend public meetings in your city or town to show your support or share your experience with elected officials; and
  • Create your own actions for change in person and online — at home, at school, at work, in the corridors of power, and in places of worship.
Everyone, everywhere in our nation can do more to end racism and racial injustice. Everyone, from the Department of Justice that must do more to deliver justice for the Brown and Garner families to the high school principal who could do more to engage and educate students about racism and the need for justice.

Even those of us who have devoted our lives to this cause need to redouble our efforts to reach out to more people — including those people who are on the wrong side of this issue.

If we as a nation are to end racism and racial injustice once and for all, everyone must be part of an ongoing and sustainable process of change — a process that builds on all the progress we’ve made, a process that aims to recruit everyone, and a process with the specific mission of delivering lived equality, justice, and freedom for all.

Signed by:

American Civil Liberties Union

Believe Out Loud

Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT

The BiCast

BiNet USA

Bisexual Organizing Project

Bisexual Leadership Roundtable

Bisexual Resource Center

Campus Pride

CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers

Center For Black Equity

COLAGE

Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals

Equality Federation

Family Equality Council

The Fellowship Global (Pastor Joseph Tolton)

The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries (Bishop Yvette Flunder)

Freedom to Marry

Gay Men’s Health Crisis

GLAAD

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders

GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality

Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network

Harvey Milk Foundation

Higher Education T* Circle Advisory Board

Human Rights Campaign

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission

Lambda Legal

MAP

Marriage Equality USA

More Light Presbyterians

National Black Justice Coalition

National Center for Lesbian Rights

National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs

National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce

National LGBTQ Task Force

National Minority AIDS Council

The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA)

Nehirim

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates

PFLAG National

Pride at Work, AFL-CIO

The Pride Network

Reconciling Ministries Network

SAGE (Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders)

Trans People of Color Coalition

The Trevor Project

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thankful for PFLAG

PFLAG Email
Thank you!Thanksgiving. It always reminds me of coming out.

It was Thanksgiving 1973…in rural Kansas. My brother, whom I seldom saw because he was in the Air Force, was home for the holiday and picked up clues in my excitement about my new friend Sarah. He was curious in a big-brother way. He asked a few questions, and encouraged me to tell Mom and Dad.

I told. They listened politely, asking no questions, saying little, and offering their standard comment: “Oh?”

Then, we drove to Grandpa and Grandma’s for Thanksgiving dinner. We ate too much, we watched football, we napped, we drove home.

Nobody told me I was bad. Nobody judged or condemned. Nobody asked questions. Nobody offered support.

For the next 20 years.

Even after I moved to New York In 1986 and started a public relations agency that focused on gay issues.

Still, nothing was said by my family.

In my third decade of being the out, out, OUT professional lesbian daughter, my mother--without explanation--grew bold. She began talking… with family, with neighbors, with my high school classmates, with her minister…and talking with pride about my work and our relationship.

Mom never told me what had changed for her. But I can tell you what changed for me.

Mom’s public affirmation freed me. She also sparked change in my little hometown. Today, a gay couple owns the floral shop, a classmate has boldly acknowledged her gay son, high school reunions are open and welcoming of what few LGBTQ classmates there are. And my hometown welcomes differences of all types...not saying much but also not judging.

We enjoyed a warm and close relationship in her later years. My mom wasn’t a firebrand like PFLAG’s founder Jeanne Manford but, like Jeanne, she knew that she needed to speak up. There was no PFLAG chapter in my hometown but now that I am part of PFLAG, I know without a doubt that she was a PFLAG Mom; in her own way, she quietly took a stand for equality.

So today, as you gather with your families--and I gather with my chosen family of LGBTQ and ally loved ones--I want to thank each of you for taking a stand for equality. Your courage has made the difference for so many people who, like me, needed affirmation to feel whole.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours,
Stephanie K. Blackwood, Director of DevelopmentPFLAG National
Stephanie Blackwood, PFLAG National

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Extending My Infinite Gratitude To PFLAG National

Aliya Levinstein, Intern
This truly has been one whirlwind of a semester.  Thanksgiving is in a week, my finals are coming up, and unfortunately, my time at PFLAG National is coming to a close.  To put it simply, these past few months have been nothing short of inspiring.
To start, the PFLAG National staff have been the best mentors I could have asked for in an internship.  They welcomed my many questions in the beginning and made sure that everything was going well throughout the entire process.  I loved coming into the office every day because everyone has such a passion for their job; it truly is a pleasure to be surrounded by people who love what they are doing and do it successfully.

