Tuesday, September 30, 2008

PFLAG Exclusive: Right-Wing Activists Plan Private D.C. Briefing on Gays in the Military

PFLAG has learned that The Center for Military Readiness, a right-wing activist group based in Michigan, has invited leaders of prominent veterans services organizations to a Washington, D.C. briefing on Thursday that the organization has tried to keep secret. The event, outlined in a letter obtained exclusively by PFLAG, is described as "a private, off-the-record briefing" to strategize about how to battle efforts to repeal the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual troops.

"Given your organization's long-standing commitment to military readiness and the high standards and sound policy that promotes it, I hope I can count on you in joining CMR to defend the law regarding homosexual conduct in the military," CMR's Elaine Donnelly (pictured) writes in the letter, which was sent by fax to VSO leaders in Washington. "We need to talk about what can be done, and why, face to face."

"Due to this issue's urgency," she continues, "this invitation is not transferrable to casual observers, interns or other non-executive support staff. This PowerPoint briefing, which includes short video excerpts of the July 23 House Armed Services Committee hearing on gays in the military, will cover everything you need to know to provide the type of principled, engaged leadership that only you can give. I would welcome new ideas and commitment that could turn the situation around."

The briefing, featuring CMR executive director Tommy Sears, will be held at the organization's Washington conference room, at 1615 L Street, N.W., Suite 650, on October 2nd from noon until 2:30pm.

Continue reading this post at HuffingtonPost.com . . .

Photo by Rudy K Photography

Update: Discuss Elaine's "secret meeting" over at Pam's House Blend.

Parents Take on a Proposition in the Golden State

As California voters get ready to weigh in, on November 4, on Proposition 8, some unlikely heroes are rising up in the Golden State and speaking out against this outrageous attempt to roll back marriage equality for same-sex couples. All across California, straight allies - and parents, in particular - are often finding themselves moved to take an outspoken political stand for the first time in their lives. The mere thought that strangers get to vote on their children's rights is bringing some of our community's strongest defenders into the spotlight . . . and their words and actions may be the most effective tools we have to protect same-sex couples from San Francisco to San Diego, and every community in-between.

Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) has been mobilizing parents and allies on the ground in California to defeat Proposition 8, which would not just deny - but take away existing - rights for committed couples. PFLAG chapters from across the country have brought critical foot soldiers to the campaign and, just as importantly, provided some of the most effective, and passionate, spokespeople imaginable: Parents who just want all of their sons and daughters to be treated the same.

Last week, Sam Thoron, the past National President of PFLAG (and a current board member of the organization), joined his wife Julia in speaking out against the ballot initiative. The Thorons, who have a lesbian daughter, urged Californians to reject this unprecedented attempt to divide families and strip away the rights of a specific community of California citizens. "All we have ever wanted for our daughter is that she be treated with the same dignity and respect as her brothers -- with the same freedoms and responsibilities as every other Californian," Sam says the first anti-8 ad to hit the airwaves. "My wife and I never treated our children differently, we never loved them any differently and now the law doesn't treat them differently, either."

The Thorons' love and support for their daughter has, in turn, also inspired and empowered other parents to speak up. Their stories, letters, emails and phone calls have been pouring into the PFLAG offices in Washington, D.C., along with questions about what they can to stop the attack on their kids.

From the Mountain West Conference

Thank you to Jean Hodges, our Mountain West regional director, and the planning committee for planning a wonderful Mountain West Conference! The theme of our conference was an intergenerational call to action, and the conference was truly a fabulously intergenerational experience. The agenda for the conference included choral performances by groups of all ages, spoken word performances by youth in the Boulder area, and panelists of various age ranges and diverse backgrounds.

Judy Shepard kicked off the conference on Friday night by encouraging everyone to work even harder than they have been working before and to not get discouraged. She talked about her own experiences with lobbying in both legislation and education. As an audience member, I was certainly struck by how much work Judy has already done as an advocate and how difficult it must be to share Matthew’s tragedy over and over. If anyone had the authority to tell us all to do more, it is Judy. She is such an inspirational example of determination and strength.

Saturday started with a panel of lesbian, gay, and bisexual voices across generations. People shared their coming out stories through different periods of history. This panel was most encouraging because we were able to see how far we have come in working towards equality.

Then, everyone went to the workshops of their choosing. There were eighteen workshops to choose from in three time slots, on the subjects of activism, faith, growing groups, intergenerational interactions, and transgender issues. A wealth of information was provided! I saw many chapters strategically choosing who to send to each workshop, so they could glean as much information from all the workshops as possible.

On Saturday evening, Jody Huckaby discussed Straight for Equality. All over the country, more and more chapters are connecting to how they first got involved in the LGBT movement, what it would have taken them to act before someone they loved came out as gay, and by connecting to these thoughts and feelings, are implementing successful Straight for Equality programming. The first Rocky Mountain Regional Straight for Equality Award was given to Jean Dubofsky for her outstanding work as a straight ally on behalf of the LGBT community. She litigated Colorado’s Amendment 2 case in 1996 in the US Supreme Court and successfully overturned the amendment. Amendment 2 was passed in 1992 and prohibited anti-discrimination policies for LGBT people in the state of Colorado, legalizing discrimination on the basis of sexuality and gender identity. Jean Dubofsky set a federal legal precedent against such discriminatory amendments and established the fact that LGBT people do indeed face discrimination. She has done so, so much for furthering equality and was very deserving of the award.

Mara Keisling followed this award ceremony by discussing the importance of intergenerational work (everything from safer schools to better equipped LGBT retirement homes) and what a difference PFLAG can make in this effort. She discussed wanting to drive to Colorado Springs and encourage the opposition to “say uncle already!” because we are so clearly winning the fight for equality! As we all left the conference venue that evening, after a lovely concert by Something About Lulu, there was a sense of purpose, that we really can inspire positive change in our world.

Sunday morning concluded with a sermon by Dr. Miguel De La Torre, entitled “Confessions of a Former Homophobe.” Dr. De La Torre was so candid about his feelings towards LGBT equality before he witnessed a gay friend struggling to change his sexual identity. He discussed his own studies that led him to a place of acceptance of his friend’s sexuality, and he has since authored several books as a straight ally on reconciling faith and spirituality. The closing panel was a talked about how one person can make a difference. Jean Hodges, Mara Keisling, Jody Huckaby, and Jessie Ulibarri, all stellar leaders in our movement, discussed this topic. Everyone told moving stories about how the most unlikely people can make the biggest impact, and how with a little bit of determination we can change the world.

