Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"Ready or Not... They're Gay"

Today we have a book review from former TNET President Dave Parker, who shares with us his thoughts on the book Ready or Not... They're Gay...

Recently Paul and Hjrody Wagner offered their new book, Ready or Not …They’re Gay to PFLAG chapters. I was privileged to review their book recently; I highly recommend it to all PFLAG chapters for their library, as well as to all those who enjoy reading about families that are supportive of their gay children.

This is a wonderful story of a family’s experiences and thoughts as Paul and Hjordy’s two sons come out to them and their community.

Their story is presented from various points of view – the mother, the father, each of their sons, and their grandmother. Each of them has a section, with multiple short chapters that bring out a specific event along this journey and the emotions related to that event. Throughout these recollections, a family with great internal strength, love, and acceptance of each other for who they are comes through.

Coming out to family and friends can be risky and traumatic, even in a loving home. Parents are often, if not usually, unaware of their child’s feelings in regard to their sexual orientation. While their child has been struggling with their identity and orientation for years, their parents feel blindsided when their child comes out to them. Ready or Not …They’re Gay provides guidance for parents and other family members in the importance of how you react. In Part IV, the book offers tips for parents, friends, and children on how best to handle this experience. Fortunately, their real life experience was quite positive and instructive.

In Part V, six brief chapters and a newspaper editorial add stories from others about their coming out experiences.

Most parents claim unconditional love for their children; it is a common goal. It is life’s challenges that test this love. For many parents of gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender children, their child’s coming out announcement is a severe test of their love. Too many fail this test; the Wagners pass with flying rainbow colors.

- Dave Parker

Sharing Support in Omaha

[Jody] Huckaby recently spent the weekend with the PFLAG chapter in Omaha, Nebraska. It was his first invitation to a gay prom for teenagers, an invitation he wholeheartedly accepted...

Last week our Executive Director, Jody Huckaby, had the pleasure of visiting PFLAG chapter members in Omaha, Nebraska and share his own experiences with the community.

Jody Huckaby and Carrie Spencer

"For Huckaby, faith and family were intertwined. He grew up in a loving, tight-knit family committed to the practice of Catholic faith in a small community. He was not the first to come out in his family, but he remembers vividly the impact. His brother, Jason, sent a letter home one Christmas, coming out as gay. Their father gathered the family together and read the letter. He then declared that Jason was not allowed to step foot in the house, and certainly not with his gay partner."

Today, PFLAG is fulfilling it's mission to be "a place for family and friends to come together and heal." Read more about Jody's visit to Omaha here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

As California Court Upholds Proposition 8, Parents and Allies Vow to Continue Work for Marriage Equality

In response to a ruling today from the California Supreme Court, which upheld Proposition 8, an anti-marriage equality amendment passed in November 2008, PFLAG National announced that the organization would continue work in the state to educate voters, work with lawmakers and secure full marriage rights for lesbian and gay couples. The court’s ruling, which will allow marriages performed in the state during a brief period last year to remain legal, will likely be a rallying cry for supporters of marriage equality around the country, the organization said.

“Today’s ruling is out-of-step with a growing consensus in our country that all loving couples should be treated equally in the eyes of the law,” said Jody M. Huckaby, PFLAG’s executive director. “It is also a reminder that, even in places where we have traditionally seen progress on equality, there is still work that remains to be done. Today, the California Supreme Court has dealt a blow to our families, but tomorrow, PFLAG’s 41 California chapters will be back on the job, working in their communities to build support for moving marriage equality forward.”

Today’s 6-to-1 ruling ensures that the estimated 18,000 couples who legally wed in the state prior to Proposition 8’s passage will remain wed and be recognized as such by the state. The decision prohibits, however, any additional couples from marrying.

“The marriages of same-sex couples cannot properly be interpreted to apply retroactively,” said the Court. “Accordingly, the marriages of same-sex couples performed prior to the effective date of Proposition 8 remain valid and must continue to be recognized in this state.”

PFLAG noted that the organization has seen a dramatic spike in new chapters forming across the country since Proposition 8’s passage, and that its members are uniquely positioned to help build grassroots support for a future vote, either at the ballot box or in the state legislature, on the issue of marriage.

“The future of marriage equality in California depends, in large part, on changing hearts and minds in small towns and traditionally conservative districts,” Huckaby said. “PFLAG is already in those communities, and our chapters are more committed than ever to doing the outreach and education that will be necessary to turn out fair-minded voters in the future.”

