Monday, June 30, 2008

Anyone who thinks that love needs to be cured...

Today I had plans to have lunch with a close friend, a straight ally who was the first female I uttered the words “bisexual” and “I” together with a copulative verb (and an indefinite article, to be grammatically correct) linking the two.

Upon greeting each other at the metro station she excitedly told me that she bought me a present, and questioned whether I wanted it that instant or at lunch. Despite my overwhelming curiosity over an unexpected gift and the desire to acquire said object, I said we ought to wait until we sat down over food.

Having arrived at the restaurant, and settling into our seats I couldn’t handle the suspense any longer, I told her I was ready for my present.

Over the table she handed me “Queer Quotes: On Coming Out and Culture, Love and Lust, Politics and Pride, and Much More." I was especially thankful, for both the thought of getting me a gift "just because" as well as the fantastically chosen gift.

Not having any time to read through the book between bites of food and chatting about our plans for the rest of the week, I put it away to be read later. Upon arriving back at PFLAG National, I took it out, flipped it open, and began looking through the pages.

W
hile it was the third quote listed, it was the first that struck my eye: “Anyone who thinks that love needs to be cured has not experienced enough of it in their own lives,” –Joan Garry, the Executive Director of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

This quote especially stood out to me because of Exodus International's plan to have their “International Freedom Conference” (their title for a large “ex-gay” ministry conference promoting so-called “reparative therapy”) in Asheville, NC this July.

Fortunately, there have already been some events scheduled to counter the false and harmful messages of "ex-gay" ministries (in 1998, the American Pyschiatric Association stated it was opposed to reparative therapy, stating "psychiatric literature strongly demonstrates that treatment attempts to change sexual orientation are ineffective. However, the potential risks are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive [suicidal] behavior..."). The schedule of events for July 15-20 are as follows :
  • Tuesday, July 15, 7:00-8:30 PM, Kick off Event
    "Can You Pray Away the Gay?"
    Firestorm Café & Books (48 Commerce St., Asheville)

    Speakers: Wayne Besen, Director, TruthWinsOut.org and author of "Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-gay Myth," and Ian Palmquist, Executive Director, Equality NC
  • Wednesday, July 16, 7:00 PM
    Film: "For the Bible Tells Me So"
    Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Swannanoa Valley (500 Montreat Rd. Black Mountain , NC 28711)

    Co-hosted by Common Light Meeting Place, Discussion follows, led by Laine Calloway,Gay & Lesbian Ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of WNC
  • Thursday, July 17, 6:45 PM
    Film: "For the Bible Tells Me So"
    Henderson County Library (301 Washington St., Hendersonville, NC 28739)
    Hosted by
    PFLAG Flat Rock/Hendersonville & Love Welcomes All Committee
    Discussion afterward led by Rev. Jerry Miller (a PFLAG regional director)
  • Friday, July 18, 7:00 PM
    Film: "Fish Can't Fly"
    Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville
    Charlotte St. at Edwin Place, Asheville, NC 28801

    Discussion follows. Wayne Besen will discuss appearing in the film
  • Saturday, July 19, 11 AM - 2 PM Real-Families Picnic!!
    Recreation Park - 69 Gashes Creek Rd. Asheville, NC 28805
    (off Swannanoa River Rd. next to WNC Nature Center)

The Price of Principles

The New York Times reported yesterday that at least one law school, in its efforts to combat the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual service members, is paying a price for standing on principle.

Vermont Law School is one of only two universities in the country that continue to bar military recruiters from its campus because the U.S. armed forces will not hire openly gay recruits . . . a violation of the school's non-discrimination policy. Following a unanimous Supreme Court ruling that found schools must allow recruiters on campus or, if they decide not to out of protest, lose all federal funding, most colleges and universities relented, noting that a freeze on federal money would cripple many of their academic endeavors.

But Vermont, along with William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, continues to deny recruiters access to students, refusing to back down from its policy of only allowing employers who include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies to visit the campus.

As the Times reports, that has meant a significant cut in dollars received from the government.

As a result, the school is denied some federal research money — $300,000 to $500,000 a year by one outside analyst’s estimate.

“Every once in a while an issue comes to a community and, despite a cost, it comes to the conclusion that it has to stand up for its principles,” said Jeff Shields, president and dean of the law school. “It has to do with speaking truth to power, and it’s one of those roles that those of us lucky enough to be trained as lawyers hopefully take from time to time.”

And the Pentagon is not backing down.

“If the Department of Defense finds a school is doing this, it notifies other federal agencies and funding gets cut off,” said Lt. Col. Les Melnyk, a department spokesman.

The result is a loss in important educational funding for schools, and, because of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," a loss of significant talent to the armed forces.

The military should have access to the best and brightest students on campuses across the country, but Congress should understand that the "best and brightest" includes LGBT students, too. They should not be denied the opportunity of a military career, if they choose one, simply because they are lesbian or gay. And colleges should not be denied important federal funding because they stand on principle that non-discrimination is a 'must.'

The easiest way to solve the entire dilemma is for Congress to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The military, then, will be in compliance with non-discrimination policies, and universities like Vermont Law School won't have to risk a half-million dollars in funding because they want to do the right thing.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Tune In Today

For everyone out there in the Washington, D.C. metro region: be sure to tune into Fox Channel 5 today at 5PM to see DC PFLAG's own Lindy Garnette and her soon-to-be wife talk about their upcoming wedding in California!
Residents of Maryland, Lindy and her fiancée are traveling out to the Golden State next week to tie the knot. Be sure to catch them on Channel 5 at 5 today.

Update: You can watch the full report, from FOX 5 reporter Beth Parker, online here.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Laws Cannot Restrain the Heart, But They Can Restrain the Heartless


Hordes of people - including four of PFLAG’s finest - lined up outside of the Rayburn House Office Building earlier this morning, eagerly awaiting the Health, Education, Labor, and Pension’s (HELP) first ever congressional hearing on transgender issues entitled An Examination of Discrimination against Transgender Americans in the Workplace. Despite a late start, Chairman Andrews commenced the hearing introducing the leaders of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Equality Caucus - Representatives Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Barney Frank (D-MA). Both representatives acknowledged the historical importance of this hearing and articulated the significant importance of crafting “real remedies” to ameliorating the inordinate rates of employment discrimination Transgender Americans experience.

