Friday, July 31, 2009

Hawaii Football Coach's Anti-Gay Slur

Greg McMackin, head football coach of the Hawaii Warriors football team, is attempting to apologize for some derogatory comments he made about Notre Dame's football team. Seems that yesterday he was speaking at a media day for the Western Athletic Conference and was talking about his team's game against Notre Dame last year in the Hawaii Bowl.

McMackin referred to a dance the Irish performed during a banquet before the game as a "little faggot dance."

Moreover, McMackin used the term “faggot” three times while explaining why Notre Dame was so fired up to play Hawaii in the game, which Hawaii lost 21-49.

As soon as he said it he seemed to realize the implications it would have, and he asked the reporters there not to relay his statements.

So far no one involved with the football program at Hawaii is saying much, but McMackin is meeting today with Hawaii athletic director Jim Donovan, so we will see what comes from that.

Below is the apology that McMackin issued yesterday. What do you think? Leave us a comment and let us know.

"I would sincerely like to apologize for the inappropriate verbiage of words that I used. I have nothing against the University of Notre Dame. I don't talk like that. I'm really ticked off at myself for saying that. I don't have any prejudices. It really makes me mad that I said that. I'm disappointed in myself.

"It ticks me off that I said that because Notre Dame played a great ball game. What I was trying to do was be funny, and I wasn't funny, and it's not funny. Even more, it isn't funny to me. I was trying to make a joke. It was a bad choice of words. I really, really feel that.

"I wanted to apologize. I'm going to apologize to my team. I'm going to apologize to the people of Hawai'i. ... All I can do is apologize, and I feel bad that I used those words. It was really stupid. I just feel really bad. I apologize."

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Transgender Proclamation in Houston

This past Saturday Houston, TX Mayor Bill White proclaimed July 25 as "Transgender Center Day" in honor of the first anniversary of the Houston Transgender Center.

The Center, one of the first of its kind in the country, has become a face for the trans community beyond Houston, advancing transgender causes and issues in the state. It offers many services for trans people including support groups, workshops, health care, and housing referrals.

“It’s pretty amazing that a number of years ago we probably wouldn’t have seen that much support from our local politicians,” said Tim Brookover, a board member of the Houston Transgender Unity Committee, who attended the event on July 25. “They provide visibility not just in the trans and LGBT community but the wider community.”

We welcome this type of recognition by the Mayor and encourage others to take a moment to let him know that you appreciate his willingness to publicly support the Transgender Center. He may be contacted at:

Mayor Bill White
City of Houston
P.O. Box 1562
Houston, TX 77251

Phone: 713.837.0311

mayor@cityofhouston.net

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Thank AAA South for their Pro-Equality Policy Change

Our friends at Equality Florida met with AAA South (the fourth largest AAA affiliate in the country) last week. By the end of the meeting AAA South had committed to recognizing all spouses, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

The policy allows gay, married couples to receive spousal discounts under AAA's Associate Membership program.

The issue was originally brought to the attention of Equality Florida months ago after receiving calls from gay couples who had been denied family memberships in the program.

“We had not talked about this issue very much at all until you reached out to us, and that has caused us to talk about it quite a bit,” said Tom O’Brien, President and Chief Executive Officer, AAA Auto Club South. “Our policy does include gay and lesbian spouses, wherever they were married. Whether in other states or countries, they qualify."

AAA South management says it will take about 2 weeks to train 3,000 staff members to implement the policy uniformly.
Same-sex couples applying for a membership need only state that they are married to receive the family benefit. Management also left the door open to expand the policy to include domestic partners - gay and straight.

"We are pleased with the outcome of our meeting. AAA is an iconic American company that many of us associate with summer vacation and family road trips. To have AAA South set a standard for full equality for all married couples, regardless of sexual orientation, is an important message and one we hope other companies will follow," said Nadine Smith, Executive Director of Equality Florida.

“We appreciate the professional manner in which representatives from Equality Florida met with members of our executive management team to gain a better understanding of each organization’s position and concerns. The result, from our perspective, was a very meaningful and productive conversation. Our door is always open,” said AAA's O’Brien.

AAA South has more than 4 million members in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Puerto Rico.

We want you to take action! Let AAA South know that you support their decision to recognize same-sex couples. Send a quick note by clicking here or visiting http://ga4.org/campaign/thankAAA.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

St. Paul City Council Passes Domestic Partner Registry Ordinance

Last Wednesday, July 22, Mayor Chris Coleman signed a domestic partnership ordinance for the city of St. Paul (the third city in Minnesota to have such a registry; Minneapolis and Duluth are the others).

The ordinance, introduced by Council members Lee Helgen and Dave Thune, had been approved 6-0 about 90 minutes before, with a number of Council members saying the ordinance was a step forward for the city.

"Equality is equality is equality," Mayor Coleman said, "and you can't have equality for some and not for others."

Because Minnesota municipalities are forbidden by state law from offering any type of domestic partner benefits, the registry is largely symbolic. But proponents say the new law could benefit couples and businesses for which proof of domestic partnership is needed. Couples would pay the city $20 and receive a certificate to be used as proof of the relationship to employers for benefits purposes or to hospitals for visitation purposes.

