Thursday, April 30, 2009

In a First, More Support Marriage Equality Than Not

Support for marriage equality is growing by leaps and bounds.

A new ABC News/Washington Post poll released today shows that, for the first time, more Americans support full marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples than oppose it.

From today's poll:

At its low, in 2004, just 32 percent of Americans favored gay marriage, with 62 percent opposed. Now 49 percent support it versus 46 percent opposed -- the first time in ABC/Post polls that supporters have outnumbered opponents.

More than half, moreover -- 53 percent -- say gay marriages held legally in another state should be recognized as legal in their states. The surprise is that the shift has occurred across ideological groups. While conservatives are least apt to favor gay marriage, they've gone from 10 percent support in 2004 to 19 percent in 2006 and 30 percent now -- overall a 20-point, threefold increase, alongside a 13-point gain among liberals and 14 points among moderates. (Politically, support for gay marriage has risen sharply among Democrats and independents alike, while far more slightly among Republicans.)

. . . [T]he divisions -- and changes -- on gay marriage are especially striking. In addition to more support, there's been a shift in intensity of views: Compared with three years ago, the number of Americans "strongly" opposed has declined from 51 percent to 39 percent, while the number strongly in favor of gay marriage has advanced from 24 percent to 31 percent. . . . Across the spectrum, 75 percent of secular Americans favor gay marriage, 55 percent strongly; so do 71 percent of liberal Democrats, 57 percent strongly; and 71 percent of all liberals, 54 percent strongly. Among all Democrats, 62 percent are in favor; among all Republicans, 74 percent are opposed.

The middle makes a significant difference: Fifty-four percent of moderates and 52 percent of independents now favor gay marriage, up from 38 and 44 percent, respectively, in 2006. But the single biggest shift has come among moderate and conservative Democrats: in 2006, just 30 percent in this group said gay marriage should be legal. Today it's 57 percent.

To read the full ABC News/Washington Post poll, click here.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Breaking News: PFLAG Celebrates House Passage of Hate Crimes Prevention Act

PFLAG applauds today’s vote, in the House of Representatives, approving The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which would add sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability status to the federal hate crimes statute. The House approved the measure by a vote of 249 to 175, and similar legislation was introduced on Tuesday in the Senate. President Obama has expressed his strong support for the bill, and urged lawmakers to support it.

“The critically important bill approved by the House today would give law enforcement officials a powerful weapon in battling the nearly 1,000 anti-gay and transgender hate crimes reported each year, and give victims and their families hope that our country will finally take serious steps to curb those attacks,” said Jody M. Huckaby, PFLAG’s executive director. “Too many families have lost a loved one to hate, and this bill would ensure that, moving forward, other families will be able to more easily seek, and find, justice in bias-motivated cases. This measure, which was supported by 31 attorneys general and more than 200 organizations from both sides of the political aisle, is long overdue and urgently needed. PFLAG families urge the Senate to quickly approve the measure as well, and send the bill to President Obama for his signature.”

Hate crimes against the LGBT community increased 24 percent nationwide in 2007, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. Especially startling increases occurred in Michigan (up 207 percent), Minnesota (up 135 percent) and even in Los Angeles, which saw a 100 percent increase in anti-gay violence. Anti-gay murders also doubled during the same period, the coalition reported.

PFLAG recently launched an online petition, in conjunction with the mother of Sean Kennedy, a young man in South Carolina who was brutally attacked and killed outside of a gay bar, urging lawmakers to approve the hate crimes bill. More than 9,300 people used the petition to contact Congress in support of the measure.

“There is no more important action our elected leaders can take than to protect those we love, and this law does just that,” Huckaby said. “For the countless families who have lost loved ones to hate, it cannot reach the President’s desk soon enough.”

Live: Watch the House Debate Hate Crimes Legislation

The U.S. House of Representatives is debating The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act - which would add sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability status to existing federal law - now.

You can watch live coverage of the House debate, and this afternoon's vote on the measure, live at C-SPAN. Just click here.

President Obama Calls on Congress to Pass Hate Crimes Legislation

In a statement released yesterday, President Obama urged Congress to pass the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as The Matthew Shepard Act, which is expected to come up for a vote in the full House today.

"This week, the House of Representatives is expected to consider H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009," President Obama said. "I urge members on both sides of the aisle to act on this important civil rights issue by passing this legislation to protect all of our citizens from violent acts of intolerance – legislation that will enhance civil rights protections, while also protecting our freedom of speech and association. I also urge the Senate to work with my Administration to finalize this bill and to take swift action."

President Obama's stance is a clear, and welcome change, from the past. The hate crimes bill faced strong opposition from the Bush Administration, despite enjoying overwhelming support from the public.

To take action and urge your Member of Congress to support this critically important piece of legislation, click here.

Panel in Maine Endorses Marriage Equality


A bill is currently on the radar for votes by the Maine Senate and House that could make Maine the fifth state to recognize marriage equality. Importantly, the language of the bill won a strong endorsement yesterday from a legislative committee, setting the stage for votes by the Senate and House.

With this stamp pf approval (Eleven of the 14 committee members voted Tuesday to pass the bill) the next step is that the bill will go before the legislators for votes.

Fox News reports, "...the bill's strong committee support should carry some weight in floor votes... there is support in the Senate for sending the bill out to public vote. Even [marriage equality] opponents acknowledge the likelihood of a House vote in favor of the bill. Unless both chambers agree on a single version of the bill, it will die."

Last week, in the state's capital Augusta, there was an open legislative hearing in which citizens of Maine testified about marriage equality. According to The Boston Globe, the event drew thousands of people from around the state.

Maine's Senator Dennis Damon, who opened the hearing, told the audience, "This bill is fair; this bill's time has come... It recognizes the worth and dignity of every man and every woman among us."

In Georgia, Honoring Jaheem & Speaking Up for Safe Schools

PFLAG members in Georgia are active participants in the local community's response to the tragic loss of 11-year-old Jaheem Herrera, who committed suicide on April 16th after complaining of being bullied in his Atlanta-area elementary school. His mother, Masika Bermudez, had met with school officials, but Jaheem said he continued to suffer anti-gay and anti-immigrant taunts.

At a community vigil for Jaheem on Tuesday in Decatur, where Jaheem lived, PFLAG parent René Sanchez (pictured, above, with PFLAG executive director Jody M. Huckaby) warned against a culture of bullying outside the schoolhouse gate that has real consequences inside the schoolyard.

"Until we recognize the connections between our public discourse and what goes on in the schoolyard, we are living in denial," said Sanchez, who is co-president of PFLAG-Macon. "Not only do we need to tell kids directly that it is not okay to bully, but we as a society must stop demonizing gay people and immigrants for short-term political gain.

"Once they go inside the schoolhouse gate, our children are just acting out what they see adults doing in the real world," Sanchez said. "If we bully each other, they will bully each other."

