Monday, May 30, 2011

Eastern PA PFLAG Needs YOUR Help Today!

Today we hear from Eastern PA PFLAG President Don Kohn - our friends in Bethlehem, PA need our help!

Bethlehem, PA sits in the middle of Lehigh Valley.  Easton to the east and Allentown to the west already have anti-discrimination laws in effect that cover sexual orientation and gender identity.  Bethlehem is the last major city in PA without any anti-discrimination ordinance.  The proposed ordinance has been through committee and one session of city counsel.  They are going to vote on the ordinance on June 7, 2011.

Here is the major problem.  Amendments have been introduced that weaken the ordinance.  The major offending amendment is one that would allow any member of a religious organization to be exempt from the ordinance if it conflicted with their religious believes.  This is different from the usual religious feature that exempts only the religious organization in that it extends to all members of that faith.  The argument on the one side is that 50% of the town is Catholic.  This would allow 50% of the town to discriminate against LGBT people.

Help us. 

Please make your voice heard by clicking here and signing our petition!

Friday, May 27, 2011

New Munster, IN PFLAG Chapter is Open for Business

One of our newest chapters is PFLAG Munster (IN). Started by Purdue University Calumet psychology student Natalie Lukich, PFLAG Munster is having its inaugural meeting tomorrow, May 28.

Says Lukich, "When my older brother came out 24 years ago, my parents didn't have any support at all and didn't know what to think," she said. "It would have been nice for them to have some sort of support." Lukich began the process of forming the support group four months ago and hopes it will provide encouragement and resources and support to many.

"The basic premise of the organization is to be there for support. Meetings will be membership driven to include guest speakers on topics of interest, videos on specific topics and one hour will be devoted to talking and discussing - but it will not be a counseling service. Meetings are open to all, everyone is welcome."

To learn more about PFLAG Munster, click here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Youth Who Inspire Change

The New York Times has introduced Coming Out , a week-long series of conversations with teens from across the United States sharing their personal struggles and triumphs about being LGBTQ in today’s society. These powerful stories of courage, strength and commitment feature the authentic voices, photos and personal narratives of a diverse array of teens.


Featured prominently in the piece is Thomas Miller, a member of PFLAG New Orleans and a PFLAG New Orleans scholarship winner. Congratulations on your achievements, Thomas. We are so proud of you!

Woven throughout the narrative of this series is a strong reminder of all of the work we have to do on behalf of the young people across our country: we have to let our LGBT kids know that they are loved and supported, and teach our straight youth how to be allies and advocates for change.


PFLAG National offers an array of publications designed to help parents, teens and allies support their community; please click here to download them today. PFLAG National also offers its free Safe School trainings for our chapters designed to help facilitate positive conversations with school administrators around anti-bullying best practices and resources. For more information, please contact Mekina Morgan at mailto:mmmorgan@pflag.org.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Nøse Under The Conservative Stoughton, Wisconsin Tent

Today, National Board Member and Northern Plains Regional Director Kay Heggestad is our guest blogger. I am especially moved by the way this group reached out to a newly-formed teen group to help make their presence known in their town. The spirit of PFLAG is alive and well in Stoughton!


Syttende Mai, Norwegian Constitution Day, is a really big deal lasting three days every year in Stoughton,WI, a city of 13,000 people, twenty miles south of Madison. The PFLAG Madison Chapter President, Karen Baker, had the idea of working with the newly formed GSA of Stoughton High School to have a float in the smaller of the two parades.

She sent in the application using just the acronyms PFLAG and GSA and was called and asked what those letters meant. She explained...and eventually a followup call came, telling her that we could not be in the parade. Not to be stopped, Karen then called the person in charge of the entire three-day event. She was told that the board was concerned since there might be something inappropriate for youth or outwardly political on our float, e.g. signs about marriage equality. They did not want anything there that might make kids “ask questions.” Karen reassured her that we would only be using words like equality, harmony, peace, love, justice, and acceptance. We got the signoff to be in the parade.

And then, about 19 hours before the parade was to begin, Karen received a call saying they had changed the decision, and that we could not be in the parade after all: apparently, the coordinator thought we were going to represent all diversity and not just LGBT. Karen reported, “Finally, the coordinator cut to the chase and told me that the words ‘gay and lesbian’ were the deal breaker. Then she asked if we 'could we just cross them out somehow on the banner'.” So, we did just that. In the photo, you can see a rainbow banner covering the "controversial words."