Although the ordinance creates no legal benefits, the Council should still be applauded for taking this step. Says Amy Johnson, executive director of OutFront Minnesota, "It matters that the city is saying, 'We recognize that you're a couple, and we want afford you as much dignity and respect as we can recognize your relationship. It means a lot for the government to even symbolically recognize us."

Thank you to the St. Paul city council members and Mayor Coleman for taking a stand for equality!

Straight for Equality for Faith Communities

"Everyone who comes here, no matter their sexual or gender identity, religious affiliation or knowledge, everyone is welcomed with open arms."
--Rabbi Toby Manewith, Bet Mishpachah Synagogue, Washington DC

Today, places of worship are often portrayed as anti-LGBT, as obstacles for LGBT individuals to overcome, and as unwelcoming, excluding places for gay people. As you know, this is not true! There are many faith groups out there who serve the LGBT community and practice love and inclusion of all people. In fact, they’ve become so successful that straight allies are becoming members of these places of worship! According to this article in USA Today, more and more straight people are joining inclusive faith groups that primarily serve the LGBT population. Want to know more? Read the article by clicking here or going to http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2009-07-23-gay-church_N.htm

Faith communities should be a place of strength, support, and inclusion for all people. For ways to make your faith community more open and affirming to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, check out the new PFLAG Faith Field Guide by clicking here. Additionally, the Straight for Equality in Faith Communities training can help you reach out and touch the hearts and minds of straight people in your faith community. Through this intimate panel and discussion based training, you can find out the best next steps toward full LGBT inclusion for your faith community.

To learn more about Straight for Equality in Faith Communities, contact Straight for Equality Coordinator Julie Handy at jhandy@pflag.org, or at (202) 467-8180 ext. 222.

Monday, July 27, 2009

WNBA's Mystics vs. the "KissCam"

In today's Washington Post, sports columnist Mike Wise writes about the WNBA's Washington Mystics and an issue with the "KissCam." At other sporting events, cameramen and women find an (unsuspecting) couple, put their images on the big screen, and wait for their reaction (which usually involves a quick kiss).

The Washington, DC's Mystics do not have such a practice, and when asked about it, Sheila Johnson, Mystics's managing partner, replied, "We got a lot of kids here...We just don't find it appropriate." When asked through a spokesman, WNBA President Donna Orender put out a blanket statement: The league leaves KissCam-type decisions to individual arenas and franchises.

What should be understood is that women's professional basketball has two major fan bases: dads and daughters, and lesbians.

Says columnist Mike Wise, "It's understandable that a financially shaky league is outright terrified it could alienate a chunk of its fan base if two same-sex people shared a chaste kiss on a video scoreboard. Hello, gay and lesbian jokes. Goodbye, heterosexual family ticket plans. Goodbye, progress. "

But how long does a league keep some of its most loyal and longtime customers in the closet? How long should any historically persecuted group keep quiet when the Mystics take sponsorship dollars from a company noted for discrimination against gays? [One of the Mystics' big sponsors is ExxonMobil, which scored a zero on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index. When Exxon acquired Mobil a decade ago, it removed explicit protections for employees based on sexual orientation from the company's anti-discrimination policies. Despite shareholder pressure, the company hasn't budged.]

Others understand the Mystics' position. Cathy Nelson of the Human Rights Campaign's said in a phone interview, "Sheila and the Mystics have been nothing but supportive in our mind, showing up at all our dinners, events, even bringing the whole team once."

And, says Wise, "who is Johnson to turn down sponsorship dollars when so few are available? When your principles and beliefs supersede financial health, how is a defunct team and league going to help promote the very values the WNBA espouses to little girls?"

We wouldn't broadcast on our Jumbotron about abortion issues because of the religious and political conflicts it would cause," said Lindsey Harding, the team's point guard. "It's a similar, sensitive subject. We don't want to put anything out there to turn down certain fans."

Which side of the issue do you stand on? Can you see the Johson's reasoning, or do you you think that no matter what, the Mystics should include a "KissCam" at their Verizon Center games? Leave a comment and let us know where you stand on the issue.

Nashville Non-Discrimination Ordinance Passes on First Reading

Last Tuesday members of the Metropolitan Council of Nashville and Davidson County passed, by a vote of 24-9, an ordinance that would ban discrimination in the metro government based on sexual orientation or gender identity!

The votes broke down as follows:

In favor (24): Buddy Baker, Megan Barry, Erik Cole, Sam Coleman, Tim Garrett, Erica Gilmore, Frank Harrison, Jason Holleman, Walter Hunt, Mike Jameson, Darren Jernigan, Kristine LaLonde, Edith Langster, Lonnell Matthews Jr., Jerry Maynard, Sean McGuire, Bo Mitchell, Sandra Moore, Anna Page, Ronnie Steine, Bruce Stanley, Carter Todd, Parker Toler, and Charlie Tygard.

Opposed (9): Carl Burch, Michael Craddock, Eric Crafton, Duane Dominy, Robert Duvall, Jim Forkum, Jim Gotto, Jim Hodge, and Rip Ryman.

Abstained (5): Greg Adkins, Karen Bennett, Randy Foster, Pam Murray, and Vivian Wilhoite.

Absent (2): Philip Claiborne, Emily Evans

If your Council member voted in favor, please contact them to thank them for supporting this effort to protect all LGBT employees from workplace discrimination in metro government. If your Council member did not support the ordinance on first reading, please contact them and ask them to end discrimination against LGBT employees in the Nashville/Davidson County metro government.