The whole conference was such a success and encouraged all of us to be vocal about moving equality forward. Mara Keisling closed her Sunday morning panel presentation by saying, “Speak up, even when your voice shakes.” May well all have the boldness to stand up for the rights of our GLBT loved ones!

-Kim Jones

Two Years Later, Hard Choices About Solomon Live On

In 2006, the United States Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling upholding the Solomon Amendment, a Congressional law that requires colleges and universities to permit military recruiting on campuses, or face losing federal funding for their entire university systems. The ruling, which came following a challenge by numerous law schools that refused to cave in on their non-discrimination policies by allowing the U.S. military on campus, seemed to settle the issue - for publicly funded schools, at least - once and for all. And, as I noted in The New York Times at the time, it also provided an opportunity to re-focus the campus debate on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the campaign for repeal and the stories of LGBT Americans who want to serve, and have already done so.

Not surprisingly, immediately following the ruling, many colleges announced they would comply with the justices' decision. Not doing so, after all, would have meant colossal cuts in budgets for many critically important institutions, such as Harvard Medical School, which receives millions of dollars in public funding for often ground-breaking research and testing. But this week, the issue has re-emerged as one school, which is also the recipient of significant federal funds, expressed dismay at the possible return of military recruiters to its campus.

Columbia University's President is taking a principled, and potentially costly, stand against LGBT discrimination. In an email recently sent to students, Lee Bollinger declared that he was concerned about the possible return of an ROTC program to the campus, because of the federal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law that bars openly gay Americans from the armed forces.

"Under the current 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy of the Defense Department, openly gay and lesbian students could or would be excluded from participating in ROTC activities. That is inconsistent with the fundamental values of the university," he said in his message to the Columbia community.

Monday, September 29, 2008

American Airlines: Flying High for Families (Again)

When I first moved to Washington, some 10 years (!) ago, I landed a gig most 20-something LGBT professionals would have killed for.

No, I wasn't a dancer for Madonna (though there's still time!). Instead, I got to work alongside the LGBT marketing group, also known as the Rainbow TeAAm, at American Airlines.

My job entailed helping American market to the community while supporting it, too. And the company - which has always led the way in recognizing its LGBT customers and employees - partnered with national and local organizations like PFLAG, AIDS Action and the Mautner Project, to support their work and stand alongside them. And even when the airline faced boycott threats from religious extremists, it never backed down.

So it wasn't particulary surprising, but was still enormously inspiring, to see the company take the lead in its industry's support for LGBT equality again today. In a letter sent to Congress, American issued a strong endorsement of federal employment non-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.

"(We are) proud to express our strong support of federal workplace non-discrimination legislation that would extend basic job protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans. We are proud to have been the first major airline to implement same-sex domestic partner benefits, first to implement both sexual orientation and gender identity in our workplace non-discrimination policies, and first to have a recognized LGBT employee resource group – GLEAM," the statement said.

“Our endorsement of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is consistent with our longstanding Statement of Equal Opportunity … The principles fostered by ENDA are consistent with our corporate principles in treating all employees with fairness and respect. On behalf of our more than 80,000 employees, we appreciate your consideration and encourage Congress to enact this important legislation.”

The letter was signed by Denise Lynn, American's vice president for diversity and leadership strategies, Michael Wascom, American's managing director of international and governmental affairs, and Betty Young, American's national sales and marketing manager for the gay community.

All of us at PFLAG are proud of American for its strong stand in favor of our families, and proud that our official airline continues flying high in the campaign to secure equality for all.

For more information on how you can fly American and support PFLAG at the same time, click here.

An Interview with John & Char Cepek

John and Char Cepek were interviewed by The Body at the World AIDS Conference in Mexico City. Please click this link to read their story, beginning with when their child coming out, to educating themselves on how to support their loved one, to then becoming activists for LGBT people everywhere.

John and Char were such a rarity at the World AIDS Conference. Our networking zone for LGBT people and their families was a haven to many people who did not come from accepting families. Several individuals just stopped by the booth to talk to a parent who supported their identity. It was saddening at our support group to hear so few stories from people with family backgrounds of acceptance and love. People really gravitated to John and Char and had so many questions about how they came to be such great parents and advocates.

PFLAG’s mission of support was certainly met at the conference, and we saw just how critical parents’ voices are in working toward equality. Thank you to John and Char for showing so many people that our slogan for the conference “family support and acceptance equals hope, health, and well-being,” is a reality. You touched so many lives!

Click here to read the complete interview with John and Char Cepek in Mexico City.

Indianapolis Goes Straight for Equality

The following post is from The Bilerico Project - Indiana contributor Annette Gross. Annette is a member of PFLAG's Indianapolis Chapter.

Friday, September 26th, the Indianapolis Chapter of PFLAG hosted its first Straight for Equality Party. We wanted to introduce our straight allies to the new initiative that PFLAG has undertaken, which is to teach straight people who don't have a connection with the GLBT community, how to support and advocate for that community.

Our members invited over 50 people to the event. We were happily surprised with a packed house. While enjoying appetizers, drinks and desserts, guests mingled and got to know each other. Brooke Smith and Rhodes Perry from National PFLAG (pictured), as well as Deb Smith from PFLAG Michigan, were on hand to answer questions and inform guests about PFLAG's mission.

Continue reading Annette's post at The Bilerico Project . . .

Friday, September 26, 2008

Clay and Coming Out

Recently the blog and media world have been abuzz with the news that singer (and former contestant on American Idol) Clay Aiken has come out as openly gay.

In his coming-out interview, Clay shares with us how he came out to his mother - a moment many PFLAG parents can remember, too.

He recalled a tearful discussion with his mother in a car after dropping off his brother, who was being sent to Iraq, at a military base. "It was dark. I was sitting there, thinking to myself. I don't know why I started thinking about it ... I just started bawling. She made me pull over the car and it just came out," he said. "She started crying. She was obviously somewhat stunned. But she was very supportive and very comforting."

In an article about Clay, his coming out and his newborn son, a reporter from Clay's home state of North Carolina talks with Ted Meyer of PFLAG Triangle about his own son's coming out. Be sure to read it in The News & Observer.

Campaigning for Equality Begins

We blogged last week on the first television ad to hit California airwaves around Proposition 8, which could take away marriage equality in the Golden State. Sam and Julia Thoron, two PFLAG parents (Sam is a former president of PFLAG National) star in the ad, which you can watch here.

ABC 7 in San Francisco sat down with Sam and Julia this week to talk with the couple, who have been married for 46 years, on why marriage equality for all of their children is so important. You can watch ABC 7's interview here.

