Friday, January 29, 2010

Marriage Equality Banned in Indiana

From The Advocate:

The Indiana senate approved a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage on Thursday, but the measure introduced by Republican Carlin Yoder appears on track to be defeated in the house.

The 38-10 vote in the Republican-controlled senate marked the fourth time the chamber has approved such a measure, reported the Indianapolis Star.

However, this latest measure includes a new restriction on civil unions.

“The amendment passed Thursday, Senate Joint Resolution 13, is more restrictive than the one considered in previous legislative sessions, because it not only would ban judges from allowing same-sex marriages, it also would prevent the legislature from allowing civil unions,” according to the Indianapolis Star.

Indiana law already bans same-sex marriages, which is one of the reasons the constitutional amendment is unlikely to gain traction in the house.

“House Speaker B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, said the amendment is unlikely to receive a hearing this year, arguing the state's trial and appeals courts have upheld Indiana's marriage law,” reports the Indianapolis Star.

A constitutional amendment in Indiana must be approved by two separately elected legislatures before it heads to voters for consideration.

Do Children Need Both a Mother and a Father?

"The bottom line is that the science shows that children raised by two same-gender parents do as well on average as children raised by two different-gender parents. This is obviously inconsistent with the widespread claim that children must be raised by a mother and a father to do well," Biblarz said.

Stacey concluded: "The family type that is best for children is one that has responsible, committed, stable parenting. Two parents are, on average, better than one, but one really good parent is better than two not-so-good ones. The gender of parents only matters in ways that don't matter."

The presumption that children need both a mother and a father is widespread. It has been used by proponents of Proposition 8 to argue against same-sex marriage and to uphold a ban on same-sex adoption.

On the other end of the political spectrum, Barack Obama endorsed the vital role of fathers in a 2008 speech: "Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives, we are reminded today that family is the most important. And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation."

The lead article in the February issue of Journal of Marriage and Family challenges the idea that "fatherless" children are necessarily at a disadvantage or that men provide a different, indispensable set of parenting skills than women.

"Significant policy decisions have been swayed by the misconception across party lines that children need both a mother and a father. Yet, there is almost no social science research to support this claim. One problem is that proponents of this view routinely ignore research on same-gender parents," said sociologist Timothy Biblarz of the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Extending their prior work on gender and family, Biblarz and Judith Stacey of NYU analyzed relevant studies about parenting, including available research on single-mother and single-father households, gay male parents and lesbian parents. "That a child needs a male parent and a female parent is so taken for granted that people are uncritical," Stacey said.

In their analysis, the researchers found no evidence of gender-based parenting abilities, with the "partial exception of lactation," noting that very little about the gender of the parent has significance for children's psychological adjustment and social success.

As the researchers write: "The social science research that is routinely cited does not actually speak to the questions of whether or not children need both a mother and a father at home. Instead proponents generally cite research that compares [heterosexual two-parent] families with single parents, thus conflating the number with the gender of parents."

Indeed, there are far more similarities than differences among children of lesbian and heterosexual parents, according to the study. On average, two mothers tended to play with their children more, were less likely to use physical discipline, and were less likely to raise children with chauvinistic attitudes. Studies of gay male families are still limited.

However, like two heterosexual parents, new parenthood among lesbians increased stress and conflict, exacerbated by general lack of legal recognition of commitment. Also, lesbian biological mothers typically assumed greater caregiving responsibility than their partners, reflecting inequities among heterosexual couples.

"The bottom line is that the science shows that children raised by two same-gender parents do as well on average as children raised by two different-gender parents. This is obviously inconsistent with the widespread claim that children must be raised by a mother and a father to do well," Biblarz said.

Stacey concluded: "The family type that is best for children is one that has responsible, committed, stable parenting. Two parents are, on average, better than one, but one really good parent is better than two not-so-good ones. The gender of parents only matters in ways that don't matter."

This study is published in the February 2010 issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

President Obama: Repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell

In his first State of the Union address, which focused heavily on economic concerns and bolstering the confidence of middle-class Americans, President Barack Obama touted his administration’s hate-crimes achievement and reiterated his support for repealing the military gay ban.

“This year I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are — it’s the right thing to do,” said the president during his hour-plus speech.

The pledge was seen by some as progress even as it dismayed others, especially after reports emerged earlier this week that the president might announce more specific intentions for the policy.

“I think there’s going to be an element of our community that will be disappointed because people were hoping he would lay out something more aggressive and substantive,” said Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United.

But Nicholson called it “a step forward” more because of the platform than because of the content of the speech.

“I think the simple fact that ‘don't ask, don't tell’ is being included in the State of the Union address, alongside the ongoing wars and the economy and health care, is an unequivocal signal that the issue is being raised on the administration's priority list,” he said. “Presidents don't typically throw out issues like this in the State of the Union if the intention is to hold off on them until the following year.”

Nathaniel Frank, author of Unfriendly Fire and a senior fellow at the Palm Center, shared that sentiment.

“That’s certainly a step beyond saying it in front of a bunch of gay donors,” said Frank, referring to Obama’s pledge to end the policy during the Human Rights Campaign fund-raiser last fall.

But Frank also registered some reservations.

“My concern has been all year that the president is dithering — that’s a political mistake and an operational mistake,” he said.

Frank noted that a vacuum of leadership on the issue could allow opponents to circle their wagons.

“People of bad faith can exploit the opening and turn this into a culture war battle,” he said, “and make no mistake, they can win this if people of good faith think they can coast along or show up every once in a while with a vague reiteration.”

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, urged immediate action.

“We applaud the president tonight for his call to Congress to repeal "don't ask, don't tell" this year,” Sarvis said. “We call on the president to repeal the archaic 1993 law in his defense budget currently now being drafted, that is probably the only and best moving bill where DADT can be killed this year. As Rep. Patrick Murphy and Sen. [Kirsten] Gillibrand have made clear, this is the year to repeal the law.”

This is not the first time a president has mentioned LGBT equality in a State of the Union speech. President Bill Clinton called for employment nondiscrimination and hate-crimes protections in his 1999 address.

“Discrimination or violence because of race or religion, ancestry or gender, disability, or sexual orientation is wrong and it ought to be illegal,” Clinton said. “Therefore, I ask Congress to make the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Hate Crimes Prevention Act the law of the land.”

Ten years later, President Barack Obama signed that LGBT-inclusive hate crimes legislation into law.

“We finally strengthened our laws to protect against crimes driven by hate,” Obama noted during his speech.

Obama also sounded aspirational notes of hope and resilience during his address.

“I have never been more hopeful about America’s future than I am tonight,” he said. “Despite our hardships, our union is strong. We do not give up. We do not quit. We don’t allow fear or division to break our spirit. In this new decade, it’s time the American people get a government that matches their decency; that embodies their strength.”

But for LGBT Americans, this year will be a game of wait and see.

As Frank said, “It remains to be seen whether action will be paired with words.”

Rep. Jared Polis Introduces Student Anti-Discrimination Bill

Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO), a leading proponent of equality in education, has introduced historic legislation—H. R. 4350, the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA)—that would protect Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) students by establishing a comprehensive Federal prohibition of discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and provide victims with meaningful and effective remedies. Thus far, SNDA has 60 original co-sponsors.

“Every day innocent students fall victim to relentless harassment and discrimination from teachers, staff, and fellow students based on their sexual orientation,” said Polis. “These actions not only hurt our students and our schools but, left unchecked, can also lead to life-threatening violence. Like Title VI for minorities in the 60s and Title IX for women in the 70s, my legislation puts LGBT students on an equal footing with their peers, so they can attend school and get a quality education, free from fear.”

