Friday, October 31, 2008

Bill Clinton Asks CA Voters To Vote NO on Proposition 8

From the No on 8 campaign comes news of a high-profile backer for efforts to defeat Proposition 8 on election day.

In a telephone call to California voters, President Clinton delivers the following message regarding the unfairness of Proposition 8:

"This is Bill Clinton calling to ask you to vote NO on Proposition 8 on Tuesday, November 4th. Proposition 8 would use state law to single out one group of Californians to be treated differently -- discriminating against members of our family, our friends and our co-workers.

"If I know one thing about California, I know that is not what you're about. That is not what America is about. Please vote NO on 8. It's unfair and it's wrong. Thank you."

The calls from President Clinton went to millions of registered California voters overnight.

(For more information on how you can help defeat this divisive, anti-family initiative, click here.)

Debating Safe Schools in Chicago and Beyond

Recent plans to open an LGBT-specific school in Chicago - similar to one already in operation in New York - have ignited a debate among parents, students and policy makers about how, specifically, to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth have a safe, supportive and welcoming environment in which to learn.

In Chicago, Mayor Daley has expressed concern about segregating LGBT students from the larger public school population, while at the same time acknowledging that all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, must feel safe at school. And as recent statistics from the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) show, many LGBT students go to school in fear, and face a constant barrage of anti-gay harassment, threats and intimidation.

PFLAG's Safe Schools initiative (which will be re-launched with expanded materials and a new trainign seminar this fall) has focused on working with parents, at the local level, to facilitate a comprehensive program in the schools that addresses climate . . . empowers teachers . . . and creates an ongoing program to keep young people safe. And, as we told Edge Publications in an article out this morning, we can continue work to make schools safe and respect parents who, in the meantime, want alternative options for students who are being harassed right now.

"We hear from parents every day who contact us because their children are facing harassment," PFLAG told Edge. "They’re telling us that the environment in many schools is dangerous and their children cannot learn because they are being distracted by threats and intimidation," adding that "the ultimate answer isn’t to segregate students. It’s to protect students, and we need to do that in the public school system."

Schools across the country need to provide the tools for "administrators and parents to adopt policies and implement training to create a school culture and environment that respects and protects LGBT students."

"We also need to give parents options to consider," we noted, because "While we work in public schools that include gay and straight students, PFLAG isn’t going to fault a parent whose child is being subjected to constant harassment for wanting to get their child out of that environment."

To read the full coverage from Edge Publications, click here.

For All of Our Children

This comes to us from Annette Goss (pictured, second from left, in red) a chapter board member of PFLAG Indianapolis. She shared this in her chapter newsletter, and now we are sharing it with you...

I was asked to write a piece about Prop. 8 – the proposition being put forth in California which would rescind marriage rights for GLBT people. I wasn’t sure what I could say. Sure, we all want marriage rights for our children. As I pondered this issue, I realized that there is something wrong with having to vote for basic civil rights - rights which every (almost) American has.

By putting forth this proposition, the government is in effect saying that our children are in a separate group, a group that has to fight for what is inherently theirs. When my son was born, I took it for granted that he would be able to marry, keep a job without fear, and raise a family. It never occurred to me that these things could be denied to him because of who he is. It seems to me that our children are constantly being tested because of who they are.

Legislators don’t know my son – they don’t know how bright he is, how well he performs at his job, what his views are on issues of the day. They just see him as less-than because of his sexuality. As parents, we all know that our kid’s sexuality is just one aspect of who they are.

This week I made phone calls to California to ask voters to vote "No" on Prop. 8. As I listened to the folks who said they would vote yes, I felt sad that they couldn’t meet my son and all the other millions of GLBT people who just want to live their lives as ordinary people, go to their jobs every day, raise their families and have a loving, committed relationship.

I pray that the citizens of California don’t write discrimination into their Constitution. I hope that these citizens realize that GLBT people have faces, voices, and hearts – they are all of our children.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A PFLAG 'Dawson's Creek'

The Bay Area Reporter reviews the new film Tru Loved in today's paper, and pronounces the project "a PFLAG Dawson's Creek."

Here's an excerpt from David Lamble's review:

"Writer/director Stewart Wade gives us a PFLAG Dawson's Creek in a low-key satire on the pressures faced by popular kids to satisfy their fan clubs, while staying faithful to their inner selves. Tru is recovering from the disorientation of being exiled from San Francisco to a Southland burb to satisfy the career needs of one of her gay moms (Alexandra Paul and Cyndra Williams). Shunned by the popular clique at her new school (the ironically named Walt Whitman High), Tru is at first surprised and then a tad suspicious when she's asked out by Lodell, the school's sexy and hyper-popular black jock. Lodell, himself raised by two women, an irreverent grandma (Nichelle Nichols) and an emotionally wounded single mom (Jasmine Guy), is so much the perfect gentlemen that Tru starts to question his intentions and her own freaky school image."

"Borrowing liberally from West Side Story 's attraction of opposites (Lo and Walter wind up naked together in Lo's "down-low" treehouse), Tru Loved delivers an entertaining if not especially suspenseful sermon on the new tolerance. Sadly, the filmmakers never give us a scene as incendiary and moving as Pacey's spitting in the intolerant teacher's face to protect a queer boy, Jack, in the scene that bonded so many of us to Dawson's Creek. Vernon Wells' Neanderthal football coach is virtually the only dissenting voice once Lo wins over his teammate Manuel (Joseph Julian Soria), who's uptight, but open to persuasion."

"The talented core cast, Townsend, Thompson, Olson and Abel, convince us they could actually deliver a queer, star-crossed-lovers WSS or Romeo and Juliet. Supported by Hollywood and movement veterans including openly gay professional football player David Kopay, writer/director Wade allows us to understand just how complicated the new freedoms of association can prove to be on the eve of Obama-nation."

To read the full review, visit Bay Area Reporter online. And for cities and showtimes for Tru Loved, click on the film's official website.

"What do they know about this love, anyway?"

"I dont care what they think
I dont care what they say
What do they know about this
Love anyway"



During the summer of '93, while still in high school, I became obsessed with Melissa Etheridge's hit song, Come to My Window. There was just something about the lyrics, written by Melissa, that captured what it meant to be young, gay and pondering (as too many teenagers are wont to do) love, the future and a yearning to reach out and grab both.

Window was, of course, one of the first songs Etheridge (pictured) released after publicly announcing that she is gay.

Between then and now, the best-selling musician has gone on to a prolific music career . . . a battle with (and victory over) cancer . . . and a family that includes two children she is raising in California, where Proposition 8 is before voters on November 4th.

Writing yesterday at The Daily Beast, Melissa shared the story of talking with her son about Prop 8, which would roll-back marriage rights in California for same-sex couples.

"When my official sample ballot for the November 4th general election arrived I was in the kitchen, where my eldest son was practicing tricks on his yo-yo," she wrote. "As I thumbed through the pamphlet I turned to page 5, state measures. There it was, right between prop 7: The Renewable Energy Generation Initiative Statute, and prop 9:The Criminal Justice System Victims’ Rights Parole Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute: Proposition 8: Eliminates Right of Same-Sex couples To Marry."

