Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lisa Larges & The Reprecussions of Rejection

Lisa Larges recently found herself the latest person caught in the untenable Catch-22 of too many churches: How can openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people demonstrate their commitment to their chosen path - and be a positive example to parishioners who need them - when their own denomination labels them as unqualified to be leaders in their communities of faith?

Larges, who was poised to become the Presbyterian Church's first openly lesbian minister, had her hopes dashed when, last week, the church blocked her path to ordination. And while church leaders did not specifically cite her sexual orientation as the reason for its decision - instead issuing a very technical ruling that the process used to advance her ordination was flawed - the fact remains that the Presbyterian Church, like too many others, continues to deny its congregants the opportunity to be led by clergy who reflect, from the pulpit, the diversity already evident in their pews.

Indeed, LGBT people are part of every tradition of faith, but continue to be unfairly excluded from the leadership of their houses of worship. In most cases, an openly lesbian or gay person who adheres to every tenet of their religion is, nonetheless, blocked from ascending to the title of clergy. The result, unfortunately, is an unacceptable message that lesbian and gay people are somehow "less than" in the eyes of God . . . and that, in turn, has real consequences for families, and especially young people, who worship in houses that still refuse to put out a welcome mat for all spiritual seekers.

The truth is that members of the clergy continue to play a monumental role in many people's lives. For lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, that role can either be life-saving or heart-wrenchingly painful. And in both cases, the effects can be long-term.

Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church

In a newly updated and expanded edition of his original best seller Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality, evangelical theologian and former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Jack Rogers makes a biblical case for equal rights for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Throughout history, he observes, Christianity has moved towards ever greater openness and inclusiveness. Today's church is led by many of those who were once excluded: people of color, women, and divorced and remarried people. He argues that when we interpret the Bible through the lens of Jesus' redemptive life and ministry, we see that the church is called to grant equal rights to all people. Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality describes Rogers' own change of mind and heart on the issue, charts the church's history of using biblical passages to oppress marginalized groups, argues for a Christ-centered reading of Scripture, debunks stereotypes about people who are LGBT, refutes the conventional wisdom about the texts that are often used against people who are LGBT, and presents ideas for how the church can heal itself and move forward again.

The revised and expanded edition also includes:

* A new preface with "stories from the road" as a result of Rogers's two year book tour in support of the first edition;

* Updates on recent developments within the Presbyterian Church ( U.S.A.);

* A new chapter that examines God's radical welcome for all who have faith as revealed in Scripture;

* A new appendix that maps the recent progress toward LGBT equality in major U.S. denominations; and

* A study guide for group or personal reflection.

Rogers is Professor of Theology Emeritus at San Francisco Theological Seminary and Moderator of the 213th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He is the author of Reading the Bible and the Confessions; Claiming the Center: Churches and Conflicting Worldviews; and Presbyterian Creeds.

For more information, visit his website online, and to purchase Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality online, click here. (By using this link, Amazon.com will donate 5% of your purchase total to PFLAG National.)

Monday, March 30, 2009

"Lez Get Real" About Don't Ask, Don't Tell

When PFLAG dad and retired Air Force Colonel Dan Tepfer spoke at a rally in Washington, earlier this month, to support repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," he made quite an impression on many of the people gathered at the U.S. Capitol, including Paula Brooks.

Brooks, who blogs at Lez Get Real, tracked Colonel Tepfer down via Facebook after hearing him speak in D.C. And, as the two conversed via email, they learned they also had many things in common, including families with histories of military service and a connection to Ohio as well.

Last week, Brooks posted a lengthy interview with Colonel Tepfer at Lez Get Real, where the two discussed the role of PFLAG in supporting families and the future of the military's ban on gay troops.

"After Col Tepfer’s speech," Brooks wrote, "I found I had tears in my eyes visualizing having someone you love and cherish, giving the last full measure of devotion they can for this country and that service person’s surviving partner not receiving from that country even the most basics of human kindness that country could offer because they are gay."

"Because I know first hand what that kindness means to the one who receives them . . "

"When a soldier dies, an officer is assigned to attend their funeral. Part of those officers’ duties is give the surviving spouse the American flag that has been draped over the loved ones coffin."

"Honorable discharged veterans are also permitted this honor at their funerals."

"In December, my partner of 10 years passed away due to breast cancer," Brooks recalls.

"Debbie had been an officer in the United States Navy for a time and was thereby eligible for and accorded military honors at her funeral. However there was a momentary controversy just before her funeral over just who would receive her flag… My Father, a retired Air Force officer, and Debbie’s father, a retired navy officer, quickly explained to the young officer in charge of Debs honor guard the nature of our relationship and without further discussion, at the end of Debbie’s funeral service, the officer in charge did the decent thing and presented the flag to me . . . "

"And it meant a lot to me to be told 'This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Navy in appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.' I knew this “small kindness” would mean even more to someone who had lost that loved one because they were killed in the line of duty in the service of his or her country… and what it would mean to someone not get that flag because of some arcane government policy."

"So I knew I had to interview Col. Tepfer and do this story about him."

And that story - an in-depth discussion about LGBT issues, families and the military - is now available online at Lez Get Real.

To read the full interview with Colonel Tepfer, click here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Capturing the Freedom to Love

Photographer Betty Lark Ross has created a dream assignment in an international photography contest. She is asking PFLAGers to assist in supporting her project...

Betty says of her project concept:

"I would like to create images that I never saw growing up. Seeing photographs of family cultivates a sense of belonging. Not seeing depictions of gay and lesbian couples and their families causes feelings of isolation, peculiarity, or abnormal existence and reinforces the notion that these relationships are unacceptable."

Click here to read more about her proposal

The contest deadline is April 3rd so please click the above webpage, register and vote for her project to help provide visibility and greater awareness gay and lesbian couples and their families. Betty adds, "and please send this to as many friends as you can."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Remembering Pedro Zamora

I can remember watching The Real World: San Francisco on MTV fifteen years ago as a young teenager, and seeing Pedro Zamora. He was, at that time, the only visible out gay character on television, and it was the first time I had seen an intimate and positive look into an openly LGBT person's life.

I can also remember how, after the series aired, Zamora - who was also open about living with HIV AIDS, and willing to educate people - passed away.

Now, fifteen years later, MTV is presenting a movie, Pedro on April 1, 2009 about his life and legacy. The Orion reports: "Pedro is a dramatized retelling of Zamora's life. The script is by Dustin Lance Black, who wrote Milk. It goes beyond his participation in The Real World and explores how he impacted young people in the early '90s."

After seeing Dustin Lance Black's screenplay work in Milk, I am interested in seeing this movie about one of the most influential out gay people of the 90's - a decade that shaped the modern gay rights movement enormously.

As Eric Ruben, chairman of the board of directors for Stonewall Alliance Center, told The Orion, "Zamora broke stereotypes and showed young gay people it was OK to be themselves... Sometimes being open about sexuality can save lives."