After opening remarks, Chairman Rob Andrews (D-NJ) introduced all of the hearing witnesses. Two witnesses, Diane Schroer, a retired colonel of the US Army and Sabrina Marcus Taraboletti, a former space shuttle engineer spoke about their struggles of securing employment after they told their respective employers about their decisions to transition. The negative reactions they experienced not only cost them their jobs, but also their family and friends, leaving them with limited options in moving their careers forward. Their valued testimony sheds light on the blatant, shocking, and unembarrassed employment discrimination they experienced. Had a federal law like the inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) existed, these women would have had the legal protections they so desperately need.

Members of the Subcommittee also had the opportunity to hear from Bill Hendrix, Chair of the Gays, Lesbians, and Allies at DOW (GLAD). Hendrix shared his company’s journey in adopting a global nondiscrimination policy that protects transgender employees from discrimination and also provides guidelines on how to support an employee who chooses to transition on the job. Hendrix stated that the company’s proactive stance on diversity and inclusion helps attract some of the most talented and qualified candidates from around the world. He stated that DOW’s trans inclusive policies have also contributed to the company’s higher retention rates and made it easier to recruit new talent.

One witness arguing against expanding federal employment nondiscrimination laws on the basis of religious freedom was Glen Lavy, Senior Counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund. He argued that it would be wrong for the federal government to force employers with “religious beliefs to hire a [qualified] transgender person”, stating it would be “like forcing Orthodox Jewish people to eat pork.” Chairman Andrews made it a point to question Lavy’s analogy, asking for his opinion on whether he thought it would be moral if a pacifist employer blatantly denied a job to a qualified combat Marine Corps reservist or for a white supremacist to out rightly deny a job to a qualified person of color. Both alarming and humorous, Levy stumbled for words and conceded that the federal law protects these job seekers from such discrimination, but failed to make the connection Andrews was clearly illustrating. The Chairman used Lavy’s answer as a means to advocate for a federal law to protect similar transgender job seekers and employees.

Overwhelmingly, the majority of members present at the Hearing supported Chairman Andrews’ approach on working toward securing a nondiscrimination employment policy that is inclusive of transgender people. Representative Phil Hare (D-IL) stated that it is time for the Congress to legislate “what is right, what is just, and what is fair” to ensure that all people, including transgender people, have the right to work and support themselves without fear of harassment and violence. While Chairman Andrews acknowledged that social progress in Washington is “glacial,” he seemed optimistic that the Congress will engage in vigorous debate over expanding employment protections to transgender people in the upcoming months, and that today’s Hearing was instrumental in better informing this process.

If you would like to review the testimony submitted to the record or watch the archived version of this historic congressional hearing, please visit the Committee on Education and Labor’s website.
-J. Rhodes Perry

Friends You Know!

Sign-up for a FriendsYouKnow.com profile and support PFLAG National

Created by and for LGBT and allied people, FriendsYouKnow.com is a brand new social networking site providing a unique online home tailored to the needs of our community. The site has great interactive features, like social networking (contact your friends and make new ones!), streaming news content feeds, user-generated blogs, photo sharing, and more.

And as an added bonus, PFLAG National will receive 10% of the site’s prorated subscription fees, so this is a great way to network with your friends and colleagues—and give back to PFLAG National and other LGBT advocacy groups working for equality.

Sign-up today for a Beta profile and receive access to FriendsYouKnow.com for just $1 through this special offer. You can test drive the website for the first few weeks of operation, and Beta testers will receive a FriendsYouKnow.com account for 12 months for just a buck (regularly $9.95/mo.).

Becoming a Beta tester will allow for FriendsYouKnow.com to get up and running, work out any kinks in the Beta phase, and ensure that the site represents the diversity of our community—and you’ll be supporting PFLAG at the same time.

Please visit http://www.friendsyouknow.com/ to sign-up for a Beta profile today, and feel free to forward this offer to other friends you know!

"Why Can't My Son be Gay?"

For a little humor today, read "Why Can't My Son Just Be Gay?" over at Salon.com. If you aren't a member you'll have to watch a short commercial, but it's worth it.

"How could I not dream of having a son who cared deeply about all the right things: fashion, musical theater, interior décor? But mostly a son who cared deeply about the most right thing of all: his mother? How could I not yearn for a son who would tell me that the bias cut emphasized my saddlebag thighs, that no one was staining concrete anymore, that the tiniest bit of white on the upper lids would open up my eyes and make me look 10 years younger? And now that California is handing out marriage licenses, what mother could resist the opportunity to micromanage a union in which both participants would obsess with her about whether the color theme celadon and peach or apple green and hot pink best expresses their love?"

A Question for the Speaker

Former Naval Petty Officer Jason Knight, who was dismissed from the armed forces under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," emailed last night to let us know that he has submitted a question about the military ban to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Jason's question, which is below, is scheduled to be posed to Speaker Pelosi this evening on CNN's The Situation Room.

Tune in later today to hear the Speaker's response . . . and leave your thoughts for Jason here in our comments section, too.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Chatting With Our Families

PFLAG parents love to chat. And they especially love to chat about their families: the LGBT kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews and loved ones who make them proud every day. And when they talk, people listen . . . and learn. How can you argue with a mom or dad's belief that all of their children - regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity - deserve the same rights, responsibilities and opportunities as every other American?

So it came as no surprise today that columnist and blogger Andrew Sullivan suggested that, if Senator Barack Obama wants to learn more about loving families, he might want to chat with PFLAG'ers.

"At some point before the election, he should give a speech to some chapter of PFLAG: the Parents [Families] and Friends of Lesbians and Gays," Sullivan wrote on his blog today. "It's an integrative, family-oriented way to demonstrate his support for gay people . . . "

Indeed, PFLAG parents have been educating leaders from both parties for years about what being pro-family is really all about: embracing and loving every family. And as part of PFLAG's 2008 get out the vote campaign, they'll be talking to their neighbors, co-workers and friends, too, about the importance of showing up at the polls in November and making their voices heard.

And at PFLAG, our moms and dads are non-partisan chatters. So we suggest to Andrew that maybe Senator McCain would be moved by a visit to his local PFLAG chapter, too. After all, as any proud PFLAG mom can tell you, our families have a lot to chat about . . . and a lot to teach us all.