As we get closer to Election Day, we can expect more advertisements from both sides of the issue. Soon, our policy opposition will also launch television ads, and we all need to do our part to counter any misinformation. Remember - telling our stories is such an effective way to open people's eyes. If you are looking for more strategy tips, be sure to read our September FYI on how to get the word out on defeating Proposition 8!

Talking About 'Crisis'

The publishers behind Crisis, which we reported on here last week, have released a series of video interviews with contributors to the book, including PFLAG executive director Jody Huckaby. (To listen to the interviews, just click on the link beside each photo.)

Following wildly successful launch events in New York, Washington and Los Angeles, these testimonials delve further into the stories, and the people, behind Crisis.

For more information, or to order a copy of Crisis, visit the book's official site on the web.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Scenes from a Conference

Snapshots, courtesy of PFLAG Regional Director Jean Hodges, from last weekend's Moutain West Regional Conference in Colordao.

Chuck & Larry's Big Day in Washington

Yesterday, the United States Senate held hearings on legislation, sponsored by Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), to provide benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees. The government rightly offers important family benefits, such as healthcare, to the married spouses of those who work in the federal government . . . but federal law also carves out an unacceptable exception for same-sex partners, who receive no such benefits. Senator Lieberman is leading the effort to change that, along with Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who is sponsoring similar legislation in the House.

At Wednesday's hearing, there was a sole voice in opposition to offering such benefits, which the Williams Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles noted today would be of negligible cost to U.S. taxpayers. That lone voice was Howard Weizman, Deputy Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the agency charged with implementing benefit programs for federal employees.

Originally telling Congress that OPM had no position for or against Senator Lieberman's proposal, Weizman was later passed a note and changed his tune: OPM, he said after reading the letter, was opposed to extending benefits to same-sex partners.

His reason? The feature film I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, a comedy about a widowed father who marries his male friend in order to receive healthcare benefits for his children.

That's right . . . his sole argument for advocating that the United States refuse critical benefits to families was the plotline of a Hollywood blockbuster which, he said, proved that fraud would run rampant in the government healthcare system should the Senate take action to treat every federal employee equally.

Mr. Weizman forgot to mention that there are many proven ways to prevent widespread fraud, or that straight employees could marry their single friends who don't now have health insurance. And he could not cite a single real world example of such fraud. In fact, he didn't even note that many corporations already offer such benefits, and have not reported any problems with doing so.

The truth, of course, is that the families of every employee, LGBT or straight, should receive the benefits they deserve. By treating some government works as less than others, Washington sends an unfortunate message that some Americans are worthy of first-class care . . . and some should be left behind.

Even Chuck & Larry, we imagine, would be all for lawmakers passing this common-sense legislation and doing the right thing.

Arizona Clergy Against Discrimination

While it is often assumed that many clergy people are in favor of banning marriage equality, this is certainly far from the case...

Take a look at Arizona, which along with Florida and California, is facing a anti-marriage amendment. Religious leaders in Tuscon this week have come out publicly against it. They are urging people to vote "no" on Arizona's Proposition 102 which would ban gays and lesbians from the same right to marry as heterosexual Arizonans.

The conference was held on Tuesday, and included a diverse mix of clergy from various Arizona synagogues and churches.

"To follow Jesus, I must stand up and say 'no' to an amendment that seeks to widen the gap between 'us' and 'them,'" said Kelly Frieders, a member of Mosaic United Methodist Church.

Says Rabbi Helen Cohn of Congregation M'kor Hayim, "Legislation based on one group's religious beliefs is completely contrary to all this country stands for."

Be sure to read more on this faith community stance against discrimination.

PepsiCo Announces $500,000 Gift

In an extraordinary demonstration of its commitment to equality, progress and building allied communities, the PepsiCo Foundation has announced a record $500,000 gift for PFLAG's Straight for Equality program. The Foundation's gift, which will be used to expand workplace training, support chapter-based projects and for the creation of new Straight for Equality outreach tools, will be distributed over teh course of the next two years.

"PepsiCo has provided PFLAG with an enormous gift, and an unparalleled opportunity, to demonstrate the power we have to create change, no matter where we are, or who we are," said PFLAG executive director Jody M. Huckaby. "Because of the Foundation's generosity and commitment, we now have the resources to produce materials for our chapters to use in their communities, and to create critically important conversations, in every corner of our country."

PFLAG launched Straight for Equality in October 2007 in an effort to invite and engage new allies for equality. The program, designed to reach the straight ally who doesn't necessarily have a family connection in the traditional PFLAG sense, has been hailed as an effective and unique model for reaching new potential allies who share PFLAG's commitment to equality for all.
"The challenge wasn't just figuring out how to talk to these potential supporters," said PFLAG national president John Cepek. "It was about finding the place where, on a national level, we could get the conversation started, and keep up the momentum moving forward."

The PepsiCo Foundation gift, the company said, is intended to continue building and implementing the unique Straight for Equality approach to relationship building.

"We are delighted to continue our partnership with PFLAG," stated Jacqueline Millan, Director of PepsiCo Corporate Contributions. "The Straight for Equality in the Workplace training program is unique in that it is promoting the necessary message of inclusion to untapped groups within the local community, and that is a crucial step towards building a healthy working environment."

The PepsiCo and PFLAG partnership is the result of a strong commitment to Straight for Equality by Peggy Moore, PepsiCo's former Senior Vice President of Human Resources, who now serves as a PFLAG National board member. Moore began the relationship in 2005 as PepsiCo conducted a strategic assessment about targeted investments for increasing LGBT diversity and inclusion within the company. Moore, in partnership with PepsiCo's EQUAL LGBT employee gropu, has been a champion of PFLAG and Straight for Equality, and an integral contributor to the program's philosophy.

PepsiCo Foundation's funding will provide important resources, and create additional Straight for Equality programs for use by PFLAG chapters.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Sneak Peek at "Were the World Mine"

Were the World Mine is a new feature film from director Tom Gustafson.

The film, which began as Fairies, an award-winning 2003 short, uses Shakespeare’s whimsical comedy to portray a gay teen’s struggle for acceptance. This feature presentation further fleshes out Gustafson’s exploration of teenage turmoil, lust and theatricality and retains one of Fairies’ finest actors: Wendy Robie (Twin Peaks). Robie plays Ms. Tebbit, an unconventional teacher at a posh, all-male academy, who sets out to produce a stage version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and recruits her star student, Timothy (Tanner Cohen), to take part.

Here is a sneak peek at Were the World Mine . . .