While Federal civil rights statutes expressly address discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin, they do not explicitly include sexual orientation or gender identity and, as a result, LGBT students and parents have often had limited legal recourse for this kind of discrimination. By establishing a comprehensive Federal prohibition of discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and empowering victims with meaningful and effective remedies (loss of federal funding and legal cause of action for victims) for discrimination, SNDA represents an enormous step toward safe public schools for all kids, regardless of their gender identity and sexual orientation.

More information on SNDA is available by clicking here.

“Hatred has no place in the classroom,” said Polis. “Every student has the right to an education free from harassment and violence. This bill will protect the individual freedoms of our students and enshrine the values of equality and opportunity in our classrooms.”

Polis, a member of the House Education and Labor Committee and Co-Chairman of the House LGBT Equality Caucus, is a former chairman of the Colorado State Board of Education and has founded and served as the superintendent of charter schools serving at-risk student populations.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Update on FL Gay Adoption Ban

Last week we blogged about the Florida gay adoption ban. Today, the Miami Herald is reporting that a Miami-Dade circuit judge has issued a third ruling against the ban.

Judge Maria Sampedro-Iglesia said, "There is no rational connection between sexual orientation and what is or is not in the best interest of a child," when she ruled that Vanessa Alenier could adopt a one-year-old family member as her son.

“While the 1977 law remains in limbo, Sampedro-Iglesia's ruling suggests some state court judges already have made up their minds about gay adoption, a thorny political issue in a state with a significant social conservative streak,” reports the Herald.

The Florida Department of Children and Families has not decided whether it will appeal Sampedro-Iglesia's ruling.

The state is appealing one of two earlier rulings in favor of adoption by gays. That case, Gill v. DCF, is under review in the third district court of appeal, with a decision expected soon.

For more on this story, click here.

Jody Huckaby’s First Article as a Changemaker

We reported in a post earlier this month, PFLAG executive director Jody Huckaby has recently been given the honor of being named a Changemaker on All Changemakers on the site are select prominent activists, elected officials, nonprofit leaders, academics, and artists who have created change on a broad spectrum of progressive issues. Each Changemaker is invited to write periodically for the site about the issues that matter to them. Today, Jody Huckaby wrote his first article for them about some issues that are close to PFLAG’s heart right now.

Read Jody’s thoughts on ENDA, marriage equality, and DADT online now by clicking here.

Walter Trochez Rally and Vigil in Washington, DC

At 8 am today, DC protestors will crowd the streets in front of the State Department (23rd St. between C & D Streets, NW), rallying against a post-coup Honduran de facto government policy of exterminating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals. The rally and vigil responds directly to the spike of LGBT hate crimes that have devastated the country over the past six months. Human rights advocates estimate that since President Manuel Zelaya was deposed in a coup six months ago, up to 18 LGBT individuals (with the vast majority being transgender women) were killed in Honduras. The Miami Herald reported that this level of violent hate crime equals the country’s level of reported homophobic and transphobic hate crimes recorded over the previous five years. Since the coup, many activists have noted there has been a noticeable uptick in violence which most attribute to the breakdown in societal values and laws.

In addition to memorializing those 18 LGBT individuals who were murdered, the protest is named in honor of HIV-positive, gay activist Walter Trochez, who was slain just last month, days after escaping a six-hour kidnapping ordeal. “Walter was afraid,” Reina Rivera, director of the Center for the Investigation and Promotion of Human Rights, told the newspaper. “He was a leader in the (pro-Zelaya) Resistance, but we thought he was in a precarious situation because he was also HIV-positive and gay in a patriarchal, machista and homophobic society.”

Many within and beyond the LGBT community are outraged that no arrests or charges related to the assassination of Walter Trochez along with the 18 additional LGBT individuals who were murdered has occurred. The systemic extermination of any group of individuals should absolutely be condemned. If you live in or around the DC Metro Area, we ask that you take some time to spread the word about this important rally and vigil, and participate if you can. It is important that we send a strong message to the President, the Secretary of State and our Congressional leaders that we demand that they take a bold stance against this egregious violence and disrespect of human life. Our solidarity and sincere compassion go to the family members and friends of those murdered.

Here’s more information regarding today’s rally and vigil:

Washington, DC
Date: Wednesday, January 27
Time: 8-9am and 1-2pm rallies; 9am-1pm vigil
Action: Picket and speak out at U.S. State Department
Location: 2201 C Street NW

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Recap of CA's Prop. 8 Trial

The Advocate yesterday released a recap of of what transpired in the first day of the defense’s arguments in the Prop. 8 trial:

On the first day of what is scheduled to be a truncated defense, Prop. 8 proponents sought to portray gays and lesbians as a powerful minority that has colluded with politicians and professional organizations to further its legislative and social agenda.

Dr. Kenneth Miller, a professor of political science at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif., testified that the LGBT community has been increasingly persuasive in American politics, pushing for antidiscrimination laws, adoption rights, federal hate crimes legislation, and domestic partnership laws in states like California. Miller defined “political powerlessness” as having “no ability to attract attention of the lawmakers.”

When asked by defense attorney David H. Thompson whether the term is applicable to gays, Miller responded, “In my view that’s an incorrect assessment. I do believe that gays and lesbians have power.”

Miller’s testimony was a stark contrast from the plaintiffs’ expert witness who testified on the subject last week. Dr. Gary Segura, a political science professor at Stanford University, concluded from his research that gays lack substantive political power and explained such laws as “attempts to redress discrimination, to ameliorate a disadvantage. … While it’s good to have [these laws], it’s difficult to conclude that’s a measure of political power in itself.”

While defense attorneys had questioned many of the personal, pro-marriage equality sentiments of the plaintiffs’ phalanx of expert witnesses, plaintiffs’ attorney David Boies instead went straight to questioning Miller’s expertise itself, accusing him of doing last-minute research on discrimination laws and other gay-related legislation since his original deposition.

Miller admitted he now knew many elements of hate crimes and antidiscrimination laws that he didn’t know weeks prior. And though he purported to be an expert on discrimination against gays and lesbians, Miller admitted he was either unfamiliar with or hadn’t read the work of many leading experts in the field—some who had testified earlier in the trial.

In his testimony, Miller pointed in particular to federal gains—namely hate crimes legislation and pro-gay statements by Obama on the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act—as evidence of political power. (The Matthew Shepard Act, signed as part of a defense spending bill last fall, took almost nine years to pass into law; both DADT and ENDA have seen little legislative movement in recent months.)

Boies snapped at many of Miller’s assertions: “Is there any other minority in this country that is discharged from the military even when they’re doing a perfectly good job?”

“I’d have to say I’m not aware of any,” Miller replied.

In attempting to prove that gays have been historically subjected to prejudice and discrimination—and therefore comprise a minority vulnerable to the whim of the majority—Boies pressed Miller on his views of whether gays faced more discrimination today than women and racial minorities. “Is it really your testimony that you can’t tell whether [women] face more or less prejudice or stereotyping than gays and lesbians?” Boies asked during one heated exchange.

“I think I’d have to look at it more closely,” Miller said.

“Ok, let me leave gays out of the equation and just talk about lesbians then,” Boies said. “Do lesbians face as much prejudice as women plus more?”

“I would say yes,” Miller replied.

In yet another instance where a defense witness corroborated plaintiffs’ arguments, Boies also grilled Miller on his past academic writings—namely regarding the danger of the initiative process in undermining informed deliberation and consensus-building consistent with a representative democracy. Miller criticized initiatives in his previous writing as “unfiltered, direct democratic rule.”

Defense testimony continues Tuesday. Frank Schubert, the media strategist behind Yes on 8, is expected to testify.