Congressional Hearing Update

Update: Congressional Hearing, An Examination of Discrimination Against Transgender Americans in the Workplace

As many of you all may know, Rob Andrews (D-NJ), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee, has invited a wide array of witnesses prepared to speak about the devastating and pervasive problem of gender identity and expression discrimination. This hearing is historic because the Congress has called upon community members capable of speaking with unquestionable authority about the experiences of trans citizens who live in a nation where they are exposed to the most ostensible and egregious discrimination based on gender identity and expression. The witnesses prepared to testify tomorrow include:

· Shannon Price Minter, Legal Director for National Center for Lesbian Rights (founding member of NCTE)

· Diane Schroer, Retired Colonel, US Army (member of NCTE)

· Diego Sanchez, Director of Public Relations and External Affairs for AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts (Founding Board of Directors for NCTE)

· Sabrina Marcus Taraboletti, Former Space Shuttle Engineer (founding member of NCTE)

· Bill Hendrix, Chair of Gays, Lesbians, and Allies at Dow (GLAD) for Dow Chemical Company

Additionally, the minority party has requested the following witnesses to testify:

· JC Miller, Partner at Thompson Hine

· Glen Lavy, Senior Counsel for Alliance Defense Fund

The hearing will take place tomorrow at 10:30 am in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building. If you cannot attend in person, we encourage you to watch the hearing live from the Subcommittee’s website. For a full report of the hearing, please be sure to check out the blog tomorrow afternoon!

- Rhodes Perry

Back to New York...

In all the flurry of news surrounding California weddings and the push for marriage equality in other states, I find myself full of hope and excitement that committed, devoted, and loving couples finally are being recognized under their state’s government. While excited for California and all the happy couples, my mind keeps going back to my home state of New York where progress is slower and equality is still lacking. I keep returning to the debate surrounding Governor Paterson’s executive order to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples who were married where there is marriage equality, and I keep retuning to the NYS Assembly’s passage of GENDA.

On June 3rd, 2008 the NYS Assembly voted 108 to 34 to pass GENDA, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act. This bill would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression, and includes offenses regarding gender identity or expression under the hate crimes statute. It was both an exciting passage, as was it passed by a hope-inducing margin. The bill was subsequently sent to the NYS Senate to be voted upon there. But into what kind of atmosphere was the bill being introduced?

The New York State Senate has been characterized by a slim majority by State Republicans, with Joseph Bruno, serving as Senate Majority Leader for the past twelve years. Bruno’s exercise of power on certain issues definitely did not seem to set the stage for a successful passage of GENDA.

Joseph Bruno refused to allow the Assembly-passed bill allowing same sex-couples to marry to be considered on the Senate floor. Despite the Assembly passing the Dignity for All Students Act seven years in a row, Bruno opposed the anti-bullying bill in the Senate because of its inclusion of gender identity. And regardless of the overwhelming support for GENDA, Bruno has opposed this bill that promises to protect transgender people from being discriminated against in housing, employment, credit, and other public accommodations.

It was just confirmed on Monday that Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno will not be seeking reelection in fall of 2008, and on Tuesday he stepped down from his position as temporary president of the senate and as Senate Majority Leader.

Bruno’s decision to not seek reelection provides an opportunity for a more LGBT-friendly Senator to enter the scene. Likewise, this news can be seen as an opportunity for getting the Senate to look seriously at passing GENDA and subsequently inching closer toward the day when all New Yorkers are equally protected under the law.

It isn't a done deal though...it's an opportunity, an opportunity that New Yorkers have to seize and fight to make a reality by letting the government know that inclusive legislation is exactly what our state needs.

Visit the PFLAG Action Center, at www.capwiz.com/pflag, type in your zip code, and click on your lawmaker’s page to find contact information for their in-district and Washington, D.C., offices. You can either send them an email/letter to urge them to support GENDA or set up a time to meet with them and discuss why GENDA is essential to New York citizens.

For more information on how to send a strong message to the NYS Senate regarding GENDA, click here to download the PDF version of 2008’s Bringing the Message Home, PFLAG’s grassroots handbook on in-district legislative work.

Oklahoma City: True Colors

A fellow PFLAGer was kind enough to work the Oklahoma City stop of the True Colors Tour, take pictures, and send them along to share with everyone else! Many thanks and credit to Lori Ward for these photos!


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

AFA Upset Over This?

The American Family Association sent out an action alert today asking their members to call Heinz, the catsup people, and protest an ad that is appearing on TV screens across England. I won’t spoil the ad for you; see for yourself here:



Needless to say, it is cute and reflective of families you might encounter both here and across the pond. It is nice to see companies taking a chance and creating ads that are reflective of all different types of families. Take the time today to call the corporate headquarters of Heinz and let them know you support their message and their commercial. Their corporate headquarters’ phone number is 412-456-5700 and their toll-free number is 800-255-5750. Don’t let Heinz’s voice mail boxes be filled with message of hate!

-Elizabeth Hampton Brown

Logic Prevails in Columbia

A few weeks ago I blogged about Irmo High School, in Columbia, South Carolina. That's the one where the principal resigned in protest over the formation of a gay-straight alliance (GSA) club. Apparently, lawyers advised the school that it must allow the GSA in addition to the other clubs.

So, the school district proposed the idea of banning all clubs in order to get rid of the pesky GSA. Well, this week the school district seemed to come at least partially to it's senses and voted to allow all clubs, including the GSA.

Sadly, parents will have the "option" of not letting their kids participate in clubs, which could prevent youth from non-accepting families from being able to meet with GLBT/ally peers. And there's also a provision about preventing "sexually explicit topics" - to keep in line with the district's "abstinence-based curriculum." So-called "abstinence only" curriculums fail to protect students by withholding health-related education, but that's another story altogether. For now, we should be thankful that all students at Irmo High School have equal access to all clubs.

Monday, June 23, 2008

PFLAG Comes to TULARE-KINGS COUNTIES in CA

Joan Palmer, co-founder of PFLAG Tulare-Kings Counties, writes a guest blog entry about the foundation of and the excitement surrounding a new PFLAG chapter in California.

This past November, my husband and I moved from Northern California to the South Central Valley. One of the main things we were going to miss when we made the move was the chapter we had a hand in helping establish...PFLAG of Greater Placer County. We scanned the Internet and found the closest chapter to our new home was in Fresno – a 45 minutes drive. Our two minds thought as one: we're going to help found another chapter for an area in desperate need of one.

