Monday, July 6, 2009

"PFLAG: Now More Than Ever"

We’ve just wrapped up a great month of Pride celebrations from coast to coast. Local PFLAG chapters put their best feet forward to proudly demonstrate their love for and advocacy with the LGBT community. And with this year being the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, we recalled the many great pioneers who came before us and helped paved the way for all of us to march even farther today to move equality forward.

President Obama, who ran on the campaign promise that he would be a “fierce advocate” of the LGBT community, officially proclaimed June as LGBT Pride Month. It was an important first step in sending a clear message that his Administration would be more inclusive than those of the past. Disappointingly, not long after, the Department of Justice issued a brief defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), using inflammatory language and questionable arguments that rightfully infuriated so many of us. PFLAG spoke out and pleaded with the President to remember his campaign promises to the millions of LGBT Americans, parents and allies who believed him then.

PFLAG President John Cepek and I were joined by several PFLAGers in a meeting here in DC with the Department of Education’s Assistant Secretary for the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), Russlyn Ali and some of her colleagues, where we discussed the important role that PFLAG can play in the reporting of bullying and harassment in the schools. We continue to work with OCR on developing resources for our chapters to help assure that parents and families know how to effectively report incidents of bullying so that the cases get appropriately investigated by OCR. We were joined by Char Cepek of PFLAG Chicago/Hinsdale, PFLAG National Policy Manager J. Rhodes Perry, Walt Swanston of PFLAG Metro DC, Nila Marrone of our PFLAG Families of Color and Allies New York City chapter and Rebecca Palmer and her son from PFLAG Carson City.

I had the pleasure of visiting President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House this week, along with Carmen Robello (of PFLAG’s Families of Color and Allies of New York City & Newark, New Jersey chapter) and her son Louie.

We were invited to a special reception at the White House to commemorate the anniversary of Stonewall, and Carmen and Louie had the special privilege of sharing their story with the First Family about how anti-LGBT discrimination hurts all families.

Louie Robello experienced anti-LGBT harassment and was dismissed from his Catholic high school. He changed schools and later founded his high school’s Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) and went on to be elected class president. Carmen said afterwards, “We were incredibly honored to meet with the President and First Lady, and tell them our story, and how anti-LGBT violence and harassment creates problems not just for LGBT people, but for their families and communities… My son and I asked the President and First Lady to speak out and become more visible in denouncing anti-LGBT discrimination.”

The President has vowed to sign into law federal hate crimes legislation that PFLAG families have rallied hard for, and this month Congressman Barney Frank introduced an inclusive version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Both hate crimes and employment non-discrimination will have a promising chance of becoming a reality if all of us continue to talk to our Congressmembers and tell them why these protections are critical to our loved ones and our families. In the long-term PFLAG will continue to implore Congress and the President to keep their commitments to repeal the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) and repeal the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

As you can see, this an exciting time to be engaged in work to make real changes for the better for our LGBT loved ones and our families. Please consider making a special donation now to support our work. We need PFLAG now more than ever! We need your support and your advocacy to continue making real differences in supporting families, educating communities and advocating for equality!

Here are some of the other activities PFLAG National and our chapter members have been actively involved with:

PFLAG National President John Cepek [pictured, right] called on all PFLAGers to contact President Obama to thank him for declaring June LGBT Pride Month, and to ask him to keep to his promises to move equality forward for all Americans.

We called on Congress to keep our multi-national families together. The Reuniting Families Act immigration bill would end harmful practices that prevent loving families from being together. Many PFLAG members know firsthand about families being broken apart because of long visa wait times and discrimination against LGBT families.

PFLAG National board member John Tantillo [pictured, left] of KPMG told his story in DiversityInc about why he is so out and proud to be a partner at the company.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Washington D.C.’s Fox 5 News reporter Sherri Ly about the impact of benefits for LGBT federal workers, and why the President must now honor his campaign pledge to repeal DOMA.

PFLAG National joined our Los Angeles and San Francisco area PFLAG chapters for Pride this year as we promoted Lifetime’s Prayers for Bobby movie, in the hopes of raising more awareness among the 15,000 Emmy members who will be voting soon on which movies will be nominated for an award. Emmy nominations would ensure that the movie has wider audience reach and impact, providing more people with the important PFLAG story of family healing and hope.

After writing an article for the Naples Daily News about the recent PFLAG Interfaith Convocation that she had helped organize, PFLAG Naples member Ruth Dorfman awoke to find two swastikas painted on her garage. PFLAG Naples and community members rallied in her defense at a candlelight vigil.

A sexual orientation-inclusive anti-bullying bill has become law in North Carolina, thanks to the hard work of people in the Tarheel State, including our highly active PFLAG chapters of that state. The new law adds "sexual orientation," and is an important step in creating a safe school environment for all students.

PFLAG National along with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and a collaboration of other expert organizations announced the New Beginning Initiative, a project designed to push for concrete federal administration policy and regulatory changes directly benefiting the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and eliminating discrimination from federal policies.

Thank you for all of your support and your unique work in changing hearts and minds!


Jody M. Huckaby
Executive Director

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