Tuesday, June 30, 2009

PFLAG Family Joins President Obama at White House Reception to Commemorate Stonewall

PFLAG Mother and Son Ask President and First Lady to Speak Out for Families and LGBT People to Create Safer Communities

A PFLAG mother and son asked President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to support equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals and their families at the White House today.

[Pictured left to right: Carmen Robello of PFLAG's Families of Color network, her son, Louie, and PFLAG National's Jody M. Huckaby]

"A supportive environment makes a world of difference, and we are hopeful the President and First Lady will take the initiative in making our country a safer place for all of our family members," said Carmen Robello, a member of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

She is a member of PFLAG's Families of Color and Allies of New York City and Newark, New Jersey chapters, both dedicated to providing support for families across diverse communities.

Robello and her son Louie, were invited to a special reception at the White House to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, the event identified as the starting point for the LGBT equality movement in the U.S.

"We were incredibly honored to meet with the President and First Lady, and tell them our story, and how anti-LGBT violence and harassment create problems not just for LGBT people, but for their families and communities," said Robello. "My son and I asked the President and First Lady to speak out and become more visible in denouncing anti-LGBT discrimination."

Louie Robello experienced anti-LGBT harassment in his high school years. He later founded his high school's Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) and went on to be elected his class president.

Monday, June 29, 2009

"Why I Do What I Do"

This month PFLAG's Transgender Network (TNET) President Kim Pearson is featured in Diversity Rules magazine for her critical work with transgender youth. She is also Executive Director and Co-Founder of TransYouth Family Allies (TYFA).

Pearson explains to Diversity Rules, "Create schools and communities that respect and celebrate that people are different. Speak up when someone says 'that’s so gay' or 'what a sissy' or 'boys don’t do that.' Make room for difference. Value individuality and learn about that which you do not currently understand. Have an honest and compassionate conversation with a transgender adult, child or parent…walk a mile in their shoes... The only way the ‘rules’ of society change is for individuals to step up and say something. When we stop accepting the status quo and start living the change we wish to see in the world, that is when true change will happen, in my humble opinion."

Click here to read the complete interview with Kim Pearson, and click here to visit PFLAG's Transgender Network (TNET)

PFLAG Remembering Stonewall

As this week marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots that ignited the modern struggle for LGBT equality, AARP gives voice to the LGBT and ally leaders who have helped shape the direction of our movement.

And AARP turned to PFLAG National president John Cepek for his memories. Cepek tells AARP:

"Little did my wife and I know when we got married in June 1969 that our marriage and the birth of the gay rights movement would coincide. Now when we celebrate our anniversary, we also celebrate our wonderful gay son, and we are committed to seeing that he has the same civil rights as his straight brother."

Click here to read more about AARP'c commemoration of the Stonewall uprising.

And be sure to watch AARP's interview with Frank Kameny, below. At age 84 today, Frank Kameny was a key player in the birth of the gay rights movement, putting "his job and his life on the line for a cause he believed in."

Friday, June 26, 2009

LGBT Reflections in Television

Last week, Jason Mannino wrote an article in The Huffington Post about televison, and the need for affirmative and positive portrayals of LGBT people.

Click here to read the complete article, which mentions PFLAG's work and the film Prayers for Bobby. Below is an excerpt from Mannino's post:

Prayers for Bobby is a true story starring Sigourney Weaver who plays a mother that could not reconcile her adherence to her Christian Presbyterian beliefs and her son Bobby's homosexuality. As a direct result when he was 20 he threw himself off a freeway overpass and died instantly leading his mother to personal transformation and acts of courage as a fierce activist for PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).

Jody Huckaby, Executive Director, PFLAG, shared with me, "This film is a story of the human spirit that provides an opportunity to look into the lives of these people who had to go through profound adversity to resolve ignorance, reconcile religious beliefs, and finally accept who they are. Religion is still a barrier to equality and acceptance. We saw how marriage equality played out as a result of religion here in California." Scott Bailey, who stars in a gay role opposite the title character in Prayers for Bobby, said that it was the most meaningful role he has ever done. He also said that he knows firsthand how this film is serving our culture having seen his own conservative family gain a more positive perspective on LGBT issues as a result.

I don't watch a lot of television as an adult. However, when I was a teenager I know I would have been greatly served by the message, "You are okay. There is nothing wrong with you. Others are going through what you are going through. You still deserve nothing less than total love and acceptance."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

PFLAG to Play Key Role in New Beginning Initiative

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

The initiative, which is an outcome of the National Policy Roundtable with organizations opting into the initiative, began more than a year ago in preparation of a more LGBT-favorable administration. The more than 80 initial policies identified and recommended for changes span the authority of the White House and more than 30 federal agencies. The recommendations focus on pro-LGBT public policy changes the Obama administration can implement without legislative action. The New Beginning Initiative is the first time such a coalition of LGBT and allied organizations has come together in this way to affect administration policy. Organizations participating in the initiative can be found here.

For the first time ever, PFLAG, along with other LGBT organizations, has the ability to aggressively advance equality by working with the federal government to implement policy changes that will directly improve the lives for our LGBT loved ones and their families. Working together with so many other expert organizations will empower PFLAG to advocate for long-overdue changes in the federal government, breaking down institutionalized discrimination and barriers to federal services. Already, PFLAG is making progress, in areas surrounding safer schools and housing along with comprehensive LGBT healthcare.

The New Beginning Initiative, funded through the generous support of the Open Society Institute, includes concrete policy changes written by the respective participating organizations. Each organization will identify the strategies for accomplishing the respective policy changes it is working on in the coming months and years. The 80-plus policies represent an initial view of the opportunities for federal funding and programmatic attention; additional policy changes will be identified over time.

Examples of our recommended policy changes include:

Acknowledge and Address LGBT Health Disparities. Ensuring LGBT people are recognized as a population marked by health disparities for appropriate inclusion in federally funded studies.