And so it began. The networking aspect of the process was made easy by my husband and his love of talking. He contacted www.queervisalia.com and explained to the Web Owner what we planned to do and what we hoped to accomplish. We were invited to the “Queer Visalia” Meet and Greets where we were given time at these social events to talk about the need for a PFLAG here and our vision for a new chapter. People really started warming up to us when they realized that these two old people are true allies.

Within three months we had formed a core group from the Meet and Greet as well as with other straight allies met along the way. At our second meeting one of our group members thought we should try an informational meeting to test the murky waters here in the Valley. We checked with PFLAG National and received the “OK” to give it a shot. Before we went “public” we decided to have a “practice meeting” at our house made up of the planning group, since most had never been to an actual PFLAG meeting. Would you believe that little "practice" meeting had several of what we call “PFLAG Moments”--mini meltdowns and understanding looks?

The day of the meeting finally arrived on June 19th, 2008. We had no idea what to expect or who would attend, but we were full of hope. And amazingly enough, with 20 minutes remaining before the meeting was scheduled to begin, people started to arrive. Not just a few, but enough to fill the entire room. We had to make the circle of chairs bigger and bigger until the backs were up against the walls. As one of our members put it, “I don’t know how many people are here, but there’s a butt in every chair.” Well, there were over 40 people to be counted and the meeting was a terrific success. We told the story of PFLAG, went around the circle and witnessed the inevitable PFLAG Moments take place over and over again. We watched a short video and when it was over, people stayed. They stayed to talk and to have the opportunity to look into the eyes of others who believe like they do that PFLAG is here to stay.

The meetings will now run regularly the third Sunday of every month. And we look forward to growth and being a force for change within our community here in the South Valley.

One of our members created our website at no charge to us, and another developed our MySpace page.

Check us out! We are so exceptionally excited.

To contact us, emails can be sent to info@pflag-tulare-kings.org
and phone inquiries can be directed to 559-579-1101.

Come On Over!


Just a friendly reminder to PFLAGers - and anyone else interested in receiving our news:

PFLAG is moving to a new virtual home! And, we need each of you to sign up for our new email list, so we don't lose contact with you! Beginning August 1st, you will not receive further emails from PFLAG unless you sign up for our new list!

By signing up for PFLAG's new online community, you'll receive important updates on our work, as well as essential PFLAG e-newsletters, like our PFLAG Update, PFLAG FYI and eTransparent. And, you'll have log-in access for http://www.pflag.org/, including access to all of our online tools and resources.

All you need to do is create a new username and password (if you haven't already) to access the system and set up your email preferences!

If you have any difficulties registering for the new list, just drop me a line at aratliff@pflag.org.

And remember: Sign up for our new online services before August 1st, so you can continue to be part of the PFLAG family, and part of our work to move equality forward.

History in the House!

This Thursday, history will be made as the House of Representatives holds its first-ever hearing on issues facing transgender Americans in the workplace. The hearing, An Examination of Discrimination Against Transgender Americans in the Workplace, is scheduled for Thursday at 10:30 am. Congressman Rob Andrews (D-NJ), Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) subcommittee of the Committee on Education and Labor, called for the hearing to educate lawmakers about the challenges the transgender community faces in the workplace.

PFLAG will be providing coverage of Thursday's hearing here at the PFLAG National Blog.

Rhodes Perry, our field & policy manager, will be attending the hearing, and reporting to PFLAG supporters about who testifies; what topics are discussed; and what lawmakers have to say about these important issues.
Be sure to come back and visit the PFLAG National Blog on Thursday, and join the conversation as the House makes history!

PFLAG on The HuffingtonPost

Surf over to The HuffingtonPost this morning for a PFLAG posting about the news regarding the 2007 "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" dismissals from the U.S. military.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

New Military Data "Tells" Only Part of the Story

The New York Times is reporting this evening that the United States military dismissed 627 service members, in 2007, under the federal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law that bars openly lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans from the armed forces. The data reflects a 50% drop in discharges since 2001, vividly illustrating that, during times of war when personnel are needed most, the Pentagon seems to "look the other way" when it comes to enforcement of the law.

The data also comes on the heels of reports that the Department of Defense has issued a record number of so-called "moral waivers" to boost enlistment in the forces, as the services find themselves stretched thin by on-going conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As PFLAG's Dan Tepfer, a retired Air Force Colonel, asked recently in the Dayton Daily News, "How can the U.S. armed services justify making exceptions to enlist individuals with criminal records but continue to deny military careers to honest, qualified gay men and women?"

The numbers released this evening also show that women, especially, are hard-hit by the ban. Though they account for roughly 15% of the total military force, 46% of those dismissed under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in 2007 were women. Historically, women have been booted under the law at a rate nearly twice their presence in the services, but the 2007 numbers show a troubling increase in the percentage of female service personnel who are impacted by the ban.

The data, however, only tells part of the story. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" places an unacceptable burden on the families of the estimated 65,000 LGBT troops on duty today. As Colonel Tepfer pointed out in his op-ed, imagine a scenario where "Before work, a military mom takes her pre-schooler to the base child-care facility. Before they hug goodbye, she reminds her child, as she does every day, 'Don't tell anyone, not even the other kids, about your other mommy.' She knows an overheard comment could jeopardize her career."

And, in an even more heart-breaking scenario, "Two uniformed officers walk up the sidewalk and ring the doorbell. They bring the devastating news that one of the two men who live together in that home has been killed in Afghanistan. But wait. You can't imagine that scenario because it wouldn't happen. Because of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' no representative from the military would arrive to inform and comfort the partner who had shared a deceased Marine's life."

Indeed, the law also keeps children out of the military healthcare system; prevents military families from registering for civil unions or, in California and Massachusetts, from marrying; and essentially bars personnel deployed abroad from staying in touch or even simply saying "I love you" in an email.

No wonder, considering the impact on security and the impact on families, that military leaders from retired Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy to retired Joint Chiefs Chairman John Shalikashvili, have called for an end to the law. Our families, and our country, deserve better than "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Friday, June 20, 2008

PFLAG Wedding Album

PFLAG wants your wedding photos!

PFLAG National is planning on putting together an online wedding album of our members, families, and friends who are married (or getting married soon) in California!

If you have any high-resolution digital photos, feel free to email them to me (aratliff@pflag.org) and we will hopefully have an album up and running soon!

