Monday, February 28, 2011

Building Bridges with Corporate America: Both Ways, One Way, or No Way

There’s tons of progress being made in the workplace today. In 2011, we saw a record-high 337 companies earn a perfect score on the Corporate Equality Index. LGBT buying power is expected to pass the $800 billion mark this year. Corporations are looking for ways to create more inclusive workplaces for employees and tap into the wallets of loyal LGBT consumers.

This new landscape has given rise to a number of partnerships between LGBT organizations (national, state, and local) and corporations. While there’s a lot to be gained for everyone, keeping these relationships on the track towards achieving equality is sometimes challenging. And, with the Citizens United Supreme Court decision in 2010, maintaining these relationships is a challenging game.

Is your head spinning yet?

We’ve got help: Join eQualityGiving.org on March 1 from 12:00-1:00 pm (EST) for a free virtual panel to take on these issues. Get perspective on what the road to corporate partnerships looks like and how (especially in the wake of the Citizens United court decision) LGBT organizations are shaping their relationships with corporate America.

David Alexander (NGLTF), Victoria Fulkerson (NGLCC), Daryl Herrschaft (HRC), and Jean-Marie Navetta, (PFLAG / Straight for Equality) will help provide some clarity in an ever-evolving issue, with Bob Witeck (Witeck-Combs) and Charlie Rounds (Forward Motion Travel) moderating the discussion.

Have a specific question you want to ask? Here's your chance! Visit the eQualityGiving.org website today to post the question you'd like to ask the panel.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Focusing on ALL Families - A Mom Speaks Out!

Today we have a guest blogger from Arcadia, California, Marsha Aizumi.
No need to preface, as her words and accompanying video speak so eloquently for themselves:

As some of you may know, controversy emerged in my own backyard. The Mayor of Arcadia, California invited a keynote speaker from Focus on the Family to our city’s community breakfast. Focus on the Family is not supportive of LGBT individuals or families. They feel an LGBT individual can be cured with therapy, should not be allowed to transition to the person they feel lives inside of them, and believes a marriage is only between a man and a woman.

Coming from a Japanese background, I am not one who is comfortable “rocking the boat.” I am usually the individual trying to make sure everyone has a nice seat on the boat. But when someone says my transgender son is sick and needs reparative therapy, when I am told he should not be allowed to transition to live his life fully and in alignment with his feelings, I find the courage to speak out. This is why I decided to do the video you have seen or are about to see.


After you watch the video, if you feel compelled to voice your opinion about the message the Mayor is sending to its residents and LGBT individuals and families across the nation by having Focus on the Family speak at a community event, I encourage you to speak out. I appreciate those who are willing to lend their caring voice and accepting heart to this situation. I know all LGBT individuals and families across the nation also appreciate your concern, your time and your support. Thank you.

******

Please email your concerns to:

Mayor Peter Amundson
Arcadia City Council

If you’re comfortable, please cc:

Arcadia Weekly
San Gabriel Valley News

Please feel free to use the following sample letter to send to the mayor and city council, adapting it to your own style:

Dear Mayor Amundson, Mayor Pro Tem Kovacic, Council Members Chandler, Segal and Harbicht:

I have heard that your city has invited a speaker from Focus on the Family to speak at a Community Breakfast on March 4, 2011. I wish to voice my concern about a speaker representing an organization that is so intolerant of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and their families.

I would like to know what Arcadia is going to do to show their community, LGBT individuals and allies that Arcadia Focuses and Accepts ALL Families.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Administration Refuses to Defend DOMA

In a surprising move today, the Department of Justice issued a letter saying it will no longer defend the constitutionality of a federal law (DOMA) that bans recognition of same-sex marriage. There are currently several cases making their way through the courts that challenge different sections of DOMA as unconstitutional. In July of 2010, a federal district court ruled that Section 3 of DOMA, the section that defines marriage as one man and one woman, as unconstitutional. The letter issued today means that the administration will not appeal that case. If the courts rule DOMA unconstitutional, married same-sex couples may be eligible for the federal benefits given to married couples.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Maryland Votes on Marriage Equality!

Maryland families are rejoicing today over a vote by the state Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee in favor of marriage equality. Next week the full senate will vote on the measure, which would legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland. The vote will be close, but PFLAG members are hopeful that their hard work will pay off.

Metro DC PFLAG chapter member David Fishback was interviewed by the local news station about this important step towards equality for Maryland families. Check out his interview in the second video here and see how great a job he does reminding people of the PFLAG message of family values. Also interesting and exciting to note is the interviewer’s ability to challenge Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council on his dubious research claims.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Update on Proposition 8

California’s Supreme Court will answer the question on whether supporters of Proposition 8 have standing in Perry v. Schwarzenegger. Standing is the right for individuals to sue, or to be legally involved in the case. Proposition 8 supporters are trying to defend the constitutionality of the initiative, when many public officials like the Governor have refused to do so.