"I called my son over," she recalls. "I said 'Read this, tell me what you think.' He, being 9 years old and very proud of his reading skills, read 'Changes California Constitution to eliminate right of same sex couples to marry.' He looked at me, very matter-of-factly and said, 'Wow, that’s lame.'"

The moment inspired Etheridge to take pen to paper and denounce Proposition 8, writing at The Daily Beast that, "Prop 8 is a blatantly hateful, and fearful proposition."

And, as Etheridge points out, the initiative has a very direct impact not just on LGBT Californians, but their families, too.

"I believe in our democracy," she says. "I believe in our constitution. I believe we live in the greatest country in the world. I believe that we are as strong as our weakest link and if we deny any of our citizens the right to 'life liberty and the pursuit of happiness' then we deny it to all of us."

"I will be waking up with my children on November 5th and I will be fixing them breakfast as I usually do," Etheridge writes. "I look forward to telling them that prop 8 was defeated. I am sure my son will say, 'Good, that was lame.'"

And it is because of those families - including the children whose parents would lose critical protections and be left vulnerable under the law - that it is so critical that we beat back the right-wing extremists' campaign.

What do they know about this love, anyway?

To read the full Daily Beast op-ed by Melissa Etheridge, click here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Trans-Activism Blossoms in Unlikely Environment

As community leaders continue to speculate when the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) will be introduced in the next Congress and whether the bill's language will include gender identity and gender expression, transgender and gender non-conforming people and their allies continue their grassroots efforts educating their communities and advocating for equal protections across the country...even in some unlikely places...thriving in parts of the country's most conservative regions.

According to a new article in The American Prospect, entitled Trans in the Red States, "when we think of states like Nebraska and Wyoming, we think of people like Brandon Teena and Matthew Shepard, both killed in vicious, nationally publicized hate crimes," and yet, despite the difficulties of living in small, conservative towns similar to Humboldt, Nebraska and Laramie, Wyoming, transgender and gender non-conforming people have chosen to take more visible roles in their communities - volunteering for political campaigns, participating in their local faith communities and even transitioning on the job without negative repercussions. Being visible in rural communities raises awareness and educates community members on issues impacting the trans community; a highly effective strategy that has secured rights for many rural trans communities.

The article states that people in very small, largely conservative communities like Loveland, Colorado - population 61,000, 92 percent white and heavily evangelical Christian - have surprisingly been receptive to anti-bullying trainings on how to honor and protect students on the basis of gender identity and expression, arming faculty and staff with fact sheets that help them answer any inappropriate questions from students and/or parents about students perceived to be transgender or gender non-conforming as well as students perceived as lesbian, gay or bisexual.

Continue reading this post at The Bilerico Project . . .

True to His Faith

Earlier this month we blogged about Father Geoffrey Farrow, a Catholic priest in Fresno, California. To the surprise of many, Farrow began his sermon by speaking out against Proposition 8, which would strip away marriage equality in his state. Then, he came out as a gay man himself.

So what became of Father Farrow?

He has not been fired or disciplined yet, but with his many speaking engagements recently urging people to vote no on Prop 8, he expects that day will come.

The Los Angeles Times asks the question
many of us have wondered: "So why not just quit his job rather than wait to get fired?"

Farrow said he still sees the church as home, and believes his new mission is to force this issue whether he's wearing a collar or not. "They said I've caused scandal to the church," he said. 'I think the real scandal is the thousands of gay and lesbian children who feel abandoned by the church of their baptism.'

Farrow... had his epiphany when he was asked by a Prop. 8 supporter in Fresno to speak up in favor of the measure. He knew he couldn't and that in fact he had to do just the opposite.
"I am morally compelled to vote no on Proposition 8," he told his congregation, saying he had to break "a numbing silence" about church prejudice against homosexuals.

Be sure to read more insights into this priest who took the daring step to not only speak out for fairness and equality, but to be true to himself and come out.

Help Arizona Win the Battle . . . Again

Yesterday, I received a call from a PFLAGer who is volunteering to help defeat Proposition 102 in Arizona. She reached out to us because the campaign to stop this unfair and discriminatory amendment needs our help.

For the second time, Arizona voters are being asked to consider modifying the state's constitution to ban recognition of same-sex couples. Arizona residents defeated a similar proposal in 2006, and refused to write discrimination into the constitution. Two years later, pro-equality allies in the state are asking voters to vote no again.

The PFLAGer who contacted us yesterday noted that, while our opponents in Arizona have raised millions of dollars for their campaign, our allies have yet to raise even 10% of that total.

While much of our movement's attention has been focused on efforts to defeat ballot initiatives in California and Florida, our friends in Arizona are waging an equally tough battle . . . and the consequences are very real, and very serious, for families there.

Please take a moment to visit the Vote No on Prop 102 website to learn how you can do more to assist efforts on the ground in Arizona, including by making a much-needed contribution to help defeat this anti-LGBT amendment.

If we stand up, and stand with our friends in Arizona, we can win this battle again.

(Remember: Early voting is now underway in Arizona. Please vote no on Proposition 102, and if you have friends or family in the state, please ask them to do the same.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Parents Fight Back: A Proposition 8 Update

All of us at PFLAG know the power of parents to change hearts and minds. We were enormously proud that PFLAG’s own Sam & Julia Thoron kicked off the No on 8 campaign in California with a powerful television ad urging voters to reject attempts at rolling back rights for same-sex couples. Now, however, right-wing activists are attempting to use our families in their divisive, mean-spirited campaign to pass Proposition 8. The parents, however, are fighting back. And I hope you will fight with them. This truly is a new low in the campaign to discriminate against our families.

Below is an update from No On 8’s Geoff Kors. Please join all of us at PFLAG in helping to defeat Proposition 8 on election day. If you live in California, please vote no on Proposition 8. If you have loved ones or friends who live in the state, ask them to do the same. Early voting has started in California. And whether you vote today or November 4, please remember to vote no and stop these attacks on our families and the people we love.

Jody

“Armageddon”

“More important than the presidential election”

That’s what evangelical leader Charles W. Colson and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said about Prop 8, calling it the “decisive last stand” in the New York Times:

“California, they say, sets cultural trends for the rest of the country and even the world. If same-sex marriage is allowed to become entrenched there, they warn, there will be no going back.”

So, they’ll stop at nothing to provoke a final tidal wave of attention and money before the election.

Last week, they tried it with an ad that reaches a new low.

Their new, horrible, abusive ad uses unauthorized images of children without their parents’ knowledge or consent. And they’re proud of it. From their website:

"Our new ad gives us great hope."

"As strong as this new ad is, however, it won't be able to reverse our downward trend in the polls if voters only see it once for every two times that they see ads from our opponents. The future of traditional marriage remains in grave, grave danger. If we aren't successful in raising a minimum of $2 million more to supplement our advertising buy for next week, we will lose. The more we can raise above $2 million, the better our chances of prevailing will be. It is as simple as that."

By contrast, we are staying true to our core values and message: Prop 8 is wrong and unfair.