Isis: America's Next Top Model?

Last month we introduced you to Isis King, a transgender woman who was selected to be a contestant on the hit CW show "America's Next Top Model," hosted by Tyra Banks. Originally from Prince George's County, Maryland, Isis is now in New York City, where she competed with others for the title of America's next top model. And today in The New York Times, Isis opens up about her journey; her life in New York, her mother coming to accept her gender identity and new name, and transforming before America.

Isis began transitioning at 21, and later moved to New York. It was there that she was discovered. Isis says of being on the show, ''For the world to see my issues and my struggles as a person, with my whole transition -- I think that was probably the toughest thing I had to endure." These days, Isis feels she has a future in the fashion industry, and her family has come to accept her for who she truly is. Read more about Isis' story.

And curious if Isis won? The show has finished taping, but you'll have to tune in to find out who the winner is.

A Victory for Two Florida Dads

"Two months after the foster child came to live in Wayne LaRue Smith's two-story Key West home, the brown-eyed 5-year-old boy looked up from the kitchen table and, in a plaintive voice, asked what seemed a simple question. 'Will you be my daddy?'''

Florida - along with Mississippi - remains one of the two states remaining in the U.S. that ban gay people from adopting. But there is a glimmer if legal hope for LGBT prospective parents in the Sunshine State. Earlier this month, a circuit judge in Monroe County ruled the 31-year-old ban unconstitutional, thus allowing a gay foster parent, Wayne LaRue, to adopt a teenage boy he has raised since 2001.

Today The Miami Herald takes a look at Wayne's family that now includes his partner Daniel and their successfully adopted son. In a time when there are so many children in the foster care system in need of loving and supportive homes it seems especially hateful and discriminatory to deny children in need of stable care and parenting.

''We were a family going into this,'' Wayne's partner Daniel says. ``We're just more of a solidified family now.'' Be sure to read more...

Listen Live: Senate Hearings on Domestic Partner Benefits

This morning at 10am, the Senate's Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act, which would grant federal employees' domestic partners the benefits that married spouses of federal employees now enjoy . . . including health care, family and medical leave, insurance and retirement benefits.

The bill, sponsored by Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), is currently supported by 22 co-sponsors in the Senate; 91 members of the House support companion legislation introduced there by Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).

Today's hearing will be streamed live on the committee's website, here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Most Visible Face of Fairness

I am so proud of Sam & Julia Thoron, and I couldn’t wait to share the news that these phenomenal PFLAG parents are helping make history in California.

Yesterday, Sam, a past PFLAG National President who still serves on our board of directors, and his wife, Julia, became the most visible face of fairness in a battle to protect our families’ rights.

Sam and Julia are hitting the airwaves in California to urge their neighbors to vote no on Proposition 8, a November ballot initiative that seeks to roll back full marriage equality for our LGBT loved ones in the Golden State. Anti-family forces are waging an aggressive campaign to strip California families of the rights and protections they deserve and already enjoy. PFLAG is proud to stand with the Thorons, and all of our allies in California, and to be on the ground working to defeat this discriminatory initiative. Today, PFLAG is also announcing that we will be supporting our allies, like Sam and Julia, with a contribution to the campaign in California, too.

Please take a moment to watch Sam & Julia’s television ad – the first to hit the airwaves in California – here at the PFLAG blog. Then, leave a message of support for them in the comments section of our site. And if you are a California voter, visit http://www.noonprop8.com/ to pledge to vote no on November 4, and to get more information on how you can be part of the effort to end this unconscionable attack on our families.

In America, we don’t strip away rights and tell some families they are “less than” others.

Countless families, like the Thorons, are taking courageous stands and fighting for full equality. PFLAG is proud to fight alongside them, and proud to have such passionate people as part of our movement and our organization. We salute Sam and Julia, and the thousands of people working to ensure that every family is part of the American family.

Together, we can convince Californians to do the right thing and vote NO on Proposition 8.

Gay marriage hurts families? There's no evidence.

Donald Yost, a member of PFLAG's Shasta County (California) chapter, penned an op-ed for Sunday's Redding Record Searchlight disputing an earlier column written in opposition to full marriage equality for California couples and making a concrete case that full rights for committed couples is anything but bad for families.

"What about conditions in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage has been legal since May 17, 2004?," Yost asks. "The commonwealth has had the lowest divorce rate of any state in the union: Compare 2.2 for every 1,000 residents each year in Massachusetts, 3.8 for the national average. The divorce rate in Massachusetts declined in the first two years of legalized same-sex marriage."

Proposition 8, a November ballot initiative to roll-back rights for couples in the state, "is a vindictive effort to take rights away from a minority group," he concludes. "A no vote on proposition 8 will ensure that that minority will be able to retain those rights."

To read Donald's full response, click here.

Congress to HHS: End the HIV Ban, Once and For All

Earlier this year, Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Gordon Smith (R-OR), along with Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California, led a successful and historic effort in Congress to finally do away with the antiquated and unnecessary HIV-travel ban. The ban, which prevents HIV+ travelers and immigrants from entering the United States, is a discriminatory throwback to a time when we were largely ignorant about the disease and lived in fear of those who were infected and living with HIV. It is, at its core, a prejudicial policy that has prevented our country from hosting international HIV/AIDS conferences . . . and it has put us far behind other civilized nations, who long ago took their own bans off the books.

However, despite this summer's Congressional vote to repeal the ban, it still remains in effect, and will continue to be the law of the land until the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) modifies its regulations and implements Congress' will. Now, those who ushered through repeal on Capitol Hill are reiterating their intent, and urging HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt to follow their lead and get rid of the ban once and for all. Fifty-eight Members of Congress have sent a letter to the Administration, urging them to take action now.

"It's time for Secretary Leavitt and the Administration to finally eliminate this misguided policy," Senator Kerry (pictured) said in a statement released by Immigration Equality, which helped lead the effort to end the ban. "This is not something that can wait for the next Administration to come into office. We need to expedite this process and finally lift the HIV travel and immigration ban so that no one will be subjected to this discriminatory practice. There was no reason for the policy to still be on the books, and I will continue to fight to eliminate this draconian ban."

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Thorons: "Don't Eliminate Marriage for Anyone"

Be sure to catch former PFLAG National President Sam Thoron and his wife, Julia, speak up for marriage equality, courtesy of www.NoOnProp8.com. Many thanks to the Thoron family - and remember California residents: vote no on Proposition 8.

Florida is "No Place for Bigotry"

...and neither is it's Constitution, according to the editors of The Orlando Sentinel.

