Friday, December 18, 2009

Transgender State Workers Expected to Gain Bias Protection

According to this article in the New York Times Gov. David A. Paterson plans to extend antidiscrimination protections to transgender state employees, a decision that signifies the broadest inclusion yet of transgender people in state policy, according to several people with direct knowledge of the matter.

Mr. Paterson will carry out the decision through an executive order, to be signed on Wednesday, that will require state agencies to include transgender individuals in their nondiscrimination policies, these people said.

Though state antidiscrimination law includes gay men and lesbians, it is silent on the issue of transgender people. And while Mr. Paterson’s order will not have the sweep of a statute enacted by the State Legislature because it will apply only to state agencies, gay and transgender rights advocates said it would be a first step toward including gender identity and expression protections in state law.

Advocates for transgender people have succeeded in winning broad antidiscrimination protections in a number of cities throughout the state, including New York, Buffalo, Albany and Rochester. But efforts to add similar protections to state law have so far fallen short. The Assembly has passed a transgender antidiscrimination bill, but the Senate has refused to vote on the issue.

People with direct knowledge of the governor’s executive order described it this week, though the governor’s office has not yet formally issued it.The governor’s office declined to comment.

While supporters of transgender legal protections said they were encouraged by Mr. Paterson’s order, they noted that New York was not a pioneer in extending such rights.

“It has been a long road, and I think New York is behind,” said Dru Levasseur, a transgender rights attorney for Lambda Legal. “So this will bring New York up to par with other states that are taking the lead on workplace fairness.”

Twelve states and the District of Columbia have broad laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender expression or identity, according to gay and transgender rights groups. In addition, more than 100 cities and counties across the country provide similar legal protections. These laws protect not only people who have had gender reassignment surgery or who live as a member of the opposite sex, but also men who are discriminated against for appearing overly feminine or women for appearing overly masculine.

Much like the antidiscrimination laws that have been broadened over the years to include gays, lesbians and bisexuals, transgender antidiscrimination laws have gradually multiplied in jurisdictions throughout the country since Minneapolis became the first city to have such a law in 1975.

“I’ve been working on transgender law for eight years, and when I started there was only one state, Minnesota, that had protections for transgender people statewide with an overall nondiscrimination law,” said Lisa Mottet, director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s transgender civil rights project.

Still, gay rights groups have found that a high percentage of transgender people report discrimination at work. According to a new survey of 6,450 transgender people conducted by the task force, 97 percent reported mistreatment at work.

Two weeks ago, the State Senate defeated a bill that would have allowed same-sex couples to wed in New York. The 38-to-24 vote to kill the bill was a stinging rebuke to gay rights advocates in New York.

New York State has about 300,000 residents who identify as transgender, according to one survey conducted by the State Department of Health.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Mother, the Octogenarian Activist

Below is an article written by David Tuller for The New York Times about his mother, a fiesty woman who just turned 80 years old. She is also a passionate activist for her son and the GLBT community. In part, Mr. Tuller says:

After I came out to her during my college graduation ceremony, she joined Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays and started marching in gay pride parades. In 1987, we got arrested at the Supreme Court, along with hundreds of others, while protesting a ruling the court had made the previous year upholding a Georgia sodomy law.

My mother is older now, of course, but she hasn’t yet slowed down. She now lives in Manhattan, still works full-time at a major firm and says the challenge keeps her sharp. She maintains a rigorous exercise regimen; she shops weekly at the local farmers’ market; she devotes time to organizations promoting peace in the Middle East and elsewhere; she donates generously to the causes and candidates she believes in.

In 2006, while stumping door-to-door before the midterm elections, she tripped and broke her wrist in Columbus, Ohio. “I sacrificed my hand in service to my country,” she joked at the time. Undaunted, she signed up again for last year’s presidential campaign, heading to the battleground state of Pennsylvania for more door-to-door campaigning. We spoke or e-mailed most days to discuss and debate the latest polls and speeches.

She hasn’t escaped the wear-and-tear of time. Besides cancer, she has experienced significant hearing loss. She has battled a serious case of glaucoma, now under control. She has suffered through bouts of excruciating back and neck pain. But she has learned how to make lemonade from everything.

“I really think having these passions takes you outside of yourself and animates your life,” she says. “It makes you want to take care of yourself so you can keep on going. I still look forward to the next adventure.”

To read the full article, click here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Gutierrez Bill, Our Families, and the Future

Our friends at Immigration Equality issued the following statement regarding Representative Gutierrez’s recently introduced immigration bill:

Earlier today, Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) introduced an immigration reform proposal in the House of Representatives that does not include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) families. We pushed hard for inclusion in this bill, and we are deeply disappointed. However, I want to be clear: this is not the comprehensive immigration reform package which will move through the House. And, there are many reasons to remain optimistic about our inclusion in comprehensive immigration reform down the road.

First, it is important to note that Congressman Gutierrez remains a co-sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) and the LGBT-inclusive Reuniting Families Act (RFA) in Congress. In the weeks and months leading up to the introduction of the Gutierrez bill, Immigration Equality pushed for inclusion of our families. When it became clear that this was not to be, we asked for the Congressman to continue to work for an end to immigration laws that discriminate against LGBT families, and we have every expectation that he will do so.

Second, this bill is not the large-scale, comprehensive immigration reform bill that is expected in Congress early next year. That bill is currently being written, and a number of our champions – including Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Congressman Mike Honda and Senator Patrick Leahy – continue to work to ensure that bill includes our families.

Third, some LGBT families will benefit from other provisions in this bill: for starters, those who have fallen out of status because they cannot be sponsored by their partners; LGBT detainees, who are too often victimized and discriminated against under our current system; those who need a path to citizenship in order to keep their family intact; and queer teenagers who have grown up and come out in this country but who have no future without a change in the law.

Immigration Equality will not rest until Congress passes LGBT-inclusive immigration reform. We continue to push – every day – for passage of the Uniting American Families Act, the Reuniting Families Act and every other possible victory for our families. Our strategy has been – and remains – to pursue every available avenue for success.

The bill introduced today is, for all of us, disappointing. But the immediate future remains hopeful. There are many more steps on our journey together – and in the Congressional process – and we remain confident that, in the end, our champions will stand with us, and immigration reform will include our families, too.