René made his remarks to a packed church of hundreds from the local LGBTA community who came to express their sorrow at Jaheem's loss, their sympathy for his family, and their resolve to end bullying in their community. Many of them were PFLAG members, including Dale Merkle, who chairs PFLAG-Atlanta's Safe Schools effort.

Prior to the vigil, Dale had met with Bob Moseley, a deputy superintendent of the DeKalb County school system, which includes Jaheem's school. Dale gave Moseley a brief overview of PFLAG and the Cultivating Respect program. Moseley agreed that PFLAG and the school district have a common goal in reducing bullying and harassment in the schools, and he put Dale in touch with the official who directs the school district's "No Place To Hate" program.

Over the years, PFLAG members have tabled and presented workshops at the annual Georgia School Counselors Association conference, and Dale regularly submits workshop proposals to the Georgia PTA and Georgia School Boards Association conferences. Dale is also in touch with school districts around Georgia, compiling information on their policies regarding student conduct, bullying, harrassment, and protections for LGBT employees.

- Lance Helms

Photo by Edric Floyd.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sign the Virtual Marriage Guest Book

In commemoration of today's historic events in Iowa, our friends at One Iowa have created a virtual, online guest book where well-wishers from across the country can log on and send their wishes to the happy couples in the heartland.

Please join One Iowa and PFLAG in congratulating these couples by signing One Iowa's "virtual marriage guest book." Share the link with your friends and family so that we can gather messages from all who support marriage equality. Your well-wishes will be provided to the couples applying for marriage licenses this week.

To send a message, just click here.

Call Your Representatives Today in Support of Hate Crimes Legislation!

The House is preparing to vote on the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act - H.R. 1913 as early as this week. As you know, the bill would give the Justice Department the power to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated violence by providing the department with jurisdiction over crimes of violence where the victim is chosen because of their actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

When introducing the bill, Representative Conyers stated that the legislation "provides a constructive and measured response to a problem that continues to plague our nation. These are crimes that shock and shame our national conscience. They should be subject to comprehensive federal law enforcement assistance and prosecution."

Hate crimes impacts all of our loved ones and H.R. 1913 is needed to ensure that all of our families and friends have the right to be safe and free from physical harm and intimidation.

Call Your Representative Today and Share Your Support!

Representatives need to know you support H.R. 1913 as they plan to vote on the bill. We urge you to call them now using our toll-free number, 866-346-4611, and encourage them to support this critical legislation as they prepare to vote. Our opposition continues to barrage representatives with messages of fear and hate - please take advantage of this time to reach out to their representatives and show your support. Please take action by clicking here, and help us address the violence our LGBT loved ones face.

Iowa Makes History . . . Again

This morning has been a long time coming for lesbian and gay couples in the heartland.

Starting today, Iowa will begin issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples, following the historic decision recognizing full marriage equality in the state, where the official motto, appropriately enough, is "Our Liberties We Prize, and Our Rights We Will Maintain."

As this morning's USA Today reports, there are more than a few anxious couples waking up early to tie the knot.

"Shelley Wolfe and Melisa Keeton plan to be at the Polk County Recorder's office before it opens this morning," the paper reported, noting that, "Today is the first day same-sex couples can apply for a marriage license in Iowa. The Des Moines couple hopes to be among the first to get one, then get a judge to waive the three-day wait to marry."

"We took a lot of time thinking about what marriage meant to us," Keeton says. "For us, it was binding."

And, as Sunday's New York Times reported, this morning will be one of many historic days brought about in the state by a court that has often unexpectedly paved the way for progress and a people who have embraced a heartland mantra of "live and let live."

"In 1839, the Supreme Court for what was then the territory of Iowa refused to recognize a slave as a possession, years before the United States Supreme Court would rule in an opposite fashion, against Dred Scott," the Times noted. "In 1868 and 1873, the court issued rulings favoring desegregating schools and public accommodations, almost a century before the United States Supreme Court heard Brown v. Board of Education. Iowa was the first state, in 1869, to permit women to practice law."

Mark S. Kende, a law professor at Drake University, told the Times that, when reading the justices' historic opinion in the marriage case, ". . . you can see how they drew on the heritage of Iowa in the area of equality and seemed to see their own decision in that context."

But for countless couples around the state and throughout the heartland (Iowa does not have a residency requirement for marriage), the justices did something singularly unique and powerful: They recognized the value, and validity, of their relationships, too.

And for the rest of the country - where the Iowa decision has already helped move lawmakers to consider marriage equality in places like New York, too - Iowa is widely seen as being at the forefront of history again.

PFLAG National congratulates all of the couples marrying in Iowa, including PFLAGers Bill Musser and Otter Dreaming, who will be applying for their licenses today and, like many couples, asking the state to waive the 3-day waiting period before being married.

(For more information on the historic case that brought marriage equality to Iowa, visit Lambda Legal's website.)

Update: You can weigh in on marriage equality in Iowa by joining the discussion at On Top Magazine. To log on and comment, click here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

"Bullied to Death"

The month of April has brought two sad tragedies to the nation's attention.Recently, Jaheem Herrera, 11, of DeKalb County, GA was found dead in his bedroom closet. His death follows that of Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover (also age 11) of Springfield, MA, who hanged himself in his home after enduring constant bullying at school. Much of the harassment and bullying both young boys experienced was based on their perceived orientation, as well as other factors.

And now communities, families and educators across the country are wondering what they can do to help stop this epidemic of bullying, and help create safer schools.

PFLAG National's Safe Schools Coordinator Suzanne Greenfield weighed in in today's issue of The Southern Voice (SOVO).

With expert agreeing that bullying presents a major hazard to the health and education of young people, Suzanne shares with SOVO her thoughts.

From today's article:

PFLAG chapters, including several in Georgia, try to work with school districts to make them aware of issues gay students may face as well as work to offer resources to educators to help them understand LGBT issues.

PFLAG wants educators to be comfortable discussing LGBT issues because the health of their students rely on them being informed, Greenfield said. And part of being informed is recognizing there is a distinct difference between sexual orientation and sex and therefore should not be treated as a scary subject.

“Sex is not what we are talking about — we are talking about bullying,” [Greenfield] said.

“Teachers deal with racial, ethnic, poverty discrimination. Teachers know how to deal with this. My experience is teachers want to do what’s right and want their students to learn. But those who don’t feel safe don’t learn.”

Thursday, April 23, 2009

From the Ground Up, Cultivating Inclusivity

PFLAG Tulare and Kings County is a brand new chapter in Central California. They started their involvement in PFLAG with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. They participate in many local events, in order to spread the word about PFLAG. The majority of these events have Spanish-speaking programs and attendees, such as an upcoming Multicultural Day event hosted by the Professional Latino Women’s Organization.
One of the wonderful things about the Tulare and Kings County chapter is that it is already quite diverse. It was organized in such a way to reach many diverse communities from its onset, through participation in a wide variety of cultural and community events. There are Spanish-speaking chapter members who provide translating for any person who is new to the chapter and speaks only Spanish.