Join PFLAG & Cyndi . . . in Berkeley and on CD!


PFLAG invites all of our supporters in the Berkeley, Calif., area to join us on Sunday, June 29 as we honor Cyndi Lauper for her long-time commitment to the LGBT community and for her support of PFLAG.

Following the Berkeley stop of the True Colors Tour on the 29th, Cyndi and The B-52s will join us at Blake's on Telegraph . . . and you're invited to be there, too!

For just $25 - which benefits PFLAG's work to move equality forward - you can join us as we toast Cyndi and party with The B-52s.

But hurry! Space is limited, and only the first 250 people who RSVP will be given entry to this exclusive event. To purchase tickets, click here and scroll down to the PFLAG logo.

And celebrate the release of Cyndi's new album, Bring Ya to the Brink, by purchasing one of the 100 signed copies that Cyndi has donated to help PFLAG raise funds in support of our work! There are still a few CDs left - but they're going fast! - and you can get one by clicking here.

(For tickets to the Berkeley True Colors show, visit the tour online.)

A Uniformed Response

PFLAG's response to the announcement that retired General Peter Pace would be receiving a Presidential Medal of Freedom has been getting some attention lately!

Check out what Fox News' Special Report had to say about our response... (skip to around minute 1:40)



Don't you love the phrase "homosexual behavior?" Be sure to read the backstory here. In May 2007, Pace told The Chicago Tribune that he supported the federal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on lesbian and gay personnel because, in his view, gay service members are "immoral," and the military is not "well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way."

-Adam Ratliff

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Out in the Country: Rural Gay Experiences

No, I'm not going to write a movie review of Brokeback Mountain. I do, however, want to share this article about two gay men - one young, one old - and their experiences growing up in a rural county in Pennsylvania.

Read "Out in the Country..." and see how some things have changed but old prejudices still remain for GLBT people living in rural America.

-Adam Ratliff

When Doctors Discriminate

Here's a case I've haven't been following as closely as I should. I guess it's slipped under the radar with all the jubilation over the marriage equality in California. But it could have a major impact on GLBT people in California...

(Photo courtesy Eduardo Contreras -- San Diego Union-tribune)

Today in The Washington Post, read about California resident Guadalupe Benítez, who was denied fertility treatments by her doctors because she is lesbian. She has taken her case all the way to the California Supreme Court. After the recent landmark ruling on marriage equality, it will be interesting to see how the court rules on this issue.

In this case, the defendants are claiming that giving fertility treatments to a lesbian woman somehow "violates" their religious freedom. As the article says, "On the heels of its ruling on same-sex marriage, California's highest court will decide another potentially landmark civil rights case: whether doctors can refuse to treat certain patients for religious reasons... Benítez, who is gay, says doctors violated her civil rights because they refused her a fertility treatment, saying it was against their religion to perform insemination on a lesbian."

Am I the only one who finds it disturbing that an entire class of people could be discriminated against by doctors - who (in theory) anyone should be able to turn to for medical assistance? Everyone has the right to be treated fairly by medical practitioners! Let's see how California's Supreme Court rules.

-Adam Ratliff

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Memphis Police Involved in Brutal Anti-Trans Hate Crime

A local TV-Station released shocking footage today of two police officers attacking a transgender woman at a booking station in Memphis, TN yesterday. The incident occurred on February 17th, 2008 and the footage shows Officer B. McRae walking over to the survivor and repeatedly hitting her in the face. McRae attempted to get the survivor’s attention by calling her several derogatory names. She refused to respond, which motivated McRae to violently attack her, while Officer J. Swain held her down.

The survivor’s attorney, Murray Wells, thought that he and his client would receive some kind of acknowledgement from both the Memphis Police Department (MPD) and the Shelby County District Attorney’s (DA) office shortly after the incident. Sadly, he did not receive any indication that these organizations were interested in the case. It was not until June 18th - four months after the attack occurred - that the MPD released a statement saying that it does “not condone any misconduct of a police officer that will compromise official law enforcement duties or the rights or safety of our citizens.”

The statement also alleges that Swain, the officer who held the survivor down, was fired by the MPD while McRae, the officer who repeatedly beat and maced the survivor, has been placed on non-enforcement status pending an administrative hearing. Both the DA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have reviewed the tape. The DA dropped all charges against the survivor and the FBI continues to investigate possible civil rights violations committed by the MPD.

Public servants need to be held to the highest ethical standards when serving their communities. Since the District Attorney, William Gibbons, wishes to assume the office of Governor in 2010, he must ensure that the MPD is held accountable to their commitment of protecting the rights and safety of its residents rather than infringing upon these rights. As of now, it’s clear that both Gibbons and the MPD have failed to appropriately address this incident in a prompt fashion. Even more distressing is the fact that Officer McRae, the officer responsible for the assault, still remains on the MPD payroll.

Incidents like these demonstrate the importance of enacting the Federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act (also known as the Matthew Sheppard Act), which would provide federal resources and assistance for state and local law enforcement agencies prosecuting violent, bias-motivated crimes similar to this particular incident. If you live in Tennessee, make it an effort to hold both William Gibbons and the MPD accountable for their failure to fire Officer B. McRae. Also, everyone should encourage their congressional representatives to support the Federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which will help support all local law enforcement agencies prosecute similar hate crimes across the country.

- J. Rhodes Perry

Such a Strained Argument

PFLAG reported here last week that, at a Thursday afternoon ceremony, President Bush plans to honor Retired General Peter Pace - the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of our nation's highest honors. The decision to honor Pace, which PFLAG was the first national organization to oppose, comes despite his much-publicized comments maligning LGBT service members as "immoral."

The list of six honorees for tomorrow's event with the President, however, includes another infamous foe of gay military personnel.
Judge Laurence H. Silberman (pictured) wrote a 1994 opinion upholding the military's exclusion of gay Americans which was one of the first judicial decisions to support firing lesbian, gay and bisexual patroits from our armed forces. It was the case of Joe Steffan, a former Navy Midshipman dismissed under the pre-"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on open service.

According to The New York Times, "Judge Silberman said the military's ban on those who avow homosexuality did not violate equal protection guarantees and indeed was no different from the Navy's height or eyesight requirements, for instance."