Nominations for National GLBTA Award Now Being Accepted

The Richard L. Schlegel Legion of Honor Award is administered by the GLBTA Resource Center at American University in Washington, D.C. It recognizes individuals living in the United States who have exhibited outstanding leadership and significantly contributed to the dignity and freedom of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. The 2010 Richard L. Schlegel National Legion of Honor Awards for Emerging Activist and Visionary Leader will be presented at the Office of Campus Life Visionary Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, April 13th, 2010.

The Richard L. Schlegel National Legion of Honor Award for an Emerging Activist is given to young individuals (in high school or an undergraduate in college) who are living in the United States and who have made outstanding contributions to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) communities.

The Richard L. Schlegel National Legion of Honor Award for a Visionary Leader is given to an organization or individual in the United States who have made outstanding contributions to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) communities.

FOR MORE INFORMATION on the awards, please visit our website at http://www.american.edu/glbta for an online nomination form. For questions and/or concerns please call the GLBTA Resource Center at 202-885-3347 or e-mail us at glbta@american.edu.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: D.C. Votes to Approve Marriage Equality

According to the Washington Post, the D.C. Council approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in the District in a final vote Tuesday, capping a debate that has gone on almost all year.

The measure passed 11-2, with members Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) and Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) the dissenters. The bill will be sent to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), who is expected to sign it before Christmas. The bill will become law this spring if, as expected, it survives a 30-day congressional review period.

"We are on the verge of history," council member David A. Catania (I-At Large), the lead sponsor of the bill, told about 350 same-sex marriage supporters at a pre-vote rally Monday night in Shaw. "For the world to see gays and lesbian couples equal to straight couples in the nation's capital, that is an important message."

Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5), who also addressed the crowd, said the council was poised to send a signal to the nation that "this is a human rights issue for justice and equality."

To read the full article, click here [free subscription required].

Straight Ally Speaks Out at the Anti-Defamation League

Kay Heggestad, PFLAG’s Midwest Regional Director, PFLAG mom, and member of the Straight for Equality in Healthcare advisory committee sent the following comments from Liebe Gadinsky, an out and proud straight ally who recently received the Human Rights Award from the Anti-Defamation League at their ADL Jurisprudence Luncheon. According to eQualityGiving.org, Liebe is a strong supporter of LGBT equality and a member of the board of trustees for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Her comments from the November 12 event are as follows:

Thank you, Dennis. You can be my publicist anytime. So here I am in a room filled with attorneys, wondering how I got here. I feel like such an interloper. As if that's not enough reason to be nervous, being bestowed with the Bob Kanziger human rights award is just plain intimidating. Bob was a spectacular human being with a heart of gold. In fact, my husband felt so strongly about Bob's character and achievements that he pushed for this award to be named in Bob's honor. Last year it went to Dennis Kainen, obviously a very worthy recipient. I am humbled to follow in the footsteps of Dennis and Bob.

I'm often asked why I am involved in so-called "gay rights." The follow-up question is usually something like, "is someone in your family gay?" So I'm left to wonder, is it just too hard for people to imagine that someone (else) would advocate for something or someone that doesn't really affect them? Truthfully, more often than not, the person asking the question is gay or lesbian. Perhaps he or she just cannot imagine that they are worthy enough to be... advocated for. How can this be? My theory: Because when your own government tells you for so long that you are not worthy... that you are not full citizens... that you deserve to be denied housing, employment, public accommodation, federal tax benefits, the right to marry or adopt a child, the freedom to take out a loan together... That to serve in the military you must pretend to be heterosexual.... That to fall in love with someone from another country, you have no hope of favorable immigration laws helping them to become legal residents by virtue of your relationship... That if you go in the emergency room, your beloved same-sex partner of 25 years may not be allowed to visit, That when you die, your family of origin may swoop in and claim all your assets leaving your partner out in the cold... Well maybe you just stop thinking you're worthy.

Remember, these are our federal, state and local governing bodies telling you that you don't matter, that you are second class citizens at best. You might be able to dismiss as lunatic the hateful picketing of Fred Phelps at funerals saying "God hates Fags." You might be able to overcome the cloying rhetoric of some right wing (often well-intended) evangelicals who say, "Love the sinner; hate the sin." Your self-esteem with enough parental love and a luxurious dose of therapy might have survived the daily abusive comments heard in every junior high "That's so Gay", or the ridiculous caricatured representations in film and television. You might be strong enough to ignore the lyrics espousing violence against gays in Buju Banton's music. You might accept the fact that you can't travel to certain countries in Africa and the Middle East, where homosexuality is punishable by none other than death. But when your own government in what is reputed to be among the most advanced nations on earth is legalizing discrimination, it's hard to imagine that you are worth fighting for.

Come to think of it, perhaps my family is my inspiration, after all. By contrast, one of my brothers married a Brazilian woman (his third wife) without worrying that she'd be deported. My mother, divorced, single, (worn out from already rearing over a dozen of her own children) and 58 years old, was allowed to adopt a toddler. Another brother has been divorced four times but (if he so chooses) will be allowed to marry again without question. He won't have to fly to Massachusetts or Iowa or Canada to do it, and his most-likely, short-lived marriage will be honored in every state and worldwide.

So you can see how I find it difficult to be asked why I take this so personally. How could I not take this personally? How could I not want to change the laws, raise money for sensitivity training for our teachers, uphold SAVE Dade and Equality Florida? How could I not support the arts which celebrate the glories of GLBT life? How could I not want to get fair-minded people elected to office? How could I not be proud of the ADL for its "No Place for Hate" training program?

Indeed, I think from now on, I should answer the question with one of my own: why don't we all get so involved with advancing equality for our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered brothers and sisters?

In this room, having grown up with the pain of the holocaust all too near, you quickly realize that the question is almost silly. We all have the opportunity to be heroes, Oskar Schindlers or Nelson Mandelas in our own universes. Every day we are presented with moments where we can take a stand against disparaging comments like "That's so gay". Every day we can write a check or volunteer at a phone bank or contact our legislators or write a letter to the editor or encourage our friends to vote to make a difference.

I will not sleep well until these "discrepancies" are resolved. How can I enjoy all those privileges I've done nothing to earn, knowing that the friends I treasure most go to bed without the security of protection from discrimination? It was only recently that anti-sodomy laws were repealed. Until this hate crimes bill, there had not been one federal law passed protecting gays and lesbians in the 40 years since Stonewall. Every tiny advance towards equality is an exhausting, exorbitantly expensive battle of epic proportions, personally and societally. This discrimination hurts us all.