Monday, January 25, 2010

LGBT Activists Rally in Salt Lake City

Photo courtesy of Joe Deluca/KSL-TV 5

According to Salt Lake City's Deseret News, more than 200 gay activists gathered outside Salt Lake City, Utah’s capitol building to call for a common ground with lawmakers.

Academy Award-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black called on members of the gay and lesbian community to be peaceful but persistent in their fight, to share their stories and to reach out to others.

"If people don't know who they're voting against ... they don't so much mind taking away our rights," said Black, who last year won an Academy Award for his screenplay for "Milk." "I did not come to Salt Lake City to protest. I came here to introduce myself and to share a message of love and respect."

Officials from the state's largest gay and lesbian advocacy group, Equality Utah, said their efforts on Capitol Hill would be "scaled back" after last year's campaign — a massive push that never saw a bill escape legislative committee.

"We're going to focus on our municipal efforts," Equality Utah Director Brandie Balken told the Deseret News. "The way we're able to change policy is by getting people on the ground to support those policies. In looking at what happened with our very common sense bills last year, we saw we needed to do more work on the ground."

Balken pointed to the successful passage of Salt Lake City's nondiscrimination ordinances in November as a model for advancing gay rights at the local level. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints publicly supported the ordinances.

"They brought stakeholders to the table, and we want other municipalities to have a chance to do the same thing," she said.

Salt Lake City Councilman Luke Garrott called the ordinances' unanimous passage an important milestone for the city and its residents.

"They are about protection from fear," he said. "But they're also about recognition, and recognition is part of dignity."

Still, a handful of state lawmakers have vowed to carry gay rights legislation — workplace and housing nondiscrimination, probate rights and adoption rights — during the 2010 session."

Friday, January 22, 2010

House Hearing on Anti-Gay Uganda Bill

Yesterday the House of Representatives heard testimony on Uganda's anti-homosexuality bill. The so-called ‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill’ was introduced on October 14, 2009, and would increase the penalty for “same sex sexual acts” to life in prison, limit the distribution of information on HIV through a provision criminalizing the “promotion of homosexuality,” and establish the crime of “aggravated homosexuality” punishable by death for anyone in Uganda who is HIV positive and has consensual same-sex relations. Further, the bill includes a provision that could lead to the imprisonment for up to three years of anyone who fails to report within 24 hours the identities of everyone they know who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, or who supports human rights for people who are, to the government.

The Commission heard testimony from several expert witnesses, including Karl Wycoff, Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Department of State; Julius Kaggwa, Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, Uganda; Cary Alan Johnson, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission; Rev. Kapya Kaoma, Political Research Associates and Christine Lubinski, HIV Medicine Association, Infectious Diseases Society of America. TLHRC Co-Chairman James P. McGovern (D-MA) and TLHRC Exec.

Bruce Wilson, a renowned expert on the Christian Right has put together a very short documentary called "Transforming Uganda." It's important for people to know that this bill is not an isolated incident and in fact the "transformational" movement is working underground in several cities in America.

Foster Father Braces: Ruling May Overturn Gay-Adoption Ban or Take Kids Away

From the Orlando Sentinel:

Sometimes Martin Gill forgets what day it is. And then he starts to feel stressed and anxious and realizes, Oh, this must be Wednesday.

Wednesday, between 10:30 and 10:45 a.m., is when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in Miami releases its rulings on its Web site.

Any Wednesday now, the Court of Appeals will release its ruling on whether Florida's ban on gay adoption is constitutional. Any Wednesday now, Gill will learn whether he gets to keep the two foster children he and his partner have been raising for the past five years, and want to adopt.

"I'm confident we will win, but not so confident that I'm not nervous on those Wednesday mornings," said Gill, 48, a flight attendant who lives in North Miami.

The ACLU of Florida, which is representing Gill in the case, has made the elimination of the adoption ban passed by the Florida Legislature in 1977 a priority. Today Gill will speak at a town-hall meeting sponsored by the ACLU to build public support for ending the prohibition on gay adoption.

Florida is the only state that outright bans adoptions by gay people, although it allows gays and lesbians to be foster parents.

In November 2008, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman ruled that the law was unconstitutional after Gill and his partner applied to adopt the two boys who are now 4 and 9. The Florida Attorney General's Office, on behalf of the state Department of Children and Families, appealed the ruling.

"For the first time in the 30 years of the ban, a court had heard all the scientific evidence on how kids do when they are raised in gay families, and came to the conclusion that there's no rational basis to believe that kids do better with straight families than gay people," said Robert Rosenwald, Gill's ACLU attorney. "The appeals court should uphold the Lederman decision because it is based on evidence, scientific evidence that is largely undisputed by the state."

Mathew Staver, whose Maitland-based Liberty Counsel filed a brief in support of the state, said the appeals court should uphold the adoption ban.

"To permit same-sex adoption is essentially a policy that says children don't need mothers or fathers," said Staver, whose organization opposes gay rights.

DCF workers testified that Gill and his partner were exemplary foster parents and, if not for the ban, they would be recommended for adoption. They said the boys had bonded with Gil and his partner, a railroad employee. The boys call Gill "Poppy" and their other father "Daddy."

Whatever the appeals court rules, its decision is likely to end up with the Florida Supreme Court. The ACLU is prepared for a long fight. The civil-liberties organization has a three-year $240,000 grant to build public support to end the 32-year-old gay-adoption ban, anticipating that the issue may ultimately be decided by public opinion, the Legislature or Florida voters.

Gill thinks there is support among Floridians for gay adoption in a way there wasn't for same-sex marriage.

"We are not asking that every gay person be able to adopt. We are only asking to be included in the people being screened to adopt," Gill said.

During the appeals hearing, the Attorney General's lawyer told the judges that if they uphold the adoption ban, the boys would be removed from Gill's home and placed with another foster family where they would be eligible for adoption. It was the first Gill heard that if he loses the case, he loses his children.

After five months, Gill has learned not to get his hopes too high in a case where the stakes couldn't be higher. Win and he may get to keep his children forever. Lose and they could be gone in an instant.

"They are aware we are fighting for their adoption. We are trying to take them out of foster care and make them part of our forever family," he said. "I never allow them to know they might be taken away."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Straight for Equality Moves Equality Forward on Facebook

Everyone loves Facebook – it’s a great way to keep in touch with friends, connect with people, and have fun. But Facebook can also be used to move equality forward. Our Straight for Equality Facebook page has over 1,000 followers, and last week we asked them to give some advice to a struggling straight ally. The ally wrote:

Dear Straight for Equality,

There are some gay people where I work and I know a few through mutual friends. I really want to feel comfortable around them, but I always feel so awkward. I’m afraid I’m going to offend them by accident by saying the wrong thing or using the wrong terms. I do want to speak up, but I’m still nervous. How can I feel more comfortable speaking up when I’m around gay people?
~ Don

The responses we got were fantastic! It really opened up a discussion about how to be an ally and how to grow one’s ally skills. To read the incredible responses and become a member of the group, visit Straight for Equality on Facebook now!

Cindy McCain in New "NOH8" Ad for Marriage Equality

According to this Advocate article, the NOH8 Campaign on Wednesday announced that Cindy McCain, the wife of former Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, has posed to demonstrate her support of marriage equality. NOH8’s Adam Bouska has photographed thousands of subjects since California passed Proposition 8 in 2008. All of the subjects are photographed with duct tape over their mouths to symbolize that their voices aren’t being heard on the subject of marriage equality.