You can find the contact information of Council members by clicking here or visiting http://www.nashville.gov/council/council_roster.asp.

PFLAG sends out a huge thank you to Council member Megan Barry (pictured, above) who filed the inclusive ordinance and has been a great friend to the LGBT community.

The second reading before the Metro Council is scheduled for Thursday, August 6, at 6:30 pm.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Buycotts, Not Boycotts

Today's guest posting comes to us from PFLAG National President John Cepek:

One day last May, Char called me on my cell phone.

“I’ve just been in an automobile accident.”

“Are you OK?”

“Yes, I’m fine, but our car isn’t.”

“I’ll pick you up.”

When I arrived at the scene of the accident, I saw our forlorn 2003 Camry, front end totally collapsed, the hood folded like a pretzel.

State Farm quickly informed us they considered the car a total wreck. We picked up the check and visited our local Toyota dealer. The deceased Camry was our second; our 1996 model is still running strong. We really like Toyotas. We almost bought another.

In fact, we would have had I not remembered a couple of facts about the Ford Motor Company. First, Ford was the target of a two-year boycott by the American Family Association. Second, Ford has been a longstanding, generous supporter of PFLAG. My loyalty to Toyota began to waver. I found Ford’s score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index: 100 percent for five years, longer than Toyota.

Then, I also remembered the many times I’ve spoken to corporations about the power of allies of the LGBT community in the marketplace. If you add the dollars spent by allies to those spent by LGBT individuals, our collective purchasing power is a significant percentage of the total US economy—maybe as much as 20 percent. Shouldn’t we use that power to move equality forward?

Finally, I also remembered the advocacy of buycotts by Ian Ayres and Jennifer Gerarda Brown in their landmark work, Straightforward:“What if, instead of punishing bad guys, we sought to reward good guys? A ‘buycott’ aims to do just that, as it bestows economic or other benefits in order to reward positive action.”

Several friends recommended the Ford Fusion. Char and I rushed to a local Ford dealer, saw a nifty red 2010 Fusion on the lot, and bought it. (Char always wanted a red car while I preferred more, well, sedate colors.) When our neighbors ask why we bought a Ford instead of a Camry, we get to talk about PFLAG and corporate commitment to equality, another benefit of going with a Ford.

I hope you like the photo of Char and me with our shiny red Fusion. If you’re ever in Indian Head Park, Illinois, give us a call. We’d be happy to give you a ride. Of course, we’ll also talk about PFLAG and moving equality forward.

In the meantime, put our money to good use, supporting those companies that share our vision and support our mission.

NYU and Visiting Professor Break Ties

Have any of you been following the story of Dr. Li-ann Thio, the "human rights activist" who is anti-gay, who was going to teach a human rights class this fall at New York University? Seems that the university had extended an invitation to Dr. Thio to teach a class this fall called "Human Rights in Asia." Problem is, Dr. Thio, of Singapore's National University of Singapore, is an outspoken supporter of Singapore's law that criminalizes sodomy.

Her invitation (and anti-gay record) sparked outrage among many NYU faculty and students, particularly among the law school's GLBT group, NYU Outlaw. Feeling the need to defend her beliefs she penned an 18-point argument to the law school faculty on why she should be allowed to teach on the campus. Below is one of her arguments:

"My objection is not to gay people; it is towards the nature of the homosexual political agenda and the vicious and degrading tactics of some activists. I say "some" because there were gays in Singapore who (a) agree that homosexuality should not be mainstreamed or coercively taught as having moral equivalence with heterosexuality as a social norm) (b) disagree with me but reject the tactics of insult and death threats."

An NYU student wrote a letter to Law School Dean Richard Revesz that expressed what many were feeling. In part, it said:

"I could never imagine the day would come when NYU would allow the appointment of a legal scholar who held the opinion that African-Americans practice acts of "gross indecency", that African-Americans who strive for diversity should be rebuffed because "diversity is not a license for perversity", describing the private intimate acts between African-Americans as trying to "shove a straw up your nose to drink", among other intellectually and morally shallow absurdities.

I would also never imagine the day in which a legal scholar who held the opinion that African-Americans are inferior to Whites or any other racial/ethnic group would be granted a platform here at NYU Law, simply due to interest in not squelching "other" views.

As a gay man as well, however, it seems that it is still an acceptable position within academia to hold these opinions about LGBT individuals and community without repercussion.

It is my sincerest hope that you truly do not believe the intellectually dishonest and bankrupt position that no other scholars among the 6-billion people who populate this planet have the legal heft, and offer the same benefits, that Professor Li-Ann Thio brings to NYU Law, but without her incendiary belief structure regarding valued members of this community (faculty, administrators, student body, parents, friends, alumni, etc).

Suffice it to say I could not imagine your defense of Professor Li-Ann Thio being made regarding a legal scholar who was an avowed supporter of the KKK, or one who publicly and legally sympathized with the violence and vitriol espoused by Al-Qaeda, for example.

I ask that you rethink your official position and take into consideration the harmful effects someone of Professor Li-Ann Thio's stature has, not only on members of the NYU community, but the LGBT community in Singapore which continues to suffer gross oppression at the hands of their government. An oppression which the good Professor strongly desires continue.

Her unnecessary appointment does nothing but tarnish the LGBT-positive legacy that NYU has built over the past several decades."

