Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Retired USAF Colonel Dan Tepfer's Reflections on the Signing of the Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell



This morning I had the great honor of attending President Obama’s Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell bill signing ceremony. When my daughter came out and I became more and more involved in PFLAG, I realized that advocacy was where I could work best. Then late in 2008, Steve Ralls, challenged me to put my money where my mouth was; I should advocate for repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. As I became more and more involved, I remembered that while on active duty, my boss (a full colonel) said that if I needed his help to get something done, that I could always refer to him. In effect I was to put on his eagles and plow ahead to get what I needed. It was now 20 years later and I had my own eagles (as a retired USAF Colonel) and I decided to use them. I feel that the op eds, the letters to the editor, the appearances representing PFLAG to such events as Diversity Day luncheons, or to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) event on the Capitol steps was my way of using my “eagles” to cry for repeal. What could be stronger then a retired senior United States Air Force officer calling for repeal?

This morning there was loud cheering and shouting when the President was introduced. What a great feeling! The President started by telling the story of how a solider saved his friend at the battle of the Bulge in 1945. The saved soldier did not learn until a reunion many years later that he had been saved by a gay soldier. He then introduced the VIPs on the stage. Members of congress were there, Marine Sgt. Eric Alva, but it was Rep. Murphy (D-PA) who got a standing ovation for his effort to reintroduce repeal just last week. When he introduced Admiral Mullen, President Obama quoted the Admiral’s comments last spring that “people in the military sacrifice a lot, but they should never have to sacrifice their integrity.” The admiral also had earlier gotten a standing ovation when he was introduced by the VP.

Often I have felt that I did not do enough in the fight for repeal. I was there when someone, or an organization asked me to give an update on the repeal or explain how things were going, to represent PFLAG, or their chapter at an event. I spoke out, posted regularly on my Facebook page. But I was not involved 24/7 as so many others have been. It was not something if not repealed was going to have a great impact upon me as it was to so many others there today. But as I greeted people this morning and as I mentioned a name or saw someone I have met along the way, that recognized me and who introduced me to their friends, I realized that I had done something to help make this happen. I had a stake in the success of the repeal, however small. As the tears dropped from my cheek, I felt proud to be on the right side of the fight.

My active duty experience was before DADT. But early in my career, I remember being cautioned that if we were engaged in any homosexual activity we would be subject to dishonorable discharge. And if we were hiding the fact that we were homosexual we were subjecting ourselves to a position of being blackmailed for the classified information we were working with.

In closing, I will say that gays and lesbians were here yesterday, they are here today, and they will be tomorrow. Gays and Lesbians are serving now, they were serving yesterday and they will serve tomorrow. And after the repeal of DADT, some will serve openly, but none will serve in fear of losing their jobs and careers.

Watch the signing here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40777922/ns/politics-white_house/

Pictured with Dan Tepfer (middle) is Air Force Major Mike Almy discharged under DADT (left) and Lt. Colonel Victor Fehrenbach (right).

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sigourney Weaver Talks About Prayers for Bobby and PFLAG on CNN

This morning, multi-award winning actress Sigourney Weaver was interviewed on CNN where she spoke about her role as Mary Griffith in the film Prayers for Bobby. She spoke about the emotional impact that the role had on her and why she recognizes the importance of PFLAG as a place where parents and families should turn for education and support. She also acknowledges the work of the Trevor Project for LGBT youth.

PFLAG National honored Sigourney in 2009 with our Straight for Equality in Entertainment Award. She has been a tremendous straight ally, and we could not be more proud of her. You can watch the video of her CNN interview here. And don’t forget to check out our recent blog post about how you can order your copies of the DVD—a great holiday gift idea for everyone in your family!

All of us at PFLAG salute Sigourney Weaver and the entire cast of Prayers for Bobby, as well as executive producers Daniel Sladek, Chris Taaffe and David Permut, for creating this important and timeless film!


Saturday, December 18, 2010

PFLAG Celebrates the (Almost) End of DADT!


Minutes ago, the senate voted to approve legislation that would end the uber-discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that has plagued gay and lesbian servicemembers since 1993.

The legislation will now need to be certified by President Obama.

Check out our press release about the vote now. We'll report with more details as they come in!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Senate to Vote on DADT Repeal Act this Weekend!

Yesterday, Senator Harry Reid filed a petition to consider the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal bill after a vote on the DREAM Act on early Saturday. To clarify the voting process, two votes on the DADT legislation will take place over the weekend. The first vote we will see will be a cloture vote to enable us to get to a final vote – a supermajority of 60 votes will be needed, and as of today we believe we have 61 votes to move forward thanks to the leadership of Senator Scott Brown, Senator Lisa Murkowski and Senator Olympia Snowe. We should expect the final vote to come as early as Saturday, or Sunday, and only a simple majority will be needed to lift the ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual servicemembers.

In the meantime, today and tomorrow morning will be your last chance to weigh in with your senators before they take this historic vote! Please take the time to pick up the phone once again and call both your senators and tell them to vote for the S. 4023 – the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Repeal Act of 2010. We’ve got the numbers ready for you to dial, and we are willing to bet that they’re waiting to hear from you. Please let your voices be heard without delay!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

FRC: Fighting Logic, Reason, and Sanity Since 1983!

We’ve got to hand it to the Family Research Council. Every single time we thing that they’ve finally hit the point of no return on sanity, they take it a step further.

While we generally use mom’s old approach of “Take it from whence it comes…” when we think about our buddies on G Street, today it just isn’t working.

Why, you ask?

Check out today’s missive from the organization who recently garnered the title of Hate Group from the Southern Poverty Law Center. If it doesn’t make you pick up your phone and call your Senator about the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, we don’t know what will.

According to the equality-adverse organization, the Senate must fight the repeal because…wait for it…wait for it…gay soldiers are a distraction because they’re determined to flaunt their sexual orientation instead of do the job at hand.