Reduce Violence in Schools. Funding to reduce violence in schools, including preventing bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Recognize and Address Needs of Homeless LGBT Youth. Requiring the office of Housing and Urban Development to recognize unaccompanied homeless youth as a special-needs population requiring the development of targeted youth housing models.

Ensure Equal Access to Employment Opportunities. Amending the nondiscrimination guidelines for the federal civilian workforce to include gender identity and expression.

Copies of the initial policies identified and recommended for changes were provided to the Obama transition team in November 2008 for inclusion in agency memos for incoming administration personnel. Copies have also been provided to key White House staff in the process of identifying administration and agency staff with authority to change policies and to educate White House staff on the issues facing LGBT people and families.

PFLAG, along with other organizations have already begun meeting with administration officials to pursue some of the policy changes. A meeting with other participating organizations will be held over the summer to map out plans for each recommended policy. As the collaborating organizations succeed in changing policies, press releases will be sent out notifying the LGBT community and broader public about progress made. Additionally, the New Beginning Initiative’s web page features an electronic scorecard to track progress as policy changes are achieved.

Organizations participating in the initiative launch (listed alphabetically): Council for Global Equality; Family Equality Council; Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders; Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network; Immigration Equality; Lambda Legal; Mautner Project; National Black Justice Coalition; National Center for Lesbian Rights; National Coalition for LGBT Health; National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce; National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; National Youth Advocacy Coalition; Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays; Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE); Servicemembers Legal Defense Network; The Trevor Project. Disclaimer: Each policy proposal should be considered the proposal of the organization(s) responsible for drafting the proposal. There should be no assumption that all organizations adopt, agree with or would prioritize the policies in the same way.

Albuquerque Holds First Annual Alternative Prom

Today's guest post comes to us from Sheila Mink, vice-president of the Albuquerque, NM PFLAG chapter:

“A MidSummer Night’s Prom” was indeed a night to remember.

Working closely with students from Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) organizations throughout the city, the Albuquerque chapter hosted a first-ever high-school prom for GLBT students and their allies. Over 100 students attended the event at the world-class Albuquerque Balloon Museum on Saturday, May 2, 2009.

Credit for success goes to the team of student volunteers who worked on planning the event. While PFLAG provided guidance and coordination, the students did all of the hard work, from selecting the venue to lining up the DJ, from fund-raising to selling tickets, from decorating to cleaning up. Adult volunteers (PFLAG members, parents, and GSA sponsors) served as chaperones, ticket agents, coat checkers, and beverage vendors during the prom, so that all the kids were free to have a safe and good time.
It was truly wonderful to observe the group of young people being themselves, being with their friends and making new friends, and enjoying an evening of dancing and socializing. In the years ahead, regular school proms may be so open, accepting, and welcoming that GLBT students will feel right at home. But right now it’s terrific to have an event that they can call their own.

PFLAG Albuquerque hopes to grow this into an annual statewide celebration. With the enthusiasm shown by students and adults alike at the prom, we are already looking forward to hosting next year’s event.

Report Issues Standards to Eliminate Prison Rape

Yesterday, the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission released a comprehensive report sharing ways to prevent, detect, respond and monitor sexual abuse in US correction and detention facilities. The report recognizes the primary problems and underlying causes of sexual abuse in detention facilities, and proposes standards which would work to significantly reduce the prevalence of sexual abuse.

This report is a very important first step in the fulfillment of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), signed into law in 2003. As part of the report, the Commission identified groups of at-risk prisoners for sexual abuse- including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons. The executive summary states, “Research on sexual abuse in correctional facilities consistently document the vulnerability of men and women with non-heterosexual orientation and transgender individuals. A 1982 study in a medium-security men’s facility in California, for example, found the rate of abuse was much higher among gay prisoners (41 percent) than heterosexual prisoners (9 percent).”

In addition to recognizing the very real dangers LGBT people face in correctional facilities, the Commission put forward model standards to reduce the danger. Some of these standards include:

Screening Process. A required screening process to determine factors that increase vulnerability for sexual abuse including “sexual orientation of gay or bisexual, gender nonconformance (e.g., transgender or intersex identity).”

Enhanced Protections. An emphasis on protection, rather than segregation: “Segregation must be a last resort and interim measure only. The Commission also discourages the creation of specialized units for vulnerable groups and specifically prohibits housing prisoners based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity because it can lead to demoralizing and dangerous labeling.”

Cultural Competency Trainings. Education and awareness training for staff including: “Strategies for protecting the safety of vulnerable populations, including but not limited to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and gender-nonconforming inmates (including transgender and inter¬sex)”

Over the next year, US Attorney General, Eric Holder, will decide on a set of standards, per recommendation of the Commission, to be implemented in every state and district to help reduce the prevalence of sexual abuse in correctional facilities. After that, it will be states and localities which will have to implement the standards over a year. Let’s make sure we hold each state and locality responsible for implementing the standards. PFLAG National supports the implementation of these standards; LGBT incarcerated persons deserve to have their human rights and dignity respected.

- Millie Cripe

Millie Cripe is the new intern for the executive department. She is going to be a junior at North Central High School in Indianapolis, IN. She loves to read, write, and hang out with friends. She learned about PFLAG two and a half years ago when her older brother came out. Her brother is her best friend; watching his journey to try to find acceptance has only solidified her belief that all people deserve equal rights. Since her brother has come out, she and her family have been active members of the Indianapolis PFLAG chapter, and it’s been a great source of support as well as a means for advocacy. She is very excited to be interning at the national office and participating in the work she believes in so deeply.