PFLAG National is funding PFLAG Tulare and Kings County’s continued involvement in these events and the creation of a pamphlet about the mission and activities of their PFLAG chapter for Spanish speakers. Since Spanish speakers participate in all levels of the chapter, the brochure will be provided to new Spanish speaking members to help them decide the activities in which they want to be involved in. In addition, the chapter plans to have t-shirts and buttons in Spanish available at every community event. The t-shirt is a Spanish translation of the chapter’s theme logo, “Just As You Are.”

For chapters that are newly forming, Tulare and Kings County has a great wealth of information of how to build a chapter from the ground up that is welcoming to everyone in your community.

-Kimberly Isaura Jones

Justice for Angie Zapata


Last summer we blogged about the tragic murder of Angie Zapata, a trans woman who was living in Greely, Colorado.

Yesterday, a Colorado jury found Allen Andrade guilty of first degree murder - and a hate crimes charge.

The case is unique because it marks the first time a state has used a hate crimes law in the murder of a transgender person. The case has recieved a great deal of cvoerage in the wake of yesterday's verdict, including in The New York Times where Angie's mother tells us, "“The one thing [Andrade] can never take away... is the love and memories that me and my children will have of my baby, my beautiful, beautiful baby.”

“Only a monster can look at a beautiful 18-year-old and beat her to death,” added Angie’s brother, Gonzalo. “The message was sent loud and clear that crimes targeting LGBT people will not be tolerated in Colorado.”

Cases like Angie's illustrate why hate crimes laws are needed on both the state and federal levels to help prevent more tragic cases such as this one. Our thoughts and hearts are with Angie's family.

Below Angie's family gives their reaction to the verdict, and share their memories of Angie...


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

PFLAG Calls Out Guiliani in 'The Politico'

Rudy Guiliani - the former mayor of New York and a long-time ally of the LGBT community - is singing a new, less friendly tune. Speaking yesterday to The New York Post, Guiliani hinted that, if he runs for governor of the Empire State, he'll make marriage equality a centerpiece of his campaign. But not in the way our families will appreciate.

Guiliani (pictured), who once endorsed repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and said he'd be proud to marry his gay friends when their union would be legally recognized, panned New York Governor David Patterson for his support of same-sex couples.

In yesterday's edition of The Politico, a must-read paper and website for Capitol Hill staffers in Washington, LGBT groups quickly responded to the former mayor's comments. And PFLAG was among those calling out Guiliani for his new position on equality.

"Same-sex marriage is shaping up as a hot-button 2010 issue both in New York and nationally, and Giuliani's comments generated a quick backlash from gay rights groups, which had considered Giuliani an ally during his days in Gracie Mansion," Politico's Ken Vogel wrote.

"Steve Ralls, spokesman for Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays, asserted Giuliani was 'staking out positions simply for political gain' and called his stance 'an almost unprecedented flip-flop for a politician who was once viewed as one of the most moderate, and most gay-friendly, voices in the Republican Party.'"

In his interview, Giuliani predicted that the push for gay marriage will spark "a grass-roots" backlash. "This is the kind of issue that, in many ways, is somewhat beyond politics."

Following the quick response from PFLAG and others, Guiliani modified his comments somewhat, suggesting he had not meant he would use marriage as a wedge issue in the race for the governor's office.

The marriage issue "will be something that Republicans don't have to use — this is something that will bring a lot of people to the Republican Party because it's such a basic challenge to what people believe is the way society should be organized," he later said.

But on the same day that Guiliani offered his revised opinions, a new poll of New York voters suggested he was more out of step with the electorate than ever before.

"A poll released Monday by Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., found that 53 percent of respondents wanted the state Senate to pass legislation introduced by Paterson legalizing same-sex marriages, compared with 39 percent who opposed it," Politico reported.

To read the full coverage, click here.

PFLAG Applauds Local Transgender Advocacy Organization

PFLAG National applauds the DC Trans Coalition (DCTC) – a local transgender advocacy organization – for its work in fighting for the human rights of transgender and gender-diverse people in the District of Columbia. On Wednesday, April 22nd, the group will receive the Distinguished Service Award at the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance’s (GLAA) 38th Anniversary Reception.

After nearly five years, the DCTC has led and won a variety of critical grassroots campaigns that have improved the lives of many community members. The first and arguably most important victory involved lobbying the DC Council to unanimously pass expanded protections to the city’s Human Rights Act, which included gender identity or expression in 2005. The group then helped inform regulations that were eventually passed in 2006, strengthening the implementation of this law. Since that time, the DCTC has continued to launch and win critical campaigns, ensuring better enforcement of the Human Rights Act. Several notable campaign victories include:

1. DMV Policy Change. In 2006, the DCTC won a new policy from the DMV on changing the gender marker on DC-issued ID cards. The new form can be signed by a doctor, counselor, or social worker, and requires no additional evidence, and information about a gender change will remain confidential under this policy.

2. MPD General Order. In 2007, the DCTC won a new police order, issued by D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier directing her officers on how to deal respectfully with transgender people. The order sets the highest standards in the nation.

3. Homeless Shelter Policy. In 2007, worked with D.C.’s Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness to finalize and implement a new shelter policy mandating that homeless transgender individuals should be treated according to their self-identified gender identity, housed accordingly, protected from harassment or discrimination, and treated with respect – it serves as a guideline for how all other agencies should treat transgender clients.

4. OHR Factsheet. In 2007, worked with OHR on developing a factsheet on how to comply with the recent gender identity and expression legal protections and continue to help educate area businesses on what these protections mean for them, their employees and their patrons.

The group recently organized a broad coalition of local and national groups in response to a draft rulemaking from the DC Office of the Attorney General which would have provided what amounted to an exemption for the DC Department of Corrections (DOC) from the provisions of the DC Human Rights Act prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity or expression. Those efforts led to months of negotiations and an improved policy regarding the placement and treatment of transgender detainees in DOC custody, though the coalition’s advocacy and vigilance continue.

GLAA is honoring DCTC for this most recent effort. The DCTC continues to launch and win key campaigns to ensure the proper enforcement of the DC Human Rights Act in an effort to overcome gender-based oppression by organizing the community around these issues. The group will showcase its work at GLAA’s 38th Anniversary Reception alongside many other community leaders.

“We are honored to receive this award from GLAA, particularly since such work is often overlooked within the broader LGBT community. The victories we have won and the resulting growth of community shows how much can be accomplished with passion, fair-minded leadership, and ongoing dedication, and we are grateful for this recognition.” said Sadie Baker, who will accept the award on behalf of the DCTC

- J. Rhodes Perry

Across the country, PFLAGers can change hearts and minds by sharing their stories ONLINE!


One of the most powerful tools we have as PFLAGers are our stories. Now you have the opportunity to share your story online via video! By sharing our stories in online videos, we can bring our message to new audiences all over the world. That’s why PFLAG/Straight for Equality is participating in StorySummit, a project aimed at getting the stories of LGBT people and their allies online and into the hearts of folks everywhere!