While much of the national spotlight has been on the very critical outcome of California's Proposition 8 this November, there are other states facing bans on marriage equality that could be written into their state constitutions. Florida is one such state, and Arizona is another. While neither of these states recognize same-sex marriage, it is crucial for residents to always vote against enshrining anti-gay descrimination in state law.

Of the ballot measure in Florida, the editors remarked, "This measure seems more like a cynical attempt to bring out the conservative base in a presidential election year. Our recommendation: Vote No." The anti-equality ammendment needs approval from 60 percent of Florida voters to pass.

PFLAGers in Florida have not been idle in raising community awareness: just this weekend in Collier County, local PFLAG chapter members were out to let their community know just how they felt. "It's a family issue, it's a fairness issue, and it's an equal civil rights issue," said Ruth Dorfman of PFLAG.

Read more about the PFLAG pro-equality rally over the weekend here in The Naples Daily News.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Diane Schroer Wins Landmark Trans Discrimination Suit

Diane Schroer (pictured), a highly decorated military veteran who was hired by the Library of Congress, and then had her job offer rescinded after informing them of her plan to transition before beginning work, has won a landmark victory in United States District Court.

In a ruling issued today, Judge James Robertson found that Schroer had been unfairly discriminated against because of her gender . . . and, more precisely, on the basis that her offer of employment was withdrawn after she revealed that she was going to transition genders.

"In refusing to hire Diane Schroer because her appearance and background did not comport with the decisionmaker's sex stereotypes about how men and women should act and appear, and in response to Schroer's decision to transition, legally, culturally, and physically, from male to female, the Library of Congress violated Title VII's prohibition on sex discrimination," Judge Robertson wrote in his opinion.

Judge Robertson's ruling is especially significant because it finds that Title VII, which protects against gender discrimination, also provides protection for transgender individuals like Diane as well.

You can see Schroer's 20/20 interview online here, and join the discussion about today's ruling at Pam's House Blend.

PFLAG congratulates Diane, and salutes our friends & allies at the ACLU, who fought alongside her in court, and made today's well-deserved victory possible.

"Invisible and Overlooked"

Here's a fact that the LGBT and ally community often overlooks: Over the next 25 years, persons in America who are 65 and older are expected to grow from about 12 to 20 percent of the total population, and various estimates indicate that LGBT individuals will comprise 7 to 10 percent of that senior population.
(Photo courtesy Elder Advocacy Blog)

As we know, LGBT people have special legal needs and social needs, that are often only complicated by the situations senior citizens face. For example, unlike a straight spouse whose legally married partner automatically inherits property, wills and other legal forms are required for LGBT partners. Add to this the statistic that they are "twice as likely as straights to live alone, and 10 times less likely to have a caretaker should they fall ill."

Newsweek sheds light
on this oft-overlooked part of our community, and their unique needs and challenges. If you'd like to find more information about resources for the senior citizen LGBT community, be sure to also check out Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, & Transgender Elders (SAGE).

Opening the Doors

A federal appeals court ruled recently that a gay Jamaican man has the right to argue for asylum based on the discrimination and violence he would face in his home country. Damion Bromfield's case sets a precedent, argue the editors of The Seattle Times, that those fleeing anti-gay persecution at home can find freedoms and safety in the U.S.

The plight of LGBT immigrants fleeing homophobic persecution is one of many immigration-related issues that groups such as Immigration Equality are addressing and offering support for. For more information, visit Immigration Equality. PFLAG also has positions on helping LGBT immigrants, for example read about PFLAG's support for the Uniting American Families Act that would allow partners and spouses of LGBT Americans the same rights and privileges as straight couples.

What the Media Missed in a Plan for Repeal

Anyone who read the headlines this week about Senator Barack Obama's support for ending the federal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual troops may have come away with an (inaccurate) impression that the Democratic presidential candidate has punted the ball back to the armed forces when it comes to deciding the fate of the law. Obama Won't Repeal 'Don't Ask' on His Own, the Associated Press said, followed by a Philadelphia Inquirer headline declaring that Obama had said Go Slower on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'

In truth, the headlines are a reflection of just how widely misunderstood the law is, and how bewildered much of the public has become about what steps must be taken to end the ban, and what steps should be included in a plan to welcome to lesbian and gay troops. Poll after poll shows that the public overwhelmingly supports ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," but press reports, and public statements, have left many to believe that there is an easy fix to the problem. Yet ending the ban, and ending it in the right way, requires more than one stroke of a pen, one wish of a president or one order to commanders in the field.

In contrast to what many people continue to believe, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" cannot be brought to an end by executive order. Congress codified the ban into law in 1993, and with that move, took away any ability for the commander-in-chief to single-handedly take it off the books. It was a shrewd, and sinister, action by lawmakers: In a virtually unprecedented move, Capitol Hill seized power to control military personnel policy and undermine the authority and discretion of the president, and military leaders, to make those decisions as they saw fit. In the process of doing so, they also ensured a long shelf life for a homophobic federal policy that has set the standard for how the government treats LGBT Americans.

Undoing all the damage that has been done will take much more than an easy fix.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

President of Brazil Steps Up for LGBT Rights

Of the Latin American nations, Brazil and Uruguay stand out as shining examples of progress. While there is much work to be done, it bears mentioning Uruguay enacted civil unions and that the Brazilian city of São Paulo annually holds the record-breaking world's largest gay pride festival - with attendees approaching three million!

And now the President of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva [pictured, right], has gone on national television in his country to speak up for LGBT rights. Da Silva is quoted as telling his fellow Brazilians on TV Brasil:

"There are men living with men, women living with women, and many times they live a balanced and even extraordinary life... The one thing that really bothers me is the fact the the politicians who are against civil unions never refuse a gay vote, and the state (which denies gays of civil unions) does not refuse taxes paid by homosexuals. Why is that? The only thing that matters is that these individuals are Brazilian citizens, and respect the Constitution. The rest is up to them, and I am in favor of civil unions."

Click here
to read a roundup of the story in English, and here for readers in Portuguese. It's wonderful to see progress on all fronts, and in other nations. Imagine if we here in the States had a president who was willing to proclaim their support for LGBT equality. Perhaps one day it will happen.

Freedom For Her Daughter

It's been reported that Lynne Cheney, wife of vice-president Dick Cheney, and mother of lesbian daughter Mary Cheney, hints that she would like for her daughter to be free to marry her partner.

Mary Cheney and her partner, Heather Poe, recently had a new addition to their family - a son that Mary gave birth to last May. Lynne and Dick [pictured with the child, right] welcomed the new addition to their family, taking a decidedly PFLAG-esque stance, saying their new grandson was "a blessing from God."