The California Supreme Court plans to answer this question in April, and aims to hold oral arguments on the issue as early as September, 2011. If the high court rules that initiative proponents do indeed lack standing, it is our hope that the ruling will promptly lift the barrier to marriage. This action would grant the full rights and responsibilities to same-sex couples living in California.

Steve Krantz, PFLAG National’s Southern Pacific Regional Director said, “it's a delay of months and we must be patient. I continue to hope that California's Supreme Court will rule that our opponents have no standing - that the Judge Walker's wise ruling declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional will stand.”

As many Californians continue to wait, we encourage you to take action and educate your communities about marriage equality:

  • Share your stories. It’s critical that you continue sharing your family stories to help win hearts and minds. Consider engaging with friends, family members and community organizations to help bring new supporters to fight for LGBT equality.
  • Plan a PFLAG meeting. Organize a PFLAG meeting to educate and discuss what your members can do to support marriage equality. If you need some ideas on what to include in your program, please contact our Field and Policy staff for ideas.
  • Write an Op-Ed. Consider writing an Op-Ed to your local newspaper to educate your community about the challenges that Proposition 8 presents for same-sex couples, and the remedies to help build support for all families. For ideas on what to include in your op-ed, please contact your Field and Policy Manager.

Please be sure to share with us your op-eds along with your pictures and videos, so that we can feature them on our National Blog.

Thank you for your commitment to help us move equality forward!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tulsa Public Radio: Listen LIVE to PFLAG National Executive Director Jody M. Huckaby and President Rabbi David Horowitz

Update: Listen to yesterday's terrific interview at the Tulsa Public Radio Archives.

PFLAG National Executive Director Jody M. Huckaby and Rabbi David Horowitz, President of PFLAG National, talk with RadioTulsa, on Tulsa Public Radio, about LGBT issues. Discussion of PFLAG, equality in corporate and faith settings, bullying and safe schools, and the importance of family acceptance are all a part of the lively 30 minute discussion!

Listen live here - at 11:30am and 7:30pm CST (12:30pm/8:30pm EST and 9:30am/5:30pm PST) - Tulsa Public Radio - Live Stream. Later today we will update this blog post with a link to the archive of the interview.

Jody and Rabbi Horowitz are in Tulsa, speaking at Conference for Change, being sponsored by Oklahomans for Equality (OkEq).

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine’s Day: A Day To Get Engaged With Marriage Equality!

Valentine’s Day means love and love, for many people, means committing to marriage with their partners. Unfortunately, as we know too well, same-sex couples are denied the right to marry each other in almost every state in America.

Our friends at Freedom to Marry are promoting a wonderful video of an 80-year old parent in Iowa who is speaking up for marriage equality for her gay son. We hope you are as inspired as we are by her willingness to stand up for equality as only a loving parent can!



Also, in honor of the holiday, MarriageEquality.org, GetEqual and CA Faith for Equality are sponsoring a peaceful and loving marriage equality protest, Get Engaged for Marriage Equality. In locations around the country, same-sex couples are requesting marriage licenses in their local city halls. For a great demonstration of this action, check out this video:



PFLAG will keep working until marriage is available to any loving couple who wants to make a loving and legal commitment to each other…and there’s no better day to remind people of this than on Valentine’s Day!

The Power of Acceptance in Families

Two groundbreaking reports were released earlier this month demonstrating the power of family acceptance in the lives of LGBTQ youth. The first report by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), Injustice at Every Turn, reveals a comprehensive understanding of the extent of pervasive discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming Americans nationwide. Despite extreme institutional discrimination in almost every aspect of life - including education, health care, employment and housing – the report confirmed that “family acceptance had a protective affect” against many threats to a transgender or gender non-conforming person’s well-being including health risks like HIV infection, substance abuse and suicide. According to the report, “families were more likely to remain together and provide support for transgender and gender non-conforming family members than stereotypes suggest.”

Another report highlighting the power of family acceptance is "Families Matter -- New Research Calls for a Revolution in Public Policy for LGBT Children and Youth," by Shannon Minter and Jeff Krehely. The report features the research of Dr. Caitlin Ryan and her team at the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University, which highlights the impact of family acceptance and rejection on LGBTQ youth. The findings affirm what PFLAG members have known from personal experience for decades: that family acceptance leads to positive long-term outcomes for health and development, and impacts families as well as LGBTQ young people. These outcomes include higher high school graduation rates, lower rates of substance abuse and fewer suicide attempts. The report’s findings affect virtually every public policy matter impacting LGBTQ youth and their families, and offer organizations like PFLAG a powerful advocacy tool that may compel policy makers to introduce new and innovative ways for public and private agencies to better service this population.