StorySummit is a telephone and online conference hosted by NoDumbQuestions.org. The website is inspired by the award-winning documentary No Dumb Questions. This is a funny and touching film about three sisters aged 6, 9, and 11 whose Uncle Bill is becoming a woman. Now, the website’s goal is to collect stories from LGBT people and allies everywhere. At StorySummit, PFLAG/Straight for Equality’s own Elizabeth Brown and Julie Handy, along with representatives from other national LGBTQ equality organizations, will show participants the best strategies for telling your story to open minds, soften hearts, and make the world a safer and more loving place for LGBTQ people, their friends, family and allies.

We are so excited about this project, but we need your help to make it happen! Join us Wednesday, April 22, 6pm Pacific / 9pm Eastern, for a conference call or computer training, and help us move equality forward online!

Get More Information & Register Now at NoDumbQuestions.org/StoryHub!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Join PFLAG & ITVS for 'Ask Not' in D.C.

PFLAG is proud to partner with ITVS for two special screenings of Ask Not in the nation's capital.

Produced and directed by Johnny Symons, Ask Not looks at the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual troops, and includes interviews with LGBT veterans and men and women who have been directly impacted by the law. Ask Not explores the tangled political battles that led to the infamous "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law and reveals the personal stories of gay Americans who serve in combat under a veil of secrecy.

If you live in Washington, D.C., or will be visiting in May, make plans to join us at one of these screenings:

Sunday, May 17th @ 3pm
Washington D.C. Jewish Community Center
1529 16th Street, N.W.

Sunday, May 31st @ 5pm
Busboys & Poets
1025 5th Street, N.W.

Space is limited - please reserve your spot now by emailing asknot@communitycinema-dc.org, or call (202) 939-0794.

As part of each screening, ITVS Community Cinema will convene a panel discussion on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," featuring experts on the issue, and diverse viewpoints on the law. PFLAG is proud to present the "family perspective" on this important topic, with our field & policy manager, Rhodes Perry, speaking at the May 17th event, and Steve Ralls, PFLAG's director of communications, speaking on May 31st.

Don't miss this opportunity to see the documentary film Variety has called "Potent, even-handed . . . engrossing . . . brisk and smart." RSVP now to join ITVS Community Cinema and PFLAG for a special screening and discussion in Washington, D.C.

Stepping Stones to Equality in Illinois

As the country celebrates recent advances for marriage equality in Iowa and Vermont, other states are also looking at expanding relationship recognition for lesbian and gay couples. Whether debating civil unions or full marriage equality, advocates - including PFLAG families - are moving forward in communities across the country to protect families under the law.

Last week, The Chicago Tribune reported on the debate over relationship recognition in Illinois.

"Many gays and lesbians here have looked to the legalization of gay marriage in Iowa as a harbinger of Midwestern change," the paper reports. "If Iowa can do it, people ask, why can't Illinois?"

"The answer," the Tribune concludes, "reveals much about the strategic nature of the nationwide push for marriage equality, and the complex and unpredictable path that lies ahead for same-sex Illinois couples."

A civil unions bill, recently introduced by Rep. Greg Harris of Chicago, has gained widespread support among the LGBT community and their allies. The measure, which would grant many of the same rights married couples enjoy, may be setting Illinois on a path similar to Vermont, where civil unions were the law of the land for many years . . . and, in hindsight, were likely an important stepping stone toward full marriage equality.

"In Illinois, we're charting what we think is the right path now for our state," said Jim Madigan, executive director of the gay rights group Equality Illinois. "[Civil unions have] the advantage of really abating a lot of the harms suffered by couples who aren't married. And for those people for whom marriage remains a sticking point, it allows them to find a middle ground."

"[A]dvocates hope a civil unions bill here will lay the groundwork for a gay marriage bill," the Tribune reports.

And the passage of the bill, PFLAG National President John Cepek told the paper, will be an important first step in that process of building a foundation for full equality.

"I think there's a learning curve in getting people to come to terms with full equality for gays and lesbians," Cepek said. "You have to put them in a situation where they can see what's happening, see the good effects. There will be no great changes in life in Illinois. We'll just be creating a larger population of boring, middle-class, married fuddy-duddies."

Showing that our families are just like every family, Cepek and others reason, is the best way to counter the misinformation and unreasonable rhetoric that opponents of lesbian and gay couples so often insert into the public debate.

"I think that's how it has to happen, it has to be a grass-roots thing and start small for it to gain momentum among the lawmakers," Brian Fletcher, who lives in Oak Park with his partner of 9 years and their 3-year-old son, said. "If it has to happen state by state, that's great. Whatever it takes."

To read the full Chicago Tribune story, click here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

'Prayers' Returns to Lifetime Tonight

Join PFLAG and Lifetime tonight at 9:00 PM EST for a special re-broadcasting of Prayers for Bobby, starring Sigourney Weaver, Ryan Kelly and Scott Bailey.

Prayers - based on the book by Leroy Aarons - is the true story of Mary Griffith, a devoutly religious mother who struggles to accept her son, Bobby, when he comes out as a young gay man. Following a tragic turn in Bobby’s life, Mary begins a journey of soul-searching, learning to embrace her son and other LGBT people . . . with a little help from PFLAG along the way.

Earlier this year PFLAG chapters across the country held Prayers screening parties, inviting their communities to hear this story. Now Lifetime is bringing Prayers back for a special encore - and you and your chapter can be a part of it.

If you haven't watched Prayers yet, make the time tonight at 9 PM EST to watch this incredible movie with your friends and family! And, click here to learn more about the true story behind the film, and the making of the movie.

For more information, visit Lifetime's official Prayers site here. And check out Ambiente Magazine for an exclusive interview with actor Scott Bailey about PFLAG, Prayers and moving equality forward for LGBT people.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Coolest Safe Schools Week Ever

This guest post is from Kim Peters (center), a member of PFLAG's Dayton, Ohio chapter, and chair of the chapter's Safe Schools program.

Monday, April 13 was a ground breaking “first” for the PFLAG Dayton Safe Schools program. Countless presentations over four years have been made to school employees, non-profits, employers, universities. But the Safe Schools group has never been invited to speak to kids.

That changed when a senior at Yellow Springs High School, Amelia Shaw, took it upon herself to make “Day of Silence” her senior project. She contacted PFLAG, scheduled a Safe Schools speaker and finagled a copy of Prayers for Bobby.

I spoke to Amelia about her goals for this event. She let me know her school is very tolerant, supportive, and inclusive. So much so that she is worried about what these kids are going to find when they enter the “real” world. And that even though the atmosphere is really supportive at her school you still here “fag”, “homo”, and “gay” in the hallways and all the standard “bad” jokes.

I arrived expecting to speak to about 250 students – the entire high school. I was surprised to discover the middle school, McKinney School, was also attending – now we were 350. I met the high school principal. I kept asking him “Do you want to know what I am going to talk about?” He didn’t care. Make it count he said. Seriously, how many Safe Schools presenters are given carte blanche?