We cannot be lulled into thinking that voters will see through their transparent, dirty tactics. To defeat Prop 8, we need to give more and do more.

Their goal is to raise $2 million dollars in the next few days.

They have a $1 million match on their site right now. We have every reason to believe they’ll raise $2 million today alone.

We need to match them dollar for dollar in this crucial final stretch. Donate today.

In Solidarity,

Geoff Kors
Executive Committee Member
No On Prop 8

Monday, October 27, 2008

Too Many More Reasons

One more reason - in fact, too many more reasons - we urgently need an inclusive, federal hate crimes law:

"The FBI reported more than 7,600 hate crime incidents in 2007, down about 1 percent from last year," the Associated Press reported this morning. "The decline was driven by decreases in the two largest categories of hate crimes — crimes against race and religion. . . . But prejudice against sexual orientation, the third-largest category, increased about 6 percent, the report found."

A decade after the brutal attack on Matthew Shepard . . . more than a year after the anti-gay attack on Sean Kennedy . . . and following a recent report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs showing that hate crimes against the LGBT community increased 24 percent nationwide . . . the evidence is overwhelming: The United States must pass, and the President must sign, comprehensive hate crimes legislation. Now.

PFLAG is proud to have partnered with Sean Kennedy's mother to launch a petition calling on Senators to pass The Matthew Shepard Act. To date, more than 9,000 Americans have signed our letter to Congress, demanding that they take action to protect our LGBT loved ones. (If you haven't already signed on, just click here.)

While today's AP story notes that the FBI did "not assign a cause for the slight overall . . . increase in anti-gay hate crimes," the first step towards decreasing those crimes is to take them seriously. And nothing shows how serious lawmakers are more than passing legislation to protect the community.

With each attack on our community, our families and our loved ones, we get too many more reasons to be outraged that the law we need has yet to be passed.

USA Today: Turn-Out Critical in Florida Amendment Fight

USA Today reporter Andrea Stone (who has previously reported on marriage equality in California and efforts to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell") traveled to Florida last week to look at efforts in that state to defeat Amendment 2, a divisive constitutional amendment to bar state recognition of all unmarried couples, both heterosexual and LGBT.

Her story, in this morning's paper, highlights efforts on the ground to build a diverse coalition of allies - including senior citizens, religious leaders and others - to win this critical fight.

"Helene Milman, 68, and Wayne Rauen, 59, of Sunrise are convinced that after 25 years together, nine of them as registered domestic partners, the measure will strip them of protections," Stone writes. "They are featured in a TV ad paid for by the group Say No to 2."

"Milman shudders at the idea that she might have spent five hours alone on a hospital gurney as she awaited breast cancer surgery in 2003. Without his domestic partner I.D. card, Rauen might not have been able to stay by her side. If forced to marry, the widow would lose $13,000 in annual Social Security benefits."

"Why can't they let people live their own lives?" Rauen asks.

In fact, same-sex couples are a minority of those who will have critical legal protections denied if Amendment 2 passes.

"The Census Bureau reports 435,492 unmarried-partner households in Florida," Stone writes. "Nearly nine of 10 are heterosexual, says demographer Gary Gates of the Williams Institute. Many are widowed seniors who would lose Social Security or pension benefits if they remarried."

60% of voters must approve a change the constitution, and USA Today notes that recent polls have found 55% support for the measure, making turn-out critically important on November 4.

"Interviews reveal support for defining marriage as a union of a man and a woman but concern that the measure may go too far," Stone says in her story.

"Haven Eaton, 61, a Tampa handyman, says he will vote no. 'While I may not favor same-sex marriage,' he says, 'I don't think they ought to be denied benefits available to traditional marriage.'"

To read the full USA Today story, visit the paper online. And for more information on Amendment 2 and the campaign to defeat it, click here and here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Make Your Voice Heard

On November 8, 2008, the Museum of Broadcast Communications plans to induct James Dobson’s anti-gay Focus on the Family radio program into its Radio Hall of Fame.

Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and Truth Wins Out are getting the word out about the Radio Halls of Fame's intent to honor and induct a man who has a long track record of defaming LGBT people on topics ranging from gay parenting, marriage equality and so-called "repairtive therapy."

Dobson runs Colorado Springs-based "Focus on the Family," and GLAADBlog reports that:

Dobson has said being gay “has to do with an identity crisis that occurs too early to remember it” and that gay people “have as many as 300 to 1,000 partners in a lifetime.” He has also falsely claimed that committed gay couples “cannot be a family” and that allowing them to get married would “destroy the family.”

Be sure to check out this video, and read more on the GLAADBlog about how to speak up for our LGBT loved ones. A first step you can take is to contact the Museum of Broadcast Communications and tell them that a man who has spent his career demonizing LGBT people does not deserve to be the the Radio Hall of Fame.

Call: (312) 822-0512
Email: Bruce Dumont (CEO) - brucedumont@museum.tv
Email: Gina Doyle - gdoyle@museum.tv

Opening Suitcases: Kathy Gilleran Leaves for Austria

On Sunday, Kathy Gilleran will fly from her home in New York to Vienna, Austria in search of her son. Last night, ahead of her European trip, she sat down with WTVH, her local CBS affiliate, to talk about her continued quest to learn the truth about what happened to her openly gay son, Aeryn, one year ago this month.

From the WTVH report:

This is Kathy Gilleran's second overseas mission to find clues about what happened to her son who vanished one year ago. She has begged and pleaded with Austrian authorities to help her find her son, Aeryn. The 34 year old Groton High School graduate worked for the United Nations in Vienna, and she's made it her vow to travel to the city every single October until she finds out what happened.

Next Wednesday is the one year anniversary of Aeryn's disappearance, and as Kathy packs her own suitcase, she feels nervous, scared, at times hopeful, but there's one suitcase that she just can't bear to open... Aeryn's. The State Department has arranged a meeting for Kathy with Austrian police. While Kathy has chosen to make this journey on her own, she'll be joined by Aeryn's closest friends from Vienna for a candlelight vigil across the street from the sauna where he was last seen. "I need to do this for Aeryn," said Gilleran. "I need to let him know that I will never ever give up on trying to find him and that my love will never ever ever go away."

She's stuck in limbo she says, terrified she might stay that way for the rest of her life. This trip could change that. "I'm really hopeful that after this trip to Vienna that I am able to do a little bit more, that I'm able to open suitcases that I haven't been able to," said Gilleran. At the vigil, Kathy will be holding a single candle, just like the candle she's had lit in her window since last October, a light that she hopes will lead her son home. If anyone wishes to contact Kathy with information or simply kind words of support you can e-mail her at FindAeryn@gmail.com.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Extra! Extra! Get Extra PFLAGpoles!

As you know we recently sent out the newest edition of the PFLAGpole newsletter. We have several newsletters left over and instead of recycling them we wanted to offer them to you! If your chapter has paid 2007-2008 dues and have either already paid 2008-2009 dues or you get them in by November 15, we would like to offer the extra copies to you in bundles of 100.

These would be great to hand out to newcomers at your meetings. You could also include them in part of any resource table that you offer, or keep a few copies in your chapter library. If you end up doing something else with them, let us know. We love to hear the creative ways that PFLAGers use the resources they’re given.

