Friday, February 27, 2009

Changing Minds, One Speaker at a Time

The Advocate's website has a great interview with Andy Birnbaum and Ron Elecciri, from PFLAG's Los Angeles chapter, highlighting the L.A. speakers bureau and the power of PFLAG allies to change to hearts and minds.

"For more than 30 years, the forces of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays have been uniting to make the process of coming out -- and subsequent conversations with family members, friends, and coworkers -- a little bit easier. Founded in the 1970s, today the all-volunteer organization boasts more than 500 independent chapters worldwide," reporter Jenn Kennedy writes.

"As the latest step toward raising awareness and understanding about LGBT people, speaker bureaus have been organized as offshoots of local PFLAG chapters," she notes. "These bureaus host free panels at all sorts of organizations -- high schools, colleges, businesses, employee groups, labor unions -- to help members and participants understand issues surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity."

"A typical panel includes straight parents of a gay son or daughter, a gay man, a lesbian, and a transgender person. Each speaker opens with a three- to five-minute introduction about the personal experience of coming out or how it felt when their child came out. They share the 'aha' moments and the intense feelings that came to the surface through the coming-out process."

"Birnbaum, 39, is a Long Island native and works as a labor union attorney. Elecciri, 44, grew up in Orange County and works in TV development at Disney. They have been a couple for 11 years and married in San Francisco in 2004 and again in Los Angeles last summer."

To read Kennedy's full Advocate.com interview with Andy and Ron, visit the magazine's website online here.

Obama Administration to Rescind "Conscience" Regulation

In a move that is likely to have impact on LGBT people, The Washington Post today reports that "The Obama administration has begun the process of rescinding sweeping new federal protections that were granted in December to health care workers who refuse to provide care that violates their personal, moral or religious beliefs."

This is a positive thing for the LGBT community. Under the "protections" created in the last days of the Bush administration, medical providers could theorectically refuse treatment to a gay person or a transgender person based on their personal opposition to LGBT people.

Refusing to provide medical care based on personal anti-gay or anti-trans bias shoould never be allowed. Click here to read the complete article that spells out how the Obama administartion plans on doing away with these unfair "protections."

Join PFLAG in Baltimore County!

I wanted to share this today from Mark Patro, Lead Organizer of PFLAG Baltimore County...

Do you live in the Baltimore County area? Do you know of any parents, families, or friends of LGBT people or LGBT themselves who would be interested in PFLAG? Then help us get the word out! There has been some interest in starting a chapter in the Baltimore County area and they are holding their second monthly meeting to talk about developing their chapter.

WHEN: Tuesday, March 24 from 7:30pm – 9:30pm

WHERE: 1710 Dulaney Valley Road, Lutherville, Maryland 21093 (at the Towson Unitarian Universalist Church)

Come be a part of PFLAG in Baltimore County! Share your thoughts and ideas on ways for the chapter to get involved in the community. This is a great opportunity to be involved with a chapter from the ground up.

Refreshments will be provided. For more information, call (443) 255-1484,
or email PFLAGbaltimorecounty@gmail.com
or visit our information page http://www.pflagbaltimore.org/

Exclusively for PFLAG Chapters: Bring Straightlaced to Your Community!


PFLAG is partnering with GroundSpark to spark a dialogue about youth and gender pressures with their new film Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up. The latest documentary in the Respect For All Project series by Academy-Award winner Debra Chasnoff, Straightlaced takes a powerful and intimate look at how popular pressures around gender and sexuality are shaping the lives of American teens. The film proudly showcases the diverse and unscripted voices of more than 50 youth from a wide range of high schools across the country who speak with breathtaking honesty, insight, and humor about gender roles and the struggle to be who they really are.

For more information about Straightlaced, including a trailer, please visit the official website for the film, online here.

While the film is not yet on sale to the public, GroundSpark is offering the film for free to PFLAG chapters to host public screenings in their communities. GroundSpark staff will work with you to host an event that sparks dialogue, raises funds, and inspires your community.

To start organizing a screening, contact GroundSpark’s National Outreach Manager, Ryan Schwartz, at rschwartz@groundspark.org.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Help Make Minnesota's Schools Safer!

We would like to give a special shout out to our friends in Minnesota who want to make sure that all students are safe in school.

Although Minnesota has had good safe school policy in the past the new law will bring school policy in line with the strong and comprehensive state anti-discrimination laws which include sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Clear and strong implementation language will help reinforce the training and education necessary for a bill like this to take root in the school community.

“The Safe Schools for All” (SF 971) was introduced by State Senators Dibble, Wiger, Rummel and Saxhaug . The state’s powerful teachers union, Education Minnesota has already expressed support for this bill. Our friend and coalition partners Rainbow Families and MinnesotaOUT Front played an important role in making sure this happened – thank you!

Take some time right now and do three things to ensure safe schools for all young people in Minnesota!

· Call your Senator Today! Call your legislators and ask them to support the bill. You can find out who your legislators are by clicking on this link. (If the senators listed above represent you, please contact them and thank them – it goes a long way!). Be sure to tell your senator:

"I support SF 971 because I believe schools should be safe for all students and families. Please vote yes on SF 971. This bill is an important step for Minnesota to provide a safe learning environment for our young people by prohibiting bullying and harassment."

· Share Your Stories! If you have a relevant story about bullying, harassment and discrimination in schools – big or small – and let us know. These stories will help us pass this bill. Your legislators will want to see and hear how enacting this bill will correct current and past wrongs. Your experience just might convince the final legislator to vote for our families’ needs.

· Forward our blog! Tell your friends and family about this bill. Call them up and/or email this blog write-up to them. Encourage them to contact their legislators with the same message above.


Talking Points

· Importance of Enumeration. Minnesota does not list enumerated categories in their state anti-bullying law, but bullying and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression is prohibited by their nondiscrimination law, which covers educational institutions. This legislation strengthens the state’s anti-bullying law by adding enumerated categories including sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

· Enumerated language alone is insufficient. If specific enumerated categories are listed the state’s anti-bullying policy, then it would be easier to conduct training and education about these groups of people for students, teachers and faculty. This is an important part of the follow up that schools must do after the law is enacted, and it provides an opportunity for groups like PFLAG to provide education and training.

· Leading the way. Nine states and the nation’s capital along with many municipalities have already enacted anti-bullying laws that include sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression. These states and jurisdictions include California, Iowa, Maine, New Jersey, Vermont, Maryland, Massachusetts, Washington, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia. It is essential for local districts’ school boards, PTA’s, school administrators, and students to work together and follow-in the footsteps of these leaders by enacting similar laws that will inevitably build safer schools for all.

Let us Know!

