Wednesday, September 30, 2009

PFLAG President Responds to President Obama's Family Day Proclamation

“Our family provides one of the strongest influences on our lives.”

Yesterday, President Barack Obama’s Family Day 2009 Proclamation began with this single line, which manages to articulate one of the most compelling reasons that PFLAG exists. Our families are the reason each of us belongs to PFLAG. How meaningful it is to have this inclusive statement recognize that families are vital, no matter what they look like.

This is the first time that the White House has included same-sex couples in a proclamation regarding Family Day, and I couldn’t be prouder that the President sought to move America past merely accepting or tolerating LGBT families to encouraging and celebrating them.

“Whether children are raised by two parents, a single parent, grandparents, a same-sex couple, or a guardian, families encourage us to do our best and enable us to accomplish great things.”

The statement goes on to mention that the “21st century presents families with unprecedented challenges,” and we know that full equality for LGBT people and their families remains one of these challenges. But we are working every day to create the fairness that is required for our nation to help build and support strong families and are grateful that our loved ones are included in the President’s statement.

I applaud President Obama for recognizing the unique—but no less wonderful or powerful—families of same-sex couples.

John R. Cepek
President
PFLAG

WA Congressman Honors The Laramie Project

Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA) introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives last week to honor The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later, a play written by Mois├ęs Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project about the reaction to the 1998 murder of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was targeted due to his sexual orientation.

The critically acclaimed original play was based on hundreds of interviews conducted by the theatre company with inhabitants of the town, company members' own journal entries and published news reports. Ten years later, the playwright and members of the theater group returned to Laramie to conduct follow-up interviews with residents featured in the play. Those interviews were turned into a companion piece, entitled The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later.

The play will debut as a reading at nearly 100 theatres across the US and internationally on October 12, 2009 - the 11th anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death. The Seattle Repertory Theater is one of the theatres participating in the debut of the play on October 12.

In addition to honoring the play and those participating, Rep. McDermott’s resolution expresses the will of Congress to condemn all violence acts motivated by hatred, including the torture and murder of Matthew Shepard, and commends the involvement of all Americans in building a more civil and tolerant society. The bill also congratulates the participants and patrons involved for continuing to engage in activities that raise awareness of hate crimes in our society.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Presidential Proclamation - Family Day 2009

Yesterday the White House issued a proclamation on Family Day 2009. It is inclusive of LGBT families and was signed by President Obama yesterday afternoon.

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

Our family provides one of the strongest influences on our lives. American families from every walk of life have taught us time and again that children raised in loving, caring homes have the ability to reject negative behaviors and reach their highest potential. Whether children are raised by two parents, a single parent, grandparents, a same-sex couple, or a guardian, families encourage us to do our best and enable us to accomplish great things. Today, our children are confronting issues of drug and alcohol use with astonishing regularity. On Family Day, we honor the dedication of parents, commend the achievements of their children, and celebrate the contributions our Nation's families have made to combat substance abuse among young people.

The 21st century presents families with unprecedented challenges. Millions of women and men are struggling to balance the demands of their jobs with the needs of their families. At the same time, our youngest generation faces countless distractions in their social environment. They are coming of age in a world where electronic devices have replaced the playground, televisions have preempted conversation, and pressure to use drug and alcohol is far too prevalent. Parents bear significant stress and burdens to protect their children from harmful influences.

It is our responsibility to talk with adolescents about the risks of abusing alcohol, tobacco, or prescription and illicit drugs, and other harmful behaviors. These substances can destroy the mind, body, and spirit of a child, jeopardizing their health and limiting their potential. Active parents,voicing their disapproval of drug use, have proven themselves to be the most effective preventative method for keeping our children drug-free. A strong and engaged family can make all the difference in helping young people make healthy decisions.

By coming together as a family and discussing the events of the day, parents can foster open communication, share joys and concerns, and help guide their children toward healthy decisionmaking. A strong nation is made up of strong families, and on this Family Day, we rededicate ourselves to ensuring that every American family has the chance to build a better, healthier future for themselves and their children.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 28, 2009, as Family Day. I call upon the people of the United States to join together in observing this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities to honor and strengthen our Nation's families.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-eighth day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.

BARACK OBAMA

Monday, September 28, 2009

Memphis Billboard Destroyed By Vandals

Last week we blogged about a series of five billboards that the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Center (MGLCC) put up in honor of National Coming Out Day.

On Friday night, one of those billboards was torn down by vandals.

Here is what the original billboard looked like:

Here is what it looks like now:


The following is a press release from MGLCC President Heidi Williams in response to the recent vandalism:

"Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC) recently launched a billboard campaign in advance of National Coming Out day to raise awareness and understanding about the issues facing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Memphians. We are your neighbors and we proclaimed with the billboards that we are unafraid and unashamed! Last night that gesture of openness was met with violence as one of the billboards was ripped to shreds–a chilling act of hatred.

We choose not to be stopped by fear; instead, our community unites in solidarity and the knowledge that we too deserve equality.

Although we are saddened by yesterday’s hateful expression of intolerance, we are proud of the local Memphian that chose to be the face on the billboard. He eagerly served our country and was forced out of the military under the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy. The billboard featured him as a proud marine and displayed his brave message “I’m gay and I protected your freedom.” This bravery was met with disrespect.

MGLCC is planning a unity rally to take place next weekend to show Memphis that in the face of discrimination we can peacefully unite with a message of strength, love and hope. We have formally requested that the Memphis Police Department open an investigation into the destruction of the billboard."

For more coverage on this story, click here or here.

New York Times Article: Coming Out in Middle School

Photo by Brent Humphreys, New York Times


Last week's New York Times had a fantastic article on adolescents who are coming to terms with their sexuality in middle school. It is getting a lot of press and seems to have sparked some interesting conversation among PFLAGers. Leave us a comment and let us know what you think!

A portion of Benoit Denizet-Lewis's article is reprinted below. You can read it in its entirety by clicking here.

Austin didn’t know what to wear to his first gay dance last spring. It was bad enough that the gangly 13-year-old from Sand Springs, Okla., had to go without his boyfriend at the time, a 14-year-old star athlete at another middle school, but there were also laundry issues. “I don’t have any clean clothes!” he complained to me by text message, his favored method of communication.