It comes as a particular honor to be up here today among the best and the brightest who can make a difference in changing these primitive, cowardly laws through legislation and litigation. The Anti-Defamation League has taken a stand on all these issues and more. It has rightfully understood that history has a way of repeating itself; that in defending gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons, we are taking a stand against the real enemies: discrimination and hatred.

Thank you, to the ADL, particularly Michael Lieberman, for taking the lead for TEN YEARS on amending the federal hate crimes bill to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Thank you, Andy Rosenkranz, for fearlessly leading the ADL which protects all of us. Thank you, David Barkey, for fighting Amendment 2, and lobbying for the Safe Schools Anti-Bullying act. Thank you to my heroes and mentors who have fought this good fight for years at great personal cost: Richard Milstein, Jerry Chasen, Rosemary Wilder, Greg Baldwin, Georg Ketelhohn, Joe Falk, Mark Steinberg, Dennis Edwards, and Ruth Shack, to name but a few. Thank you to my husband Seth who has stood right alongside me at the polls and town hall meetings and has stuffed envelopes and volunteered in every way for the causes we both hold dear.

The buck stops here, ladies and gentlemen... in this room... with you and me and the ADL.

Together let's do what we can to make our brothers and sisters full citizens of this democracy. Thank you.

Monday, December 14, 2009

New Explorer Program in Los Angeles Free From Boy Scout Control

According to this article, the LAPD plans to launch its own Explorer program for young people this month, removing the Boy Scouts of America from management, officials said Tuesday.

The Police Commission voted two months ago to end its relationship with the Scouts because of the organization's policies that discriminate against gays. The program had been operated by the Learning for Life Foundation, a subsidiary of the Boy Scouts.

The move to create the Los Angeles Police Department's own teen program should be launched by Jan. 1, Deputy Chief Earl Paysinger told the Police Commission.

"We have received inquiries from dozens of agencies on what we're doing," Paysinger said. "We think once the LAPD breaks away, other agencies will as well."

The biggest challenge in creating the program has been raising money, Paysinger said, but more than $25,000 has been collected so far to help cover the costs of uniforms, badges and patches.

The Explorer program introduces teens to law enforcement as a career, by having them work in stations alongside officers and assist in a variety of policing programs.

Before becoming Explorers, teens must take 96 hours of training in an academy. More than 250 cadets are expected to graduate soon and enter the new program, which has not yet been named. About 3,000 young people are currently enrolled as Explorers.

"We have found wide support ... and a great understanding about why we are making this change," Paysinger said.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Uganda's Anti-Gay Bill: Inspired by the U.S.

From Time magazine online comes this story about institutionalized homophobia in Uganda.

The late-November afternoon sun bore down on the park in downtown Kampala, and all along the benches, Ugandan office workers took their siestas. There could have been no less likely setting for criminal conspiracies to topple an East African state. Still, the doctor's voice dropped a notch when an office worker in a brown suit settled in close by. The medic shifted a battered fedora over his eyes. "I am the gay doctor," the physician whispered to me, making sure nobody around heard. He talked about the gay and lesbian couples who go to his office to avoid ridicule in public hospitals. "They know they can trust me, and trust is a big issue," he said. "There is the stigma of being gay, but also the stigma of being [HIV] positive. They are such hidden communities. Nobody wants to deal with their problems."

In a matter of weeks, the Ugandan doctor's admission to TIME could land him in jail and his patients on death row. An anti-homosexuality bill now before Uganda's Parliament would include some of the harshest anti-gay regulations in the world. If the bill becomes law, the doctor, who asked that his name not be published, could be prosecuted for "aiding and abetting homosexuality." In one version of the bill, his sexually active HIV-positive patients could be found guilty of practicing acts of "aggravated homosexuality," a capital crime, according to the bill.

Thanks to a clause in the would-be law that punishes "failure to disclose the offense," anybody who heard the doctor's conversation could be locked up for failing to turn him in to the police. Even a reporter scribbling the doctor's words could be found to have "promoted homosexuality," an act punishable by five to seven years in prison. And were any of the Ugandans in the park to sleep with someone of the same sex in another country, the law would mandate their extradition to Uganda for prosecution. Only terrorists and traitors are currently subject to extraterritorial jurisdiction under Ugandan law. Even murderers don't face that kind of judicial reach.

(Update: Reports out of Kampala late Wednesday indicate that the death penalty may be dropped from the final version of the bill, which may come to a vote as early as two weeks from now.)

"You may think that this bill targets only homosexual individuals," said Sylvia Tamale, dean of law at Uganda's Makerere University, speaking at a public dialogue on the bill in November. "If passed into law, it will stifle the space of civil society. The bill also undermines the role of the media to report freely. We are all potential victims of this bill."

The bill has an American genesis of sorts, inspired to a large extent by the visits of U.S. evangelicals who are involved with a movement that promotes Christianity's role in getting homosexuals to become "ex-gays" through prayer and faith. Ugandan supporters of the bill appear to be particularly impressed by the ideas of Scott Lively, a California conservative preacher who has written a book, The Pink Swastika, about what he calls the links between Nazism and a gay agenda for world domination, which, by itself, would have raised the anti-colonial sensitivities of Ugandan society. Says the Rev. Kapya Kaoma, an Episcopalian priest from Zambia who authored a recent report on anti-gay politics in Uganda, Nigeria and Kenya: "The U.S. culture wars have been exported to Africa."

To continue reading this article, click here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Update: NJ Marriage Vote Canceled

According to the New York Times the battle over a bill that would legalize gay marriage in New Jersey shifted locations unexpectedly late Wednesday as sponsors of the legislation canceled a vote scheduled for Thursday in the State Senate, where the measure appeared headed for defeat.

The sponsors, Senators Raymond J. Lesniak and Loretta Weinberg, both Democrats, withdrew the bill from the agenda in the Senate session, saying they wanted to first allow a hearing in the General Assembly, where support for same-sex marriage is believed to be stronger.

But opponents were outraged by the last-minute switch and accused Democrats of abusing their leadership positions to force a controversial issue through the Legislature during the waning days of the session. The bill was passed narrowly on Monday by a Senate committee.