Stay Tuned: Proposition 8 Ruling Today!

The Los Angeles Times reports that later today The California Supreme Court will announce its decision on the fate of marriage equality, when it rules on the constitutionality of Proposition 8. The ruling will also determine whether an estimated 18,000 same-sex marriages performed between June and November will continue to be recognized by the state.

The ruling will be posted on the court’s website at 10 a.m. Pacific ( that's 1 pm Eastern, for those of us on the East Coast).

PFLAG National will release a response to the ruling later this afternoon, so be sure to check back in to see the results of the marriage equality case in California!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

PFLAG Announces 2009 Scholarship Winners

PFLAG National announced this week that it has awarded 16 scholarships. More than $30,000 will go to students across the country who have made significant contributions to equality in their schools and communities. This marks the sixth year that PFLAG has awarded the scholarships, which are funded by the Palmer B. Carson Trust and other private donors, including the Gay, Lesbian and Allies at Dow (GLAD) Employee Network, the Esera Tuaolo Scholarship fund, and the New York Gay Football League.

"Now, more than ever, PFLAG is extremely proud to honor these future community leaders and to honor their academic achievement, commitment to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) progress, and community service," said Jody M. Huckaby, Executive Director of PFLAG. "LGBT students, and their allies, are overcoming unimaginable obstacles to succeed and prosper in their education. This year’s awardees have not only fought those obstacles, but have become role models for their communities and fellow students.”

Among the recipients of PFLAG's National Scholarship Program awards are:

Thomas Gray - Jeanne Manford Memorial Scholarship
Thomas Gray began the diversity club (L.E.A.D - Lancers Embracing All Diversity) at his school, and worked to include sexual orientation and gender identity into his school district’s nondiscrimination policy. He has also been an active member of the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) and Student Council. Thomas organized a successful fundraiser and raised more than $7,000 for HIV/AIDS and cancer research. When the Westboro Baptist Church demonstrated at his school he organized a peaceful and positive counter demonstration. As an activist and organizer he has worked to make his school and his community safer for all. Thomas will graduate from Shawnee Mission East in Prairie Village, Kansas.

Sean Hudson - PFLAG National Scholarship
Sean Hudson was a member of the Birmingham Alliance of Gay, Straight, and Lesbian (Transgender and Questioning) Youth. He is a passionate activist, advocate and role model for children in foster care, serving as the parliamentarian for the Jefferson County Youth Advisory Council, and the president of the State Youth Advisory Council. Sean plans to continue to reach out to others and to help them while they, in fact, also help him. Sean will graduate from Jess Lanier High-School in Bessemer, Alabama.

Kelsey DeForest – Palmer B. Carson Memorial Scholarship
Kelsey DeForest is an active member of her school’s GSA and theater program. She is also a reporter and editor of her school’s newspaper. She interned with The Metro Youth Outreach Program at the GLBT Community Center of Cleveland, where she worked with at-risk and homeless youth. Kelsey has used her skills and compassion to reach out and make a difference in the lives of others. Kelsey will graduate from Shaker Heights High School in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Shelagh Hardrich - DOW Straight Ally Scholarship
Shelagh Hardrich worked with friends to re-invigorate the GSA at her school. She is a member of her school’s volleyball and girls’ golf team, and active in the French club. She volunteers with community groups such as the Open Door Mission, the Abrahams Public Library, and is a tutor for elementary-age students. As a proud straight ally, Shelagh believe in fairness, justice and compassion for everyone. Shelagh will graduate from Northwest High-School in Omaha, Nebraska.

Simone Getty – New York Gay Football League Scholarship
Simone Getty was the president of her school’s GSA. She was also elected student body President and Homecoming Queen. She played on the Girls’ Varsity Tennis Team and the Track and Field team, and was awarded Third in League in Girls’ Varsity Tennis Doubles. Through public visibility Simone has shown her community and school why equality is so important. Simone will graduate from Santa Clara High-School in Santa Clara, California.

Jacob DeVine – PFLAG National Scholarship
Jacob DeVine has served as a peer mentor for LGBT students in his small community, and worked to ensure that any students facing harassment or bullying had the support that they needed. He is active in his school’s drama program and concert choir. He also works with an anti-drug leadership program called Target and helped to organize an anti-drunk driving campaign during the week of Prom. In a small rural Midwest town he has demonstrated leadership and courage changing hearts and minds one person at a time. Jake will graduate from Little Falls Community High School in Little Falls, Minnesota.