When I met up with him an hour later, he had weathered his wardrobe crisis (he was in jeans and a beige T-shirt with musical instruments on it) but was still a nervous wreck. “I’m kind of scared,” he confessed. “Who am I going to talk to? I wish my boyfriend could come.” But his boyfriend couldn’t find anyone to give him a ride nor, Austin explained, could his boyfriend ask his father for one. “His dad would give him up for adoption if he knew he was gay,” Austin told me. “I’m serious. He has the strictest, scariest dad ever. He has to date girls and act all tough so that people won’t suspect.”

Austin doesn’t have to play “the pretend game,” as he calls it, anymore. At his middle school, he has come out to his close friends, who have been supportive. A few of his female friends responded that they were bisexual. “Half the girls I know are bisexual,” he said. He hadn’t planned on coming out to his mom yet, but she found out a week before the dance. “I told my cousin, my cousin told this other girl, she told her mother, her mother told my mom and then my mom told me,” Austin explained. “The only person who really has a problem with it is my older sister, who keeps saying: ‘It’s just a phase! It’s just a phase!’ ”

Austin’s mom was on vacation in another state during my visit to Oklahoma, so a family friend drove him to the weekly youth dance at the Openarms Youth Project in Tulsa, which is housed in a white cement-block building next to a redbrick Baptist church on the east side of town. We arrived unfashionably on time, and Austin tried to park himself on a couch in a corner but was whisked away by Ben, a 16-year-old Openarms regular, who gave him an impromptu tour and introduced him to his mom, who works the concession area most weeks.

Openarms is practically overrun with supportive moms. While Austin and Ben were on the patio, a 14-year-old named Nick arrived with his mom. Nick came out to her when he was 12 but had yet to go on a date or even kiss a boy, which prompted his younger sister to opine that maybe he wasn’t actually gay. “She said, ‘Maybe you’re bisexual,’ ” Nick told me. “But I don’t have to have sex with a girl to know I’m not interested.”

Ninety minutes after we arrived, Openarms was packed with about 130 teenagers who had come from all corners of the state. Some danced to the Lady Gaga song “Poker Face,” others battled one another in pool or foosball and a handful of young couples held hands on the outdoor patio. In one corner, a short, perky eighth-grade girl kissed her ninth-grade girlfriend of one year. I asked them where they met. “In church,” they told me. Not far from them, a 14-year-old named Misti — who came out to classmates at her middle school when she was 12 and weathered anti-gay harassment and bullying, including having food thrown at her in the cafeteria — sat on a wooden bench and cuddled with a new girlfriend.

Austin had practically forgotten about his boyfriend. Instead, he was confessing to me — mostly by text message, though we were standing next to each other — his crush on Laddie, a 16-year-old who had just moved to Tulsa from a small town in Texas. Like Austin, Laddie was attending the dance for the first time, but he came off as much more comfortable in his skin and had a handful of admirers on the patio. Laddie told them that he came out in eighth grade and that the announcement sent shock waves through his Texas school.

“I definitely lost some friends,” he said, “but no one really made fun of me or called me names, probably because I was one of the most popular kids when I came out. I don’t think I would have come out if I wasn’t popular.”

“When I first realized I was gay,” Austin interjected, “I just assumed I would hide it and be miserable for the rest of my life. But then I said, ‘O.K., wait, I don’t want to hide this and be miserable my whole life.’ ”

I asked him how old he was when he made that decision.

“Eleven,” he said.

As the dance wound down and the boys waited for their rides home, I joined Tim Gillean, one of Openarms’s founders, in the D.J. booth, where he was preparing to play the Rihanna song “Disturbia.” An affable 52-year-old with wire-rimmed glasses and salt-and-pepper hair, he founded Openarms in 2002 with his longtime partner, Ken Draper. In addition to the weekly dances, the couple lead discussion groups every Thursday — about self-esteem, healthy relationships and H.I.V./AIDS.

When I asked Gillean if he ever expected kids as young as Nick and Austin to show up at Openarms, he chuckled and shook his head. Like many adult gay men who came out in college or later, Gillean couldn’t imagine openly gay middle-school students. “But here they are,” he said, looking out over the crowd. “More and more of them every week.”

I heard similar accounts from those who work with gay youth all across the country. Though most adolescents who come out do so in high school, sex researchers and counselors say that middle-school students are increasingly coming out to friends or family or to an adult in school. Just how they’re faring in a world that wasn’t expecting them — and that isn’t so sure a 12-year-old can know if he’s gay — is a complicated question that defies simple geographical explanations. Though gay kids in the South and in rural areas tend to have a harder time than those on the coasts, I met gay youth who were doing well in socially conservative areas like Tulsa and others in progressive cities who were afraid to come out.

What is clear is that for many gay youth, middle school is more survival than learning — one parent of a gay teenager I spent time with likened her child’s middle school to a “war zone.” In a 2007 survey of 626 gay, bisexual and transgender middle-schoolers from across the country by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (Glsen), 81 percent reported being regularly harassed on campus because of their sexual orientation. Another 39 percent reported physical assaults. Of the students who told teachers or administrators about the bullying, only 29 percent said it resulted in effective intervention.

To continue reading, click here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

PFLAG Action Alert: ENDA

On Wednesday, September 23, Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, held the first full committee hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009 - legislation prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Notable witnesses included Representatives Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin; the Hon. Stuart Ishimaru, acting chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; and two victims of employment discrimination, William Eskridge and Vandy Beth Glenn. You can view the full hearing online through the Congressional archives. You can also read PFLAG National's written testimony on our website.

Wednesday's historic hearing marks just a mid-way point in a long fight that can only be won with your help. Even if you've taken action before, your Congress members must hear from you again today, before the ENDA bill gets marked up in the Education and Labor Committee. Your representative needs to know that you won't stand for anything less than full equality in this country. Equality is not guaranteed for all of our LGBT loved ones; fully-inclusive employment discrimination laws exist in only 12 states and just over 100 localities. Take action today to secure much-needed workplace fairness!

Please visit www.thomas.gov and type in H.R. 3017 to see if your representative is a co-sponsor. If they are, please send a note to thank them, and let them know that you appreciate their work on behalf of LGBT workers.

Email Congress today and share your SUPPORT!

Please click here to Take Action and help us address the employment discrimination our LGBT loved ones face.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Where's the Fire in Your Belly?