Please take action today to jumpstart our efforts, and let us know how your call went. We’ll be sure to update here on the blog, and encourage you all to remain active up until the enactment of this bill.

Honoring a Very Big Heart in the Heartland

As our families in Iowa wait for an upcoming decision about marriage equality from the state's highest court, we are reminded, via this guest post from Kenny Michael Murrell, that America's heartland is home to countless, loving families that are making a difference in their own communities, every day.

Kenny contacted PFLAG earlier this week in hopes that we would allow him to honor his chosen family. In this moving tribute, Kenny, who hails from Van Meter, Iowa, reminds us all that our families are defined by our heart . . . and that it is time to honor all of those families, in big ways and small.

It all started in 2003. I moved to an Iowa town called Van Meter. I started school, and shortly after starting I met a guy named Justin. Although I was shy and withdrawn, he was very friendly and invited me over to his place to hang out. I didn’t know at that time that Justin’s mother (pictured) was a lesbian, and furthermore I didn’t expect the impact she would make on my entire life.

Before I even said anything, Kimberly (Justin’s mom) knew that I was gay, and knew that I was not yet comfortable with it and that was why I was so withdrawn and preserved. Kim’s partner is Brenda. Kim was married before she met Brenda, and loved her husband Mitch. With him, she gave birth to three wonderful boys, and since Mitch was black and she is white, they are all bi-racial. Kim and Brenda had moved into a place together and Brenda brought her daughter, Cheyenne, with her. They all live in this very nice house very happily together.

So there I was, an awkward, gay 16-year old thrust into an atmosphere of love and acceptance, unconditional support and understanding. I spent more and more time over there, and became closer and closer with not only Justin, but Kim and Brenda as well. Kim was someone that I could talk to about anything. She always had the best advice for me no matter what it was about. She had known that she favored women since she was a teenager, so she had a lot of experience with being rejected and hated.

For the next few months I spent all of my free time over there, so much to a point where my own birthparents would get jealous. I soon started calling Kim mom, and I was considered their son. We did everything together, I could talk to them about anything, and they helped me through some very tough times in my life. I don’t know if I would still be alive if it weren’t for her. She spoke with me and helped me get comfortable with coming out. After spending so much time with them, I was more comfortable with myself, more confident, and not afraid to be whom I was born to be.

I came out to my parents after knowing Kim and Justin for over a year. My parents said that they knew, but they didn’t ever want to talk about it. My mom became a very bad alcoholic and my dad was moving all around since he was in the military. At the time, I was pretty much raising my little sister. At the time my older sister was doing drugs, and I didn’t know what to do. Of course, I came to Kim. She knew just what to say and do, to make me feel better.

I eventually called my biological parents and told them that everything at home is a mess, and I am moving in with Kim and Brenda and Justin and the kids. They were less than thrilled, but I was 17 so they didn’t argue with it much.

Kim Hines is the single greatest person I know. She writes fantastic poetry on her life experiences and does some work with Photoshop. She is a tough woman, and being a mom of bi- racial kids and being a lesbian, she had to be! She would defend all of us kids to the death if we were being persecuted or discriminated against and wouldn’t take any slack or allow us not to be the best people she knows we can be. She pushes us to out limits, then past them and forces us to excel in life.

Justin is the greatest straight-supporter I know. He has always had his mom’s back, as well as his entire familys’. Kim has taken me in when my own family pretty much didn’t want to have anything to do with my gay side, and it’s not only me. She has taken in several kids that were for some reason or another cast astray by their unloving parents. She is always there for everyone, even at the expense sometimes of her personal time, pleasure, and even health. She is so selfless that I have to stand back in awe, wondering how someone could be so passionate, so caring, and so real, even in the face of constant adversity. She get’s stares, things yelled at her, homophobic remarks, gawking and her kids of a different race, but stands tall and smiles, knowing that she is doing the right thing, and there is nothing wrong with love. She has straight friends she made when she moved to the area, and she has helped inform them on the LGBT issues and enlighten them that just because you love the same sex, it doesn’t make you different.

Kim has done so many great things, I have barely scratched the surface. She has helped so much, yet faced so much that I could never repay her in a million years, and she has never asked for anything in return.. I just want her to get some sort of recognition because even if she hasn’t directly made an impact on the minds of American’s on a national scale, she is the best local political activist I know, and has touched and changed the lives of many people in the community.

Thanks, Kim . . . for being you, for making me who I am today, and everything you do.

- Michael

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Buttarsaurus"

Last week we blogged about Utah state Senator Chris Buttar's calling LGBT people "The greatest threat to America." Today, the Salt Lake Tribune's editorial board calls him out:

"Buttars is what he is: an embarrassment to the state of Utah, and, increasingly, a dinosaur."

The largest newspaper in Buttar's home state says his anti-gay rant was "too ridiculous to warrant a direct response." They add, "He is, in our opinion, the best spokesperson that Utah's LGBT community has ever had, galvanizing their righteous efforts to achieve not superiority, but equality."

Maybe Buttars, without realizing it, is giving a face to the ugliness of anti-gay bigotry. Likening LGBT people to "abominations" and terrorists is a disparate and outdated tactic. The editors of the Tribune sum it up well:

"Buttars will never change. But Utah will. It's already happening. And the momentum will grow, as small-minded men like Chris Buttars help move things along."

Also check out this article today in the Associate Press. Utah's Democrats are calling for sanctions against Buttars for his anti-gay remarks. Last week in response he was removed from a judiciary committee that he chaired.

"By removing Sen. Buttars from these key positions, President Waddoups, who has the sole responsibility to do so, would be sending a clear message to Utahns, Americans and humankind that we do not tolerate bad behavior in the Utah Senate," said Senate Minority Leader Pat Jones.

NAACP: Overturn Proposition 8

The NAACP, one of the most admired and influential civil rights organizations in our country, is calling on California to overturn Proposition 8. Allies at the organization, including Julian Bond, have been vocal and adamant in their opposition to the measure, which rolled back marriage equality in the state.


Now this is major. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) storms into the 21st century and calls for the overturn of California's Proposition 8. National Board Chair Julian Bond—who has an excellent record on LGBT rights and marriage equality—and newish CEO Benjamin Jealous announce the veteran civil rights organizations supports measures before the state legislature that challenge the amendment which denied marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Bond and Jealous urged passage of HR 5 and SR 7, resolutions which call for the invalidation of Prop 8 and ask the California Supreme Court to overturn it. Bond says it's a matter of fairness and equal protection. "The NAACP has long opposed any proposal that would alter the federal or state constitutions for the purpose of excluding any groups or individuals from guarantees of equal protection," adding the amendment "threaten[ed] civil rights and all vulnerable minorities."