Writes the NOH8 blog: “In the year since we’ve started the NOH8 Campaign, we’ve been surprised at some of the different individuals who have approached us showing their support. Few, though, have surprised us more than Cindy McCain — the wife of Senator John McCain and mother to vocal marriage equality advocate Meghan McCain. The McCains are one of the most well-known Republican families in recent history, and for Mrs. McCain to have reached out to us to offer her support truly means a lot. Although we had worked with Meghan McCain before and we were aware of her own position, we’d never really thought the cause might be something her mother could get behind.”

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

PFLAG Stars, Part Two: Dave (and Joan) Parker

From Jody M. Huckaby, Executive Director, PFLAG National:

One of the aspects of PFLAG’s work that makes me most proud is our long-term commitment to the inclusion of our transgender family and friends in all of the work that we do, from support, to education, to advocacy. In fact, PFLAG was the first national organization to pass a resolution that codified this commitment, ensuring that everything that we support be fully inclusive.

Understanding why this commitment is so critical is simple when you meet someone like Dave Parker. He and his wife, Joan, have been long-time PFLAG leaders and integral figures in PFLAG’s Transgender Network (TNET). Like most PFLAG members, it was the revelation of one of their children that propelled them into action, and their work has touched countless family members and transgender individuals around the country. They are active on a local level with their chapter in Greensboro, NC and on the national level, with Dave sitting on the PFLAG National Board of Directors.

On Feb. 27, Dave Parker will be presented with the Legacy Award by The Human Rights Campaign in North Carolina. This award recognizes an individual who has contributed efforts to improve the lives and visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people over a period of time. The recipient should have a consistent and significant list of contributions to the LGBT community and be seen as a role model to others. Examples could include initiating, leading and enhancing LGBT organizations and events. From where I sit, Dave certainly deserves this honor.

You can learn more about the HRC Carolinas dinner at their website. Tickets are still available, so if you’re in the area, please consider attending and you’ll have the chance to see Dave and hear about his work in-person. And if you can’t make it, be sure to read Dave and Joan’s story as part of the PFLAG Story Center or learn more about TNET.

Congratulations, Dave!

PFLAG Stars, Part One: Sam & Julia Thoron

From Jody M. Huckaby, Executive Director, PFLAG National:

In my tenure at PFLAG, I’ve had the privilege to serve the organization under the leadership of two board presidents. The first of these was Sam Thoron…and anyone who knows Sam also knows that never far away from Sam is his wife, Julia. Together, they have provided years of leadership to PFLAG on both a local and national level, and it is rare to meet a PFLAGer who has come in contact with them who cannot speak of how the Thorons touched their lives.

Next month, Equality California will honor the Thorons with the Phyllis Lyon & Del Martin Marriage Equality Award, recognizing their tremendous contributions to the fight for marriage equality and especially the battle to defeat Proposition 8. For those who have not had the chance to meet the Thorons in person and experience the passion that they have for securing the right to marry for everyone need not look much further than the commercial that they did during the Prop 8 fight in 2007. As PFLAG’s president, Sam always encouraged people to tell their family stories to change hearts and minds, and just listening to some of the voices that he and Julia have influenced proves that they are right.

I feel honored to have worked with Sam and Julia – as do all of the PFLAG members and supporters who have ever had the same privilege, and we are all thrilled to know that they will be recognized for the invaluable work that they continue to do on behalf of families everywhere. If you are in the San Francisco area, you can still get tickets to the EQCA event to hear from the Thorons themselves, so check out their website today.

Congratulations, Sam and Julia – and here’s to many more years of moving (marriage) equality forward!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Out Professor Selected for Federal Bench

The U.S. District Court of Northern California has issued a press release on the appointment of Donny Ryu to the federal bench.

"The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has announced the selection of Professor Donna M. Ryu for a full-time U.S. magistrate judge position to be located in Oakland. Professor Ryu has served on the faculty of the University of California, Hastings College of the Law since 2002, where she taught and supervised students in the Hastings Civil Justice Clinic. Prior to joining the Hastings faculty, Professor Ryu was Associate Professor of Law and Associate Director of the Women=s Employment Rights Clinic at Golden Gate University of Law in San Francisco. She began her legal career in appellate practice with McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen, before joining the law firm formerly known as Saperstein, Seligman, Mayeda & Larkin, where she litigated civil rights class actions on behalf of plaintiffs. She later co-founded Ryu, Dickey & Larkin, a civil rights firm in Oakland, California. Professor Ryu graduated from Yale University and Berkeley Law School, where she was a founding member of the Berkeley Women's Law Journal (now Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice).

Professor Ryu has received numerous awards and recognitions, including the Asian American Bar Association’s Joe Morozumi Award for Exceptional Legal Advocacy, the California Lawyer of the Year (“CLAY”) Award for Employment Law; and The Rutter Award for Excellence in Teaching, presented annually to the top Hastings professor for teaching excellence. She has also been honored by the Korean American Bar Association of Northern California, the California Employment Lawyers Association, and the Hastings Public Interest Law Foundation. She has written and lectured extensively on the subject of employment law, including presentations before the American Bar Association, the National Academy of Arbitrators, the California State Bar, and the Bar Association of San Francisco.

Professor Ryu is the daughter of Korean immigrants. She and her partner, Barbara Dickey, live in the East Bay. She has one daughter.

Professor Ryu is slated to commence her judicial duties on March 1, 2010."

Friday, January 15, 2010

My Big, Phat Same-Sex Prison Wedding

"I was wearing my orange jumpsuit with black tennis shoes on my wedding day. And I was not able to kiss my wife.

We got married in San Francisco County Jail on Aug. 19, 2008. I remember it like it was yesterday. The jail staff told me this was the first time a same-sex marriage happened there. I was so scared and nervous.

I signed the marriage license papers in front of the notary lady from the bail bonds place across the street. My wife-to-be, Shayonna, wasn't allowed upstairs, so we signed it separately. After that, a guard took me into this little room where Shayonna was waiting. She looked so pretty. Her hair was in this little cute bun with a ponytail. She had braids and little spikes coming out of the bun. She was wearing a silver skirt with a champagne-colored shirt and orange shoes. The only thing I could do special was my hair -- I put a little ponytail at the top of my single braids.

We said our vows, and I cried like a big baby, because I couldn’t believe I was really getting married to this beautiful woman. We both said "I do," and then we took a picture. We were about to touch each other -- but the guard said we couldn't.

It was very hard for me to say "I do" and not kiss the love of my life. She had to walk out first and then they let me walk out. I was singing "Ready for Love" by India Arie.

I proposed to Shayonna soon after I landed in jail. I told her, "Now is a good time for us to get married, because we might not be able to get married when I get out of jail because same-sex marriage might not be allowed in California anymore."

She said yes.

The first pastor we found said he couldn't marry us when he found out I was a woman. But we eventually found one.

After we were married, everybody, both the guards and the inmates, were like, "Oh congratulations!"

"I'm so happy!" I replied to everybody. And I cried out, "I’m married!"

To read this entire article, click here.

Into the Closet: NYT Opinion Piece

From Thursday's New York Times:

Has anyone noticed that now that lesbians and gay men have left the closet to assert their equal rights as citizens, their adversaries seem to be running for a closet of their own?

My observation is, of course, prompted by the success that opponents of same-sex marriage had this week in persuading the Supreme Court to bar cameras from the San Francisco courtroom where Proposition 8 is now on trial. That is the amendment that California’s voters added to the state’s Constitution to provide that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

Judge Vaughn R. Walker of United States District Court for the Northern District of California, presiding over the challenge to Proposition 8 in the non-jury trial that began on Monday, announced last month that the court would provide a live video feed to enable remote viewing elsewhere in the courthouse as well as in federal courthouses in four other cities. He also raised the additional prospect of later posting on YouTube and the Internet. The Proposition 8 defenders, claiming that their witnesses would face harassment if their testimony was broadcast beyond the courtroom, asked the Supreme Court to block the plan. By the familiar vote of 5 to 4, the court quickly complied.