North Carolina Passes Safe Schools Legislation

On Tuesday, in a 58-57 vote, the North Carolina House passed House Bill 548, the School Violence Prevention Act. This bill would require schools to adopt strong policies against bullying and harassment, including bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

"This bill is a historic step in North Carolina and the South," said Ian Palmquist, Executive Director of Equality North Carolina. "Today a narrow majority stood up to make all kids—including LGBT kids—safer at school. We call on Governor Perdue to sign this important bill and make it law."

For a list of co-sponsors, and to thank those who voted for the bill, click here or visit http://equalitync.org/leg/09/h548.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Let’s Pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act!

Earlier this afternoon, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was introduced in the House of Representatives, marking an important day for fairness and equality. PFLAG National applauds this introduction and calls for swift passage of this legislation that would extend urgently needed workplace protections to all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.

ENDA would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It explicitly protects LGBT people, similar to protections already in place for discrimination because of race, religion, color, sex, and national origin.

Currently, 12 states, the District of Columbia, and more than 100 localities have LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination protections that protect all LGBT workers, covering nearly 40 percent of Americans. Additionally, more than 150 of Fortune 500 companies have enacted non-discrimination policies protecting LGBT workers. These advancements have helped to protect workers in many places, but in 30 states your LGBT loved one can still be fired for their sexual orientation, and for gender-identity in 38 states. A federal law will help to rectify these inequities.

Passage of this legislation is critical to ensure everyone works on a level-playing field; ENDA lifts up the core American values of equality and fairness and assures every person access to the American dream.

The message of ENDA is clear and straightforward: Discrimination is wrong. We look forward to the day when our LGBT families and friends no longer have to fear the loss of their jobs on the basis of their sexual orientation or their gender identity. When that day comes, America will have taken another step forward in assuring justice and equality for all of its people.

Now it’s time to make sure our representatives know about our support of an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act that protects all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Please call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and have them connect you to your Representative (based on your zip code), and tell them:

I am a constituent and I would like you to please tell Representative _______ that I strongly support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act – a bill that would ban discrimination against all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

If you don’t know who your representative is check out our online action center and just enter your zip code!

-Millie Cripe

A Vigil in Naples

After writing an article for the Naples Daily News about the recent PFLAG Interfaith Convocation that she had helped organize, PFLAG Naples member Ruth Dorfman [pictured, left] awoke last Tuesday to find two swastikas painted on her garage. No one has been arrested for the hate crime, and police are still investigating.

A candlelight vigil held Sunday night in Naples helped to shine the spotlight on the need for tolerance and to show support for Ruth. Some of the more than 100 people who gathered shared prayers, poetry, and quotes with the group. Since a story was published about the incident last week, the Naples Daily News has been flooded with letters of support for Ruth, even many from people who identified as anti-gay were angered by the vandalism. While some do not believe in her message, many agree that she has the right to be heard and to be free from fear.

Hopefully this can act as a uniting force to bring together people of differing views who can agree that vandalism is not the way to solve difference and instead that it is time to create a dialogue that will prevent this from happening in the future.

To read more about the candlelight vigil, view the Naples Daily News article here

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"Protecting the Most Vulnerable of Our Community"

A Message from Kim Pearson, TNET President

(Click here to read this month's edition of the eTransParent newsletter)

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead.

A few weeks ago an amazing thing happened. The Rob, Arnie and Dawn Morning Show, of radio station KRXQ in Sacramento, CA publically took responsibility and apologized for their hateful anti-trans youth commentary from two previous broadcasts.

While hate speech (disguised as free speech) in popular media seems to be common place, it can only survive if “we the people” don’t step up and say enough! This is exactly what happened in this instance. The LGBT community and our straight allies exercised their freedom of speech in a manner that made it economically and socially unacceptable to malign and marginalize our transgender children, youth and adults. Click here to read about the apology and education that took place during the 2.5 hour show, featuring new media blogger Autumn Sandeen, KRXQ hosts Rob, Arnie, Dawn and myself. I think you will agree that, when presented with the sourest of lemons, we truly made some amazing lemonade.

To all of you who wrote the station, the hosts and the advertisers, I wish to express a heartfelt thank you from PFLAG-TNET, TransYouth Family Allies, and all our trans youth, family and friends!.

Kim Pearson
TNET President

Monday, June 22, 2009

Special Guest Post: Dr. Cindi Love

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month

By Dr. Cindi Love (Dr. Cindi Love is a member-at-large of PFLAG, from Abilene, TX. Click here to see her letter in the Abilene Reporter-News.)

President Obama has officially declared June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month. The timing was chosen to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall protest in New York City. This act of civil disobedience launched the movement among LGBT people to live openly and with integrity regarding their sexual orientations and gender expressions. June 2009 is a month commemorating good mental health for LGBT people, because mental health professionals tell us that the truth makes people free and secrets make them sick.

In recognition of this month, Kirk Hancock, executive director of the Mental Health Association in Abilene asked Kim McLaughlin, local Parents and Families of Lesbians and Gays president, to provide reflection on the effects of living in secrecy ("don't ask, don't tell"), stigma, marginalization and discrimination on the mental health of LGBT people and their families. I was honored when Kim asked me to compile it, and grateful that Kirk included our LGBT community in the MHA circle of care and compassion.

The fundamental mental health challenge for LGBT people is to choose to live truthfully about who we are in spite of the risks and consequences. If we live truthfully, there is risk that we will be shunned by our churches, our families, our employers and our peers. We may lose our jobs and in some parts of the world, our lives. But, if we don't live truthfully and "come out" about who we are, we continue to live in unhealthy silence and secrecy.

It's like playing a movie with half the screen showing. A friend of mine, Dr. Rob Eichberg (now deceased) wrote a book titled "Coming Out is an Act of Love." His theory was that living with integrity is a gift to the LGBT person and, ultimately, to that person's family and community. Giving that gift, however, is a very hard choice. Living in the closet is brutal for the adult psyche and it is often fatal for young people. Here are a few statistics that help quantify the situation in the United States.

• Gay teens are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.