To read the full report from Rod 2.0, click here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Join PFLAG in Terre Haute, Indiana

Do you live in the Terre Haute area? Do you know of any parents, families, or friends of LGBT people or LGBT themselves who would be interested in PFLAG? Then help us get the word out! There has been some interest in starting a chapter in the Terre Haute area and they are holding an information meeting to talk about starting a chapter.

WHEN: Thursday, March 19 from 7:00pm – 8:30pm

WHERE: 1875 S Fruitridge Ave. (at the Unitarian Universalist Church, next to the Humane Society)
Terre Haute, IN 47803
(click here for an online map)

Come be a part of PFLAG in Terre Haute! Share your thoughts and ideas on ways for the chapter to get involved in the community. This is a great opportunity to be involved with a chapter from the ground up.

Refreshments will be provided. For more information, call (812) 240-4245, or email maito:terrehautepflag@hotmail.com

On the Front Page: PFLAG Tulare Kings County


This morning's Visalia Times-Delta, in California, has a profile of one of PFLAG's newest chapters - PFLAG Tulare Kings County - on the front page of the paper's Living section. The article, which highlights the chapter's incredible work in the community, also profiles chapter founders Joan & Steve Palmer (pictured), who have been instrumental in the launch of two PFLAG chapters in the communities where they have lived.

"When we joined PFLAG, it's not because we needed support. We felt we had support to give," Steven Palmer said.

"So when they moved to Visalia in November 2007 for Steven's obstetrician and gynecologist job with the Family HealthCare Network, the Palmers saw the same need in Tulare and Kings counties as there once was in Placer County," the paper reports. "They soon began the footwork needed to start a PFLAG chapter here."

"PFLAG Tulare-Kings County was founded eight months ago, and now has 22 members. About 40 people attend monthly meetings, which are every third Sunday of the month."

"We were told when we came here that we would never be able to start a PFLAG here," Steven Palmer said.

"But a core group of members, including Dr. Kathryn Hall, a Visalia pediatrician who is a PFLAG board member, is dedicated to the organization because of the service it provides to the community," reporter Hillary S. Meeks writes.

"Hall is eagerly anticipating the wedding ceremony of her daughter, who is a lesbian, next August."

"She said PFLAG is a safe place for those who don't know how to deal with either their own sexual orientation, or a family member's."

"You can understand why it can be painful for a young person coming to terms with their sexuality to have their friends and neighbors so opposed to it, when it's not something this young person has chosen for themselves," Hall said. "And it can certainly be stressful for families."

To read the Times-Delta's full profile, click here. And be sure to visit Tulare Kings County online, too.

Photo by Johanna Coyne for the Times Delta.

A Potential Breakthrough in the Care of Transgender Veterans

Monday's Arizona Daily Star quietly broke the very significant news that a potential breakthrough in the way America cares for our transgender veterans may be underway.

In an article by reporter Carol Ann Alaimo, the Veterans Administration, which is tasked with running the nation's massive healthcare program for those who have served in the armed forces, acknowledged that it is considering a change to the outdated and prejudicial policy that currently bars transgender vets from receiving any assistance for gender reassignment surgery.

"National Department of Veterans Affairs policy — now under review — specifically forbids veterans hospitals to perform or pay for 'transsexual surgery,'" Alaimo notes in her article. "It also does not provide for the related health care that experts recommend, such as psychotherapy, hormone treatment and other measures."

But that, according to at least one person at the VA, may be about to change.

"A spokesman for national VA headquarters, in a recent e-mail to the Arizona Daily Star, said the VA is taking a second look at its policy banning transsexual surgery at veterans hospitals,"
the paper reported.

"VA is in the process of rewriting its directive excluding gender-reassignment surgery and will be conducting a review of the evidence base on this issue," VA spokesman Terry Jemison said.

That is a huge step forward in honoring the service and sacrifice of transgender Americans who have served our country . . . and it is, quite simply, the right thing to do. Treating every veteran equally - and fairly - seems the least our country can do in return for the service they have each given. For too long, transgender veterans have been given second-class treatment, despite the first-class job they performed as members of our fighting forces.

"At some VA hospitals nationwide, staffers have been known to shut the door on transgender veterans, turning them away for even routine medical care unrelated to their gender disorder, a survey last year by the Transgender American Veterans Association found," the Star notes.

"Of the 240 veterans surveyed who were part of the VA system, 10 percent said they had been turned away for service because they were transgender. Nearly one-quarter said they had been mocked or insulted by VA staff members."

Yet, as Jillian Shipherd, a clinical psychologist at VA Boston and a pioneer in improving health care for transgender vets noted, "I think we can all agree that these are veterans, they served our country and they deserve our respect."

"And they deserve quality health care. No exceptions."

To read the full report from The Arizona Daily Star, click here.

The New York Times Calls for a Vote on Marriage in Rhode Island

The editorial page of this morning's New York Times calls on Rhode Island lawmakers to vote on marriage equality in the state, and slams the legislature for allowing marriage bills to die in committee without ever seeing the light of day.

The Times editorial also leaves no doubt about where the paper's editorial board stands on marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples in every state.

"Same-sex couples deserve full equality under the law, and that includes the right to marry," this morning's editorial begins.

"For the last decade or so, members of the Rhode Island State Legislature have regularly proposed bills to allow same-sex couples to marry only to see the issue die in committee without coming to a vote," they write, going on to note that, "Proponents should redouble their efforts to propel them to the floor of both houses, where a favorable vote could help raise the issue in the national consciousness."

"Advocacy groups like Marriage Equality of Rhode Island are pushing for full rights rather than the separate-but-equal status of civil unions," the editorial board notes, adding that "They argue, correctly, that anything less is unfair."

The Times, one of the most widely read and respected papers in the country, has just endorsed full marriage equality.

Make no doubt that, in the wake of this morning's editorial, right-wing activists will flood the paper with letters of protest, using the same tired arguments to push for discriminatory laws against same-sex families. So it's vitally important that PFLAG supporters let the paper hear from them, too.
Consider sending a letter to the editor of the Times, at letters@nytimes.com. Be brief - one or two paragraphs are best - and remember to tell your personal story about why marriage equality is so important for our families. Also include your full name, mailing address, phone number and email address. And then, leave a comment here on the blog to let us know that you weighed in . . . and if your letter is printed in the Times, we'll send you a free PFLAG t-shirt!

The New York Times has taken a bold stand in favor of our families. Now, it's time for our families to support those who are speaking out for our best interests.