So I told my family's story. I talked about the responsibilities GLBT youth have to themselves …take care of themselves mentally and physically. Reach out – seek support, friendship, take advantage of the infinite amount of resources available to them. To the rest of the group – the allies - I was clear about their role in the future of the school, their community, our state, and nation. And that the most important thing about the “Day of Silence” they were participating in on Friday needed to be the last day they would ever be silent. Only voices matter.

This week McKinney School – 7th and 8th graders, screened Prayers – a mandatory session for all. Yellow Springs High School used the film as an after school activity. Today they are all participating in the “Day of Silence."

Perhaps the coolest Safe Schools week ever in my Dayton, Ohio world!

- Kim Peters - Chair, Safe Schools
PFLAG Dayton

A PFLAG Mom on 'The Day of Silence'

PFLAG mom Lisa Rivero (who was also profiled earlier today at ABCNews.com) has penned a guest op-ed for 'Florida Today' about the national Day of Silence, taking place in schools across the country today.

Here's an excerpt from Lisa's column. For more information on The Day of Silence, click here.

Sirdeaner Walker went upstairs to look for her son in their Sprinfield, Mass., home. What she found is every mother’s horror. Her beautiful son, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, 11, was dead. He had committed suicide by hanging himself with an extension cord.

Carl was a typical 11-year-old. He played football and was an active member of his community.

He was full of promise to contribute positively to this world. What led up to his premature death was the relentless bullying he had been experiencing at school.He was teased daily by accusations of being gay for the way he dressed and was threatened with physical harm by classmates. Sadly, this is the fourth suicide of a middle-school-aged child this year linked to bullying.

Today, Carl would have turned 12. Ironically, it’s the same day that thousands of students across the country are participating in The National Day of Silence. This is the 13th year that students will be remaining silent throughout their school day to bring attention to anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender name calling, bullying and harassment in schools.

Lisa Rivero is president and safe school coordinator for Brevard PFLAG. To read her full column at 'Florida Today,' click here.

PFLAG Talks to ABCNews.com About School Bullying


Lauren Cox at ABCNews.com has just posted a terrific new article on school bullying - and LGBT youth issues - that includes insights from PFLAG's Safe Schools Coordinator, Suzanne Greenfield, and Lisa Rivero, a PFLAG mom in South Florida who talks about her own son's battle with bullies.

Here's an excerpt from this morning's report:

Clearly, children's words -- and the inaction of adults -- can hurt. Just last week an 11-year-old boy in Springfield, Mass., committed suicide, reportedly because he was distressed that his classmates repeatedly called him "gay."

But school psychologists are increasingly interested in what teachers and parents say -- especially since they are often the first to notice developing tensions over a child's gender and sexual identity.

Lisa Rivero of Brevard County, Fla., spotted problems with her child by the third grade.

"He had always been bullied. Even from elementary school the kids have been calling him 'faggot' and 'gay' because he didn't fit the gender norm of what a normal boy should be doing," Rivero said of her now 17-year-old son, Josh.

Although no one ever asked her outright, Rivero said she got hints that teachers and school administrators were questioning her son's sexual orientation.

"I had one teacher tell me during a parent teacher conference, 'Well, I have some concerns about him that during recess he prefers to be with the girls and not with the boys,'" said Rivero. "I said, was he struggling academically because of it? If no, well then that's his decision."

Some families are completely shocked when their children come out the closet. But Rivero said she was among many other parents who guessed their child's sexual orientation long before the child even knew what it meant.

"It didn't come to as a surprise to us. ... We were just waiting for him to come to the realization," Rivero said. Rivero said Josh came out the summer before starting high school.

"I've talked to so many other parents who say the same thing, especially moms," Rivero said. "There are so many moms, we can't describe it. We just know."

But, as Greenfield tells ABC, teachers often struggle with the issue, and even those with the best of intentions sometimes don't have the resources, or training, they need to do the right thing.

More from Cox's story:

"Teachers, even with the best of intentions, don't know what to do. They don't want to talk about religious beliefs or sex," said Suzanne Greenfield, the senior "Safe Schools" coordinator for Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Greenfield explained.

Rivero said she went through a trying time with well-meaning teachers to deal with children who taunted her son.

Rivero remembers her son first asking what 'gay' mean in the third grade after a bullying incident. To the best of her ability, she sat down Josh and his younger sister and tried to explain what it meant in children's terms.

"I spoke with principals over the years and got the typical responses: 'Oh well, he needs to toughen up' or 'Oh, it's usually his fault,'" Rivero said.

By high school the family was dealing with threats of physical violence on MySpace. Rivero said the school administration told her the only way she could ensure her son didn't have a class with the boy who was threatening him was to get a restraining order.

"It wasn't until that kid got off the bus and was handed a restraining order that his parents were ever notified that this was going on," said Rivero.

To read the full ABCNews.com report, click here.

Photo: Lisa Rivero and her son, Josh, faced anti-homosexual slurs from the time Josh was in elementary school. (ABC News)

This Sunday: PFLAG National on Boston Talk Radio

PFLAG National Vice President David Horowitz will be among the guests joining WBNW talk radio, in Boston, on Sunday afternoon for a discussion about marriage equality.

Rabbi Horowitz will be part of WBNW's On the Street program, where he'll talk about the recent advances for couples in Iowa and Vermont . . . . and look back on 5 years of marriage equality in Massachusetts. And Sunday's show will also include a lively on-air debate - featuring voices from both sides of the issue - looking at the future of marriage in other states, too.

You can join Rabbi Horowitz live on Sunday - from 4:30 to 5:30pm EST - by logging onto WBNW's website and clicking on the Listen Live logo. And, PFLAGers will also be able to call-in, join the discussion and cheer Rabbi Horowitz on . . .

For more information, or to listen live, click here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Message from Kim Pearson, TNET President

This is the opening note from April's eTransParent Newsletter, penned by TNET President Kim Pearson.

Legal matters and hate crimes are weighing heavily on my mind this month. The Angie Zapata trial is underway in Colorado, and may be more important than most people are thinking. This is the first time in recent history that the murder of a transgender person (a youth, no less) is being tried as a hate crime, in a state with a hate crime law. This will be a real test of the law - and likely set precedence for future litigation. Watch carefully and lend your support where you can.

Later this month I will be in Washington, D.C. joining other PFLAG members to lobby for national hate crimes legislation with the NCTE Lobby Day effort. I hope to see many transgender folks, as well as parents and allies, out there supporting this important event.

On a lighter note, we can all look forward to an amazing documentary on gender, currently in production, that will be aired on National Geographic Television this fall. TransYouth Family Allies has been working on this project with them since January and we just wrapped up our segment. By all indications this is going to be a wonderful program, highlighting the personal journeys of 'gender different' adults and children. I will keep you posted as I know more details about the program.

Wishing everyone a Happy Spring!