Dena Wessel –PFLAG National Scholarship
Dena Wessel helped to organize a GSA in her middle school and was an active member of the GSA at her high school. She participated in the GSAFE (Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools) planning committee and is a member of Proud Theater, where she serves as the Youth Artistic Director. Dena plays on her school’s Varsity Tennis Team, is a member of Top T.E.N, Teen Education Network, and has worked with her church youth group on various community service projects. A born activist with creative talent, Dena uses all different means to educate. Dena will graduate from Madison West High School in Madison, Wisconsin.

Jesse Quinn – PFLAG National Scholarship
Jesse Quinn started the GSA at his high-school, and it is now the largest student group on campus. Jesse testified before the Oregon State Senate and sat down with his state representative to lobby for stronger anti-bullying laws. He was also a member of the Chess Team as an All-State Chess Champion, works on the student council, and is a member of the recycling club. Sharing his story served to strengthen his commitment to the community and the work that needs to be done to ensure equality. Jesse will graduate from Pleasant Hill High-School in Pleasant Hill, Oregon.

Jennifer Rokakis – PFLAG National Scholarship
Jennifer Rokakis is the President of her school’s GSA where she started the “Candlelight Vigil against Hate Crimes” in order to bring diverse student groups together for a common purpose. She was awarded the Girl Scout Bronze and Silver Award, is a member of the National Honor Society, and worked at her school’s radio station. As a straight ally, she has suffered the same bullying and taunting that her gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender fellow students face but she is committed to using her voice in the community for change. Jennifer will graduate from Canton High School in Canton, Michigan.

Ryan Dykes - Carson B Palmer Nevada Scholarship
Ryan Dykes’ struggle with coming out had a great deal to do with his family’s acceptance. It has reaffirmed his belief in himself and the community. Ryan is the Varsity Swim Team Captain at his high-school. He has participated in a number of community service projects, such as community food drives and the American Heart Association Fashion show. He is also an active volunteer with his local food bank, elementary school library, and senior citizen family home. Ryan will graduate from Douglas High-School in Minden, Nevada.

[picture forthcoming] Francis Jordan - Esera Tuaolo Schoalrship
Francis Jordan is a teen educator for the OWL (Our Whole Lives) health and education program that teaches comprehensive sex education to teens. He is also a member of the youth group at his church where he has completed various community service projects, such as building homes in Juarez, Mexico. Francis is the captain of his Varsity Cheerleading Squad. Although having suffered greatly in middle school from bullying, Francis has turned things around and wants to help others in the same situation. Francis will graduate from Santa Teresa High-School in Santa Teresa, New Mexico.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Fight Louisiana House Bill 517!

On May 19, 2009 the Louisiana legislature will hear House Bill 517, a measure designed to protect workers in the medical field to refuse services based on their religious beliefs. Services covered by the “Conscience in Healthcare” bill include, but are not limited to, abortion, dispensation of birth control, artificial insemination, sterilization, artificial reproductive technologies, human embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, fetal experimentation, euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide.

PFLAG members from Lafayette, LA will travel to the state capitol today to voice their concerns to representatives that this bill will negatively affect the LGBT community. Joey Collins, president of the PFLAG Acadiana chapter says, this bill extends far beyond being a thinly veiled attack on reproductive rights. This affects every Louisiana citizen who enjoys the benefits of our health care system. It touches each and every one of us at our most vulnerable point. Therefore, it is imperative that we stand up to such blatant attacks on our basic human rights.

According to Medical News Today, the federal Civil Rights Act, the Hippocratic Oath and professional standards provide protections based on moral or religious objections. The bill’s author, Rep. Bernard LesBas, maintains that the bill will clarify those protections.

This bill comes amid the decision President Obama recently made to rescind a late-hour executive order by President Bush that would “strengthen conscious protections” by cutting federal funding for thousands of health care entities that did not specifically provide accommodations for workers who refused to participate in care they felt violated their religious beliefs.

This law could seriously affect a person’s access to healthcare, especially in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. Julie Thompson, PFLAG New Orleans chapter leader, feels that this bill would "set health care in Louisiana back to the Middle Ages." Governor Jindal [pictured above] was at one time in charge of overseeing health care for the state. If this bill passes and he signs it, we will know that he does not have the health and welfare of his constituents at heart.