While at PFLAG, I had the opportunity to meet some of the champions of the movement.  During my very first week, I was lucky enough to spend time with Helen and Bogdan Globa, who are Ukrainian activists for LGBT rights.  Listening to their stories and getting to visit Capitol Hill with them was a true treat.  They provided a perspective that I hadn’t heard before and showed me right off the bat that this is a global issue.  I attended a hearing with Lizzie Velasquez, an anti-bullying champion.  Her stories are raw and full of emotion; she has the ability to change people’s hearts and minds.  I attended numerous lobby visits advocating for the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, persuading congressmembers to support a bill that would allow so many more children to be adopted.  These experiences, along with many more, shaped my experiences at PFLAG into something special.

While at PFLAG, I have been able to write the bimonthly policy memo, Policy Matters.  Writing this memo has kept me up to date on everything that had to do with the LGBT movement.  There has been a ton activity and change in the LGBT sphere, especially in the last few months; being able to keep track of all of the changes that have been occurring at rapid speed. Working on this memo has been one of the most educational experiences I’ve had while at PFLAG.


I am beyond grateful for all of the opportunities that I have had at my time at PFLAG.  I have made some of the most incredible memories and wonderful connections at my time here.  As I know it is always difficult to leave something that truly means so much to me, I always have to remind myself that it is not a goodbye, it is a “see you later.” So thank you PFLAG, I look forward to seeing you again soon.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The 2014 Midterm Elections: A Problem with Voter Apathy

If you were to imagine what the students in Washington, DC are like, you would probably think of them as hard-working, motivated, and strong in their convictions;   you’d be right about all of traits.  A trait that I have always found interesting about students in DC is their affinity for politics.  I don’t know if DC attracts students that already gravitate towards politics or if living in DC turns students into political wonks; regardless, we--yes, I’m one of them--are everywhere.

Election Day is a huge event in DC, where people view it as the voting on our new neighbors.On election night on my campus (American University),  there are multiple viewing parties all over campus.  Social media is flooded with results and opinions, and everywhere you walk, people are discussing potential outcomes.  I personally, had a difficult time focusing on my homework because I kept checking on the results. It seems as if the election gets more viewing time at American than the Superbowl does!
And yet, American is anything BUT a microcosmic view of the rest of the country, where voter apathy is at an all-time high.

Check out this stat: of eligible U.S voters, the turnout was 36.6%.  This was lower than the turnout in the midterm election in 2010, which was about 46%.  And the numbers are even lower in local elections. What happens when only about 37% of the eligible population turns out to vote in national elections?  Are the people that are elected representing the interests of the majority of Americans?  Likely not.

There are so many reasons people don’t vote: they’re too busy, they don’t know anything about the candidates, they don’t think that their single vote will make a difference. There is validity to these claims, especially the last one.  It is incredibly unlikely that one single vote will sway an election in one way or another, this idea that everyone has results in huge blocks of the population not voting.  Just because someone else will do it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to.  By going out and voting, you may influence those around you to do the same.  By voting, you are taking a stance about what is important to you.  Don’t let others speak for you, speak up for yourself and those you love in a simple way: vote.

This is not me saying that I am happy with or upset with last Tuesday’s outcome.  This is not me saying that more Democrats or Republicans or Independents should have been elected.  This is me saying that we need to be more accurately represented and that can only happen when more people turn out to vote.  As Americans, we are lucky to have the right to vote and witness peaceful transitions of power on a regular basis.  Let’s all take advantage of this right and do our civic duty from here on out.  

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Tim Cook Comes Out: Another perspective

Today we're happy to hear from a past intern, Eric Ascher. Tim Cook's coming-out announcement made a strong impression on him; we are grateful he chose to share it with us.

This past summer, I was an intern for PFLAG National. I remember that on my first day in the office, we had a discussion about how there wasn’t an openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company. I remember bringing up the rumors of Tim Cook, the new CEO of Apple, being gay, and we all noted that he was not out publicly.

But on October 30, Tim Cook made history by becoming the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company. As Cook wrote, “I don’t consider myself an activist, but I realize how much I’ve benefited from the sacrifice of others. So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.”

This speaks to the importance of coming out and being open about one’s sexual orientation whenever it is safe and possible. The more people who are out today, the easier it will be in the future for others to make the same decision.

Apple has already been vocal about being for full LGBT equality, having posted a video on Youtube showing hundreds of employees marching in the San Francisco Pride Parade. Apple went on record against Proposition 8 in California, signed onto a brief to the Supreme Court urging them to strike down DOMA, and has been vocally supportive of a federal employee non-discrimination act (ENDA). Earlier this week, Cook also spoke about equality in his home state of Alabama

Learning about Apple products has been a passion of mine since I was 13 years old. To have the CEO of Apple be brave and come out is personally inspiring to me. I’m sure that many other teenagers who, until today, did not see openly LGBT CEOs in the business world will be inspired as well.