-Erin Williams

If you’re interested in the free (in bundles of 100) extra copies of the most recent PFLAGpole, please email Erin Cranford Williams at ewilliams@pflag.org.

"Marriage is a Civil Right"

PFLAGer Linda Mendoza wrote this wonderful letter that appears today in Chico, California's Enterprise-Record, reminding people of the importance of putting aside personal beliefs, and making sure that discrimination is not enshrined in California's constitution by Proposition 8...

Marriage is a Civil Right

America was founded by men and women escaping from religious persecution and domination in Europe. Our forefathers were wise enough to respect these ideals. Our federal Declaration of Independence and the California Constitution uphold these values, and the "self-evident truth ... that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

The blessings and responsibilities of the state of matrimony are included in these civil rights, and we all benefit from the full and equal rights and duties of families created by matrimony. Our California Supreme Court has responsibly interpreted this right to apply equally to all.

If your particular religious denomination restricts the confirmation of marriage to certain people, that is its right. But marriage is a civil right, not a religious one. People may legally marry and create a family without having it confirmed by your religion, or any religion.

Please do not restrict the right of marriage by limiting it to personal religious views. Californians are a free people, with the civil freedom to marry the person of their choice. Please vote no on Proposition 8 and keep California's freedoms alive and equal for all.

-Linda Mendoza, Chico

The Wedding Planners With the Most Control

Dr. Kathryn Hall, a member of PFLAG's Tulare-Kings County chapter, shared her thoughts on Proposition 8 - the ballot measure that would roll-back marriage equality in California - in yesterday's Visalia Times-Delta. Calling on voters to defeat the initiative, Dr. Hall recounts her own love story of 30 years ago, and that of her daughter, Corinne, today.

Here's an excerpt from Dr. Hall's op-ed:

Thirty years ago I fell in love deeply and devotedly. Corinne was my firstborn, and to me she was perfect in every way, even down to the adorable casts to correct her club feet. And I fell in love again and yet again when her brother and sister were born. My greatest ambition has always been to see my children grow into happy, healthy, responsible adults, and that hope was realized this summer at the joyous celebration of my son's wedding.

Now Corinne has fallen in love and will be married next summer during our family reunion. As her mother I have the great happiness of helping plan the wedding, assisted by the facility event planner, family members and millions of others.

California voters, you see, are actually the wedding planners with the most control. They will decide whether or not to deny my daughter, and so many other Californians, the right to marry whom they love. And as a parent, it seems strange that so many people who do not know my child can have such an effect on her life — after all, neither she nor her brother asked my permission before they became engaged. They are old enough and responsible enough to make these decisions on their own, without maternal or governmental interference. That's why Proposition 8 is so wrong, and why a no vote is so important. . . .

. . . Stand up for our children, and again this unwarranted intrusion into our personal lives, by voting no on Proposition 8. Give my daughter, Corinne, the best birthday present she could ever want. We will all be grateful.

To read the full op-ed, visit the Visalia Times-Delta online, where you can also comment on Dr. Hall's column.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"We Don't Need a Law That Makes it Harder"

Voters will decide this November 4th in Arkansas whether there will be more homes for foster children or less.

Arkansas Families First has produced a video of foster and former-foster children speaking out against anti-gay Act 1, which would prohibit non-married "cohabittating" people from fostering and adopting.

By definition, this excludes LGBT couples, who cannot marry in the state of Arkansas. This law, if passed by voters, would reduce the number of safe and nurting homes for the young people of the state who need them the most.

Say "Yes" to children; vote "No" on Act 1!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Such a Deal!

Early voting is now underway in one of the most crucial states (for 2 reasons) of 2008: Florida. As a key "battle ground" in the race for the White House, the Sunshine State plays a critical role in the political life of our country. And this year, Florida voters are also being asked to weigh in on Amendment 2, a divisive and discriminatory attempt to malign families and deny fundamental rights to our loved ones.

If you live in Florida, please vote NO on Amendment 2. And, please visit the Unity Coalition online for information on polling places where you can vote right now. A voters on guide on what to bring - and what to expect - when voting in Florida is available here.

Then, once you've cast your vote for equality (and against Amendment 2), log on and join PFLAG board member Nadine Smith in helping to convince other Floridians to do the same.

"It doesn’t matter where you live," Nadine writes over at The Advocate. "If you want to brag that you helped make history, go to votenoon2.com/countdown and join the phone bank from anywhere to help us turn out the vote. Of course, we need your money too, and we’ve made it really easy to give quickly. A few bucks now for a lifetime of bragging rights. Such a deal. "

Nadine goes on to note that Amendment 2 doesn't just impact LGBT people in the state, either.

"What the far right didn’t announce was how far-reaching the impact of the amendment would be," she writes. "Not satisfied with denying same-sex couples access to marriage, it now planned on stripping away any legal protection for unmarried Floridians, gay or straight."

In other words, extremist activists in Florida have decided it's OK to discriminate against every family if, in the process, they can discriminate against ours.

That's just wrong. And that's why it is so important that PFLAGers in Florida vote now, and vote to stop this unfair and unconscionable attack on our families . . . while weighing in, of course, on the Presidential and Congressional races, too.

So please, click here to learn about early voting . . . here to find out what to expect when you get there . . . and here to help make history in Florida as we stand up for our families and beat back those who believe that some Floridians are more deserving of dignity and respect than other.

Three simple steps that can make all the difference in the world . . . . such a deal!

A Mother Says, "Keep Talking!"

Sue Ellen Tuttle, a mother in Des Moines, Iowa, recalls her reading about the Matthew Shepard murder ten years ago this month:

"This October marks 10 years since two men tied Matthew Shepard to a fence in rural Wyoming because he was gay. The pair tortured Matthew for hours and left him to die... In the days that followed, as Shepard’s family struggled to cope with the incomprehensible act, a national conversation began to emerge about what it means to be gay in America. Across the country, people talked about the roots of hatred and what needed to happen to prevent a tragedy like this from happening to anyone again... When I read that the injuries Shepard sustained were too severe to allow the doctors to operate, I remember putting the paper down and going to find my son, Jerryn. I held him in my arms... Just a few months earlier, I had learned that Jerryn was gay."

Her own son's coming out in high school at the time took her on a journey of learning the prejudice that existed in her community at the time. But out of those experiences she has learned a valuable lesson. "Dialogue is a powerful tool."

As Sue Ellen tells us, "Let's keep talking." All of our advocacy and stories have the power to bring equality to LGBT people.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Why wait? Vote TODAY.

With 15 days (and counting) to go until Election Day 2008, many Americans are excitedly awaiting the opportunity to cast their votes in a truly historic election. In communities across the country, PFLAGers are volunteering to defeat anti-family ballot initiatives . . . educating their neighbors about why this election is so important . . . and making sure that their friends remember to vote for pro-equality candidates and against discriminatory campaigns and candidates that seek to roll back and deny fundamental rights to those we love.

And, in many states, you can already cast your vote, well ahead of election day!