- Brooke Smith

Kept From a Dying Partner’s Bedside

Karie Hamilton for The New York Times

When a loved one is in the hospital, you naturally want to be at the bedside. But what if the staff won’t allow it?

This was the unfortunate reality for Janice Langbehn and her three children [pictured, above], when her partner of 18 years, Lisa Pond, collapsed with an aneurysm during a Florida vacation and was taken to an emergency room. She died there, at age 39, as Janice tried in vain to persuade hospital officials to let her visit, along with their children.

According to The New York Times, "Despite repeated requests to see her partner, Ms. Langbehn says she was given just one five-minute visit, when a priest administered last rites. She says she continued to plead with a hospital worker that the children be allowed to see their mother, even showing the children’s birth certificates. "

Janice is fighting back, suing the hospital for it's discriminatory acts.

Be sure to read the harrowing story of Janice and her family's being denied from being at her dying partner's bedside - all because hospital staff refused to recognize their relationship as valid. Click here to see the look at Janice's family in The New York Times today.

Monday, May 18, 2009

SC House Nixes LGBT People in Date-Abuse Bill

South Carolina lawmakers want to prevent violence in teen relationships but won't allow a new school program aimed at curbing such abuse to mention gay and lesbian partnerships.

State representatives voted overwhelmingly Thursday to bar any mention of homosexual relationships in the new program for middle and high school students. The move was pushed by lawmakers who said they don't want schools teaching about gay relationships and said they doubt those partnerships have high levels of abuse.

PFLAG National's former Director of Communications, Steve Ralls (who recently joined the team over at Immigration Equality), told the Associated Press, "We are astounded that there are those who would prioritize their own homophobia ahead of the safety of the young people of South Carolina." He added, "Lesbian and gay young people are often doubly vulnerable when they are in environments where they are disrespected and adults are sending clear messages that their well-being isn't as important."

Elke Kennedy, the mother of a gay man who was killed outside a Greenville County bar two years ago said South Carolina lawmakers shouldn't decide to protect some children and not others. Her son's assailant pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

"It's kind of scary, especially when we start talking about, 'Well, let's see, let's pick and choose which kids we're going to protect.' Are they going to make a difference between black and white, too?" said Elke Kennedy. "We cannot stand by and continue to let them pass laws based on bias."

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Happy Birthday to Elinor Lewallen from PFLAG National!

It is always a pleasure to find an occasion to salute the phenomenal parents, friends and allies who make up the PFLAG family. Many of these PFLAG leaders have been with us for years – even decades – and their commitment to, and passion for, our work has never wavered. Their long-time support has ensured PFLAG’s presence in communities small and large, from coast-to-coast, and their hard worked has moved equality forward in nearly every corner of the country.

One of those PFLAG leaders is Elinor Lewallen, who will celebrate her 90th birthday on May 17th. Elinor is truly an inspiration to the entire PFLAG family, and I wanted to acknowledge her leadership in a special birthday announcement.

Elinor served as the National President of PFLAG in the 1980s . . . when our National Office was, quite literally, in her basement! For more than two decades, she has been a role model and an undeniable example of the power of PFLAG parents.

And even as she recovers from a recent stay in the hospital, she remains a vibrant part of the community.

As she approaches her 90th birthday, she still attends monthly PFLAG meetings in Denver. And if there’s an LGBT chorus event in town, you’re almost sure to find Elinor there. She remains a visible, vocal and important part of the community – and PFLAG family – in Colorado.

I hope the entire PFLAG family will join me in toasting Elinor’s birthday, saluting her service to PFLAG and vowing to follow in her footsteps and help move equality forward! If you would like to send a birthday greeting to Elinor, please email her daughter, Janet, by clicking here or at You can also send wishes to P.O. Box 200203, Denver, CO 80220.

Happy Birthday, Elinor, from the entire PFLAG family... and best wishes from us all for a speedy recovery following your release from the hospital!

P.S.: In PFLAG’s May Update, we incorrectly identified Elinor as Janet Lewallen. Janet is, in fact, Elinor’s daughter. We apologize for the error.

- Jody M Huckaby

Friday, May 15, 2009

Will Harvey Milk Have His Day?

Last year the legislature in California passed a bill that would honor LGBT rights pioneer Harvey Milk (subject of last year's hit film, MILK). Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill, to the dismay of many. But this year, there is another chance for Harvey Milk to have his day...

The New York Times reports that the California Senate has, again, approved legislation designating a day each year to honor Milk.

"The Democratic backed measure calls for Milk's May 22 birthday to be used as a time to recognize the late San Francisco supervisor's contributions."