Most important to PFLAG families is that the findings from both reports clearly demonstrate that when parents engage in accepting and supportive behavior, their children are more likely to lead healthy and happy lives. PFLAG chapters have a unique perspective on how to educate existing service providers and policy makers on ways to incorporate parents and guardians into their existing programs and services, and these providers don’t often incorporate parenting organizations in their existing programs. As we continue to educate our communities about our unique family acceptance work, we encourage you to partner with youth-serving organizations to develop innovative ways to involve accepting parents and guardians into this critical work. If you need support or guidance on how to approach this advocacy work, please don’t hesitate to contact us for ideas. And if you have examples of how these partnerships between PFLAG and service agencies are working to have a positive effect in your community, please share them with us!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Manhattan, Kansas Passes Anti-Discrimination Policy for LGBT Citizens

Excellent news from Kansas! The city commission of Manhattan, KS (aka The Little Apple) has voted in favor of extending its anti-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Jonathan Mertz, chair of the board of the Flint Hills Human Rights Project, the group that lead the charge to get the ordinance passed, reports that the city will now protect people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in employment, housing and public accommodations. Manhattan is the first city in Kansas to include gender identity as a protected class. Supporters of the ordinance remained committed to the inclusion of transgender people.

The Kansas State Collegian has a link about the ordinance: http://www.kstatecollegian.com/news/discrimination-ordinance-passes-decision-finally-laid-to-rest-1.2462330

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Writing Discrimination into the Indiana State Constitution


Today's blog post comes to us from Annette Gross, the PFLAG State Coordinator out of Indiana. Thanks to her for this informative piece!


On Monday, February 7, 2011, I, along with two other PFLAG moms, heard the testimony for and against SJR-6 – the “Marriage Discrimination Amendment” – in the Indiana state House of Representatives Judiciary Committee. The proposed amendment says: “Marriage. Provides that only marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. Provides that a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.”


SJR-6 passed the house judiciary committee by a vote of 8-4. Even if it passes this year, it would have to be approved by another separately elected legislature and then voted on by the citizens of Indiana before it could be put into the Constitution. Hopefully this won’t occur.


Before the testimony began, Rep. Eric Turner, co-author of the bill, explained the history of the bill. He said that 38 states have statutes against same-sex marriage. Passage on the bill in Indiana began in 2007 and 2008 and failed. Now they are starting all over again.


The testimony began with some common themes. Procreation as the basis for marriage was espoused by Austin Nimocks, Sr. Legal Counsel of the Alliance Defense Fund and Curt Smith of the American Family Institute. And Jim Bopp, Jr., a legal expert from Terre Haute, said that marriage is between one man and one woman. He assured us that the amendment would not affect Indiana domestic violence laws, health care benefits, contractual care, or adoption.


Glenn Tebbe from the Indiana Catholic Conference said he supports the marriage of one man and one woman, and he shares this view with all of humanity. He added that marriage has weakened and eroded and that we need to strengthen the definition of marriage. However, he did also say that he believes in the dignity of homosexuals, that they should be respected, and that he condemns discrimination of them. I am constantly amazed by the hypocrisy of people who feel the need to put down a group of people while professing respect for them at the same time.


Micah Clark from the American Family Association said that people have the right to live free, but 2% of the population doesn’t have the right to change marriage. He then brought up Sunday’s Super Bowl and why marriage should only be between one man and one woman. “If any two teams could place it would lose the significance. It wouldn’t be so super.” He added, “By the same token, if we change the definition of marriage, it loses its unique significance. If any two people can marry, it doesn’t mean much.” Many of us scratched our heads at the Super Bowl analogy and found his words discriminatory and hateful.


We then heard testimony from those opposing the Amendment. Jessica Wilch, president of Indiana Equality, is concerned about this force that wants to undermine the rights of LGBT people here in Indiana, and demanded equal presence in society.


Dr. Cynthia Conley, Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at Ball State University, talked of the concerns of LGBT parents. She said she legally married her same-sex partner in Canada because she couldn’t get married here. She has an 11-year-old daughter who excels academically and deserves to have parents who aren’t second-class citizens. She said that this amendment won’t stop LGBT people from having children and relationships, and we should seek state constitutions that help them, not harm them.


William Buffie M.D., a doctor of Internal Medicine, said that the legislators should not vote based on opinions or innuendoes. He noted that if the resolution passes, there will be proven negative mental health outcomes, as the exclusion of same-sex marriage contributes to health disparities in the United States. He said that same-sex exclusion detracts from healthcare and also talked about the “brain-drain” from Indiana; he personally knows of two talented physicians who left Indiana to move to Massachusetts so they could get married.