Beyond the ideological divide that the case produced, and the fact that Justice Sonia Sotomayor allied herself in dissent with her three most liberal colleagues, Justices Stephen G. Breyer, John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a public spat between two powerful judicial forces provided another intriguing dimension to this fast-moving dispute.

One was Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, who approved the district court’s remote video plan. The other was the Judicial Conference of the United States, the federal courts’ chief policy-making body, headed by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who remained in the background as two top conference officials sent Judge Kozinski a coolly worded two-sentence letter “to bring to your attention” the longstanding Judicial Conference policy against televising trials.

Judge Kozinski, long the Peck’s Bad Boy of the federal judiciary, known for flaunting both brilliance and quirkiness, shot back with a reminder of his own — that “like it or not, we are now well into the 21st century.” His six-page letter basically declared that the Ninth Circuit would continue to do what it wanted. To describe the Supreme Court’s subsequent unsigned opinion blocking the video plan as a rebuke of Judge Kozinski would be an understatement.

That intrajudicial melodrama, so delicious that I could not resist describing it, should not obscure the larger canvas against which this episode unfolded. The Proposition 8 backers are far from the only proponents of “traditional marriage” to run for cover after invoking the levers of direct democracy. And the Supreme Court may have just begun to explore the issues raised by this quest for a new application of the old right to privacy.

To read this article in its entirety, click here.

Tru Loved Comes to DVD! Buy Now and Support PFLAG!

Ready for a PFLAG movie night? Check out Tru Loved – which is now on DVD! PFLAG provided support for the production which tells the story of Tru, who recently relocated from San Francisco to conservative suburbia with her lesbian mothers, and, like all teens, struggles to fit in and find love, but her quest is complicated by sexual politics, closed minds, and closeted friends as she seeks to establish her school's first Gay-Straight Alliance.

The movie features many PFLAG favorites like Alec Mapa, Jane Lynch, and Bruce Villanch. The trailer for the film is available on YouTube, so check it out. Once you’ve had your preview, head over to the Brown Bag Productions website to purchase the film today. If you do your purchase through the Brown Bag site, you’ll be able to specify which organization you’d like to support with your purchase. We, of course, strongly suggest that you indicate PFLAG.

While you’re on the site, click on the PSA link to watch a great message about Safe Schools and PFLAG’s work from Alec Mapa.

South African Runner Allowed to Compete as a Woman

Last August and September we followed the story of Castor Semenya, the runner from South Africa who was forced to go through a series of tests to prove her gender.

This week comes news that she is free to compete on the international level while the investigation into her gender continues.

According to the Associated Press, coach Michael Seme said Wednesday that Semenya’s lawyer advised him that the 800-meter world champion can compete in the new season that starts this month.

The International Association of Athletics Federations ordered that Semenya be tested in August hours after the 800-meter final in Berlin, where the teenager showed a muscular build and exceptionally improved performance.

Semenya was never officially suspended by the IAAF, pending the outcome of the gender tests, according to the AP.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Need a vacation? Check out Marriott’s new LGBT travel site!

PFLAG has had a great partnership with Marriott – and there are many reasons why. Marriott has been an active supporter of workplace equality with a 100% on the Corporate Equality Index, stood out as a PFLAG National sponsor and supporter of our Straight for Equality project, and has had significant support for other LGBT organizations.

But now we have one more reason to celebrate our partnership: this month, Marriott launched its first LGBT travel site. The new (and ever-expanding) site features background information on Marriott’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, details on their corporate philanthropy, and – of course – tools to help plan your next LGBT-friendly vacation.

Visit – and bookmark – the new Marriott LGBT travel site today to learn more, discover LGBT highlights at featured destinations, and start planning that get-out-of-the-cold holiday now. (And don’t miss the search function that allows you to find hotels that will allow your family pets to come along, too!)

PFLAG’s Jody Huckaby Featured as a Changemaker!

The site is great place to get information – and action alerts – on a broad spectrum of progressive and human rights-focused issues. This week, the team at added to their network by introducing their panel of Changemakers. These are individuals who come from a variety of backgrounds but all have one thing in common: working for change and providing people with opportunities to make that change happen.

We’re proud to announce that PFLAG National’s Executive Director, Jody M. Huckaby, is among the panel of featured Changemakers.

The Changemakers network is comprised of prominent leaders in social change from all sectors – politics, activism, nonprofit work, academia, and entertainment – who are making a difference on the most important human rights issues we face. Each Changemaker will be writing periodically on about their work, advancing public dialogue on major issues and mobilizing the community to get involved and take action.

Learn more about the network and read Jody’s initial contribution to the site by visiting

Same-Sex Marriage in China?

Yesterday, media in China hailed what was believed to be the first public instance of a same-sex wedding in the world’s most populous country.

Zeng Anquan, 45, and Pan Wenjie, 27, married in a ceremony attended by 200 friends in the southwestern city of Chengdu on January 3, according to Agence France-Presse.

Laws in China, where homosexuality was officially considered a mental illness until recently, do not recognize same-sex marriages.

According to AFP, the English-language China Daily featured a front-page photograph and story about the men, in coverage that marks significant progress.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Exhibit on Persecution of Gay Men in the Holocaust Comes to New Hampshire

PFLAG New Hampshire and Regional Director Roberta Barry have worked with other local groups for two years to bring a traveling exhibit titled “Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945” to Keene State College. The exhibit tells the story of the Nazi government’s persecution of German gay men during the Holocaust. Through reproductions of historic pictures and documents the exhibit explores the rationale, means, and impact of the Nazi regime's mission to eradicate homosexuality that resulted in thousands of deaths. The exhibit from the National Holocaust Memorial Museum is free and open to the public through February 9.

PFLAG Board Member Awarded HRC Legacy Award

At the Human Rights Campaign's Carolinas Gala in February, PFLAG's own Dave Parker will be awarded the Legacy Award!

According to the HRC press release about the event, "Mr. Parker is being recognized for his work with and on behalf of the transgender community, not just in North Carolina, but nationwide and for his work with PFLAG both locally and nationally. Not only has he worked to be an ally and an advocate, he has mentored, counseled, and parented countless transgender men, women, and children serving to help them and their families understand and cope with their transition.”

Congrats, Dave!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Opening Statements from the Prop 8 Trial

The federal trial over the unconstitutionality of Proposition 8 began yesterday with an opening statement by attorney Theodore Olson, who with David Boies is leading the legal team assembled by the American Foundation for Equal Rights to litigate the case Perry v. Schwarzenegger. Opening statements will be followed by testimony from Kris Perry, Sandy Stier, Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, who comprise two couples who wish to be married but who were denied marriage licenses because of Proposition 8.

Below are some of Ted Olson's comments. You can
click here to read the statement in its entirety.

This case is about marriage and equality. Plaintiffs are being denied both the right to marry, and the right to equality under the law.

The Supreme Court of the United States has repeatedly described the right to marriage as “one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men;” a “basic civil right;” a component of the constitutional rights to liberty, privacy, association, and intimate choice; an expression of emotional support and public commitment; the exercise of spiritual unity; and a fulfillment of one’s self.

In short, in the words of the highest court in the land, marriage is “the most important relation in life,” and “of fundamental importance for all individuals.”