Pedro debuts April 1 on MTV. It will be simultaneously broadcast on MTV, mtvU, LOGO and MTV Tr3s at 8 p.m.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Everyone Matters: Dignity and Safety for Trans People

Recently, several Massachusetts organizations released a 10-minute online video called Everyone Matters: Dignity and Safety for Trans People, featuring the personal narratives of four trans individuals discussing the impacts of discrimination on their lives – with a special focus on employment discrimination. The organizations’ responsible for producing this film are now using it as an educational tool helping non-trans people understand how this kind of discrimination hurts the greater trans community along with highlighting the very real need for laws to explicitly prohibit it.

According Jennifer Levi, Director of the Transgender Rights Project at Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), “transgender people are widely unemployed and vastly underemployed,” with 56 percent of transgender people being fired from their places of employment, 47 percent being denied employment and 21 percent being harassed either verbally or physically on the job. Even though it’s clear that employment discrimination destroys the lives of trans people, no law in Massachusetts or at the federal level explicitly protects trans people from this unnecessary and malicious treatment.

Everyone Matters comes at a critically important time as the Massachusetts legislature will soon begin debate on a “transgender rights” bill – An Act Relative to Gender Based Discrimination and Hate Crimes - that will add Massachusetts to 13 other states, Washington DC, and 102 counties and cities - including Boston, Cambridge and Northampton –making protections for trans people explicit, uniform and visible to the general public. It will include gender identity and expression in the state’s nondiscrimination statute and will amend the existing hate crimes law.

The film also reinforces why it is so critically important to pass a fully inclusive federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Even when the fair-minded legislators of Massachusetts rightfully enact this bill into law, 36 other states will still be left without uniform protections for trans employees, making an already vulnerable population even more susceptible to blatant violence and discrimination. The passage of an inclusive ENDA that includes protections for both sexual orientation and gender identity will send a clear message to employers, mandating that they judge job applicants and employees by the quality of their work rather than what gender box they check.

Keeping the spirit of PFLAG’s tradition alive, we encourage you to share your personal narratives with your state and federal legislators. If you live in Massachusetts, please be sure to participate in the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition’s lobby day on Tuesday, April 17th from 10 am – 1 pm. If you don’t live in Massachusetts but would like to help, please call your federal legislators today and ask them to support a fully inclusive ENDA. They need to hear from all of us about the experiences that trans people, family members, friends and allies face in the absence of laws affirming the right to freedom of gender identity and gender expression.

-Rhodes Perry

And be sure to watch the video clip of Everyone Matters below...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Moving Equality Forward in Terre Haute

Last month I blogged about the new PFLAG chapter that debuted in Terre Haute, Indiana. Last Friday, the new chapter was profiled in The Indiana Statesman about the important work they've been doing!

The Indiana Statesman recalls of the meeting, "the circle of approximately 15 chairs in the middle of the room continued to expand. When the meeting finally began, [chapter founders] were overwhelmed by the turnout... More than 40 members of the community turned out to the Terre Haute Unitarian Universalist Church in support of the group."

Congratulations to PFLAG Terre Haute on a great start!

And to those in the region, remember: The Terre Haute PFLAG chapter will meet again April 23 at 7 p.m. at the Terre Haute Unitarian Universalist Church located at 1875 S. Fruitridge Ave.

Diversity and Prejudice in Scools

This week The Colorado Springs Gazette takes a look at Pine Creek High School' Diversity Club, which aims at creating a dialogue between students of different ethnic, religious, and sexual orientation backgrounds. And the Gazette talks to both national and local PFLAG about creating safe schools!

In profiling PFLAG:

The strategy is to approach schools through parents, rather than as outsiders.

"We've been very deliberate in deciding which cities to launch the program," said Steve Ralls, national spokesman for PFLAG. "And we want to be in places like Colorado Springs, more conservative areas where this work has not been done."

Marilyn Davis, president of the local chapter of PFLAG, says the time is right.

"I think that there's a different climate now because we've had some high-profile issues," Davis said. "So, the administrations are more open now."

"Before, a lot of schools said, ‘We don't allow bullying of any kind here, and we don't allow name-calling. We've got it under control. The parents don't want that discussed in the schools.' But eventually they're going to have to start talking about it."

Read the complete article here

Also be sure to take a look at PFLAG's new safe schools program Cultivating Respect!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Another Step Towards Equality in Vermont

Vermont was the first state in the union to offer civil unions to gay and lesbian couples, back in 2000. And now the Green Mountain State seems poised to offer full marriage equality along with fellow New England states Massachusetts and Connecticut.

It is being reported that last Friday, a state Senate committee unanimously approved the bill, which will now go before both the state Senate and House for votes.

The Huffington Post predicts that, "both Houses, under Democratic control, are expected to pass the measure. The Senate is taking the lead and is expected to debate the bill next week."

There may be resistance from Vermont's Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican, who "has said he opposes the bill but has declined to say whether he will veto it if it reaches his desk."

Stay tuned for updates from Vermont, as we'll be following closely to see if another state joins the ranks of those that grant full marriage equality to their residents.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Judge Rules Students Can Start GSA at Florida High School

U.S. District Judge Henry Adams ruled last week that two high school students in Yulee, FL could start a gay-straight alliance ("GSA") at Yulee High School after being ordered to stop meeting last October after just one meeting. Judge Adams said that the school district’s argument against allowing the club to meet “strains logic.”

Hannah Page, Yulee High School student and plaintiff, shares her story here.

The school district had told the students that they could not meet unless they changed the name of the group to something that didn’t mention a sexual orientation. Their reasoning was that using the word gay in the name of the club would violate the district’s abstinence only policy. Judge Adams dismissed this claim, noting that “there is no evidence that the alliance counters the relevant abstinence policy in any way.”

Per the judge’s ruling, the school district must:

· Immediately allow the GSA to begin meeting without having to change its name

· Circulate the judge’s order to all teachers and staff within 72 hours

· Not retaliate against any student or faculty for his or her involvement with the alliance

· Recognize the GSA as it would any other extracurricular student organization

Our many thanks to attorney Robert Rosenwald from the ACLU of Florida and U.S. District Judge Henry Adams for bringing equality to Yulee High School!

For more information, click here.

-Erin Cranford Williams

Dubai: "Manly" Women Considered Menace to Society

This article from the Los Angeles Times is a great way to discuss the commonalities between the women's rights movement and the LGBT rights movement. When we explore the root causes of attitudes towards LGBT people, the root often lies in an effort to maintain traditional gender roles, which typically place women in a subjugated role to men. This construction of roles is difficult to maintain when people pursue same-sex relationships.

The attempt to maintain problematic gender roles is by no means limited to Dubai. We deal with similar perceptions of gender roles in the U.S. So discuss this shocking campaign with your family, friends and PFLAG group!

Also, if any of you are in a book group discussing The Handmaid's Tale, this would be a great parallel between themes of the book and real life. Interestingly enough, Margaret Atwood, the author of the book, recently refused to go to Dubai for an authors' conference because of anti-gay censorship.

Click here to read the article in The Los Angeles Times:

We've all heard about the financial crisis hitting Dubai and the United Arab Emirates' economy: real estate prices plummeting, herds of professionals getting laid off and flocks of shopping-obsessed tourists disappearing.

In this economic mess, the oil-rich United Arab Emirates has set its sights not on unscrupulous bankers or speculators, but bizarrely on women said to act and dress in a masculine way.