• Forty-five percent of gay men and 20 percent of lesbians surveyed had been victims of verbal and physical assaults in secondary school specifically because of their sexual orientation.

• Gay youths are at higher risk of being kicked out of their homes and turning to life on the streets for survival.

People who don't come out often experience guilt and anxiety, as well as loneliness and isolation. They report thoughts of suicide, self-doubt and self-hatred. Despite these negative feelings, many choose to stay "in the closet" because it provides a degree of safety from bigotry.

Researchers have reported many positive effects of coming out, including a sense of relief, an improved sense of self, positive self-esteem and increased authenticity.

Coming out is a process that occurs over and over throughout an individual's life, and it is an important component of gay, lesbian and bisexual identity development. So, if you know someone who is in the midst of this process, try and support them. I often hear parents and friends say, "OK, you're gay, now can we just not talk about it anymore." The truth is that we need to talk about it when we need to talk about it.

And, the good news for Abilenians is that we have some great resources to help us with the conversation.

- Dr. Cindi Love

New Film on Don't Ask Don't Tell

This posting comes to us from the Detroit, MI chapter:

PFLAG Detroit's own proud mom, Suzie Symons, has announced that her independent film maker son, Johnny Symons, has produced a new documentary film Ask Not, which will be shown on PBS stations. The film explores the U.S. Military's controversial Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, which was implemented in 1993 and has resulted in approximately 12,500 gay and lesbian service members being discharged because of their sexual orientation.

For local stations and times, click here or go to http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/asknot/.

If you are in the Detroit area, the film will be shown on WTVS 56.1 on Sunday, June 21 at 11:30pm.

To read more about Suzie Symons and her son Johnny, visit http://www.pflagdetroit.org/stories_suziesymons.htm or click here.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Book Review: Awakening

Awakening is Pat’s personal story of her transition from a wife of 35 years and mother of two to her coming out as lesbian, and its effect on her subsequent life. She tells how her journey through leadership positions in PFLAG Dallas and as PFLAG Southern Regional Director following her daughter’s coming out as a lesbian at 25 that led to her own realization of her true sexual orientation.

The strength of this story is in Pat’s writing of her feelings as she works through her disclosure to her husband, family, and friends. She writes of concerns that her disclosure may impact PFLAG Dallas – and it does. Her close relationship with her husband causes her to anticipate that he will understand, accept and remain her friend – but he doesn’t. Pat reveals her emotions as she experiences her first crush on a woman, her sense of rejection when that interest is not returned and eventually finding a life partner. Even that relationship has its stresses – don’t they all?

She continues her account well past the coming out story, thus demonstrating that gays and lesbians have many of the same interests – and struggles – as the general population. She grapples with finances and weight issues, and spends a number of years dealing with her mother’s care as her mother disappears into Alzheimer’s.

Pat’s story is serious, light, informative, and sometimes humorous. For example: “I let him know that a woman of a certain age and size did not like hearing herself and the word 'bikini' in the same sentence.” It is well written, enjoyable and informative. I recommend it.

Click here to see more about Awakening.

- Dave Parker

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Update: WI Senate Approves Domestic Parnership Benefits!

In a close vote on Wednesday night the Wisconsin Senate passed the state budget, which included limited domestic partner benefits for LGBT people, by a vote of 17-16. The benefits include hospital visitation and the ability to take family medical leave to care for a sick or injured partner.

Glenn Carlson, executive director of Fair Wisconsin, said "with the passage of the budget in the Assembly last week and the passage today in the Senate, Wisconsin has taken an important step toward ensuring that someone in a committed relationship is able to care for his or her partner."

Congratulations to our allies in WI for all the work they did in making this happen!

PFLAG on Fox 5 news

Sherri Ly of Washington D.C.'s Fox 5 News stopped by our offices yesterday to speak with our Executive Director, Jody Huckaby, about our reaction to Obama's presidential memo signed yesterday that extended some benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.

Huckaby told Fox 5 News, "So we might get a couple of benefits today, tonight. We're looking forward to hearing what those benefits are and we have cause for celebration but it's celebrate and remember Mr. President, remember your campaign promise to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act."

Click here to read the print story online.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

PFLAG Applauds President’s Extension of Benefits to Same-Sex Partners of Federal Workers, Calls on Obama to Honor Promise to Repeal DOMA

PFLAG National applauded the decision by President Obama to sign a presidential memorandum authorizing the extension of benefits to same-sex partners of federal workers. However, the group urged the President to honor his promise to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that prevents the Federal government from recognizing same-sex unions.

“This change for federal employees is a great step in the right direction,” said Jody M. Huckaby, executive director of PFLAG. “However, it is just a first step. We are committed to ensuring that the President will stand by his campaign promise to work towards the repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act that is a barrier to countless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans. DOMA’s very existence is the obstacle that prevents the federal government from acknowledging legally-recognized unions.”

“DOMA leaves our families and friends unprotected and unequal, without access to more than 1,100 federal benefits. While PFLAG is thrilled to see this Administration move equality forward for federal employees, we will work to ensure that President Obama has not forgotten his commitment to equality for all LGBT Americans.” Huckaby concluded.

Jubilation Muted on California Marriage Equality Anniversary

Jonathan Abernethy-Deppe vividly remembers the bustling San Francisco city clerk's office and the happiness of fellow couples last year when California began granting same-sex marriage licenses.

But he and his now-husband, David, say their first anniversary won't be nearly as jubilant. Last month the state Supreme Court upheld a gay-marriage ban while allowing about 18,000 such marriages that occurred last year to stand...

This time last year, same-sex couples, along with their families and friends, were celebrating the right to marriage equality. Unfortunately, later last year Proposition 8 passed, which banned marriage equality. Earlier this spring, the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8.