As the witnesses in this case will elaborate, marriage is central to life in America. It promotes mental, physical and emotional health and the economic strength and stability of those who enter into a marital union. It is the building block of family, neighborhood and community. The California Supreme Court has declared that the right to marry is of “central importance to an individual’s opportunity to live a happy, meaningful, and satisfying life as a full member of society.”

Proposition 8 ended the dream of marriage, the most important relation in life, for the plaintiffs and hundreds of thousands of Californians.

In May of 2008, the California Supreme Court concluded that under this State’s Constitution, the right to marry a person of one’s choice extended to all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation, and was available equally to same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

In November of 2008, the voters of California responded to that decision with Proposition 8, amending the State’s Constitution and, on the basis of sexual orientation and sex, slammed the door to marriage to gay and lesbian citizens.

The plaintiffs are two loving couples, American citizens, entitled to equality and due process under our Constitution. They are in deeply committed, intimate, and longstanding relationships. They want to marry the person they love; to enter into that “most important relation in life”; to share their dreams with their partners; and to confer the many benefits of marriage on their families.

But Proposition 8 singled out gay men and lesbians as a class, swept away their right to marry, pronounced them unequal, and declared their relationships inferior and less-deserving of respect and dignity.

In the words of the California Supreme Court, eliminating the right of individuals to marry a same-sex partner relegated those individuals to “second class” citizenship, and told them, their families and their neighbors that their love and desire for a sanctioned marital partnership was not worthy of recognition.

During this trial, Plaintiffs and leading experts in the fields of history, psychology, economics and political science will prove three fundamental points:

First – Marriage is vitally important in American society.

Second – By denying gay men and lesbians the right to marry, Proposition 8 works a grievous harm on the plaintiffs and other gay men and lesbians throughout California, and adds yet another chapter to the long history of discrimination they have suffered.

Third – Proposition 8 perpetrates this irreparable, immeasurable, discriminatory harm for no good reason.

To continue reading, click here.

Harold Ford Jr. Announces Support for Marriage Equality

Several sources are reporting today that Harold Ford Jr. has come out as a supporter of marriage equality.

As a candidate for the U.S. Senate from Tennessee, Harold Ford Jr. advocated a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages. But as he eyes a run for the Senate from New York, he now advocates both civil unions and gay marriage.

Ford, who represented Memphis in Congress for five terms, was asked if he now favors gay marriage on Monday's "Today Show," and he said he did.

Ford, who as a congressman voted for the federal amendment to ban same-sex marriage, has come under fire from gay rights advocates as he reportedly weighs a bid to challenge Gillibrand, an outspoken gay rights supporter, in the Democratic primary.

According to the New York Post, Ford hedged and invoked other Democratic leaders when Lauer asked whether his views represented a “change” in position.

"Maybe in the language,” said Ford. “But I'm a believer that benefits should flow to same-sex partners and if indeed the fiction of the language, the title, should be changed, much like Chuck Schumer who changed his mind on it and Bill Clinton's evolved, I'm of the opinion now that nothing is wrong with that,” he said.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Tune in Tonight to Hear from PFLAG on Derek & Romaine!

PFLAG's executive director, Jody M. Huckaby and PFLAG's Director of Equality Partnerships & Communicatons, Jean-Marie Navetta, are scheduled for a phone interview with Derek and Romaine of Sirius XM Satellite Radio today, January 11th at 7:05 pm ET. They'll be talking about the ex-gay movement, what PFLAG is doing to respond, and why people should be paying more attention now than ever before.

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

Sometimes, Letterman Really Isn’t Funny

I believe I speak for all of us when I say that it’s very exciting and encouraging that Amanda Simpson has been appointed as a senior technical advisor at the Commerce Department, making her the first transgender presidential appointee in history. And I think I speak for all of us again when I say that I am saddened that Ms. Simpson was made the butt of a tasteless joke on “Late Show with David Letterman” on January 5, 2010. During the show, David Letterman reported that Amanda Simpson had been appointed to her position and noted that she is transgender. Then, Alan Kalter, the show’s announcer, yelled, “What? Amanda used to be a dude? My God!” and rushed off the stage looking repulsed.

This pervasive negative attitude directed at the transgender community is not only wrong, it is harmful. When people are treated as disgusting, when they are treated as walking jokes, it robs these people of the respect and decency that every person deserves. And when a public figure such as David Letterman makes jokes like these, it validates people’s negative beliefs about an already misunderstood community. It allows people to see transgender individuals as less than human. And that is harmful.

To speak out against David Letterman and his cruel “joke”, you can send an e-mail to CBS by clicking here.

New January 2010 PFLAG Update is out Now!

This time of year, everyone is making New Year’s resolutions. Well, PFLAG is no exception! In this month’s brand new PFLAG Update, we’ll show you step by step how to make and keep three resolutions that will move equality forward for our LGBT friends and family. We know you’ve got the will, and PFLAG has the way. Read the January 2010 PFLAG Update online now by clicking here.

Also, you can subscribe to our online e-mail list so you’ll never miss another informative PFLAG Update. Click here to receive the PFLAG Update in your e-mail inbox every month automatically.

Update: Court Blocks Taping of Prop. 8 Trial

The Supreme Court is blocking a broadcast of the trial on California's same-sex marriage ban, at least for the first few days.

The federal trial is scheduled to begin today in San Francisco. It will consider whether the Proposition 8 gay marriage ban approved by California voters in November 2008 is legal.

The high court on Monday said it will not allow video of the trial to be posted on, even with a delay, until the justices have more time to consider the issue. It said that Monday's order will be in place at least until Wednesday. Opponents of the broadcast say they fear witness testimony might be affected if cameras are present. Justice Stephen Breyer said he would have allowed cameras while the court considers the matter.

Prop. 8 Challenge Begins Today in California

According to The Washington Post the first federal trial to determine if the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from outlawing same-sex marriage gets under way in California today, and the two gay couples on whose behalf the case was brought will be among the first witnesses.

The proceedings, which are expected to last two to three weeks, involve a challenge to Proposition 8, the gay marriage ban approved by California voters in November 2008.

Regardless of the outcome, the case is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it ultimately could become a landmark that determines if gay Americans have the right to marry.

The judge who will render a decision, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker, has asked lawyers arguing for and against the ban to present the facts underlying much of the political rhetoric surrounding same-sex marriage. Among the questions Walker plans to entertain are whether sexual orientation can be changed, how legalizing gay marriage affects traditional marriages and the effect on children of being raised by two mothers or two fathers.

"The case is intriguing, exciting and potentially very significant because it addresses multiple important questions that, surprisingly to many, remain open in federal law," said Jennifer Pizer, marriage director for the gay law advocacy group Lambda Legal. "Can the state reserve the esteemed language and status of marriage just for heterosexual couples, and relegate same-sex couples to a lesser status? Are there any adequate public interests to justify reimposing such a caste system for gay people, especially by a majority vote to take a cherished right from a historically mistreated minority?"

The sponsors of Proposition 8, which passed with 52 percent of the vote, won permission to defend the law in court after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown refused to. The attorney general and the governor are defendants in the case because of their positions in state government.

Lawyers for the measure's backers plan to argue that because same-sex marriage still is a social experiment, it is wise for states like California to take a wait-and-see approach. Their witnesses will testify that governments historically have sanctioned traditional marriage as a way to promote responsible child-rearing and that this remains a valid justification for limiting marriage to a man and a woman.

The anticipation and tension surrounding the trial were evident over the weekend, when Proposition 8's sponsors asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the proceedings from being recorded and broadcast on YouTube. Walker approved such a plan last week, saying the case was appropriate for wide dissemination because it dealt with an issue of wide interest and importance.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who oversees the federal courts in western states, did not act on the emergency petition Sunday night.