Here are some facts about some of the states where early voting is now taking place, and how you can vote now (or vote by mail) and avoid the lines on election day:

Colorado: Early voting begins today and ends October 31. Vote-by-mail applications msut be received by October 28 (via mail) or October 31 (in-person).

Florida: Early voting begins today and ends November 2. Vote-by-mail applications are due October 29.

Georgia: Early voting begins October 27 and ends October 31. Vote-by-mail applications are due by October 31.

Indiana: Early voting is arleady underway and ends November 3. Vote-by-mail applications are due by October 27.

Iowa: Early voting is already underway and ends November 1.

Maine: Early voting is already underway and ends on November 4.

Montana: Early voting is already underway and ends November 4. Vote-by-mail applications are due November 3.

Nevada: Early voting is already underway and ends on October 31. Vote-by-mail applications are due by October 28.

New Mexico: Early voting is already underway and ends November 1. Vote-by-mail applications must be received by October 31.

North Dakota: Early voting is already underway and ends on November 3.

Ohio: Early voting is already underway and ends November 3. Vote-by-mail applications must be received by November 1.

Wisconsin: Early voting is already underway and ends on November 3.

Stay tuned here at the PFLAG blog for more information as other states begin early voting in the days ahead. And, whether you vote now or vote on November 4, just remember to vote . . . please.

Update: Several readers have pointed out that other states are now voting, too. In Tennessee, early voting has started, and lasts until October 30. In Arizona, which is facing a divisive anti-gay amendment, voting is also already taking place. And in The District of Columbia, early voting started on October 20.

Sign for Something

The Mormon church (LDS) has been very active in drumming up support for Proposition 8 in California, that would strip away marriage equality in the Golden State. But the hierarchy's position does not reflect that of all Mormons. In fact, this weekend a group delivered letters and a petition signed by more than 400 people asking the church to stop endorsing discrimination.

The group is called Signing for Something, and their delivery of their voices to church leadership is featured in an Associated Press story. As one can see, there are many non-LGBT people, such as parents and families, who are as effected by the church's stance as LGBT people.

Andrew Callahan, of Hastings, Neb., helped lead Friday’s delivery. He said many Mormons with gay and lesbian loved ones are torn over the gay marriage issue and want very much to be heard by leadership.

“They feel like (the loved ones) should be treated fairly and evenly and equally, just like you and me, but their church tells them ‘no, they can’t be,’” he said before handing over the letters.

Steve and Linda Stay drove more than 300 miles from southern Utah to be among the protesters. Two of the nine children in the Stays’ blended family are gay. Their son, Tyler Barrick, married his partner, Spencer Jones, in San Francisco, Linda Stay said.

“This is a huge issue for us. For us, it’s a civil rights issue, not just a religious issue,” said Linda Stay. “It’s taking away their right to have the same benefits that I do.”

Be sure to read more about the good work that Signing for Something is doing in helping fight Proposition 8, and opening minds and hearts within the LDS community.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

What Will Powell's Endorsement Mean for "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and Military Families?

General Colin Powell, once considered a prime GOP candidate for the presidency, has endorsed Democratic Senator Barack Obama in the 2008 race for the White House. Saying that he felt his party had moved too far to the right, and citing the appointment of far right Supreme Court justices as a concern, Powell took what can only be described as a bold step in saying he will vote for the other side of the ballot on November 4.

In his interview with NBC's Tom Brokaw, however, Powell did not broach one subject where he could have a very significant impact: The repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual service members.

One year ago this month, Powell told a reporter that, "'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is still a discriminatory policy; it is prejudicial." And went on to say that, "It's now fourteen years later, the country has changed, and the day may well come when it will not be a problem any longer."

And when asked by reporter Walter Isaacson "do you think that day will come?," Powell responded that "I think sooner or later it will come," saying that military leaders are "not just a bunch of old generals who cannot see the future."

Now, General Powell has endorsed a candidate that has consistently said he favors repealing the law. And that begs the question: Is he now ready to say the day has arrived when lifting the ban makes good sense?

His answer to that question could have a far-reaching impact for military families, and for the Republican party, as well as the Democratic ticket.

Continue reading this post at HuffingtonPost.com . . .

Friday, October 17, 2008

An Urgent Message About Marriage in California

I am including below an important message from Geoff Kors of Equality California. I just met with Geoff earlier this week to discuss the challenges California is facing as marriage equality opponents continue to raise more money to increase their television advertisements around Proposition 8. Those ads, paid for in part by the American Family Association, are spreading lies and scaring people to consider supporting this anti-family initiative, which seeks to eliminate marriage equality for same-sex couples in the state. I ’ve been in Los Angeles for the last few days and can tell you that our opponents’ television ads are running much more frequently than our own . . . one of which features PFLAGers Sam and Julia Thoron of San Francisco.

Please read Geoff Kors’ urgent appeal below and
make a contribution to support the campaign today. Every dollar will make a difference in helping us get the truth out about Proposition 8. We must defeat Proposition 8 so that marriage in California remains a freedom for all of our LGBT loved ones and their families. Don’t delay— please make your contribution today.Jody

Dear PFLAGers,

Our new television ad—it’s tough, it's strong, it resonates. More importantly, it works.

But only if we can saturate media markets across the state.

And now we have a way to make that happen. Thanks to philanthropist Steve Bing and Equality California, we can flood the airwaves with our message.

They are so convinced of the power of our hard-hitting, new message that they are offering a ONE MILLION DOLLAR CHALLENGE GRANT to reach California’s undecided voters.

For every dollar donated between now and Sunday at midnight your gift will be matched dollar for dollar.

So, double the impact of your donation and give now.

It’s going to take everyone we know to meet this challenge! Ask your friends and family to please make a donation now so we can meet our goal of $1 million by the deadline on Sunday.

Our ad gives voice to the broad coalition of organizations and newspapers that oppose Prop. 8—from the Los Angeles Times and La Opinión to the League of Women Voters, the California Nurses Association and the California Teachers Association.

Voters need to know that these organizations – and many more -- stand with them in support of equality!

But they need to see and hear it.

This is a big, bold and generous challenge. It’s up to us to meet it.

In solidarity,

Geoff Kors

Hope, And A Window of Opportunity, For Bi-National Families

Our friends at Immigration Equality have pointed out that, from now until December 2, there is a limited opportunity for Americans in same-sex relationships to secure green cards for their non-American partners.
While U.S. immigration law currently prevents Americans from sponsoring a same-sex partner for a green card, a "Diversity Visa Lottery" presents a limited window of opportunity for legally keeping LGBT bi-national families together.

"Frequently the only hope for thousands of LGBT immigrants who want to come to or remain in the U.S., the Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery is a simple, free, online-only program to provide immigrant visas (green cards) to individuals from countries with low overall levels of immigration to the United States," Immigration Equality notes.

The organization has laid out a simple step by step online application guide. And those who need assistance after reading through the instructions can also contact Pamela Denzer at pdenzer@immigrationequality.org for more help on taking part in the lottery.