Harvey Milk made American history as the first openly gay man elected to public office in California. He was assassinated in 1978. The measure now heads to the California state Assembly.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

PFLAG National Applauds Introduction of House Stonewall Resolution

PFLAG National applauds Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Barney Frank (D-Mass), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Jared Polis (D-CO) for jointly introducing a resolution that would recognize the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. The Stonewall riots, which began June 28, 1969, came in response to a police raid at the Stonewall Inn, a New York City bar that was frequented by racially and economically diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. The riots are widely seen as the catalyst that started the modern LGBT rights movement.

In a statement Wednesday, Nadler said the events at Stonewall “had a profound effect on how LGBT Americans came to see their struggle for equality. Stonewall catalyzed gay Americans — and those who support their rights — into putting [LGBT] rights on the forefront, out in the open, unafraid and unapologetic,” he said. “We have come very far in the battle for LGBT rights and acceptance since Stonewall, but we still have a ways to go.”

Frank said remembering Stonewall is important as LGBT activists continue to work to advance civil rights. “As we move ahead in the movement for legal equality, it is important to remember those who had the courage to fight hard when things were much tougher,” said Frank.

Homeless Youth Pride Walk 2009

The people at Homeless Youth Pride Walk shared this news today with PFLAG National, and we wanted to let everyone know about the upcoming event to raise awareness for LGBT homeless youth. You can visit their website here.

In May, 2009, Jill Hardman, Nicole Tomlin, and Chloe Michelle Noble are walking across the United States to raise awareness for the LGBTQ homeless youth epidemic in America. They will set out on foot from Seattle, Washington traveling first to San Francisco. They will continue to travel east across the country, to Chicago, Detroit, Boston, New York, and then Washington D.C. From there they will continue souththwest to New Orleans and end their long journey in Austin, Texas. Their goal is to cover 6000 miles, (over 3000 of it on foot).

Everyone who is interested can "virtually walk with them" by following their website - which will be loaded with videos, photos, and posts collected on their journey. Others can support Homeless Youth Pride Walk 2009 by simply sharing their link on many popular networking channels. Also, supporters can get current updates by becoming followers of their blog - which includes interactive media tools, such as Google Maps, Twitter, YouTube, and Kyte TV.

Every major city they walk through will be conducting a media event collectively called OPERATION SHINE. Since they are starting their walk in Seattle, the SEATTLE SHINE will be the first. The PORTLAND SHINE will be the second. The SAN FRANCISCO SHINE will be the third city-wide media event. And so on, until the NEW YORK SHINE, where participants can walk with them the last leg of the walk to Washington D.C.

(If your city wants to participate in OPERATION SHINE please contact Chloe at Homeless youth, and youth of all kinds, and homeless citizens are strongly encouraged to participate.)

"Almost 35% of homeless youth in America identify as LGBTQ," says Noble, "This diverse group of Queer youth has a profound and powerful voice. We want to support them in their progress and give them a platform to stand on. Studies show that many LGBTQ homeless youth who receive appropriate guidance, support, resources, and encouragement, eventually become successful members of the LGBTQ community. By raising awareness we hope to inspire others to make sure more resources are available to all homeless youth for this reason."

In the future, Noble and Hardman plan on producing public service announcements with LGBTQ youth in the Utah area, using the footage they bring back from their walk. These PSA's are intended to launch a multi-media web site, that Queer youth can use to express themselves and empower others through personal, local, national, and international activism. Noble says about the web site, "It is our intention to unify LGBTQ youth through artistic expression, and to teach them how to become mutual mentors in a process of self-awareness and collective healing."

Because of the huge outpouring from the community in support of their walk, they are setting up a non-profit called the Noble Echoes Foundation.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Families Speaking Out in New York

With the recent news that the New York State Assembly is expecting to vote on marriage equality, PFLAG parents and family members are speaking out about why there is a need for marriage equality.

Meet PFLAG parents Dale and Gary Bernstein, of Ghent, New York.

Two weeks ago thousands of New Yorkers gathered in the state's capital to rally for marriage equality. Today, The Register-Star sits down with the Bernsteins - who are parents of both a gay and straight son - to discuss what equality means to them. You can read the interview today, in the first of a two-part series on LGBT equality in New York.

In short, it means that families like the Bernsteins want both of their children to have the same rights, privileges and safety as every other American.