Monday, February 23, 2009

"Very Soon... You Will Have Equal Rights"

In case you missed the Oscars last night, below is a YouTube clip of Dustin Lance Black accepting his award for Original Screenplay for the movie Milk (which Sean Penn also won an award for Best Actor in).

As I watched the awards last night, I imagined Harvey Milk would be proud. Here was an openly gay screenwriter, telling LGBT young people they are "beautiful creatures" before one of the biggest television audiences in America. His acceptance speech was one of the most moving I've seen, and pivotal for putting LGBT equality in the spotlight for a special evening...

Golden 'Milk'

Sean Penn pulled off a big win at Sunday evening's Oscar ceremony, taking home the Best Actor statue for his moving portrayal of slain civil rights leader Harvey Milk in Gus Van Sant's film about one of America's pioneers in the struggle for full equality.

During his acceptance speech, Penn criticized California's Proposition 8, and those who supported rolling back marriage equality at the polls. "I think it's a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to reflect – to sit and reflect – and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren's eyes if they continue that way in their support," Penn said. "We have to have equal rights for everyone."

Milk also took home the Oscar for best original screenplay. And our friends at Queerty have full coverage of the film's awards - and acceptance speeches - online here.

For more information on the film, visit the official website of Milk online.

A PFLAG Dad Heads to Washington to Call for Repeal


On Friday, March 13th, veterans, activists and advocates from around the country will gather on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol to urge lawmakers to repeal the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual service members. Hundreds of people are expected to descend on Washington and urge Congress, and the White House, to follow through on pledges to topple the military's ban, which results in the dismissal of two more service members every day.

Among the speakers at the March 13th gathering will be PFLAG's own Dan Tepfer (pictured), a retired Air Force Colonel . . . PFLAG National Board Member . . . and a leader in PFLAG's stellar Dayton, Ohio chapter.

Dan, who previously called for repeal in The Dayton Daily News, has been invited to share his thoughts about being a veteran, a father and a champion for repeal.

Dan served in the U.S. Air Force from 1965 to 1989. He was commissioned a second lieutenant through the AFROTC program after graduating with a BA in English from Butler University in Indianapolis. At retirement, he held the rank of Colonel. While on active duty he was stationed at: Duluth International Airport MN, Clark AB, Republic of the Philippines; Malmstrom AFB, MT; Vandenberg AFB, CA, Maxwell AFB, AL; Defense Contract Administration Services office Pittsburgh, PA; Wright-Patterson AFB, OH; and Hanscom AFB, MA. He served as an administrative officer, an Armed Forces courier, a Minuteman combat crew commander and instructor. The last 11 years of his career were in procurement. He worked in contract administration in downtown Pittsburgh, was a buyer in the KC-10 program office, was deputy director of contracts in the F-16 weapon system program and was director of contracts in the Joint STARS program. Col. Tepfer earned an MBA from the University of Montana in 1973 through the Minuteman Education Program. He is a graduate of the USAF Armed Forces Staff College (AFSC), and completed USAF Squadron Officers’ School (SOS) and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (ICAF). He is the recipient of numerous military awards, including USAF Legion of Merit, USAF Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal and the AF Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster.

In other words, Colonel Tepfer knows a thing or two about the armed services.

And he'll arrive in Washington to reiterate to lawmakers what he told readers of the Daily News: "It's time to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' an immoral policy that prohibits patriotic and qualified gay, lesbian and bisexual citizens from serving openly in the military."

And if you'll be in Washington on March 13th, you're invited to join Dan on Capitol Hill. The rally for repeal kicks off at 12noon.

To RSVP for the event, which is free and open to the public, click here to let the organizers at Servicemembers Legal Defense Network know that you'll be there, cheering Dan on and calling for repeal, too.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

White Knots on the Red Carpet

Never a politically shy ceremony, tomorrow evening's Oscar telecast seems poised to make news not just because of who wins and who wears what . . . but because many people will also be tuning in to see who "ties the knot."

Sunday's awards show, which is one of television's most watched annual events, will feature the usual line-up of film industry stars, but what is on their lapels will likely make almost as much news as the Monday morning list of who goes home with Oscar gold.

According to Variety's Wilshire & Washington Blog, "When stars parade down the red carpet at Sunday's Oscars, it's anticipated that at least a few of them will be wearing white ribbons."

"While recent displays of such a fashion accessory stir very little controversy -- red ribbons to mark the AIDS crisis, pink to symbolize breast cancer research --- the white ribbons will symbolize support of same-sex marriage," signifying the stars' opposition to anti-equality measures like Proposition 8, and their steadfast support for full marriage equality."

Variety reports that, "According to Frank Voci, who spearheaded the WhiteKnot.org campaign, Anne Hathaway has said she will wear a ribbon, along with some members of the team behind Milk. (Sean Penn has a ribbon, but Voci said he's been told that the star often doesn't decide until the last minute).

All of the major nominees have been sent the ribbons, along with "publicists and agents and studios and production companies, all with an extremely warm reception," Voci said.

And you can get your white knot, too. Just send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to:

White Knot for Equality
PO Box 691517
West Hollywood, CA 90069


And for more information on the campaign, visit www.WhiteKnot.org online . . . then tune in on Sunday to see who wears their heart - and their knot - on the sleeve (and lapel).

Friday, February 20, 2009

"A Good Parent Is A Good Parent"

Here's news that should surprise absolutely no one: Children raised by loving lesbian and gay parents fare just as well as children brought up by heterosexual couples.

In a widely circulated article from Tuesday's Chicago Tribune, reporter Bonnie Miller Rubin talks to sociologists, researchers, statisticians and others who have reached the unmistakable conclusion that, despite the controversy that still surrounds same-sex families in some parts of America, what's in the best interest of the child is a loving household . . . regardless of the gender of the parents involved.

"Sociologists Judith Stacey and Timothy Biblarz published an analysis in 2001 in the American Sociological Review of 21 studies of children raised by homosexual parents and found that, overall, they were no more likely to suffer from psychological problems than kids raised in conventional homes," Rubin reports.

"There was a very strong consensus that kids turned out about the same," Stacey said.

The study and other research, the Tribune points out, undermine the rhetoric of campaigns in states like Arkansas, where voters approved a ban on adoption during the November elections. And the consequences, they report, are far-reaching.

"At least 4 million U.S. children have one or both parents who identify themselves as homosexual, said Gary Gates of the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law," the paper reports.

"The bottom line is that within the research community there are no empirical studies demonstrating adverse effects, said Stacey, who is now at New York University."

"We know that a parent's sexual orientation is not a significant factor. A good parent is a good parent, . . . and parents who get along and are consistent in their child-rearing . . . have better outcomes than those who don't."

And common sense prevails . . . at least in the pages of the Tribune.

