Friday, March 21, 2014

PRESS RELEASE: PFLAG National Celebrates Marriage Ruling in Michigan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 21, 2014
Liz Owen |
lowen@pflag.org> | (202) 467-8180 ext. 214

PFLAG NATIONAL CELEBRATES MARRIAGE RULING IN MICHIGAN
WASHINGTON, DC—PFLAG National—the nation's largest organization for parents, families, friends and allies united with people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)--today celebrated a ruling by U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman, finding Michigan’s 2004 same-sex ban unconstitutional.
“This ruling is a huge win for PFLAGers across the state,” said PFLAG National Executive Director Jody M. Huckaby. “I congratulate them all, with special thanks to members from our 14 chapters and the other organizations and people with whom they have collaborated, all of whom have worked so tirelessly on this issue.”
Of particular note and interest is that Mark Regnerus, author of a flawed--and discredited--anti-gay parenting study, appeared as a witness for the state in support of the ban. Judge Friedman found Regnerus’ testimony, ‘...entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration.’
Said Huckaby, “We know that the work will continue in preparation for the inevitable appeal of Judge Friedman’s ruling, until the day that marriage equality is the law of the land in the Great Lakes State. We at PFLAG National stand in solidarity with the many loving same-sex couples in Michigan who simply wish to make legal their loving commitment to each other.”  
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Founded in 1972 with the simple act of a mother publicly supporting her gay son, PFLAG is the original family and ally organization. Made up of parents, families, friends, and straight allies uniting with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, 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 www.pflag.org.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

PRESS RELEASE: PFLAG National To Honor Ally Sheedy with 2014 Straight for Equality in Entertainment Award

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 18, 2014
Contact: Liz Owen, Director of Communications | lowen@pflag.org | (202) 467-8180 ext. 214
PFLAG National To Honor Ally Sheedy with 2014 Straight for Equality in Entertainment Award
“Ally has been a tireless advocate for our most vulnerable population, homeless LGBTQ youth…”
Ally Sheedy, 2014 Honoree
Straight for Equality in Entertainment
Washington, DC—PFLAG National—the nation's largest organization for families, friends, and allies of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)—will honor Ally Sheedy with the Straight for Equality in Entertainment award at the sixth annual Straight for Equality Awards Gala. At the event, which will be hosted by comedian/writer/producer Lizz Winstead, PFLAG National will also honor AJWS president Ruth Messinger and Johnson & Johnson.
“Ally Sheedy walks her talk,” said PFLAG National Executive Director Jody M. Huckaby. “She has been a tireless and devoted advocate for our most vulnerable population: LGBTQ youth whose families have not only been unsupportive, but have even thrown these kids out on the streets. Ally is on the front lines of this work through the Ali Forney Center, and her passion has been colored by her love for her own child, who identifies as genderqueer/non binary. And of course, we can’t overlook her fearless, award-winning portrayal of Lucy Berliner in the riveting film, HIGH ART. Ally is an inspiration.”
Straight for Equality—a national outreach and education project created by PFLAG National— focuses on the next generation of straight allies joining together with LGBT people in the effort to achieve equality for all. Straight for Equality Awards are presented to individuals who are transforming the way that LGBT people are understood and treated, using their talents and platforms in their respective fields to empower others to become engaged and outspoken allies for acceptance equality.
Of accepting the award, Sheedy said, “I am honored and grateful. Our community is dedicated to creating a safe world for our LGBTQ kids. Thank you for creating opportunities for our voices to be recognized.”
The Sixth Annual Straight for Equality Awards Gala will be held on Thursday, April 10th in New York City at the New York Marriott Marquis Times Hotel. For more information visit straightforequality.org/2014gala.
Ms. Sheedy is available for interviews. Please contact PFLAG National Communications Director Liz Owen for scheduling.
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Founded in 1972 with the simple act of a mother publicly supporting her gay son, PFLAG National is the original family and ally organization. Made up of parents, families, friends, and allies uniting with people who are LGBT, 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, please visit pflag.org.
Straight for Equality is a project of PFLAG National. It was launched in 2007 to invite, educate, and engage straight individuals to have the discussions necessary to move equality forward for their lesbian, gay, bi, and transgender friends in simple, nonpolitical ways. Learn more at straightforequality.org.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