Dale [pictured, right] tells The Register-Star, “Anything that could make your child’s life more difficult in any way is an issue for a parent,” she said. “I never had to go through any issues of accepting him or accepting his homosexuality; that wasn’t even on the radar. It was all these other issues.”

Dale said that she found it interesting that her issues were not about her son directly, but with the fear factor of having an LGBT child.

“What was sobering was being confronted with people who have voted their religion in the past, but who aren’t present to listen to the real stories of real people suffering discrimination. But it was wonderful and very exciting and exhilarating to see over 2,000 people advocating in such an orderly and eloquent fashion. I am not sure any of the stories and images shared on Tuesday will move the senator. But being the eternal optimist, I will take the vote on the bills where we can get them and hope that other attitudes will change over time. I think that we have the votes needed in the Senate to pass the marriage bill this year. I want to see them all passed.”

Also, be sure to click here and read the second part of the series.

Does God Hate?

Ruth Dorfman, of PFLAG's Naples, Florida chapter, published a moving and insightful op-ed in Friday's Naples Daily News about faith, families and the important role PFLAG plays in making houses of worship more welcoming, and understanding.

Writing ahead of this Sunday's Interfaith Convocation (also organized by the Naples chapter), Ruth says that, "I believe children, all children, including gay and lesbian children, need to feel safe when they are growing up, knowing they are surrounded by family members who love and cherish them. It requires a strong foundation for children to grow and achieve their full potential. Children of strong minds, high ideals and integrity grow out of the continuity, guidance, structure and reliability they receive within their families; they wither with condemnation or rejection. As parents we must love our children and instill in them the knowledge that we are all part of something greater than ourselves. We as a community of families must strive to provide this for every child. In an ever changing, highly mobile society, we are unfortunately seeing greater instability, less personal interaction, and heightened loneliness and isolation. We must do more to nurture our children and strengthen the family and encourage faith and belonging."

"I am saddened that in Naples I have been too often confronted with people who use religion to divide and stigmatize people," she continues. "I became active in PFLAG to make an effort to unite and educate people that faith and homosexuality are not incompatible."

"Based on Psalms: Behold how good and how pleasant it is when people dwell together in unity, PFLAG has created an Interfaith convocation remembering that unity requires us as believers to include everyone," the op-ed continues. "PFLAG is celebrating this unity with a significant faith-based opportunity to experience harmony with the blending of music and prayer. A committee of clergy and lay people from many faiths have come together to demonstrate that people of all faiths can pray together and bestow the public acknowledgment and social sanctions that are reinforced by communal worship."

"Through music, prayer and personal recollections, the service will engage our hearts, our minds and spirits, deepening our human understanding, uniting us and hopefully helping to break down the boundaries that separate people."

"We look forward to celebrating the joy of community, the gift of diversity and the vision of harmony together. I urge you and your family to make every effort to join us for this special and meaningful convocation on Sunday, May 17, 2 p.m., Unity of Naples Church, 2000 Unity Way."

To read Ruth's full op-ed from Friday's paper, click here. And for more information on the upcoming Interfaith Convocation, visit the PFLAG Naples site online.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Join PFLAG's Jody Huckaby Tonight on The Derek and Romaine Show

Join PFLAG National's executive director, Jody M. Huckaby, tonight on Sirius Out Q's Derek and Romaine Show!

Jody will join Derek and Romaine beginning at 7:30pm ET to talk about Cultivating Respect, and the recent suicides of students who were bullied based on their perceived sexual orientation . . . the status of hate crimes legislation in Congress . . . and the new PFLAG chapters that are forming across the country.

You can join the conversation by calling (877) 33-SIRIUS (74748). And, to sign up for a free trial version of Sirius, so you can listen in this evening, just click here.

Then, log on at 7:30 to join Jody as he discusses PFLAG's work to move equality forward!

Join PFLAG on WGCU Radio Today!

PFLAG National is proud to be joining our Naples, Florida chapter today on WGCU Radio's Sound Off with Sasha program to talk about the chapter's upcoming Interfaith Convocation and the importance of reaching out to communities of faith and engaging faith leaders in the movement for LGBT equality.

I'll be joining leaders from PFLAG Naples from 12:30 until 1pm today to preview next Sunday's convocation and to talk about our efforts to move equality forward in communities of faith.

You can join the conversation, and listen in live, by visiting WGCU online. Just click on the "Listen Live" button at the top of the homepage.

Please make plans to join us, today at 12:30, for an engaging conversation about PFLAG, communities of faith and the incredible work of PFLAG Naples!