Equality Alamaba held its annual gala on Saturday night, and the keynote speaker was Representative John Lewis (D-GA), a native of Troy, Alabama.

Pam Spaulding, of Pam's House Blend, wrote a powerful entry about this event on Tuesday's Bilerico blog. You can read the full version here. In part, she said:

"Rep. Lewis played a legendary and fearless role in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. He is a man who believes in LGBT civil equality with equal conviction, and he immediately signed on to DOMA repeal legislation.

This is significant in a day when there is a clear dearth of support in the religious black community. Lewis has the moral standing that a homophobe in the pulpit like Bishop Harry Jackson can never touch. John Lewis took batons to the head and was beaten to unconsciousness multiple times for equality - courage and moral conviction that Jackson and his fellow charlatans of bigotry are bereft of.

Rep. Lewis could have let someone else take the baton to the head for his rights. He didn't; his rights were too important to him to not lead by example.

Rep. Lewis spoke eloquently about the simplicity of the government staying out of the lives of gay and lesbian couples. He said that there is no need to "save" marriage from two people who simply want to love one another and be legally affirmed in the same way that heterosexual couples are when they marry.

But perhaps the most powerful message was to those in the LGBT community who are waiting for equality to come to them. Lewis charged us to seize the moment, to not accept being told to wait our turn, to demand our rights through our representative, and most of all to take personal responsibility. The message we all heard was loud and clear. Too many LGBTs are in the closet waiting for someone else to do the heavy lifting and lead. We are all capable of leading by kicking that closet door open.

I asked Rep. Lewis what, as an LGBT person of color, I can do to encourage more of "us" to come out, to address the issues of faith and reconciliation with one's sexual orientation when there is both hostility toward faith in many slices of the out gay community and denial of the impact of the closet in the black community.

He said that as he travels to conferences he sees more and more out black and gay representation. Steady, he says, but still very slowly. He said that the walls are slowly breaking down among pastors who are seeing that the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" social policy within the community can not hold sway forever.

I have to tell you -- what is our problem, people? John Lewis wanted his rights badly enough to take personal responsibility to act on it. There are many in the LGBT community -- take the folks in Washington State and Maine right now -- who have their shoulders to the wheel because so much is at stake.

It's pretty clear, however, that if there's not a galvanizing issue of that magnitude, in most places people would rather show up to a rally, party or Pride event than write a letter to a state legislator, knock on a few doors to speak to neighbors about the fact that there are no protections for state employees, or heaven forbid, personally meet with their elected officials (if they even know who they are).

What's wrong with this picture? I am asking this in all seriousness because I truly do not understand the inertia and disinterest in playing a more active role (at any level) for their rights. Is there the fire in the belly? Will the people who attend the National Equality March really go home and participate in the more mundane but equally important ways to move equality forward with the same level of enthusiasm that motivates and energizes them to go to DC in the first place? I'm just tossing it out there for discussion."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Book Review: Invisible Families

This is the September 2008 reprint of Terry Stewart’s book Invisible Families: A New Zealand Resource for Parents of Lesbian and Gay Children, originally published 1993. It was revised and updated in 1996.

One of the things that parents of newly-out lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) children need most is the assurance they are not alone; that they are NOT the only parents with an LGB child. By today’s standards, this seems obvious; in 1993 it did not. All PFLAG members know that this is still a problem for “new” parents – “Not my child!” they insist. This book still fills a need to help these parents understand

Ms. Stewart blends her experience – which begins when her son came out to her in 1987 – with excerpts from survey responses from parents, children, and siblings of LGB people. She also includes supportive information from respected medical professionals. She covers all aspects of the coming out process for the families – hearing those frightening words, “I’m gay,” trying to accept, telling extended family members and friends, and easing common fears for the children and their families. Ongoing questions and legal issues are also touched upon, although some of them no longer apply today.

There is no mention of transgender children. At the time this book was written, virtually everyone considered them gays or lesbians in drag. Even so, most of the discussion could apply equally to the transgender community members and their families.

Invisible Families is easy to read and understand. It is separated into 16 chapters, all interspersing Ms. Stewart’s and her family’s experience with the comments from gays and lesbians, their friends, their siblings, and their parents. Not all of the comments are supportive or uplifting; they are the real feelings of real people.

Families new to PFLAG often need this type of support. Invisible Families will be a useful addition to your chapter library.

-Reviewed by Dave Parker

Memphis Billboards Celebrate National Coming Out Day

In honor of National Coming Out Day on October 11, the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC) has put up a series of five billboards around the Memphis metro area to increase the visibility of the Memphis GLBT community and promote the stories of its members.

MGLCC has identified five specific functions that the billboards will serve:
-to let Memphis know that the MGLCC exists
-to show the greater Memphis community that GLBT people are an integral part of the local network of schools, businesses, churches, and families
-to encourage other GLBT people to come out whenever possible
-to show that it's not a shameful thing to be honest about who you are

According to its press release, "We encourage people to take control over their own lives and their own stories. Each of us is best able to speak our own truth. Being fearful has robbed us of that power to control what is ours. We will stand together without fear or shame and say 'I am gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender.' It is our right to be honest and open."

For more information on the MGLCC, click here.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The South African Runner and the Birth Defect that No One Talks About

Last month we wrote about Caster Semenya [pictured], the South African runner who was being forced to go through a series of test to prove her gender.

This article further examines the issue of intersex athletes.

It’s the birth defect people don’t talk about. A baby is born not completely male or female. The old term was hermaphrodite, then intersex. Now it’s called “disorders of sexual development.” Sometimes the person with the problem doesn’t even know it and finds out in an all too public way.

That’s been the painful plight of a few female athletes through history. And apparently that’s the situation for South African track star Caster Semenya.

Gender tests show the world champion athlete has no ovaries or uterus and internal testes that produce large amounts of testosterone.

Experts say Semenya should be allowed to race as a woman and they cringe at how her case is exploding publicly in the news media. They worry about psychological scars. Two years ago, a star female track athlete who tested male attempted suicide.

Unless she took some illicit substance, Semenya is a female with a birth defect, simple as that, said Dr. Myron Genel, a professor emeritus of pediatrics at Yale University. He was part of a special panel of experts convened by the International Association of Athletics Federations in 1990 that helped end much, but not all, genetic gender testing.