Namaste,

Kim Pearson
TNET President

New Meetings and Coalition Building Efforts in Dorchester, MA

PFLAG Boston was approached in 2007 by African American leaders in the area with the need for a chapter in Dorchester and received funding from PFLAG National to create this chapter. Several meetings were held to design chapter meetings and plan outreach efforts. In 2008, the first meeting was held, a panel of individuals, including a straight African American father of a gay son, a straight African American mother of a lesbian daughter, and two LGBT African American youth. The second meeting was a viewing of Anyone and Everyone followed by discussion of the diversity themes in the movie. And the meetings have continued into the building of a very successful chapter in Dorchester, MA.

PFLAG Dorchester continues its exciting work this year. The chapter is led by African American leaders in the area. Several meetings were held last year to design chapter meetings and plan outreach efforts. Now that the chapter is evolving, they will be going directly to new audiences instead of asking people to be involved the chapter. Their first new audience of outreach is schools and the education community. They are working on developing community forums and working in very diverse schools, specifically with their parent groups. They will also have a second community panel discussion on the documentary Anyone and Everyone.

PFLAG Dorchester has been a great example of the sort of success a chapter can experience when we defer to the expertise and leadership that already exists in a community. Thank you to the community leaders in Dorchester and PFLAG Boston for working so hard on a successful collaboration.

Tearing Families Apart, When We Should Be Uniting Them

Shirley Tan and Jay Mercado are, by all accounts, a picture-perfect family. The two have been together - happily - for more than two decades. They have adorable 12-year-old twins. They married in 2004. And they are hard-working, productive members of their community in Pacifica, California, where they have built a loving home that also includes Jay's mother, Renee.
So why is the United States government spending so much time - and so much taxpayer money - tearing this family apart?

Simply put, because Shirley and Jay are a lesbian couple.

As a result, on April 22nd, Shirley is scheduled to be deported - and torn away from her partner, children and mother-in-law - unless Congress takes action to keep their family together. And if you think that's outrageous, consider this: Shirley and Jay's story isn't exactly unique.

According to Immigration Equality, an organization that does heroic work on behalf of same-sex, bi-national couples, an estimated 36,000 such couples face similar situations simply because, to date, the United States has refused to level the playing field for lesbian and gay Americans who have long-term partners from abroad.

In fact, keeping Shirley at home with her partner and two sons could be as simple as making a slight change in the language of U.S. immigration policy, and treating all couples equally, regardless of who they love. But Congress, in delaying action on the issue, has made life very, very complicated for these families and their loved ones.

These couples, like Shirley and Jay, are hard-working, law-abiding people who only want to be able to be with the person they love. And many, like Shirley, have spent years caring for their families, working in their communities and, yes, making our country a better place for all of us to live in. "They are exactly the kind of people you want living in this country," Immigration Equality's executive director, Rachel Tiven, told People Magazine in their recent profile of Tan and Mercado and their family.

Yet, on January 28th, at 6 a.m. in the morning, ICE agents rang Shirley's doorbell, placed her under arrest and took her to jail, where she spent a day away from her family, unaware of why she was even there.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Special LGBT Issue of Teachers’ Resource

This was shared with me by former deputy executive director of the National Council of Teachers of English - and PFLAG parent - Charles Suhor. The Council has long taken stands on social issues, actively condemning anti-GLBT discrimination as early as 1976.

"Sexual Identity and Gender Variance" is the theme of the current issue of English Journal, the flagship publication of the National Council of Teachers of English.

The wide-ranging articles offer help for high school and middle teachers on a wide range of LGBT issues, among them teaching specific works and authors, selecting fiction and non-fiction materials, dealing with students’ varied religious beliefs, combating censorship, and promoting LGBT-inclusive language. Also included are poems, personal narratives from parents, and an LGBT/Queer glossary compiled by guest editors Becca Chase and Paula Ressler of Illinois State University.

Copies of the March, 2009 issue are available for $16.50 from NCTE, 1111 W. Kenyon Road, Urbana, Illinois 61801.

There are some great resources in this edition for educators and students alike. Click here to see the online edition.

Easter Bunnies, High Fives and Hugs

This is a guest post from Lena Shapiro (bottom row, left), who participated with other PFLAG family members in Monday's White House Easter Egg Roll.

The day started with long lines and it ended the same way, but in between was a festival of color. On the White House lawn for the annual Easter Egg Roll, families learned to cook with White House chefs, hunted for and painted their own bright eggs, listened to music, and posed with their favorite television characters. I was lucky enough to be a part of it.

After my multi-generational group of family and friends breezed through security, we arrived on the field. It was set up much like a carnival. Crowded by laughter and excitement, we made our way first to the Kids’ Kitchen where White House Chef José Andrés taught us to make gazpacho soup with plenty of olive oil and savory pancakes. Next, half of our number peeled off in favor of the private basketball court (formerly used for tennis) where the president plays. We regrouped by the soccer court where professional and Olympic medalist Abby Wambach posed for pictures. Nearby, larger-than-life television characters were a great excitement, and Easter Bunnies were quick with high-fives and hugs. Younger children enjoyed rolling and hunting for eggs, and it was wonderful just to watch their thrill.

Best of all, I was surrounded by so many happy families, running and smiling and snapping pictures. To see such different families enjoying the same small pleasures was a beautiful sight. I’m glad we all spent such a fun-filled day with people we love.

- Lena Shapiro

Making Schools Safer in Colorado Springs

Thank you to all of our PFLAGers who attended the Cultivating Respect Safe Schools training and a special thanks to Marilyn Davis, who put in many hours planning and preparing for the event. Lastly, a big thanks to Jean Hodges, our devoted Regional Director, for sharing her expertise in safe schools work.

Cultivating Respect, the PFLAG safe schools training, took place on Saturday April 4th at Care and Share Warehouse in Colorado Springs. We had an amazing group of concerned parents, safe schools activist and academic professionals in attendance.

The training started with the art of storytelling, making the most of one's personal story to further the goal of bringing resources and programs into schools. We took time to look at the most recent statistics and news stories on what students are facing in school so we can use them to get the attention of school decision makers. We had a chance to explore language, and what terminology works and what does not when talking to school personnel. The participants had plenty of opportunities to role play and practice their skills.

At the end of the training members of the Colorado Coalition of PFLAG Chapters worked on developing a potential project aimed at school libraries based on one of our training modules.

The Smart Books for Smart Students Campaign is aimed to place books in schools libraries, fiction and nonfiction, that have accurate and positive information about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

The campaign is just the first step in building relationships and trust with administrative personnel. We hope this relationship will continue to grow and help advance safe schools advocacy.

Once again, a big thanks to all Coloradan PFLAG Chapters in attendance!

If you would like more information about Cultivating Respect Safe Schools training please contact Suzanne Greenfield, Safe Schools Senior Coordinator at sgreenfield@pflag.org.