“It makes a mockery of the legislative process,” said John Tomicki, president of the New Jersey Coalition to Preserve and Protect Marriage. “They’re using the Legislature as a propaganda tool. They didn’t have the courage to bring the issue up before the election, and now they’re playing games to do things that the public doesn’t approve of at the very last minute.”

Ms. Weinberg, of Bergen County, brushed aside accusations that the postponement was a tactical maneuver to avert defeat in the Senate, saying that the issue had generated so much public interest that residents deserved more time to give it thorough consideration.

The Senate Judiciary Committee took testimony from scores of residents during a marathon seven-hour hearing on Monday, Ms. Weinberg said, but still had to turn away 150 others who had signed up to speak.

“We think this is the fairest way to proceed, and anybody on the other side can say whatever they want to say,” Ms. Weinberg said.

The switch to the Assembly is likely to increase the frenetic lobbying over the issue, which has already intensified in the past few days.

Gay rights activists are pressing to win legislative approval before Jan. 19 — when Gov. Jon S. Corzine, a Democrat who staunchly supports same-sex marriage, is replaced by Governor-elect Christopher J. Christie, a Republican who opposes the measure.

In recent weeks, hundreds of activists, clergy members and citizens-turned-advocates from both sides of the issue have been pressuring lawmakers, pleading their case from phone banks and pulpits, at rallies and in private meetings.

By Tuesday night, the whirlwind had reached the unlikely outpost of Firehouse No. 1 in West Windsor — a quiet enclave — where opponents of the measure demonstrated outside a birthday party being held by State Senator William Baroni, the lone Republican who has said he plans to support it.

Carrying signs declaring, “God says no, Baroni votes yes” and “Phony Baloney Baroni,” a half-dozen demonstrators called out to passing motorists and party guests, warning the senator that constituents would hold him accountable for his vote.

“The Bible is very clear that marriage is between a man and a woman, and homosexuality is a sin,” said Bob Pawson, who said he is a longtime friend of Mr. Baroni’s and has volunteered on his campaigns. “So to promote this lifestyle — it’s actually a death style — is sending the wrong message.”

Mr. Baroni, a Roman Catholic, said he respected the demonstrators’ right to air their views, but nonetheless intended to vote for the marriage bill because he considered it a matter of civil rights.

“I have never voted for discrimination, and I’m not about to start now,” he said.

The Assembly speaker, Joseph J. Roberts Jr., a Democrat from Camden, welcomed the chance to debate the bill, but said he was not certain when a hearing would be scheduled.

Mr. Roberts said that gay men and lesbians deserved the right to marry because the state’s civil union law was inadequate.

Philippines to Make Same-Sex Marriage a Crime

A federal lawmaker in the Philippines introduced a bill on Monday to criminalize gay marriage.

Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr., a former pastor and advocate against pornography, claims that while same-sex marriage is not allowed in the country, legislation is needed to punish those who attempt to enter into gay marriages.

According to a press release, the bill labels gay marriage as “highly immoral, scandalous, and detestable," reports Filipino newspaper Malaya.

Under the new provisions, same-sex couples who attempt to marry would face 15 years in prison and be fined 150,000 Philippine Pesos [approximately $3,200 U.S.]

Similarly, individuals who misrepresent their sex to obtain a marriage license would face 12 years behind bars and a fine of 100,000 Philippine Pesos.

Furthermore, any person who issues a marriage license to a gay couple or who performs a same-sex marriage would also be imprisoned for 10 years and face a fine of not more than 100,000 Philippine Pesos. As a result, the bill requires the Local Civil Registrar to determine the sex of applicants before issuing a license or conducting a ceremony.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

John Cepek to be a Guest on the Derek and Romaine Show

Listen up, PFLAGers! President John Cepek to be on the Derek and Romaine Show!

PFLAG president John Cepek is scheduled for a phone interview with Derek and Romaine of Sirius XM Satellite Radio on Monday, December 14th at 7:30 pm ET. The topic of discussion will be coping with the holidays and some of the (potential) family conflict that arises...but that PFLAGers know how to navigate.

The interview will last about 10-15 minutes, and will broadcast live on Sirius XM Satellite Radio channel OutQ, Sirius 109 and XM 98. Listeners and fans are welcome to participate by calling 866-305-6887. For those who don't subscribe to Sirius, a free online trial is available at http://www.sirius.com/.

Looking for additional resources on coming out and handling family conflict around the holidays? Check out “Tips for a Happy Holiday for GLBT people” the PFLAG website for some suggestions and ideas.

One Step Closer to Marriage in NJ

According to this article in The Advocate, New Jersey's Senate Judiciary Committee voted 7 to 6 on Monday to pass The Freedom of Religion and Equality in Civil Marriage bill.

The bill, which was widely expected to pass, will now move to the full Senate for a vote as early as Thursday. There, it is unclear what will happen.

Democrats hold a 23-17 majority, but some lawmakers have indicated they were influenced by the setbacks for marriage equality in Maine and New York, and the election as governor last month of Chris Christie, a Republican who opposes marriage equality and takes office on January 19. He has vowed to veto the bill, leaving advocates under pressure to pass the bill in time for it to be signed by outgoing governor Jon Corzine.

Should the bill pass the full senate on Thursday, it will move to the assembly, where insiders feel more confident about approval.

Stay tuned for more information!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Book Review: A Vigil for Joe Rose

This book review comes from Dave Parker, PFLAG National Board Member and member of PFLAG Greensboro and TNET (PFLAG's Transgender Network):

Author Michael Whatling is an experienced collegiate-level educator who has taught diversity courses that include race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. These courses led him to recognize the scarcity of research in this area that includes the voices of those being studied: LGBT students themselves. While working on his Ph.D. he interviewed students in the 16 to 18 year age group and elected to present his research as a series of semi-fictional stories based on his interviews – in the students’ own words. They are all based in Quebec, Canada – often thought of as a very accepting community.

Each student’s story is different, but with many of the same situations. Some schools and classmates were more accepting than others. Some parents and family members were as well. Each student reacted in a fashion dictated by their own fears and conscience.

Through these stories Mr. Whatling shows the reality of “accepting” schools and friends. It is his hope that school administrators and teachers all over North America read and understand his point of view – that our schools, even “accepting” schools, are doing their LGBT students a disservice.