Their proof? The testimony of one person who cites a case from Vietnam, which takes the Vatican strategy of conflating being gay with criminal activity. How very retro of them. (Tragically, retro is out this year.)

Again, they manage to ignore the ever-mounting evidence from current research, the troops themselves, and the experiences of dozens of other countries who allow openly gay troops to serve and have not spiraled into military Armageddon.

Bottom line: If you’ve had enough of having your loved ones portrayed as threats to national security, if you’re tired of seeing patriotic troops denied the right to serve their country, and if you’re just feeling like today might be a great day to really make the FRC itch, get to a phone now and call your Senator. Tell them that enough is enough – repeal DADT now.

>> Take action. Click here to get started.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Holiday Surprise…or Will a Grinch Strike Again?


On the heels of a disappointing outcome in the effort to get “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – the policy which literally legitimizes discrimination in the U.S. military – repealed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, a few brave legislators introduced a stand-alone bill to get the job done.

Rep. Patrick Murphy (R-PA) and Majority Senate Leader Stenny Hoyer (D-MD) joined together in a bipartisan effort to make one last try at ending discrimination against gay and lesbian servicemembers once and for all. We’re proud to report that the legislation (HR 6520) has passed the House with a 250-175 vote.

The legislation’s fate now lies in the Senate. Last week, in another bipartisan effort to achieve equality, Senators Joe Lierberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced S 4023, the companion bill to the successful House legislation. As of this writing, it currently has 48 cosponsors.

Here at PFLAG, we – like all advocates for equality – can’t help but wonder what it will take for the final repeal of this inexcusable policy. Military experts have advocated for a repeal, members of the military themselves believe that a repeal is in order…short of an engraved invitation delivered by Santa himself to certain legislators, we’re not sure what more people can ask for.

If, by chance, you’d like to give your Senator a call and remind them that this is a policy whose time is long past and that their job is to do the right thing, PFLAG’s got the numbers ready for you to dial. We’re willing to bet that they’re waiting to hear from you. You wouldn’t want to let them down, would you? Why not call now?

A Great Holiday Gift Idea: Prayers for Bobby now available on DVD


PFLAG National is pleased to announce the release this week of Prayers for Bobby on DVD!

Prayers for Bobby – based on the book by Leroy Aarons – is the true story of Mary Griffith, a devoutly religious mother who struggles to accept her son, Bobby, when he comes out as a young gay man. Following a tragic turn in Bobby’s life, Mary begins a journey of soul-searching, learning to embrace her son and other LGBT people…with a little help from PFLAG along the way.

The film stars multiple award-winning actress Sigourney Weaver as Mary Griffith, for which she earned an Emmy Award nomination. Ms. Weaver has discussed the critical role that PFLAG played in Mary’s life and the lives of countless families across the country today, recently saying, “Please share this film with family and friends so we can work together to tackle the crucial civil rights issue of our time: equality for all. Please also consider purchasing and donating additional copies of this film to your local schools and libraries, and empowering your community leaders to join in PFLAG's ongoing mission.”

Learn more about the many awards that the film earned since its original airing on Lifetime in January of last year, including Outstanding Made for Television Movie. Special thanks to the film’s executive producers Daniel Sladek, Chris Taaffe and David Permut for their tremendous work in making this film a reality!

The DVD is a great holiday gift idea—think of all of the people you can touch by sharing this powerful story with your family, friends and potential straight allies. Go to www.PrayersforBobby.com now to learn how to order your DVDs.

Please consider adding Prayers for Bobby to your holiday gift giving list today!

Give a Gift to PFLAG National this Holiday Season!

Holiday Greetings!

Thank you for your generous support of PFLAG National during 2010. We wouldn’t be able to do our critical work fighting for LGBT equality without the investment of friends like you.

Briefly, here are just a couple highlights of what we were able to accomplish this year with your help:

• PFLAG National conducted 10 state and regional conferences across the country this year reaching members in their communities with trainings and resources;

• We helped make schools safer by conducting 7 Cultivating Respect Safe Schools train-the-trainer workshops which allow our members to go into schools and engage school personnel on issues of harassment and bullying;

• At the Federal level, we worked with the Department of Education (DOE), Office of Civil Rights to launch the Claim Your Rights Campaign with GLSEN which educates families on how to file claims with DOE when their child has been the victim of bullying and harassment. To date, we have already had families across the country filing claims on behalf of their kids;

• In the Spring, we hired a full-time diversity outreach associate to help engage more diverse communities in PFLAG’s work and began advertising PFLAG’s diversity outreach grants which help establish best practices for chapter’s doing diversity outreach work;

• We provided 37 Straight for Equality in the Workplace consultation and training sessions in corporations across the country, helping them to invite, educate and engage straight people to become allies for equality. We launched our Straight for Equality in Healthcare resources and provided consultation and training sessions in a variety of healthcare venues; and we piloted a new Straight for Equality in Faith training for our chapters in California, laying the foundation for new national resources for all of our chapters in 2011;

• This year, we had an amazing presence on Capitol Hill with a record 245 lobby visits on issues as varied as the Every Child Deserves a Family Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act to the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and working towards the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Additionally, we facilitated numerous in-district meetings by PFLAG members in targeted Congressional districts, showcasing the powerful influence that PFLAG families have in their local communities. Our members used the 2010 edition of Bringing the Message Home, PFLAG's guide to how to lobby on issues to make their meetings effective.

• We launched our First Annual Los Angeles PFLAG Event to elevate the profile of PFLAG in the entertainment industry, and we held our Second Annual Straight for Equality Awards Gala, the only national event designed exclusively to honor our straight allies in their work on LGBT equality.

This work was able to happen because of the support that people like you provide PFLAG National.