- Cesar Hernandez

Evann Orleck-Jetter: Moving Marriage Equality Forward in Vermont

Democracy Now recently interviewed 12-year old Evann Orleck-Jetter , who may have played an instrumental - if not the key - role in advancing the case for marriage equality with the Vermont legislature.

As Democracy Now notes on its website, "Orleck-Jetter testified at the public hearings on gay marriage last month before Vermont’s Joint Senate and House Judiciary Committees. Many legislators later told Evann and her parents that her testimony had moved them to support the bill."

Our hats are off to Evann, who talks about her testimony - and her family - in this video from Amy Goodman and Democracy Now.

Monday, April 13, 2009

PFLAG Families at the White House Easter Egg Roll

This morning, PFLAG families from across the D.C. area joined an estimated 30,000 people at the White House for the annual Easter Egg Roll. For the first time, the White House invited LGBT families to participate in this annual tradition. These photos were taken as our PFLAG families prepared to head to the White House, and as they waited in line at Constitution Avenue in the nation's capital.

For more coverage, and more photos, visit Pam's House Blend online.


And for an exclusive blog report from PFLAG executive director Jody M. Huckaby, at The Hill's Congress Blog, click here.






Jeanne Manford’s Activism Inspires a New Visionary Leader

In 1972, Jeanne Manford started an international movement when she marched with her son Mortie in New York’s Pride Parade carrying a sign that said, Parents of Gays: Unite in Support of Our Children. In that instant, Ms. Manford began meeting a need that had never been met before by effectively starting PFLAG’s critical work of supporting parents, families and friends of LGBT folks while educating a misinformed community and advocating for equality and fairness.

Thirty years later, Eli Green followed in Ms. Manford’s footsteps launching Trans-Academics.org, meeting a long overdue need for academics and activists alike by creating a dedicated space to all those who are interested in participating in the discussion of gender theory, the trans community and its various identities. As a measure of its success, Trans-Academics.org inspired the founding of a non-profit organization, the Association for Gender Research, Education, Academia and Action (AGREAA) - a professional development organization working towards bridging the gaps between academia and activism.

Tonight, AGREAA will accept the 2009 Richard L. Schlegel National Legion of Honor Award for a Visionary Leader for its flagship project, Trans-Academics.org. After nearly seven years online, and with over 1,000 registered members, and 50,000 unique website hits per year, Trans-Academics.org has certainly demonstrated its success - meeting a need for transgender, gender diverse and ally communities that is unparalleled. With the vision and leadership of Eli Green, the project’s continued success connects people working on trans-related research with other professionals working within the field. Three of its notable achievements include:

· Serving as the longest standing trans-specific academic community
· Providing a reference archive of over 1,600 trans-related publications
· Offering an engaging and dynamic professional development community via a listserve of over 500 people and growing.

Similar to Jeanne Manford’s pioneering civil rights activism, Trans-Academics.org continues to break new ground by connecting both academics and activists alike who share research, best practices and ideas on how to work in coalition to overcome gender-based oppression through the founding of AGREAA.

“We are honored to receive recognition for the efforts of Trans-Academics.org, particularly since such projects are often overlooked because of their virtual nature. Work like this website and resulting community shows how much can be accomplished with an idea, good timing, and ongoing dedication, and we are grateful to be recognized.” said Eli Green.

The Awards Ceremony and Reception will be held at American University in Washington, D.C. tonight at 5:30 p.m. For more information on Trans-Academics.org and other projects of AGREAA, please visit http://www.agreaa.org/.


A Mother, Her Son and a Test of America's New Foreign Policy

In recent months, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans have begun cautiously expressing hope that, in addition to recent, hard won victories here at home, we may be on the verge of a little bit of progress abroad, too.

Our community rightly cheered when the Obama administration recently reversed a Bush administration policy and endorsed a United Nations declaration on protecting the world's LGBT people. And we looked on with admiration and pride again as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently said that she and President Obama intend to stand against anti-gay animus on the world stage, too. Speaking in March to a group of enthusiastic supporters in Brussels, Clinton told the crowd that "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."

The remark, press outlets reported, brought about wild applause and, for perhaps the first time, sent a clear message to foreign leaders that the United States intends to speak out against anti-gay atrocities abroad. It was, to paraphrase Secretary Clinton's famous words as America's First Lady, intended to put the world on notice that we believe "human rights are gays rights, and gay rights are human rights, too."

But, as noble as the sentiment of both actions were, they gave little comfort to Kathy Gilleran, a mother from upstate New York whose son, Aeryn, has been missing in Austria for more than a year and a half. Because, while Kathy would love to believe that a new day has dawned in diplomatic affairs, she continues to struggle in her heroic efforts to learn the truth about her gay son and continues to meet roadblock after roadblock in her quest to uncover the facts about what happened in Vienna.

Continue reading this post at The Bilerico Project . . .

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Mi Familia Project: Filming Family Stories

PFLAG San Diego is in the process of making a documentary film in Spanish about Latino parents who have embraced their children regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression and identity. The goal of The Mi Familia Project is to help other Latino families cope with the intense emotions that arise when a child or family member comes out as LGBT.

San Diego is going to be our host city for the PFLAG National Convention, October 9-11, 2009. To prepare for this exciting responsibility, they have been doing a lot of work to welcome PFLAGers from all over the country and show them the many facets of San Diego, while also trying to cultivate relationships with local organizations to show them what PFLAG is all about! They have been even reaching out to groups in nearby Tijuana, Mexico, to encourage their involvement in the National Convention.

The chapter has been working on a documentary film throughout the past year, to accurately portray the support work of PFLAG to new families. The Spanish version film will be the second documentary they produce in a year. The chapter has been working overwhelmingly hard to get the word out about PFLAG through film.

The San Diego chapter will provide ongoing support for Spanish speaking families by directing them to Latino services and/or their local LGBT center. The chapter is doing an exemplary job of building relationships with a variety of coalition partners to ensure the project’s success. They are even forming relationships with service providers such as therapists, school counselors, school personnel and administrators, and leaders in the nonprofit community to make sure the documentary reaches LGBT family members, and that families are able to talk about the film in a meaningful way with these service providers.

Keep up the great work San Diego! We all look forward to seeing both the Spanish and English version of the documentary at the PFLAG National Convention in October!

-Kim Jones

Life at PFLAG National: Meet Matthew Boyer

Matthew Boyer is Director of Development here at PFLAG National. Matthew joined our staff earlier this year, where he oversees all of our fundraising issues and needs. Today, Matthew shares a little insight into his important work here at PFLAG National...


What did you do before joining PFLAG National?

I recently moved back to DC from Los Angeles where I lived for four years and served as a Major Gift Officer for the Human Rights Campaign. I am incredibly fortunate to have had that opportunity and feel as though I was well trained and seasoned by some of the best fundraisers and activists in the LGBT movement. Prior to Los Angeles, I lived in DC for about 18 years and worked at some other amazing nonprofits in DC such as NARAL and the World Wildlife Fund.

What does your job entail?