On the heels of the firestorm that was brewing around Dr. Thio's visiting professorship, she cancelled her invitation, noting that she was disappointed by the "atmosphere of hostility" at the school and the low enrollment numbers for the class.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

D.C. Law is First of its Kind

According to our friends at The Bilerico Project, the D.C. City Council has just passed a landmark law that confers the status of legal parent on both lesbian mothers who plan a child using donor insemination.

The law, which can be read here, states that a person who consents to a woman's insemination with the intent to be a parent of the resulting child is a parent of the child. The law is a landmark because it is marital status-neutral and gender-neutral. The couple (gay or straight) does not need to be married or registered as domestic partners.

Until now, the birth mother's partner could become a parent only through a second-parent adoption. Under the law, a semen donor is not a parent unless he and the birth mother have an agreement in writing saying that he is. Surrogacy is illegal in DC, so this statute does not allow the name of a male partner of a biological father through surrogacy to be placed on the child's birth certificate. The partner can adopt the child in DC. The partner also may have rights and responsibilities towards the child from birth as a "de facto" parent under a different provision of DC law. The "de facto" parent provision also can apply to a lesbian couple when one mother adopts the child. For the partner of a woman who adopts a child to also become the child's parent, she must adopt the child as well.

The DC Department of Vital Records is in the process of developing a consent form. When signed by the birth mother and her partner, both names will be listed as parents on the child's birth certificate. The DC law went into effect on July 18, and a similar law will go into effect in New Mexico on January 1, 2010.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Real-Life Prayers For Bobby Mother Speaks Out on Emmy Nominations

Mary Griffith, the mother portrayed by Sigourney Weaver in Prayers for Bobby, penned the following letter that she wanted to share with PFLAGers and those who were touched by the film. It was shown on the final day of Outfest, the 27th Annual International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, and the longest continuously running film festival in Los Angeles. Mary could not be present at the screening, but wanted to share the following thoughts:

My name is Mary Griffith. My life story, and that of my son Bobby (and our entire family), is depicted in the Emmy Award-nominated movie Prayers For Bobby. To say I am honored is an understatement. I am delighted to see this wonderfully executed film generate critical acclaim and meaningful consideration for the highest honor in the television industry. I am thrilled to acknowledge Sigourney Weaver's Emmy Award nominated Best Actress performance playing me (which I still find unbelievable!). I am reminded of the present day; of our public school teachers and administrators who are not allowed to validate "out" gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students, and to provide proper education; of the military establishment excluding our gay children who take bullets alongside their non-gay peers in order to keep us from harm's way; of some religions openly and actively seeking to 'cure' our gay children, further promoting fear and ignorance; of setbacks in AIDS healthcare and education; of the lack of a Federal nondiscrimination policy protecting all Americans from discrimination; of the lack of a Federal marriage rights act guaranteeing equal protection under the law for all couples wanting to enjoy the sanctuary of marriage. I am also reminded of days past; the Stonewall riots; the assassination of Harvey Milk; the brutality of the Holocaust and the ultimate humiliation of the pink triangle; the horrific murder of Matthew Shepard and other hate crime attacks against far too many gay and lesbian teenagers.

Prayers for Bobby brings communion, guidance, honesty, harmony and finally liberation to parents, family members and others searching for meaning and peace, bringing comfort and understanding to their gay and lesbian children. Our gay children must experience the feelings of self-respect, knowing that they too are a part of the entire human race. This truth must be shared with all of our children, past, present and future. May I say "Thank you, Bobby". May I say "thank you" to my fiercely dedicated Emmy Award-nominated executive producers -- my dear friends Daniel Sladek and Chris Taaffe who -- along with their partner David Permut -- spent the last twelve years working tirelessly to make this film a reality. To elegantly tell my story. To ensure Bobby's memory with grace and dignity. Thank you to Lifetime Network, to screenwriter Katie Ford, to director Russell Mulcahy and all of you who worked so hard to bring Bobby's truth to light.

Thank you to PFLAG National for their leadership and passion, and all the PFLAG moms and dads out there. Thank you to the heroic gay rights activist, acclaimed journalist and author Leroy Aarons, whose memory will live on in my heart, whose book Prayers for Bobby captured every detail, every nuance, every aspect of my family life and Bobby's personal struggle. It is his original work that brought us here to celebrate this wonderful film. To all of our gay children past, present and future, this movie is for you. These words are from my heart.

Mary Griffith
Walnut Creek, CA

Our friends at The Huffington Post have also blogged about this. You can check it out by clicking here or going to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jason-mannino/emmy-nominated-iprayers-f_b_240567.html.

WA State Hopes Voters Will Say NO! to Referendum 71


Washington Families Standing Together (WAFST) is a coalition group that was formed this year to defeat Referendum 71, a ballot measure that would repeal the state's domestic partnership laws.

The group, including our own Pacific Northwest Regional Director, Kathy Reim, is engaged in a Decline to Sign campaign which encourages people not to sign the petitions in favor of putting this discriminatory ballot measure to vote. If enough signatures are collected, WA State's domestic partner benefits could be up for popular vote in November 2009, and people would have to vote "yes" to keep the benefits already awarded to them through the legislature. The opposition needs to gather 120,500 signatures by the July 25 deadline.