On this memorable anniversary, the Associated Press reports of the mix of emotions felt by families effected by Prop 8:

"'Their presence in California serves to show that married gay couples don't cause any problems,' said Jennifer Pizer, director of the marriage project at Lambda Legal, which argued against Proposition 8 before the California Supreme Court."

"Equality California and California Faith for Equality planned to commemorate the anniversary of the first same-sex weddings Tuesday with gatherings in San Francisco and Los Angeles, followed by ones elsewhere in the state Wednesday."

"Louise Brooks, spokeswoman for California Faith for Equality, said organizers want to celebrate last year's milestone in gay rights while renewing calls to push for continued same-sex marriage rights."

"She said the events, designed to be more like vigils than parties, are 'a remembrance of what we once had but don't have anymore.'"

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Action Alert - Contact your WI Senators today!

As we we been reporting for the past week, WI looks to be next in line to grant domestic partnerships. Having already passed the State Assembly by a vote of 50-48, the bill is heading to the Senate tomorrow, June 17.

If you live in WI or know someone who does, now is the time to act!

Our friends at Fair Wisconsin have created a form letter that you edit and send to your senator. You can find the form by clicking here or going to http://eqfed.org/campaign/Senate_DP.

According to Tim Ewing, Outreach Coordinator at Fair Wisconsin, there are three targeted areas:
  • Tim Carpenter's district (3rd Senate District, Milwaukee)

  • Kathleen Vinehout's district (31st Senate District, north of La Crosse but south of Eau Claire)

  • Jim Holperin's district (12th SD, the northeastern corner of the state)
Remember, the Senate votes tomorrow, so share your stories TODAY!

Hate Crimes Alert: Senate Expected to Vote this Week!

According to this article in the Washington Blade, the Senate is poised to vote on the hate crimes bill (aka the Matthew Shepard Act) Tuesday or Wednesday of this week, and according to some sources, the bill is expected to pass.

The bill, S. 1023, is part of the Travel Promotion Act, which is geared toward establishing a national travel promotion program to communicate U.S. travel policies and to promote travel to the United States. The hate crimes bill passed the House on April 29, 249-175, as a standalone measure. The legislation would allow the U.S. Justice Department to assist in the prosecution of hate crimes committed against LGBT people that result in death or serious injury.

John Berry, director of the Office of Personnel Management and the highest-ranking openly gay presidential appointee in history, announced during a speech at D.C.'s Capital Pride on Sunday that the Senate would address hate crimes as early as this week. He also said the Obama administration would soon announce changes regarding inequities faced by LGBT employees in the federal workforce.

We will updating the blog with developments throughout the week, so stay tuned!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Update: Wisconsin State Assembly Approves Domestic Partnerships!

In a follow up to our post on Friday, we have learned that the Wisconsin State Assembly passed the state budget, which included domestic partnership protections!

According to Fair Wisconsin, the statewide equality group, the domestic partnership benefits survived an attempt to remove them from the budget by a vote of 50-48, and the budget was passed by a 50-48 margin.

The budget goes to the state Senate this week, and Governor Jim Doyle is hopeful that he will sign it into law by the end of June. If this happens, Wisconsin would become the first state with an existing constitutional amendment banning marriage equality and civil unions to provide domestic partnership legislation for same-sex couples.

According to Glenn Carlson, executive director of Fair Wisconsin, "Fair Wisconsin applauds our state representatives who realize that no one should ever have to worry about being blocked at their partner’s hospital room door, or have to make the heartbreaking decision to quit their job in order to care for a seriously ill partner. This isn’t about being gay or straight—it’s about being decent."

Stay tuned for more developments on this story throughout June!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

PFLAG Denounces the Department of Justice’s Arguments Supporting DOMA

PFLAG National expressed deep disappointment and strong opposition to the Department of Justice’s recent arguments regarding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the dismissal of a lawsuit filed on behalf of a gay couple who married in California.

“Since DOMA’s enactment in 1996, PFLAG has vocally opposed this blatant and malicious law, which enables legal discrimination against our gay and lesbian loved ones and denies them the right to protect their families and receive equal treatment under the law,” said Jody M. Huckaby, executive director of PFLAG. “We are deeply offended by the DOJ’s recent arguments and alarmed by the hurtful language that further denigrates our families and friends.”

“PFLAG continues to urge President Obama to explore options to repeal this immoral and unethical law that leaves our families and friends unprotected and unequal. DOMA hurts our families and friends by denying them more than 1,100 federal benefits legally recognized married couples currently receive from the federal government. When families are hurt, communities are weakened and all of America suffers. In the name of basic equality and fairness, we ask that the Administration fulfill its commitment to advancing equality for LGBT Americans by acting immediately to overturn this law,” Huckaby concluded.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Wisconsin to Get Domestic Partnerships?

In what appears to be a promising move, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle [pictured, left] included limited domestic partnership protections for the state's same-sex couples in his recent budget proposal. According to Fair Wisconsin, the statewide equality group, the proposed domestic partnerships would grant basic legal protections to committed same-sex couples, including hospital visitation, the ability to take family medical leave to care for a sick or injured partner and the ability to make end of life decisions for a domestic partner.

The good news is that some key members of the state legislature are in favor as well. Since WI was one of the states where voters passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2006, this piece of legislation is particularly important, as it would be the first piece of pro-equality legislation in more than 20 years.

If you live in WI (or know someone who does) make your voices are heard! Tell the legislators that you support fairness and equality in the state of WI and ask them to support it, too. You can do this through the Fair Wisconsin site at http://eqfed.org/campaign/Assembly_DP.

The Wisconsin State Assembly is scheduled to vote on this budget next Wednesday, June 17th. Stay tuned for developments!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

"A Man is But the Product of His Thoughts"

Mohandas Gandhi once wrote, “a man is but the product of his thoughts - what he thinks, he becomes.” On Wednesday, June 10th, James von Brunn actualized Gandhi’s famous quote. Von Brunn - an 88-year old self-identified, “white supremacist” - walked into the U.S. Holocaust Museum fueled with a heart of hatred and opened fire, fatally wounding a security guard and sending visitors fleeing from one of the National Mall’s most popular sites before he was finally shot.