For more information, also visit Immigration Equality online.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

One Year Later, A Mother Returns to Vienna

In the months since we first reported on Kathy Gilleran's search for her son, Aeryn, PFLAGers have asked us to keep you updated on the story . . . and there has been an outpouring of support, from Kathy's hometown PFLAG chapter to New York Assemblyman Danny O'Donnell, for Kathy and her family. We've stayed in constant contact with her, and this morning the Ithaca Times became the latest press outlet to report on Aeryn's disappearance.

In just a few weeks, Kathy will return to Vienna on the one-year anniversary of the last time Aeryn was heard from. And because, in part, of the media attention that PFLAG has brought to the case, Austrian officials have agreed to meet with her, and the consulate in Vienna has stepped up, reached out to Kathy and finally showed some interest in helping to solve this case.

"That Aeryn was gay is something Gilleran thinks played a role in the way police handled the case," the Times reports. "He'd had a run-in with police in 2003 when he was taken into custody over a subway ticket miscommunication, and filed a complaint with Amnesty International regarding his treatment by officers. According to an Associated Press report, the deposition Aeryn filed regarding the incident stated comments were made about his being gay."

"Gilleran has had contact with several international agencies for the protection of gays and lesbians, and one told her Vienna 'was receptive of homosexuals, and didn't see any wrongdoing by police in cases involving gay people. They felt gay people would not be afraid to talk to police,'" the paper recounts.

"But, two weeks prior to Aeryn's disappearance, the Vienna police felt the need to start a gay and lesbian task force to protect gay and lesbian officers," she said. "If nothing was wrong, why would there be a need to protect them?"

And now, Kathy is preparing to visit the site of Aeryn's disappearance and continue her quest for answers.

"Gilleran is headed back to Vienna in the coming weeks - leaving Oct. 26 and returning Nov. 2 - to mark the one-year anniversary of her son's disappearance," the Times notes. "She's going by herself because she's afraid of how she might handle herself if friends -who've offered to go with her - try to comfort her."

"Because I have to, because my son is there somewhere, because I have to be there," Gilleran said tearfully when asked why she was going back. "I want to make sure they know I'm not going away. Somehow they made my son disappear. I'm not going away quietly."

And as long as Kathy continues her search, PFLAG will continue to stand, and fight, alongside her, too.

To read the complete Ithaca Times report, click here.

Photo by Rachel Philipson

Beautiful Observations

We’ve spent the past three years explaining to people what a civil union is. With marriage, no explanation is needed.

So explains John Anderson, one of the plaintiffs in the recent court case that earlier this week gave marriage equality to all people in Connecticut. He and his partner, Garrett, had a civil union three years ago, but learned when it came to life decisions together, it was merely "legalized second-class citizenship." There is a myth spread by anti-equality activists that civil unions are equal to marriage; "separate but equal" has never been equal or fair.

Anderson wrote today in the New Haven Register about the "beautiful observations" the court gave in establishing equality.

"Quoting from the 1967 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia, our court writes that the freedom to marry 'has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men and women.'

The Loving decision struck down all laws restricting interracial marriage. Interestingly enough, the polls after that decision showed overwhelming dissent. Put to a popular vote, blacks and whites still would have been forbidden to intermarry! That's why our governmental system tries not to put the civil rights of any group up for a vote of the people."

Unfortunately, there are some places where the rights of LGBT people are being put to a vote. In California, we must fight Proposition 8; in Arizona, Proposition 102; in Florida the anti-equality constitutional amendment; and in Arkansas the anti-adoption amendment.

Straight for Equality in Columbia, Maryland

Last night I visited the Columbia/Howard County (Maryland) PFLAG chapter with Equality Partnership’s Jean-Marie Navetta and Julie Handy. Jean-Marie and I presented our latest Straight for Equality training The Care and Feeding of Straight Allies: What PFLAGers Need to Know to Attract Straight Allies. About 50 people attended the training to learn more about Straight for Equality.
The workshop helped people to step back out of their “PFLAG comfort zone” and think about things from a potential ally’s perspective. Better understanding this perspective is the first step to learning how to best approach and work with straight allies. Reexamining the way that we do things can be a difficult but necessary process in trying to work with straight allies and keep them engaged.

Overall, it was a great meeting (and Julie’s first PFLAG meeting!). Many thanks to PFLAG Columbia/Howard County for their warm welcome and all of the hard work that they are doing.

-Jamie Curtis

Straight People are the “Most Bullied and Maligned Group” in the US?

Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX), a national organization that claims that LGBT people can be “cured,” has recently filed a lawsuit against the Washington, DC Office Of Human Rights (OHR), accusing the agency of failing to protect “ex-gays.” In the suit, PFOX asserts “the ex-gay community is the most bullied and maligned group in America, yet they are not protected by sexual orientation non-discrimination laws.”

Revisiting an old topic we have discussed on our blog before, the District’s Human Rights Act -- arguably one of the strongest human rights ordinances in the country -- protects individuals on the basis of many categories including sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. PFOX is indeed a bit confused here. The intent of the law already protects individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation . . . . be that orientation heterosexual, gay or bisexual.

If PFOX wants to look out for one of the “most bullied and maligned group[s]” in DC it should join the fight against the District’s Department of Corrections, which an oversight organization found to be in violation of the esteemed Human Rights Act. The oversight organization’s findings were sent to Mayor Adrian Fenty urging him to revise the DOC’s “Gender Classification and Housing” policy, which states:

It is a Department of Corrections (DOC) policy to classify and house male and female offenders in separate housing units. DOC shall classify an inmate who has male genitals as male and female genitals as female, regardless of the individual’s gender identification.

This policy is illegal. DC’s Human Rights Act explicitly states that one purposes of the regulations regarding gender identity and expression is “to ensure that transgender people are treated in a manner that is consistent with their identity or expression, rather than according to their presumed or assigned sex or gender (Title 4 DCMR § 808.1).”

So let’s be clear when we talk about “bullied” and “maligned” groups of people. In its current form, DOC’s policy towards transgender inmates places them in the WRONG housing facilities in a manner inconsistent with their self-determined gender identity. This violates the spirit of the Human Rights Act. Every day that passes since DOC approved this policy, is another day that this agency is ILLEGALLY DENYING transgender inmates their basic human rights.

The results of DOC ignoring this law are devastating. Egregious accounts of unembarrassed harassment and violence are overlooked. For example, a grievance report filed with the Office of Human Rights on behalf of a transgender woman who was placed in an all male housing facility stated that this woman was publicly humiliated when she initially stated she was a woman. The report also cites that she was forced to shower with male inmates and was exposed to both verbal harassment and sexual assault during her stay.

Amnesty International cited instances in which police officer’s harassment of LGBT individuals in detention or in holding cells “contributed to an atmosphere conducive to attacks against them.” Transgender people in particular “are at high risk of violence from other prisoners; transgender women in particular may be at heighted risk of torture or ill treatment if they are placed in male jails or holding cells, as such placement may put an individual at risk of physical or sexual assault.”