Eight members from Madison braved the cold and overcast day along with eight kids from the GSA. We all waved little rainbow flags. We saw a few frowns, a few puzzled looks, but also many smiles, and waves and thumbs up, sometimes hidden, from the crowd on the sidewalks. Several folks ran up the float to thank us for being there.

As a card-carrying Norske who can actually sing, in Norwegian, the first four bars of the Norwegian national anthem, I am a bit ashamed of the Stoughton folks. On the other hand, maybe next year they will let us use our entire sign. Our nose is under their tent.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The American Schools Counselor Association and PFLAG National - working together to make schools safer!

The May/June 2011 edition of American Schools Counselor Association (ASCA) ASCA School Counselor magazine highlights best practices, practical tools and strategies that counselors are using to create safe and welcoming environments for LGBTQ youth in schools. As you know, PFLAG has taken a leadership role in school safety, with our Safe Schools program, and that program’s National coordinator, Mekina Morgan, was asked to submit and article for the edition.

The article is targeted at elementary school counselors, although the strategies presented can be used by counselors in secondary schools as well, in public, private and parochial educational environments.

Mekina will be offering a workshop at the June 2011 ASCA convention in Seattle, WA, based in part on the materials presented in her article.

PFLAG National would like to thank ASCA for this amazing opportunity and their continued efforts to support affirming school climates for LGBTQ students.

Click here to read the article (reprinted by permission of the American Schools Counselor Association).

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A New Day Dawns for Presbyterians

"PC(USA) opens door to ordination of sexually active gays and
lesbians. Vote may be prelude to ‘seismic’ change." This headline
in The Presbyterian Outlook today marks a new day in the life of the
Presbyterian church.

It also marks an emotionally fulfilling and personally meaningful

moment for me. Ever since our son first came out to us in 1987, I, as
a devout Presbyterian, have been especially aware of and hurt by the
religious arguments against gays and lesbians. And as I have gone
from confusion to acceptance to celebration, I became more and more
convinced that religious opposition was at the heart of a lot of the
discrimination and lack of acceptance of our GLBT family and friends.

During much of this time it has seemed as if the Presbyterian

denomination was going backward rather than forward. In 1997 a
requirement of "fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a
man and a woman or chastity in singleness" for all ordained lay
leaders and clergy was codified in our constitution. This followed an
effort in which I was involved to remove a prior, less formal
requirement.

Despite that backward step, I remained a Presbyterian, largely because

of Mitzi Henderson, former President of the national board of PFLAG ,
who has been a powerful advocate for GLBT equality among Presbyterians
from the beginning.

Her encouragement and example helped me to believe that the

denomination could change.

And now it has. The new provision requires that ordained lay leaders

and clergy "submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all
aspects of life" – a big improvement!

Along the way to this change, Presbyterians have discovered anew the

importance of recognizing that we are brothers and sisters in spite of
our differences, and it did seem as though the discussions around the
country this year reflected a new spirit. I hope I'm right; we'll
need that as we tackle the question of same-sex marriages!

I want to personally thank PFLAG members who have helped in this

struggle. In several cases I contacted PFLAG leaders in particularly
critical areas. In a number of cases the votes turned from negative
the last time we voted to positive. I also appreciate all that PFLAG
leaders and members have done over the years and throughout the
country to change the perceptions of our awesome GLBT family members,
friends and community members.

Written by guest blogger Kirsten Kingdon

PFLAG National Endorses Coalition Letter Opposing “Don’t Ask” Amendments to Defense Bill

The House Armed Services Committee mark-up is well underway today, and unfortunately, we are expecting anti-repeal amendments that could delay efforts enabling lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals from serving openly and honestly in the U.S. Military. In advance of the today’s mark-up, our friends at Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) released a letter sent to the full U.S. House of Representatives and endorsed by 85 organizations, including PFLAG National. The letter urges members to oppose any and all harmful and unnecessary amendments that have been offered to the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2012. These amendments have been put forth by repeal opponents seeking to delay and derail “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal implementation.

View the full list of signatories and the text of the letter and to contact your Members of Congress urging them to oppose amendments to National Defense Authorization Act that would jeopardize DADT repeal, please visit our action alert center and located the contact information for your U.S. House Representative.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

City Officials Pass First Reading to Rescind Gay Equality Ordinance in Manhattan, KS

Newly-elected and incumbent city commissioners in Manhattan, Kansas, began last night the process to overturn a recently-passed ordinance that would protect LGBT residents in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations. Members of the previous commission approved the controversial anti-discrimination policy that included sexual orientation and gender identity in early February by a 3-2 vote. However, following elections earlier this month, a majority of the new batch of commissioners last night voted 3-2 to repeal it.