In just eight weeks, Washington Families Standing Together has formed an impressive list of supporters: over 40,000 individuals and 110 organizations, including faith-based groups, labor unions, seniors, communities of color, children's organizations, and statewide and local groups. Says Josh Friedes, campaign manager at WAFST, "it's quite powerful to see that groups who represent such a broad cross section of the state are all united in the common goal of saving the domestic partnership law....and we have not sent a single piece of mail or done any advertising."

The Domestic Partnership Expansion Bill of 2009 ensures that all Washington families are treated equally by providing the same rights and responsibilities to domestic partners (including heterosexual domestic partnerships where at least one partner is age 62 or older) as are provided to spouses under state law.

The list of domestic partnership benefits in WA is extensive. In 2007, the Legislature established the domestic partnership registry and granted registered couples rights to make health care decisions for a sick partner, to visit a partner in the hospital, to consent to an autopsy and manage some property rights issues. In 2008, the Legislature extended these rights to include community property rights, probate rights, joint responsibility for debts and other protections. The 2009 legislation is the third and final law to provide rights and protections for domestic partners and their families. This law allows for death benefits for the partners of police and firefighters killed in the line of duty, pension benefits for partners of teachers and other public employees, the right to adopt a partner’s child without paying for an expensive home study, the right to use sick leave to care for a domestic partner and an easier process for drawing up a health care proxy or durable power of attorney.

Says this WAFST Article about PFLAG's own regional director, "Kathy Reim, a retired public school teacher, is a member of the Sedro-Woolley chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). As a mother of a daughter who is lesbian, she said she cannot imagine a parent ever feeling secure knowing that his or her child is not provided the same protections and opportunities as others. 'No parent wants to leave this world knowing that their children have fewer rights than they had. Taking away rights wouldn’t just hurt gay and lesbian people; it would hurt all of us.'"

Thank you to Kathy and the thousands of others who are taking a stand and fighting against Referendum 71! Check back next week for updates on whether the opposition was able to gain the 120,500 signatures needed to put this up for vote!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Marriage in California, After All?

According to this article in today's Sacramento Bee, California might become the next state to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. Openly gay CA Senator Mark Leno (pictured, left) has authored a bill, SB 54, that would allow same-sex couples who marry in other states and move to California to be recognized as a legally married couple.

There is one important point to note, however: if the couple was married before Prop 8 took effect, those couples would be considered legally married in California; if the couple was married after Prop 8 they would get all the same rights and benefits but would not get to use the word marriage. When Prop 8 was upheld by the CA Supreme Court in May, the court did not address how to treat out-of-state marriages, explaining in a footnote that none of the parties involved in lawsuits represented such interests.

Leno is arguing the Legislature's role should be to clarify the rights of same-sex couples who live in California but wed elsewhere, or couples who might move or travel here in the future. "Proposition 8 passes," Leno said. "But there are two men who live in San Francisco who pay their taxes, work and got married legally in Massachusetts. What are they? Legal strangers? Clearly, there is a legislative need to clarify this."

The proposal now has sponsors in the Assembly, where on July 9 it gained approval in that house's Judiciary Committee in a vote split along party lines – seven Democrats for and three Republicans against. The bill will go to the Assembly floor before the Senate hears it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Controversy in Milwaukee over Gay Pride Display at Post Office

According to this article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a gay pride display was approved for exhibit at the downtown Milwaukee post office. Maggi Cage, executive director of the Milwaukee Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center, helped set up the display and was thrilled to tell the members of the community center to go check out the display. Hardly anyone had a chance to do so, however.

The display was taken down approximately four hours after it was put up on June 1, the first day of gay pride month. Marge Oehlke, spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service in the Milwaukee area, said she removed the material because it "did not fit our qualifications." Local GLBT activists disagree. "I think it's plain and simple homophobia," Cage said. "I really do think it's a case of discrimination."

The idea for the display was spearheaded by Dale Schuster, former chairman of the post office's diversity team and founder of the Kenosha/Racine PFLAG chapter. He resigned his position on the diversity team, saying that "In light of the controversy over the pride month display being taken down, I had no other recourse than to resign. I believe it is important that everybody is treated with dignity and respect, and that nobody should feel excluded."

Despite what happened at the post office, GLBT people in Milwaukee can count on the support of Mayor Tom Barrett, who is a friend to the community and a supporter of the post office display. In fact, he has welcomed the display at City Hall. We encourage everyone to take a minute and say thank you to Mayor Barrett. He can be reached at mayor@milwaukee.gov or (414) 286-3191. You may also send a note to:

Office of the Mayor
200 E. Wells Street
City Hall Room 201
Milwaukee, WI 53202

Please stay tuned for more developments!

Friday, July 17, 2009

House Introduces ‘Comprehensive’ Health Care Reform Bill

On Tuesday, July 14th, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced the American’s Affordable Health Choices Act (AAHCA). This bill lays out the House’s blueprints for comprehensive health care reform legislation. Three Committees with jurisdiction over health policy – Energy and Commerce, Education and Labor, and Ways and Means - claimed that the bill would reduce out-of-control costs, encourage competition among insurance plans to improve choices for patients, and expand access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans.