PRESS RELEASE: PFLAG National Submits Amicus Brief Representing Family Voice in Utah and Oklahoma Fight for Marriage Equality

FOR RELEASE: March 5, 2013
Liz Owen |
lowen@pflag.org | (202) 657-4026

PFLAG National Submits Amicus Brief Representing Family Voice
in Utah and Oklahoma Fight for Marriage Equality
...denying loving same-sex couples access to legal marriage harms and dishonors not only the couples, but the families who love them.”
WASHINGTON – PFLAG National—the nation's largest organization for families, friends and allies united with people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)—has filed an amicus brief with the Federal Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the plaintiffs in Kitchen v. Herbert and Bishop v. Smith, the cases challenging bans on marriage equality in Utah and Oklahoma.
The stories included in the PFLAG amicus brief amplify and demonstrate that the Utah and Oklahoma prohibitions on legal marriage for same-sex couples discriminate and harm people who are gay and lesbian by treating their relationships as inferior; rather, the commitment of these couples elevates the institution of marriage, and provides much-needed legal protection and emotional stability to the children in these loving families.
“Like the brief we submitted to the Supreme Court last year in Hollingsworth v. Perry, these are the stories of PFLAG families—uniquely positioned to address and rebut the arguments made by the appellants against same sex marriage—and how their LGBT loved ones’ lack of equal rights to marriage under Utah and Oklahoma state law negatively affects everyone in a family, not just the committed couple,,” said PFLAG National Executive Director Jody M. Huckaby. “Overwhelmingly, these first-hand accounts demonstrate that the loving and legal marriages of same-sex couples reaffirms the importance of the institution: denying loving same-sex couples access to legal marriage harms and dishonors not only the couples, but the families who love them.”  
The families included in this amicus brief are:
Leslie Bohon-Bothwell and David Bohon, Oklahoma: Mother and brother of a gay man. Bohon is a veteran, and shares the experience he observed of his fellow gay and lesbian soldiers coming home before the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the basic American freedoms being denied them and his brother.
Kristy Clark, Utah: Clark shares her story of observing her son’s marriage on December 20, 2013 and what it meant to her, her husband, and their grandchildren about the commitment to marriage.
Judi Wiles, Utah: Wiles is a 73-year-old mother who shares the raw story of her pain, her family being torn apart, and her journey to affirmation after two of her three daughters came out thirty years ago. She also talks about her granddaughter’s excitement at the impending marriage of her mother and mother’s partner until a stay was granted in Utah, preventing the wedding from happening.
Janice Marcus and Allison Black, Utah: A conversation between the Utah mothers-in-law of two married men, their experiences growing up, and what their marriage has meant to their families.
Jenny Evans Martin, Oklahoma: Martin and her partner were not out professionally in Oklahoma before moving to Colorado, where they have a civil union but want marriage. Their young daughter provides a moving statement on what her mothers mean to her and why she wants them to be married.
Collette Roberts: A mother who is one half of an interracial couple, married before Loving v. Virginia, and how current laws that affect her lesbian daughter relate to her own experience in 1958.
Mike Neubecker: Supreme Court amicus brief update - A PFLAG father/grandfather shares his personal journey of acceptance and faith. This includes a moving statement from his young granddaughter on what it meant to become part of a loving family after her negative experience in foster care. Neubecker provides an update on how their family has grown and how all the children in his son’s and son-in-law’s care have structure, stability, and love...and are thriving.
Mariette Sawchuk: Supreme Court amicus brief update - A PFLAG mother’s journey to reconcile her faith and love of her twin sons when both came out as gay. She also shares what it meant to her to see the legal marriage of longtime friends following their right to be wed in California, and what their union meant to her own marriage.  
To speak with any of the PFLAG families represented in this amicus brief, please contact PFLAG National Communications Director Liz Owen.

The PFLAG National amicus brief to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals can be viewed at http://community.pflag.org/document.doc?id=822.

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Founded in 1972 with the simple act of a mother publicly supporting her gay son, PFLAG is the original family and ally organization. Made up of parents, families, friends, and allies uniting with LGBT people, PFLAG is committed to advancing equality and acceptance through its mission of support, education and advocacy. Now in its 40th year, 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, please visit www.pflag.org.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

VETOED! In Arizona, Freedom of Religion Doesn't Mean Freedom To Discriminate!