I know we still have work to do. Because congress still has not passed ENDA, people in 29 states can be fired solely for being gay, and people in 32 states can be fired solely for being transgender. 

I’m glad to see this very important step in the right direction. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Press Release: PFLAG National Welcomes New Board Member, Regional Directors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 4, 2014
Liz Owen | lowen@pflag.org | (202) 657-4026  

PFLAG NATIONAL WELCOMES NEW BOARD MEMBER, REGIONAL DIRECTORS
WASHINGTON, DC – PFLAG National—the nation's largest organization uniting families, allies, and people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ)—welcomed a new board member, Stephanie Battaglino, and two new regional directors, Conal Charles and Julie Wilson, last weekend. All three bring significant experience to PFLAG National and its network of more than 350 chapters.


Battaglino is a Corporate Vice President at New York Life, and has a professional career in marketing, communications, and strategic planning which spans over 30 years. Outside of her professional life, she is a tireless activist and advocate for transgender rights. In October 2005, Battaglino transitioned in the workplace, and then went on to spearhead the formation of New York Life's first-ever LGBT employee resource group. As the founder and owner of Follow Your Heart, LLC she is an internationally recognized speaker, workshop presenter, and trainer.


“We are excited to have Stephanie joining us on our board of directors,” said Jody M. Huckaby, PFLAG National’s executive director. “PFLAG’s work, under our newly-named board president Jean Hodges, will benefit greatly from Stephanie's personal experience as someone who is transgender, and from her years of corporate experience. Stephanie's is a crucial voice, and we’re so glad she is raising that voice in support of PFLAG.”


Battaglino echoed the sentiment. "I am thrilled and honored to join the PFLAG family. The commitment and passion of Jean and my fellow board members is very inspiring to me personally.  I consider myself very fortunate to be coming onto the Board at such a pivotal point in the evolution of the organization, and am looking forward to contributing to its future—in particular with the trans-inclusive work that is underway."


Conal Charles was born and raised in Mumbai, India. In 2005, he came to the United States on an MBA scholarship and, after completing his degree, moved to Atlanta for work. In 2009, he found his local PFLAG chapter and some wonderfully supportive parents who helped him greatly with his own coming- out journey. Their support inspired him to continue his work with PFLAG. He joined the board of PFLAG Atlanta in 2010 and has since served two terms as chapter Co-President.


“As co-president of the Atlanta chapter, I’ve been working to change the impression that PFLAG is only for families and friends,” says Charles. “In fact, our most valuable conversations are between a parent and someone else's child. Parents often cannot talk to their own children about their own hopes and fears without precipitating a family argument. When they can ask a question of someone else in a safe space, an honest conversation can actually take place; these conversations are what I love most about PFLAG.”


Julie Wilson was the president of PFLAG Fort Collins/Northern Colorado for six years and is active in the Colorado Coalition of PFLAG Chapters. Loveland, Colorado. Recently retired from Hewlett Packard, she has been a speaker at Colorado State University for “Visible Voices,” was a member of the Diversity Council of Thompson R2J schools, did Safe Space trainings for Hewlett Packard, and is working with her ELCA Lutheran congregation to become an explicitly welcoming church. Julie and her spouse have two sons, one of whom is gay, married, and living in Ohio.


“I'm excited to be the new Mountain West Regional Director and look forward to meeting many of the PFLAGers in the five-state region,” said Wilson. “Living in two of the five states I represent—Colorado in summer, Arizona in winter—gives me a unique opportunity to attend meetings and be part of the broader PFLAG community. By getting to know people, I hope to provide them with support and leadership to grow their individual chapters and improve PFLAG's visibility throughout the region."


“As PFLAG membership and chapter growth continues across the nation, the work of our 13 Regional Directors becomes vital to connecting, encouraging and supporting those in their regions," said newly elected Regional Director Council Chair—and PFLAG National Board Vice President—Kathy Godwin. “I welcome both Julie Wilson in the Mountain West and Conal Charles in the Gulf Region plus Puerto Rico. Collectively, this group brings the boots on the ground into our view."


###

Founded in 1972 with the simple act of a mother publicly supporting her gay son, PFLAG is the original family and ally organization. Uniting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) with families, friends, and allies, PFLAG is committed to advancing equality through its mission of support, education, and advocacy. PFLAG has more than 350 chapters and 200,000 supporters crossing multiple generations of American families in major urban centers, small cities, and rural areas in all 50 states. To learn more, visit pflag.org.