We at PFLAG are both saddened and dismayed by yesterday’s tragic act of violence, which occurred at an institution symbolizing peace, remembrance and respect. Our thoughts and gratitude go out to the family of the brave security guard, who sacrificed his life in order to protect the many tourists visiting the museum. Yesterday’s terrible tragedy highlights for us the need to continue our work at advancing the Matthew Sheppard Act in the US Senate (S. 909). While this bill cannot prevent vigilantes like von Brunn from executing such cruel acts of hatred and violence, it can help local law enforcement officials devote the resources necessary to prosecute and bring such offenders to justice.

This legislation alone, however, will not change the hearts and minds of people like James von Brunn. The critical work that our PFLAG chapters continue to accomplish in communities all across the country enable us to dispel misinformation and also educate and empower new allies to join the cause of expanding civil rights to our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender loved ones. This important grassroots work cements the foundation for real change that will reflect the kind of peaceful society most of us strive to create. Let us all be the product of our peaceful thoughts and build a more respectful and peaceful future.

- Rhodes Perry

An Open Letter to President Obama

The following post comes to us from Dan Tepfer, retired Air Force colonel, OH State Coordinator, National Board Member, and member of the Dayton, OH chapter.

Dear President Obama,

My wife and I and our three children, now adults, served as a military family for 23 years before I retired as a colonel in the Air Force. While my family did not have to experience frequent separations or my death or serious injury like so many service families do now, all military families make sacrifices. We moved twice with kids who were entering their senior year of high school. We appreciate that you and Michelle have made military families a top priority.

Our three adult children are responsible citizens who all work in education, one at an early childhood special needs school in Columbus, OH, one at a high school in Prince Georges County, MD and one at the University of Maryland. We are so very proud of all of them.

One of our children is gay, and that is the motivation for this letter. We have been encouraged by the difficult and courageous decisions you have made in many areas, domestic and international, and we are grateful for the promises you have made to secure civil rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) citizens. We worry, however, that you are moving too cautiously. Several bills are working their way through Congress, but so far we haven’t seen the special push from the White House that could accelerate the process.

As a retired military officer, the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t tell is of paramount importance to me, and I spoke on the Capitol lawn with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network in March. I understand there is a legislative procedure to follow, but a stop-loss order from you now could prevent the dismissal of Lt. Dan Choi, Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, Major Margaret Witt, and all the other valuable gay military members who are losing their beloved careers while the ponderous legislative process lumbers along.

Hate crimes. Housing and employment discrimination. Immigration policy. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Defense of Marriage Act. Each of these may seem like a small matter, but taken together, they represent a significant and unconscionable disservice by our federal government to its GLBT citizens. Change is imperative.

I understand there are always political costs to evaluate, but I no longer think moving quickly on these issues will have the negative consequences you might fear. The country’s attitude toward equality for GLBT citizens is moving with a speed we could not have imagined just a few years ago, even on the issue of marriage which has always been the most controversial.

Please act with the courage of your convictions. Use the power of your office to advance equality and fairness for all without further delay.


Col. Daniel Tepfer, USAF (ret.)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Court Rejects Challenge to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme court made the unfortunate decision to refuse to hear a case involving the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy, thus letting the policy remain in place.

The New York Times
examines the court's refusal to hear the DADT case today. The Times reports:

"During last year's campaign, President Barack Obama indicated that he supported eventually repealing the law, but he has made no specific move to do so since taking office in January. The White House has said it won't stop the military from dismissing gays and lesbians who admit their sexuality."

"Without comment, the nation's highest court denied a review of an appeal from former Army Capt. James Pietrangelo II, who was in the Vermont National Guard when he was discharged in 2004."

''I think this decision is an absolute travesty of justice and I think every judge on this court should be ashamed of themselves,'' said Pietrangelo, who served six years in the Army, seven years in the Vermont National Guard and fought in Iraq in 1991. 'It's nothing short of rubber stamping legalized discrimination.'"

''The Supreme Court is not infallible, they get things wrong, and they got it wrong this time,'' added Pietrangelo, who now lives in Ohio."

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Call to Action on the President's Proclamation

This special guest post comes to us from PFLAG National President, John Cepek:

"When I met Barack Obama, neither of us was yet a President. During the cocktail hour at the 2004 Equality Illinois gala in Chicago, my wife, my sister-in-law, and I saw him standing alone, unattended, in the crowd. At that time, he was running second or third in the primary for the Illinois senate seat. We spoke with him for about five minutes. He joked about having papers to grade—he was teaching at the University of Chicago—and we talked about PFLAG and thanked him for attending the gala.

Little did we know then that he’d ever be elected Senator, let alone President. We did know he obviously sought the support of the LGBT community. With President Bush already making noises about protecting marriage with a Constitutional amendment, we welcomed anyone on our side.

When Barack Obama gave that fantastic speech at the 2004 convention, we began to expect great things. When he talked about LGBT people and issues in the 2008 campaign and later posted supportive policy statements in the civil rights section of the White House Web page, we expected even more. When we learned that he’d appointed an LGBT taskforce and invited representatives of advocacy groups to speak with government staff, we became almost giddy with anticipation.

Now, on June 1, President Obama issued over his signature a proclamation of June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. In the proclamation, he hits the right notes on the issues (except for marriage equality, where he continues his call for civil unions).

The President appears to be poised to deliver. Now, more than ever, we have to speak to him. Now, we need to let him know that we expect the same kind of heavy lifting from him for LGBT civil rights that President Johnson exerted for African-American civil rights.