Click here to read more.

-Kim Jones

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Saluting a Champion of Troops and a Leader on Repeal

When the day arrives - as it soon will - that our armed forces finally, and officially, welcome lesbian and gay troops, it will be due in no small part to the efforts of Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher (D-CA). Tauscher (pictured), who is revered in Washington as one of the Capitol's keenest minds on military and national security issues, has devoted enormous time and energy in leading the effort to topple "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and has moved the ball immeasurably forward in the campaign to end our government's official discrimination against lesbian and gay patriots.

Yesterday, we learned that Congresswoman Tauscher will be leaving the House, to accept a new post as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security . . . a post that her years of work on arms issues and defense strategy make her uniquely qualified to fill. And for many lesbian and gay Americans - and especially LGBT troops - she will leave behind an admirable legacy and some big shoes to fill.

Since becoming the lead Congressional sponsor of The Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Tauscher has helped keep the issue of gays in the military on the front pages of America's newspapers, and on the front burner of the national debate.

After assuming responsibility for the legislation following the departure of former Congressman Marty Meehan (D-MA), Tauscher promised - and delivered - the first Congressional hearings on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" since the law's implementation. Those hearings - chaired by Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-CA) - unmasked the unmistakable bigotry of those who continue to support prohibitions on open service and put the Pentagon on notice that change is coming soon. And they may have never happened without Tauscher's leadership and her commitment to LGBT service personnel and their families, too.

Just weeks ago, Tauscher re-introduced her repeal legislation, emphasizing that she would not abandon the fight for equality in our armed forces. And we have no doubt that she will continue to be a fierce defender, in her new role at the State Department, of the rights of lesbian and gay Americans to serve.

In the coming weeks, Congress will find a new leader to shepherd The Military Readiness Enhancement Act through the House. The smart money may well be on Davis, who represents a district with a large military population who admire and respect her leadership, and who chairs the Subcommittee on Personnel and Readiness, where repeal legislation is now pending.

In the meantime, however, countless service members, their families and loved ones, will pause to remember, and salute, Congresswoman Tauscher for her dedication to lifting the ban. Because of her tireless efforts, they each had a champion, and a true leader, working on their behalf on Capitol Hill.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Defining Marriage Equality

Today, The Chicago Tribune features the marriage of David and Lee Neubecker and asks its readers to weigh in with their feelings about marriage...

The main article, which you can read here, features the Neubeckers - a gay couple (pictured right, left column) - and a heterosexual married couple that rejects marriage equality.

It certianly seems ironic for any married couple to deny those same rights and privilieges to another couple simply because of their genders. Nevertheless, Chicago Tribune readers are voting now on a marriage equality survery (click here to take the survery) and voicing their opinions online (click here to speak up for LGBT marriage equality).

Share your stories and opinions today, take the survery, and read more about the Neubeckers and why all citizens deserve the same respect and rights to marriage equality.

Headlines in the Heartland

I wanted to update all of you on a terrific week for PFLAG, and our chapters, in local and national media. From advocating for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to calling out a local school district after officials shut down a production of The Laramie Project, PFLAG spokespeople are making headlines in the heartland and shining a national spotlight on the great work we’re doing every day.

On Tuesday morning, USA Today reported on the case of Debra Taylor, a law and ethics teacher at a Grandfield, Oklahoma high school who was suspended, and later resigned, after teaching her class The Laramie Project, about the murder of gay Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard. After Taylor was nearly a month into her study of the critically acclaimed play – and despite strong community support from parents and teachers – she was abruptly ordered to stop her lesson and cancel the project.

In response, PFLAG’s Norman, Oklahoma chapter – with the help of local PFLAGers Kay Holladay, Kay Ham and Nancy McDonald – sent the Grandfield school board a powerful statement, calling on them to resume teaching The Laramie Project. This morning, the nation’s most read newspaper noted that, "The Norman, Okla., chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) urged administrators to allow The Laramie Project as a way ‘to create a culture where everyone is welcomed, embraced and valued.'"

We couldn’t be more proud of our chapter for their bold action, and for putting this important story on the national radar.

And, we’re also proud of retired Air Force Colonel – and PFLAG dad – Dan Tepfer, from our Dayton, Ohio chapter. Dan, who also serves on PFLAG’s national board of directors, was in Washington on Friday to stand before the United States Capitol and call on Congress to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” On Friday morning, Dan sat down with Kerry Eleveld, of The Advocate, for an in-person interview about his work to end the military’s ban on gay troops and his passion for PFLAG. And on Sunday morning, he was front-and-center in The Dayton Daily News, where columnist Mary McCarty noted that Dan is so committed to PFLAG “that his children refer to Tepfer and his wife Nancy as ‘Mr. and Mrs. PFLAG.’”

“Tepfer delivered an impassioned speech on the west lawn of the Capitol,” McCarty noted, adding that the demise of the military’s ban “would make Mr. PFLAG very happy.”

On Sunday, PFLAG’s Regional Director for the Pacific Northwest, Kathy Reim, was also profiled in her hometown paper, The Skagit Daily Herald, and spoke about her own passion for helping families and ending prejudice. Calling Reim “a champion for diversity,” the paper notes that she “is well-known in Skagit County for her efforts to promote tolerance and fight discrimination.”

All of us at PFLAG are enormously proud of the amazing work our chapters are doing – from Washington State to Washington, D.C., and everywhere in-between. Their dedication to moving equality forward inspires us all and reminds us of the progress we’re making, in big ways and small, in communities across our country.

Thank you to all of our PFLAG members, chapters and allies who make that work possible.

P.S.: PFLAG National’s communications staff helps keep our good work in the headlines, and the media’s attention focused on the efforts of our allies in the field. If you would like to support our efforts to ensure our chapters continue to be highlighted in national and local media – like USA Today and The Dayton Daily News ­– please consider making a tax-deductible gift online. Your contribution will be put to immediate use and assist in our efforts to show the entire country the terrific work PFLAGers are doing.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Meet Lily and Thomasina

The radio program This American Life, on a special Valentine's Day episode last month, featured the friendship formed by two young trans girls who met at a conference for parents of trans kids...

Lilly and Thomasina have a lot in common. They’re both 8 years old. And they were both born boys, although it became clear pretty early on that they'd prefer to be girls. There aren’t all that many kids in the world like them, but recently, at a conference in Seattle on transgender parenting, they met. And they immediately hit it off. They could talk about things with each other that they'd never been able to share with other friends back home. And that’s comforting, even if they never see each other after the conference ends.

Click here to visit This American Life's archive of the episode (under "Act Two: Tom Girls) and listen in!

Grandfield on the Newsstands: A Teachable Moment for Us All

About two weeks ago, PFLAG received a call about a situation in Oklahoma, where a Grandfield High School teacher had been suspended for teaching The Laramie Project, a 2002 play and film about the murder of Matthew Shepard. The teacher, Debra Taylor, was reportedly ordered to stop teaching the critically acclaimed work and later removed from her classroom, despite widespread support from parents and students.

The PFLAG National office immediately reached out to Oklahoma PFLAG members, who have been leaders on Safe Schools issues in the state, and engaged them in an effort to find out what, exactly, was happening in Grandfield.