“It’s no different in a sense than a youngster who is born with a hole in the heart,” Genel said. “These are in fact birth defects in an area that a lot of people are uncomfortable with.”

Semenya is hardly alone. Estimates vary, but about 1 percent of people are born with abnormal sex organs, experts say. These people may have the physical characteristics of both genders or a chromosomal disorder or simply ambiguous features.

Sometimes a sexual development problem is all too obvious when a baby is born. Other times, the disorder in girls may not be noticed until puberty, when she doesn’t start her period. And still other times, especially with the androgen insensitivity syndrome experts think Semenya might have, it remains hidden until she tries to have a baby — or in the case of an athlete, until she’s given a genetic test.

Genetic testing of women over five Olympics found genetic gender issues in 27 out of 11,373 women tested, according to a 2000 Journal of the American Medical Association article. However, none were men deliberately posing as women, as competitors fear.

Dr. Louis Elsas, chairman of biochemistry at the University of Miami and a member of the IAAF panel with Genel, said he had hoped the genetic gender testin

“It’s a severe emotional trauma,” Elsas said.

The concern that women with XY chromosomes have a competitive advantage “is malarkey. We don’t segregate athletes by height,” said Genel, speaking from an international endocrinology conference in New York that has sessions on intersex issues.

Dr. Joe Leigh Simpson, past president of the American College of Medical Genetics and a member of the IAAF panel, agreed: “Any elite athlete … has a competitive advantage, or otherwise they wouldn’t be an elite athlete.”

Simpson, associate dean at Florida International University, said the issue should be simply whether men are masquerading as women. Semenya is clearly a woman, he said.

Nearly all the disorders are caused by genetic mutations, Simpson said. And they usually happen in the first eight weeks of pregnancy, he said.

Maria Martinez-Patino knows the issue firsthand. A world-class athlete, she was raised and looked like a normal female and even received the needed “certificate of feminity” to participate in the 1983 World Track and Field Championships in Helsinki, Finland.

In 1985 at the World University Games in Kobe, Japan, her test came back with an XY and she was not allowed to compete. Martinez-Patino had androgen insensitivity, meaning she didn’t respond to testosterone. That meant she also didn’t have a competitive advantage from having an XY chromosome.

“I sat in the stands that day watching my teammates, wondering how my body differed from theirs,” she wrote in the medical journal The Lancet in 2005. “I spent the rest of that week in my room, feeling a sadness that I could not share.”

For more information on disorders of sexual development, please visit http://www.accordalliance.org/.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Atlanta Bar Raid: A First Hand Account

Last week Atlanta’s GLBT community was shocked by a police raid on the popular gay bar Atlanta Eagle. After receiving an undetermined number of anonymous tips, police raided the Atlanta Eagle on September 10, forcing patrons to the ground and handcuffing them before arresting eight employees of the bar. Witnesses at the scene described the police yelling at the patrons and making derogatory jokes and comments about GLBT people. One of the bar patrons shared with us his story:

"My roommate and I were there for the police raid at the Eagle on September 10, 2009. We had arrived about 20 minutes before the raid took place. Everyone was ordered to get on their stomachs and face down during this ordeal. As far as I could tell everyone was searched at least once, most of us twice. Most, but not all, of the officers were incredibly derogatory and insulting whether they found evidence of drugs or not. When asking why, we were met with derisive remarks and no explanation. I am furious at how we were treated and can't believe that this has happened in this day and age. The officers present were incredibly rude to anyone who dared to ask what was happening and several were openly hostile towards the gay patrons. Of the officers present, there was one female who was running searches on the IDs of those whose licenses were collected. She was not only rude but seemed to be enjoying the event. At one point, she stopped what she was doing and walked over to the television and asked her colleagues what the score to the game playing on the television was.....at this point there were still innocent patrons laying face down on the floor. When pressed for answers none were given, only further threats that something worse would happen if we didn't capitulate to the demands of these "law enforcement" officers. I'm disgusted at what I went through. I'm disgusted at what I witnessed. I'm embarrassed for this city. I hope this is the beginning of a discussion that ends in the dismissal of several Atlanta police officers and whoever initiated this act. It is UNBELIEVABLE that the patrons of one of Atlanta's gay bars would be subjected to this kind of treatment given the high rate of serious crimes that are being perpetrated on a daily basis? Is this really the greatest concern of the Atlanta police department...especially in a city where the daily news rarely goes without some report of violent crimes against others? This is just unbelievable, a serious embarrassment. I can't express how angry I am."

Thankfully the community is pulling together to support the bar with one rally last weekend and another one scheduled for tomorrow. Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington has pledged to investigate complaints against his officers, but many questions and anger about the incident remain.

To read more about the raid of the Atlanta Eagle and how the community is responding click here.

PFLAG to Join “Prayers for Bobby” Production Team on Emmy’s Red Carpet

On Sunday, September 20, PFLAG Executive Director Jody Huckaby will walk the red carpet at the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards with the producers and cast of “Prayers for Bobby,” the Lifetime TV movie and true story about the mother of a gay son who embarks on a life-changing journey of acceptance. “Prayers for Bobby” is nominated for Best TV Movie, and Sigourney Weaver is nominated as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for her portrayal of a real-life PFLAG mother.

“This is such an important movie for all families, especially those with LGBT youth looking for acceptance,” Huckaby said. “I’m honored to attend the Emmy Awards and represent the countless number of parents, families, and friends who work for LGBT acceptance and equality, freedom of gender identity and expression, and strong support for all members of families with LGBT members.”

“’Prayers for Bobby’ illuminates the core components of PFLAG’s mission—support, education, and advocacy, and we are so grateful to producers Daniel Sladek, Chris Taaffe, and David Permut for their passion in bringing this movie to American television,” said Huckaby. “Whether anyone walks away with the statue or not, the movie is still a winner and PFLAG is proud to be on hand to help celebrate.”

The Emmy Awards will be televised by the CBS Television Network from the NOKIA Theatre LA Live, beginning at 8:00 p.m. ET (5:00 p.m. PT).

Judy Shepard Talks to PFLAG

Judy Shepard, mother of Matthew Shepard and founder of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, is in Washington, DC, this weekend to share her new book, The Meaning of Matthew, on Saturday, September 19 at Borders at 1801 K Street NW at 2:00 p.m.

PFLAG had a chance to ask Judy some questions sent in by our blog's readers.