From my perspective – recognizing that I am neither a high school student nor gay – this is an important work. I feel that I hear the students’ voices. They ask only for acceptance and respect for who they are.

A Vigil for Joe Rose is an excellent book. It should be in every school and municipal library, accessible to parents, students, and their teachers and administrators.

How much did I like it? My wife and I purchased it for our local PFLAG Chapter, even though we have my review copy at home. Highly recommended.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Discrimination Complaint Filed Against McDonald's for Refusing to Hire Transgender Woman

Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund today filed a Complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations against an Orlando McDonald's restaurant for refusing to hire 17-year-old Zikerria Bellamy because she is transgender.

On July 10, 2009, Ms. Bellamy applied online for a job at a McDonald’s restaurant in Orlando, Florida. On July 28, after managers at McDonald’s learned that Zikerria is transgender, she received a voicemail message from one of the managers telling her, "You will not get hired. We do not hire faggots." She was never allowed to interview for a job.

"Zikerria should not have been denied a job just because she is transgender. Like everyone else, she deserved to be judged on her ability to do the job and not on who she is," said TLDEF executive director and attorney Michael Silverman.

"I just wanted to earn to some money and was willing to work hard at this job. In the current economy, jobs are really hard to find. I never expected to be judged on who I am, instead of being judged on whether I can do the job," said Ms. Bellamy.

Transgender people face tremendous discrimination in the workplace. 47% of transgender people report being fired, or denied a job or promotion, just because of who they are.

Few protections exist for transgender people who experience employment discrimination. In 38 states, there is no law protecting people from being fired because they are transgender. Federal law similarly offers no job protection for transgender people.

In Florida, while no law explicitly addresses discrimination based on gender identity, administrative agencies in Florida have ruled that transgender people are protected by the Florida Civil Rights Act’s prohibitions on sex and disability discrimination. The Competitive Workforce Bill, which would add gender identity and sexual orientation to the Florida Civil Rights Act, was introduced in the Florida legislature on November 20.

At the federal level, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) (S.1584) would address discrimination in the workplace by making it illegal to fire, refuse to hire, or refuse to promote an employee based on the person’s gender identity or sexual orientation.

"Transgender Americans should have the chance to earn a living and provide for their families without being refused a job or fired for reasons that have nothing to do with their ability to do the job," added Silverman.

According to a 2007 survey, 72 percent of Americans agree that "fairness is a basic American value and employment decisions should be based solely on qualifications and job performance, including for transgender people." In a 2002 poll, 61 percent of those polled said that we need laws to protect transgender people from discrimination. President Obama supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and has stated his belief that anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Join PFLAG National on the "From Our Family to Yours" Campaign

Dear PFLAGers,

Happy Holidays!

Today PFLAG is joining fellow national and local LGBT organizations throughout the country in launching the From Our Family to Yours Campaign. In addition to spreading holiday cheer, the campaign aims to increase visibility and awareness about the need for federal protections for the LGBT community.

In this season of peace and generosity, let’s introduce the First Family to ours. In order to succeed in winning federal protections for our families, we must put real names and faces to the people in our community.

So we are asking you to join us in wishing the First Family holiday greetings while introducing them to images of thousands of families with LGBT members.

Participating in this campaign is simple, and PFLAGers always have great family photos to share!

All you need to do
is mail a copy of your family holiday card (or if you don’t have one, then send a family photo to the First Family) with this message:

Season’s Greetings, from our family to yours.
May the next year bring peace and equality for all.


We encourage you to send your holiday cards as soon as possible. Please send your holiday cards and photos to the Family Equality Council, PO Box 206, Boston, MA 02133, or send a digital photo to Tina Walker-Morin at tina.walker-morin@familyequality.org. We will compile all of the images into a holiday package to be delivered to the First Family.

Participating organizations include Center Kids: A Program of the New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center, COLAGE, Equality California, Equality Federation, Family Equality Council, Family Matters: a Program of the San Diego LGBT Community Center, Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center Families Services Program, Lesbian and Gay Family Building Project c/o Ferre Institute, Inc., the Mega Family Project, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Our Family Coalition, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), and the San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center.

Thank you and may the peace and joy of the holidays be yours!

Friday, December 4, 2009

PFLAG Joins with LGBT Organizations to Demand Congressional Action on ENDA Now!

PFLAG has been actively involved in the effort to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) for many years – in fact, entirely too many years. It is inexcusable that our LGBT families and loved ones must continue to endure a legal system in which they can be fired in 29 states for being gay or lesbian, and in 38 for being transgender or expressing their gender identity differently.

It has been our hope that given the current structure of Congress, ENDA would move forward and reach the point of a vote. However, it appears that Congress does not plan any movement on this critical bill, in spite of promises to support LGBT equality.

Today, PFLAG signed on to support a statement by leaders of many LGBT organizations demanding that Congress see equality in the U.S. as a priority issue and pass ENDA now.

You can read the statement (below) and click through to access the full list of organizations who are included on this statement.

Don’t forget: PFLAG’s Bringing the Message Home guide provides you with key background information on ENDA and other critical issues. You can download it for free here.

Want to take action? Be sure that you visit PFLAG’s 5-Minute Advocacy Center on the PFLAG website and sign up for action alerts.

Demand equality from your elected leaders today.


LGBT AMERICANS OUTRAGED AT DELAY IN BASIC JOB RIGHTS

In light of continuing delays in the House of Representatives, we must state clearly and unequivocally: Passing basic job protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people must happen now. At a time when our government is deeply focused on the critical issue of employment, it is inexcusable to delay action on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Each and every job lost to prejudice based on sexual orientation and gender identity needlessly compounds the unemployment challenges facing our nation. We call on Congress for the immediate passage of ENDA.

For decades now, we have called upon Congress to pass legislation to address the basic right of LGBT people to work free from discrimination at our jobs, and now Congress tells us we must wait another year. In 29 states, it remains legal to fire people based on sexual orientation and in 38 states, discrimination based on gender identity remains legal. In failing to take swift action to pass ENDA, our government allows unfettered bigotry to go unchecked, leading to the loss of jobs, fear in the workplace, economic instability, and personal hardship, while allowing employers to lose competent experienced workers. ENDA is urgently needed by our communities.