The bill has a major impact on our LGBT loved ones and while it is not perfect, we are happy to note that it does include some of the items we have been lobbying for over the past few months. Below please find a few highlights from the bill as it relates to our LGBT loved ones:
  • Semi-Inclusive Definition of Family. Throughout most of the bill’s text, it refers to “family” and “family coverage” in a way that does not exclude same-sex couples and their children – a very positive step. Due to the Defense of Marriage Act’s restrictions, it frames certain programs, taxes, and benefits around the term “spouse,” which has a limited definition of being a husband or wife in a different-sex marriage.

  • Data Collection and Health Disparities. The bill creates a new Assistant Secretary for Health Information at the Department of Health and Human Services and charges them with ensuring the proper collection of critical health data – including, for the first time, data on sexual orientation and gender identity. This collection of data is a major step for our government in taking a vested interest in the health and wellbeing of LGBT individuals. The bill falls short, however, of including LGBT people in provisions focusing on populations with significant health disparities.

  • Discrimination Protections. The bill includes important protections for LGBT people from discrimination by insurance companies or health care providers based on personal characteristics that are unrelated to the provision of quality health care. Presently, federal law does not offer protections against discrimination by insurance companies or health care providers on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Without such protections, LGBT people face serious disparities in receiving adequate care, healthcare services and access to insurance benefits.

PFLAG National continues to work in coalition with our community partners to advocate congress members and key committees to include the important provisions laid out by Representative Tammy Baldwin’s (WI-2) Ending LGBT Healthcare Disparities Act – H.R. 3001 – which was a bill introduced earlier this summer to address the health disparities experienced by LGBT Americans, to eliminate the barriers they face in accessing quality health care, and to ensure that good health and well-being is accessible to all. If you have any questions regarding our involvement with this work, please be sure to contact us.

-Rhodes Perry

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sigourney Weaver, Prayers for Bobby Nominated for Emmy Awards


Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) National extended heartfelt congratulations to multiple award-winning actress Sigourney Weaver on her Emmy Award nomination for her role in the TV movie Prayers for Bobby in which she portrayed the mother of a gay son who – following tragedy – embarks on a life-changing journey of acceptance.

The film has also received an Emmy nomination for Best TV Movie.

“PFLAG is thrilled to see Ms. Weaver recognized for her amazing performance as a mother who comes to embrace her gay son and become an advocate for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people,” said John Cepek, President of PFLAG National.

Sigourney Weaver, an Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe winner, played the role of Mary Griffith, a devoutly religious mother who struggles to accept her son, Bobby, when he comes out as a young gay man.

“Following a tragic turn in Bobby’s life, Sigourney’s character began a journey of soul-searching and learning to embrace her son with inspiration and help from PFLAG. She came to be a powerful PFLAG member, advocating for acceptance and equality for all.”

“Sigourney’s performance gives us an inspiring role model for parents, families, and friends of LGBT people, emphasizing the critical need to embrace and accept our LGBT loved ones,” Cepek added.

PFLAG National also extended its congratulations and gratitude to the Executive Producers of Prayers for Bobby, Daniel Sladek, Chris Taaffe, and David Permut.

“The Executive Producers of this film gave an enormous amount of their time and energy to ensure this important and courageous story was heard. PFLAG is especially grateful to them – as well as to Ms. Weaver – for her uplifting performance,” said Jody M. Huckaby, Executive Director of PFLAG National. “It is wonderful to see that the film is receiving much-deserved recognition with the Best TV Movie Emmy nomination.”

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Action Needed on Hate Crimes TODAY!


Urge Your Senators to Pass the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act as an Amendment to S. 1391!

We've learned that as early as Thursday, July 16, the Senate could vote on the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The act is an amendment known as the Leahy-Collins-Kennedy-Snowe Amendment to S. 1391, the FY 2010 Department of Defense Authorization bill. This amendment would provide significant improvements to our current hate crimes prevention laws. The House of Representatives already passed the bill in April with a vote 249-175.

What the Bill Does
This bill expands the coverage of existing hate crime laws to include crimes not only based on race, color, religion, and national origin, but also bias-motivated crimes based on the victim's actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.

It also provides the federal government jurisdiction to prosecute hate crimes in states where current law or local law enforcement action are inadequate. This increased protection will help communities - such as the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community - that continue to be subjected to bias-motivated violence and intimidation.

Take Action Now
Those opposed to the hate crimes prevention act will be flooding their senators' offices with calls. Don't let their voices drown our calls of support. Please take the time today to call your senators and have your support counted.

Call your Senators toll free TODAY and TOMORROW, July 15 & 16, at 1-866-659-9641, and urge them to pass the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act as an amendment known as the Leahy-Collins-Kennedy-Snowe Amendment to the Department of Defense Reauthorization Act - S. 1391. This toll-free number will connect you directly to your senators. If you want to know who your senators are, please click here or go to http://capwiz.com/pflag/dbq/officials/.

When you call, be sure to say:

I am a member of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). I am urging you to please support the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act as an amendment known as the Leahy-Collins-Kennedy-Snowe Amendment to the Department of Defense Reauthorization Act - S. 1391. This amendment would provide significant improvements to our current hate crimes prevention laws. Hate crimes cut across every community. Passing this amendment will ensure that all people have the right to be safe and free from physical harm and intimidation. The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act sends a clear message that Americans do not have to live in fear. Please help by sponsoring and supporting the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act as an amendment known as the Leah-Collins-Kennedy-Snow Amendment to S. 1391 today!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

El Paso Chapter Responds to Discrimination Story

Below is a letter from Gery and Lorain Amundson, presidents of the El Paso, TX PFLAG chapter, in response to the incident at Chico's Tacos in El Paso that we profiled yesterday.