PFLAG: What keeps you going after ten years in the movement?
Judy Shepard: Things haven't changed that much yet - at least not at the legal/legislative level. I feel like we are fighting the same battles with the same people and the same rhetoric. There is much left to do and as long as people want to hear and learn from Matt's story - the Matthew Shepard Foundation will be there.

PFLAG: Where do you find inspiration within the movement?
JS: Parents who take up the challenge of telling their story and working within their comunity no matter the level of acceptance are one of my inspirations. Members of the community being denied their civil rights are another.

PFLAG: Do you feel a sense of responsibility to act as a surrogate mom for other LGBT kids, who may have parents who aren’t as accepting or understanding?
JS: No, I don't feel a 'responsibility' - I feel honored that they trust me enough to honor me with their stories.

PFLAG: What can the average person—whether straight or LGBT—do to help achieve equality for all citizens?
JS: We all need to tell our stories and share our lives with those who know nothing about the gay community. We have a responsibility to educate the ignorant and be role models for allies and member of the community.

PFLAG: There are a lot of specific issues within the movement—marriage equality, anti-discrimination in the military, employment non-discrimination, bullying and safe schools, and hate crimes legislation, to name only a few. Do you think this dilutes the power of those in the movement? Should we all come together to focus on a single, broader issue? If so, what would that be.
JS: I have thought that achieving things incrementally was important in the final goal of total acceptance when we reached the most challenging issue - marriage. However, the marriage issue came to the forefront much sooner than I anticipated. I guess that is the yin and yang of the movement. I don't think that the many issues dilutes their power. I think it clearly illustrates to the public at large how many there are.

PFLAG: What advice or wisdom do you offer to parents of LGBT kids, when those parents may not be as open to and accepting of their child’s sexuality or gender identity?
JS: I want them to understand and always remember that nothing is forever - things happen. They need to love their children and support them in who they are even if they don't understand it.

PFLAG: Do you think people in the movement should participate in the National Equality March, scheduled for October 11th in Washington, DC? Or is marching passe?
JS: I think the march is still relevant, but perhaps for a different reason than in the past. It sends a message to remind people that there are many things still being denied the gay community. And it shows numbers and passion. I do think we should be a presence in the Equality March. I think it would be a negative result if there wasn't support shown for the issues. It's a visibility issue now and showing a united front.



PFLAG: What are your goals for the next year, five years, and ten years?
JS: I have no 'goals' - I do this one day at a time.

PFLAG: Do you think we’ll ever reach a time when LGBT discrimination is entirely a thing of the past?
JS: That is my hope but the word 'entirely' makes it very difficult to achieve - I fear there will be ignorance/discrimination as long as society continues to teach hate.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A PFLAGer's Perspective on the Passage of the OH Anti-Discrimination Law

Yesterday we blogged about the passage of HB 176, the Equal Housing and Employment Act, in the Ohio House of Representatives.

PFLAG's own Dan Tepfer, state coordinator for Ohio, was there, along with his wife, Nancy. Below is their story, as recounted in this article from the Dayton Daily News.

Daniel and Nancy Tepfer of Beavercreek always strove to treat their three children equally.

That includes a daughter who is gay. But while she gets equal treatment at home, they fear she won’t get it elsewhere in Ohio.

That’s why they came to the Ohio House on Tuesday, Sept. 15, to cheer the historic passage of legislation banning discrimination in employment and housing based on sexual orientation or gender identify.

“I’m thrilled,” Mrs. Tepfer, 65, said after the vote. “We’re going to celebrate for a minute.”

Then she pledged they would get to work trying to win passage in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The 56-39 vote in the Democratic-controlled House followed more than an hour of heated and sometimes high-minded debate in which Rep. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, cited the Declaration of Independence’s guarantee of “unalienable rights” as the reason for her support.

Rep. Ross McGregor, R-Springfield, a joint sponsor of the bill, was more practical. He said he is a business person and that Ohio’s in economic trouble. The state shouldn’t signal to any workers that they’re not wanted, he said.

“We need jobs. We need people that want to come to Ohio, who want to stay here and work,” said McGregor.

Opponents warned that the law would increase lawsuits, a charge that supporters denied.

For others, the argument against the bill went beyond jobs and housing.

“It’s not really about people being denied rights to basic needs,” said Rep. Jeff Wagner, R-Sycamore. “It’s about forcing acceptance of a lifestyle that many people disagree with.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ohio House Passes Anti-Discrimination Law

Late yesterday afternoon, the Ohio House of Representatives passed HB 176, the Equal Housing and Employment Act (EHEA). This law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

This historic vote of 56-38 marked the first time that a pro-LGBT bill passed either chamber of the Ohio Statehouse. The bill now moves to the OH Senate.

The bill passed with the support of all 51 Democrats (there was one abstention) and five Republicans — Reps. Terry Blair, Matthew Dolan, Cliff Hite, Peggy Lehner and Ross McGregor.

Among those who spoke out in favor of the bill, two were particularly noteworthy. Rep. Jennifer Garrison, who is running for Secretary of State, won her House seat in 2004 by running to the right of her Republican opponent on the Defense of Marriage Act. Garrison spoke out in favor of EHEA primarily on its economic benefits and, at the end of the session added her name as a co-sponsor of the legislation. LGBT advocates are hopeful that similar moves toward equality will come from additional legislators who previously ran in opposition to the equality movement.

Surprising support also came from Rep. Peggy Lehner, a Republican from Kettering, who began her remarks on EHEA by noting that she is vigorously pro-life. She transitioned from discussing her pro-life views into talking about her support for EHEA by saying that “[a]n unalienable right is one which we have no right to deny. . . . What we are doing today is simply reaffirming” that. Lehner expressed that Ohioans should not be limited by others in their pursuit of happiness. Discrimination of any, she argued, limited liberty for all.