As you are making your charitable contributions this holiday season, please consider making a special gift to PFLAG National of just $25, $50, $100, or more. By making a tax-deductible gift to PFLAG National you will enable us to expand our work in 2011 to keep families together, educate the public and advocate for equal rights and fair treatment for LGBT people and their families.

Thank you in advance for your generosity and continued partnership with PFLAG National, and thank you for being an integral part of moving equality forward!

Sincerely,

Jody M. Huckaby
Executive Director, PFLAG National

P.S. Looking for a good resolution for 2011? Please consider a commitment to support PFLAG's work throughout the New Year. We can help make keeping your resolution easy. Check out our Guardian Program -- you'll be able to make a monthly contribution to support PFLAG's work for equality each month and know that you are making our mission a lived reality for thousands of people across the country!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Discharged Gay Vets Take Issue to Court

The Washington Post is reporting that three military veterans who were discharged under the law that prohibits gays from serving openly in uniform sued the government Monday to be reinstated and to pressure lawmakers to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" law before a new Congress is sworn in.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco also seeks to have the ban on openly gay troops declared unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable for any service members.

"I don't feel like I'm going up against the military, I really don't. I just feel like this is a necessary step for doing away with this policy," said former Air Force Staff Sgt. Anthony Loverde. "I believe the military, the majority of troops I've served with, and those who have been studied to death are with us."

The 31-year-old Loverde is working in Iraq for a private military contractor that's providing the Army with technical support. The lawsuit was also filed on behalf of former Air Force Maj. Michael Almy, 40, and former Navy Petty Officer Second Class Jason Knight, 28.

The legal action came four days after the U.S. Senate for the second time this year blocked a military spending bill that also would have repealed the 17-year-old ban on openly gay troops.

Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., have introduced a standalone measure, but it's uncertain if it will be brought for a vote before the Senate and House adjourn for the holidays.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network director Aubrey Sarvis said the lawsuit was meant as a warning to lawmakers that if they don't act to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," the courts could step in and order an integration timetable that is less to the Pentagon's liking.

"If the Senate fails to act in the lame duck session, we are prepared to litigate this aggressively," said Sarvis, whose group coordinated the lawsuit and prepared it with lawyers from a private law firm.

"From my perspective, this is the first shot over the bow," he said.

The move also was aimed at validating the concerns of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a named defendant in the suit, along with the service chiefs of the Navy and Air Force.

A Pentagon study unveiled this month found that two-thirds of troops thought repealing the gay ban would have little affect on their units. Gates then joined President Barack Obama in urging the Senate to end "don't ask, don't tell."

He reiterated Friday that if lawmakers do not act, military leaders could end up "at the mercy of the courts and all of the lack of predictability that that entails."

To continue reading, click here.

Monday, December 13, 2010


As we reported on Friday, Adele Starr, the mom who became the first-ever PFLAG National President passed away at 90. Her commitment to taking what Jeanne Manford started and making it a national organization is alive today each time we look at what a powerful national network of people united ot advance PFLAG’s mission of support, education and advocacy that we’ve become.

Today at her funeral services, PFLAG Regional Director Steve Krantz read a letter written by our current National president, Rabbi David Horowitz. You can read the moving tribute here.

There have also been several great articles written about Adele Starr:

PFLAG National will be featured on this evening’s Derek & Romaine Show on Sirius OutQ Radio talking about Adele Starr, her legacy, and how it should serve as a reminder to everyone the power of one person’s commitment to change. If you want to listen in, there’s info about the show available online.

Friday, December 10, 2010

PFLAG Mourns the Death of Adele Starr


The PFLAG family received bad news today. Adele Starr, PFLAG National's first-ever national president, passed away today.

Adele stands as an important figure in PFLAG's history. After meeting Jeanne Manford, the mom who started it all in New York, Adele and her husband, Larry, got to work on organizing parents who were ready to come out in support of their LGBT kids -- and get other people to do the same.

PFLAG's first national office was actually housed in Adele's den in Los Angeles for several years, and even after the office "officially" moved to Washington, D.C., she continued to work for equality for all.

You can learn more about her contributions to our organization on the PFLAG website now. There is also a growing tribute from other past PFLAG National presidents available, too.

Image above: One of PFLAG's earliest logos. Adele Starr was part of the group that established PFLAG's first-ever national logo and name.

Study: Family Acceptance of LGBT Adolescents Protects Against Depression, Substance Abuse, Suicidal Behavior

“…our findings that family acceptance protects against suicidal thoughts and behaviors, depression and substance abuse offer a gateway to hope for LGBT youth and families that struggle with how to balance deeply held religious and personal values with love for their LGBT children…” Dr. Caitlin Ryan

San Francisco, CA –– For the first time, researchers have established a clear link between accepting family attitudes and behaviors towards their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) children and significantly decreased risk and better overall health in adulthood. The study shows that
specific parental and caregiver behaviors -- such as advocating for their children when they are mistreated because of their LGBT identity or supporting their gender expression -- protect against depression, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts in early adulthood. In addition, LGBT youth with highly accepting families have significantly higher levels of self-esteem and social support in young adulthood. The study is published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, a journal of the International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses, in a peer-reviewed article titled “Family Acceptance in Adolescence and the Health of LGBT Young Adults.”

Despite all the recent attention to health risks and disparities for lesbian, gay and bisexual youth, prior to this study, little was known about how families express acceptance and support for their LGBT children. Moreover, no prior research had examined the relationship between family
acceptance of LGBT adolescents and health and mental health concerns in emerging adulthood.

“At a time when the media and families are becoming acutely aware of the risk that many LGBT youth experience, our findings that family acceptance protects against suicidal thoughts and behaviors, depression and substance abuse offer a gateway to hope for LGBT youth and families that struggle with how to balance deeply held religious and personal values with love for their LGBT children,” said Dr. Caitlin Ryan, PhD, Director of the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University. “I have worked on LGBT health and mental health for 35 years and putting our research into practice by developing a new model to help diverse families support their LGBT children is the most hopeful work I’ve ever done.”