I’m so happy with the words and symbols that I’m almost ready to relax and let the President do the heavy lifting. But I won’t, and I hope the rest of you won’t either.

Call the White House, (202) 456-1111, thank the President for the proclamation, and let him know we expect him to fulfill his words and his destiny in moving LGBT equality forward.

Better yet, send him a hand-written letter:

Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500

President Obama no doubt has all the good intentions in the world, but he needs to hear our family voices to get the equality train roaring down the track.

Action, we need action.

- John Cepek

Marriage Equality in NH - A PFLAGer's Perspective

PFLAG National's own Roberta Barry, volunteer regional director for the Northeast region and president of the Keene, NH chapter, shares her thoughts on her decade-long fight for equality in her home state:

"It was a beautiful, sunny June day. The birds were singing. The sweet scent of lilacs was heavy in the air. New Hampshire’s state motto, “Live Free or Die” acquired new meaning for me. No longer do gay and lesbian people have to die without the rights of other New Hampshire citizens. I am grateful to be blessed with a gay child and be a witness to the history of equality in the state of my birth.

Ten years ago, when I attended my first PFLAG meeting in Keene, I had no idea that PFLAG's work in education and advocacy for gay people would be like a strong ocean current that swept me along. Before I knew it I become a part of a national movement to bring legal equality to gay and lesbian people.

I first went to PFLAG to talk about having a gay son. I wanted to understand why this happened. I wanted to talk with other families with whom I could share this experience. At the time, I thought that being gay was a problem, and it was my fault as a mother that my son was one of those people that our culture didn’t really accept. How much I learned. “It” was not a fault at all. Being a gay person is just a fact of life, like being left handed, blue or brown eyed. Once I understood that facts it became apparent that the culture had to know this, too.

I moved along the journey of knowing, to teaching, then advocating for the rights of people like my son. As I became a part of the larger PFLAG movement and met gay and lesbian people who said they intended to work to bring about equality in marriage to NH, I thought to myself, 'that will take a very long time.' The PFLAG organization supported the movement with money, writing campaigns, rallies, and testimony to representatives. Over the past six years, obtaining marriage equality has become a primary mission for the organization in NH as well in other states.

The wave of change came quicker than imagined. More people (both LGBT people and straight allies) started to "come out." As reproductive technology moved forward, allowing gay and lesbian people to create families of their own, society started to see that gay folks are just like everyone else. Gay people work, pay taxes, and sometimes struggle to raise a family. They want their lives validated like heterosexual couples.

What has been most impressive over the past six years has been observing the increasing numbers of youth who have come to testify about their need to live honestly and be accepted by family and society. They are articulate in their words. They express confidently who they are. I witnessed our future families at the state house, and I applaud their courage to speak their truths and to say, 'We will not live in closets. We will have a life just like yours.'

Finally, the majority of our representatives in New Hampshire understood. The hours and hours of testimony paid off. On June 3, 2009, Governor Lynch signed the bill(s) giving marriage equality to my family and hundred of other families in NH. It took 3 amended bills in order to be clear about the separation and church and state (churches and their affiliate groups will not be bound to marry same sex couples if they are not in agreement and choose not to do so). But, the State of New Hampshire will provide the legal right of same sex couples to marry."

-Roberta Barry

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Marriage Equality in New Hampshire!

Photo by Jim Cole, AP

Late yesterday afternoon New Hampshire became the sixth state to have marriage equality! It was signed into law yesterday by Governor John Lynch after it passed the Senate by a vote of 14-10 and the House by a vote of 198-176

Says Governor Lynch, "Today we're standing up for the liberties of same-sex couples by making clear they will receive the same rights, responsibilities, and respect under New Hampshire law. Today is a victory for all the people of New Hampshire who, I believe, in our own independent way, want tolerance for all. That's truly the New Hampshire way." He adds that is it New Hampshire tradition "to come down on the side of individual liberties and protections, and that tradition continues today."

The law takes effect on January 1, 2010.

Congrats to our LGBT friends in New Hampshire!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

President Obama declares June LGBT Pride Month

In an historic move, President Obama has officially proclaimed June LGBT Pride Month. According to the official proclamation released by the White House on June 1, President Obama says, "Forty years ago, patrons and supporters of the Stonewall Inn in New York City resisted police harassment that had become all too common for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Out of this resistance, the LGBT rights movement in America was born. During LGBT Pride Month, we commemorate the events of June 1969 and commit to achieving equal justice under law for LGBT Americans."

"These issues affect not only the LGBT community, but also our entire Nation. As long as the promise of equality for all remains unfulfilled, all Americans are affected. If we can work together to advance the principles upon which our Nation was founded, every American will benefit. During LGBT Pride Month, I call upon the LGBT community, the Congress, and the American people to work together to promote equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity."

Finally, President Obama says, "NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists."

So, PFLAGers, as you dust off your banners and order publications in preparation of the upcoming Pride season, know that you have the support of President Obama, a true ally to our movement.

Stay Tuned: Vote on Marriage Equality Today in New Hampshire

After a crushing defeat by two votes, supporters hope to succeed Wednesday when a second vote is taken on expanded religious protections needed to win the governor’s signature on a bill to allow [marriage equality].

The vote could be the last chance this year to make New Hampshire the sixth state to allow gays to marry...

Click here to read today's story in The Boston Herald about today's expected New Hampshire Senate vote on marriage equality.

Earlier this month, Gov. John Lynch threatened to veto the bills, but announced "he would sign the legislation if lawmakers passed expanded protections for churches, their employees and religious groups. Lynch’s language, modeled after Connecticut’s law, had to be put into a third bill because it was too late to amend the two bills that had passed. " Thus, a newer version is being voted on today that could make new Hampshire the next state to provide full marriage equality for its lesbian and gay couples.