Voting YES were:
Robin Belcher (D) - District 10
Linda Bolon (D) - District 1
Todd Book (D) - District 89
Barbara Boyd (D) - District 9
Armond Budish (D) - District 8
Edna Brown (D) - District 48
John Patrick Carney (D) - District 22
Ted Celeste (D) - District 24
Kathleen Chandler (D) - District 68
Michael DeBose (D) - District 12
Timothy DeGeeter (D) - District 15
John Domenick (D) - District 95
Dan Dodd (D) - District 91
Denise Driehaus (D) - District 31
Stephen Dyer (D) - District 43
Mike Foley (D) - District 14
Nancy Garland (D) - District 20
Jennifer Garrison (D) - District 93
Ronald Gerberry (D) - District 59
Jay Goyal (D) - District 73
Robert Hagan (D) - District 60
Marian Harris (D) - District 19
Sandra Harwood (D) - District 65
Tracy Heard (D) - District 26
Joseph Koziura (D) - District 56
Tom Letson (D) - District 64
Clayton Luckie (D) - District 39
Matt Lundy (D) - District 57
Dale Mallory (D) - District 32
Mike Moran (D) - District 42
Dennis Murray (D) - District 80
Deborah Newcomb (D) - District 99
Mark Okey (D) - District 61
John Otterman (D) - District 45
Debbie Phillips (D) - District 92
Connie Pillich (D) - District 28
Raymond Pryor (D) - District 85
Allan Sayre (D) - District 96
Mark Schneider (D) - District 63
Michael Skindell (D) - District 13
Stephen Slesnick (D) - District 52
Dan Stewart (D) - District 25
Vernon Sykes (D) - District 44
Matt Szollosi (D) - District 49
Peter Ujvagi (D) - District 47
Carlton Weddington (D) - District 27
Brian Williams (D) - District 41
Sandra Williams (D) - District 11
Roland Winburn (D) - District 40
Tyrone Yates (D) - District 33
Kenny Yuko (D) - District 7

Terry Blair (R) - District 38
Matthew Dolan (R) - District 98
Cliff Hite (R) - District 76
Peggy Lehner (R) - District 37
Ross McGregor (R) - District 72

Click here to thank them.

Voting NO were:
John Adams (R) - District 78
Richard Adams (R) - District 79
Ron Amstutz (R) - District 3
Kevin Bacon (R) - District 21
Nan Baker (R) - District 16
Troy Balderson (R) - District 94
William Batchelder (R) - District 69
Louis Blessing (R) - District 29
Danny Bubp (R) - District 88
Dave Burke (R) - District 83
William Coley (R) - District 55
Courtney Combs (R) - District 54
David Daniels (R) - District 86
Timothy Derickson (R) - District 53
Clyde Evans (R) - District 87
Randy Gardner (R) - District 6
Bruce Goodwin (R) - District 74
Cheryl Grossman (R) - District 23
Robert Hackett (R) - District 84
Dave Hall (R) - District 97
Jay Hottinger (R) - District 71
Matt Huffman (R) - District 4
Kris Jordan (R) - District 2
Ron Maag (R) - District 35
Josh Mandel (R) - District 17
Jarrod Martin (R) - District 70
Jeffrey McClain (R) - District 82
Robert Mecklenborg (R) - District 30
Seth Morgan (R) - District 36
Scott Oelslager (R) - District 51
Maragret Ruhl (R) - District 90
Barbara Sears (R) - District 46
Todd Snitchler (R) - District 50
Peter Stautberg (R) - District 34
Gerald Stebelton (R) - District 5
Joe Uecker (R) - District 66
Lynn Wachtmann (R) - District 75
Jeff Wagner (R) - District 81
James Zehringer (R) - District 77

Click here to express your disappointment.

To read more on this story, click here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Straight for Equality in Stillwater, OK

PFLAGers in Stillwater, OK are changing hearts and minds by reaching out to straight allies, and they’re getting attention for it!

The Stillwater PFLAG chapter was highlighted in the Stillwater News Press this week for the Straight for Equality program they’re presenting. The chapter is screening a thought-provoking movie and discussion as a way to start conversations about LGBT people and issues with straight people. You can read the full article here.

You can host a Straight for Equality program in your chapter too! Click here to download a free copy of You’re Invited: A PFLAG Guide to Engaging New Allies for some simple, step-by-step instructions on how to hold a Straight for Equality event in your chapter.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Join PFLAG on Sirius Radio Tonight!

PFLAG's Director of Policy and Programs, Elizabeth Fregiato, is the featured guest tonight on the Derek and Romaine Show on Sirius XM Satellite Radio, beginning at 7:05pm ET. The interview will be broadcast live on Sirius XM Satellite Radio channel OutQ, Sirius 109,and XM 98.

PFLAG members and friends are invited to listen and call in with questions. For those who don't subscribe to Sirius, a free online trial is available at by clicking here.

You can participate by calling 866-305-6887.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Marriage in the District of Columbia?

An article in today's Washington Post discusses the possibility of a same-sex marriage bill in the District of Columbia. There has been talk for months that this may happen; according to The Post, a bill drafted by David A. Catania, one of two openly gay members of the DC City Council, will be introduced in the coming weeks.

Yesterday Catania said he had 10 co-sponsors, which would all but assure that the measure will be approved by the Council. Given the laws governing DC, however, the bill would have to survive Congressional review before it could become law.

The bill, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, would change the law to say that "marriage is the legally recognized union of two people" and that "any person who otherwise meets the eligibility requirements . . . may marry any other eligible person regardless of gender."

There are signs that the bill will generate heated opposition from members of the city's religious community, and some are concerned that the issue could split the city along racial lines. It is also sparking a debate about whether voters, rather than Council members, should have the final say over the issue.

Catania's bill, titled the "Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009," stresses that no religious organizations or their officials would have to perform a same-sex marriage or provide wedding-related services to same-sex couples.

"I think it is very important for people to realize we are talking about a civil marriage, not a religious marriage," Catania said.

Starting in 2011, the bill would eliminate domestic partnerships, although any couple already registered would have the option of keeping their partnership or converting it to a city-sanctioned marriage.

After the Council approved a bill in May that recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other states, members of Congress from both parties largely steered clear of the issue. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was quoted at the time saying: "the District should be treated like a state."

The list of co-sponsors includes D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) and all four-at large council members -- Catania, Kwame R. Brown (D), Michael A. Brown (I) and Phil Mendelson (D). Democratic members Jack Evans (Ward 2), Jim Graham (Ward 1), Tommy Wells (Ward 6) , Muriel Bowser (Ward 4) and Mary Cheh (Ward 3) also support the bill. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) also backs same-sex marriage.

To continue reading about this story, click here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ask Judy


PFLAG will be interviewing Judy Shepard next week while she's in Washington, DC, promoting her new book, The Meaning of Matthew. Let us know what you'd like us to ask Judy and we'll post the interview on this blog on Friday, September 18.