The literature describing the extent of discrimination transgender people face while incarcerated is tragically dense and incredibly heartbreaking. For PFOX to claim that straight people disguised as “ex-gays” are the most “bullied and maligned group in America” is merely a publicity stunt and frankly just plain insulting. If PFOX is serious about standing up for marginalized groups, we should take some time and encourage them (pfox@pfox.org) to speak out against the DOC’s current practice of denying transgender inmates their basic human rights – a true violation of the DC Human Rights Act!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Helping Our Trans Children

Brandon Simms is eight years old and lives in a small town with his parents. Since his youngest days, Brandon has felt female. After much research and heart-searching, his parents are now letting him grow up as Bridgette. His case is one of many in which parents are navigating the often difficult path of accepting their transgender children for who they truly are.

At the toy store, Brandon would head straight for the aisles with the Barbies or the pink and purple dollhouses. Tina wouldn’t buy them, instead steering him to neutral toys: puzzles or building blocks or cool neon markers. One weekend, when Brandon was 2½, she took him to visit her 10-year-old cousin. When Brandon took to one of the many dolls in her huge collection—a blonde Barbie in a pink sparkly dress—Tina let him bring it home. He carried it everywhere, “even slept with it, like a teddy bear.”

Be sure to read today's article in The Atlantic. This is a thought-provoking look into the lives of families with young children who are transgender, and hurdles they face through the misunderstandings of loved ones, neighbors, and even some anti-trans therapists. I really enjoyed reading that there are children who are lucky enough to have parents who are willing to listen and learn, and help their children grow to reach their potential.

Ellen Says "Vote No on Prop 8!"

Ellen DeGeneres, who recently married her wife in California, speaks out against Proposition 8. Check out this public service announcement she made recently, combating the misinformation campaign opponents of equality have been pushing with their television ads.

More About Books

Today’s Washington Post includes a letter to the editor written by Metro DC PFLAG board member David Fishback, who shines a spotlight on the dangers of misinformation . . . .especially in our schools and libraries. His letter is a follow up to a story in the Post about donating books to Fairfax, County, Virginia schools, which I wrote about here on the PFLAG blog last week.

David’s letter rightly calls out groups like Focus on the Family for providing discredited and dangerous information about being gay. David writes that, “…since all mainstream American medical and mental health professional associations have concluded that homosexuality is not a disorder and that conversion therapies can cause great damage to those exposed to them." Therefore, he notes, “It would be irresponsible for school libraries to accept books offering false medical and mental health information.

David is absolutely correct.

And have no doubt that we are going to see this fight in many school districts around the country. So please watch for the issue, reach out to your school system and make sure they have credible, responsible books that provide real information for all students. If they do not, find out how to get books into the school and contact me (sgreenfield@pflag.org) to discuss setting up a book donation in your community.

- Suzanne Greenfield

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

PFLAG Talks to the Union-Tribune About Proposition 8

Monday's San Diego Union-Tribune included a story by reporter Michael Gardner looking at the impact of the upcoming vote on Proposition 8 on the many registered domestic partners in California.

"If California voters take a stand in favor of same-sex marriage Nov. 4, it could ignite a fresh debate over another hard-won gay right – domestic partnerships," Gardner writes.

"The question would be: Should gay and lesbian couples retain the domestic partnership option when that's not available to most heterosexual couples?"

"Proposition 8 would overturn a state Supreme Court ruling in May that legalized same-sex marriage in California," the paper notes. "The proposed constitutional amendment would not affect domestic partners."

"If voters reject Proposition 8, the Legislature and courts may be pushed to examine whether changes are needed in the state's domestic partnership registry, which was created in 1999 and expanded in subsequent years to grant many of the rights and responsibilities of marriage to gays and lesbians. Heterosexual couples aged 62 and older also can enter into domestic partnerships."

"Experts on the issue suggest the state has three choices if Proposition 8 is defeated: Leave domestic partnerships alone, eliminate them or expand them to include all unmarried couples that want them."

Noting that a similar question came up for couples in Massachusetts when that state legalized marriage equality, PFLAG told Gardner that, "Many employees in Massachusetts have found that, since the legalization of marriage, employers often offer health care and other benefits only to married couples, meaning that a simple domestic partnership registration is no longer sufficient to obtain benefits for a partner."

To read the full Union-Tribune article, click here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

"By the power vested in me . . . "


I just returned home from California where I attended the last in-person meeting of the No on Prop 8 campaign committee. As many of you know, Prop 8 is the effort to amend the California State constitution to eliminate marriage rights for committed same-sex couples. PFLAG, along with organizations across California and the country, has been meeting once a week via conference call and once a month in-person to strategize on how to beat Prop 8. Our meeting on Tuesday was the hardest yet.

It was reported in the meeting that our opposition has out fundraised us by $10 million. That is 10 million dollars they will use to flood the airways with anti-gay commercials that spread lies about how marriage equality will effect Californians. These commercials have already influenced public opinion. As of Tuesday we were losing in public opinion polls 43% with us and 47% supporting the proposition.

As I set in that meeting listening to the numbers, I thought about my friend Jean-Marie who just married her now wife in a civil ceremony in California last week. Jean-Marie told me that the most moving and incredible part of the wedding was when the official declared, "By the power vested in me by the state of California I know pronounce you legally married." We cannot allow her marriage to be taken away from her or any other marriage to be taken away from couples across California. We cannot allow LGBT youth across California and the country to wake up on November 5th and be told that they are not good enough to marry the person they love. We cannot allow our opposition to become embolden by a win in the largest state in this country because they will come after your rights next.

I have personally given to the No on Prop 8 campaign as has my fiancé and many of my straight friends here in DC. We have given because we love our LGBT friends and because we know that this is an opportunity that does not come around often. This is a moment in history where we can tell those people flooding California with their money and their hate that their 24 million dollars was for nothing because people in this country believe in equality. We believe that treating people differently and eliminating rights is wrong.

I am asking PFLAGers to go to the No on Prop 8 website and personally give. $10, $20, $100 will make all the difference as we work to get our message on TVs and radio stations across the state. There is still time to change hearts and minds, but we literally cannot do it without your help.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Knocking the Door Open & Ripping Off the Frame

PFLAGer Jim Koury penned today's guest op-ed, in observance of National Coming Out Day, in New York's The Daily Star.

"As an LGBTQ individual, I look back upon my past and remember many National Coming Out Days passing with a promise to myself that the following year, I would be among the ranks of the millions of other LGBTQ individuals who took that bold step and broke out of their closets," Jim writes.

"It took a number of broken promises and many more years of hiding, lying and being someone I was not before I decided to kick the door of my closet wide open. Not only did I knock open the door, I ripped the door frame right off the wall, never to be replaced. That was 11 years ago, and I have no regrets whatsoever."

What is life like being in the closet? I often recite a quote that epitomizes the life I and many others led and still lead in the closet. It is as follows: 'The torment of human frustration, whatever its immediate cause, is the knowledge that the self is in prison, its vital life force leaking away in wasteful self-conflict.'"

To read the full op-ed from today's Daily Star, click here.

Coming Out as a Straight Ally

I grew up in rural Virginia, outside of Richmond. Growing up, my parents always told me that everyone was different, that it was okay to be different. I took these lessons to heart.