Mayor James Sherow says the latest development is unfortunate and will send a negative message about equality for all of Manhattan’s citizens, especially after local activists worked hard over the past year and a half to get the anti-bias protections passed. Sherow says opponents of the policy argue that the city doesn’t need LGBT protections, and that it’s just a symptom of an overbearing city government.

He says it also didn’t help that the two newly-elected commissioners pushing for repeal had the support of ‘Awaken Manhattan’–a group of 27 religious leaders that has already deemed the “well-intended” policy “unlawful” for its “sweeping” protections. Sherow says he hopes the repeal will motivate progressive voters when they elect new commissioners in the coming years.

Note: PFLAG National received this article from Karl Kramer of PFLAG Manhattan, KS.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

PFLAG National Co-Hosts Briefing for Every Child Deserves a Family

Yesterday, Representative Pete Stark, ranking member on the Ways & Means Health Subcommittee reintroduced the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, H.R. 1681. Thirty-three Representatives are co-sponsors of the bill and a growing coalition of leading child welfare, civil rights and legal organizations are supporting the legislation. As reported yesterday, the bill removes discriminatory barriers in the adoption and foster care process for prospective LGBT parents and single adults, therefore opening up new homes to foster youth.

To celebrate the bill’s reintroduction and to honor National Foster Care Month, PFLAG National, the Family Equality Council and the National Black Justice Coalition co-hosted a briefing for the bill, along with a wide range of child welfare experts and foster care alums who expressed the urgency of the bill’s passage. The panel included:
  • Linda Spears, Vice President, Policy and Public Affairs for the Child Welfare League of America
  • Judith Sandalow, Executive Director for the Children’s Law Center
  • Gary L. Flowers, Executive Director & CEO, Black Leadership Forum, Inc.
  • Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., President of the Hip Hop Caucus
  • David Hansell, Acting Assistant Secretary for the Administration for Children and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services
At the briefing, Representative Pete Stark also made an appearance and stated, “We now spend more than $7 billion per year on a flawed foster care system that doesn’t serve all the children who are in it, and permits discrimination against capable, loving potential parents and children. It’s time for a federal fix to this critical child welfare and civil rights issue. Every child deserves the lifelong benefits that come from growing up in a stable home.”


At a press conference leading up to the briefing, our very own PFLAG National Executive Director, Jody M. Huckaby, had the opportunity to make a few remarks. Please view this video to watch him talk about the urgency of passing ECDF today:



Recent attempts have been made in states – including Virginia, Arizona and Illinois – to further restrict who can adopt, making the Every Child Deserves a Family Act particularly timely. The United States currently has an uneven system of state laws, a number of which put up barriers to becoming a foster or adoptive parent based on one’s sexual orientation, marital status or gender identity.

A handful of states affirmatively allow same-sex couples to adopt jointly, while most states are silent on the issue. ECDF would correct the patchwork system in the best interests of the children involved.
 


To learn more about the bill, please visit our ECDF action center and help us move equality forward for all by expressing your support for the bill to your Representative today.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

HR 1681 - The Every Child Deserves A Family Act - Reintroduction Today!

Today at 2:30pm EST, PFLAG National Executive Director Jody Huckaby will participate in a press update and briefing on HR 1681: The Every Child Deserves a Family Act. Introduced by Rep. Pete Stark of California, the bill aims to add to the number of foster homes that are available to children who are looking for loving families, by removing discriminatory language regarding the marital status, sexual orientation and gender identity of potential parents.

This bill has supporters from a wide array of child welfare, civil rights and faith-based organizations, as well as many of the leading LGBT organizations across the country.

The facts are overwhelming: there are an estimated 500,000 children in the U.S. foster care system. And as of 2007, there were more than 25,000 additional youth who have “aged out” of the foster care system, putting them at high risk for poverty, homelessness, incarceration, and early parenthood.


All of these youth are in desperate need of permanent, safe homes with loving families.


These families already exist.


However, the current patchwork of state laws does a disservice to these children by denying them access to permanent, safe and loving homes. Many state laws deem well-qualified individuals the opportunity to become foster parents or adopt simply because of their marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity.


The Every Child Deserves a Family Act can change this fact and open up countless opportunities to provide children with the homes and families that they deserve.


Visit our website and learn all you can about the Every Child Deserves A Family Act!