Ann P. Haas, Ph.D., Director of Prevention Projects for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, noted, “With this new groundbreaking study, Ryan and her colleagues have provided the strongest evidence to date that acceptance and support from parents and caregivers promote well-being among LGBT youth and help protect them from depression and suicidal behavior. These findings open the door to a whole new focus on how families can be helped to more fully engage in the kind of behaviors that reduce suicide risk in LGBT adolescents and young adults.”

“Times have changed,” said Stephen Russell, PhD, President Elect of the Society for Research on Adolescence and a consultant to the Family Acceptance Project. “More and more families want to be accepting of their children. Yet, many families still struggle when a child comes out as LGBT. It’s essential to have research like this to deeply understand the ways that families show their acceptance, so that we can identify how to support families.”

The study, authored by Dr. Caitlin Ryan and her team from the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University, which shows that accepting behaviors of parents and caregivers towards their LGBT children are protective against mental health risks -- including suicidal behaviors -- has critical implications for changing how families relate to their LGBT children and how LGBT youth are served by a wide range of providers across disciplines and systems of care, including custodial care systems such as foster care. The study was funded by The California Endowment, a health foundation dedicated to expanding access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities.

Major Research Findings:

• Family accepting behaviors towards LGBT youth during adolescence protect against suicide, depression and substance abuse.

• LGBT young adults who reported high levels of family acceptance during adolescence had significantly higher levels of self-esteem, social support and general health, compared to peers with low levels of family acceptance.

• LGBT young adults who reported low levels of family rejection during adolescence were over three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts and to report suicide attempts, compared to those with high levels of family acceptance.

• High religious involvement in families was strongly associated with low acceptance of LGBT children.

Dr. Ryan and her team at the Family Acceptance Project are currently developing a new evidence-based family model of wellness, prevention and care for LGBT adolescents, in collaboration with Child and Adolescent Services at the University of California, San Francisco, with funding from
the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This model uses a behavioral approach to help ethnically and religiously diverse families decrease rejection and increase support for their LGBT children to reduce risk for suicide, depression, substance abuse, and HIV, to promote well-being and to prevent homelessness and placement in custodial care. This systems-level approach helps communities and providers to engage diverse families as allies in decreasing their LGBT children’s risk and increasing their well-being while respecting the family’s deeply held values. This work is being conducted in English, Spanish and Chinese with families from all ethnic backgrounds, including immigrant and very low income families, and those whose children are out-of-home in foster care and juvenile justice facilities.

The existing approach to serving LGBT adolescents by pediatricians, nurses, social workers, school counselors and others has focused almost exclusively on serving LGBT youth alone and through peer support, rather than in the context of their families, and does not consider the impact of family reactions on the adolescent’s health and well-being.

In addition to providing direct services for families with LGBT children and working with communities in the U.S., the Family Acceptance Project is collaborating with organizations, providers, advocates and families to develop an international movement of family acceptance to promote wellness and healthy futures for LGBT children, youth and young adults.

“Family Acceptance in Adolescence and the Health of LGBT Young Adults” is the third in a series of research papers on outcomes related to family acceptance and rejection of LGBT adolescents, supporting positive LGBT youth development, school experiences and providing family-related care to be released by the Family Acceptance Project. These studies will be published in peer-reviewed journals designed for providers, caregivers and practitioners from a wide range of disciplines and practice settings.

Methodology

This survey is part of a larger, multi-method, participatory program of research and community engagement initiated as part of the Family Acceptance Project. The research sample included 245 non-Latino white and Latino LGBT young adults, ages 21-25, who were open about their sexual orientation to at least one parent or primary caregiver during adolescence. These youth were recruited within California from 249 LGBT-related venues. Family acceptance measures in the survey that included positive family comments, behaviors and interactions related to their children’s LGBT identity were developed based on a prior in-depth qualitative study of LGBT adolescents and families throughout California from 2002-2004.

About the Family Acceptance Project

The Family Acceptance Project is a community research, intervention, education and policy initiative that is designed to: 1) improve the health, mental health, and well-being of LGBT children and adolescents; 2) strengthen and help ethnically and religiously diverse families support their LGBT children; 3) help LGBT youth stay in their homes to prevent homelessness and the need for custodial care in the foster care and juvenile justice systems; 4) inform public policy and family policy; and 5) develop a new evidence-based, family model of wellness, prevention, and care to promote well-being and decrease risk for LGBT youth. For more information, please visit http://familyproject.sfsu.edu/

For more information, click here.

PFLAG Applauds LGBT Inclusion Within HHS’ Healthy People 2020

We applaud the release of Healthy People 2020, the federal blueprint for building a healthier nation between 2010 and 2020, which for the first time ever prioritizes LGBT health, social determinants of health, and access to health services. The new blueprint will feature the target areas and objectives in an interactive online format, and the entire document will be constantly updated to reflect progress made toward the objectives by participating communities, providers, and public health advocates from around the country.

According to the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services, “Healthy People 2020 is the product of an extensive stakeholder feedback process” that includes the input from public health and prevention experts, a wide range of federal, state, and local government officials, a consortium of more than 2,000 organizations, and perhaps most importantly, more than 8,000 comments from the public. Based on the input from this varied makeup of these groups and individuals, HHS has delineated objectives that target health, wellness, and prevention measures specific to a number of topic areas, including a number of those associated with the LGBT community.