Recently, a reporter asked Lynne about marriage equality in California (in light of the recent marriage of George Takei and his husband, Brad Altman), and her thoughts on her daughter's relationship. She said during the interview on CBS, "I would wish my daughter to have happiness and freedom to make her own choices."

PFLAG on Michelangelo Signorile - Today at 4:30

This afternoon, Jonathan Alterman, from PFLAG's Juneau, Alaska chapter, will be joining Michelangelo Signorile on Sirius Out Q radio to talk about the recent Love Won Out conference in Anchorage, and the local PFLAG chapter's response.

You can tune in and hear Jonathan, beginning at 4:30pm EST, by visiting Sirius Out Q online. If you're not a subscriber, click here for a free trial to listen in.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Laramie Project, Ten Years Later

Ten years ago, Matthew Shepard was murdered in Wyoming, and the hate crime opened the eyes of millions around the world to the need for vigorous hate-crimes legislation and cultural changes towards tolerance and acceptance.

An award-winning play, The Laramie Project, was produced shortly thereafter highlighting how a small Wyoming town came to terms with an anti-gay hate crime. And now, a decade later, Moisés Kaufman, the artistic director of the Tectonic Theater Project returns to Laramie to see how things have changed, or stayed the same.

Credit: Ed Andrieski/Associated Press

In the New York Times article, Kaufman discusses how, despite some resistance to change, there are signs of hope:

"Laramie has changed in some ways. The city council passed a bias crimes ordinance that tracks such crimes, though it does not include penalties for them. There is an AIDS Walk now. Several residents say they came out publicly as gay, in their churches or on campus, in part to honor Mr. Shepard’s memory. The university hosts a four-day Shepard Symposium for Social Justice each spring, and there is talk of creating a degree minor in gay and lesbian studies."

And yet there are still some in the community who refuse to see Shepard's death as a hate crime. And there are some LGBT residents who are still afraid of being open in Wyoming society. Be sure to read the Times article, and reflect back on how things have changed in our own communities in the wake of awareness of hate crimes.

Archive of LGBT Rights Pioneer Opens

Ever wanted to learn more about the history of the LGBT movement in America? Now you can at the Library of Congress, according to The New York Blade.

Frank Kameny [pictured, right] is considered one of the key activists who launched the gay civil rights movement in the U.S., back in the early 1960's. Kameny was fired from his government job after it was discovered he was gay - and thus a lifetime of activism was born. Kameny is credited with the slogan "Gay is Good!"

Back in 2006, some of his materials were made part of the permanent collection at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, and were even on public display.

Kameny's archives of the birth and advancement of the struggle for equality was donated to the Library of Congress - and now those papers are available to researchers and historians. It's a wonderful thing to have the history of our movement preserved for future generations of LGBT people and our allies to understand where we've come from and where we are going.

Not able to get to the Library of Congress? No worries - you can check out much archival materials at TheKamenyPapers.org

Gold, Light, 'Crisis' and Compassion

Openly gay furniture designer Mitchell Gold is most well-known for lush and plush home decor, but what some in the LGBT community may not be as aware of is his longtime advocacy on important issues- his generous philanthropy to the community and his work as founder of Faith in America, a non-profit organization dedicated to countering religious-based intolerance and clearing up the record about what it really means to be a person of faith and compassion.

Mitchell has given enormous amounts of time and money to battle the anti-LGBT forces, but his latest project, a book compilation entitled Crisis, is also a gift to the broader community... a soaring and moving testament to the struggles of LGBT people- and an often wrenching account of the obstacles and hate that so many people overcome to live authentically. And on Monday night in New York, some of the community's brightest stars and brightest minds, came out to toast Mitchell, his book and his advocacy on behalf of equality and civil rights.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Many Congratulations to George and Brad!

On the heels of the granting of full marriage equality in California, former Star Trek star, George Takei married his partner of over 21 years, Brad Altman, over the weekend.

Here is a video clip of the newly-married couple talking about their wedding on CBS:

True Family Values

Earlier this year, in May, New York State Governor David Paterson [pictured, left] directed all state agencies to recognize same-sex marriage. While the state's Senate (unlike the state's Assembly) has not yet passed legislation allowing full marriage equality, the state does recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages after Paterson's directive.

Opponents of equality took the matter to court, but were turned down: their case was dismissed by the State Supreme Court in the Bronx earlier this month. Marriage is “one of life’s most significant events,” Justice Lucy Billings wrote in her ruling, explaining the deeper reason for the state’s recognition rule. And she said that “nothing is more antithetical to family stability” than failing to respect “that solemnized commitment.”

While opponents claim they plan on appealing the decision, for now it seems New York will continue to recognize same-sex couples who have married elsewhere. Today, in The New York Times, the editors laud Gov. Paterson's actions as "right, fair and legally sound." They also urge the state's Senate to pass a bill allowing full marriage equality, as did the State Assembly, saying they "must also do the right thing."

Indeed, allowing full marriage equality is what real family values are all about.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Thousands March to Bridge Equality Gap

It was probably a very surprising sight yesterday for people in San Francisco and New York City. Simultaneously, thousands of people marched across the bridges on opposite sides of the nation in demonstration for marriage equality.

California is the second state in the union, after Massachusetts, to have full marriage equality for all citizens. New York state now recognizes out-of-state same-sex marriages, but does not currently offer them. The twin events were sponsored by Marriage Equality USA and Marriage Equality New York.

This marks the fifth year that gay and lesbian couples, and their allies, have marched across the Brooklyn Bridge. In San Francisco, pro-equality supporters marched across the equally-iconic Golden Gate Bridge. According to Marriage Equality New York, chapter members upstate in Albany also marched across bridges in their local community to raise awareness for marriage equality.

Alaskan Families and Allies: "Our Kids Don't Need Changing"

In other news related to the community response to the Anchorage, Alaska so-called "Love Won Out Conference," be sure to check out a wealth of coverage offered over at the blog Bent Alaska.

In the most recent post, there are plenty of pictures and on-the-scene coverage of the event that PFLAG Anchorage participated in. Says chair of PFLAG Anchorage, Jane Schlittler, "Our gay kids are not sick, they're not evil, and they don't need changing... We're here so that truth wins out."

For additional perspective, be sure to read Bent Alaska's posting by Jason, an Alaskan survivor of the so-called "Ex-Gay" movement. It's a very eye-opening story and one that I think illustrates the ordeal that many of the people going through pseudo-therapeutic programs like "Love Won Out" endure.