For a long time, I didn’t know what it meant to be gay. All I knew was that it had to do with men and women, that it was something bad or scary, and the subject made people very angry at each other. I didn’t think about it much because I didn’t think it affected me, which is why I didn’t know what being gay really meant until I was in high school. When I finally found out, I thought, “That’s it? That’s what people are up in arms about? What’s the big deal?” I thought it was silly that people got so angry about this issue, but again I didn’t think much of it because I didn’t think it affected me. But from then on, as I began to learn more and more about what was happening to LGBT people, I got more and more angry. I couldn’t understand why there was so much hatred directed at them, and I kept thinking that this is exactly how we treated African Americans for years and years.

All through high school I became more and more upset at the way people talked about and treated LGBT people, but I didn’t think it was my place, as a straight person, to speak up. It wasn’t until college that I realized that my help was needed and wanted by the LGBT community. Speaking out and expressing my feelings and beliefs on these issues felt so good! I really felt as though I was doing something important, affecting lives, effecting change. It was empowering! It still is.

It hasn’t always been easy: people still ask me if I’m gay, and some of my extended family members aren’t too happy with me because of my stance on LGBT rights. But being an ally is more than just the right thing to do, it’s part of who I am. Now I work for the PFLAG project Straight for Equality, so I can show other allies how to make their voices heard. I’m a proud, out ally and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

- Julie Handy

Friday, October 10, 2008

Discussing Today's Marriage Equality Decision

What do you think about today's decision, in Connecticut, assuring marriage equality for all couples?

Join the discussion at Jezebel, where editor Megan Carpentier (pictured) and her readers are discussing the court's historic decision.

To be part of the conversation, click here.

Marriage Equality in Connecticut

PFLAG heralded a decision from the Connecticut Supreme Court, released today, legalizing marriage equality for same-sex couples. Eight same-sex couples challenged the state’s ban on marriage in 2004, arguing that their constitutional rights to equal protection and due process were violated when they were denied marriage licenses. Today, the Supreme Court agreed with the couples, making the state the third in the country, along with Massachusetts and California, to officially recognize same-sex marriage.

“PFLAG congratulates our friends, and celebrates with our families, in Connecticut today,” said Jody M. Huckaby. “The Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled in favor of families, in recognition of our fundamental right to marry the person we love and in the best interest of our core belief in liberty and justice for all. All families are stronger when every family is recognized and protected by the law. No loving couple should face discrimination and prejudice and today’s ruling eliminates those barriers once and for all.”

In its ruling, the court found that, “the institution of marriage carries with it a status and significance that the newly created classification of civil unions does not embody,” and, as such, “the state’s bar against same sex marriage infringes on a fundamental right in violation of due process and discriminates on the basis of sex in violation of equal protection.”

“[O]ur conventional understanding of marriage must yield to a more contemporary appreciation of the rights entitled to constitutional protection,” the court concluded. Doing so, it found, “leads inevitably to the conclusion that gay persons are entitled to marry the otherwise qualified same-sex partner of their choice. To decide otherwise would require us to apply one set of constitutional principles to gay persons and another to all others.” The decision concluded by find that, “same-sex couples cannot be denied the freedom to marry.”

“Today, Connecticut couples have won an essential victory in the struggle for basic legal rights and the dignity of all people,” said Huckaby. “Tomorrow, and every day after that, all of us at PFLAG will remain vigilant in ensuring that those rights are never denied again and never taken away from those we love. Equality is moving forward, slowly but surely, in state after state. None of us must rest, however, until every state recognizes the rights of every citizen.”

For more information on today's ruling, visit The Advocate online.

The Impact of Matthew Shepard

This is a guest post which originally appeared this morning as part of a special blog series from the National Youth Advocacy Coalition, regarding the 10-year anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death. I'm grateful to have been asked to participate in NYAC's series, along with other leaders from the LGBT community. - Jody Huckaby

At PFLAG, we understand that whenever one member of our family is attacked, maligned or worse, all of us feel that hurt very deeply. The LGBT community, our families and allies are truly all one extended family. And so, when Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten and left for dead, our hearts sank. For many of the moms and dads who are the heart of PFLAG, time has done little to erase the haunting memory of Matthew's death.

Ten years later, too little has been done to ensure that no other loved one suffers the same fate, or to curb the attacks against our families.

Matthew's mother, Judy, has been an extraordinary advocate and has worked tirelessly to push Congress and the White House to address hate crimes against the LGBT community. Unfortunately, too few people have heeded her calls thus far, and the legislation that rightfully bears Matthew's name has yet to become law. That is unacceptable, and an unfitting tribute to Matthew's memory and Judy's truly heroic work.

Meanwhile, the consequences of doing nothing are continually, horribly brought to light.

In South Carolina, Sean Kennedy, a young gay man, was attacked and left for dead. In Colorado, Angie Zapata, a transgender woman, was beaten and killed. And in California, student Lawrence King was gunned down in his school by a classmate who labeled Lawrence as gay.

As mothers and fathers, LGBT people and friends, all of us at PFLAG are saying, "enough is enough." It is time to stop the attacks on our families.

PFLAG Votes Merchandise Now Available


The election is less than a month away, and as part of PFLAG Votes!, our national get-out-the-vote effort, we're offering official GOTV merchandise at the PFLAG online store.

Click here for t-shirts and magnets to accessorize your get-out-the-vote efforts . . . and don't forget to visit our GOTV website for more information on how PFLAGers can get involved and help get our families, friends and allies to the polls on November 4th!

And remember: Listen To Your Parents (for once!): VOTE!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Asking Questions, Looking to the Future

In communities across the country, PFLAG is the organization for families to access support when a loved one comes out as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. PFLAG chapters offer support to families through small group meetings and one-on-one conversations. In the beginning, societal hostility toward LGBT people motivated Jeanne Manford to form an organization for parents to confidentially talk to each other about issues affecting their children. In our changing society, PFLAG families became instrumental in educating communities and advocating for the LGBT community.

A few weeks ago, PFLAG St. Paul/Minneapolis set out to host a conference examining PFLAG’s role in community education and advocacy for the LGBT community. "Is PFLAG ready for the next generation of LGBT people and their families?," they asked, as well as, "How do we fulfill the PFLAG mission; to support, educate and advocate?," and "What can PFLAG do to welcome and work with straight allies?"

Just over 100 people attended the conference to explore these questions. Workshops focused on creating a safe environment in school for LGBT youth; preventing and addressing substance abuse in the LGBT community; strategizing to end discriminatory laws; building alliances with families of color; and developing coalitions with the unusual suspects. Robert Curoe spoke about trying to understand and practice his faith within the Catholic Church while also loving his daughter, Carol, as he does his other children. And Jody Huckaby, PFLAG National’s executive director, urged us to nurture and work with straight allies.

As we look to the future, we envision a society that celebrates and embraces everyone, so that we can all, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, realize our full potential as human beings. The keynote speakers, Dotti Berry and Roby Sapp, shared their experiences of travelling across the country and creating authentic connections with people who are wrestling in some way with their understanding of people’s sexual orientation and gender variance. Their story inspires us to continue our support for families, education to the community, and advocacy for our LGBT loved ones.

- Brooke Smith