PFLAG wants to make note of the historic progress and congratulate both our friends over at the National LGBT Health Coalition and HHS for including the LGBT community in their steps towards improving our nation’s health. By specifically targeting and addressing the health problems the LGBT community regularly faces, we are raising the awareness of the heightened prevalence these issues hold within our communities and allow for easier identification and eradication of them, creating not only a healthier LGBT population, but a more health-conscious country at large. Without these important first steps prompted and initiated by the National LGBT Health Coalition and HHS, respectively, the health disparities most prominent within our communities are closer to acquiring the attention they deserve to foster discussions about wellness and prevention to take place. PFLAG will remain committed to the continued work of HHS and look forward to the actualization of the blueprint they have set forth over the next decade.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

BREAKING: DADT Fails in Senate

From The Washington Post: A Senate procedural vote to move forward with debate on a bill ending the military's "don't ask, don't tell" law failed Thursday to earn the 60 votes necessary to proceed, delivering a significant blow to efforts to allow gays to serve openly.

Despite the setback, senators fighting to end the ban said they would introduce a separate bill to repeal it.

The bill will be cosponsored by Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), and they said it will have bipartisan support.

Senators voted 57 to 40 to advance the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which contained language ending the ban, as all Republicans except Collins held firm on a vow to block any legislation that does not address tax cuts or government spending.

"We've tried every possible way to do this," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Thursday before the vote. More than a week of negotiations with Collins (R-Maine), who supports ending the ban on gays serving openly in the military, and Lieberman (I-Conn.), a key Collins ally, collapsed early Thursday.

Throughout the first 15 minutes of the vote, Collins repeatedly broke into huddles with Lieberman and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), reading through legislative language on the floor, at times rolling it up into a ball and angrily waving her arms about how the process was handled. Collins voted with Democrats to proceed on the bill, though by then it was clear her vote would not effect the outcome.

Collins, Reid and Lieberman had negotiated for more than week on an agreement that would allow Republicans to introduce up to 10 amendments to the bill, with Democrats adding up to five.

Collins agreed to the amendment count Wednesday, but held firm to a request for at least four days of debate on the bill and amendments. Reid rebuffed her request, citing the need to proceed with the tax and spending measures before the Senate's planned departure next weekend.

"History will hold these senators accountable and so will many of their constituents," said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a group pushing for repeal of the law. "There will be no place for these Senators to hide. The Senate and the president must remain in session and in Washington to find another path for repeal to get done in the lame-duck."

"Leaders of both parties let down the U.S. military and the American people," said Joe Solomonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights organization with close ties to the White House and Congressional Democrats "Instead of doing what is right, 'the world's greatest deliberative body' devolved into shameful schoolyard spats that put petty partisan politics above the needs of our women and men in uniform."

Thursday's vote saps gay-rights activists of their strongest legislative option for ending the ban; they now plan to pressure President Obama to act on his own through executive action. Obama could order the Justice Department to stop appealing federal court cases challenging the constitutionality of the law or use his powers as commander-in-chief to issue a stop-loss order halting military discharges and the removal of any gay troops in violation of the ban.

Executive action by Obama is "imperative in order for him to fulfill his State of the Union promise," Solomonese said. "The only measure of success is an end to the discharges and anything less is unacceptable."

"I think the president strongly believes that one of two things is going to happen: Either Congress is going to solve this legislatively, or the courts are going to solve this," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday before the vote. "The policy is going to come to an end."

A Pentagon spokesman said the Defense Department had no immediate comment. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen support ending the ban through legislation this year, as do some of the military service chiefs. But the heads of the Army and Marine Corps last week expressed reservations about ending the ban this year as combat troops continue to face the pressures of ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The fate of the broader 2011 defense measure is also increasingly in doubt with Congress scheduled to depart next weekend. The measure, which authorized Pentagon policy and spending, has been approved for 48 consecutive years.

PFLAG Orange County: It Gets Better

Last week at their annual holiday party our PFLAG chapter in Orange County, CA filmed a short video for the It Gets Better campaign, which you can see below:


Don't Ask Don't Tell Vote Stalled

Last night, the Senate did not vote on the defense spending bill, which includes language to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Senator Susan Collins who represents the moderate Republicans in negotiations with Senator Reid, had a number of concerns stalling consideration of the bill. She and Senator Reid struggled to reach a deal regarding the time for debate and the number of amendments that could be considered when addressing the bill. Once they reached agreement, she said she will not support moving forward unless the tax bill is voted upon first. Without Senator Collins’s support, other moderates won’t support repeal. Despite these road blocks, a vote on the defense spending bill could take place early this afternoon should time permit.

Senate Schedule for Thursday, December 09, 2010:

9:30 a.m.:
Senate convenes, and begins with debate on the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.
11:00 a.m.: Senate takes up 2 postponed cloture votes from last night – one on the DREAM Act, and ones on the 9/11 Responders Healthcare Bill. Both of these bills need 60 votes to proceed.
After these 2 votes: If either of these votes fail, Senator Reid could call up a motion to reconsider the defense spending bill. Again, 60 votes are necessary to proceed to debate of the legislation.

If you are interested in watching the events unfold, be sure to tune into C-SPAN2 and click on the live webcast here.

Again, the vote is very, very close. Please urge senators to vote with the Majority Leader, Chairman Levin and Senator Lieberman to support the cloture vote to proceed to the Defense bill by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard (202-224-312) today and ask to be patched through to your Senators’ offices. If you don’t know who your senators are, please click here to access our action alert center and type in your zip code to locate them. Thanks for helping to move equality forward!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tips for a Happy Holiday for GLBT People

The holidays can be a stressful time for GLBT people or families with GLBT members, but there are several strategies that you can use to help reduce stress and create a happy holiday this year.

If you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender...

1. Don’t assume you know how somebody will react to news of your sexual orientation or gender identity — you may be surprised.
2. Realize that your family’s reaction to you may not be because you are GLBT. The hectic holiday pace may cause family members to act differently than they would under less stressful conditions.
3. Remember that “coming out” is a continuous process. You may have to “come out” many times.
4. Don’t wait for your family’s attitude to change to have a special holiday. Recognize that your parents need time to acknowledge and accept that they have a GLBT child. It took you time to come to terms with who you are; now it is your family’s turn.
5. Let your family’s judgments be theirs to work on, as long as they are kind to you.
6. If it is too difficult to be with your family, create your own holiday gathering with friends and loved ones.
7. If you are transgender, be gentle with your family’s pronoun “slips.” Let them know you know how difficult it is.