I am responsible for the overseeing all the aspects of the fundraising for PFLAG National. This broadly includes direct mail, corporate and foundation relations, planned giving and major donor relationship building. Fortunately, I am surrounded by a creative and dynamic fundraising team that already existed upon my arrival.

What is an average day like at PFLAG National?

The PFLAG National office is a very fast paced environment which is very exciting for me. I basically spend a lot of time strategizing with the development team and [executive director] Jody Huckaby on how to meet (but hopefully exceed!) our budget projections and then figuring out the best way to implement those strategies. It is no secret that these are challenging economic times and every dollar that PFLAG raises is critically important and appreciated. I work with Jody and others to make sure those dollars are stretched as far as possible for our critically important work.

What are your favorite/least favorite parts of the job?

I have to say that I really am excited every morning to wake up and come to PFLAG. The team Jody has assembled is truly amazing, and it is an absolute pleasure to be a part of it. I really enjoy working with my team, and because PFLAG is so much smaller that my previous employer, HRC, I actually get to feel like each of our individual efforts makes an even bigger difference in the fight for LGBT equality.

What is one thing you wish all PFLAGers knew about the National office?

I think many people involved in our movement get a “warm and fuzzy” feeling whenever they hear the name "PFLAG." Perhaps they get a visual image in their mind of their own parents or family members marching behind that PFLAG banner in the local Pride parade to support them.

However, I wish PLAGers, and non-PFLAGers knew just how dynamic the organization is beyond Pride parades. PFLAG has some amazing programs such as Straight for Equality and Safe Schools that I believe few people know about. I wish more people knew how deeply PFLAG works on the national political stage on issues such as ENDA; hate crimes; "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" and marriage equality. However, as the new Director of Development, I am excited to deliver the outcomes of these efforts to our generous supporters and friends.

PFLAG Families to Join White House Easter Egg Roll

PFLAG is proud to be among a coalition of organizations, including the Family Equality Council, invited to participate in the 2009 White House Easter Egg Roll. On Monday morning, PFLAGers will join other families from across the country as President & Mrs. Obama host the annual celebration on the White House lawn.

"The White House Easter Egg Roll dates back to 1878 and is designed to encourage children and their families to come outdoors and celebrate the start of the spring season," whitehouse.gov reports. "The White House will open the South Lawn to children age ten and under, along with their families, to enjoy sports, cooking classes, live musical performances, storytelling and, of course, the traditional Easter egg roll."

For more information on this White House tradition, click here. And check back on the PFLAG blog on Monday for photos, stories and blogs about our Easter Egg Roll experience on the lawn of the White House!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Looking Towards Equality in Illinois

Speaking of Illinois today, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown writes today about the future of marriage equality in his state.

Brown tells us that at some point before the end of April, the Illinois legislature is expected to vote on civil unions. This comes on the heels of Vermont's legislature voting for marriage equality, after being the first state to allow civil unions.

Brown's theory is that while he believes Illinois is "not ready for gay marriage," civil unions could be a Vermont-like first step towards that goal. And he turns to PFLAG National president - and Chicago area resident - John Cepek [pictured, right] for some perspective.

John tells the Sun-Times, "I've got a straight son. I've got a gay son. I want the same rights for each of them... Its a good thing for the government to support stable relationships wherever it can -- and it's just."

Click here to read all of Mark Brown's column.

Reaching Out in Rural America

PFLAG Sauk Valley serves three rural counties in northern Illinois. The chapter was approached to provide written materials about what PFLAG does in Spanish and applied for a diversity grant from PFLAG National. The grant will be used to hire a translator and create a brochure for Spanish-speaking family members in the area who need support through a loved one’s coming out process. In addition, the chapter will create an information line for family members seeking Spanish-language resources in their area.

The chapter has developed a wonderful partnership with their nearby university, Northern Illinois University, and particularly the student group PRISM. PRISM is the LGBT organization on campus. A student from this organization will serve as the translator for the brochure and informational phone message. In addition, the Sauk Valley Community College Cross Cultural Department is providing facility usage for the work that Sauk Valley is doing with the Latino community.

The partnerships do not end at the universities in their area! Since Sauk Valley does not have a Spanish-speaking support group, in order to provide the readers of this brochure with additional support in their language, the chapter is partnering with the Ogle County Public Health Department, the Lee County Public Health Department, the Hispanic Medical Clinic, the Youth Service Bureau, and the YWCA Hispanic Outreach Program in Whiteside County in order to develop a Spanish-speaking support group. These organizations are providing interpreters in Sauk Valley’s support group meetings, space for Spanish language support meetings, and/or one-on-one support for these family members.

Sauk Valley provides us with a wonderful example of how creating an inclusive and accessible chapter cannot happen in vacuum. Form collaborations and build coalitions. The first step to welcoming diversity into your chapter is including and implementing new perspectives regarding the way your chapter functions. Keep up the great work Sauk Valley!

-Kim Jones

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

'Pedro' Comes to MTV.com

If you missed the premiere and original broadcast of Pedro, MTV's critically acclaimed biopic based on the life of The Real World's Pedro Zamora, you can catch the full-length film online at MTV.com.

Visit pedro.mtv.com to watch the entire film online, and for extras about Pedro and his groundbreaking work on HIV and AIDS awareness, including a special message from former President Bill Clinton about Pedro, a biography of Zamora and information on the film's cast.

For more information - and to watch Pedro online - click here.

"Be More Present and Visible, Period."

Pam Spaulding, the blog mistress behind the widely acclaimed Pam's House Blend, recently expanded her reach, becoming a regular columnist for The Durham News, her hometown newspaper. And today, her printed column (and her blog) take a look at what it's like to lobby African-American lawmakers on LGBT issues . . . with a little help from a local PFLAG ally.

North Carolina's legislature recently took up a bill to add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the "Non-Discrimination in State/Teacher Employment" law (HB1049). And the bill, along with other issues of LGBT equality, is a "complex" issue for many African-American lawmakers, according to Pam, who writes that, "Comprehensive sex ed, and the anti-bullying bill, for instance have not posed a problem, but the marriage issue has tripped them up, and religion, as expected, is a hurdle that must be cleared."

So Pam decided to ask local advocates in Durham about their experience with, and advice about, working with African-American lawmakers to advance LGBT equality in North Carolina. And today, she posts a video interview with TaMeicka Clear of PFLAG Out Like Us (pictured), who shared her own thoughts about what works, and what doesn't, when it comes to working on LGBT issues.

"Definitely one thing to do would be to show up and show them that it is a black issue, and to just be consistent and show up in large numbers . . . and I can't stress consistency enough," Clear tells Pam, adding later that, "There is a large misconception that we don't have a voice -- we do. And I saw some of the shock on a lot of the legislators' faces today to even see as many black [LGBT] people as there were present. So we need to be more present and visible, period."

To see the full video interview with TaMeicka, and to join the discussion at Pam's House Blend, click here to visit Pam's home on the web.