Dr. Buffie said that the opposition uses vanity journals, not peer-reviewed or evidence-based science, and that they give evidence from bogus organizations. He discussed Minority Stress – it’s what happens when one internalizes prejudice. He said that SJR6 is an extension of institutionalized stigma, and that all are impacted by it, not just LGBT people.

The final speaker was a private citizen, Patrick Roth, to whom the chairman of the committee begrudgingly gave permission to speak.

Patrick spoke about his husband, their 13-year-old daughter, the two homes they own in Indianapolis, the volunteer work at his daughter’s school and in the community, pays taxes, votes, and that he has a very stable family. He said he and his husband had to go to Canada to get married because Indiana doesn’t permit same-sex marriage. He said that adding this kind of discrimination to the Constitution of Indiana won’t strengthen anyone’s marriage. He concluded by saying that if the amendment is passed, he would hate to tell his daughter that some families are better than hers. Patrick then said, “If you really want to Amend the Constitution of the great State of Indiana, why not this? Scrap this proposed Amendment entirely, and put it its place an Amendment that states SIMPLY AND CLEARLY: “The Legislature shall pass NO laws, nor make any Amendments, that do HARM to ANY group in Society, while doing NO good for any other.”

Patrick received applause from the opponents to SJR6 and I gave him a big hug when he came back to his seat. TV and newspaper reporters ran to get his story, and he was featured on the 6:00 news that night.


At the end of the public testimony, Rep. Turner spoke and assured the assembly that he didn’t write this bill to discriminate against the LGBT community. We all know that in fact he did. It’s clear that he has no respect for LGBT people and their families. If he did, we wouldn’t have been at a hearing.


What bothers me most is that “the people” should have the right to decide who can and who cannot get married. Why should one group of people decide what rights another group should have? I would think that as a country we would have evolved beyond that.


What now? We have a lot of work to do. As we say in PFLAG, we have a lot of hearts and minds to change.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Mother's Compassion = Breaking The Eighth Commandment...Really?

For those not familiar with the blog Nerdy Apple Bottom, it is a highly recommended read.


Back in November 2010, this cop’s wife sparked a national conversation on LGBT bullying when her five year old son, a major Scooby Doo enthusiast, decided he wanted to dress as that show’s Daphne for Halloween.


Craziness ensued – read the original blog post that spurred the outpouring of (mostly) support here.


Well now the church elders and pastor have entered the fray. They have determined that, in blogging about the responses she received from the mothers at her church pre-school, Nerdy Apple has broken the Eighth Commandment, by bearing false witness against those who spoke about her son.


Read the latest update on Nerdy’s blog here.


In blogging about the latest turn of events, Nerdy remains respectful, and yet still manages to convey her frustration with her church, especially as they call her out for her actions with no apparent interest in her son’s well being through all of this.


Nerdy writes:


“I cannot tell you the betrayal I feel. The church, or at the very least Pastor is trying to bully me into shutting up, and I find that so disheartening. I am floored by the fact that they’ve gone to so much trouble regarding a post that discusses love and tolerance that was posted 3 months ago. I am shocked that they do not see the hypocrisy of what they are saying to me. I am in complete disbelief that this has been handled in the way it has. I have never felt less welcome in a church.


This is not the church that I grew up in. This is not the God that I know.


And again I say to you that bullying is not okay, even if you wrap it in a bow and call it ‘spiritual care.’ “


Well spoken, Nerdy Apple. Well spoken.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Small Gestures Make a Big Difference

GLSEN-sponsored No Name Calling Week has inspired a gay rights activist to share his story. Michael Spivak of Buffalo Grove, Minnesota sent a letter to Chicago Daily Herald journalist – and LGBT ally – Burt Constable sharing his experience with bullying and the importance of small acts of kindness. In the story, PFLAG president David Horowitz expresses what many PFLAG members have experienced, “(We) know how comforting kind words from a straight ally can be, especially from peers and teachers. Even a small gesture or a refusal to find an anti-gay joke funny can show support to an LGBT kid in a meaningful and powerful way.” Check out Spivak’s powerful letter here and let us know what your chapter is doing for No Name Calling Week.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New Documentary Addresses Parent's Response to Their Child Coming Out

Check out this article from the USA Today Parenting blog featuring quotes from PFLAG National ED Jody Huckaby. The article talks about a new documentary called Lead with Love which, in the PFLAG tradition, models how to respond when your child comes out as LGBT. Lead with Love suggests four specific ways to support your LGBT child using the acronym LEAD:

  • Let your affection show.
  • Express your pain away from your child.
  • Avoid rejecting behaviors.
  • Do good before you feel good.

Let us know what you think about this approach in the comments section. Would these suggestions have helped you when your child came out as LGBT? Come on PFLAGers – you are the real-world experts!