To read Rubin's full report, including interviews with the children of lesbian and gay parents, visit The Chicago Tribune online.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The "Greatest Threat to America?"

Check out the audio clip posted over at Pam's House Blend featuring the rants of Utah's anti-gay Senator Chris Buttars...

It seems like such a shame, especially in light of Utah's Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr's recent coming out in support of civil unions for LGBT people.

Here are some choice excerpts from the audio clips:

To me, homosexuality will always be a sexual perversion. And you say that around here now and everybody goes nuts! But I don't care.

They say, I'm born that way. There's some truth to that, in that some people are born with an attraction to alcohol. One drink and you're gone.


Their number one goal is just to proselyte youth. That's why I threw them out of the schools, I said it's not a friendship club, that's a recruiting station.


They're mean! They want to talk about being nice - they're the meanest buggers I ever seen. It's just like the Muslims. Muslims are good people and their religion is anti-war. But it's been taken over by the radical side. And the gays are totally taken over by the radical side. You don't see the gay out there saying, Let's not do this. Let's not do this, gang. You seem 'em marching around with signs and everything else.


I believe the whole thing is immoral. And I believe you're moving towards - you see, if you say to me, quit shoving your morals down my throat, Butters, my answer back is you know my morals, what's yours? What is the morals of a gay person? You can't answer that. Because anything goes! So now you're moving towards a society that has no morals. There's never been a nation survived that's done that.


I believe that you will destroy the foundation of American society, because I believe the cornerstone of it is a man and a woman, the family. In my mind, it's the beginning of the end. Oh it's worse than that. Sure, Sodom and Gomorrah was localized. This is worldwide. You can't tell me that something that was going on in Sodom and Gomorrah's not going on wholesale right now, and to a large degree by [? unintelligible] the gay community. ... The underbelly is they do not want equality, they want superiority. ... They say we want to be treated just equal. They don't. And I believe that they're internally they're probably the greatest threat to America going down I know of. Yep, the radical gay movement
.

It is such an unacceptable shame to hear words like this spoken in the halls of legislation in 2009. Following in the steps of Sally Kern, Utah's Sen. Buttars also claimed that the gay-rights movement is "probably the greatest threat to America... It's the beginning of the end. Oh, it's worse than that. Sure. Sodom and Gomorrah was localized. This is worldwide."

Read more about Sen. Buttar's anti-gay rants at Pam's House Blend.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

California Lawmakers Say Prop. 8 Is Unfair

"Some rights are so fundamental in our federal and state Constitution, we don't allow them to be changed by a simple majority vote,"

So said California Assemblyman Dave Jones (D-Sacramento) when a legislative committee yesterday endorsed legal efforts to overturn California's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. The California Supreme Court is expected to begin hearing arguments in March over the legality of Proposition 8.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle today, "After hearing conflicting and often emotional testimony about who deserves the last say on the marriage question, the Assembly Judiciary Committee voted 7-3 in favor of a resolution stating that citizens lacked the authority to put the gay marriage ban directly to voters."

The California Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments for March 5 on a series of lawsuits seeking to overturn Proposition 8. The suits say the ballot measure was improperly enacted and is itself unconstitutional because it singles out a minority group for discrimination. Keep reading the PFLAG National Blog for updates in March on the court proceedings.

'Prayers' Now Available on iTunes

Lifetime's critically acclaimed film Prayers for Bobby, starring Golden Globe winner Sigourney Weaver, is now available for download from iTunes.

The film, which tells the emotional, true story of PFLAG mom Mary Griffith, and her amazing journey following the suicide of her son, is available as a digital download for use with video iPods and other digital video players.

(While many PFLAGers have inquired about a DVD release of the film, Lifetime no longer releases projects on DVD, instead making films available in digital format soon after their television premiere.)

To download Prayers, visit iTunes online today.

Domestic Partnerships Bill Heading to New Mexico's Senate


OnTop Magazine reports this week that "The Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act," introduced by Senator Cisco McSorley, has been crafted to give committed gay and lesbian couples domestic partnership benefits.

Dan Tapper, a member the Las Cruces, NM chapter PFLAG told OnTop,"This has been before the Legislature before and has almost passed... Hopefully, with a slight change in the composition of our delegation, we might be able to have it passed."

Domestic partnerships, while not affording the full and complete legal benefits of marriage, are a step in the right direction for LGBT families in New Mexico. We will keep you posted on this legislation, so keep reading!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Deb Price: Keep Bi-National Couples Together

In her weekly column for The Detroit News, columnist Deb Price praises the recent re-introduction of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), spearheaded by our friends at Immigration Equality. UAFA would make simple modifications to existing U.S. immigration law, leveling the playing field for same-sex couples and treating lesbian and gay couples just like their heterosexual counterparts.

"Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., a House Judiciary subcommittee chairman, recently reintroduced the Uniting American Families Act to change the law," Price writes. "President Barack Obama supports changing it."

"The proposal would add 'or permanent partner' to parts of the Immigration and Nationality Act already allowing heterosexuals -- whether U.S. citizens or permanent residents -- to sponsor spouses for green cards," she notes.

"It's wanton cruelty, gratuitous cruelty to keep people who love each other apart," Nadler declared in a teleconference call.

Nadler said Obama's support means "for the first time (we can) make a really serious attempt to pass it" alone or in an omnibus immigration bill.

Nadler stressed that the change has nothing to do with gay marriage, Price notes. "However you stand on that subject, there should be general agreement that loving couples should not be kept apart," he said.

Indeed, no American should be forced to choose between their country and their family, and the Uniting American Families Act would eliminate that unacceptable dilemma.

For more information on UAFA, visit Immigration Equality online, and to read Price's full column, click here.

"A Prudent Move" for Military Families

Dana Rudolph, of Mombian fame, has a new piece up at 365Gay.com about repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and standing up for military families.

The LGBT community is abuzz with the possibility that President Obama will repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy. This is a necessary and important step towards equality for LGBT Americans and enabling our military to recruit and retain qualified personnel.

Repealing DADT, however, is only the first step—albeit the most important one—towards equality for LGBT servicemembers. Unless the federal government not only permits openly lesbian and gay servicemembers, but also recognizes their families, we are asking those servicemembers to defend our country with a fraction of the support given to non-LGBT personnel.

The military takes family support very seriously. Army companies, for example, each contain a Family Readiness Group, “an official command sponsored organization of Family Members, volunteers, and Soldiers belonging to a unit, that together provide an avenue of support and assistance. This network of communication between Family Members, volunteers, the chain of command, and community resources, is for Soldier and Family readiness.” . . .