Kay Holladay, of PFLAG's Norman, Oklahoma, chapter, immediately became our "eyes and ears" on the ground, and was joined by Kay Ham and Nancy McDonald, who were instrumental in helping us all understand the politics of the local community and the real story behind Debra Taylor, her class and The Laramie Project.

On Friday, the Grandfield school board convened - at 7am local time - to consider Taylor's case, and to deliberate about her future. Ahead of that meeting, PFLAG Norman submitted a statement, written in coordination with our communications team here at National, to communicate the importance of creating a school environment that respects diversity, both of opinion and people.

We took the opportunity to spread PFLAG's message of respect and understanding as the building blocks of a good education . . . and this morning, USA Today took notice, including the statement as part of its coverage of Taylor's subsequent resignation and the ongoing debate about Grandfield High School and The Laramie Project.

But our allies in Norman aren't resting, and the story isn't over. They have reached out to the school board and the superintendent, again, and requested a meeting to discuss the situation and the impact it may have on students and the community. PFLAG and our chapter has offered our services - and our expertise in training students and faculty on the issues facing LGBT people in a hostile environment - to the Grandfield school district. And we'll continue to work together to address the issues at the heart of the story in Grandfield - both behind the scenes and, if necessary, publicly, as we did with USA Today.

From our National office in Washington to our chapter in Norman, our goal, all along, has been to cultivate a safe and respectful school environment that teaches students to stand up for each other, and empowers their teachers and communities to stand against hatred, bullying and discrimination.

With the help of amazing leaders in the field - like Kay Holladay, Nancy McDonald and Kay Ham - we can ensure that Grandfield is a teachable moment about how to best teach our young people.

Suzanne Greenfield

New Hampshire PFLAGers: Act on This...

Gerri Cannon, PFLAG New Hampshire's Council President, wants to let everyone know that today, Tuesday March 17th, the New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee will be voting on HB415 which adds gender identity non-discrimination to the laws.

Cannon says:

If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to contact your local State Representatives and let them know that you want them to support this bill.

If you don’t know who to contact, click here, where you can get a list of Representatives and their contact information.

HB415 proposes to add “Gender Identity or Expression” to the state’s existing non-discrimination laws. There are no special provisions in this bill for anyone. This bill has been written to give Transgender people the same rights as every other New Hampshire resident. Text of the bill can be found by clicking here.

This bill has been submitted because transgender or gender expressive people in New Hampshire have been discriminated against for many years. They are not covered by existing laws, including sexual orientation protections.

Some people have expressed a concern that this bill will give men legal rights to enter women’s bathrooms to hurt others. This bill does not change existing laws that protect people from harm when using public facilities. Similar bills have been enacted in 13 States and communities since the 1970’s. There have been no documented incidents of people misusing those bills to hurt others and there have been no changes in laws regarding the use of bathrooms.

Some people have also expressed concern that this bill would pose a threat to the religious liberties of business owners in New Hampshire, by forcing them to do business with transgender people. Please be aware that the transgender population is a cross section of humanity and religions. Transgender people are Christians, Muslims, Jews and non-believers, just like the rest of us.

And lastly, but most importantly, thousands of transgender and gender expressive people have been living peacefully in the state of New Hampshire for many, many years. They have lived their lives as law abiding citizens to the best of their ability, even while being discriminated against by people that feel it’s okay to treat transgender people badly.

Please stop the discrimination. Let the House Judiciary Committee members know that they need to support HB415. Send them an e-mail this week. Then, let your local State Representatives know that you oppose discrimination and want transgender people to be protected in the eyes of the law.

Ambiente Magazine Interviews Scott Bailey About PFLAG, 'Prayers' and His Gay Fans

Ambiente Magazine has just published an exclusive interview with actor Scott Bailey (pictured), from the acclaimed Lifetime film Prayers for Bobby. Bailey talks to the magazine about his work with PFLAG, his experience filming Prayers and what he thinks about his gay fans . . . Proposition 8 . . . and much, much more.

“I’m very proud to be considered a straight ally,” Bailey said. “I’ve always thought it was important to stand up for what is right, and especially for the majority to stand up for the minority. As a straight white guy, maybe more of the majority will listen to me when I stand up and say that gay rights are guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution and Proposition 8 and gay discrimination are simply wrong.”

“I was thrilled and honored that [PFLAG] asked me to participate” in their Prayers event, he added. “PFLAG plays an integral part in helping families better understand the lives and experiences of their gay family members. . . . I will never forget the mothers and fathers who hugged me, thanked me and through tears told me how much they loved their gay sons and daughters. To help such a powerfully positive organization that literally saves lives is something I would do again in a heartbeat. Anytime, anywhere!”

“I will gladly step up and lend my support in any way I can,” he told the magazine. “I feel strongly about LGBT equality issues. Inequality is not acceptable. Separate is not equal. And I will continue to stand up and raise my voice for equality for all until it becomes a reality.”

And to all the “Bobbys” and their families, Bailey offers this advice: “Be proud of who you are! When you can safely come out, do so. If you are struggling, there are organizations like PFLAG and The Trevor Project that can help. And if your family is having trouble accepting you, turn them on to PFLAG and get them to watch Prayers for Bobby.”

“I may just be one guy,” he told Ambiente, “but I hope that I am being a part of the change I want to see, and I would love for that change to become infectious.”

To read the full Ambiente interview with Bailey, click here.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Washington Post: Keep Bi-National Couples Together

This morning's Washington Post calls on Congress to pass The Uniting American Families Act, which would modify existing U.S. immigration policy to treat same-sex and opposite-sex couples equally. Noting that "American gays and lesbians should not have to choose between their country and their partners," the paper's editorial board weighs in on behalf of the estimated 35,000 couples impacted by immigration inequality.

Here's an excerpt of The Post's editorial:

The Uniting American Families Act would allow gay and lesbian Americans and permanent residents to sponsor their foreign-born partners for legal residency in the United States. The bill, introduced last month in the Senate by Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and in the House by Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), would add "permanent partner" and "permanent partnership" after the words "spouse" and "marriage" in relevant sections of the Immigration and Nationality Act. If passed, it would right a gross unfairness.

. . . According to the most recent census, he added, about 35,000 binational, same-sex couples are living in the United States. The new legislation would ensure that the family connections valued under immigration law are extended to gays and lesbians.

The strain of the status quo on gay and lesbian binational couples should not be discounted. Because their relationships are not legally recognized by the United States, some couples have resorted to illegal marriages where the foreign nationals marry Americans to get green cards that allow them to stay in the country permanently. In other cases, Americans have exiled themselves to be with their partners. Sixteen countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United Kingdom, allow residents to sponsor same-sex permanent partners for legal immigration. American gays and lesbians should not have to choose between their country and their partners.

For more information on UAFA, visit Immigration Equality online. And for information on sending a supportive letter-to-the-editor of The Washington Post, click here.

"A Champion for Diversity"

Sunday's Skagit Valley Herald included a terrific profile of Kathy Reim, president of the local PFLAG chapter and the recently-elected PFLAG Regional Director for the Pacific Northwest. Calling Reim "a champion for diversity," the paper notes that she "is well-known in Skagit County for her efforts to promote tolerance and fight discrimination."