PFLAGers across the country are strongly in favor of religious liberty and the freedom to worship as one chooses--after all, many PFLAG members and supporters are also people of faith--but the right to worship and hold personal religious beliefs does not give one the right to discriminate against others. 

Moments ago, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed SB1062, a so-called Freedom of Religion bill that would have greatly expanded the scope of religious exemptions from nondiscrimination laws in the state, granting the right to discriminate to any individual or business based on their religious beliefs.

This bill garnered major attention across the country: from the media, from activists, from Arizona business, and of course from PFLAG members and supporters who made calls, attended rallies, talked to their neighbors, and volunteered long, hard hours to make sure that this bill would not become law. We were happy to see, too, the demand for a veto included many Republican leaders as well as businesses both in Arizona and nationally, including PFLAG partners like American Airlines and Marriott International. We are relieved that the Governor did the right thing by vetoing this harmful and hurtful piece of legislation.

And yet, even as we celebrate this victory in Arizona, similar bills are being introduced and voted on in other parts of the country: while similar bills were recently killed in Kansas and South Dakota, other bills in Mississippi, in Georgia, in Missouri, are still on track to potentially become law.

All of these bills have one disturbing thing in common: they all stemmed from an unfounded fear, by people who are opposed to same-sex marriage, that people and businesses would be required to provide services to same-sex couples. 

PFLAG National and its chapters across the country will continue to stand strongly in support of their LGBT loved ones, speaking out against these “Freedom to Discriminate” bills wherever they raise their heads. We will remain vigilant and take action when necessary, sharing our personal truth: that being a person of faith and a supporter of equality and affirmation for LGBT people are not mutually exclusive.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Building the Bridge Towards a Beloved Community

Today, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we hear from PFLAG National board member Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell. Rev. Caldwell is a retired United Methodist Minister who lives in Asbury Park, N.J. He was active in the Massachusetts unit of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and participated in the civil-rights movement throughout the nation. In 2000, he, with others, organized the RMN Extension ministry United Methodists of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church (UMOC), an organization committed to the full inclusion of LGBT people in every aspect of church and society. 

Recent reversals in long-ago approved legislation on voting rights and affirmative action have caused me to  respond with these words: The negative music of laws that once separated and segregated persons because of their race may have ended, but the melody of those laws lingers on.

It is difficult for me, as one of many who risked life and limb in the Civil Rights Movement to gain voting rights and equal access for blacks, to see those rights experience reversal by today's legislators in Washington and in the states. It is made even more difficult during this time when we acknowledge what would have been the 85th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King.

I cringe as I think of how he would respond to these reversals if he were alive.

Theodore B. Olson, the conservative lawyer and co-lead counsel on the Proposition 8 case, wrote these words for TIME magazine in the issue reflecting on the anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech:

"King pronounced the time for patience to have expired and shared his deeply rooted conviction that his dream would, at long last, coalesce. He made clear that the need for action was immediate and compelling while exhorting blacks to renew their faith in America. There has been no greater reminder of what this nation held itself out to be and no greater plea for us to attain those ideals. No greater invocation of the spirit of Jefferson and Lincoln. No greater manifesto for America."


As a member of the national board of PFLAG and as a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement, I truly believe that PFLAG's work to change policy on LGBT issues at every level of government  while, at the same time, working to change the minds, hearts, attitudes, and actions of persons in response to people who are LGBT aligns Dr. King’s intent and actions.

King said of laws against lynching, "A  law may not make a man love me, but it will discourage him from lynching me." So too, a law may not make people change their personal beliefs on LGBT persons, but it will keep them from being able to openly discriminate against and denigrate them. As my colleagues with PFLAG often state: policy builds a bridge to equality, but to get people to cross that bridge, we need to change their hearts and their minds.

Beyond policy, Dr. King consistently spoke of creating "The Beloved Community,” a nation and world that embraced ALL people, regardless of their differences. In fact, it was because of human difference that he felt hearts and minds must be changed as well as laws.