The majority of Americans consistently state their support for employment protections and voters have affirmed similar state and local measures. There is absolutely no reason for Congress to continue to delay this non-controversial bill or drop LGBT issues to the bottom of their agenda. We will not be denied basic rights any longer. Nothing is more important than protecting peoples’ jobs so ENDA must pass now. Further delays are absolutely unacceptable.

Click here to see the statement with all signatures.

American Medical Association Urges for Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell

[Dr. Paul Wertsch is part of the Straight for Equality in Healthcare committee and is the husband of Great Plains Regional Director Kay Heggestad.]

The American Medical Association came out in favor of ending the "don't ask, don't tell" law that requires gays in the military to hide their sexual orientation from their physicians and others. Delegates to the AMA Interim Meeting said the policy threatens the physician-patient relationship and compromises the medical care of gay patients in the military.

The military reserves the power to inspect service members' medical records for combat readiness purposes. So any mention of their sexual orientation could result in discharge under the federal law governing the military's policy on gays, known as "don't ask, don't tell."

The law puts gays in the military and their physicians in an untenable situation, said Wisconsin Medical Society delegate Paul A. Wertsch, MD, [pictured] who brought the issue before the house. "If you can't trust your doctor to tell the truth, you're not going to tell the truth," said Dr. Wertsch, whose son is gay. "If a doctor feels that by writing down the truth, he can get you in trouble, that's a bad situation."

The "don't ask, don't tell" law is "hurting people, it's making doctors lie, it's having patients not get proper care and it's hurting the military," said Dr. Wertsch, a family physician.
His original resolution asked the AMA to lobby the armed forces to change policy to protect the confidentiality of any disclosures regarding sexual orientation. But military physicians testified in reference committee that federal law governed the matter and the law is what needs to change. The committee strengthened the resolution to call for a complete repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" law, and the house adopted it without debate.

"The AMA took the horse by the reins in doing what needed to be done to call for the repeal of something that creates such disparities and such health care risks," said Jennifer Chaffin, MD, a San Ramon, Calif., forensic psychiatrist who chairs the AMA Advisory Committee on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Issues. Dr. Wertsch also serves on the committee.

Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, which represents gays actively serving in the military and veterans, testified before the AMA reference committee. "This is yet another nail in the coffin of the flawed and outdated 'don't ask, don't tell' law," he said later, "It should send a strong message to those who continue to blindly claim that this policy works."

A July 2008 Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 75% of Americans back allowing gays to openly serve in the military.

After months of inaction and growing complaints from gay advocacy groups, President Barack Obama in October reaffirmed his campaign pledge to sign legislation allowing gays in the military to reveal their sexual orientation.

"President Obama has been clear ... that he is committed to repeal the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy," said Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington, a Dept. of Defense spokesman. "He has also been clear that he is committed to doing it in a way that is least disruptive to our troops, especially given that they have been simultaneously waging two wars for six years now."

Repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" is likely to be part of next year's Defense Dept. authorization bill, according to Rep. Barney Frank (D, Mass.), who is one of three openly gay members of Congress.

Marriage disparities
A separate AMA Council on Science and Public Health report found that gay families face a host of health disparities, such as unequal access to health insurance benefits, due to laws barring them from marriage.

"Exclusion from civil marriage contributes to health care disparities affecting same-sex households," said the council's report recommendation, which the house adopted.

The AMA's new policy -- also adopted without house debate -- commits the organization to working to reduce health disparities in gay families and supporting "measures providing same-sex households with the same rights and privileges to health care, health insurance, and survivor benefits, as afforded opposite-sex households."

The policy does not call for repealing the Defense of Marriage Act -- which denies federal benefits to same-sex partners -- or for backing state-level attempts to give gays access to civil unions or legal marriage.

PFLAG Board Member Participates in Protest Over NY Senate's Marriage Equality Decision

Last night, advocates for marriage equality took to the streets of Manhattan to protest the New York State Senate’s 24-38 vote to deny basic civil marriage rights to gay and lesbian citizens of their state. Never ones to miss an opportunity to demonstrate their support for equality and offer their voices, Dale Bernstein, a member of PFLAG National’s board, and her husband, Gary, attended the protest that was held last night in Union Square. You can watch Dale’s comments here and hear her reminder to those who voted to deny marriage equality that they’ll hear from her at the ballot box.

Want to find out how the members of the New York State Senate voted? You can access the list on Marriage Equality New York’s website now.




New Study Finds Youth Are More Open to Equality

A new study released by Girl Scouts of the USA finds, in part, that youth today are more accepting of those who are different from them. The results were compared to results from a nearly identical 1989 study.

“There’s clearly a generational change taking place,” said Kimberlee Salmond, senior researcher at GSRI and lead author of the study. “These young people strongly value diversity, acceptance and civic involvement, and almost across the board they’re more committed to these values than were their predecessors 20 years ago.”

The survey, Good Intentions: The Beliefs and Values of Teens and Tweens Today, also finds that that one third of teenagers say they intend to wait until they are married to have sex compared to less than a quarter (24 percent) in 1989. And two decades later, youth are more accepting of gay relationships. Fifty-nine percent of teenagers agree with the statement, “Gay and lesbian relationships are OK, if that is a person’s choice.” Only 31 percent agreed in 1989.

In addition, the data show that youth today value diversity. Among 7th- to 12th-graders, nearly six in 10 (59 percent) say that being around people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds is important to them. This appears to be particularly important to girls (63 percent versus 55 percent of boys) and youth from diverse racial or ethnic backgrounds. (This question was not asked in 1989.)

And young people today appear to have a stronger sense of civic engagement. Compared to 20 years ago, youth today are more likely to say they intend to vote in the
future (84 percent vs. 77 percent), as well as give to charity (76 percent vs. 63 percent). Some 79 percent say they will volunteer in their communities.

In addition, 71 percent say their religious beliefs are important to them, and this group is not as likely as less religious or nonreligious young people to say they would lie, cheat, drink and have sex.

The study also uncovered differences among boys and girls. Among teenagers, girls are less likely than boys to say they would have sex (18 percent vs. 38 percent) or advise an abortion (6 percent vs. 12 percent), and are more likely to give to charity (80 percent vs. 72 percent) and volunteer in their community (81 percent vs. 77 percent.)