Before the visit...

1. Make a decision about being “out” to each family member before you visit.
2. If you are partnered, discuss in advance how you will talk about your relationship, or show affection with one another, if you plan to make the visit together.
3. If you bring your partner home, don’t wait until late into the holiday evening to raise the issue of sleeping arrangements. Make plans in advance.
4. Have alternate plans if the situation becomes difficult at home.
5. Find out about local GLBT resources.
6. If you do plan to “come out” to your family over the holidays, have support available, including PFLAG publications and the number of a local PFLAG chapter.

During the visit...

1. Focus on common interests.
2. Reassure family members that you are still the same person they have always known.
3. If you are partnered, be sensitive to his or her needs as well as your own.
4. Be wary of the possible desire to shock your family.
5. Remember to affirm yourself.
6. Realize that you don’t need your family’s approval.
7. Connect with someone else who is GLBT—by phone or in person—who understands what you are going through and will affirm you along the way.

For additional resources, click here.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Controversy at the National Portrait Gallery

As you may know, the National Portrait Gallery is featuring an exhibit entitled, “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture.” The exhibit opened on October 30 and will run through February 13, and it is the first major museum exhibition that focuses on LGBT themes that span over the past century. Last week, officials at the Gallery removed a four-minute video created by David Wojnarowicz, which depicts ants crawling over a crucifix – the artist claims the film is a commentary on the pain and suffering caused by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Catholic League president William Donohue called the piece “hate speech,” and he urged the House and Senate appropriations committees to reconsider future funding for the Smithsonian Institution. Additionally, the presumptive incoming House speaker John Boehner added to the criticism saying that the exhibit is a “misuse of taxpayer money.” Boehner’s official statement about the exhibit also said that “while the amount of money involved may be small, it’s symbolic of the arrogance Washington routinely applies to thousands of spending decisions involving Americans’ hard-earned money.” Other conservative leaders and organizations added to the fray, suggesting that the exhibit was a deliberate assault on Christianity, especially during the Holiday Season.

In response to this pushback, Smithsonian Institution officials removed the film, stating that they did not intend “to be offensive by showing the work,” and that by removing it, they could “better focus on the exhibit’s strengths.” Museum officials said they “are sensitive to what the public thinks about our shows and programs. We stand behind the show. It has strong scholarship with great pieces by artists who are recognized by a whole panoply of experts. It represents a segment of America.”

We encourage you to take the time to read about this incident, watch the video, and decide for yourself if this was anti-LGBT censorship or a museum responding to legitimate concerns over a potentially offensive video.

If you would like to weigh in on the issue with the National Portrait Gallery you may contact the follow people:

• Martin Sullivan, the Director of the National Portrait Gallery (sullivanm@si.edu)
• Richard Kurin, Undersecretary for the Arts and Humanities at the Smithsonian Institution (KurinR@si.edu)
• Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution (Cloughw@si.edu)

And please use the comments section to let us know what you think!

Tax Bill Trumps Vote on Defense Spending Bill

Yesterday, Senator Harry Reid announced the Senate floor schedule for this week – much to our disappointment, the schedule did not include discussion of the defense bill where the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal is attached. Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin raised concerns that the bill was not scheduled to be addressed this week due to Republican obstructionism. Over the weekend, Senator Reid said he is still trying to work out the time agreement for the defense spending bill, but Republicans want to deal with taxes first. Before advancing the defense spending bill, Democratic leadership wants to ensure that they have 60 votes to overcome a likely filibuster from Senator John McCain.

In response to these recent events, our friends at Servicemembers Legal Defense Network issued the following statement:

“The National Defense Authorization Act, which includes the [DADT] repeal provisions, must be called up in the Senate, debated, and passed before Congress leaves for the year. If the 42 GOP senators -- including several who support repeal of 'Don't Ask' -- put process and procedure and tax cuts first, their continued delays and political jockeying will be an endorsement of the discrimination that has cost 14,000 men and women their jobs and threatened our country's national security by discharging mission-critical service members,” said Aubrey Sarvis, Army veteran and executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

In order to ensure that the defense spending bill is considered before the Senate adjourns, it is imperative that we continue to ask our Senators to press for a vote on the bill, and urge them to support DADT repeal. In these last few days of the Lame Duck Session, timing is critical. Please take a moment to call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard (202-224-312) today and ask to be patched through to your Senators’ offices. If you don’t know who your senators are, please click here to access our action alert center and type in your zip code to locate them. Thanks for helping to move equality forward!

An Inside Look at the Co-Author of the Pentagon's DADT Report

Jeh Johnson (left) with Defense Sec. Robert Gates / Photo by Stephen Crowley, The New York Times


From The New York Times:

Few officials have had to handle more legal mayhem and institutional queasiness at the Pentagon this year than Jeh C. Johnson, the Defense Department’s general counsel and a co-author of an intensely debated new report on the effects of allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the United States military.

As Mr. Johnson recounted in an interview at the Pentagon last week, “A year ago, this subject was so sensitive that whenever I had a conversation with anybody about it in the building, it was always a group of three or less, behind closed doors.”

As he wrote the report, which is a crucial factor in the Congressional debate over reversing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, he had to navigate the growing legal challenges to the 17-year-old law, which requires gay men and lesbians in the military to keep their sexual orientation secret or face discharge.

In October, a series of court decisions whipsawed the Pentagon into suspending and then resuming enforcement of the law over the course of little more than a week, creating bewilderment at recruiting stations and confusion among Defense Department lawyers. Wrangling in the courts continued into November.