A copy of the letter was sent to Chico's Tacos, All American-International Security, the El Paso Police Department, and El Paso Mayor John Cook.

Dear Sirs,

The recent incident of harassment at Chico's Tacos against five gay men is of grave concern to our organization and the thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families and friends in El Paso. It appears that though we have differing feeling about displays of affection in public, this was an overt act of discrimination toward the young gay men at that establishment. Anti-gay slurs apparently were a part of the demand to leave.


This was a failure first on the part of the security guards and also on the part of management of the store. So far there has been no admission of wrong on the part of either group. The behavior of the police officer showed not only an ignorance of the law, but also a possible homophobic attitude. It is apparent that this happened because the men in question were gay. If this had been a heterosexual couple, probably nothing would have been said. All that is asked is that apologies be extended and training be instituted for the security guards, management and police officers involved.

This is a case of equal rights and we ask that equal treatment be extended to all persons in our community. PFLAG, along with other allied groups, stands ready to offer diversity/ sensitivity training to any of these groups. Feel free to contact us if you have questions

Gery and Lorain Amundson
PFLAG/El Paso

Monday, July 13, 2009

Discrimination at El Paso Area Restaurant

According to this article in the El Paso Times, two men were kicked out of a Chico's Tacos restaurant for kissing. The two men in question were part of a larger group of five men seated at the restaurant, and all were escorted out by restaurant security officers. One of the men, Carlos Diaz de Leon, reported that one of the officers said he didn't allow "that faggot stuff" in the restaurant. The men refused to leave and they called the El Paso police for help.

When the police arrived, de Leon said that they told the men that it was illegal for two men or two women to kiss in public and all five men would be cited for homosexual conduct, a law the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional in 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas. Also in 2003, the El Paso City Council approved an ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation by businesses open to the public.

An assistant manager at Chico's Tacos declined to comment, except to say the owners of the restaurant were out of town and could not be reached. An official with All American International Security, the firm contracted by Chico's Tacos to supply guards, said one member of the security crew was contacting a lawyer.

El Paso police Detective Carlos Carrillo said a more appropriate charge for what happened at Chico's Tacos would probably be criminal trespass. "The security guard received a complaint from some of the customers there," Carrillo said. "Every business has the right to refuse service. They have the right to refuse service to whoever they don't want there. That's their prerogative."

Briana Stone, a lawyer with the Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project, disagreed. She said the city anti-discrimination ordinance protects people on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation in public places. Perhaps more troubling, she said, was that the police officer chose not to enforce that ordinance and might have contributed to discrimination.

The police officers involved did not file a report about the confrontation at Chico's Tacos. Carrillo said no report was made because officers thought the situation was under control and neither side requested a written account of the incident.

De Leon said he and his friends left the restaurant after an officer threatened to issue a citation for "homosexual conduct."

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Help Support the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act!

On Wednesday, July 15, contact your senators between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET, and urge them to pass the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

As early as Wednesday, July 15, the Senate will likely vote on the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a bill that would provide significant improvements to our current hate crimes prevention laws. The House of Representatives already passed the bill in April.

This bill expands the coverage of existing hate crime laws to include crimes not only based on race, color, religion, and national origin, but also bias-motivated crimes based on the victim's actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.

It also provides the federal government jurisdiction to prosecute hate crimes in states where current law or local law enforcement action are inadequate. This increased protection will help ethnic and racial groups that continue to be subjected to bias-motivated violence and intimidation.

Hate crimes cut across every community. Passing this bill will ensure that all people have the right to be safe and free from physical harm and intimidation. The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act sends a clear message that Americans do not have to live in fear.

Learn more about the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

If you have any questions regarding this legislation, please don't hesitate to contact me at rperry@pflag.org.

-Rhodes Perry

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

PFLAG Provides Testimony to Congress on Safe Schools and Domestic Partnerships

PFLAG National, on behalf of its more than 200,000 members and supporters nationwide, provided written testimony to the U.S. Congress today in two separate hearings on providing safe schools for all children and providing more equal benefits for the same-sex partners of federal employees.

For the hearing entitled Strengthening School Safety through Prevention of Bullying Jody M. Huckaby, executive director of PFLAG National submitted the following testimony in support of the Safe Schools Improvement Act of 2009 (HR 2262):

“Physical appearance, sexual orientation (actual or perceived), and gender expression are the most common reasons for bullying and harassment in our nation’s schools. As a minority population in schools across the country, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth commonly experience high rates of discrimination and harassment, yet are often not protected under school policy. And even though most parents favor teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, most sexuality education programs do not cover this topic and abstinence-only-until-marriage programs merely further negative sentiment toward these students. As a result, LGBT youth are more vulnerable to a variety of harmful behaviors, including skipping school and attempting suicide, than their heterosexual peers."