Send your questions to Nikki@PFLAG.org and come back to read Judy's answers!

Lesbian Army Private Seeks Refuge in Canada

Today's story from The Advocate shines a light on the sometimes chilling effects of the current Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Below is the story of one lesbian service member.

Bethany Smith, a private who deserted the U.S. Army, is seeking refugee status in Canada.

Smith says she fears for her life because of the treatment she suffered as a lesbian in the military. "I had to endure not only verbal and physical harassment, but death threats and harassment letters on my door every day," she said.

Smith said the harassment began after other soldiers saw her holding hands with another woman at a local shopping mall. She said that fellow soldiers discriminated against her on a daily basis and treated her as "less than human." She also claims to have received anonymous hate letters every evening, including a death threat that read, "We will suffocate you in your sleep." Smith said that sergeants stood by and laughed as she was routinely shaken and thrown to the ground by other soldiers.

Smith asked for a discharge from her first sergeant before she was scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan. Prompt discharges are legally prescribed for soldiers who declare their homosexuality to superior officers, but Smith's sergeant was reticent to discharge her. "He told me straight-up, 'We'll figure out the paperwork when we get back from deployment,'" Smith said.

Smith's lawyer, Jamie Liew, believes the military ignored its own policies because of the scarcity of soldiers available for overseas deployments.

After her discharge was denied, Smith drove to the border at Cornwall, Ontario, where the War Resisters Support Campaign helped her relocate to Ottawa.

Other U.S. deserters opposed to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have fled to Canada to avoid being deployed. Many of them have been denied appeals to Canadian courts, and some have served prison terms after being deported back to the United States.

Liew believes these cases will have no effect on Smith's case. "Bethany is coming with an extremely different story. She's coming because of the way her life was threatened because of her sexual orientation," Liew told the CBC.

If Smith is forced to return to the United States, Liew says she may face military charges of indecency for homosexual conduct as well as charges for desertion and being absence without leave.

Military cases are decided by tribunal members from the accused's own unit, which means that the same people who assaulted Smith could decide her fate.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

WA Judge Refuses to Block Referendum 71

PFLAG has been following the activity surrounding the Washington domestic partner law, one of the highest-profile LGBT issues coming before voters this fall. A few weeks ago we reported that Referendum 71 (R-71), the measure that seeks to repeal the domestic partner laws, made it to the ballot by virtue of the required signatures collected by the opposition group.

From yesterday's Washington Post [free subscription required] comes news that a judge has refused to block the proposed ballot initiative.

The lawsuit seeking to halt the vote was filed by Washington Families Standing Together, a gay-rights group that is trying to prevent this measure from making it onto the ballot. It claims Secretary of State Sam Reed improperly accepted thousands of petition signatures that supported putting R-71 on the ballot.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Thomas McPhee rejected those arguments.

Washington Families Standing Together's previous attempt to block R-71 was turned away last week in King County for technical reasons. But King County Superior Court Judge Julie Spector said she was concerned that Reed may have accepted tens of thousands of invalid signatures.

Reed certified R-71 for the November ballot last week. Election officials revised the number of accepted signatures downward Tuesday, after an audit showed some signatures had been incorrectly accepted.

The latest official tally of accepted petition signatures for R-71 was 121,780 - about 1,200 more than the minimum required to qualify for the ballot.

A separate federal lawsuit brought by R-71's sponsors is seeking to keep those signed referendum petitions secret.

The petitions are considered public records under state law, but R-71's sponsors claim that petition-signers could face harassment by political opponents if the names are released. U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle is expected to rule on that matter this week.

The domestic partnership expansion in Washington was scheduled to take effect on July 26, but the referendum campaign put it on hold. If the referendum does appear on the ballot, the law would take effect only if approved by voters November 3.

Stay tuned. We will keep you updated as this story develops.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

NY Governor Pushes for Same-Sex Marriage

During the special legislative session in New York this fall, Governor David Paterson has said that he will again push for equal marriage rights in the Empire State.

The main purpose of the session, which many insiders anticipate will come toward the end of September, will be to close the $2.1 billion budget gap for this year. But Paterson said same-sex marriage should also be one of the issues up for discussion.

“Normally I wouldn't do it this way,” he said of adding the marriage bill as an agenda item to a special session. “But I felt that the whole fight over the coup denied the people of New York resolution on a number of issues that were very controversial and had been discussed and advocated for. I think that we owe the public a proper disposition on those pieces of legislation, and one of those was marriage equality.”

State Senator Tom Duane, who would carry the bill, said that once legislation is put on the - “active list” - of agenda items for a session, it should go straight to the rules committee and then directly to the floor for a vote - “de facto,” as he put it.

“When it is put on the agenda, I am very optimistic that it will pass,” Duane said, expressing confidence that he had the 32 votes necessary to put the bill on the governor’s desk.

“I am confident that if people are voting their consciences, their hearts, and politics doesn't interfere, we'll have marriage in New York state.”

Governor Paterson also acknowledged that he would need the cooperation of the Democratic leadership, Senate President Malcolm Smith and Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr., to make a vote happen.

“I will be talking to them about what they plan on doing,” Paterson said. “In the end, I can’t bring the bill to the floor. We will need the leadership of the Senate, and we’ll need bipartisan support to pass the bill.”

Governor Paterson introduced his marriage bill in April amid some dissent. The measure passed the assembly, 89-52, in May. But in June a power struggle between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate ground Albany to a halt, bottlenecking attempts to get a vote on the bill. By July, Democrats regained control of the Senate with Espada becoming the majority leader and Senator Smith remaining senate president.

“After the loss of Proposition 8 in California, I've sensed a little confusion and maybe stunned reaction from a lot of the advocates,” Paterson said. Legalizing same-sex marriage in New York, he added, could help “reignite” the marriage spark that tore through the Northeastern states earlier this year.

“I think New York can play an immense role in terms of the national discussion about marriage equality and getting that train right back on the track,” Paterson said.

Read more on this story at The Advocate.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Rachel Maddow Loves the PFLAG Pride Parade Contingent

From Pride '09 magazine, comes this fantastic quote from our friend Rachel Maddow:

"I do have one problem with Gay Pride, which is that in every Gay Pride I've ever been to, there's the PFLAG contingent, where the parents walk past with the signs that say 'I love my gay [child].' I don't cry. I dissolve. I'm a mess for an hour and can't do anything else and have to go home."