“In the space of eight days we had to shift course on the worldwide enforcement of the law twice, and in the space of a month faced the possibility of shifting course four different times,” Mr. Johnson told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week.

The experiences have turned Mr. Johnson into a force behind the Pentagon’s argument that Congress has to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and soon, or the courts will do it for them. Although it is not at all clear whether the Supreme Court would strike down the law, Mr. Johnson and his boss, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, are warning of the dangers of repeal by abrupt “judicial fiat,” which they said would not give the Pentagon enough time to prepare the armed forces for change.

But Mr. Johnson, 53, an early fund-raiser for President Obama in New York and the first black partner at the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, also has a window into the “don’t ask, don’t tell” debate from beyond the courtroom — from his own family history.

His uncle, Robert B. Johnson, was not only one of the Tuskegee Airmen, but was also a participant in what is known as the Freeman Field Mutiny in 1945, when a group of the airmen were arrested for entering an all-white officers’ club at Freeman Field in Indiana. The airmen were imprisoned for 10 days until the Army chief of staff, Gen. George C. Marshall, intervened. Three years later, President Harry S. Truman integrated the military by executive order.

Although Mr. Johnson says that discrimination based on race and sexual orientation are different — sexual orientation, he maintains, is “not a self-identifier” — he has found similarities in the way the armed forces reacted in both cases to the prospect of change. The study Mr. Johnson wrote with Gen. Carter F. Ham found that, over all, 70 percent of the troops surveyed said the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” would have little effect, but about 60 percent of Marines predicted a negative impact.

The opposition to integrating the armed forces in the 1940s, Mr. Johnson said, was as high as 80 percent. “The lesson to be drawn from that,” he said, “is that very often the predictions about what is going to happen overestimate the negative consequences and underestimate the military’s ability to adapt.”

Mr. Johnson said he did not consider his work on the study as an assignment to advance civil rights. As the Defense Department’s lawyer and the report’s co-author, his position is that the Pentagon could make the change, but whether it should, he said, is up to Congress.

In the meantime, Mr. Johnson is handling a raft of other issues like the stalled efforts to close the military prison at Guantánamo Bay and legal reviews of all United States military operations, including drone strikes. He supervises 10,000 Defense Department lawyers around the world and a staff of 200 at the Pentagon.

Mr. Johnson’s first name, pronounced “Jay,” is taken from a Liberian chief whom his grandfather, Charles S. Johnson, a sociologist who was president of Fisk University, met during a League of Nations mission to Africa in 1930. He has never served in the military, but when Bill Clinton was president, Mr. Johnson told their mutual friend, the lawyer Vernon E. Jordan Jr., that he wanted to work in the new administration and got the job of Air Force counsel, in part, he said, to advance diversity.

“I had never set foot in the Pentagon,” he said.

Mr. Johnson served in the Pentagon from 1998 to 2001 and then returned to his job as a litigator at Paul, Weiss, but he wanted to go back to the capital. “The scent and allure of Washington was very compelling to him,” said Gordon Davis, a former New York City parks commissioner and the founding chairman of Jazz at Lincoln Center who is a friend of Mr. Johnson.

Mr. Johnson, who is married and has two children, now has a home in Georgetown, but he has kept his old house in Montclair, N.J. Most of his waking hours are spent at the Pentagon.

As he told the Senate Armed Services Committee about what he faces on “don’t ask, don’t tell”: “This legal uncertainty is not going away anytime soon.”

A version of this article appeared in print on December 5, 2010, on page A32 of the New York edition.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

DC Council Addresses School Bullying

On Monday, November 29th, the D.C. Council held a hearing featuring testimony from over a dozen community-based organizations, parents, school administrators, teachers and students all supporting two anti-bullying measures that seek to address the existing problems with school-based bullying, harassment and discrimination. The hearing mostly saw wide community support and praise for the legislation, along with recommendations to make the legislation more impactful in practice.

The two bills currently being considered, the “Bullying Prevention Act of 2010” sponsored by Chairman Vincent Gray and councilmember Michael Brown (I-At Large) and the “Harassment and Intimidation Prevention Act of 2010”, which was introduced by Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr., would require city public and charter schools, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the District of Columbia Public Library, and the University of the District of Columbia to develop LGBT inclusive anti-discrimination policies, reporting requirements and sanctions against “harassment, intimidation or bullying.”

Many groups applauded the evidence of enumerated categories that include sexual orientation and gender identity protections within the legislation that specifically lists lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth as being protected by the provisions. Anonymous reporting and educational training for faculty to be able to detect and prevent bullying were also lauded characteristics of the legislation. However, many testimonials called for improvements to the bills, including covering students who associate with students who are protected under the enumerated categories, which would allow defenders of victims to be protected from the bullies targeting someone because of perceived characteristics. Advocates also made suggestions to include uniform categories listed in the DC Human Rights Act into the legislation as well as making aggregate reporting by the schools and district agencies mandatory.

The proposed legislation reflect a positive trend of state- and city-level politicians responding to the bullying crisis that has taken hold in the media and affected young people across the country in a countless number of disturbing instances. The bills within the DC Council build from Maryland’s anti-bullying protections signed into law by Governor Martin O’Malley in 2008, and the hearing comes a week after New Jersey legislators approved a bill that will enact one of the nation’s toughest bullying policies in public and private schools.

While the stories of loss are often the ones that take center stage, students who face a number of close calls but persevere through the egregious behavior provided particularly compelling and poignant insight into the problem at Monday’s hearing. David Aponte, 18, was frank with the council and those in attendance in saying he was bullied so harshly for being Jewish and short while attending Signal Hill Elementary that he had attempted suicide three times before leaving. He identifies himself as a straight ally and advocate for this legislation because he doesn’t want others feeling the same pain he felt, making clear that the importance and necessity for action is not based on one specific set of characteristics by stating, "This is not a gay issue or a Jewish issue or black and white issue. This is a human issue." Aponte was joined by members representing GLSEN, The DC Center, SMYAL, DCTC , Metro TeenAIDS, and the ADL, along with our very own DC PFLAG Chapter President Bill Briggs. PFLAG is not only confident that the Council will take into consideration the testimony provided to instate a tough, protective law, but also hopeful that the recent attention given to this problem by local governments will spur more statewide legislation to act in saving their respective students’ lives.