. . . Soberingly, when the worst happens, only spouses, blood relatives, or adoptive relatives can handle the disposition of remains for a deceased servicemember.

With the repeal of DADT, it is reasonable to assume more lesbian and gay servicemembers will choose to stay in the service longer. They would thus be more likely to have a spouse and/or children at some point in their military careers, making the recognition of their relationships a growing issue.

The wording of final legislation to repeal DADT is still up in the air, but the version currently in the House, H.R. 1246, is clear, however, that benefits for families of lesbian and gay servicemembers are not up for consideration: “Nothing in this Act . . . shall be construed to require the furnishing of dependent benefits in violation of . . . the `Defense of Marriage Act.’”

Hillary Clinton has already agreed to provide same-sex partners of State Department employees with the same benefits and protections as opposite-sex spouses. President Obama has said he will work to repeal DOMA, but has not yet set a timetable.

Let me stress, therefore : We need to stay focused on repealing DADT and not try to work in broader family rights for lesbian and gay servicemembers right now. As much as it hurts to read the DOMA clause in the anti-DADT legislation, it seems a prudent move at this point in order for the measure to have any chance of success.

At the same time, we should be mindful that family rights for military personnel will be an upcoming challenge—and perhaps an opportunity. The repeal of DADT could highlight the need to enact federal relationship-recognition and adoption rights for every American, if only to ensure that all servicemembers have equal benefits for their families.

To read Dana's full column, visit 365Gay.com online . . .

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Call to Action for Tennessee PFLAGers

As many of you may have heard, there has been an anti-gay discriminatory adoption ban posed by 2 legislators from Tennessee, Senator Paul Stanley and Representative John DeBerry. The bill states:

“The public policy of this state is to favor marriage, as defined by the constitution and laws of this state, over unmarried sexual cohabitation. It is also the public policy of this state to place children into adoptive families that provide the most stable familial relationships for that child and will foster an appreciation for the policies of this state that favor marriage over unmarried cohabitation. The general assembly specifically finds that it is not in a child’s best interest to be adopted by a person who is cohabitating in a sexual relationship that is not a legally valid and binding marriage under the constitution and laws of this state. Therefore: a minor may not be adopted if the individual seeking to adopt is cohabiting outside of a marriage that is valid under the constitution and laws of this state.

Senator Stanley has added his own thoughts to the bill, saying that

“"We were having a lot of [unmarried] individuals apply to adopt children from state custody.....And while single people can make very good parents, what we were finding is that some of those individuals were in same-sex relationships," he points out. "And we just thought it was not advantageous to have children who are the responsibility of the state being placed in such homes." Stanley believes married, heterosexual couples provide the best climate for raising children. "I don't think you can put a child in a home with two individuals of the same sex and meet the needs -- the emotional, the physical, the mental needs of that child to be a well-developed child as they move into adulthood," he contends.

We are encouraging you to act – contact your legislator or write a letter for your local newspaper. When contacting your legislator, please make sure you correctly identify the bills: SB0078 in the Senate and HB0605 in the House. To contact your representative, click here. Tell them you do not support these anti-gay and anti-family bills. Encourage your representative to only support legislation that supports all of our families, including our LGBT loved ones.

The Tri Cities, TN chapter (covering the Bristol, Kingsport, and Johnson City areas) has sample letters that you can use to write your legislator or your local newspaper. For copies of these letters, please visit their blog.

-Erin Cranford Williams

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Safer Schools in Minnesota

From the Minnesota Independent today:

"For more than a decade, the Anoka-Hennepin School Board [the state's largest school district] had a policy that forbade teachers and students from speaking about homosexuality, except to describe it as abnormal or invalid. But the board Monday approved a more inclusive policy after years of work by community members to make the district more accepting of all students."

It seems shocking that today in many places across the country, teachers are forbidden to even mention homosexuality. Such policies, usually a feature of so-called "abstinence only" sex education, leave lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people alienated and uninformed. It also sends a subtle message to young LGBT people that they are not as equal and valid as their straight peers.

Stephanie Hazen of Rainbow Families agrees: “The implied message to GLBT students, staff, and families was that they are ‘invalid’ or ‘abnormal'... This was an incredibly harmful and discriminatory message to send, and contributed to a school environment in which GLBT students, staff and families felt marginalized.”

Kudos to the Anoka-Hennepin school district for taking a step towards including and education all of its students.! Read more about the story here.

Also be sure to check out PFLAG's new program Safe Schools: Cultivating Respect, full of tips and resources on how to make schools safer and more inclusive in your community!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Update: No Parole for Sean Kennedy's Murderer

Last month we called our PFLAG allies to action, encouraging everyone to write to the South Carolina Department of Probation, Pardon and Parole to ask that they deny parole for Stephen Andrew Moller.

On May 16, 2007, Sean Kennedy, a 20-year old gay man, was attacked by Moller on the streets of Greenville, South Carolina. He died of his injuries later that night. Yet, because of the lack of hate crimes legislation, Moller was eligible for parole this February!

Fortunately, according to News Channel 7 in Spartanburg, SC, his request has been denied.

Thank-you to every PFLAG member and ally who wrote on behalf of justice for Sean Kennedy.

Open Arms of Support in Birmingham

Rebbecca Odom wrote a wonderful letter to the editor that was featured in The Birmingham News in Birmingham, Alabama. Click here to visit the Birmingham PFLAG chapter's web page, and click here to read Rebbecca's letter...

Lifetime recently aired the movie Prayers for Bobby. It is a heart-wrenching account of a mother's struggle with an undeniable, agonizing truth: Her child's untimely death was a direct result of her misguided rejection. The story, based on real-life events, follows Mary Griffith from her refusal to accept that her teenage son is gay, through the anguished grief she suffers at his suicide and her struggles to obtain absolution for her intolerant actions.

Mary finds that forgiveness in an unlikely place, the welcoming arms of a community she had once so venomously despised. It's a harrowing yet inspirational tale of ignorance succumbing to knowledge, acceptance replacing intolerance and understanding opening the door to love.

The film highlights a reality many families face. When a loved one comes out as gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgendered, it can have a devastating impact on the family. Often, family members feel afraid, lost and alone. But, that's rarely true.

Thousands have united across the nation and around the world to form PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) chapters. This nonprofit organization was founded by another mother, Jeanne Manford, seeking to provide families in crisis peer-to-peer support and education. She recognized the need to bring families together with others who have shared similar experiences, emotions and reactions.

To date, there are five PFLAG chapters in Alabama offering monthly support meetings. One is in Birmingham.