To see all of the results from the study, click here.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Meredith Baxter, "Family Ties" Mom, Comes Out


Meredith Baxter (seated), her twins Mollie and Peter, and partner Nancy Locke by Marc Royoe

Most people know Meredith Baxter as Elyse Keaton, everyone's favorite mom from the hit '80s sitcom Family Ties. But now the actress reveals to PEOPLE that she's ready for the world to see her in a different – and surprising – way: "I'm a lesbian mom," she says.

Before Baxter, 62, first started dating women seven years ago, the thought of being gay "had never crossed my mind," she tells PEOPLE. Having been in three failed marriages to men (most famously to actor David Birney), she says of her many difficult years before coming out, "I was never comfortable with myself." But she's quick to add, "That doesn't mean I was questioning."

Now in a four-year relationship with building contractor Nancy Locke – the couple have lived together for two years – the actress, who continues to act and run a skincare company, says, "I feel like I'm being honest for the first time."

Baxter was open about her new-found identity almost immediately with her five kids. Her son Peter’s reaction, like that of his siblings, was both reassuring and supportive. "I just couldn't stop smiling," says Peter, 25, "because she finally figured it out."

To read more about this story, click here.

NY Senate Votes Against Marriage Equality

The New York State Senate defeated a bill on Wednesday that would legalize same-sex marriage, after an emotional debate that touched on civil rights, family and history. The vote means that the bill, pushed by Gov. David A. Paterson, is effectively dead for the year and dashes the optimism of gay rights advocates, who have had setbacks recently in several key states.

The bill was defeated by a decisive margin of 38 to 24. The Democrats, who have a bare, one-seat majority, did not have enough votes to pass the bill without some Republican support, but not a single Republican senator voted for the measure. Still, several key Democrats who were considered swing votes also opposed the bill.

Mr. Paterson made an unusual trip to the Senate floor minutes after the last vote was cast, saying, “These victories come and so do the losses, but you keep on trying.”

The state’s Roman Catholic bishops, who had actively lobbied against the bill, said they were pleased by the vote.

“While the Catholic Church rejects unjust discrimination against homosexual men and women, there is no question that marriage by its nature is the union of one man and one woman,” Richard E. Barnes, the executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference, said in a statement. “Advocates for same-sex marriage have attempted to portray their cause as inevitable. However, it has become clear that Americans continue to understand marriage the way it has always been understood, and New York is not different in that regard. This is a victory for the basic building block of our society.”

In the end, it was not an issue that broke down along racial lines, or even religious and agnostic divisions. In fact, nine of the Senate’s 11 black members voted in support of same-sex marriage.

“When I walk through these doors, my Bible stays out,” said Senator Eric Adams, a Brooklyn Democrat who compared the law preventing same-sex marriage with laws that kept blacks and whites from marrying. “I believe there are certain moments here where we can benchmark our lives by the votes we took.”

The debate was as personal as any to take place in the Senate chamber in years. Senators spoke of their experiences as Jews and Baptists, as blacks and women. They spoke of spending long nights contemplating their votes and the deceased gay friends and relatives who inspired their decision.

Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson, a Democrat who represents parts of the Bronx and Westchester County, spoke publicly for the first time about her gay brother, who was shunned by her family and moved to France.

“He had disappeared from our lives. And my father worried, but he could not ask him to come home,” she said, fighting back tears. Ms. Hassell-Thompson said she searched for her brother and eventually found him and asked him to come home. But he told her he was hesitant because he felt his family did not want to see him. “I said, ‘But your sister does.’ ”

State Senator Rubén Díaz Sr. of the Bronx made an impassioned argument against same-sex marriage, describing his continued opposition as reflecting the broad consensus that marriage should be limited to a union between a man and woman. “Not only the evangelicals, not only the Jews, not only the Muslims, not only the Catholics, but also the people oppose it,” he said.

Senate Republicans had said before the vote that they believed their members could provide a few votes for the bill.

“There may be a few, that’s very possible,” said Senator Thomas W. Libous of Binghamton, the deputy Republican leader. “Everybody’s feeling is get it on the floor and let’s vote it up or down. It’s been talked about enough. Let’s get it done. I think it’s going to be very close.”

Ms. Krueger said before the debate began that she was optimistic the bill would pass, but added, “It depends on whether Republican votes are delivered.”

Had the legislation passed, New York would have become the sixth state where marriage between same-sex couples is legal or will soon be permitted. But now that it has failed, New York becomes the latest state where gay rights advocates have made considerable progress only to see their hopes dashed.

To read the entire article from The New York Times, click here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Now is the Time for Congress to Pass an Inclusive ENDA

This guest post is from Mara Keisling, Exec Director, National Center for Transgender Equality; Kate Kendell, Exec Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights; Jody Huckaby, Exec Director, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) National; Michael Mitchell, Exec Director, Stonewall Democrats; Selisse Berry, Exec Director, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates; and Rea Carey, Exec Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Because the Employment Non Discrimination Act is desperately needed by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to combat employment discrimination and is also ripe legislatively, our organizations call on the members of the House Committee on Education and Labor and Congress to take immediate action and pass ENDA without further delay.

Passing a bill of far reaching impact such as ENDA requires considerable labor. Written in large part almost fifteen years ago, with even older roots, tens of thousands of people and organizations have formed and advocated for ENDA. Simply from the perspective of LGBT organizations, our lawyers have helped craft language, our field staff members have mobilized supporters, our communications teams have told our stories, and our lobbyists have logged countless thousands of hours on Capitol Hill and in coalition meetings.

Outside of Washington DC, state, local and some national organizations have worked hard to move ENDA and secure employment protections. They have passed state and local laws, developed relationships with their members of Congress, and leveraged those relationships to educate Congress and push for passage of ENDA. Many individual activists and allies have undertaken considerable time and effort to meet with members of Congress and press for their support.

So many people have worked so hard. All the while, though, people across our country wait, desperate to keep the jobs they have and to work in the jobs they seek. They are the ones who matter and they are the ones who cannot afford to wait if they are to overcome discrimination and have the jobs that they need to feed their families, pay the rent, and contribute to their communities. They need to know that they can get work and keep it without being fired for who they are. They cannot wait any longer nor should they have to.

It is time for Congress to take action and pass ENDA now.