Marsha's Turn: Opposing "Conversion Therapy"

Last week we covered PFLAGers in Alaska, coming together to offer support and a pro-family and pro-equality voice to those attending the so-called "Love Won Out" conference in Anchorage.

The wonderful Marsha Buck, treasurer of the Juneau, Alaska PFLAG chapter, has an op-ed that appeared over the weekend in The Juneau Empire. Be sure to read My Turn: PFLAG Opposes "Conversion Therapy."

Marsha says it best:

"Programs like Love Won Out are dangerous for kids and divisive for families. Every bit of evidence available suggests that children who grow up in homes that accept them - and not try to change them - are far happier and healthier than those subjected to these anti-family tactics. It is nothing short of extremist to imply that families should do anything other than love their children as they are, and nothing short of outrageous to infer that LGBT kids aren't fine just the way they are."

Friday, September 12, 2008

NCTE & The Task Force Launch Transgender Discrimination Survey

In the wake of one of the most violent years on record of assaults on transgender people, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (The Task Force) have teamed up on a comprehensive national survey to collect data on discrimination against transgender people in housing, employment, public accommodation, health care, education, family life and criminal justice.

To date, in 2008, several young gender non-conforming people of color have been murdered, including California junior high school student Lawrence King, who was shot in public during the school day. King’s murder, and the murders of Simmie Williams in South Carolina and Angie Zappata in Greeley, Colorado come in a year in which we are still working to include transgender provisions in a federal bill to protect lesbian, gay and bisexual workers from discrimination in employment.

Hate crimes against transgender people suggest multiple points of vulnerability, which can compound each other: discrimination in employment may lead to unstable housing situations which in turn can leave transgender people at the mercy of public programs and public officials who may not respond respectfully or appropriately to them. These stressors add burdens in a health care system that is often unprepared for transgender people’s needs. The list goes on. “We know that transgender people face discrimination on multiple fronts,” said Mara Keisling (pictured), executive director of NCTE. “This data will help us sort out the combination of forces that leave transgender people vulnerable to unemployment, homelessness, and violence.”

Jaime Grant, director of the Task Force Policy Institute noted, “There is so little concrete data on the needs and risks associated with the widespread discrimination we see in the lives of the transgender people we know. This data will help point the way to an appropriate policy agenda to ensure that transgender people have a fair chance to contribute their talents in the workplace, in our educational systems and in our communities.”

NCTE and the Task Force have partnered with Pennsylvania State University’s Center for the Study of Higher Education to collect and analyze the data. Applying rigorous academic standards to the investigation will strengthen any case made to legislators, policy makers, health care providers, and others whose decisions impact the lives of transgender people. A national team of experts in survey research and transgender issues developed the questionnaire, which can be completed on-line here. Paper surveys can also be downloaded by going to the NCTE or Task Force websites.

Keisling notes: “This is an absolutely critical national effort. We urge all transgender and gender non-conforming people to take the survey to help guide us in making better laws and policies that will improve the quality of life for all transgender people. We need everyone’s voice in this, everyone’s participation.”

To participate in the survey, click here.

An Unacceptable Choice Between Family & Country

More than 36,000 bi-national, same-sex couples are impacted, every day, by the discriminatory immigration laws of the United States. These loving, committed couples are bound by love, but separated by official federal policy, which renders them unequal in the eyes of the law.

"American immigration law is based on the principle of 'family unification,'" Rachel Tiven, the executive director of Immigration Equality (pictured), writes in a recent Wisconsin State Journal op-ed. "Accordingly, it allows U.S. citizens to reunite with their parents, children, siblings and spouses by sponsoring these family members for immigration."

"Gay and lesbian families are not afforded this basic dignity," she notes, "because an American cannot sponsor their foreign-born same-sex partner for immigration, no matter how long they have been together or how committed their relationship is, even if they are married in Massachusetts or California."

This is one American law that tears families apart, rather than bringing them together.

Consider, for example, the story of Pamela Hathaway and Lucie Ferrari , a couple recently profiled by the Journal.

"Hathaway, 32, is a U.S. citizen," reporter Melaine Conklin notes. "Ferrari, 40, is a French citizen whose work visa ran out a year ago, forcing her to quit her job as a teacher in Sun Prairie and leave the country. The couple married in Canada in January, but U.S. immigration policy doesn't recognize same-sex couples, even ones that have been legally married, so Hathaway cannot sponsor Ferrari for U.S. immigration."

And because of that, "they have to do so using videoconferencing, Skype calls over the Web or a telephone because they cannot legally be together."

Fortunately, Congress is considering the Uniting American Families Act, which would level the playing field for same-sex couples and remove anti-gay discrimination from our country's immigration policy. The bill, which is being championed by Immigration Equality, recently obtained its 100th co-sponsor in the House, and its 15th in the United States Senate.

For families like Pamela and Lucie's, its passage cannot come soon enough.

The current law, as Tiven writes at the Journal, "runs contrary to some of our dearest values as Americans - including promoting strong families and communities and the pursuit of individual happiness."

"Americans should not have to choose between family and country," she (rightly) points out.

For more information on the Uniting American Families Act, click here.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Returning to Austria, In Search of Her Son

Kathy Gilleran doesn't give up easily.

The Cortland, NY mother (pictured), who we originally reported on in August, still hasn't learned many details about her son Aeryn's disappearance in Austria . . . . still hasn't received much help from officials in Vienna . . . and is still being told by U.S. and U.N. officials that their hands are tied when it comes to pressuring the Austrian government to take any action. But she is still searching for answers, and is about to return to the last place her son was seen, to make an anniversary that is still fresh in her heart.

Kathy is planning a trip back to Vienna, to mark the 1-year anniversary of Aeryn's disappearance, and step up her efforts to find out the truth about what happened.

"I have to be there on the 29th of October," she recently told PFLAG. "My friends are afraid for me to go, but I know that I have to be there."

Following our original report about Aeryn's disappearance, and Kathy's quest to find out what happened that night in Vienna, the press has taken up the story and Kathy has spoken out, hoping to find someone who knows something. Last weekend, she spoke with PFLAG's Ithaca chapter, and just before that, her hometown paper, the Ithaca Journal, threw in its support for her efforts, writing in an editorial that, "Public pressure, especially when applied to politicians in cases like this, serves many a purpose, including keeping the spotlight on Aeryn Gilleran's disappearance when age will continue to make the case get colder and colder."