Rebbecca Odom

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

An Update from Utah

Last week, we blogged about the "Common Grounds Initiative" in Utah, which would advance rights for LGBT Utahans. The Common Grounds Initiative bills would create a statewide domestic-partner registry, outlaw employment and housing discrimination against gay and transgender Utahans, and repeal -- if voters signed on -- the portion of Amendment 3 that forbids civil unions.

Today, according to The Salt Lake City Tribune, Utah's Republican governor, Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr, supports granting civil unions to gay Utahans.

Perhaps an unlikely ally, Gov. Huntsman has given his support to the The Common Grounds Initiative, including supporting civil unions. His support is welcomed by groups such as Equality Utah, though many people still feel the struggle for LGBT equality in Utah will continue to be an uphill one. Nevertheless, Gov. Huntsman's support for civil unions is a step in the right direction for Utah, and sends a message that politicians on both sides of the aisle are open to taking steps towards full equality.

Freedom to Marry Week!

It's Freedom to Marry Week, 2009! Join in the activities this week, February 8-14 (appropriately the week leading up to Valentine's Day).

"Freedom to Marry" describes itself as a "gay and non-gay partnership working to win marriage equality nationwide."

Visit their site
- they have a pledge you can sign, a wedding registry, a story center and resources to volunteer and get involved. Check it out and learn why marriage equality matters, see families tell their stories, and find ways you can help move marriage equality forward in your own community.

Tell Your Member of Congress: Treat Bi-National Couples Equally!

From Julie Kruse (pictured), policy director at Immigration Equality:

Great News! Rep. Jerrold Nadler plans to reintroduce the Uniting American Families Act on Feb. 12!

You can make the bill a success by convincing your Representative to support the bill from Day One. Reintroducing the bill with as many cosponsors as possible will show powerful momentum for the rights of gay and lesbian binational couples!

Please call your Representative and ask them to be a cosponsor of the “Uniting American Families Act of 2009”It’s easy!

- Find out who your U.S. House Representative is. Go to http://www.congressmerge.com/, enter your address, and you will be provided the name of your U.S. Representative.

- Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202)224-3121 and ask to be connected to your U.S. Representative.

- Tell your representative’s staff:

I am calling to ask Representative ________________ to be a cosponsor of the Uniting American Families Act of 2009. To cosponsor, he/she must contact Rep. Jerrold Nadler who is the lead sponsor.

The U.S. government discriminates against gay and lesbian binational couples by not allowing us to sponsor our foreign-born life partners for immigration. Because of this, we face the terrible choice of separating from the person we love or leaving our country. As Americans, we should not have to choose between family and country. Please ask Rep. _________________ to cosponsor the Uniting American Families Act of 2009.

Thanks for asking your member of Congress to celebrate love this Valentine’s Day by cosponsoring UAFA!

Monday, February 9, 2009

"A Propitious Moment for Seeking Change"

Add Owen West to the list of military veterans who are ready to see "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" end. The Iraq war vet, who served two tours of duties in the war zone with the Marines, writes in today's New York Times that the time has come to repeal the ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual troops in the armed forces.

"[S]ix years of war have clarified priorities," West writes on the paper's op-ed page. "The battlefield has its own values, starting with courage. Sexual orientation falls somewhere below musical taste. What a person chooses to do back stateside, off-duty, in his own apartment is irrelevant in a fight. For months I lived with 12 other American advisers on an Iraqi outpost. There was a single shower next to a hole that masqueraded as a sewer. But the reality of combat dominated personality quirks - nobody wondered about sexual orientation."

It is time, West says in his piece, for President Obama to move forward on his pledge to support repeal.

"The lesson for President Obama is that this fight is not about rights, but about combat readiness," he writes. "This is a propitious moment for seeking change: a nation at war needs all its most talented troops."

We couldn't agree more . . . and West is in good company. Other high-ranking veterans, such as retired Army Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy and retired Colonel (and PFLAG dad) Dan Tepfer have also called for repeal. And, as West points out, "Maj. Gen. Thomas Bostick, the head of Army recruiting, said the revelant question in considering [recruits'] applications was, 'Does that person deserve an opportunity to serve their country?' That's exactly right."

And West is exactly right, too. Now, more than ever, the American people and - more and more - our men and women in uniform all support open service. And our new commander-in-chief should, too.

To read West's full op-ed, click here.

A Constant Progress

Who could have foreseen what would happen between the Mormon filmmaker and the lesbian priest?

This is the question that The Los Angeles Times asks today as they look into a documentary made about marriage equality and theology that brought together two unlikely friends - and opened the eyes of a new straight ally.

Douglas Hunter, a member of the Mormon church, decided take a cinematic look into marriage equality and the rights of LGBT people to "allow him to explore a subject considered taboo by many other Mormons but which he could no longer ignore." And that's when he met Rev. Susan Russell of the Episcopal church.

Hunter, who filmed Russell in his documentary The Constant Progress, sums his discovery up nicely:

"If as a straight man I find the tools for strengthening my marriage in the relationships of same-sex couples and of a dear friend, can I deny them a fundamental right that I benefit from and cherish? The answer is no."

Read more about Hunter's film in The Los Angeles Times today...

Snapshots: The 1st Annual Straight for Equality Gala

More than 500 people gathered on Thursday in New York for our 1st annual Straight for Equality Gala, honoring Dr. Maya Angelou, Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, Sigourney Weaver and IBM. These photos, from New York photographer Tom Sengel, capture just a few of the countless extraordinary moments from the evening.









Wednesday, February 4, 2009

CA Supreme Court Will Hear Proposition 8 Lawsuit

From our friends at Equality California:

The California Supreme Court announced [yesterday] that it will hear oral arguments on Thursday, March 5, 2009 in the Proposition 8 legal challenge. The National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, and the ACLU—with support from civil rights groups, religious organizations, labor unions, and legal scholars—argue that Proposition 8 is invalid because the people of California have established strict safeguards that prohibit the underlying principles of the California Constitution from being changed by a simple majority vote. By taking away a right only from one group, Proposition 8 violates the most basic principle of our government: that all people are entitled to equal treatment under the law.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown is also asking the Court to invalidate Proposition 8 on the ground that certain fundamental rights, including the right to marry, are inalienable and can not be put up for a popular vote.

On November 10, 2008, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger stated that he hoped the Court would overturn Proposition 8. On CNN, he said of Proposition 8's passage, "It's unfortunate, obviously, but it's not the end, I think that we will again maybe undo that, if the court is willing to do that, and then move forward from there and again lead in that area."

On November 19, 2008, the California Supreme Court agreed to hear the legal challenges to Proposition 8 and set an expedited schedule. Briefing in the case was completed on January 21, 2009.

The California Supreme Court must issue its decisions within 90 days of oral argument.