“That’s what I love about her,” Michael Bonacci, treasurer of Skagit County PFLAG, told the Herald. “She just doesn’t believe in good things, she makes good things happen.”

Reim's dedication to civil rights and the movement for LGBT equality, the paper points out, came about in an un-conventional way.

Before becoming the mother of an out daughter, Kathy's "mother was a flying trapeze artist who also worked with elephants," reporter Codi Hamblin writes. "Reim and her family were surrounded by a plethora of different cultures and people, from dwarfs and gypsies to talented athletes."

"Children of the circus often were teased by other children in the towns they visited," Reim told the paper.

That teasing "shaped her life for years to come and helped cement her foundation as a tolerant and understanding teacher."

"It framed my opinion to know that people are different,” Reim said.

And today, Reim is a leader for PFLAG at the local and national level.

"As regional director, Reim will communicate with 50 chapters and serve as a liaison between the Pacific Northwest and the organization’s national headquarters in Washington, D.C.," the paper writes. "In addition, she will participate in four annual meetings with other regional directors."

“For me, it’s an opportunity to bring all the skills in every aspect of my life together,” Reim said. “And I get to meet many wonderful people who share common interests and goals.”

Kathy, as one person in the comments section on the paper's website says, "is a local heroine. She has brought so much understanding and compassion to so many in need."

And all of us at PFLAG National can attest that her heroine status goes far beyond the boundaries of her chapter or region . . . and that all of our families are very luck to have Kathy Reim fighting on our side.

To read the full profile from the Skagit Valley Herald, click here.
Photo by Scott Terrell for the Skagit Valley Herald.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

"Waving the PFLAG for No Ban on Gays"

This morning's Dayton Daily News includes a column by Mary McCarty, who speaks with retired Colonel Dan Tepfer about his work with PFLAG and his appearance, on Friday, at the U.S. Capitol, where he joined other veterans from across the country to rally for repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

"During his 23 years of active duty service in the Air Force," McCarty writes, Tepfer "rarely gave any thought to gays in the military."

"I wasn't gay or lesbian so it wasn't in my sights," he told the paper, adding that, "I always judged peopl eon how they performed. The hardest challenge was getting good people."

That all changed, however, when the Colonel learned that his own family included lesbian, bisexual and transgender members, and after he became involved with PFLAG, where he currently serves on the national board of directors and is an active member of the Dayton, Ohio chapter.

"He's so committed that his children refer to Tepfer and his wife Nancy as 'Mr. and Mrs. PFLAG,'" McCarty reports.

"What a mind-opener and heart-changer" his family members were in his own journey, Colonel Tepfer recalls. "We became aware of the many ways that gay, lesbian and bisexual citizens are treated unequally, including 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'"

And on Friday, "Tefper delivered an impassioned speech," she notes, urging Congress to take action and welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans to the armed forces."

Indeed, following Friday's speech, Colonel Tepfer has heard from other PFLAG parents, who happen to be veterans, and from at least one openly gay child of a veteran, who reached out to Dan, via Facebook, to thank him for his activism on the issue.

And, as McCarty concludes in her article this morning, all of that, "would make Mr. PFLAG very happy" indeed.

To read the full coverage of Colonel Tepfer's Washington appearance in The Dayton Daily News, click here.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A PFLAG Colonel Rallies for Repeal

The PFLAG National staff just returned from Capitol Hill, where we joined our very own Dan Tepfer (pictured) - a PFLAG dad, board member and retired Colonel - for this afternoon's rally urging Congress to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." An estimated 200 people joined Dan and other veterans and activists from across the country.

The Advocate's Kerry Eleveld spoke with Dan earlier today, and highlights their conversation at the magazine's website:

Daniel Tepfer, a retired Air Force Colonel and national PFLAG board member, will also speak at the rally. Here he dons his rainbow bracelet and notes that he has also removed his wedding ring in order to become more ambiguous.

"This way, when I say something about 'my partner,' people don't know whether that's a woman or a man," he says. "I even sometimes go into book stores and browse the LGBT section."

In terms of getting involved in PFLAG, he says, "When a kid comes out of the closet, a parent goes in, and I went in deep." But that was more than a decade ago, and over the years he has marched in parades, given speeches, and lobbied legislators, including Governor Ted Strickland, who was a congressman at the time. 'He came right out, sat down and said, 'You're from PFLAG, what do you need?' He talked to me until an aide finally came and dragged him away for a vote.'"

To read Kerry's full coverage, click here. And, you can also talk with Dan, live this evening, on the Derek and Romaine Show on Sirius Out Q. For more information on Dan's appearance on the show, at 8:30 this evening, just click here.

Tonight: Join PFLAG on Derek & Romaine

Be sure to tune in tonight as PFLAG launches our bi-monthly segment on Sirius Out Q's Derek and Romaine Show, and talks about the campaign to end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

PFLAG dad, and retired Colonel, Dan Tepfer will join Derek and Romaine at 8:30 this evening to talk about this morning's "rally for repeal" on Capitol Hill, and his work to end the military's ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual service members.

Tonight's broadcast is the first in an on-going series of conversations with PFLAG spokespeople about the organization's work - at the federal, state and local level - to move equality forward for LGBT Americans, their families and loved ones. We'll be joining Derek and Romaine, on a regular basis, to discuss the latest PFLAG news and updates, and to take calls from listeners about PFLAG's work around the country.

Be sure to tune in tonight and join Colonel Tepfer at 8:30pm (ET). And, if you don't yet have a Sirius subscription, visit Sirius Out Q online for a free trial.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Remembering a Pioneer, and Champion, in Communities of Faith

The entire PFLAG family is saddened to hear of the passing of Rev. Melvin Wheatley, a tireless champion of our families and a pioneer in the movement to welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in communities of faith.

In 1982, long before most clergy even dared make positive mention of LGBT people from the pulpit or in the pews, Rev. Wheatley appointed an out gay man, Julian Rush, as associate pastor of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Denver. In response, three churches filed complaints against Wheatley, arguing that his appointment of Rush undermined “the authority of Holy Scripture.”

Rev. Wheatley simply – and powerfully – replied that, “Homosexuality is a mysterious gift of God’s grace. I clearly do not believe homosexuality is a sin.”

Rev. Wheatley passed away on March 1, at age 93, leaving behind his wife Lucile. The couple were planning to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary this June.

According to his family, Rev. Wheatley exclaimed, as they gathered by his side just days before his passing, “Thank goodness for all the love!”

All of us at PFLAG are enormously grateful for Rev. Wheatley’s love, and his courage in embracing our families and breaking down barriers in communities of faith. He will be greatly missed.

A memorial service for Rev. Wheatley has been scheduled for Sunday, March 22nd, at 3pm, at Westwood United Methodist Church, located at 10497 Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.

- Jody M. Huckaby

Tips on Being a Bi Ally

We here at PFLAG’s Straight for Equality program are all about becoming the best allies we can be. To that end, here are some great tips on being an ally - from The Bilerico Project and Ellyn Ruthstrom (pictured) of Bi Women Boston - to an often misunderstood group in our community: bisexuals.