Here at PFLAG we've heard this from many people over the years, and have seen it first hand: that the PFLAG group always gets the loudest cheers in the Pride parade.

Thanks for recognizing us, Rachel!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

PFLAG Rochester (NY) Shares Pride Story

As summer winds down and everyone starts grabbing their sweaters for fall, we received one more account of a chapter’s participation in their summer Pride celebration. This piece came to us from PFLAG board member Sy Zivan and was written by PFLAG Rochester (NY) president Bonnie Hallman-Dye about their experiences at the local Pride parade. The chapter decided to use the event as an opportunity to promote their work in the community and highlight their own artistic interpretation of PFLAG’s Straight for Equality project. Here’s what they reported:

The Rochester chapter of PFLAG has been in existence for nearly 29 years. Over the past couple of years, interest in chapter activities had waned. In the spring of 2008, however, a small group of people began the task of reinvigorating PFLAG in Rochester. One of our big and exciting decisions was to sponsor a PFLAG float in the 2009 Pride Parade.

The theme of this year’s Pride Parade was “Our Rights, Your Rights, Human Rights.” We all supported the theme statement, but were somewhat stymied by how to present the theme in a float. Several brainstorming sessions followed, and we decided to depict the National PFLAG program “Straight for Equality.”

Many in our group lacked experience in designing and/or constructing a parade float. Fortunately, we had Anne Tisher, a local marriage equality advocate and Rochester PFLAG Board member. Anne has worked on many parade floats and has won prizes for her efforts. She even came to one of our meetings with a mock up of her proposed design! In the best brainstorming tradition, we combined elements of several different ideas into the final concept.

Working on the float was a big challenge. Several of our work sessions were cancelled due to the incredibly rainy weather Rochester has experienced this summer. We devoted one of our pot luck suppers to making the frou-frou that we needed to decorate the float.

The weather on the morning of parade day was iffy, but it was not actually raining. We gathered at Anne’s house for the float assembly. Anne and her wife, Bess Watts, had most of the “artistic” stuff done. All we had to do was put the pieces together on the trailer. We had a good crew, and it didn’t take too long for us to finish the preliminary work. Some of the construction needed to wait until we were at the parade start. We hooked the trailer up to the car, plugged in and tested the lights. They were totally covered by the float platform! We needed to drive 7 or 8 miles through the city to get to the parade start. We decided to have a car follow close behind to prevent problems with the lack of lights and to catch anything that might fall off of the float.

At the parade start we found a marshal who showed us our assigned spot. We quickly finished the rest of the assembly. Spirits were high as we waited for the parade to begin.

My mother, Anne Hallman, was visiting from Philadelphia for the weekend. She, being a professional driver (she works for Enterprise Rent a Car), was pressed into service to drive the van and pull the float.

In the line of march, PFLAG was behind the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester. They offered a street Eucharist, and Mommy and I went over. She commented, “I must admit I had a problem concentrating on the service with a very tall drag queen dressed in a gown of golden sequins, wheeling around the intersection on gold roller blades. She wore a blonde wig that would have made Dolly Parton ask, ‘where did you git that?’"

Finally, the parade started. The City of Rochester provided a good deal of support to the parade. A large contingent of police assisted the parade organizers. The Mayor, Bob Duffy, and the Police Chief, David Moore, marched. Many other politicians marched also. There was even what every parade needs - a fire truck.

Our Treasurer and his wife carried the PFLAG banner. Then came the van, decorated with rainbow buntings, pulling our float. A bunch of us followed with rainbow streamers, wind socks and signs which said things like, “We’re proud of our gay children!” The spectators greeted us with enthusiastic cheers. We heard many young people say, “I wish my parents would march!” or “Your kids are lucky!”

We knew from previous parades that there would be protesters along the parade route.. My mother said, “When we reached the area where the ‘detractors’ were with their bull horns and nasty signs, I just blasted the horn, smiled and favored them all with a Peace sign.” As we marched by the angry, yelling protesters, our daughter, Rachael, and I put our arms around each other and smiled. I know that I can’t protect her from hearing what they say, but I can give her a foundation of love and acceptance that will strengthen her to live with joy and integrity.

In hindsight there was one thing that we should have done as a part of our parade participation. We should have had PFLAG business cards to hand out to the parade spectators. We’ll do that next year!

My mother summed it up: “I was glad to be part of the parade in support of my grand-daughter, Rachael and her parents, Bonnie and Chuck. I hope I can do this again next year!”

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Governor of ME to Help Fundraise for Marriage Equality

In today's Morning Sentinel (Portland, ME) comes the story that Maine Governor John Baldacci will be the featured guest at a fundraiser today to raise money for marriage equality.

Baldacci signed the marriage bill into law less than one hour after it was presented to him in May.

The marriage equality bill is now the target of a fierce campaign that seeks to have voters overturn the legislation. For more information on No on One, the group that is working to protect marriage equality and is working in opposition to the Stand for Marriage Maine group, click here.

Baldacci's spokesman, David Farmer, said Monday that the governor supported the legislation, signed it, and wants to be involved with the campaign to preserve it. "He thinks that, ultimately, this comes down to people being treated fairly."

Other lawmakers who are supportive of the bill and are rumored to be attending include Sen. Dennis Damon (D-Trenton). Sen. Philip Bartlett (D-Gorham), and Rep. Linda Sanborn (D-Gorham) have been helping to work the phones in support of the bill.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

WA State's Referendum 71 Makes it onto November Ballot

In July we blogged about Referendum 71, the ballot measure that would repeal Washington State's domestic partner laws.

After months of hard work on behalf of Washington Families Standing Together, a group trying to prevent this referendum from making it onto the ballot, it looks like the opposition was successful in gathering the signatures they needed. The domestic partner rights of WA families will be put up for vote in November.

"After a month of counting petition signatures, the secretary of state's office said that Referendum 71 had 121,617 valid signatures — about a thousand more than needed to advance to the general election," reports this article in the Seattle Times.

Opponents of Referendum 71 have asked a judge to block the measure, at least temporarily, saying that election officials accepted thousands of invalid signatures. The judge said she would rule in the case on Wednesday.