I strongly believe that Dr. King, due to his personal, family, and historical awareness and experience of racial hatred and legalized discrimination, would agree with Ted Olson's advocacy of equal rights and marriage equality for LGBT persons. And I believe he would be in strong support of PFLAG’s work toward building a beloved community.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Press Release: PFLAG NATIONAL CELEBRATES MARRIAGE RULING IN OKLAHOMA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 14, 2014
Liz Owen |
lowen@pflag.org> | (202) 467-8180 ext. 214

PFLAG NATIONAL CELEBRATES MARRIAGE RULING IN OKLAHOMA
WASHINGTON, DC—PFLAG National—the nation's largest organization for parents, families, friends and straight allies united with people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)—has issued the following statement from Executive Director Jody M. Huckaby regarding today’s ruling by a judge on Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage law as unconstitutional:
“This is a huge win for Oklahoma, and I congratulate PFLAGers across the state—including PFLAG National regional director Kay Holladay and former PFLAG National president Nancy McDonald—who have worked so tirelessly on this issue. Judge Kern’s ruling is doubly sweet, as the couples in the case were beautifully represented by longtime PFLAG dad Don Holladay, husband of Kay, who we know is celebrating this personal and professional victory, even as he prepares for the inevitable appeal of the ruling. PFLAGers across the state—and across the nation—stand in solidarity with Don, his co-counsel, and the many loving same-sex couples in Oklahoma who simply wish to make legal their commitment to each other.”
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Founded in 1972 with the simple act of a mother publicly supporting her gay son, PFLAG is the original family and ally organization. Made up of parents, families, friends, and straight allies uniting with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, 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 www.pflag.org.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Policy Matters - January 2, 2014

2013: THE YEAR IN REVIEW

Presidentially, on Jan. 21, also Martin Luther King Day, President Obama was sworn in for his second term, and LGBT people started that term with overt inclusion by him and his Administration. First, President Obama historically said the words ‘our gay brothers and sisters’ and ‘Stonewall’ in his inaugural address while calling for equality under the law, with the Inauguration theme being “Our People, Our Future.” Read President Obama's 2013 Inaugural Address. Second, in the Presidential Inaugural Parade to honor his second inauguration, PFLAG’s iconic image, the photo of PFLAG founder Jeanne Manford and her gay son Morty, marching with other LGBT activists 40 years before, was featured as a cornerstone of the Civil Rights Float. Read PFLAG National's responsive news release from that day. You can watch the full official parade and ceremony. Third, a month later, President Obama announced Jeanne Manford, who died on January 8th at age 92, as a posthumous recipient of The Presidential Citizen Medal, the second highest civilian honor in the U.S., later accepted in a White House ceremony by her daughter Suzanne Manford Swann. This event was also noted as one of 12 White House LGBT highlights in its Dec. 31 email message. You can see his remarks here.

Representatively, the 113th Congress, begun on January 3rd, ushered in an unprecedented diversity and number of new LGBT Representatives, nearly tripling the House LGBT Equality Caucus Co-Chairs and heralding the nation’s first openly gay Senator, Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, who was already historic as the nation’s first openly gay federal legislative candidate, when she ran successfully as a U.S. Representative from 1999-2013. In the 113th Congress, openly gay Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO) and David Cicilline (D-RI) were joined in the House by four new history-making openly LGBT Representatives, including Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI) (the first openly gay U.S. Representative to replace an openly gay immediate predecessor), Mark Tokano (D-CA) (the nation’s first openly LGBT Member of Congress of color as the first openly LGBT Asian-American Representative), Sean Patrick Murphy (D-NY) (New York’s first openly gay Representative), and the nation’s first openly bisexual Representative, Congresswoman Kristen Simena (D-AZ). Congress’s first self-disclosed openly gay Congressman, Barney Frank from Massachusetts, retired on January 2nd after 32 years in the seat to close the 112th Congress.