· Believe that I exist. Despite ongoing scientific research that seems so determined to disprove the existence of bisexuality plus the general lack of interest by the greater... community in acknowledging us, we really do exist.

· When I tell you I'm bisexual, please don't try to talk me into redefining my identity into something more comfortable for you. Please don't tell me that if I haven't been sexual with more than one sex in the last three, five, or ten years that I am no longer bisexual.

· Celebrate bisexual culture along with me. We have a vibrant and rich cultural history within the bi community. Not only do we have fabulous examples of cultural communities that accepted and practiced bisexual living/loving--Bloomsbury Group, Greenwich Village, Harlem Renaissance--but from Sappho to Walt Whitman to Virginia Woolf to James Baldwin to June Jordan, we have many daring voices that have expressed love beyond the monosexual confines.

· Please don't try to convince me that people who lived bisexual lives in the past would have been gay if they had lived today. You don't know that, I don't know that, and your insistence that it is true says that you believe that people were bisexual only out of necessity, not by desire.

· Validate my frustration with the gay and lesbian community when they ignore or exclude bisexuals. Please don't try and defend an action such as a keynote speaker who is addressing a GLBT audience but consistently says "gay and lesbian" when referring to all of us. It bothers me, so even if you don't think it's that important yourself, please don't try and talk me out of my feelings.

· Ask me, if appropriate, about my other [opposite]-sex relationships and my same-sex relationships.

· If there is some sort of bisexual scandal in the news, don't use it as an opportunity to make derisive remarks about bisexuals generally. As we know, all communities have examples of "bad behavior," and painting everyone with the same brush doesn't create much understanding between us.

· Speak up when bisexual people are being defamed or excluded [even if a bisexual person is not around]. It's great when we can witness your support, but I'd love to know you are helping us even when we are not looking. You'll be the best ally possible!

For more tips on how to be a great ally to everyone in the LGBT community, visit Straight for Equality at www.straightforequality.org.

- Julie Handy

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Across the Ocean, A Movement for Equality in South Africa

Many of us working within the LGBT movement think that Focus on the Family, the American Family Association and other such organizations are the struggles we bear, here in our country, to work towards equality. We often do not think about reparative therapy, fundamentalism, and the concept of “ex-gay” outside of this context.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to speak with a South African activist, fighting fundamentalism and the ex-gay movement in her country. Christina Engela (pictured) works for SA GLAAD, the South Africa Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Currently, one of the critical roles this organization is playing is to educate the public about voting in the upcoming election. Religious ideologies affect many of the political parties in South Africa, particularly the religious perspective called dominion theology. Dominion theology is the name of an active evangelical sect in South Africa, which believes that not only should the Bible be proselytized throughout the world, but it should also be the basis for government. People who believe the teachings of this sect believe that many of the rights pertaining to women, racially diverse individuals, and LGBT individuals should be stripped, based upon Biblical passages. The political party that works hardest to protect the secularization of government and the rights of LGBT people in South Africa is the Democratic Alliance.

South Africa has a Constitution with many rights carefully listed for LGBT individuals. In fact, many LGBT activists worldwide consider the South African Constitution to be a model of rights and protections for LGBT individuals. And, with the exception of hate speech, the South African Constitution really does provide rights and protections for LGBT people throughout the language of the document. However, the Constitution is quite new in South Africa, and still can be fundamentally changed. For this reason, the political party that holds power in the country is of great importance, and education about the importance of the separation of church and state must continue.

What can PFLAGers do to support Christina Engela’s work in South Africa, as she seeks to educate her community about the separating church and state and ridding the world of harmful so-called biblical teachings?

In Christina’s own words, “Music, literature, and the latest philosophical thought all come from the US. For those of you living in the U.S., make sure that the awareness being spread around the world is about good and accurate philosophical and political thought. The ex-gay movement filtered down from the U.S. to the rest of the world. To counter this movement, we must put accurate information out there about LGBT people and who we are.”

In short, we need to be doing what PFLAGers do best, telling our stories.

Christina went on to say, “A lot of religious people promote love, tolerance, and acceptance.”

Many of PFLAG members are amongst these spiritually-minded people, and we should raise awareness about the ways we have reconciled faith, sexuality, and gender identities.

For Christina, the work will continue. She will educate others every day about the harm of certain religious perspectives upon LGBT individuals, about the importance of keeping church and state separate, and about being informed voters. Just like we talk about how it is not Un-American or Un-natural to be a LGBT person, she will talk to her neighbors, family, and friends about how it is not Un-African to be a LGBT person. She will seek to build solidarity amongst the LGBT community, amongst men, women, gender queer, white, black, and any identification of an individual. Ultimately, her work is not so different from the work we do here at PFLAG. She just happens to live across an ocean. Let’s keep our international coalition partners in mind as we continue our work.

Join PFLAG As We Rally for Repeal

PFLAG supporters and allies are invited to join our very own Dan Tepfer this Friday, March 13th, as he joins other veterans and activists from across the country to urge Congress to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Colonel Tepfer will be among the speakers convening of the lawn of the U.S. Capitol and calling on lawmakers to pass the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, a Congressional bill to end the military's prohibition on lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans. A PFLAG board member who has been a vocal critic of the military's ban, Tepfer will highlight the impact of the law on America's families.

PFLAG executive director Jody Huckaby will be among those gathering at noon on Friday to cheer on Colonel Tepfer and show support for the repeal campaign. And, if you would like to join them as well, just click here to RSVP.

Then, be sure to tune in on Friday evening as Colonel Tepfer talks about his day on Capitol Hill on Sirius Out Q's Derek and Romaine Show. We'll be kicking off a regular PFLAG segment on the show, highlighting our work on federal, state and local issues, and talking about PFLAG's work to stand with families across the country as they work to move equality forward.

The Derek and Romaine Show airs fropm 6-10pm EST on Sirius Out Q, and Colonel Tepfer will on the air beginning at 8:30pm on Friday. (If you are not a subscriber to Sirius, but would like to listen in on Friday, click here to sign up for a free, trial subscription and listen in live.)

And, for more information on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, click here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

365Gay.com: PFLAG Sees Membership Spike After Anti-Gay Amendments

365Gay.com reports today on the significant increase in PFLAG chapters forming across the country - and the rising attendance at local PFLAG meetings - following the passage of anti-equality ballot measures in November.

"The passage in November of anti-gay measures in four states and the release of the films 'Milk' and 'Prayers for Bobby' have resulted in a increase in interest in Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays," the site reports.

"The national organization said that it has received at least 75 inquiries about starting new chapters in communities across the country since Election Day."

“If there is a silver lining to the set-back our families experienced on Election Day , it is that our allies in communities across the country have started to mobilize at the local level and work for change,” said Jody M. Huckaby , PFLAG’s national executive director.

“New PFLAG chapters are forming in critically important districts and existing PFLAG chapters in many communities are reporting an increase in their membership. Today, our families, allies and loved ones are organizing and pressing for change as they never have before.”