Stay tuned for updates on the marriage equality vote today in New Hampshire!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

"PFLAG Pride in Action:" A Message from Jody Huckaby

Dear PFLAG Family and Friends,

Pride season is upon us, and now more than ever we have reason to celebrate our pride in our families, our allies, our communities and ourselves. Today more than ever, there are many tremendous opportunities for us to advance equality, and we’ve seen equality moving forward in America at a faster pace. PFLAG remains on the front lines of this momentum, supporting families, educating communities and advocating for full equality in every region of the country.

While PFLAG may be best known for our participation in hundreds of Pride parades every year, we are so much more than supportive parents and family members. We are the only national organization that brings together straight and LGBT people in a common voice at the grassroots local level in hundreds of communities across America, to support families, educate communities and advocate for LGBT equality. Of course, for most of our chapters, it is during Pride season that our work shines most brightly.

As our hundreds of PFLAG chapters across the nation gear up to participate in their Pride parades and community celebrations, all of us at PFLAG reflect on the victories our community has achieved in a short time span. Within the last thirty days since our May Update, Maine has become the fifth state in the union to extend marriage equality to lesbian and gay couples, with New Hampshire and New York showing potential to join these states. Last month the House of Representatives passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act. A version of the bill has been introduced in the Senate, and we are hopeful that this year we will see federal hate crimes legislation that protects LGBT people become a reality.

Unfortunately our community has seen some setbacks as well. Only last summer the California Supreme Court ruled that our lesbian and gay family members have the right to marriage equality. Later that year Proposition 8 ended that dream – and also held roughly 18,000 marriages in legal limbo. While the Court sadly ruled this month to uphold the legality of Prop. 8, it did rule that those who were married last year must remain legally recognized. PFLAG and our allies will continue to push for full marriage equality in California – and in all states.

This month PFLAG members everywhere have a chance to have fun celebrating our achievements and Pride, as well as displaying all of the amazing hard work we do every day for equality! Here are some of the other activities PFLAG and our chapter members have been actively involved with:

  • PFLAG National announced this year’s scholarship winners. PFLAG is now in our 6th year of awarding the scholarships. More than $30,000 will go to students across the country who have made significant contributions to equality in their schools and communities. Click here to read more about the wonderful young LGBT people and straight allies who are poised to become the leaders of tomorrow.

  • I had the pleasure of visiting several chapters this month, including a special visit to the heartland. In meeting with our Omaha, Nebraska chapter, I was able to share my story, listen to those of others, and even attended a special gay prom for LGBT youth. PFLAG Omaha is a shining example of the power of PFLAG, changing hearts and minds, empowering families and strengthening communities.

  • PFLAG families spoke out against discrimination in New York. PFLAG National Board member Dale Bernstein and her husband, Gary, of Ghent, New York, attended a rally of thousands, including PFLAGers from across the state, to support marriage equality in the Empire State. PFLAG families like the Bernsteins stress that they want all of their children to have the same rights, privileges and safety as every other American.

  • Our Maryland and Pennsylvania chapter members marched for equality. In what PFLAG Baltimore County President Mark Patro called “a powerful collective display of regional representation for PFLAG members,” PFLAGers from both states brought the unique PFLAG voice to the National March for Equality that was held in Philadelphia.

Please consider making a special donation this month to support our work. Your support and advocacy are making real changes for all of our families. As we celebrate this month, we also vow to continue our important work to move equality forward!

Thank you for all of your support, and Happy Pride!


Jody M. Huckaby
Executive Director

PFLAG Applauds Hearing, Urges Congress to Support UAFA

Jody M. Huckaby, our executive director of PFLAG National, issued the following statement today following news of a hearing for the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA):

“We applaud Senator Leahy for organizing the hearing today about the Uniting American Families Act and for advocating for the inclusion of lesbian and gay binational families in comprehensive immigration reform. This bill is critical to our mission of promoting the health and well being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons. UAFA is one step towards ending discrimination and securing civil rights for this population.”

“UAFA will allow Americans to no longer have to choose between family and country, as so many have to choose now. Lesbian and gay Americans who fall in love across borders face an impossible choice between being with the person they love and staying in their country.”

“Over the weekend, many PFLAG members called the National Office to share their personal stories, highlighting the weight of the problem. The themes in their stories were very similar. Many of these families and couples feel they have no choice but to live elsewhere, as nineteen countries have comprehensive benefits available for same-sex partners. Many others do not have the flexibility to follow their partners elsewhere and currently exist in unnecessary long-distance relationships.”

Monday, June 1, 2009

Tell Congress: Keep Our Families Together!

Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA), a long-time champion of the LGBT community, will soon introduce The Reuniting Families Act . This landmark immigration bill ends harmful practices that prevent loving families from being together. Many PFLAG members know firsthand about families being broken apart because of long visa wait times and discrimination against LGBT families, and this bill can prevent these heartbreaking stories.

In an historic move, Congressman Honda has included lesbian and gay people as part of this remarkable legislation . . . marking the first time in Congressional history that lesbian and gay couples have been included as part of a multi-issue immigration bill.

As our country begins a conversation about comprehensive immigration reform, this important first step helps to ensure that, moving forward, we're included, too. The President supports us, and Congress is increasingly on our side. Now, our community can be part of fixing our nation's broken immigration system by supporting their efforts.

Please stand with Congressman Honda and our families, and urge your elected representative to co-sponsor The Reuniting Families Act.

ACT NOW to Urge Your Member of Congress to Cosponsor the
Reuniting Families Act!

Email your U.S. Representative and ask him or her to cosponsor the Reuniting Families Act, which will allow gays and lesbians to sponsor our partners for immigration.

Along with the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), Congressman Honda's bill is another sign of historic progress for the lesbian and gay community, and it is critical that our elected representatives know this is an important issue for our community.

Contact your representative today to support family unity!

Thank you for making sure that comprehensive immigration reform is truly comprehensive - and includes LGBT families!