Update! Archived audio from today's show will be available, beginning later today, on the official Sound Off with Sasha website. Just click here and scroll down to the PFLAG segment!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

MD and PA PFLAGers March for Equality!

Mark Patro, the president of PFLAG Baltimore County, shares with us today his experiences over the weekend at the National March for Equality that was held in Philadelphia. They were joined by several other PFLAG chapters, as well. Just last month the Baltimore County chapter rallied in support of our families against the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church.

Also, be sure to tune in to the LOGO channel tonight, Thursday, May 7th, for an interview at 7pm.

Five different chapters of PFLAG walked in the National March for Equality organized by Equality Forum. Among the several hundred marchers were more than fifty PFLAG marchers carrying placards (provided by Gay American Heroes) of LGBT victims of violence, and lead by PFLAG Philadelphia. Other PFLAG chapters represented were from Baltimore and Howard Counties in Maryland, and Chester County and Mechanicsburg in Central Pennsylvania.

Assisting the speaker, Scott Hall, from Gay American Heroes were five PFLAG leaders, four of whom are chapter presidents; Myra Taksa (Philadelphia), Colette Roberts (Columbia/Howard County, MD), [Mark Parto himself (Baltmire County, MD)], Lynda Carcione (Chester County, PA) and Bill Sizemore (Mechanicsburg, Central PA).

Participation in this march was powerful collective display of regional representation for PFLAG members. A network of camaraderie among these groups was developed in the planning stages of the march and strengthened day-long rain storm leading to possible future join participation.

- Mark Patro

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Breaking News: Maine Governor Signs Marriage Equality Bill!

As we reported earlier, both the Maine Senate and House approved a bill that would grant marriage equality to all Maine citizens. The bill went before Gov. John E. Baldacci [pictured, right] today... and he signed the bill into law!

This makes Maine now the fifth state to allow marriage equality!

While many were not sure how to predict the outcome of the Governor's decision today, on his website Baldacci tells the people of Maine today,“ responsibility is to uphold the Constitution and do, as best as possible, what is right. I believe that signing this legislation is the right thing to do.”

He added, “I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage.”

Maine joins Vermont in being the second state that has approved marriage equality through the state legislative process.

A warm congratulations to all of our members and allies today in Maine!

PFLAG Winston-Salem: Hate Is No "Hoax"

PFLAG's Winston-Salem chapter is calling out a local lawmaker for her outrageous remarks on the floor of the United States Congress . . . and making sure North Carolinians know the truth about how hate crimes impact families and communities.

Beginning today, the chapter will be running a new ad campaign in local media urging constituents to Tell Congresswoman Foxx: Hate Is No "Hoax."

The campaign, which is financed by chapter members and local supporters, is running in response to Congresswoman Virginia Foxx's comments, during House debate on federal hate crimes legislation, that the murder of Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard was "a hoax."

The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act - which passed the House with bi-partisan support last week - is also known as The Matthew Shepard Act, and Shepard's mother, Judy, has been a passionate advocate for its passage.

"The bill was named after a very unfortunate incident that happened, where a young man was killed, but we know that that young man was killed in the commitment of robbery. It wasn’t because he was gay," Foxx said. "The bill was named for him, the hate crimes bill was named for him, but it’s, it’s really a hoax, that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills."

Now, PFLAG is calling Foxx out in ads that will appear in The Winston-Salem Chronicle, as well as local weekly and Spanish-language newspapers this week. The Chronicle ad debuted in this morning's paper.

"There are very few times an organization gets handed a situation they can use as a teachable moment — as a chance to bring attention to the fact that violent crimes committed against GLBT people happen everyday," Thomas Farmer, president of PFLAG Winston-Salem, told Q-Notes this morning.

Foxx "needs to understand that this is not just a gaffe," he said. "It’s not just about using the wrong word. It isn’t just semantics."

Neena Mabe of Pfafftown, a PFLAG Winston-Salem member whose 17-year-old daughter is a lesbian, said she was extremely upset by controversy, Q-Notes reported.

"It is unfortunate that any elected representative would be so ill informed on the specifics of this crime," she said. "I think her comments point out an inability to see the world through anything other than her own experiences which significantly limits her ability to be effective as a representative."

"The real hoax," the chapter's ad says, "is Foxx's arguments against hate crimes laws."

"The truth is this: In 2007, violent crimes against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community increased by a staggering 24%."