Legislatively, PFLAGers attained four significant victories, wins in Washington, DC that deliver or pace us toward protection for and inclusion of our LGBT families:
  • The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) was passed by both chambers of Congress, signed into law by President Obama and became the nation’s second explicitly gender identity-inclusive law, with the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act being the first.
  • The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) passed the Senate with fully inclusive consideration and strong bipartisan support, both historic first-time achievements. The House still has time to bring it to the Floor for a vote in the 113th Congress in 2014. ENDA was the focused legislative priority for PFLAG’s National Lobby Day in October 2013, and the Senate vote was held in November.
  • The HOPE Act, which permits HIV positive organ donors and recipients legal access to organ donation, passed in 2013 with overwhelming bipartisan support in both the U.S. House and Senate and was signed into law by President Obama. The HOPE Act was a legislative priority for PFLAG’s National Lobby Day in 2013.
  • The Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly called Obamacare and signed into law in 2010, opened its Health Insurance Marketplaces in 2013 to permit LGBT people to receive more legal protections when seeking health insurance, including the predominant need to be free from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Evidence shows that LGBT people are at disproportionate risk for heart disease and cancer, more likely to experience poverty and less likely to have health insurance than non-LGBT counterparts. New protections afforded under ACA helps LGBT people who are currently uninsured or underinsured, especially for those who need to apply for Medicaid or secure affordable healthcare insurance coverage in the Marketplace offering in their own state. The call for affordable quality care is addressed by ACA. Specifically helpful to LGBT people are enumerated benefits, including the removal of explicit exceptions for pre-existing conditions, free annual health prevention screenings for designated tests, the ability to keep dependents on parents’ policies until age 26, and the elimination of annual and lifetime spending caps (upper financial limits on what is financially granted in healthcare coverage) for benefits and treatments received. While signup to have healthcare effective Jan. 1, 2014 expired on Dec. 24, 2013 with first premium payments due on Dec. 31, Marketplace enrollment is still open and available until March 31, 2014.
Judicially, The Supreme Court of The United States (SCOTUS) ruled on June 26th to strike down Section 3 of The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which established that marriage is between one man and one woman. On the same day, SCOTUS also struck down California’s Proposition 8 (Prop 8) that prohibited same-sex marriage. This one day of decision in The Supreme Court brought on a landslide of actions federally and in states across the country to recognize same-sex marriage as a point of equality and fairness in our country. As a result federally, The Respect for Marriage Act (RMA) was introduced that day in the Senate and House, the Administration began issuing new guidance to adhere to the SCOTUS rulings, and state advocates, for which PFLAG chapters tuned their efforts, across the country found new fuel to permit same-sex marriage, including Colorado (civil unions), Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico, Utah and others. Policy Matters will keep you advised as developments occur.

Administratively, LGBT people and their families, including legally married same-sex couples, achieved abundant inclusion in federal government programs across Administration Departments, most as outcomes of the June 26th SCOTUS ruling that eradicated Section 3 of DOMA. These include:
  • The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) honors same-sex partners to be included
  • Social Security Administration (SSA) treatment of same-sex married couples’ benefits
  • Department of Defense’s recognition of military dependents including same-sex spouses and their children
  • Department of Education’s determination to include income from both same-sex parents as students seek to qualify for federal education loans
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS) permitting joint federal tax filing
  • The determination that same-sex married couples receive equal treatment regarding skilled nursing facilities and nursing homes
  • Immigration affirmation granting the ability for a same-sex spouse the ability to qualify for a green card; and
  • The Peace Corps’ announcement allowing same-sex domestic partners (or married couples) to serve together overseas as it allows opposite-sex married couples to do.
Policy Matters will continue reporting on these benefits as they are announced.

Historically, the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington in August included special recognition and inclusion of Bayard Rustin, the chief architect of the March on Washington in 1963 where The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. Rustin was not permitted to join the organizing team in 1963 when the rest were invited to The White House. In 2013, he was lauded during the series of recognizing events and several were held specifically to honor his distinguished role.

Another Administration victory for LGBT people was the Presidential Medal of Freedom being awarded to two of our own: the first American female astronaut in space Sally Ride and architect of the civil rights and employment March on Washington in 1963 Bayard Rustin, both deceased, marking the first time that same-sex partners accepted this Medal on behalf of the honored recipients, their partners. Tam O’Shaughnessy accepted on behalf of her partner Sally Ride and Walter Naegle accepted on behalf of his partner Bayard Rustin.