On January 15, 2009, 43 friend-of-the-court briefs urging the Court to invalidate Prop 8 were filed, arguing that Proposition 8 drastically alters the equal protection guarantee in California's Constitution and that the rights of a minority cannot be eliminated by a simple majority vote. The supporters represent the full gamut of California's and the nation's civil rights organizations and legal scholars, as well as California legislators, local governments, bar associations, business interests, labor unions, and religious groups.

In May of 2008, the California Supreme Court held that laws that treat people differently based on their sexual orientation violate the equal protection clause of the California Constitution and that same-sex couples have the same fundamental right to marry as other Californians. Proposition 8 eliminated this fundamental right only for same-sex couples. No other initiative has ever successfully changed the California Constitution to take away a right only from a targeted minority group. Proposition 8 passed by a bare majority of 52 percent on November 4.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, and the ACLU filed this challenge on November 5, representing Equality California, whose members include many same-sex couples who married between June 16 and November 4, 2008, and six same-sex couples who want to marry in California. The California Supreme Court has also agreed to hear two other challenges filed on the same day: one filed by the City and County of San Francisco (joined by Santa Clara County and the City of Los Angeles, and subsequently by Los Angeles County and other local governments); and another filed by a private attorney.

Serving as co-counsel on the case with NCLR, Lambda Legal, and the ACLU are the Law Office of David C. Codell, Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.

Waiting on the World to Change

This was shared with us today by Dave Parker, former president of PFLAG's Transgender Network (TNET)...
"Just two weeks ago, Cynthia Nicole was gunned down in the streets of Honduras—three shots to the chest, one to the head—because she was a transgender human rights activist, according to the Human Rights Watch website. A familiar story, it said, in Nepal, Africa, Guatemala, the United States—well, everywhere it seems, except…Columbus?"

According to this article in The Other Paper, Columbus, Ohio is becoming a hot spot for transgender people seeking a community that is open, tolerant and provides legal protections.

For example, the city ordinances protect “gender identity or expression,” which means, “having or being perceived as having gender-related identity, appearance, expression, or behavior, whether or not that identity, appearance, expression, or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s actual or perceived sex.”

One resident told The Other Paper, "Over the years, I have worked with many people from other states, as far as Texas and Virginia, and from big cities, such as Chicago and Detroit from where trans people have traveled or moved to Columbus because they could not find help where they lived."

Check out the rest of this intriguing article
. And if you live in or have visited Columbus, give us your opinions and thoughts about the city!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tell-Three.org: Talking About What It Means To Be LGBT

Join the Impact has partnered with other national LGBT groups to develop a web based public education campaign, http://www.tell-three.org/, to encourage LGBT people and their supporters to have three conversations with friends and family to help build support for LGBT equality.

“The passage of Prop 8 in California has motivated LGBT people and their supporters like never before,” said Amy Balliett of Join the Impact, a grass roots organization with more than 15,000 members that has helped to organize massive demonstrations throughout the U.S. since the November elections. “Now that we’ve had some time to get over our anger and sadness, we’re ready to act. And the single most important thing we can do to guarantee we don’t find ourselves on the losing side of another political campaign is to have conversations with our friends and family about what it means to be LGBT.”

Other organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union; Equality California; the Equality Federation; Freedom to Marry; The National Lesbian and Gay Task Force; the National Center for Lesbian Rights; and Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, will be rolling out their own versions of the campaign on their websites. The goal of the campaign is for all LGBT groups and individuals to seize upon the momentum that has been generated since the passage of Proposition 8 in November and work together to tell their stories to build support for all of the issues affecting LGBT people.

Visitors to http://www.tell-three.org/ can find additional information on who to talk with and how to start these important conversations. There are also resources for those who want to learn more about the issues affecting LGBT people. But, as the website notes, the most important thing is for people to have personal conversations. The website encourages LGBT people to talk about their relationships, about growing up, and about how being LGBT has made them feel different from others in some respects and the same in others. Straight allies are encouraged to talk about their relationships with LGBT people and to speak up when they hear others make homophobic or transphobic comments.

The groups are encouraging everyone – members of national and local LGBT groups, individuals and couples supportive moms and dads, and allied friends and colleagues – to join the campaign and get people talking. The site makes it easy to spread the word to others to send an e-mail to their friends. Eventually there will also be opportunities for people to share their experiences on the site.

For more information, or to participate, visit http://www.tell-three.org/.

Fighting for Equality and 'Common Grounds' in Utah

I had the pleasure of traveling to Utah last summer, visiting Salt Lake City and other towns in the region. Aside from being a very beautiful state, I was surprised by the presence of a larger LGBT community that I had anticipated. I was also struck by the resiliency of the Utah LGBT community.

Recently, the "Common Grounds Initiative" - a series of four bills designed to expand the rights of LGBT Utahans - has been vigorously supported by groups such as Equality Utah.

The Salt Lake City Tribune reports today that one key component of the Common Grounds Initiative failed last week, but that hasn't stopped Equality Utah from pushing public awareness and fighting for the remaining parts of the initiative.

At stake now are "remaining bills would create a statewide domestic-partner registry, outlaw employment and housing discrimination against gay and transgender Utahans, and repeal -- if voters signed on -- the portion of Amendment 3 that forbids civil unions."

Stay tuned for future news on the outcomes of these bills in Utah. As many PFLAGers know, public awareness, visibility and education are key in gaining public support even in areas that seem hard for LGBT people to gain inroads and public support.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Book Review: Nature's Choice

Nature’s Choice is a compilation and review of many research studies about the characteristics of sexual orientation in conjunction with hormonal and physical interactions during pregnancy and early life. The author includes studies of the neurohormonal theory of sexual orientation, the possibility of heritability, anomalies in the gene structures and their ability to react to hormones, and the effects of alcohol and drug use during pregnancy. Thorough and very well written, this is a must book for anyone concerned with the cause of sexual orientation – whether heterosexual or homosexual.

Dr. Weill makes this subject understandable by including definitions, explanations of theory, and science and the scientific method. She covers anatomy, genetics, body measurements, sensory systems, birth order effects, and maternal behaviors – all of which have been studied recently in relation to sexual orientation. While there is no definitive proof of the cause of sexual orientation, the sheer number of correlations between testosterone and sexual orientation appears to confirm the neurohormonal theory as a major influence. Meanwhile, the most consistent apparent influence on male sexual orientation is birth order, where there is an increasing probability of a gay male within a family as the number of male children increases.

No data are reviewed concerning determination of sexual orientation due to postnatal social environment. Science requires data, complete with peer review and replication of studies and their results. There is no credible scientific data showing postnatal parental, sibling, or societal influence as influencing sexual orientation.

- Dave Parker