This post was written by Eric VanDreason, the newest edition to PFLAG National’s Policy Team. To learn more about Eric and his role at the National Office, please visit our staff page here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

PFLAG National Commemorates World AIDS Day: A Call to Action

As the rate of HIV infection continues to rise here in the US and across the globe, please use today as an opportunity to think about what you can do to help become a part of the solution to ending this pandemic.

With 1.1 million Americans living with HIV and approximately 20% unaware of their HIV positive status, and over 33 million people around the world living with the disease, today is the day to recommit to helping make a difference.

Here are five things you can commit to doing now:
1. Get tested and know your status. Then encourage others to get tested too.
2. Volunteer some of your time to your local AIDS organizations. There are many different ways to help men, women and young people struggling to live with HIV.
3. Make a contribution to support local and national organizations working on patient care, education, research and advocacy. HIV won’t go away without substantial financial support.
4. Take action. Call on your elected officials to commit more time and resources to ending this disease and caring for those who are living with it.
5. Stay educated on the issues. A great place to start is http://www.aids.gov/.

So many of our more than 300 PFLAG chapters across the country are very engaged in the fight against AIDS—supporting their local AIDS walks and other special events, volunteering some of their time, and advocating for policy changes and more funding. Today I’m asking you to join them, or take action on your own.

World AIDS Day is a reminder to us all to recommit our time, our talents and our treasure to helping bring AIDS to an end!

President Obama Urges the Senate to End DADT ASAP!

On March 2nd, 2010, the Secretary of Defense appointed a working group to understand the implications of repealing the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that prevents lesbian, gay and bisexual people from serving in the U.S. Military openly. After nearly nine months of analyzing every aspect of service - from unit cohesion, recruitment, retention, and military readiness - the report indicates that the “risk of repeal of DADT to overall military effectiveness is relatively low.”

As a result, President Obama issued a strong statement, which follows, supporting the repeal. In his statement, the President urges the Senate to finish the work the House began by passing the necessary legislation to end this discriminatory practice once and for all.

Statement by President Obama on DOD Report on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

As Commander in Chief, I have pledged to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law because it weakens our national security, diminishes our military readiness, and violates fundamental American principles of fairness and equality by preventing patriotic Americans who are gay from serving openly in our armed forces. At the same time, as Commander in Chief, I am committed to ensuring that we understand the implications of this transition, and maintain good order and discipline within our military ranks. That is why I directed the Department of Defense earlier this year to begin preparing for a transition to a new policy.

Today’s report confirms that a strong majority of our military men and women and their families—more than two thirds—are prepared to serve alongside Americans who are openly gay and lesbian. This report also confirms that, by every measure—from unit cohesion to recruitment and retention to family readiness—we can transition to a new policy in a responsible manner that ensures our military strength and national security. And for the first time since this law was enacted 17 years ago today, both the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have publicly endorsed ending this policy.

With our nation at war and so many Americans serving on the front lines, our troops and their families deserve the certainty that can only come when an act of Congress ends this discriminatory policy once and for all. The House of Representatives has already passed the necessary legislation. Today I call on the Senate to act as soon as possible so I can sign this repeal into law this year and ensure that Americans who are willing to risk their lives for their country are treated fairly and equally. Our troops represent the virtues of selfless sacrifice and love of country that have enabled our freedoms. I am absolutely confident that they will adapt to this change and remain the best led, best trained, best equipped fighting force the world has ever known.

As the Senate Armed Services Committee begins holding hearings later this week, please be certain to call your Senators at 202-224-3121 and urge them to pass the defense spending bill with language repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and stand up for all Service members by ending DADT once-and-for-all!

Book Review - 'The Woman I was not Born to Be'

The Woman I Was Not Born To Be
by Aleshia Brevard
Temple University Press, Philadelphia, PA

For those of us who became acquainted with the transgender experience only recently, this wonderful book is an eye-opener. In the 1950s and 1960s, most of us had never heard of a transsexual. Then there was Christine Jorgenson and the lurid press around her gender-related surgery.

“The Woman I was Not Born to Be” is Aleshia Brevard’s memoir as she travelled from a rural Tennessee “sissy boy” through her female impersonator days to her career as a highly regarded stage, screen, and TV actress and beyond. Honestly written with self-deprecation as well as appreciation and humor, this book shines a bright light on the early years of transsexual surgery and its aftermath.

Have any of my readers realized that a 1950s solution to excessively feminine boys was super-doses of testosterone? Did you know that in the early 1960s a male-bodied individual had to be castrated prior to SRS – else the testicles would be placed inside the body? Do you recall that policy, if not law, required female impersonators/cross dressers to wear at least three articles of gender-appropriate clothing or face imprisonment? No wonder so many transsexuals hid their reality and went stealth in their lives!

“The Woman I was Not Born to Be” shows how Aleshia’s low self-esteem in her youth was reinforced by her father and almost every male father or husband figure for many years, leaving her self-consciously striving to reflect the subservient female role required by the mid-1900s society. While quite successful in her theatrical life, her interpersonal relationships with many males – from boyfriends, neighbors, and husbands to various Hollywood agents and actors - also reinforced her lack of self-confidence as a woman. It was largely with the support of her mother, Mozelle, and her close friend Stormy Lee (a fellow transsexual/drag queen) that she eventually realized that she did not need to define herself as a woman based on the misogynistic social customs of the mid-twentieth century.

Highly recommended!
Reviewed by Dave Parker, PFLAG Transgender Network (TNET)