"I have one last shot," Kathy told the paper. "Unless I can get people interested in this, people seeing that this is wrong, people knowing that the U.S. government at least says it's helpless if you're an American citizen and you go missing overseas, at least in Austria.”

Now, she has started her plans to make the trek back to Vienna, and press again for answers.

"I am trying to make plans to go . . . for a week," she told PFLAG. "I am hoping that airfares go down by then."

Photo by Tim Ashmore for The Ithaca Journal.

PFLAGer's Book Targeted by Palin

According to press reports, Pastor, I Am Gay, by former PFLAG regional director Reverend Howard Bess, was among the books that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin may have tried to ban from public libraries. Both ABC News and Bent Alaska are reporting that the book, about religious communities struggling to welcome LGBT people, was one of the titles targeted in Alaska.

"In Dec. 1996, reporter Paul Stuart wrote an article about the censorship controversy in the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman," Bent Alaska reports.

"[Library director] Mary Ellen Emmons told me that Palin asked her directly to remove these books from the shelves," Stuart said. "She refused." Asked later if one of the books could have been Pastor, I am Gay, Stuart said that it was.

Brian Ross also filed this ABC News report about the book:

For more convereage, visit Bent Alaska online.

Update: Reporter Eric Resnick has more coverage of the book story in Friday's Gay People's Chronicle.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Debating 'Love' & Palin

PFLAG's calls for Alaska Governor (and GOP VP nominee) Sarah Palin to clarify her position on Love Won Out and the "ex-gay" movement, and our Anchorage chapter's preparations to respond to Love this weekend, have ignited debate and discussion on the web and in the blogosphere.

PFLAGers can join the conversation by visiting any of these sites, where visitors are debating Love and Palin, and previewing Saturday's PFLAG response to the "ex-gay" conference coming to Anchorage:

Queerty: PFLAG Calls on Palin to Denounce 'Ex-Gay' Conference

On Top Magazine: Outrage Over Ex-Gay Conference Supported by Palin's Church

The Advocate: PFLAG Condemns 'Ex-Gay' Conference Endorsed by Palin's Church

The Bilerico Project: What Governor Palin Needs to Know About 'Love'

Progressive Alaska: There Will Be Something for EVERYONE This Saturday in Anchorage!

Pam's House Blend also previews Saturday's PFLAG visit to Love Won Out, and for ongoing coverage of the Love controversy, PFLAG's reponse and photos & coverage of Saturday's events, be sure to check-in with Bent Alaska, which will have on-the-ground coverage as everything unfolds.

Log on, and join the conversation.

Being a Mother - Legally

I hope you will forgive me for posting something personal on the PFLAG blog. I usually like to share something about individual students that are making change in their community, or how a school system is confronting bullying head-on, or what you can do to help make schools safer. But today I want to talk about being a mother – legally.

About eight months ago the partner of one of my dearest friends gave birth to a baby girl. This little one, in the ways that babies are famous for, has stolen both of her mothers’ hearts’ and those of all the people around her. And in every way, big and small, both moms have been taking care of every need and decision with regard to this child. From before she was born when they decided how to have her, where to have her, and what her name would be. Since her birth they have shared the thousands of details sleepless parents confront in the first months of life. What foods should they introduce and how often? Is she ready for a nap? How much time do we have to baby proof this home? Both moms have been mom from the beginning. And yet only one had full legal rights and responsibilities for this child.

Today, that all changed. After petitioning the court, filing the paperwork, submitting the references, meeting with the social worker for home visits and spending time and money on a legal procedure, this little girl has not one but two legally recognized moms. Should they have had to go through this process? No. Have they both been her moms in every sense from the beginning? Yes. But watching them make their family a legal unit in accordance with the laws of the District of Columbia brought unexpected tears to my eyes. I sat behind them, in the family section with the three adoring grandparents. I listened to a smiling judge read aloud, in a voice pitched perfectly to the baby, that both of her moms are now her moms in the eyes of the court. I knew nothing had changed, but things were different. Their day to day lives will be filled with the same decisions, discussions, joys and frustrations. But their place in the community is acknowledged. And it will mean something when they enroll her in school for the first time or face their first soccer injury in the emergency room. If they had been able to get married to begin with, this would have been unnecessary. But until that day, watching this lucky little girl, in her adorable party dress, going home with two very happy and proud legal moms was a gratifying experience.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

PFLAG to Visit 'Love Won Out' in Alaska

On Saturday morning, PFLAG families, supporters and allies will come together in Anchorage, Alaska as Love Won Out brings its so-called "ex-gay" conference to our 49th state. PFLAGers will gather outside the conference to offer support for youth attending and information for parents and families.

“Families never win at Love Won Out,” said Jane Schlittler, president of PFLAG’s Anchorage, Alaska chapter. “The conference’s organizers maliciously target often well-meaning parents who are dealing with a difficult issue in their lives, and in the process put their kids’ well-being at risk. Make no mistake: There is far more ‘preying’ than ‘praying’ taking place at these meetings, and far more harming than healing in the doctrine of Love Won Out.”

Programs such as Love Won Out, which is a project of the far-right American Family Association, use out-moded medical theories and radical religious beliefs to justify trying to alter gay and lesbian people's natural sexual orientation.

“Programs like Love Won Out are dangerous for kids and divisive for families,” said PFLAG National executive director Jody M. Huckaby. “Every bit of evidence available suggests that children who grow up in homes that accept them – and not try to change them – are far happier and healthier than those subjected to these anti-family tactics. It is nothing short of extremist to imply that families should do anything other than love their children as they are, and nothing short of outrageous to infer that LGBT kids aren’t fine just the way they are.”

Saturday’s event in Anchorage has sparked widespread attention and protest following reports that Wasilla Bible Church, where Republican Vice Presidential nominee Governor Sarah Palin is a member, has endorsed the Love Won Out conference. In a statement, PFLAG noted that, “It is unfair, at this point, to assume that Governor Palin endorses so-called ‘ex-gay’ therapy like that espoused by Love Won Out,” but that “Saturday's event in Anchorage provides an important opportunity for the first GOP mom on the party's presidential ticket to make clear that she, as a mother and a public servant, will not condone, either explicitly or implicitly, such attempts at dividing our families and hurting our kids.”

“Palin, and lawmakers of both parties, should seize that opportunity,” PFLAG said, “and stand up as boldly and outspokenly for all of our kids as much as they do for their own.”

To be part of Saturday morning's gathering, email Jane Schlittler at schlittler@ak.net. And to join the debate about Governor Palin, Love Won Out and the "ex-gay" movement, visit Pam's House Blend and Queerty online.