To read full coverage from 365Gay.com, click here. And to find a local chapter in your community, visit PFLAG National online.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Change, Coming from the Heartland

During his campaign for the White House, President Obama was often fond of reminding Americans that "change doesn't come from Washington; it comes to Washington." Significant change, he told the country, doesn't usually originate in the halls of Congress, but rises up from the heartland of America, when voters demand their elected leaders do something drastic and change the course of our country and our collective history.

That fundamental lesson, about the power of an effective "community organizer" to usher in change on a national level, may also be a key component of an effective campaign to "turn the corner" on our national debate about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By understanding that change won't necessarily come from the corridors of power in D.C., but may begin with a shift in the thinking of both blue and red state America, we may be able to build the foundations today that will spell victory for our families tomorrow, when we once again face ballot box battles like Proposition 8 in California or a vote on federal hate crimes legislation on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Indeed, making in-roads in places like North Carolina (where lawmakers are moving forward on an anti-marriage amendment), Illinois (where advocates have been putting in long hours and a lot of energy to establish recognition for same-sex couples) and Indiana (where the legislature has blocked an anti-marriage bill, but where allies fear their one-vote victory could someday disappear) can pay significant dividends for families across the country. And even in California, where some smaller communities almost unanimously supported Proposition 8, there is much community organizing left to be done.

And, as columnist Stephanie Salter points out in this morning's Star Tribune in Terre Haute, Indiana, there is a much-needed grassroots movement that is picking up steam in the weeks and months following the passage of Proposition 8 and other anti-equality initiatives in other states. More and more people in America's heartland, she reports, are beginning to reach out to their neighbors, co-workers, community leaders and clergy by establishing a local chapter of PFLAG.

Speaking Out for Equality on the Global Stage

In a move that is virtually unprecedented in American foreign policy, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (pictured) is speaking on the world stage about LGBT discrimination and sending strong signals that the Obama administration plans to take an active role in battling prejudice and discrimination around the globe.

On Friday morning, Clinton, appearing in Brussels and speaking with a group of young people at the European Parliament, drew "lots of applause," according to the Financial Times, when she spoke out forcefully against second-class citizenship for lesbians and gays.

The "best moment" of her appearance in Brussels, according to the Times, "came when she caught sight of a semi-shaven man sporting an 'I love Hillary' T-shirt. She said she simply had to take a question from him because of what he was wearing. The guy turned out to be an English-speaking gay rights activist from Moldova, and he wanted to know what the Obama administration would do for the world’s gays and lesbians. Putting on her best stateswoman-like face, Clinton replied: 'Human rights is and always will be one of the pillars of our foreign policy. In particular, persecution and discrimination against gays and lesbians is something we take very seriously.' Lots of applause followed."

Clinton's strong condemnation of anti-gay discrimination comes on the heels of the announcement that the Obama administration plans to reverse the long-standing U.S. opposition to a United Nations proposal supporting equality for LGBT people.

According to The U.N. Dispatch, the United States recently voted in favor of the measure, after voting "no" on the 13-point proposal during the Bush administration.

The declaration, the Dispatch reports, is "to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests or detention." The resolution also, "...Recognizes that experiences of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance are aggravated and intersect with discrimination on grounds including sexual orientation and gender identity, and condemns all forms of discrimination and all other human rights violations based on these grounds."

Having the United States as a strong proponent of equality on the international stage will, no doubt, have a ripple effect around the world. It also sends an unmistakable message that the U.S. intends to once again play a significant, global role in defending the dignity of all people and the liberty of everyone, regardless of who they are or who they love.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Join PFLAG on BlogTalk Radio Tonight

From 6:30 - 7pm ET this evening, I'll be joining BlogTalk Radio hostess Norma Stanley (pictured) as a guest on her program Exceptional People, Exceptional Lives. I'll be joining Norma, and her guests, to talk about the current national landscape for the LGBT community, and the support and services PFLAG offers in communities across the county.

And you can be part of our discussion, too.

To listen in live, visit the Exceptional People, Exceptional Lives website. And to call in and join the conversation, just dial (347) 996-3090. We'll be on the air, live, beginning at 6:30 this evening.

Update: Audio from Friday evening's broadcast is now available online here.

Rallying for Change in Florida

PFLAG chapters in Tallahassee and Panama City, Florida, are rallying for equality in two separate events -- the Rally in Tally on Monday, March 16th at the Old State Capitol in Tallahassee, and the Our Time Has Come rally at the Pier Park Amphitheater in Panama City Beach on Saturday, May 16th.

PFLAG Tallahassee chapter representative Susan Gage got involved in organizing the Rally in Tally after being inspired by the turnout for Florida's Join the Impact rally on November 4th in response to the passage of Florida's Amendment 2 by 62.1 percent and California's Proposition 8 by 52.3 percent. Both were anti-marriage equality ballot initiatives; California's differed from Florida's in that it was designed to roll back marriage equality rights that were already the law of the land.

"The time for change is now," says Gage, who is the daughter of longtime PFLAG mom, national board member and regional director Peg Gage. "Today in Florida, it is still legal to discriminate against someone because they are gay."

Gage, who for years was a Florida Public Radio reporter covering the state Legislature, is intimately familiar with the state's politics. She says one of the messages of the rally is that there are 31 state representatives and senators who have agreed to be sponsors of four bills in the current legislative session aimed at bringing equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens of Florida.

The four bills would end the anti-gay adoption ban, create statewide domestic partnership benefits, add the words “sexual orientation and gender identity” to the state’s existing civil rights laws, and introduce the “Florida Healthy Teens Act” -- an act designed to bring honest sex education into Florida's schools.

"These members have already raised the ire of anti-gay lobbying groups in the state and put their political lives on the line for the likes of me," Gage says. "And not only are we thankful, we are planning to show up and stand up for ourselves."

The Our Time Has Come rally on May 16th in Panama City Beach is"a fun event designed to bring solidarity and support between all LGBT equality groups," says rally co-chair and PFLAG Panama City member Michael Greene, who designed the rally website.

"In the wake of last year's election, with the passage of Amendment 2 in Florida and Proposition 8 in California, equality for all Americans has been placed in Jeopardy," says rally co-chair and PFLAG Panama City member Erica Kay. "The only way to correct these injustices is to stand up and let our voices be heard as one. If we put a face on the issues, we will have successfully identified that your LGBT neighbor or family member is no different than you.".

Rally in Tally
Monday, March 16th at Noon
Old State Capitol
Tallahassee, FL
For more information: radiogage@yahoo.com

Our Time Has Come Rally
Saturday, May 16th from 11am-5pm
Pier Park Amphitheater
Panama City Beach, FL
For more information: Click here.

California Travels: Cultivating Respect in the Golden State

It was raining and pretty cold in northern California this past weekend – but I have no doubt that the sun is about to shine brighter for some students.

The PFLAG chapters in Shasta County and Placerville both hosted day long Cultivating Respect trainings that brought parents, community organizers, therapists and teachers together to work on creating safe schools for all students. All told, we had over 35 smart, caring, funny, and dedicated members who wanted to work together to build community and learn ways of approaching various people in schools to let them know what they can do to begin or continue this important work. Although the days were long, the energy and commitment were stronger, and I believe we will see exciting programs and resources being brought into the schools as a result. I want to thank of all you who attended and I look forward to working with you as you plan and implement your projects. As I said in the trainings – as much fun as we had – it will all be a failure if we don’t use our voices and collective smarts to make real and lasting change in the schools.