While other courts have wrestled with the constitutional issues raised by prohibiting same-sex marriages - the Supreme Court last took a look at the issue 38 years ago - Walker's court is the first to employ live witnesses in the task. Among those set to testify are the leaders of the Proposition 8 campaign, academic experts from the fields of political science, history, psychology and economics, and the two plaintiff couples - Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier, who live in Berkeley, and Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo, who live in Los Angeles.

Chad Griffin, a political consultant who helped spearhead the lawsuit, said the four were recruited to represent California couples who say they would get married were it not for Proposition 8 because they lead lives indistinguishable from those of other couples, gay or straight, who have jobs, children and a desire for the social stamp of approval that matrimony affords, Griffin said.

"Our story, I think, is pretty ordinary," said Perry, 45, the title plaintiff in the case registered on legal dockets as Perry v. Schwarzenegger. "We fell in love, we want to get married and we can't. It's pretty simple." The women have been together for almost 10 years and since 2004 have been registered domestic partners, a legal relationship that in California carries most of the benefits and obligations of a full-fledged marriage.

Stier, 47, was married to a man for 12 years. She said the differences between marriage and domestic partnerships, part of what will be debated during the trial, are profound. She and Perry have to take extra legal precautions when they travel to states that do not recognize gay relationships and continually explain to friends and family what a domestic partnership is, Stier said.

"I had that feeling of security that comes with marriage and the assumption of many of the comforts and protections society affords. I can feel the difference in a very personal way," she said. "The word 'partnership' is used for business deals, tennis matches and golf games. It doesn't feel like the appropriate kind of word to describe my relationship with the person I love."

The Advocate will be streaming live coverage of the trial beginning at 8:30am (Pacific time).

Friday, January 8, 2010

Tune in on Monday to Hear from PFLAG on Derek & Romaine!

PFLAG's executive director, Jody M. Huckaby and PFLAG's Director of Equality Partnerships & Communicatons, Jean-Marie Navetta, are scheduled for a phone interview with Derek and Romaine of Sirius XM Satellite Radio on Monday, January 11th at 7:05 pm ET. They'll be talking about the ex-gay movement, what PFLAG is doing to respond, and why people should be paying more attention now than ever before.

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

While NJ Senate Rejects Marriage, Portugal is Set for Marriage Equality

In the wake of the New Jersey Senate’s rejection of efforts to secure marriage rights for all residents of the Garden State, Portugal -- traditionally one of Europe's most socially conservative countries -- is expected to approve the legalization of same-sex marriage today with minimal opposition.

With the governing Socialists and other left-wing parties enjoying a strong majority, the new law is likely to sail through the first reading debate and gain final approval before a visit by Pope Benedict XVI, due in Portugal in May.

In contrast to Spain, where the lead-up to the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2005 brought hundreds of thousands of demonstrators onto the streets, the bill in Portugal has provoked only muted opposition even from the right.

While normally vocal on the role of marriage and the family in society, the Catholic Church has refused to mobilize on a subject which, according to Lisbon's Cardinal Patriarch Jose Policarpo, is "parliament's responsibility."

"I think the Portuguese people have learnt one of the fundamental tenets of democracy: respect for the rights of the individual," Miguel Vale de Almeida, Portugal's first openly-gay lawmaker who was elected in September, told AFP.

Vale de Almeida, who is the Socialists' pointman on the legislation, said there is now a political majority in favor of same-sex marriage and that it is "too simplistic to link Catholicism and conservatism."

According to poll conducted late last year by the Eurosondagem institute, while a strong majority (68.4 percent) of Portuguese are opposed to adoptions by same-sex couples, they are more evenly divided when it comes to same-sex marriage with 49.5 percent against, with 45.5 percent in favor.

On Tuesday, campaigners handed a petition with more than 90,000 signatures to demand a referendum on the subject into parliament.

But having had its fingers burnt by two referendums which preceded the legalization of abortion in 2007, the government has ruled out consulting with the public as the measure was part of its manifesto in last year's election.

Prime Minister Jose Socrates' Socialists may have lost their majority in the September 27 election, but still command the support of other left-wing parties in parliament who should guarantee that the marriage bill is passed.

While opposed to the concept of same-sex "marriages", the center-right opposition Social Democrat party says it is favor of a civil partnership that would give gays and lesbians the same rights as heterosexual couples minus adoptions.

Deputies are also expected on Friday to vote two other bills submitted by the Green party, the Left Bloc and others which would grant gay and lesbian couples the right to adopt children.

If the marriage proposals do pass through parliament, they will the have to go through a parliamentary commission before coming back for the final approval.

According to media reports, both the government and the Catholic Church wants the gay marriage issue to be resolved before the visit of the pope, scheduled for May 11-14.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Reminder: NJ Legislature to Debate Marriage Equality Legislation This Afternoon

Today New Jersey is in the position to enter the few (but proud) group of states that have embraced marriage equality. The New Jersey Senate will be debating and voting on the legislation this afternoon, and you can log on online and watch the event unfold live from your computer. Observers suggest that the action will start around 2:00 p.m. today, but keep checking the site for updates.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Judge Rules in Favor of Courtroom Transparency

Thanks to the swift and tremendous activism of so many of our members and other interested parties in California, Judge Walker ruled that the Prop. 8 Trial will be recorded and put on the Internet via YouTube daily. If the Ninth Circuit approves this decision, the trial will be live-streamed to all Ninth Circuit courthouses along with the Northern District of Illinois, which specifically requested to receive the live-feed.

Additionally, you can follow the Prop 8 Trial as it unfolds here at The America Foundation for Equal Rights is dedicated to protecting and advancing equal rights for every American starting with fighting for the battle for marriage equality. To learn more about the organization’s work, click here.

A Clergyman's Support for Constitution-Granted Marriage Equality

Tomorrow New Jersey will be in the position to enter the few (but proud) group of states that have embraced marriage equality. The New Jersey Senate will be debating and voting on the legislation Thursday afternoon, and you can log on online and watch the event unfold live from your computer. Observers suggest that the action will start around 2:00 p.m. today, but keep checking the site for updates.

As legislators in New Jersey consider this tremendously important question, there are no shortage of opinions on how the vote should go. One of the best ones out there comes from our PFLAG National Board member, Rev. Gil Caldwell. Rev. Caldwell lives in Asbury Park, NJ and is a retired United Methodist Minister. He shared his powerful opinion about the critical need for the right to marry with Garden State Equality, and we’re happy to reprint it here.

"I will not be able to be in Trenton on Thursday with my clergy colleagues, the amazing young (and not-so-young) members and friends of Garden State Equality and others as the New Jersey Senate votes to affirm marriage equality. But, these words reflect the hope that is within me as the Senate votes. I have written elsewhere that being with and on the edge of the efforts of Garden State Equality brought back for me memories of "Mississippi Freedom Summer", the Selma to Montgomery March and the March on Washington. Of course there are differences in the long struggles of those of us who are African Americans and the struggles of persons who are same gender loving. Of course Garden State Equality in its enthusiams and efforts may have "rubbed some supporters the wrong way", But, just as today most Americans celebrate what the Civil Rights Movement did for America, there will come a time when most New Jerseyans will celebrate what the New Jersey Legislature, in response to its commitment to Constitution-granted equality and the witness of Garden State Equality, did as it votes for marriage equality.

Some thoughts that may be helpful if shared, in anticipation of the Thursday vote.

1. I am a 76 year old racial, "Segregation Survivor". When I was born in North Carolina, I was born amidst a legislative, historical and cultural environment that believed that my race that I had nothing to do with, justified my second class and segregated status. The New Jesey Legislature has the opportunity to eliminate second class and segregregated status for persons whose sexual orientation from birth is same-gender loving.