It is important for LGBT people to understand as well that many in Congress have already done so much. A bill simply cannot get this close to passing without the support of hardworking members of Congress. Whether it be the bill's lead champions, Representatives Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin, the late Senator Ted Kennedy and now Senator Jeff Merkley, or so many others in leadership and the rank and file, ENDA is clearly important to many members of Congress as a key part of their work for greater equality in the United States. In fact, ENDA now has 192 co-sponsors, more than any other LGBT bill in history.

It is time for Congress to take action and pass ENDA now.

In recent past years, a large obstacle to passage has been a President who was unwilling to sign ENDA into law. That obstacle is gone. President Obama has promised to sign ENDA if passed by Congress and his administration has worked to advance ENDA in significant ways, including providing witnesses who testified with strong statements of support at both House and Senate hearings this year. A large majority of Americans agree that employment should be based on the ability to do the job--this measure isn't even controversial with the general public.

It is time for Congress to take action and pass ENDA now.

So what needs to happen next?

Work is happening in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, but the most immediate action needed is for the House Education and Labor Committee to take up ENDA in what is called a markup, in which the bill is debated and "marked up" with changes before being voted on in committee and sent on to the full House. As many people know, the Committee had a markup scheduled on November 18, but it was postponed. As requested, many of our organizations have provided direct technical assistance to the Committee to move things forward. We have also expressed very clearly and repeatedly to the Committee the need for immediate action on ENDA. We are deeply concerned that any delay in passing this much needed bill can have only negative consequences on the Hill and for the employment prospects of LGBT people all over the United States.

It is time for Congress to take action and pass ENDA now.

While our organizations and others have worked tirelessly on advancing ENDA for years, and we have proudly worked side by side with grassroots organizers and concerned people across the country, we are heartened by the clear rising tide of ever more people willing to step up and do their part. We urge all LGBT people and allies who want to join this important work--regardless of what else you do or whatever other action feels right to you--that you make sure you take the single most important and effective action: contact your own members of Congress. With few exceptions, everyone in the U.S. has one Representative and two Senators. Whether you believe them to be supportive, hostile or unsure, they need to hear from all of us that ENDA is vitally important and that the LGBT community needs and wants ENDA now. Please, before you do anything else, please call. And if you want to take additional action, then mobilize others to call. Visit www.unitedENDA.org for tools to take action and www.endanow.com for the latest news on ENDA. Feel free to use these tools, and also to speak from the heart about why ENDA is important to you.

Our voices must be heard on Capitol Hill, loudly and clearly, that employment equality is a principle whose time is come. ENDA must pass now. Let's rally our community and our allies alike to stand up for the rights we deserve and the equality we need. We are so close--please help this bill take the final steps towards becoming law.

It is time for Congress to take action and pass ENDA now.

Akron City Council Votes for Non-Discrimination Ordinance

Today's guest post comes to us from David Horowitz, Vice-President of PFLAG National's Board of Directors and member of the Akron, OH chapter.

"I just returned from the Akron, Ohio City Council meeting where we were joined by six members of PFLAG Akron. The City Council voted 11-2 to put into place an anti-discrimination ordinance the includes sexual orientation and gender identity. The only negative was the exemption for religious institutions and exempting groups that contract with the city to provide workers for youth under the age of 18. Those groups must adhere to the provisions of sexual orientation but not gender identity. While that was upsetting, it is a very narrow sub-group and simply means that gender identity would not be included in their contracts. We were not overjoyed, but it was going to be the case and all we could do is sit and witness. We got most of what we felt important, and for that I am grateful to a vast majority of council and the tremendous support of our mayor. Mayor Plusquellic spoke eloquently for the ordinance and against the amendments and credits PFLAG for his understanding, beginning in 1991. All in all, it was a good night."

-David Horowitz

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: D.C. Council votes 11 to 2 to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage in the District

The D.C. Council voted today to legalize same-sex marriage in the District, as the city moves quickly to join five states in allowing gay couples to marry.

After months of debate, the council passed the bill 11 to 2. It still must take a second vote in two weeks before the measure can go to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), who has said he will sign it.

If the bill survives a required congressional review period, the District will join New Hampshire, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and Massachusetts in allowing same-sex marriage.

Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large), one of two openly gay members of the council, said before the vote he thought it was a day that "would never come."

"It really speaks to the long and rich tradition of tolerance and acceptance that does make up the sense of place in the District of Columbia," said Catania, the chief sponsor of the bill.

Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), another key sponsor, said the vote is a culmination of a decades-long struggle by gay rights leaders in the District.

"I don't think it's a giant step; it's a final step," Mendelson said.

Council members Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) and Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7) were the only two members to vote against the bill.

Before casting his vote, Barry gave an impassioned speech noting that he is a longtime supporter of gay rights. But Barry said that his constituents oppose same-sex marriage, and that he believed the council should have authorized a referendum on the issue.

"I stand here today to express in no uncertain terms my strong commitment to the gay and lesbian, bisexual, transgender community on almost every issue except this one," Barry said.

He then went on to plead with gay and lesbian residents not to hold his "no" vote against him.

"It's not fair to make this one issue a litmus test as to one's commitment to human rights, to justice, and I resent those who would make it a litmus test," Barry said.

But council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) said he had no choice but to support the bill, even though many of his constituents oppose same-sex marriage.

"I sit here as a ward member and worry about the consequences but remind everyone . . . we must stand up for the least of those among us" Thomas said.

To read more, click here [Washington Post, free subscription required].

Help PFLAG Ensure that Our LGBT Loved Ones Have Fundamental Workplace Protections!

Across the country, families are preparing to give thanks and celebrate this special time of year. In Washington, DC, your Representatives are preparing to vote on workplace protections for our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) loved ones.

Click here to protect our LGBT loved ones from workplace discrimination!

In 29 states, it is legal to fire someone simply because of their sexual orientation; in 38 states it is legal to fire someone because of an individual's gender identity. This means that, in many states, LGBT family members and friends are not protected from unconscionable discrimination.
If you believe that LGBT Americans deserve the right to work without discrimination, please join PFLAG and hundreds of civil and human rights organizations in urging the U.S. House of Representatives to pass ENDA-the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009.

Call your Representative today, Tuesday, December 1st. Make sure your Representative knows that you support ENDA and that you want them to support ENDA, too.

You make the call! Your voice could be the one that convinces your Representative to support an inclusive ENDA. Call your Representative and ask them to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, H.R. 3017. With your help, all American families will have more to be thankful for this year.