Silberman dismissed Mr. Steffan's legal challenge to the law as having "a certain superficial attractiveness," but also said that ". . . it is more clever than real."

"Steffan's claim that the Government cannot rationally infer that one who states he or she is a homosexual is a practicing homosexual, or is at least likely to engage in homosexual acts, is so strained a constitutional argument as to amount to a basic attack on the policy itself," Silberman wrote at the time.

In her dissent to Silberman's opinion, Judge Patricia M. Wald wrote that the majority decision "runs deeply against our constitutional grain."

"In years to come, we will look back with dismay at these unconstitutional attempts to enforce silence upon individuals of homosexual orientation, in the military and out," Wald wrote. "Pragmatism should not be allowed to trump principle, or the soul of a nation will wither."

While the history of the past decade has proven Wald right, as more and more Americans say they support allowing LGBT Americans to serve, there are some who still favor unconstitional silence over the principles of patriotism and military readiness.

And that, truth be told, is neither clever nor real (smart) . . . and it's "such a strained argument" as to seem even more ridiculous today than it did way back then.

Wedding Congratulations!

PFLAG National wants to send their congratulations to Mark Eggleston and Darrin Brindle. Mark and Darrin are PFLAG Houston board members who were married yesterday in California!

They have been featured in a story on the NBC Nightly News, in a news piece that discusses the surge of applicants for marriage licenses and wedding ceremonies due to the overturn of the ban on same-sex marriage by the California Supreme Court.

The news story also covers how the increase in marriage licenses and ceremonies will cause an economic boom for the California wedding industry, how the California economy as a whole will be benefit greatly, but most importantly, what this decision means for couples like Mark and Darrin who are unable to get married in their home state.

The couple affirms that even though they will be returning to Texas, a state that may not recognize their marriage, “It is still absolutely real, and legitimate, and valid.”

Congratulations again, and best wishes!

Watch the whole story here.

- Jennifer Vergamini

The Gay After

On a lighter note, I wanted to include this clip from The Daily Show. My favorite line: "The first gay marriage in California took place...and yet the state of California continues to exist!"

Indeed, the sky hasn't fallen in California, Massachusetts, Canada, South Africa, Spain, The Netherlands, and so on...



- Adam Ratliff

Fifty Years in the Making

The philosopher Hannah Arendt once said that "The right to marry whoever one wishes is an elementary human right . . . nearly all other rights enumerated in the Constitution, are secondary to the inalienable human rights to 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness' proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence; and to this category the right to home and marriage unquestionably belongs."

That was in 1959, and Arendt likely didn't think it would take nearly 50 years for her theory to begin to catch on. But yesterday, in California, thousands of happy couples showed that, half a century later, her idea is still fundamental, like the right she so passionately believed in. And it's about time.

All of us at PFLAG join our families, friends and allies in California in celebrating, and congratulating, the loving couples who have warmed our hearts over the past 24 hours. History will never forget the unforgettable image of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon as they took their vows in San Francisco, even as Mayor Gavin Newsom jokingly reminded the couple, who have been together for more than 5 decades, that marriage "is not to be entered into lightly, but thoughtfully and seriously."

Throughout the day, loving, committed couples from Crescent City to San Diego - and every community in-between - showed Americans from coast to coast that marriage is only strengthened when marriage equality is available to us all.

And, as we pointed out in this morning's USA Today , images matter. Stories matter. And over the coming month, as PFLAG works with our allies on the ground to battle a divisive ballot initiative that seeks to turn back the progress we have made, the stories and images of PFLAG families will be a powerful tool in defeating those who seek to tear our families apart. It's why we're so committed to working with our chapters, and each of you, to get those stories told and make our voices heard.

The coming months will be critical to making marriage equality a permanent part of California's history, and a viable reality for us all. I hope you'll be part of PFLAG's efforts in the state by volunteering your time on the ground, or making a gift in support of families in California and across the country.

We have come so far since Hannah Arendt had the radically simple idea that marriage equality is a right that should be available to us all. We cannot allow a half-century of work, and the love of couples who have been together even longer than that, to be torn apart now.

Have You Thanked the LGBT Caucus Lately?

In an effort to generate a grassroots campaign to short-circuit congressional support for LGBT rights, the religious right's American Family News Network (AFN) recently posted an article by Jeff Johnson entitled Homosexuality Takes Congress by Storm.

Johnson incorporates the typical right wing rhetoric justifying the belief that singling out LGBT people for unfair treatment under the laws of our country is acceptable. At the end of his article, he provides a comprehensive list of all 52 members of Congress who unflinchingly stand in our corner, fighting to secure equal rights and fair treatment for all of our families. The intent of Johnson’s article and this “hit list,” is to inspire religious radicals to inundate our congressional allies with calls and letters of outrage in an effort to deny our families the rights provided to us under the Constitution.

Responding to AFN’s tactics, we are proudly showcasing our congressional allies who stand united in the fight to secure LGBT equality. We strongly encourage you all to take a brief moment, and call or write these leaders expressing your gratitude for their unwavering support. They certainly deserve praise for trying to make the United States a more perfect union for all.

For the complete list of all 52 members of the new LGBT Congressional Caucus (led by Congressman Barney Frank & Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, pictured), click here. If your elected representative is on the list, email them to thank them for their support. And if they're not, ask that they join the growing group of leaders who are working to move equality forward for us all!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

USA Today on California Marriages


Be sure to read USA Today's coverage of marriage equality . . . including comments from PFLAG.

"Scores of couples waited in West Hollywood for a turn under six wedding canopies set up for the occasion," the paper reports, along with their family and loved ones.

"I love both my daughters," said David Weiss of Santa Cruz, who watched his daughter Amber, 31, marry Sharon Papo, 29, in San Francisco. "I don't see anything wrong with it if they're happy."

For complete coverage from USA Today, click here.

PFLAG Applauds the AMA

PFLAG applauds the American Medical Association’s (AMA) endorsement to remove financial barriers to transgender healthcare. Yesterday, at the AMA’s annual conference in Chicago, the AMA’s House of Delegates passed Resolution 122, calling for both public and private health insurance companies to cover the Gender Identity Disorder (GID) treatment in adolescents and adults. In the Resolution, the AMA stated that it opposes limitations placed upon a patient’s care by third-party payers (i.e. health insurance companies), when the appropriate treatment is based upon scientific evidence and sound medical opinion.