I would like to add a very big thank you to Cesar Hernandez, the Western Field and Policy Manager and Pam Whitely, the Regional Director of the Mid- Pacific region, for joining me in both of the trainings. Your participation and guidance added greatly to the training and I appreciate your on-going support for his work.

And a very special thanks to George and Elsie Wilkins in Shasta and Rita Timewell and Stephanie Carlson in Placerville for being fabulous hosts and providing us all we needed to make it a great training.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Speak Up, Spread Love, Start Now

The following is a guest post from Stefanie Miller (pictured).

In the wake of Prop 8, I have found my voice as an ally to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. I have been blessed with many LGBT friends and have often longed for a way to support these amazing people. I've finally found a way, and if you would like to help, I would love to include you in this movement.

I encourage you to write a letter, draw a picture, write a paragraph, a journal entry, or in any other way share your thoughts with someone in your life who is LGBT or connected to the LGBT community - a son, daughter, mother, father, friend, co-worker, partner, role model, someone who helped you in times of struggle . . . anyone, even yourself.

You can write about anything - even things you haven't had the courage or opportunity to say to their faces. Your thoughts/writings don't have to be long, just whatever you have in your heart that you want to share. I want to gather as many words of advice, wisdom, encouragement, shared experience and support as I can, and compile them in some way. I'm not sure what this final product will be . . . perhaps a book for LGBT centers at high schools or colleges? The possibilities are endless and I'm very open to suggestions!

I understand that what I am asking is very personal, and that some of you may not be comfortable contributing to this compilation. For this reason, I ahve set up an email accoutn that you can log onto and upload or copy/paste your letters into completely anonymously.

I wish I had millions of dollars, eons of time and massive political power to put toward changing out world. But I don't. What I do have is my voice and, hopefully, the support and voices of people like you. Together, we will be heard.

Speak Up, Spread Love, Start Now.

Here's how:

1. Email your submission directly to me at millersd@uci.edu.

2. Log onto our email forum on gmail.com to submit anonymously. Just go to http://www.gmail.com/ and use username speakupspreadlovestartnow and password startnow123.

3. Or, to send your submission by snail mail, email me privately for my home address.

And remember: Speak Up, Spread Love, Start Now.

Live: The CA Supreme Court & Proposition 8

If you are having trouble accessing our earlier link for live coverage of the California Supreme Court's hearing on Proposition 8, click here for a live feed from ABC 7.

Oral arguments are now underway, and scheduled to conclude at 3pm ET.

Update (3:12pm) - Oral arguments have concluded and the court has adjourned. For an audio archive of today's hearing, visit Good As You, and for photos from outside the Supreme Court building in California, visit The Bilerico Project online.

Live Coverage: The CA Supreme Court Considers Proposition 8

Later today, the California Supreme Court will hold a hearing to consider a legal challenge to Proposition 8, the November ballot initiative that rolled back marriage equality for same-sex couples in the state.

As yesterday's Los Angeles Times noted, today's hearings may include a strong indication of how the court will ultimately rule.

"The California Supreme Court may reveal Thursday whether it intends to uphold Proposition 8, and if so, whether an estimated 18,000 same-sex marriages will remain valid, during a high-stakes televised session that has sparked plans for demonstrations throughout the state," the paper reported on Wednesday, adding that, "By now, the court already has drafted a decision on the case, with an author and at least three other justices willing to sign it. Oral arguments sometimes result in changes to the draft, but rarely do they change the majority position."

"It is one of the most important cases in the history of the California Supreme Court," Mark Rosenbaum, legal director of the ACLU of Southern California, told the Times. "The core tenet of our constitutional democracy is that fundamental rights of historically disadvantaged minorities are not dependent on the whim of the majority."

The court will hear oral arguments in the case beginning at 9am PT today (noon on the east coast), and PFLAGers can watch live, via The California Channel, by clicking here.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

PFLAG to Testify on Safe Schools in New Jersey

This evening, PFLAG National executive director Jody M. Huckaby will testify before New Jersey Governor's Commission on Bullying about the state's efforts to curb anti-LGBT sentiment in public schools. PFLAG was invited to appear before the Commission and talk about the effectiveness of New Jersey's anti-bullying law, and to offer our perspective, as an organization with a dedicated Safe Schools program, on improvements that can be made to the law.

Here is an excerpt from the testimony Jody will deliver later today.

"New Jersey’s anti-bullying law, and the subsequent model policy proposed by the state, is, we believe, the 'gold standard' among such laws and policies in the United States. The Commission should be praised for advocating and successfully passing legislation that is comprehensive in its reach, inclusive in its language and thorough in the breadth of who the law is intended to protect and where that protection exists. Indeed, New Jersey is a shining example other states and municipalities should look to when considering similar measures."

"At PFLAG we know, however, that no matter how noble the intent of our words are, it is the implementation of that intent that either truly provides safety and protection for young people, or ultimately stops short of realizing its well-intentioned goals. Unless we back up policies with practices – and preparation – we risk allowing even the best of laws to collect dust on schoolroom shelves."

"There is no doubt that everyone – elected leaders, parents, educators and community leaders – all have a critically important role to play in advancing the intent of New Jersey’s law and policy."

"It is imperative that state leaders clearly articulate to school administrators the need for placing their proposed policies into play. And it is equally important that, in each school district, administrators find the time and budget to properly train teachers, involve parents and foster community support for their policies. Indeed, it is not only important to do so, but, we believe, should be mandated, too. Our schools, of all places in our communities, should be the first to understand the importance of education. And educating teachers, students and other faculty will be instrumental in realizing the goals of this legislation."

"We cannot, in short, change our classrooms until we change the culture of the school community."

" . . . That is why PFLAG has a long history of working with parents, at the local level, who in turn work with school administrators to not just adopt policies – which this Commission has successfully ensured happens – but also to implement and enforce those policies, too. Through our Cultivating Respect program, we bring together communities and stakeholders in unique training sessions that explain how, on a day-to-day basis, we can make campuses safer and create an environment where every student can succeed. This program, which has been successfully executed in diverse states, regions and districts, makes a clear case for understanding that is in the best interests of students, and builds buy-in from parents, while reducing fear among students."

"PFLAG respectfully urges this Commission to consider mandating such trainings for state school employees, including as part of in-service trainings and other required activities for personnel who interact, on a regular basis, with students and their families. By doing so, you will ensure that your intention is not just well-received, but well-implemented, too."

"In short, the state must make every effort to bring together parents, students, teacher and administrators to better educate them about this important law and better prepare them to hold others – and themselves – accountable for its ultimate success or failure."

"There is no doubt that this Commission, Governor Corzine, the state legislature and others are enormously well-intentioned and committed to protecting LGBT students. For that, PFLAG and our families and allies applaud you. But there is also no doubt that, to ultimately succeed, everyone must take concrete steps to educate, implement and enforce. And it is no exaggeration to suggest that, indeed, our future, and the safety of our children, depend on our commitment to do so."