For the hearing entitled The Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, Huckaby, on behalf of PFLAG National wrote the following in support of the bill of the same name bill (H.R. 2517) which would be a step in equalizing the benefits of same-sex partners of federal employees to put them closer to par with their straight married colleagues:

"Although the federal government - the nation’s largest civilian employer - offers attractive family benefits to employees with different-sex spouses, it does not offer the same benefits to lesbian, gay and bisexual workers with same-sex partners. As a result, these employees do not receive equal pay for their equal contributions. By offering full benefits to the domestic partners of federal employees, this bill will bring employment practices in the federal government in line with those of America’s largest and most successful corporations… By offering domestic partnership benefits, the federal government would not only improve the quality of its workforce, but also demonstrate its commitment to fairness and equality for all Americans."

Monday, July 6, 2009

"PFLAG: Now More Than Ever"

We’ve just wrapped up a great month of Pride celebrations from coast to coast. Local PFLAG chapters put their best feet forward to proudly demonstrate their love for and advocacy with the LGBT community. And with this year being the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, we recalled the many great pioneers who came before us and helped paved the way for all of us to march even farther today to move equality forward.

President Obama, who ran on the campaign promise that he would be a “fierce advocate” of the LGBT community, officially proclaimed June as LGBT Pride Month. It was an important first step in sending a clear message that his Administration would be more inclusive than those of the past. Disappointingly, not long after, the Department of Justice issued a brief defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), using inflammatory language and questionable arguments that rightfully infuriated so many of us. PFLAG spoke out and pleaded with the President to remember his campaign promises to the millions of LGBT Americans, parents and allies who believed him then.

PFLAG President John Cepek and I were joined by several PFLAGers in a meeting here in DC with the Department of Education’s Assistant Secretary for the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), Russlyn Ali and some of her colleagues, where we discussed the important role that PFLAG can play in the reporting of bullying and harassment in the schools. We continue to work with OCR on developing resources for our chapters to help assure that parents and families know how to effectively report incidents of bullying so that the cases get appropriately investigated by OCR. We were joined by Char Cepek of PFLAG Chicago/Hinsdale, PFLAG National Policy Manager J. Rhodes Perry, Walt Swanston of PFLAG Metro DC, Nila Marrone of our PFLAG Families of Color and Allies New York City chapter and Rebecca Palmer and her son from PFLAG Carson City.

I had the pleasure of visiting President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House this week, along with Carmen Robello (of PFLAG’s Families of Color and Allies of New York City & Newark, New Jersey chapter) and her son Louie.

We were invited to a special reception at the White House to commemorate the anniversary of Stonewall, and Carmen and Louie had the special privilege of sharing their story with the First Family about how anti-LGBT discrimination hurts all families.

Louie Robello experienced anti-LGBT harassment and was dismissed from his Catholic high school. He changed schools and later founded his high school’s Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) and went on to be elected class president. Carmen said afterwards, “We were incredibly honored to meet with the President and First Lady, and tell them our story, and how anti-LGBT violence and harassment creates problems not just for LGBT people, but for their families and communities… My son and I asked the President and First Lady to speak out and become more visible in denouncing anti-LGBT discrimination.”

The President has vowed to sign into law federal hate crimes legislation that PFLAG families have rallied hard for, and this month Congressman Barney Frank introduced an inclusive version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Both hate crimes and employment non-discrimination will have a promising chance of becoming a reality if all of us continue to talk to our Congressmembers and tell them why these protections are critical to our loved ones and our families. In the long-term PFLAG will continue to implore Congress and the President to keep their commitments to repeal the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) and repeal the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

As you can see, this an exciting time to be engaged in work to make real changes for the better for our LGBT loved ones and our families. Please consider making a special donation now to support our work. We need PFLAG now more than ever! We need your support and your advocacy to continue making real differences in supporting families, educating communities and advocating for equality!

Here are some of the other activities PFLAG National and our chapter members have been actively involved with:

PFLAG National President John Cepek [pictured, right] called on all PFLAGers to contact President Obama to thank him for declaring June LGBT Pride Month, and to ask him to keep to his promises to move equality forward for all Americans.

We called on Congress to keep our multi-national families together. The Reuniting Families Act immigration bill would end 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.

PFLAG National board member John Tantillo [pictured, left] of KPMG told his story in DiversityInc about why he is so out and proud to be a partner at the company.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Washington D.C.’s Fox 5 News reporter Sherri Ly about the impact of benefits for LGBT federal workers, and why the President must now honor his campaign pledge to repeal DOMA.

PFLAG National joined our Los Angeles and San Francisco area PFLAG chapters for Pride this year as we promoted Lifetime’s Prayers for Bobby movie, in the hopes of raising more awareness among the 15,000 Emmy members who will be voting soon on which movies will be nominated for an award. Emmy nominations would ensure that the movie has wider audience reach and impact, providing more people with the important PFLAG story of family healing and hope.

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 awoke to find two swastikas painted on her garage. PFLAG Naples and community members rallied in her defense at a candlelight vigil.

A sexual orientation-inclusive anti-bullying bill has become law in North Carolina, thanks to the hard work of people in the Tarheel State, including our highly active PFLAG chapters of that state. The new law adds "sexual orientation," and is an important step in creating a safe school environment for all students.

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.

Thank you for all of your support and your unique work in changing hearts and minds!

Sincerely,



Jody M. Huckaby
Executive Director

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Greetings from San Francisco Pride!

Here are some pictures from our San Francisco chapter's participation in this year's Pride celebration! In addition Prayers for Bobby Executive Producer Daniel Sladek and star Ryan Kelley were on hand to show their PFLAG pride...