The ad lists three numbers for Foxx's offices - (202) 225-2071, (336) 778-0211 and (828) 265-0240 and urges readers to "Join the Winston-Salem Chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) in making sure Congresswoman Foxx knows the truth."

For more information, visit PFLAG Winston-Salem online . . . check out full coverage of the ad from Q-Notes . . . and download the full advertisement online here.

Update! You can join a discussion about today's ad from PFLAG Winston-Salem over at
Pam's House Blend.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Maine Moves One Step Closer to Marriage Equality

Maine has moved one step closer to becoming the fifth state to recognize full marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples . . . and the second to do so through the legislative process.

AUGUSTA, Maine -- The Maine Legislature has approved a bill that would make the state the fifth to allow gay marriage.

The bill faces one more vote each in the House and Senate before it goes to Gov. John Baldacci. He is a Democrat and remains undecided.

The House gave approval Tuesday after rejecting a proposal to let voters decide the issue in November.

Four other states allow gay marriage, three of them also in New England. They are Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and Iowa.

Maine would become only the second state to allow gay marriage through an act of a legislature.

For more developments from Maine, and other states considering marriage equality, stay tuned here at the PFLAG National Blog.

Breaking News: D.C. City Council Votes to Recognize Marriages

The D.C. City Council has voted, 12-to-1, in favor of recognizing lesbian and gay marriages performed in other jurisdictions. The Council's vote means that the nation's capital will recognize marriages performed in Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut and Vermont . . . assuming that Congress, which has the authority to intervene in matters of city law, does not exercise its right to do so.

(The Council's lone, dissenting vote came from Council Member [and former mayor] Marion Barry, who ignited an intense debate in the nation's capital following his recent appearance at an anti-marriage rally.)

For more information on today's vote, visit The Washington Blade online.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Sharing Our Stories for Those Who Come Out

PFLAG New York City Families of Color and Allies (FCA) chapter is in the process of making a booklet of testimonies by LGBT youth and their parents about the ongoing process of coming out, and the help and support that PFLG can offer. The goal of this booklet is to guide families through the emotions that arise when a child or family member comes out as LGBT, educate them through the process, and hopefully encourage LGBT individuals of color and their families to attend monthly meetings.

PFLAG New York City FCA applied for a diversity grant from PFLAG National to cover the costs of hiring a part-time person to interview and document stories, organize the results of the interviews, and put them into an accessible booklet format in both English and Spanish. The booklet will be published on their website as soon as it is produced. PFLAG National is thrilled to be helping with the funding of this project.

The chapter, since its first meeting, has always been an example of outstanding outreach to diverse communities. The chapter has published several other brochures in English and Spanish. They have worked with radio stations with a predominantly Latino or African American listener base to create PFLAG public service announcements. The chapter was also featured in the documentary Anyone and Everyone.

PFLAG New York City FCA also has amazing relationships with other organizations of color in NYC. They mentored a new chapter in Newark, NJ that is primarily comprised of African American individuals residing in the area. They have built a coalition called We Are Your Family with NYCLU and the Bronx Community Pride Center. The chapter has also provided speakers to audiences comprised primarily of people of color at Hostos Community College, Long Island Jewish Hospital, Riverside Church, and Harlem Hospital.

Keep up the great work New York City FCA! We look forward to the booklet and other great things from your chapter!

-Kimberly Isaura Jones

Will Maine Be Next?

Earlier this week I blogged about the legislative committee that, after hearing from Maine residents, sent a strong endorsement of marriage equality to the state Senate.

Yesterday, the Senate took a major step in heeding the advice of the committee -and fair-minded Maine residents - and voted to back marriage equality!

The New York Times reports today that, "[The] Senate voted 21 to 14 for a bill that would allow gay couples to marry starting later this year" The Times added, "The measure appears to have even broader support in the House of Representatives, which will take it up on Tuesday."

With what was predicted to the biggest hurdle out of the way, the House - which is predicted to be more favorable to marriage equality - will take up the issue next week. Stay tuned to the PFLAG Blog for the latest updates on Maine's push for marriage equality.

Meanwhile, in other parts of New England, where so much has been happening lately, including the recent marriage victory in Vermont, The Times adds, "The New Hampshire legislature is likely to send a same-sex marriage bill to Gov. John Lynch in the coming weeks, though Mr. Lynch, a Democrat and an opponent, might veto it." There is also a bill in Rhode Island, though it may not be voted on this year.