2014: THE YEAR IN PREVIEW

As we look back at the issues and policies that made headlines in 2013, here are the Policy Matters top eight issues to stay focused on in 2014, all of which remain active in the 113th Congress for federal issues, and state issues will be driven in accord with states’ own determined priority lists and timetables:
  • Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). The House will continue to receive outreach and pressure to take action and vote on a fully inclusive ENDA while we still have a year left in this 113th Congress. Efforts to urge President Obama to sign an Executive Order regarding federal contractors to prohibit workplace discrimination will continue as well.
  • Building protections and equality in states. In 2014, protection for people who are LGBT, especially youth, will remain a priority, especially on the topics of equal access in schools, correcting identity documents for transgender and gender non-conforming people, anti-Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) legislation (with SOCE understood to continue to be inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression), and workplace discrimination. This will build on the 2013 gains in San Antonio, Texas and the state of Delaware, which both added a gender identity workplace non-discrimination law. Same-sex marriages in Ohio must be recognized on death certificates. This was a narrow ruling, but we will stay focused on how it can be applied wherever appropriate. PFLAG National will continue to work strategically with chapters through their state coalitions to improve the lives and welfare of LGBT people. And stay tuned to Jan. 8 when we learn about whether California’s AB 1266 which grants transgender equal access in schools, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, has garnered sufficient opposition to make this matter move to a popular vote on the ballot in November.
  • Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) and Student Non-Discrimination Act ( SNDA). As Congress moves toward agreeing upon the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in the 113th Congress, these two bills -- either by inclusion with exact language or by expressed intent with similar language -- are expected to be included. Advocacy will gear up as the bill is prioritized to be considered to bring to the Floor for a vote.
  • Every Child Deserves a Family (ECDF). This child welfare bill still needs more cosponsors in both chambers of Congress. Advocates will continue to educate about the importance of making legally possible the linking of children with parents for adoption and guardians for fostering, including LGBT children and potential LGBT parents.
  • Immigration Reform. LGBT people and same-sex couples, especially those with children, are disproportionately affected by stringent restrictions regarding immigration that fail to recognize our families, laws that keep our bi-national families apart at alarming rates. While proponents, including PFLAG National, continued legislative overtures to urge Congress to act on comprehensive immigration reform amidst multiple bills and proposed amendments being drafted by Representatives and Senators, no firm action moved forward in 2013. There is a lack of a clear priority designation for real action by Congress beyond discussion and an expressed desire by members from both parties to achieve reform.
  • The Repeal HIV Discrimination (REPEAL) Act. Following the overwhelming bipartisan and bicameral passage and signing into law by the President of the HOPE Act (a PFLAG legislative priority), advocates have stepped up education about this bill to legislators in the Senate and in the House. There remains friction on the expressed role of the federal government to ask states to review their laws, heightened by the quick action of states now facing decisions about same-sex marriage. While unrelated, the issues collide for some legislators, and we remain active on meeting with, listening to, and working with legislators to identify and salute common ground.
  • Respect for Marriage Act (RMA). This bill was introduced on June 26th, immediately following the SCOTUS decisions eradicating Section 3 of DOMA -- that marriage is only between one man and one woman -- and striking down California’s Prop 8.  Both chambers introduced the bill on the day. Section 2 of DOMA, which RMA would remove, remains law. RMA would remove Section 2 of DOMA and deems same-sex marriages portable, whereby same-sex marriages performed in states where legal still are made certain in all states, recognized everywhere as opposite-sex marriages are now. The bill’s reintroduction, along with more than 30 legal cases on the topic, keep this alive as a legislative opportunity toward equality.Passing RMA remains a PFLAG legislative priority.
  • International call for equality. Our work in 2014 is clearly laid out by actions around the globe. International equality took a dangerous step backward this year in Uganda (with an anti-gay bill that includes life in prison), Russia (with an equally as drastic anti-gay law), and India (where the Supreme Court recently upheld the criminalization of homosexual acts). Marriage equality was overruled in Australia, and violence against LGBT people increased in many countries including JamaicaHondurasIran, and Haiti. PFLAG National will also continue its focused work, where and when invited, to assist in the creation of family and ally networks based on the successful PFLAG model of support, education, and advocacy and the need for parental and familial support and affirmation. The year 2013 brought some gains on which we can build in 2014 to ensure that what was passed is truly enforced. Trans right took significant progressive steps forward in places like Germany (which now offers a third gender option on birth certificates) and Bangladesh (offering third-gender status to hijras). Marriage equality became the law of the land in BrazilFranceEngland (marriages to commence in March 2014), New Zealand, and Uruguay. Benin decriminalized homosexuality, and New Zealand, Gibraltar, and France legalized same-sex adoption. To support international efforts, PFLAG National participated in numerous conferences outside the United States, including in China and Peru, helping to elevate the PFLAG family and ally model as a successful method for changing hearts, minds, and policy.
As we enter the new year, let’s celebrate the healthy host of hard-won victories of 2013, and be ready to stand strongly together again in 2014 as PFLAG parents, families, friends, allies as we march toward equality for our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender non-conforming community members.