The passage of this resolution is incredibly significant for transgender people because it calls upon health insurers to cover the costs of transgender healthcare, which may include mental healthcare, hormone therapy and various surgical treatments. For far too long, transgender people and their allies have battled with public and private health insurance companies over the costs of coverage for these basic healthcare needs. All too often, insurers created discriminatory policies refusing coverage for any transgender related healthcare need, believing these treatments to be “medically unnecessary.” Resolution 122 clearly articulates the AMA’s opposition to such discrimination.

The AMA’s statement assures that discriminatory practices adopted by the health insurance industry will no longer be tolerated. Doctors and patients, together, will determine the best medical treatment, instead of health insurance companies. We commend the AMA for making this bold move, assuring that transgender people will receive the appropriate care that best meets their healthcare needs.

If you have the opportunity, be sure to express your gratitude to the AMA’s House of Delegates!

Spouses-for-Life

I was invited to participate in the first, state-sanctioned same-sex wedding in California! It was held on the steps of the Beverly Hills County Courthouse. And the spouses-to-be were Robin Tyler and Diane Olson.

The ceremony was performed by Denise Eger, rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami, in West Hollywood. I was one of four men honored to hold the chuppah, or wedding canopy, used to signify the home the spouses will live in together. It is an event on a date I will never forget, as my late wife and I were married on June 16 forty years earlier under a similar canopy.

The air was electric and we were mobbed by the world's press. The love and joy in the faces of the spouses-to-be was evident to everyone in the audience. Cheers erupted at major points in the ceremony, with the loudest erupting when Rabbi Eger intoned "By the power vested in me by the State of California, I now pronounce you spouses-for-life!"

The couple exchanged rings, kissed and each smashed the traditional glasses at the end of the ceremony.

Of course, there were the usual, sad-faced homophobes (just a few) with their signs and occasional imprecations. But they were mostly blocked and completely ignored.

And now, of course, comes the hard part - making sure that Robin and Diane (and thousands of other couples) stay legally married. And that's the task to which I will be directing my own energies over the next five months - as PFLAG Regional Director and as leader of Jews for Marriage Equality.

Together, we will ensure our families equal rights forever.

- Steve Krantz, PFLAG Southern Pacific Regional Director

A Picture Is Worth 1,000 "I Love You's"

As the moving photos of happy couples continue to pour out of California, our friends at The Bilerico Project are compiling images like the one above for those who cannot be in the Golden State in-person.

All photos are free for download and use and are courtesy of Storm Bear (The Bilerico Project), Cynthia Laird (Bay Area Reporter), freelance journalist Rex Wocker, Mona DeCrinis (Palm Springs Bottom Line), Denise Penn (Lesbian News), Fred Palmer (Outword Magazine), and Karen Ocamb (IN LA Magazine).

And for more on the power of a picture, check out today's Los Angeles Times.

New Beginnings


We can break the cycle - We can break the chain
We can start all over - In the new beginning
We can learn, we can teach
We can share the myths, the dream, the prayer
The notion that we can do better
Change our lives and paths
Create a new world

- Tracy Chapman, New Beginning

This morning, couples across California are celebrating new beginnings, as the state begins issuing marriage licenses - in all 58 counties - to same-sex couples.

Yesterday, in a moment more than 50 years in the making, Del Martin, 87, and Phyllis Lyon, 84 (pictured) were married in San Francisco by Mayor Gavin Newsom. And whether you've ever met Del and Phyllis, or you've just seen their photos in the papers or online, you couldn't help but feel, somewhere inside you, that you were there celebrating the half-century strong couple who Mayor Newsom rightly praised as "an extraordinary couple who have fought so long for the right that so many of us, quite honestly, take for granted."

All of us at PFLAG join Del, Phyllis and the countless couples across California in celebrating, at long last, equality for our relationships, our families and the ones we love.

And, on this day of new beginnings, we're also excited to welcome you to PFLAG's new and improved home in the blogosphere. We're working hard to make our online community as welcoming, friendly and easy-to-use as possible. And we're committed to keeping our supporters, allies and visitors up-to-date, right here, with the latest news and information about our work, together, to move equality forward.

In the coming days, you'll see continued improvements on our website and our blog. And we hope you will part of the conversation as we celebrate extraordinary progress, like we've seen today in California, and continue to lay the groundwork for full equality for every family . . . from Massachusetts to California, and every community in-between.

- Steve Ralls

photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez

Monday, June 16, 2008

Reflections from a PFLAG Mom

Surf over to the Indiana Bilerico Project blog for a moving write-up by Annette Gross, president of PFLAG’s Indianapolis chapter. Annette reflects on Indianapolis Pride, the protestors on the parade route . . . and what pride means to her.

To read Annette’s full blog entry, click here.

- Steve Ralls

Part Two: 3,000 Cyclists Join a Revolution against HIV/AIDS

Rhodes Perry, our Field and Policy Manager, writes about his experience with Lifecycle Bike Ride.
As some of you may know, I recently participated in the 7th Annual California AIDS Lifecycle Ride, biking with 2,500 other cyclists and 500 volunteers on a 545-mile journey from San Francisco to Los Angeles. My participation in this event helped raise a record $11.6 million, more than any other annual HIV/AIDS fundraising event in the world. The ride helped raise necessary resources devoted to prevention and treatment of HIV and AIDS, along with fighting the misconception that HIV and AIDS are no longer a problem due to medical advances. Riders and volunteers from all over the world joined together to make it known that we will never stop riding until we overcome this devastating epidemic.

While on the ride, I came across the HIV Endeavor for Reaching Out (HERO) Creed, written by one of the ride's veteran cyclists. The creed does an excellent job summarizing what I experienced while participating:

I have risen before dawn in this fight against AIDS. I’ve rallied family, friends and strangers to support me in this fight. I’ve spent mornings, afternoons and weekends training for those who can’t. I have spent hundreds of dollars on equipment, clothing and energy bars. I have learned hand signals, how to clip in, and the importance of stopping at every stop sign. I have yelled “Car Up!,” “Car Back!,” and “On Your Left!” approximately one million times. I’ve raised thousands of dollars to support the well being of someone else’s life. I have learned that if I don’t talk about HIV, to prevent it from spreading, who will? I will stand in line with my closest friends for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and to use the bathroom. I will ride side by side with them for the same cause. I will spend a week sleeping in a tent, eating in a tent, and showering in a truck. I will make over two thousand new and interesting friends while raising public awareness of HIV/AIDS. I will laugh out loud and cry with them. I will dedicate a week of my life to improve someone else’s. I will do things with my body I did not think I could do. I will boldly show the world how strongly I believe in this cause. I will ride my bicycle from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise awareness and money in the fight against HIV/AIDS. I am a California AIDS/Lifecyclist. I am a HERO.