2. The New Jesey Senate will be voting at a time when the Legislature of Uganda is considering legislation that would impose punitive sanctions, even death, upon same gender loving persons. New Jersey nor the USA are Uganda. Yet there are some persons, under the guise of supporting traditonal marriage and a narrow biblical interpretation, who would do in New Jersey that, that is proposed in Uganda. My 52 years of "traditional" marriage, my Biblical faith and most of all my commitment to the concept/practice of equality embedded in our nation's principles makes it impossible for me to expect anything less than marriage equality for my fellow citizens who are same gender loving.

3. The proverbial, "Some of my best friends", are against marriage equality is true. They are still my friends even though some of them have been "less friendly" because of my open support for marriage equality. Some of them question the validity of my Christian faith now, because of my ally/advocacy of gay rights. But, I do not question the sincerity of their faith. They, like many of my friends throughout the nation who supported legal racial segregation in the past, are "good people who do not realize that their resistance to marriage equality is not so good" (my paraphrase of the words of theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr). They do not realize that today their words and actions that would prohibit marriage equality are not much different from the words of Governor George Wallace, who on the campus of the University of Alabma sought to block racial integration, by declaring, "Segregation now, Segregation tomorrow, Segregation forever." If any of us look at the University of Alabama football team, both on the field and on the sidelines, the cheerleaders and the fans as the University of Alabama plays for the national championship, it will be evident how wrong Governor Wallace was. I say to my friends and colleagues who today oppose marriage equality, they do not want historians of this era or their grandchildren, nieces and nephews to read about their efforts to prohibit marriage equality. Their legacy ought not include their resistance to marriage equality.

Grace, my spouse will say (as usual) that I have written more than I should have (I have). But, we are now living in New Jersey to be near our only grandchild, a 5 year old who lives in New Brunswick. I do not want her to grow up in a state that segregates persons because of their sexual orientation and denies them the right to marry. I, with millions of black persons "grew up" in a time of racial segregation and prohibitions against interracial marriage. I do not want her to grow up in a state that practices another kind of segregation. And, I believe that if most persons listened to their "better angels," neither would they."

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Maryland DMV Halts Dangerous Policy Change

Recently, the Maryland Vehicle Administration (MVA) was looking at requiring an amended birth certificate in order for transgender Marylanders to update the gender marker on their driver’s license in addition to previous requirements of providing a letter from a physician or therapist verifying their gender identity. The proposed change was scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2010. Making such a change to an applicant’s driver’s license would have required going through the court system. Additionally, a birth certificate change can only be done if the applicant has undergone genital reconstruction procedures.

This proposed change creates significant barriers for individuals to obtain accurate identification reflecting the way they live. For example, there are some transgender individuals who will never want to surgically modify their bodies, some for whom such procedures are medically impossible or dangerous, and others who do wish to modify their bodies but do not have the financial resources to access such surgeries – procedures that very rarely are covered by health insurance companies for those lucky enough to have any form of public or private health insurance. Furthermore, the high cost of legal fees to access an amended birth certificate discriminates against no/low-income transgender individuals in particular who already have a difficult time accessing medical and mental health care services to “prove” who they really are.

Thankfully, due to incredible activism and community mobilization on the part of Equality Maryland and many other concerned constituents and community organizations throughout the state, the Office of the Attorney General has halted the proposed policy changes. The Attorney General’s Office issued the following statement from the MVA:

MVA believes that the current policy on gender designation which has been in practice for almost a decade is secure and the procedures we have adopted ensures reasonable accommodation for individuals who are making a gender transition change. At this time, MVA is not effecting a change to that policy. However, written legal advice received from the Office of Attorney General clearly states that MVA’s current policy does not meet all statutory requirements and we are therefore continuing to work with the Office of Attorney General before making a final determination on whether a policy update is appropriate.

At this point, the MVA intends to stick with current procedures; however, they continue to assert that the policy may not meet all statutory requirements. PFLAG National and our community partners will continue to monitor the situation and interface with relevant stakeholders to either secure a change in the statutory requirements or assess possible policy revisions that are in the best interest of transgender Marylanders.

Having a legal identity document that does not match a person’s gender exposes them to the potential of embarrassment, harassment, discrimination and violence. We are pleased with the MVA and Attorney General’s responsiveness to our concerns and with their decision to halt the implementation of this dangerous policy change in order to foster a working group that can achieve compliance with the law, but more importantly, to help transgender Marylanders obtain accurate identity documents without financial hardship and onerous bureaucracy.

Of course, should something change with this policy, we will be sure to update our Maryland chapter leaders and members alike through our action alert system. If you aren’t currently receiving these updates, please let us know, and we’ll make sure you receive this important information. In the meantime, if you have additional questions regarding this issue, please be sure to contact our Policy Manager, Rhodes Perry at

First HIV+ Man Set to Legally Enter U.S. Since Ban Lifted

Clemons Ruland (right), courtesy of The Advocate

According to this article in The Advocate Clemons Ruland may become the first known HIV-positive person to legally visit the United States after he filed papers with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Monday, the day the HIV travel and immigration ban was officially lifted after 22 years of barring HIV-positive people from entering the U.S.

Ruland (pictured right), a Dutchman who will travel with his HIV-negative partner, Hugo Bausch, from the Netherlands, is scheduled to land Thursday at New York’s JFK International Airport. According to the Netherlands-based NGO AIDS Fonds, which is sponsoring Ruland’s travel to the U.S. after he won an essay contest, Ruland and Bausch simply plan to spend a week touring New York, shopping, and visiting friends.

Paul Zantkuijl of AIDS Fonds said his organization has been working alongside others to change the policy for years and wanted to celebrate their success by sending an HIV-positive person to the states.

“We all had to be patient, but finally this discriminatory and stigmatizing ruling has ended!” he said.

President Barack Obama announced in late October that the Department of Health and Human Services would be eliminating all travel restrictions tied to a person's HIV status starting in 2010. The ban, first implemented in 1987 and codified into law by Congress in 1993, prevented non-U.S. citizens who were HIV-positive from traveling or immigrating to the United States without an official waiver. President George W. Bush signed the policy reversal into law in the summer of 2008, but his administration was unable to finalize the change before his term ended.

Ruland, now 45, was diagnosed with HIV in 1997 after being infected by an ex-lover in New York. He has been on an antiretroviral regimen since and the virus remains undetectable.

Below is the poem Ruland wrote as part of his entry in the contest to win a trip to the United States:


No more lies
No more pretending
No more hiding
In the crevices of exclusion

to the land
where once lay my destiny
in one viral load

Free I am
Free to travel
To hug, share, love
And once more be united

Alive and proud
I turn to you, America
America, here I come
Come as I am


Monday, January 4, 2010

Annisse Parker Sworn in as Houston Mayor

Photo by Jenny Antill

According to The Advocate, Annise Parker was sworn in as mayor of Houston at a private ceremony Sunday afternoon. Parker used her grandparents’ Bible and had her partner, Kathy Hubbard, at her side as she took the oath of office.

Houston is now officially the largest U.S. city with an openly gay mayor.

According to a press release issued by the city, the swearing-in was private to avoid overtime for costs for police and other city employees that would have otherwise been needed for the ceremony. “At a time when the city is facing budget shortfalls, we will be continually looking for ways to cut expenses,” Parker said in the statement.

The new mayor will take the oath again — more publicly — during inaugural festivities planned for Monday morning at the city’s Wortham Theater Center.

To read more from the Houston Chronicle, click here.