I’m really proud to have completed this journey safely and I feel very fortunate to have connected with so many loving people along the way. It was such an incredible experience and I look forward to raising more money and awareness for the 2009 AIDS Lifecycle Ride, and, if possible, I highly encourage others to participate and/or support this revolution to leave HIV and AIDS behind in our dust!

- J. Rhodes Perry

Jasmine & Jody on here!


here!, the LGBT television network and online news site, has podcast coverage of the recent Day of Silence press conference in Los Angeles with PFLAG executive director Jody M. Huckaby and cast & crew members from the new film Tru Loved, including actress Jasmine Guy (pictured).

Straight Girl in a Queer World, the here! podcast series, was on-hand for the press event and has complete coverage of the Los Angeles Unified School District's Day of Silence activities.

To download the podcast, click here!, and select podcast #23.

An Update from Elke Kennedy

Elke Kennedy, the mother of Sean Kennedy, emailed us over the weekend to make sure we had an update on the sentencing of Sean's attacker, which we reported on last week.

Elke reminds us that Stephen Moller, who was recently convicted of manslaughter, "will spend only about ten months behind bars before he is eligible for parole, and if he gets that, then he will have three years' probation."

Sean's mother also tells us that "now, more than ever, I will continue to stand up and do whatever I need to do to educate the public and work . . . to stop this madness and injustice."

All of us at PFLAG are proud to stand with her.

For more information on Sean's case, and Elke's campaign to pass hate crimes legislation, visit Sean's Last Wish online.

- Steve Ralls

Friday, June 13, 2008

Saluting Dads


I am excited to see that gay dads are finally getting some positive attention this Father’s day!

Specifically, I was thrilled to see MSNBC’s great article this morning about a gay couple raising three adoptive sons. Their story, however, is not unique . . . they are just two of the many dedicated GLBT people raising children and helping our nation’s struggling foster care system.

Also in "gay dads news", Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, has opened his Southern California megachurch to gay Fathers this Father’s Day. What a refreshing change from the usual comments we hear from right-wing evangelicals in regards to LGBT parenting (and LGBT people in general)!

I hope you enjoy these great articles and that they put you in the spirit for Father’s Day.

And Happy Father’s Day to all of our PFLAG dads as well!


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Tell the White House: No Medal for Pace


What do you get for calling LGBT Americans immoral and supporting the continued firing of gay Americans?

If you're retired General Peter Pace, you get a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The White House announced today that Pace, a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, will be honored with one of our country's highest honors, despite maligning lesbian and gay Americans in uniform.

In May 2007, Pace sparked a furor (and deservedly so) when he told The Chicago Tribune that he supported the federal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on lesbian and gay personnel because, in his view, gay service members are "immoral," and the military is not "well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way."

Pace's remarks resulted in quick condemnation from LGBT allies in Congress (such as Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton) and were even denounced by conservative lawmakers like Senator John Warner of Virginia, who said he "strongly disagreed" with Pace's views. Defense Secretary Robert Gates also distanced himself from Pace's statement, saying that, "I think personal opinion really doesn't have a place here," and acknowledging that Pace should not have expressed his personal views during the course of a conversation about military policy.

Pace, however, never apologized for his remarks, despite outraging many gay service members, like former Navy Petty Officer Jason Knight, who was dismissed from the military after speaking up in response to Pace's interview.

Now, President Bush is preparing to honor the military's self-appointed "moral monitor" with an honor traditionally reserved for those who defend freedom . . . not those who try to deny it to millions of people.

Tell President Bush: Honoring General Pace for using his personal prejudice to meddle with military matters is just plain wrong. There should be no medal for bigotry and intolerance.

Update: Join the discussion about Pace's medal over at My Normal Gay Life, the blog at The Baltimore Sun and on Spencer Ackerman's blog at Think Progress.

The Question of Hate Speech


So today I have a topic that's sure to arouse controversy, depending on your political theories. It is a question defining hate speech and freedom of speech. First, let me begin by sharing a letter written by our Southern Pacific Regional Director, Steve Krantz...

"In today's NY Times, in an article titled "Unlike Others, US Defends Freedom to Offend in Speech," legal scholars recommend that we amend our First Amendment rights when it comes to hate speech. It points out that, for one, Europe ahead of us in this practice.

Several months ago, I witnessed Anne Coulter calling Al Gore a "fag" on Chris Mathews' Hardball on MSNBC without any consequences. I became engraged and wrote a futile letter to MSNBC.

We know that such public displays of bigotry, without consequence, imply tacit acceptance and result in proliferation of escalating violence to our family members.

As the parent of a son who happens to be gay, I would be happy to give up some of my Constitutional rights to see the end of the public demonization of my family. I think it is time for us to stand up and call for the criminalization of hate speech in the United States."

Now, allow me to play Devil's Advocate...

I have traveled and spent a great deal of time in nations that do protect GLBT people, along with other minorities, from hate speech. Indeed, many nations have stricter laws in general regarding libel, slander, and hate speech.

But one thing I think many of us were taught from a young age was the value of the First Amendment, and that our democracy requires allowing even those viewpoints we find disdainful.


The "slippery slope" begins when we find ourselves trying to define hate speech. What is hate speech? It is true that the Supreme Court has told us one can't yell "Fire!" in a theater. And one can not use speech to incite violence. But how concrete is the connection between anti-GLBT speech (like, say, that of the infamous Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church) and someone who actually goes out and gay bashes? Can we legislate acceptable speech from hate speech? If we curtail others' expression, I doubt that we can consider it true freedom of speech anymore. Even as a gay man, I'm not so sure I'm willing to take away others' Constitutional freedoms so easily. Let's not forget that the same First Amendment that allows Nazis to march in the streets also allowed the GLBT movement to express ourselves openly when many tried to silence us.

So, now comes the part where you, the reader, come in! Tell us what you think of this issue! I'm looking forward to reading all of your comments!